process v. outcome…

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.

gradual betterment, I ❤️ you!!

Custom Ink t-shirts are in the works.

9 days in May…

We were married May 16,1992. I celebrated Mother’s Day for the first time in 1996 after the birth of our son. In 2000, during a challenging twin pregnancy, our doctor thought the babies were good sized (my feet and ankles were also swelling quite freakishly). She thought it was time to induce. Jeff and I could pick the date, we chose to keep our anniversary, our daughters were born May 17th.

From Mother’s Day to May 17th, life’s big events are celebrated at our house. This year Mother’s Day was the same day as my late father’s 82nd birthday. I miss you Dad.

In 2000, the Govoni family had a wedding, four new babies and we lost our much-love patriarch, Lou. That was obviously a very big year. When we talk about it now, new details keep being revealed about that time. Perhaps your family has a year like that as well?

Honoring life’s milestones, and supporting those who suffered loss (especially this year when weddings, graduations, and funerals were put on hold) is what connects humanity. The year really showed how much we need each other.

Our world shifted so many ways this year with the pandemic. Many bonds were strengthened, and unfortunately many fayed (or severed) as well.

When significant change beyond our control occurs, we crave certainty. Life is clearly very uncertain. Learning how to adapt, hell, maybe even thrive with uncertainty is perhaps the key to our survival.

After a year of slowing down, and finally inching toward our new normal, I think it’s time to take stock of where we’ve all landed. First, quietly in our own hearts, and then collectively as a nation.

I want to cut away the thorns from my heart that are hindering my empathy, judgment, or choices. A process far slower than I would prefer…but necessary and well worth the effort.

my predawn ramble…

Colder temps are arriving tonight, so when I woke up I thought I better take off on one of my predawn rambles. I stepped out into the cold, my only agenda to get some exercise and enjoy the quiet before the relative hustle of COVID life in Burlington, Vermont begins.

pre-dawn icy lights

I got much so more…

I started thinking about how many people in the world are facing some of the same challenges as me right now. I felt an instant expansive kinship with them all. I imagined a middle-aged mom in Tibet taking a walk, coming in from the cold, making a cup of tea, and wondering what her next chapter will bring.

Perhaps she too is struggling to find some grace and acceptance in that endlessly tricky space betwixt & between her intentions, words, & actions.

Next, I thought about my sister-in-law and all of the school administrators/teachers struggling to keep the world’s children engaged and healthy. Then I imagined our planet’s exhausted nurses and doctors working to heal the sick, and be present with folks in their last moments when visitors are no longer allowed. I went down the line thinking about the professions and circumstances of all of the people I know and their cohorts around the world.

As I walked back home thinking about the web of our shared humanity—I felt lighter, less burdened, and more a part of a team.

Funny, just last night my husband said, “You really like being part of a team, don’t you?”.

“Yes, I really do”, I replied.

matter is neither…

created nor destroyed…the total amount of mass and energy in the universe is constant. —Law of Conservation of Mass, discovered by Antoine Lavoisier in 1785

matter: the formless substratum of all things which exists only potentially and upon which form acts to produce realities —Merriam Webster

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of matter and how I spend my time, resources, and energy. I’m not a first responder, teacher, food producer, or any of the many admirable front line workers that kept us going during this remarkably challenging COVID19 year.

I’m an artist and making things and thinking about making things takes up a lot of my time…most actually. I think in potential constantly to produce other realities.

So, does making art in my basement studio matter in any way right now?

I just don’t know.

Here’s what I do know. I was unsettled the other day. I cleaned my studio. There was a lot of cardboard. I rescued it from the recycling. I created the work below. I felt much more settled.

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

—Chinese proverb

a mug shot collaboration…

This morning my coffee-fueled internet meanderings landed me a famous mugshots site. They’re quite remarkable, raw, and they all seem to just dare you to learn more about the arrests. I’m a true crime junkie.

https://www.history101.com/30-famous-mugshots-youve-never-seen-before/

David Bowie was arrested in Rochester, NY for marijuana possession on March 21st, 1976. He was held for three hours and released on bail. He pleaded guilty and the grand jury later decided to pass on his case. Even his mugshot is classy, of course.

With some regret, I’ve never been arrested. So, with the help of my daughter, Willa Govoni’s photography and highly intuitive stylist skills I now have my very own menopausal mugshots. Perhaps a protest arrest is in my future? #2021goals #resist #goodtrouble

I thought about my characteristics that feel like crimes sometimes. They came to mind quite quickly…judgment, regret, and procrastination.

Willa, you’ve got a good eye kid. Let’s do lunch and discuss more projects.

Thank you.

navigating uncertainty…

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
…live in the question.”

―Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

be here now…

It’s uniquely warm in northern Vermont today. In the predawn hour, I made coffee then sat out on my deck for a while listening to the honking of geese, early morning traffic sounds, and autumn leaves rustling. I felt a slight breeze on my face…so lovely.

All we have is here and now

The lyrics from Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warner’s 1980s hit Up Where We Belong have been camping out in my psyche for the last few days. I thought I better explore them further…turns out they have a pretty good message.

Some hang on to used to be
Live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our lives, out there to find

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

I know my thoughts of the past (or the stories I attach to them anyway) sometimes make me feel like a victim of sorts. And when I’m feeling anxious (fearful) about the future, those jangly thoughts will gleefully swoop in with a dizzying amount of bullshit that can affect every aspect of my life. Presence makes me calmer. That calm makes me a better human, partner, parent, and friend.

All I have is here and now...

Up Where We Belong is the theme song to the 1982 film, An Officer and A Gentleman. I just had to share a short memory with you. When I was in high school, my newly married sister and I took our grandmother to see the matinee after a day of shopping in Sioux Falls. I had never seen a movie with my grandmother before, let alone one with sex scenes…good grief. My grandmother covered her eyes with a sneaky, slightly open hand during those scenes hoping we wouldn’t notice. 😃 After the movie, we had to stop for gas on the way home. Laurie got out to pump, my grandmother was flabbergasted, she turned and said, “Your grandfather would be so disappointed if he saw that his granddaughter pumping her own gas.”. Cheers to those memories that make us giggle.

Now that I’m fifty-four and finally growing up, I’m trying to make a daily, or hell hourly grand bargain with myself of more presence. I’m discovering that staying in the moment gives me some emotional agility that helps me better handle whatever’s thrown my way…grandma was really onto something while we watched An Officer and A Gentleman. She was a very anxious woman, but in that moment she chose presence with her granddaughters and it was just wonderful.

My memories will forever come and go, shifting in both context and intensity as the years roll by. I don’t want to live in a constant state of regret, longing, or fear. I want to live in the fullness of the present. I know I will often fail and let my mind race. My grand bargain to myself is to keep trying to stay more in the moment.

Up Where We Belong

Joe CockerJennifer Warnes

Who knows what tomorrow brings
In a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
When it’s real, I keep it alive

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world below
Up where the clear winds blow

Some hang on to used to be
Live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our lives, out there to find

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Where the clear winds blow

Time goes by
No time to cry
Life’s you and I
Alive today

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Where the clear winds blow

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong

Source: LyricFindSongwriters: Jack Nitzsche / Buffy Saint-Marie / Will Jennings

fog, children’s literature & generosity on Town Neck…

In light of all of the health, social, fiscal, educational, environmental, and political upheaval there still is so much goodness in the world. As I write this post, my friend/next door is trying to fix my bike. Thank you Pete. I’m truly grateful.

Earlier this morning while walking Town Neck Beach I struck up a conversation with a fellow fog appreciator. We chatted and I learned that after years in the restaurant industry he wrote a children’s book titled, A New Day for Cray. He told me the basics of the story, it sounded full of heart, empathy, and healthy boundaries…so many things I appreciate.

We introduced ourselves, our Instagram handles anyway. Nice to meet you G Pa Rhymes (aka Gary Wakstein) children’s book author, poet, and beat make, on Instagram, I’m Dakota1966.

As we walked toward the parking lot to get away from nagging bugs, he read me a brief piece he wrote on November 10, 2016. I told him I would purchase a copy of the book for my great-nephew, Liam at Titcomb’s in East Sandwich.

He reached into his car and handed me a signed copy.

I walked home smiling, reading A New Day for Cray ready for breakfast/coffee, inspired by this story about friendship and adapting to inevitable changes that life deal every single one of us.

Nice to meet you, G Pa Rhymes. Keep up the good work, your next story sounds quite close to my heart too. The illustrative work of Erica Leigh so well personifies the characters, Cray has quite an evolution throughout the book, you can see it in his eyes. Check out social media links below.

G Pa Rhymes/Gary Wakstein

https://www.facebook.com/gparhymes/

https://www.instagram.com/gparhymes/?hl=en

Illustrator Erica Leigh

https://www.facebook.com/ericaleighart/?ref=py_c

Titcomb’s Book Store, East Sandwich, Mass

https://www.titcombsbookshop.com/

oh, what a complicated web we weave…

This morning a man in his 60s walked past me and I pointed the spiderwebs out to him. To me they would’ve been really hard to miss, and yet he hadn’t noticed. He was so struck by their beauty and quickly started taking pictures. He told me that he couldn’t wait to show the photos to his wife. He thanked me for pointing them out to him and walked over the boardwalk.

As I walked up the hill I passed another man, about the same age walking two little dogs. I said hello and mentioned that if he’s heading toward the boardwalk there are spiderwebs everywhere and they are so remarkable. He barely looked up and said one word to me, “disgusting”.

I thought about the stark differences of these two men. They were about the same age and visiting or living in the same area. I’m not going to make any assumptions here—not publicly anyway. However, if intellectual curiosity is a sign of open-mindedness, well…I know who I would prefer to hang out with if given the choice.

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
― E. B. White, Charlotte’s Web

tricksters & intuition…

A few Saturday mornings ago while walking down the hill to the Cape Cod Bay, my daughter, Willa told me that she had never seen a coyote. She’s traveled to South Dakota at least once a year her whole life to visit my family and I was surprised. We stepped on the beach before sunrise and the very first thing I noticed was a coyote in the shadows walking the shoreline. The shape was haunting, and instantly familiar.

This is the spot where we saw the coyote.

“In Plains Indian stories, Coyote nearly always takes the shape of a man. He is clever but reckless and is constantly getting himself and the people around him into trouble with his socially inappropriate behavior like greed, boastfulness, lying, and chasing women…

He is both trickster and culture hero – often described as witty, clever, obscene, vulgar, and thieving.” http://www.native-languages.org/plains-coyote.htm

Growing up in South Dakota I frequently heard coyotes howling outside my bedroom’s eastern-facing window that overlooked acres of the uninterrupted prairie where my horse, Honey Bear lived.

Like the mystery of fog and the way it makes me feel, coyotes also hold a similar sacred space. They are a tether to the wide-open plains where I grew up and the inner wildness instilled by the freedom I was granted to roam that spacious landscape. Coyotes, I’m now realizing are part of my interior geography.

In Native American storytelling, the coyote plays a crucial role. Interestingly enough though, the coyote is seen quite differently from nation to nation, region to region. The familiar thread is that the coyote is generally viewed as a trickster meant to serve as a example of traits that don’t always serve the community. The flip side though is that the coyote’s cleverness can often get them out of certain pickles and predicaments.

I see the coyote as a sneaky creature in storytelling to help people develop more discernment, learn to trust their intuition, and get themselves out of danger by utilizing some clever trickster energy.

ME

When I got out of college, I wanted an adventure. In September of 1988, I went to Auckland, New Zealand to volunteer in the public relations department for a non-denominational radio station, Rhema. While I was there an American man who claimed to be a prophet arranged a visit. I don’t remember his name. He wanted to pray with us all right away when he arrived. I was the only American on staff.

He gathered everyone in a circle, my hair stood up on my neck and arms. I was so certain he was a fake. He singled me out and said, “come here, Dakota, please join us”. I said “no” without any explanation. My colleagues were surprised, but not pushy and let me hang back. Kiwi’s are wonderfully respectful and polite. I looked up while they prayed and watched his body language closely. He opened his eyes to look at me. I didn’t blink.

Of course, the American Prophet wanted the only other American to lend authenticity to him and help advance his narrative. He was seeking, as many before and after him, donations of course, and a larger platform to spread his message about what those donations could do for his personal cause and humanity.

$ I grew up in a household with Tammy Faye and Jim Baker on in the morning. I saw the tricks used to get donations, create false narratives, and get people hooked into the drug of magical thinking—a high that is never ever enough.

As a 22-year-old, I knew that American claiming to be a prophet was a snake oil salesman. I’d been in training to spot what’s inauthentic from a very young age, not the message intended by watching the PTL Club. However, an education I now find myself quite grateful for in hindsight.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/scandals-brought-bakkers-uss-famous-televangelists/story?id=60389342#:~:text=May%2027%2C%201987%3A%20The%20television,and%20other%20top%20PTL%20officials.

This story was a pivotal event in my life. This was when I realized that I no longer had to accept the dogma of my childhood. Or at least that I could personally reject what felt inauthentic to me and navigate the world in a way that honored my inner knowing. I also understood, with maybe even more significance that I could handle the fall out if others thought I was wrong.

“Coyote is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans; in others, he is a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance; in still others, he is a comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out. http://www.native-langages.org/plains-coyote.htm

This morning I awakened at five, it was still dark and there was a bit of coastal fog in the air. I sipped my coffee outside and watched the light shift over the bay. In my head, I walked through what I would do if I encountered a coyote on the beach or during the half-mile walk down the hill this morning. I imagined I could be the trickster and outsmart him…magical thinking indeed, Lisa.

I arrived at the beach to pick up garbage and scanned east then west. There was now enough light to see the coyote. I didn’t. I was a little disappointed at first, but then I felt safe to walk the shoreline.

I started noticing the tracks in the sand . I never felt this way before. I had some unfamiliar energy and vigilance.

I thought about my northern Quebec ancestry…fur trappers perhaps? Maybe I should become a wilderness guide or a private investigator? I was heady with possibilities as I walked along.

Then I came upon these sandals and I got a little concerned.

The potential coyote tracks awakened my curiosity today in a way that led to further investigation. I don’t feel tricked. I feel sparked and pretty damn grateful.

PLEASE NOTE: I’ve tried to identify online the difference between tracks. I’m well-aware that I could be wrong, but without human prints closeby, it seems to me these are coyote tracks and not those of a large dog. Please let me know. I would like to learn how to easily discern the difference.