Is this Guy Your Muse?

Chubby guy in cherub costume

He might be. Especially if you’re writing comedy!

He’s not mine—except perhaps for the little bit of whimsy he’s bringing to this blog post.

So if he’s not your muse, who is? What is  a muse, anyway?

A muse is the personification of inspiration and energy that comes from—somewhere.

Whether you think it comes from the divine, the universe, your intuition, your subconscious, or the All Night Diner for Dancing Giraffes—it doesn’t matter. It’s real, and you know it when you’re plugged in to your muse.

Maybe you wake up at 3 AM and invent a painting technique that better enables you to represent the texture of a tree trunk—and you just have to get up and try it!

Or you stay up past 3 AM, writing a story that flows from you in a river of purple ink. It’s exciting and a little dizzying, because you feel so alive. You may be directing the story a little, but the characters are mostly leading you to places that you never thought they’d go. Each scene is a discovery!

Of all the types of creative expression I practice, writing is my deep calling. I used to think inspiration would strike like a bolt of lightning. I would hear angels singing, as they floated to earth with pithy phrases and perfectly-formed literary sentences.

Over time, I began to think of writing as work. Not in the good sense—when I’m deeply engaged and working hard on something meaningful—but in the not-so-good: slogging through flat ideas and flat sentences.

Then I realized that I need to have a relationship with my muse. I have to nourish her with walks in nature and trips to the art museum, with summer concerts in the park and playing with watercolors.

And guess what? The more I feed my creativity, the more inspiration and enthusiasm I have to express.

And that makes all the difference.

What Matters to You?

Little girl offering red fuzzy heart

Last weekend, I attended Rick Tamlyn’s “Play Your Bigger Game” retreat.

“Bigger” is all about finding and doing your good work in the world.

“Game” refers to the tool.

You’re always on the “playing board,” and you can choose which step to take next—without beating yourself up about where you happen to be at the moment. Once you learn it, you never have to be “stuck” again.

I can’t wait to use this tool with my clients!

My husband came to the retreat with me. This morning, as we were discussing the retreat—and the grounded soul of someone he feels called to work with—things about my own work clicked into place for me.

Compassion is a way of deeply seeing

I’ve always tried to reflect back their beauty and worth to others, and encourage them to live the lives that are most meaningful to them.

I try to look at others through the lens of what I imagine God looks through. When I choose that perspective—often unconsciously—I see  the person I’m engaging with. Judgment may not completely fall away, but compassion reveals their inner light.

Each of us is unique. Yet each of us has more in common with everyone else than we realize. That’s why sharing our gifts is so powerful. It’s both distinctive—adding perspective—and connecting—creating a bridge between your perspective and mine.

We all want and need connection

Elephants with trunks intertwined

Creativity is an important way to connect with others. It opens a window between the worlds of the creator and the appreciator.

When I look at the sunflowers carved into my favorite mug, I see the movement of the potter’s hands baked into clay. There’s a little bit of soul in that mug.

When I read an essay by a writer who struggled through her own doubts and trials, who distilled her wisdom into clear, strong words, I see new possibilities.

In both experiences—looking at my mug and reading an essay—I am enriched.

Listen! I can’t say this enough.

You have a purpose and meaning in this world. Share it. Connect. Be real. We need you!

There are many ways to love the world. What is yours?

Check out the Bigger Game
and Rick’s book, Play Your Bigger Game.

Take Time to Rejuvenate

Woman's feet with flowers in toes

A little over a week ago, I hosted a day-long creativity retreat. It was about reconnecting with your “muse”—a personification of inspiration and imagination—to jump-start your creative projects.

It was wonderful and magical, and lots of fun! And I loved creating the retreat.

As a sensitive and introverted entrepreneur, I’m still learning how to pace myself. Just like with any creative endeavor, I need to strike a balance between being and doing.

As I began to design the retreat, I tapped into my own muse—big time! Some nights, I was up until 3 AM, buzzing with ideas and details of what I was going to do.

The work was exciting, inspirational, and fun! But after that sustained burst of creativity, after completing that lovely day with other super-creative souls, I needed time to rejuvenate, to refill my well.

I’m just now getting back into my creative space, after the retreat and a week of traveling.

And I’m reminding you what I’m reminding myself. Pay attention to how you feel and what your body is telling you. It’s essential to take a break when you need it. Trying to “force” creativity never works.

So when your well is getting low, put up your feet, stick some daisies between your toes, lean back into the cool grass and feel the warm sun on your face, and daydream. Watch the clouds change shape. Listen to the birds singing.

Let your well fill up again.

What Are You Waiting For?

Empty waiting room

Last week I was watching a TV show, in which a character died, and then went to a place where she reunited with her loved ones. It was comfortable and safe—a place to pause and rest, before moving on to the next life.

I turned to my husband and said, “She’s sitting in God’s waiting room.”

My words struck me; they came back to me several times in the following days. I kept turning the phrase over in my mind. I knew there was a deeper message for me.

There have been times when I’ve been stuck in waiting mode, or worse, in survival mode. When I no longer fit in my old life, yet I was unable to move on. I either believed that I couldn’t live the life I wanted, or I wasn’t able to see what was possible.

Your Beliefs Frame Your Vision

Your beliefs about what’s possible, and the vision you hold for your life, are inextricably linked.

When you believe that the universe supports you, and that you are part of a bigger purpose, your openness allows you to see possibilities you might have missed otherwise. That’s when you feel most inspired.

When the vision of something you want is so strong that your belief in what’s possible has to expand to support it, you feel the most driven.

I’ve felt inspired many times in my life, and synchronicity always plays a role. I wrote about one of those times in my blog post, Changing Your Perspective.

One of the times I’ve felt most driven was years ago, when I applied for a scholarship to a writing class in Tuscany. I didn’t get it, but less than a month before the class, the person who got the scholarship couldn’t go. So, I said “YES!” The only catch—I didn’t have a passport. For a short while, it didn’t seem possible. But I told a friend that I was going to go if I had to swim across the ocean. I found a way to get my passport in time, and I made the trip!

How Do You Know You’ve Outgrown Your Current Situation?

On one end of the spectrum, you’re comfortable, but bored. On the other end, you’re in acute psychic pain.

It begins with a whisper and ends in a shout: “You. Must. Change!”

The only way to change your life is to change your self. And that’s not easy. It involves growing pains. It involves asking for, and getting, help and guidance.

So sometimes, you stay stuck.

Hermit crab in shell on beach

Do I dare?

Feeling stuck is kind of like being a hermit crab, living in an old shell that no longer fits you. It’s tight and pinches.

You see a big, empty conch shell nearby, but you’re too afraid to brave the open water to claim it. You believe you cannot possibly make it. (But you can.)

Sometimes you can’t see what’s possible, and you don’t believe it’s even there.

So you carry the old shell around like the burden it’s become. You adapt and twist yourself into an imitation of someone who still fits in that place.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s uncomfortable, and it hurts for a reason: to push you to keep growing.

We dwell “in God’s waiting room” during natural pauses in life, moments of rest before expansion. But comfort can trap you into staying too long. When it’s time, you need to walk over to the door and open it.

Conch shell on beach

Your bigger life is calling you.

If your life feels too constrained, your expanded self—the part of you bigger than your circumstances—actually wants  you to stretch beyond where you are. It’s pulling you toward a bigger life for a reason.

What do you have to gain?

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
— Joseph Campbell

The Power of Vulnerability

Small puppy peeking through bushes

Last week, I posted a blog about feeling hopeless. It was a little scary for me to share. Maybe a lot scary. I wrote it from a place of strength and wellness, but I was very open about a rough couple days I had the previous week.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately—as a writer and an entrepreneur—is showing up authentically. I’m good at the supportive, uplifting stuff. But sharing about the harder things activates all sorts of fears for me, and they all boil down to this: worrying about the judgment of others.

It just about kills me to admit that.

All my life, I’ve been proud of thinking for myself, not going along with the crowd. Peer pressure always seemed lame to me. I think when people try to pressure others to conform, it is often really about their own doubts about themselves and their choices. When you can see through the surface behavior to what’s really going on, it doesn’t have power over you.

Which brings me back to caring about what people think.

Of course, I care about how people react to what I share. In fact, I want them to react, because I want to touch people in ways that make a difference, no matter how small, in their lives.

But the truth is, some people just won’t relate to what I have to say. Others won’t like it, some will misunderstand it, and everyone will have some sort of judgment about it.

The challenge is to show up anyway.

When I was in fourth grade, my family moved to a new city. I left the group of kids I’d gone to school with for four years—all of my school life. At my new school, because I was new (and vulnerable), some kids were quite mean to me. For the first two weeks, I came home every day and cried.

Then one afternoon, I thought, “I would never  treat another human being that way!”

Something clicked. As soon as I realized I had no respect for those kids, I didn’t care what they thought of me.

And then, something interesting happened. The very next day, no one was mean to me—no cruel teasing or attempts to belittle me. It was that dramatic. Overnight.

Of course, there were a few times over the years, when a mean kid would say something to try to hurt me, but it didn’t get under my skin. That’s probably why it rarely happened.

I learned that there is real energy in our beliefs. Every time I “tried” to not to care, it didn’t work. It was only when I really didn’t care, that the miracle happened. And it was based on being true to my values.

I didn’t try to put on a “tough” skin, or act like someone I wasn’t. I stayed true to myself, and learned an important lesson about life. I could be both vulnerable and strong.

So—what is the power of being vulnerable?

You may help someone. You never know who may be struggling with the same thing. Sometimes just knowing we’re not alone makes a world of difference.

Your authenticity shines more brightly. Some of the energy caught up in hiding who you are gets released into simply being yourself.

You gain resilience. When when you practice good boundaries and listen to your intuition about what you choose to share, and with whom, you learn that it’s safe to be real. As others accept you for who you are, you learn to accept your own frailties, which strengthens you.

And the truth is, there are people who want to know who you are, what you think, how you feel. I’m thrilled to see the movement of energy in Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. I’m in awe when I read Rumi’s poetry. I laugh out loud at the cat videos people post on Facebook.

View through colored glass in kaleidoscope

The perspectives we share with each other are kaleidoscopes of meaning.

They are little stained-glass windows into someone else’s soul.

They enrich our experiences on this earth. They add depth, lightness, and beauty. And I am grateful for all of it.

To borrow a piece of wisdom from one of my clients, don’t “hoard” yourself and your gifts!

How can you bring more of who you are into your self-expression?
(And what are you waiting for?)