We all need someone to help us take a look at our goals and inspire us to take the needed actions to get there. I like to get the right people talking and find opportunities for creatives to expand their audiences and push themselves out of their comfort zones.
I often have a flood of ideas while walking the beach about what I want to create, write, transform, design and so on. Then I get home and the idea’s intensity subsides. I used to feel quite defeated by this. I don’t anymore.
I can’t possibly create all that I imagine…and there’s some sadness that sometimes accompanies that understanding. However, in this middle school stage of life (I’ll be 55 in October) I finally appreciate (accept maybe) the inevitable ebbing and flowing of my inner creative life, and stop fighting the tide so much.
Here are a few ideas that actually did come to life this week:
I think I’ll give myself a high-five for what I did accomplish. Beating myself up over what I didn’t do this week seems pretty absurd.
This morning on Town Neck Beach I saw a strange object in the fog. My heart quickened. I walked faster. Would I need to rescue a baby seal or maybe some other sea creature was in need of my heroic efforts? Nope, just this dumb Disney Princess balloon discarded on the beach. I thought Mermaid Princess Ariel would indeed be particularly offended.
I’m not much of a princess sort of girl. However, I’m clearly a Disney Princess Birthday Balloon found on the beach in the fog sort of girl.
I have to admit that Ariel, Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora definitely cast some sort of freaky spell on me early this morning. I took over 60 pictures of this discarded balloon and I carried it home as well.
So I’ll trust my heart, what else can I do? I can’t live in dreams if my dreams are to come true.
After cookouts, laughs, conversations, parades, playing lawn games, hiking, swimming, boating, and beer drinking—we’re back to reality today. On July 4th, before our annual Corn Hole Tournament, my husband read the second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence before the first bag was tossed.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all people are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights—among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
—The Declaration of Independence
As I walked toward the Cape Cod Bay this morning, I thought about what the 6th of July means to me and the words my husband read Sunday afternoon. All people are created equal…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Those five words…all people are created equal, although masterfully aspirational, sadly do not describe America—past or present.
“…democracy isn’t top down. “Each day, we’re reminded there’s nothing guaranteed about our democracy, nothing guaranteed about our way of life,” he said. “We have to fight for it, defend it, earn it…. It’s up to all of us to protect the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the right to equal justice under the law; the right to vote and have that vote counted; the right…. to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and know that our children and grandchildren will be safe on this planet for generations to come… the right to rise in the world as far as your God-given [talent] can take you, unlimited by barriers of privilege or power.”
I read an interview focusing on process over outcomes on Daily OM with creativity coach, Eric Maisel. As I read I first thought about my creative work, then I thought about other aspects of my life in broad terms: health-both physical & mental, relationships, my home, spending habits, and so on.
“If you can keep as your mantra, “process” — so that each thing you do is part of the creative process and all you can do is try your darnedest and not attach to outcomes — you will begin to extinguish the word “failure” from your inner landscape.”
—Eric Maisel/Creativity Coach
PROCESS: something going on—PROCEEDING
OUTCOME: something that follows as a result or consequence
When I get overly focused on outcomes, I can become paralyzed and do nothing because it all seems far too overwhelming. WHY BOTHER?
When I read the definition of process, I started thinking about another word closely linked to process…progress. I looked up the definition for more clarity.
PROGRESS: gradual betterment
Thank you Merriam Webster.
This was an AHA MOMENT for me…gradual betterment. This is so simple. I was immediately a giddy FAN GIRL. I said it over and over in my head. I want a t-shirt, bumper sticker, a love song, skywriting, poetry, perhaps even a museum dedicated to magnificence of gradual betterment.
Examples that came to mind…
OUTCOME: If I never eat sugar again, I’ll lose tons of weight. PROGRESS: I’m going to try to not eat sweets a few days a week.
OUTCOME: I have to sort all of my boxes of photos. PROGRESS: I’m going to sort one box today and create an organizational system.
Working with progress is so much gentler, less judgmental and gives me something to build upon. Progress allows space for self compassion and helps me honor what I HAVE accomplished, not focus on what I haven’t gotten to quite yet.
The whole world witnessed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. How we choose to respond is up to our own hearts in our own time. I find it challenging work to examine my own biases and prejudices. It’s easier to echo information from “my team” without really looking within.
Pausing even just a minute, allows me to hold far more complexity and gives my rational brain an opportunity to override my emotional brain…of course it doesn’t work all of the time. Summoning the spirit of my Grandpa Lillibridge helps me do this, he was really good at slowing down and listening.
Grandpa was remarkably generous in spirit, deeds, resources, and in his communication style as well. He would listen calmly while I shared my thoughts about boys, books, movies, travel, religion, politics, and the world at large. He died in 1986 when I was twenty, he had a huge impact on me…and still does.
I’ve thought a lot about him during this difficult time in American history. Grandpa wasn’t thrown off by opposing viewpoints and he was almost PATHOLOGICALLY CURIOUS. That was truly a gift to me as a young adult, trying to figure out my place in the world. His presence while we talked made me feel like the only person in the universe.
“You have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.” —Abe Lincoln
Curiosity was Grandpa’s superpower—history, politics, psychology, music, business, religion…his library possessed a little of everything. He often read all night when I worked for him. He would come in around eleven apologizing for our late start and then proceed to tell me all about what he was reading.
I believe he would be so saddened by the state of our nation today, families divided because of politics, unable to agree on basic ideas. It would break his heart. I know he would encourage my curiosity, empathy, compassion, and challenge me to find more common ground.
Grandpa, please help me stay curious, and to speak authentically without shutting down my head and heart to others.
Last weekend I was beyond snarky. I pulled a cardboard box from the recycling and headed (stomped) to my basement studio. I needed paint on my hands and in my hair and to get the hell away from people…all people. Thanks to the late Ric Ocasek, these lyrics capture what I was feeling.
The Cars, Just What I Needed
I don’t mind you comin’ here And wastin’ all my time, time ‘Cause when you’re standin’ oh so near I kinda lose my mind, yeah
I settled down after some time creating—always good for everyone in my orbit. The Butterfly Effect of creativity I suppose. Here are the results of my efforts.
I prefer to be foolish when I feel like it, and be accountable to nobody. ― Willa Cather,My Ántonia
In January I stumbled upon a book by Todd Herman, The Alter Ego Effect. His concept seems relatively simple. However, putting it into practice isn’t without some effort. I’ve been thinking about my alter ego(s), or at least the times I’ve needed one and didn’t realized it yet.
“Your Alter Ego is really about defining how you want to show up, defining the Superpowers, and borrowing the characteristics of an existing person, character, superhero, animal, or whatever to help activate your Heroic Self.” —Todd Herman
We step in and out of so many arenas throughout our days and our lives. I’m a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, great aunt, niece, cousin, friend, artist, writer, board member, family recovery coach, neighbor, athlete…the list goes on and on.
Do I really need to drag every single one of my roles around with me all the time? NO, I really don’t.
What are my dominant characteristics?
THE POSITIVE: generous, compassionate, empathetic, creative & adaptable
THENOT SO POSITIVE: judgmental, reactive, disorganized, & often far too intense
What traits do my heroes possess?
Dorthea Lange/depression-era photographer—Dorthea could brilliantly see people’s humanity even in unimaginably difficult circumstances.
Willa Cather/prairie writer—My Antonia, Oh Pioneers, Song of the Lark—She wrote remarkable stories about pioneer life, providing context and sweeping language about the independence I felt growing up in South Dakota. NOTE: I named my daughter Willa in honor of the connection I felt to her writing.
Polly Gray (Aunt Polly)fiercely and elegantly played by Helen McCrory from the series Peaky Blinders is who I think of as my alter ego now. What I’m most drawn to is that Aunt Polly understands people very well; their nature, talents, weaknesses, heartaches, and perhaps most importantly—what intrinsically motivates them.
“Sometimes the women have to take over. Like in the war.”
—Polly Gray, Peaky Blinders, Series 1: Episode 4
Polly Gray also is determined, deliberate, generous, knows her strengths, and can access her anger when necessary. I tend to tamp down my anger and then it leaks out in unhealthy ways, mostly to those closest to me.
Anger often is the appropriate response to circumstances of injustice or being wronged. I want to learn how to use my anger, communicate clearly without brain-clouding emotion or being defensive when possible. Pretending I’m Aunt Polly gives me a little breathing room and more options of how to respond when my anger surfaces.
I want my alter ego (the best version of me) to possess the courage to step into new roles, shed old ones, and not waste much time looking back or worrying what people think.
Judy Bloom’s—Ramonathe Pest & Astrid Lindgren’s—Pippi Longstockingwere so influential in my young life. I longed to be some version of a badass just like them and perhaps they would’ve embodied many of Polly Gray’s best traits if they had grown up.
All of the women (and girls) I admire, refused to conform to the feminine standards of their time.
Sadly Helen McCrory died last week after battling cancer. Helen/Aunt Polly you were a fictional badass for the ages and from what I’m reading, you were in real life too.
Her husband is Damien Lewis who is in the series I’m currently watchin,Homeland. He wrote this after her death, “She’s shown no fear, no bitterness, no self-pity, only armed us with the courage to go on and insisted that no one be sad, because she is happy. I’m staggered by her. She’s been a meteor in our life.”
The theme song to Peaky Blinders; Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and it sets the tone of the show so brilliantly. I have it quickly accessible on my phone when I need to channel Aunt Polly.
NOTE: Peaky Blinders isn’t for everyone. It’s hyper-violent (I had to look away quite a bit). However, at the heart of it all, the series centers around family, money, power, betrayal, forgiveness, redemption, and love…and that all makes for some extraordinary storytelling.
A special nod to the costume designer for Peaky Blinders, Alison McCosh. The costumes are so gorgeous and innovative. They made me want to be a gangster in Birmingham in the 1920s or at the very least occasionally dress like one.
We’ve all summoned some badassery when it was required of us at one point or another. I would love to hear about your alter ego or the circumstances when you needed a little distance from YOU by embodying a slightly altered version.
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There’s a movement (mostly middle-aged women) in Burlington, Vermont to jump into Lake Champlain regardless of weather conditions. Wild swimming is what they call it in the UK. I love that term, putting “wild” in front of anything makes it more interesting—Wild Netflixing • Wild Potato Chip Eating • Wild Bubble Bathing.
Wild swimming helped me through the pandemic and life’s challenges this year. I took a few dips inCape Cod Bay as well. Swimming on the north side of Cape Cod didn’t feel all that different in January. Those waters are still cold in July.
I read that it takes roughly six swims in cold water (now the lake is about thirty-nine degrees) for your body to acclimate. I no longer have any hesitation. After a dip I have more clarity and an electric feeling all over. Hey, and a test of bravery that can be completed in about 20 minutes door to door works for me.
Winter swimming would never be something my Dad would’ve considered. However, I often think of him because he appreciated athleticism in any form. I’m quite certain he would’ve loved hearing about my adventures and seeing the photos.
These cold water leaps make me feel athletic, courageous, and a little more capable in other areas of my life too. And now that I’m in what I refer to asthemiddle-school of adulthood, any way to reduce inflammation seems like a good long-term wellness strategy.
I don’t suffer from diagnosed depression, however, genetically & creatively I do experience more than what I scribbled on a drop cloth many years ago…an episodic hump of the blues. Wild swimming has been a very efficient form of therapy for me.
I’m so grateful for the early swimming adventures with friends that got me hooked. Saturday I took a delightful early morning dip with the friend who got me started in last October. Thank you Parm for introducing me to this crazy sport? activity?
“It brings centering, peace and joy.” —Parm Padgett
Cold water swimming is a mental reset, mad energy and sparkles all over…every single time. —Genevieve Henry, friend & fearless fellow wild swimmer
Thank you to the whole cold water swimming community in Burlington. I’m grateful and proud of maintaining our quirky Vermont reputation. Cheers to many more inspired dips in the future.
Here is a link to a beautiful film by Hannah Maia about womanhood, body image, and the joy of cold water swimming. Thanks for sharing it Katharine.
It’s an incredible endorphin rush. I found that once I had dipped in cold water everyone I met that day looked 10 times more beautiful and the world so much more awesome. It was a real pick me up. —Hannah Maia
I spent most mornings last summer photographing and then picking up trash on Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, Massachusetts. I created these plates with my Cape Cod photos after thinking about the amount of garbage floating in the world’s oceans.
I didn’t photograph the paper plates with ketchup/mustard smeared on them for obvious aesthetic reasons. Trust me, there were a lot of them almost every day. I provided a link below to one of my beach garbage posts from last summer.
I want to be more deliberate (not radical, just mindful) about garbage and the packaging I choose. Using these plates for a long time instead of plastic seems like an easy switch.
Hey, friends & family the plates will be in the garage ready for your use. Just shoot me a text and grab them on your way to the beach.