Tag Archives | Joy

Love and Loss


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246
Kani with Rio and his band

Kani (center) with Rio and his band

I recently lost a friend. And that loss hit me harder than I expected.

I was sad when I got the email that Sidney, a beautiful 12-year-old buckskin mare, had died after a brief bout with colic. We weren’t particularly close, although I would say Hello when I saw her and she would greet me, and I always had the feeling she wanted me to call her Heidi instead of Sidney. I thought fondly of her, but I thought more about Kama Kani, who was powerfully bonded to Sidney. I wondered how he would do without her; she was his anchor, his bridge to the rest of the herd.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Less than a week later Kani passed as well. I read the email that morning and wept, with a profound sense of… a lot of things. Maybe I should say I felt many things, especially a sense of the profoundness of this particular moment.

For one thing, I realized in that moment not only how much I loved him, but how much I owed him. He was pretty wild and nervous when he arrived at the ranch yet, while I was cautious around him, I was never afraid of him. And he rewarded me by being the first horse to ask me for Reiki. He taught me what I could do by asking me to do it, and he taught me to recognize the Ask. We grew to trust each other. That story, and the journey it launched, became my first published article.

Kani gave me confidence.

Kani lived most of his life in isolation from other horses, so he came to the herd in a state of… arrested development. Socially retarded. Even though he was an adult, he was like a gangly teenager, learning how to be in the world. Like a teenager, he quickly fell for Sidney when he arrived, and they became a bonded pair. But since he didn’t know how to interact with a herd and didn’t have much confidence, he got pushed around and had low status in the herd… until Rio arrived and carved out a mini-herd-within-the-herd, one that included Sidney – and Kani. Because where Sidney went, Kani went. Rio accepted Kani as part of the package, and Kani’s status in the herd increased.

When Kani came to the ranch, he arrived with the information that he was 18. He also arrived with his ribs showing and an unhappy stomach – for which he asked me for Reiki. But a year later, a visiting dentist said that, based on the condition of his teeth, Kani was likely closer to 30 – making him one of the elders of the herd. It also meant that most of the grass and hay he ate wasn’t getting chewed well and was passing through him mostly undigested. He was immediately put on a routine of twice daily feedings of mash. He appreciated the food and the attention, and he quickly got in the habit of leaving his pals and coming in willingly. And as he started getting more nutrition and his gut felt better he calmed even more and asked me for Reiki less often.

One day I was visiting the herd and I watched as Kani realized he could move Rio and the others – and he did. And they let him. He moved them around the pasture, having a ball. Again he was like an awkward, gangly, blossoming teenager, realizing what he was capable of and discovering his power. Yet he was an old man. I watched him, and my heart filled with joy.

Kani gave me joy.

I will also never forget the day Sharon and I went out to the pasture to bring Kani in for his evening feeding. It was one of the rare occasions that he and Sidney were separated, as she was in the barn recovering from a deep cut on her leg. We found Kani grazing contentedly with Rio and his band, put a halter on him and coaxed him away. I led him down the hill, and we got across the tiny creek at the bottom with no trouble. We headed toward the barn, and then something spooked him and he started circling me while I held on to the lead rope. I saw the two newest members of the herd pass us, and I realized they must have goosed him as they passed.

I managed to calm him and we headed off again toward the barn… until we passed the two newbies. Enjoying the realization that they were higher in status than someone, they came up behind us and moved Kani again. He stayed with me and didn’t bolt back to his pals, but he left his body and started circling again. This time, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t stop him. I started to get dizzy, going around with him. Sharon stepped in and I handed her the lead and stepped out, like a couple of girls jumping rope. She was also unable to stop him. Suddenly Michele, another member of the ranch team, appeared and stepped in and took the lead rope. She stood stock still, passing the lead from hand to hand around her, not turning with him, talking calmly, and suddenly they were moving forward to the barn.

He could have hurt us, but he didn’t.

And just like that day in the paddock when he trusted me enough to ask for Reiki and I trusted him enough be in that paddock with him, Kani gave me his trust, and I gave him mine.

On one of my last visits with him, I saw him with Sidney, apart from the others. I headed over to them, and he came to greet me. He didn’t ask for Reiki; we just stood together, enjoying the sunshine while Sidney slowly moved away down the valley, grazing. I scratched the hollow above his eye, and then he turned and followed Sidney.

Many times in the week after Sidney died, I held Kani in my thoughts and scratched that hollow above his eye.

So I wasn’t surprised when I saw the email with just his name in the subject line. I read the story of his decline and peaceful passing, and I wept as I thought about all he gave me. I wept as I pondered this equine version of those human love stories about life partners who pass within months, weeks or days of each other.

It occurred to me that he was not unlike the clients I worked with as a Job Coach, all of them challenged in some way, many of them unsure of themselves when we met, all of them delightful and earnest and brilliant. I thought about going to work with them, learning their jobs just one step ahead of them, learning things from them, and being so proud of them as they kept showing up and made places for themselves.

As Kimberly Carlisle, co-founder of The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership, which had adopted Kani, wrote,

“Though I grieve them both deeply, unlike the raw, too early departure of Sidney, Kani’s passing was bittersweet. Though he had lived alone for most of his 30 years, in his 18 months with our herd he had become a complete horse — more confident, balanced, trusting and expressive.”

I pondered all of this, remembering my time with him, and suddenly Kani was here with me. He looked around my apartment, and sniffed at my collection of pictures of roads. Pictures of going places.

After years of being alone in one place, Kani, you got to go places. You are going places.


Life is full of mysteries, and this is one. Sidney went first, and quickly… one day after Kani’s health began to decline. He passed less than a week after Sidney. Did he go because he was pining for her? Did his compromised health make it hard to survive his grief? I think there is something else to consider. What if… knowing that Kani would linger here and refuse to pass when it was time rather than leave her, Sidney chose to go first so that Kani would be free to go?

We’ll never know.

What I do know is that theirs is one of the great love stories. Sidney was a miracle horse, fighting to recover from a malady that almost killed her, coming back to meet Kani and bond with him. And Kani’s is a story of second chances, proof positive that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.


That night I had a dream about a horse. I was standing in the elevator lobby at a hospital where I used to work, and a black and white tweed horse (yes, black tweed with light flecks, not Kani’s copper red hair) stood with me. The elevator door opened, he kissed me on the cheek, and got on the elevator to go find his beloved.


Good-bye, Kani and Sid. My life is better for having known you.

Skin and Bones and Memories


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

The other day I was reading an excerpt from “Writing Life Stories,” by Bill Roorbach with Kristen Keckler, PhD, and this paragraph struck me:

“And—I’m just realizing this—memory is what people are made of. After skin and bone, I mean. And if memory is what people are made of, then people are made of loss. No wonder we value our possessions so much. And no wonder we crave firm answers, formulae, facts, and figures. All are attempts (however feeble in the end) to preserve what’s gone. The present is all that’s genuinely available to anyone, and the present is fleeting, always turning instantly to the past.”

People are made of loss.

That’s a powerful statement. I feel the truth of it in my chest, in my heart, in my belly. Even as part of me resists it.

And. The present is all that’s genuinely available to us.

People are made of loss. Of disconnection. The good news is, Memory is how we maintain connection to what – and who – has gone away. Grief is the emotion of that disconnection, and Joy is the emotion of connection. So memories can make us laugh through our tears.

And. The present is all that’s genuinely available to us.

One of life’s paradoxes, where more than one thing can be true at once.

I have learned to embrace that paradox – to embrace the grief, with its happy and sad, and to embrace the here and now. Fiercely.

At least sometimes Fiercely. Sometimes Fiercely is required, and is its own satisfaction. And sometimes gentle Relaxing Into It is possible. Even necessary.

We are made of memories. All we have is The Present.

I have learned that when I am able to embrace both the loss and the Here and Now, without hiding, then I am able to also release.

More paradox. Sorry. *winks*

PS, March 31 2014: And then there’s this timely post from Wayne Wirs to consider: http://waynewirs.com/2014/assumption. Paradox resolved?


How would embracing this paradox change anything for you?

Please tell me in the comments.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I Finally Get It


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

I finally get it.

Thanks to tripping over a blog post by Julie Daley, I just had an insight into something that has been puzzling me. Puzzling me, in fact, since I accepted the calling to work in the world of Grief. Since I realized that working in the world of Grief is really working in the world of Connection.

The puzzle?

Where does Curiosity fit into it?

Curiosity, which has been my focus, my bandwagon, for several years. My joy, my playground. My secret weapon.

Grief. Connection. Healing. Curiosity.

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?”*

A puzzle. And my fear, at the bottom of the puzzle, was that Curiosity didn’t belong here any more, and I really didn’t want to give it up as a topic. Because it’s fun to explore, to write about. Because it is important.

“Three of these things belong together
Three of these things are kind of the same
Can you guess which one of these doesn’t belong here?
Now it’s time to play our game.”*

Actually…

Now I see that it is like the others, and it’s so obvious to me I wonder how I didn’t see it before.

In her post, Julie wrote about knowing and not knowing, about admitting what we don’t know, and owning what we do know. And something in what she wrote reminded me that Curiosity is what connects us to others. Curiosity is what is happening when we reach out to someone else, when we admit we don’t know, and we’d like to.

Curiosity is what bridges the gap between me and you.

Curiosity is what powers my reaching out, my desire to Connect with you. I don’t know, and I’d like to. To connect with Life. I don’t understand, and I’d like to.

Connection and Loss, Joy and Grief, are intimately intertwined. So Curiosity, as a fundamental aspect of Connection, is part of that dance.

<Ding>

And I have to laugh, because I have known this all along. After all, one of my handles is “Believes Curiosity and Wonder can save the world.”

Grief. Connection. Healing. Curiosity.

They are… connected.

I know it in my bones.

Yes.


Does this resonate with you? What do you know in your bones?

Please leave a comment.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*That’s right, Sesame Street. “Three of These Things” by Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss, c 1970.

Happy Birthday, Bruce!


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

Happy Brithday, Bruce! You would have been 65 today, and it would be a significant event.

You probably wouldn’t want a big party, but we would observe the day somehow… a drive through the country, a visit to a lake, the first eggnog of the year, orange cranberry muffins (you’d only eat the top – that’s what “muffin top” means to me). Breakfast for dinner, sushi for breakfast.

I remember one year Aunt Norma asked me what you’d like for your birthday. She told me she was thinking of getting you a shirt. I told her how you asked me early on in our relationship to promise I would NEVER buy you clothes for your birthday or Christmas. You had told me how you had gotten clothes as presents as a kid, and how you thought those were rotten gifts – you wanted TOYS. So I always made sure you got fun stuff. Aunt Norma was surprised – but she didn’t buy you a shirt. I helped her get you a juicer, and you loved it.

I also remember how you asked my mom to send you gift certificates from Lands End so you could pick out your own gifts – flannel shirts, turtlenecks, and so on. But the last few years you used those gift certificates to buy my Christmas presents: Shearling slippers, a monogrammed spa robe. You felt bad about being so disabled you couldn’t work and earn money to spend – to contribute, to spend on me – but the gift certificates were yours, so you used them on me. And you asked me to promise not to tell her. Oops, too late now.

I wish… I wish we had talked about death, dying. We didn’t. Not much, anyway. Even though we knew it was coming. I had my own baggage, and I stupidly feared that talking about your death would somehow damage your will to live.

I was wrong. I know that now.

You were always better about admitting you were wrong than I was. It took me a long time to learn that, and you were a good teacher.

I want you to know… I’m doing OK. Better than OK. It’s been a long process, with a lot of healing, a lot of choices. It took a long time for me to remember more than your last days. To remember the fun. The life.

To feel more than the searing loss. To feel your presence more than your absence.

The presence that made me laugh. That held me. That once wrote, “Remember my eyes, they’re just for you.”

Happy Birthday, Bruce. I hope, I believe, I know, you are out there. Dancing. Standing straight and tall. Helping people and animals. Watching over me as I learn to live. As I learn to love.

Happy Birthday, you awesome spirit. I wish more people had known you like I did.

Love,

Susan T.

Hello, Universe, are you trying to tell me something?


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, a room panelled in honey-colored knotty pine, listening to the rain on the roof just inches from my head. Now a resident of California, I haven’t heard the sound of rain in months, and the rumble of thunder is delightful, comforting.

If I look out the window, the rain and clouds obscure the view, but I know well what is beyond them: Puget Sound and the Vashon Island Ferry docks to the southwest, and the Olympic Mountains to the west. For now, though, the horizon is the rooftops across the street and the treeline a few blocks away.

I am reminded, being here on this rainy day, that grey and green is a soothing color combination, one that you have to have lived with to appreciate. It is quite a contrast to the combination of blue sky and golden hills that is the horizon of my home in Northern Califorinia’s East Bay.

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, with my mother’s cat, Tommy, purring at my feet. Tommy is three times as big as my cat Abby, and one and a half times as big as my cat Rocket, who are at home in California. Tommy is taking care of me, making sure I get enough Feline Time while I am here.

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom with a borrowed laptop on my lap. My own beloved MacBook Pro, labelled “vintage” by Apple, gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, and a friend of my roommate is experimenting to see if he can pull six years of files, photographs and music off of the hard drive. (“What, you didn’t have a back-up?” I hear you tut tut. I thought I did; my external hard-drive was whirring away several times a day, but the files are all from the first backup in 2011. Only the database files have recent dates. Lesson: Test everything at least once a year. More often is better.)

When I moved last year and held a gigantic moving sale and let go of many things, I began thinking about the difference between connection and attachment. This year, as I have wrestled with selling my Corvette, the difference between attachment and connection has become a lot clearer. Contemplating the loss of my files, music and photographs brings it up again.

Hello, Universe, are you trying to tell me something?

When the Corvette was broken into at the beginning of this year and many of my favorite CDs were stolen, I thought, “Ah well, most of them are in iTunes on my computer.” Not all, but many. Now those are gone.

Most of the photographs are on memory cards, either in my camera bag or in storage. But the edited versions may be lost forever, except for the ones uploaded to WordPress. Ah well.

And the files… some can be recreated, some cannot. Much is just historical archive, files I have accumulated over the years. But I will be sad to lose the poems and essays I have written and not yet published. It is a challenge to lose the budget spreadsheets and resumes, the invoices, all the files I was able to just open and replicate as needed. Ah well.

Thinking about all of that, I mind me of the difference between accumulation and collection. Much of what is hidden on that hard drive was carefully created and collected, but much was just accumulated. The accumulation I won’t miss that much. But the things I had consciously collected, those are different. Ah well.

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, on my first vacation in a year and a half. I am here for the wedding of my cousin, an occasion of great rejoicing. Not just a public commitment and celebration of love, but a validation. That something that was denied to him and to so many others for so long, and still is in many places, is now available to him. They were always worthy, but it took society a while to catch up. This is a celebration of inclusion after being excluded for so long. A celebration of connection. An event of fierce and tender Joy. It’s going to be one hell of a party.

I am sitting on the bed in my childhood bedroom, thinking about how to get together with everyone I want to see while I am here and still get some rest, still spend some quiet time with my mom and my immediate family. Thinking about how to maintain those connections, and build some new connections with people with whom I have only corresponded.

Connections. Versus Attachments.

Collections Versus Accumulations.

Worthy musings for a rainy morning in my childhood bedroom in Seattle.


Where are your connections vs. attachments?
Where are your collections vs. accumulations?
Please leave a comment.

Please share this post – Like it on Facebook, +1 it or Tweet it!

Grief and Joy


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

This is the continuation of my previous post – which you can read here.

As I began to embrace shifting the focus of my coaching and consulting away from traditional Organization Development, Change Management and Executive Coaching and toward Grief work, an idea began taking hold in my head and my heart. It both mystified me made perfect sense. And it scared the hell out of me.

It scared me so much that, like Jonah, I ran away and found myself in the belly of a whale. Hiding. Waiting.

What was that idea? This:

Grief and Joy are the same.

Wha…?

I Know It to Be True

It makes no sense… and it makes perfect sense. It confuses me when I try to wrap my head around it, and it resonates through my body and out to the tips of my fingers.

My body knows it to be true. The same body that has experienced wracking sobs that felt like they would tear me apart, drain me dry, leave me desolate. The same body that has felt surges of energy when I have truly connected with others, and not just in sexual activity. My body knows it to be true. When I hold this idea for a moment, my body knows it to be deep and real like taking a deep breath. It fills me and feeds me like oxygen.

I don’t understand it, but I know it to be true.

Grief and Joy are the same.

A little bell in my soul goes ding. It resonates.

The Belly of the Whale

My brain, on the other hand, does NOT know it to be true. My brain is flummoxed. It resists the idea. How can two such different experiences be the same?

And how could I do this work with such a crazy idea as a foundation?

That is what scared me, scared me into silence and into running away until I found myself in the belly of the whale.

Grief and Joy are the same.

If someone had said this to me when I was in the deepest desert of Grief, in the bleakness and desolation… If someone had said this to me when I was there, I might have wanted to slap them. The way I wanted to slap well-meaning friends who said things like, “You’ll be ready to let him go someday.” I wanted to slap them… and they were right.

And yet…

If someone had told me that Grief and Joy are the same when I was fresh in desolation, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to slap them. Maybe, at a time when I was in touch with the physical pain of loss, I would have recognized the truth of it with my body.

Even though the physical experiences of Grief and Joy are so different.

And yet…

As I write that I am also struck by how similar they can be.

How similar the paroxysms of grief, the waves of wracking sobs, the grief spasms, are to the waves of orgasm.

Grief – the emotion of separation – and Joy – the emotion of connection… they are the same thing.

Or they are part of the same thing.

My brain says No, and picks out the millions of differences and distinctions. My body says Yes, and breathes into it.

I breathe through it.

Perhaps it is like that. Joy and Connection are the breathing-in. Grief and Disconnection are the breathing-out.

They are both breathing.

They are One.

Someone – I don’t remember who – once said, “Grief is how we love those we have lost.” So Grief is the emotion of connection, too.

Joy is the emotion of connection. And Grief is the emotion of connection. And if A=B and B=C, A=C. They are one, and they are different.

They are One.

And so I have come to the point of acknowledging the fear that this knowledge brings up in me, the resistance to the idea, and to embracing this knowledge, trusting the truth of it. And sharing it with you. Thanks to the help of friends, and to the fact that I can’t un-know it. I must share it. I was not meant for the belly of the whale. At least, not forever.

In the novel “Ordinary People,” Judith Guest wrote, “People who keep stiff upper lips find that it’s damn hard to smile.” We must embrace Grief and Joy. We cannot have one without the other. We can not live without them both.

They are One.

There is more to be said on this subject, and I hope you will tell me what you think.

Meanwhile, here is my promise to you:

I hold this thought for you when you are in the desert and I walk with you. When you dance in delight I will dance with you.

They are One.

Come with me. I will walk with you. Let us prepare… and experience it… together.

You are not alone.


Welcome to the rebirth of Susan T. Blake Consulting and Coaching!
Please contact me to talk about
dealing with – and preparing for – Grief. And Joy.

In the coming days, weeks and months I will be writing more about Grief, and Joy, and how they touch our lives in expected and unexpected ways.

And I will continue to write about birds, and horses, and Curiosity.
It is all Connected.

Please leave a comment, and share this if you are so moved.

Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Grief and Its Twin


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

Over time, I have gradually come to the conclusion that my Right Path is to be working with Grief. With people who are grieving, with the people who support them, and with organizations whose people are experiencing – or preparing to experience – change and loss.

Now, considering that I’m a widow, and a coach, it may seem like a no-brainer. But it was a surprise to me at first. At first I resisted the idea.

And even as I came to not only accept but embrace it, sometimes when I thought about working with Grief, my brain would still say, “No, really? That’s so depressing. So dark.”

But I have a secret, a secret that lights me up and makes it not only possible, but thrilling, to work with Grief.

What’s that secret?

Joy.

Wha…?

Joy.

My friend Joie Seldon, who writes and mentors around Emotional Intelligence, taught me something very important:

Think about it. When you connect with someone, and you think, “Wow, this person is really neat,” or “Wow, they really like me,” or “Wow, I am so Freaking LUCKY,” or you don’t think anything at all but just bask in that connection for even a second, that is Joy.

What, you may ask, does that have to do with Grief?

Everything.

As I realized that my path is leading me to grief work, and I thought about the connections with others that brought me to that realization, I remembered what Joie had taught me. And I realized this:

Not the state of disconnection, but the loss of a connection.

Stephen Jenkinson, in his beautiful teachings on grief and dying, says, “Grief and the love of life are twins.” I would say it a little differently: Grief and Joy are twins. They are connected, they go together. Like two sides of a coin. One is Heads, and one is Tails.

Grief honors the lost connection, and in doing so honors and reflects Joy.

I can say that now, having survived the darkest, most barren days of my life while living through the grief of losing my husband of 22 years, my best friend, my favorite person. But in those darkest days I in no way associated Joy with what I was going through.

And yet.

In the days leading up to his death and after his death, people went out of their way to connect with me, to support me and catch me when I fell. I met people I wouldn’t ever have met if Bruce hadn’t died, and we connected. This is important, because I felt his absence so profoundly that I felt disconnected.

From everyone. And everything.

From life as I knew it.

From God.

But people flowed into that vacuum and created a lifeline. A net. And I became part of the net for others.

And I know that my grief was, and is, an honoring of my connection to Bruce. The depth of my grief was directly related to the depth of our connection.

So even in my darkest hour, in those darkest times, Grief and Joy went together.

Knowing that, feeling that, having experienced that over and over, I accepted that I can hold on to that as a a lifeline as I do this work. Even more, I accepted that I can hold the space for both Grief and Joy as I do the work, and hold that space for others, even if I don’t use that language.

It’s our secret.

But then…

As I contemplated this link between Grief and Joy, the connection that gave me the courage to embrace shifting the focus of my coaching and consulting away from traditional Organization Development, Change Management and Executive Coaching and toward Grief work, another idea began taking hold in my head and my heart.

And it scared the hell out of me. It scared me into silence and paralysis for several months. I ran away, and found myself in the belly of the whale.

To Be Continued

Image courtesy of khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sweet Moments


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

My aunt was the first to arrive for our combined Mother’s Day/Birthday Party. She began assembling a tray of appetizers, and I leaned over and whispered, “Did you forget to bring Uncle Jim?”

She straightened up and said, “Oh! He’s coming separately in the Austin Healey, so he can take you for a ride.”

Squeal!!!!!

My uncle has loved these feisty little British sports cars for as long as I can remember and, although he’s had one for years, I’ve lived elsewhere since he bought this one and I’ve only ever heard about it and the rallies he and my aunt go to, much less ridden in it. Ooooooh, the excitement!

We had a lovely family dinner – my mom, sister, aunt, uncle, cousins, their spouses and kids. I only get to see them once or twice a year when I come to town, and we just pick up where we left off with stories and catching-up and lots of silliness.

As dinner wound down and we heaved a collective sigh of contentment (except for six-year-old Daniel, who had asked several times to be excused from the table but hadn’t yet been released to his own devices), my uncle and I made eye contact across the table and said, “I’m ready.”

I leapt up and ran upstairs to get my jacket (the fastest I’d moved since hurting my foot three weeks earlier). We went outside into the evening and walked up to the little white roadster at the curb. He unbuttoned the leather cover and opened the door for me, and I lowered myself in and fastened my seat belt. He got in, and pushed the button to start the electric fuel pump and started the car. The engine roared to life, and we drove off into the sunset.

(Seriously, how often do you get to say that?)

He took me on a route I knew well, down a long winding road overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains on the horizon, which were backlit by a deep orange sunset. I knew the route, but it looked different from that little roadster with its tiny windscreen, close to the ground and with nothing between me and the evening sky.

We headed down toward the water, and he told me all about the little white Austin Healey. It was a 1957, the first year they made them with six cylinders instead of four. He told me the history of the Austin Healey in general, what type of fuel he uses, the different things he’s had done to the car, what’s on his wish list for future upgrades.

We drove down to the beach and cruised through the deepening orange-purple evening. I waved a Princess Wave at people in a restaurant facing the water, and they enthusiastically waved back.

I asked him when he knew he first wanted one of these, and he said, “I tell people I was standing at a bus stop when I was in high school and one drove by, and I fell in love.”

This is my uncle, who told me I looked pretty when my mom and my aunt were hemming my first formal gown for a big high school dance and my dad wasn’t around to tell me. My uncle who called to commiserate and make sure I was ok after my first (and, knock-wood, only) accident in the Corvette two years after Bruce died. My uncle who doesn’t say much, but when he does it’s good. He talked all the way around Alki Beach.

So I asked him, “What’s the best thing about driving this car?”

He didn’t answer at once, but different things came to him as we cruised along. Here is (in no particular order) Uncle Jim’s Top 5 List of The Best Things About Driving a 1957 Austin Healey:

  • Just driving it around, and having people look.
  • The stories people tell him: “I used to have one of those,” “My first boyfriend had one of those,” “I’ve always wanted one of those.” Not envy, just sharing stories.
  • Feeling the wind in your hair.
  • Being part of a group that has something in common. (They’re members of an Austin Healey club and go to several events a year.)
  • Driving the stick shift – it’s just fun.

In other words, Joy. Fun. Community. And Making a Dream Come True. And encouraging other people to make their dreams come true.

Pretty cool stuff.

By the time we got back, it was full dark. But I suspect the grin on my face lit up the neighborhood more brightly than the moon.

Thanks, Uncle Jim.

What do you love about your life? Where do you find joy, fun, community? Have you made your dreams come true? If not, what are you waiting for?

Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Parkinson’s, Dance, Spasmodic Dysphonia, Singing – and Joy


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

Friday night I luckily tripped over a story on the Newshour on PBS, which was rebroadcast from December 2010.

Watch this video. Substitute…

  • “Dance” for “Sing”
  • “Dance class” for “Choir practice”
  • “Look” for “Sound”
  • “Movement” for “Speech”
  • “Physical” for “Vocal”
  • “Parkinson’s” for “Spasmodic Dysphonia”

Yes.

This is vocalizing with Spasmodic Dysphonia, and it is one of the reasons I am so happy to have returned to singing. Dancing and singing bring joy under normal circumstances, but even more so under these circumstances. My voice works better when I sing, just like they move better when they dance. And it hopefully explains what I mean by learning to speak more like I sing.

I am reminded of something my brother told me, that his singing instructor said to him: “Good speech is half sung.”

And there’s that Joy thing again. It keeps coming up.

Thanks for listening.

A Place for Joy – in Business?


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

I have pretty amazing friends

Not long ago I invited some friends to support me in making a long-time dream of mine come true. In my letter, I explained what I wanted them to do, and I suggested four things that were in it for them if they helped:

  • Joy.
  • Curiosity. (“Can she do it?” “What’s it like to learn a new instrument?”)
  • Regular updates.
  • Music! I promised them a concert at the end of six months.

I invited about 95 people. I expected four or five to respond.

35 people pledged their support.

That’s right, thirty-five.

In marketing terms, that’s a 37% conversion rate.

I was shocked and amazed. Blown away!

So, I’m learning to play the banjo. (So far I know eight chords, I’m on my way to mastering one finger-picking pattern, and I’ve already created my own lick.)

I started wondering…

Once I got over the shock and awe, I started wondering. What the heck had I said that inspired them to respond in such droves? Granted, I have pretty amazing friends, many of whom have supported me in a variety of ways for years. Others among this group I confess I don’t know as well.

What the heck had I done to get a 37% conversion rate? And could I apply it to my business?

Maybe I just have amazing friends

At first I chalked it up to their being my friends and generally cool people. But in the small-business marketing circles I’m in, there’s a lot of talk about finding your “right people” (which is even more targeted than “target audience”). In marketing terms, I clearly found my Right People – at least for this.

Was there more to it?

I tried to leave it at that. But being the curious person that I am, I couldn’t stop wondering: Was there more to it? So I asked some of the people who had stepped up: What was it that inspired them?

I got two main responses (from everyone I asked):

Joy.

And they get to help make a dream come true.

That they responded with “Joy” didn’t really surprise me, since I had put that in the letter. (Although I was really pleased that it so appealed to them.) But I didn’t really think that would help me much with my business; after all, Joy isn’t something you hear about that much in the business world.

That they leapt at the chance to help make a dream come true didn’t surprise me much either, because they are all extraordinary people. What is interesting is that I didn’t use those words in my letter. But I had written a compelling message, so that aspect came through.

How awesome is that? But I didn’t think that would help me much in my business either, because people aren’t going to give me their business so that they can make MY dreams come true.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it

I still couldn’t stop thinking about it. And I remembered how I had heard Rich Sheridan, the founder of Menlo Innovations, say that it was his goal to for his people to be joyful at work. Maybe, I thought, that isn’t such a foreign concept after all.

If it’s not about joy, what is it about?

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Curiosity, wonder, employee engagement, courage, drawing people out, bringing people together… if it’s not about joy, what is it about?

So when someone asked me a few days ago what business I’m in, I explained that I am a small business consultant and coach, and I work with individuals and small business to identify the obstacles that are holding them back and work over, under, around, or through them … (and I went out on a limb here) so they can get the joy back in what they do.

Wow! She started telling me all about her business and how she’s lost the joy and what her big struggle is. Amazing.

A few days later a gentleman asked me about my business, and I told him the same thing. He’d been taking notes, but he lit up and really started scribbling when I talked about getting the joy back.

And he hired me.

A place for joy in business

Maybe there is a place for talking about joy in business. There is certainly a place for joy in our lives, and small business people often pick their our businesses because what they we do gives them us joy. And when we lose that it’s a sad thing.

I get a lot of joy from talking to people about what they do, what they would like to do better, and working with them to do that. It’s not the only thing that brings me joy, but it sure is a part of my work. Joy is contagious. And working with people to bring back their joy – or to find it for the first time – now that’s a dream come true.

What brings you joy – in your life, or in your work? Is it missing? Let’s find it.

Would you like to receive more fun, thought-provoking posts and occasional announcements in your inbox? Click Here.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes