"People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed
only if there is light from within."
-Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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Remember the Seinfeld episode where the character George wants a nickname? But George doesn't just want any nickname. He wants to be called "T-Bone." In the end, he's stuck with KoKo, named after the signing gorilla.

I wasn't a huge Seinfeld follower, but I do remember this episode, probably because I could relate to George's desire for a nickname. And like George, a name like Sara doesn't provide too many creative options. Oh, sure there's the shortened "Sar" or occasional "Sar-Bear," but as I child I longed for a second name—an alter ego—that set me apart. Something that identified me as being "special." (I suppose this is why I’ve always preferred to go by my full name, Sara Rae.) On several occasions as a child, I tried to give myself a nickname. But, like George's experience, the names never stuck. Nicknames, I've come to realize, aren't something you find, but rather, find you.

But there was one nickname, given to me in high school by a friend, that I’ve always sort of liked. "Sparkles." Ok—so I think this guy liked me and the name was a way to flirt with me. And, if I’m brutally honest, I did sort of have a crush on him, too. But it was a situation where our timing was always off, and to take the relationship any further would've risked ruining a really great friendship. So in a way, this special name was enough to set me apart, to make me feel special. But more than that, I liked the reason behind the nickname. When I finally asked him "Why Sparkles?" he replied, "Because you do. You're always up to something. You're always on the tip of some new idea. You've just got that sparkle in your eye."

This friend saw something in me that I wasn't able to see for myself back then. I can't recall ever feeling all that “sparkly” back then. Stil, he saw it. And the nickname, "Sparkles" has always carried a very tender, special meaning for me not because it was from this person, per se, but because it captured all that I already was but couldn't see for myself.

It's Wednesday, which means it's also Wishcasting Wednesday over at Jamie Ridler Studios. Today’s wishing prompt is ever so appropriately "How do you wish to sparkle?"

To draw inspiration from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' quote above, I wish to sparkle from within.

I wish to sparkle from a secure sense of inner beauty.

I wish to sparkle not because others say I do but because I feel and see that sparkle for myself.

I wish to sparkle no matter the circumstance, but especially during life’s darkest moments. After all, isn’t it on the darkest nights that the stars shine the brightest?

Your One Step

The upstairs hallway in my parents’ house is lined with framed photos of my sisters and me on our first birthdays. Below each photo is a plaque engraved with our name and the meaning associated with it. You’ve probably seen such name plaques at craft fairs.

But what if you could name yourself? And what if that name didn’t have to be something “conventional,” but wildly original and descriptive of your creative spirit? I wonder, what would you call yourself?

Well, happy creative birthday! Today you get to name yourself, and create a name plaque to go with your new creative identity.

Choose a name—a word perhaps—and write it on a plaque. The plaque could be a piece of poster board, a paper plate, a scrap of wood…whatever you have nearby. Below your new name, write the meaning of it. Feel free to use the dictionary meaning of the word you chose, or make up your own definition. Perhaps you’d prefer to accompany your new name with a mission statement instead of a description. Be creative! Be daring! Be YOU!

 
“This is the true joy in life:
being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one;
being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself
to making you happy.” 
-George Bernard Shaw

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When you’re in the trenches of seeing a dream through from a teeny sparkle in your heart to your great big reality, it’s easy to slip into...do I dare say it?...a state of selfishness.

I don’t think it’s done deliberately. In fact, most creatives are the exact opposite of “selfish.” We’re givers (sometimes to a fault). We’re fixers. We live by a deep-seeded belief that we have something inside of us that must be shared with the world.

Still, we can become so driven to see our dream through and so focused on the to-do lists attached to that dream that other priorities can unnoticeably slip into the backseat of our lives. Our mantra becomes “I must do this,” “I can do this,” “I will do this.” And then, when things don’t work out quite right, when we become frustrated, angry even, we mistakenly conclude that we aren’t working hard enough, when really those feelings are a gentle nudge telling us some other aspect of our life has swung out of balance.

This was the case for me just yesterday. I was feeling energized. Hopeful even. I’d submitted my resume for another potential freelance opportunity and a book idea struck like lightning earlier in the afternoon. Yes, the gears had kicked it up a notch; I felt as though I was clipping along toward my new reality a little faster than before.

Once home, I plopped myself down on the living room floor and started working out some of the details for the book idea. My husband was in the adjacent kitchen at the computer.

“Honey, what did we budget for household items this month?” he asked.

I answered.

“And what about restaurants and entertainment?” he asked.

I answered again, this time just a wee bit irritated at the break in my concentration.

“Do you know what our cell phone bill will be next month?” he asked.

“No, because we don’t have the bill.” I replied…this time fully irritated.

He started to say something else, but I rudely cut him off.
 
“I really don’t want to talk finances right now,” I snapped. “Can’t you see I’m trying to make use of what little time I have this evening so I can actually make some progress on my goals.”

Ouch. I heard the selfishness in my voice before the sentence was completely out of my mouth. I, I, I. My, my, my. It was all about me. My husband works full-time, too, and yet he was choosing to use this time he had at home to go through our monthly budget—something I’d been asking him to do with me for the past couple of weeks. Ok, so his timing wasn’t the best, but he was still choosing to put “us” before himself.

My dream to fulfill my purpose as a writer and artist started out as something for “us.” After all, a happier partner (me) leads to a happier marriage, doesn’t it? And with a non-conventional job there would be more flexibility and freedom in our life to do all the other things we’ve talked about doing: thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, move to and experience new places, raise bees and try our hand at making and selling natural, hand-crafted soaps, write books, make art…live life simply and happily.

It appeared that the stress, fatigue and frustration that go hand-in-hand with the joy, excitement and fulfillment of working on a dream had the upper hand in this moment.

This isn’t all about me, I reminded myself. This is what living life as my authentic, creative self and using my gifts can bring to others, be it my marriage, my husband, my family, my friends, the world.

Today, the Wishcasting Wednesday prompt over at Jamie Ridler Studios touches on this idea of micro versus macro. The self versus others.

“What do you wish for the world?”

The question takes the focus off the ego, and instead asks us to look for a deeper, further-reaching component to our dream and creative aspirations.

What do I wish for the world? My reflex response would be peace, followed by love and all with a healthy dose of understanding. And while I do wish for all those things, I think they come under a bigger wish: a wish for us all to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

If we all took a moment to shift our perspective and see a situation from another person’s vantage point, we might begin to cultivate greater awareness of others’ needs. We might be able to recognize our common ground before our differences. We might be able to see the beauty and depth in differing opinions, and stop saying someone else is wrong just because we think we’re right.

To cheaply borrow from John Lennon, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.


Your One Step:

Today, take a break from your dream. That’s right, you heard me. Put down the pen, close the laptop, cap that tube of paint.

Today, I want you to use some of the time you’d normally give to your dream, and use it to bring some light and love to someone else. Don’t worry. You can still bring creativity into it.

Write a letter—a real, honest-to-goodness, tangible, written-on-paper letter—to a loved one you don’t see very often and decorate the paper with doodles, color and embellishments. Bake a special dessert for your sweetie. Invite a friend for a cappuccino or a latte, and draw designs in the milky foam using a toothpick.

Shift your viewpoint and look for the ways your creative sparkle can light up someone else’s world.

 
"Happiness is not a matter of intensity
but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony."
-Thomas Merton


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When I got the assignment to write a story about life balance, I couldn't help but think someone definitely had a sense of humor. Me? The girl who flies by the seat of her pants, the girl who's had a reputation for burning the candle at both ends since the fifth grade, the girl who wishes her body didn’t require sleep so she could use those few hours for something a little more productive...this is who you want to write a story on life balance? **Pause.** **Think.**  **Nod.** Well, OK then. Let's get writing!

My favorite aspect about freelance feature writing is that I'm always learning something new. I was fairly certain I'd  be doing my fair share of learning with this assignment.

With each life coach, psychologist, holistic health professional and yoga instructor I interviewed, I realized all of them could be talking about me when they described they're typical client.

I've been so busy "doing" these first 20-some days of Project 180 that I've started to lose my sense of "being." I'm tending to my many projects like a series of spinning plates that are on the verge of toppling over and shattering everywhere. Instead of feeling inspired and motivated, frustration and panic has settled over me. I want to get back into my workout routine, but that takes away from time that could be spent writing or creating journals. I want to ease into the day with prayer and meditation, but I didn't get around to packing lunches the night before. I want to get into work on time (without "bending" the speed limit the entire way), but—oh!—just 15 more minutes of sleep, puh-lease!

I knew bringing my dream into reality was going to require work. But this—head pounding, chest tight, stomach queasy, nerves on edge—WOW! I'm beginning to question if I'm really cut out for this whole crazily creative, entrepreneurial path I embarked on. I mean, I'm only 22 days in. I could still turn around.

Then I remembered something one of my story sources, a wellness coach, had said.

"If you want to get yourself to where you want to be, you have to look at the mind, body and spirit together."

Where was my mind? Disorganized chaos. A nonstop flow of thoughts. Negative.

Where was my body? Tired. Not exercising. On overdrive.

Where was my spirit? On hold. Weary. Starving.

Yep, a classic picture of imbalance if there ever was one.

So I whipped out my handy index cards—seven of them to be exact—and at the top of them wrote the days of the week, Monday through Friday, leaving Saturday and Sunday flexible and open for relaxation and creative serendipity. I scheduled out the weekdays. I immediately blocked off 7-8 hours of sleep (body), 9-1/2 hours for my day job and commute time, and two hours for the basics (getting ready in the morning, making dinner and daily basic housekeeping.) That left me with 4-1/2 hours to foster a greater sense of balance while dreaming up some creative magic.

It didn't seem like much time at first, but oh what a little creativity can do. Take a look,..

Learn the Meaning of Enough:
Dedicate the day to two projects, and two projects only. Dedicate an hour to each and realize this is enough (the rest will still be there tomorrow). For me, it works best to use the first hour in the morning before work. Going into work knowing you've already invested in your dream makes any day job more bearable. The other hour is placed in the evening. And just like that, I've put in two whole beautiful hours devoted completely to my dream.

Call It By Name:
Assigning those two hours a specific focus keeps my mind from wandering to the other items waiting in the wings on my "to do" list. I've even heard of creative magic makers who take this step as far as giving each day a catchy name, like Marketing Mondays or Writing Wednesdays to really drive home that idea of focus. Others will write down that hour’s focus on a Post-It note or index card and keep it in sight while working…just in case thoughts begin to drift. Do whatever works for you...just stick to the task at hand.

Just Be:
If we're always "doing" we burn out. After all, there is a reason we're called human beings. We need to take time to just be, to feel our bodies, to move, to explore the world around us. That's why one hour of my day is now dedicated to something enjoyable, calming and soothing. Reading is something I love to do, but as a writer definitely do not read enough. Now that I've barred myself from purchasing any more books until I read the ones already lining my bookshelves or serving as make-shift living room furniture, I figured it's time to start reading. So half an hour a day is dedicated to reading. (I'm starting with The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.) The other half hour is spent catching up with my favorite blogs, checking in with friends on Facebook or watching a television show or playing a game of Scrabble with my husband.

Make Every Moment Count:
I spend over an hour every day commuting to work, which made me think, "What can I do with that hour to make it work for me?" So I loaded my ipod with spiritual and inspirational podcasts for the drive to work (feeding the spirit), and creativity podcasts and other "educational" programs for the drive home (feeding the mind). And during that half-hour lunch I get each day at noon, I head out to my car, journal in hand and spend 30 blissful minutes moving the pen across the page (feeding the spirit and mind)

Get Up and Move:
When you add up the time, I'm still left with two full hours—ample time to take a spin class, crank out a long run followed by some strength training, develop my fairly new yoga practice and still have time to drive home from the gym, shower up and get on with the rest of my day. Exercise makes me feel alive, strong and confident, which is why I know I need to make it a priority in my life.


Mind, body and spirit. Work, rest, play. When these areas are moving together in synchronicity that’s when we begin to feel alive. That’s when we can settle into our creative groove and let the magic happen.

But it takes practice. It takes some trial and error. It takes a little self-love and self-acceptance when you do fall of track. But did a few bumps and bruises keep you from learning to ride your bike as a child? Nah! In fact, I wear my skinned up and scarred knees as a sign of courage—proof that I am willing to fall down and get back up however many times it takes.

Live Creatively!
Sara


Your One Step:

My creative cohort, friend and life coach Jeanette Stevenson uses the most beautiful illustration in her workshops for living life in balance. She asks someone from the group to demonstrate the yoga tree pose. As the person stands on one foot with the sole of the other foot placed against the inner thigh of the supporting leg, she asks the group to look closely.

What we notice are the teeny, tiny, mini micromovements the person is making to maintain their balance and grace.

Maintaining balance in life or a creative endeavor, she says, is much the same way. To create a life of balance we must be able—and willing—to make small adjustments as needed. To move this and shift that in order to make sure the mind, body and spirit are all getting adequate nourishment.

What micromovements can you make today?

Can you get up just five minutes earlier to meditate on a favorite quote, positive affirmation or verse of Scripture?

Can you take a night off from checking Facebook and call a friend instead?

Can you let the dishes sit in the sink while you play a game with your child or spouse?

Can you turn off the television to read, write a few pages in your journal or work on a piece of art?

Sometimes it’s the tiniest shift in our movement that creates the greatest ripple effect.