“The splendid discontent of God with chaos made the world; And from the discontent of man, the world's best progress springs.”
—Ella Wheeler Wilcox


“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down...” or so the lyrics go. Although today would’ve been more appropriately described as “Snowy mid-April days and Mondays always get me down...” I realize I live in Wisconsin where forecasting the weather resembles a game of roulette, but after yesterday’s mild temperatures, crisp blue sky and full sun, awakening to a gray skies and a few inches of heavy, slushy snow made me want to climb back under the covers and try again tomorrow.

I stumbled sleepily toward the coffee maker. As I poured myself a mug of rich, black Sweet Nectar of Life, I realized it wasn’t the weather that had caused my emotional funk. No, this overwhelming frustration caused by an internal battle between chaos and calmness has been fighting itself out for quite some time now. I’m just beginning to feel the bumps, bruises and wounds from the brawl.

“You’re doing too much,” is a common warning from my husband who, sadly, gets a front row seat to my mini melt-downs (which have been happening more and more frequently these past few weeks, I’m saddened to say).

And just this past Friday, a childhood friend looked at me and said, “You can’t do it all and expect to do it all well. Something is going to suffer.”

I may not admit it to their faces, and I may counter what they say with a thousand and one reasons why I need to be doing it all...but deep down I know they’re right. My upbringing was very black and white. This right. This is wrong.

From a young age I was taught the message that I was not a quitter. And for the most part it’s a principle that’s served me well—especially in the middle of a marathon when every muscle fiber and joint is pleading with me to stop.

But I’m learning that the concept of “quitting,” like so many other concepts, is surrounded by shades of gray. There is quitting, but there is also acknowledging when something—be it a job, a relationship, your city of residence, your hobby, your faith—no longer fits the way it used to or no longer fulfills the need it once did. Here, in this place that feels a little but like wearing a pair of footie pajamas that are a size too snug, is actually a blessed place filled with choices. You aren’t stuck with option A) quit and bail or option B) stay and be miserable. Here in the gray, you have a rainbow of options.

A great tool for exploring your options when you’re feeling stuck is a dream board. I created the one pictured here as part of Jamie Ridler Studios’ dream board telecircle. At first glance, I wasn’t very happy with my board, and considered starting over. It was too busy...too messy...to chaotic. The bright, vivid background inscribed with the lyrics of Garrison Starr’s “Hey Girl” seemed to clash with the simplistic, calming images and words I’d pasted on top. Oh, but hang on a second! A closer look revealed that the dichotomy illustrated on the page so beautifully captured the tumultuous scramble between where I’m headed and where I’m at. So I left it. And I have to say, my board has grown on me. I especially like the image of the woman in the white tank top, her arms up in the air as if to surrender her need to force things to happen and instead let things naturally fall into place. (I think she is really doing a yoga pose, which is fine by me because increased mindfulness is a top priority for me this month.)

The board has inspired me to carve out time for a mind-mapping session in my journal. I need a clearer picture of what ideas/commitments should be my top priorities and what actions they require; which ideas/commitments need to be placed on the shelf for a bit (shelving ideas is a huge struggle for me, a topic I’ll dig into on this blog very soon); and which ideas/commitments no longer fit or won’t deliver the greatest, lasting benefit for the investment of my time they require.

I’m learning there is contentment in the chaos...if we only sit long enough to let it emerge.

Your One Step:

Break out the scissors and glue and get comfy with a big stack of old magazines! It’s time to make your very own dream board.

Feel free to devote an entire afternoon to its creation as I did for mine, or make a mini version you can complete in about 30 minutes. Put it in a page in your journal or on the ever-so-handy (and portable) large index cards. Another fun way to create a “dream board to-go” is to use one of those acrylic photo key chains. You know, the kind where you insert your own photo?

To do this, cut an index card down to size. Select one or two smaller, powerful images or phrases and glue them to the board. After the glue has dried, insert the board into the frame of the keychain. Viola! Instant portable inspiration.

"It's always best to start at the beginning...
and all you do is follow the Yellow Brick Road."
—Glinda the Good Witch to Dorothy | The Wizard of Oz

I'm feeling sort of excited today. Almost giddy, really. Sure it helps that it's sunny and the temps are expected to climb to nearly 50 degrees...that's a heat wave for those of us stuck smack dab in the middle of a frigid Wisconsin winter.

But what really excites me is the goal I've set for myself. In exactly 180 days from today I’ll be celebrating a milestone birthday. To celebrate, I've decided to give myself the best birthday present one could ever receive...a dream fulfilled. And so, today is the official kickoff of what I’m calling “Project 180: Life Lived on Purpose."

Quite frankly, I’m done staring at a list of things I wish I could do...or would like to do...someday. What’s wrong with today? What’s wrong with taking one step everyday (for the next 180 days) to bring those dreams over to reality? At least that’s the plan. When August 15, 2011 finally arrives, I can’t wait to see what dream is waiting inside that beautifully wrapped box with the big shiny bow.

That’s right...I don’t know what the dream looks like. At least now exactly. Instead, I’m unwrapping a small piece of it each day. That's what's makes this so exciting...such an adventure! Now, I do know the dream involves writing, lots of writing...and art (maybe something with my handcrafted recycled book journals?)...and adventure...and exploration...and curiosity...and creativity...oh, yes, lots and lots of vibrant, colorful, delicious creativity.

Throughout the journey I'll jot down the lessons learned here, and hopefully inspire others who may be embarking on a similar path. (Don’t we all have that crazily creative inner child who’s screaming to scribble outside the lines again?)

I’m simply bursting with joy at the thought of launching this project...and it wouldn’t be happening if it hadn’t been for the support of many special people—those I know personally and those who I know through blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Over the past several months I have received an incredible amount of inspiration from creative bloggers and entrepreneurs...Jamie Ridler of Jamie Ridler Studios, Patti Digh of 37days, Andrea Schroeder of ABCcreativity, Megan Monique of If I Were a Rainbow, Nate of It Starts With.Us, Melanie of Dose of Creativity, Connie of Dirty Footprints Studio, my friend and creative cohort, life coach Jeanette Stevenson of Point of You...and so many other magically creative, beautiful, inspirational souls.

Speaking of these inspirational mentors, Jamie Ridler’s “Wishcasting Wedensday” prompt for today couldn’t be more appropriate. “What aspect of your personality do you wish to express more of?” she asks...

The dreamer. I wish to express my inner dreamer.

The brave dreamer. The bold dreamer. The creative dreamer.

The dreamer with child-like faith. The dreamer with insatiable curiosity. The dreamer with a wide open heart.

That’s what I wish to express today...and for the 179 days to follow.