Mayhem Monday: What’s in Your Backpack?

In a recent Facebook Live, one of my favorite motivators, Chrystal Evans Hurst describes her struggle while recovering from a bout in the hospital. She tells of her difficulty in maneuvering up and down the stairs on one foot. Still weak from her illness, every step was hard, not only because of her condition, but also because she carried a backpack. A week after struggling daily with a backpack that became increasingly heavy–because she continued adding items to it–she discovered three things: (1) the trek up and down the stairs was still hard (2) she was able to do more this week than she was last week and (3) in the process she had gained some muscles she wasn’t expecting.

Chrystal unpacks the lessons in her “backpack victory,” but I was thinking a little more about the backpack itself. I mean, don’t we all carry a backpack? We call it baggage.

We toss stuff in those bags—both good and bad—and go on. We sling the past over our shoulders, as if doing so will be enough to put it behind us. But, the funny thing about past experiences is they don’t always stay back there. Even if we’ve tossed them, they tend to linger. Even when we don’t realize that we’re toting around hurt, anger or unresolved issues, they inform our actions. We use them as currency: the criticism of our peers that we pocketed, comes into play later when it’s time to trust again. The disapproval of our teachers is logged and we check that account before cashing in on any major academic investments. Our parents’ expectations? It’s like our favorite magazine that comes every month, but we just can’t throw it away! We toss it in the bag and it gets heavier.

Daily we add something to our backpack—experiences get added in—good or bad–and accumulate like the artifacts collecting dust in our basements. They are seen, but forgotten; there, but we’re unaware of the effects they have on our lives. We refuse to get rid of them, yet we don’t actually deal with them. They have meaning, but we don’t fully grasp what it is.

We tend to think of baggage as a bad thing, but is it?

In saying that we should think about the backpack, I don’t mean that we should think negatively about it. I mean we should think about it. The problem with baggage is that we don’t think about it! We drag it around with us and allow it to inform our actions without ever examining it or doing anything intentional with it. Maybe we should look at what’s in our backpack. What is this baggage that you’re carrying around?

It may be that we are burdened by guilt or unresolved issues from the past because we’ve chosen to carry unexamined bags. Anyone who’s ever carried a big purse knows how easy it is to toss items in with the intention of “looking at it later,” but “later” never comes!

Yet, if you did look, you might find that there are some good things in your bag. There might be some things in there that you can use! Have you had some tough times– some pain and some hurt? If you look closely, what else do you find? Perhaps strength gained from the difficulty? Wisdom gained from the foolish choice? Character developed from the hurt?

Part of Chrystal’s “backpack victory” was the unintended muscle she gained from the struggle she had going up and down each step. I don’t know if she ever looked at everything she tossed in her bag, but the extra weight was an unexpected blessing! Likewise, our baggage can either be a burden that weighs us down or a weight that builds our physical and spiritual muscle! It can also be the source from which we draw our greatest inspiration–to write, to create, to dream and to live! It really comes down to perspective and what you see when you look in the bag!

So, go ahead–look. What’s in your backpack?

Happy Monday!

SignatureMed

Special thanks to Andrew Neel on Unsplash for Cover photo art.

FIRST Monday: Give it all You’ve Got!

HAPPY MONDAY!

Can you believe it? We’re half way through 2018 already! As this year flies by, I’m busy building Books & Coffee to provide you with new and improved content. Be sure to stop by each Monday to jump start your week and look for more new features coming soon! Today we’re kicking off a new feature called FIRST MONDAYS.

Starting today, every first Monday of the month you’ll find a POWERPACK for all you CREATIVES out there!

  • Something inspirational– either a quote or essay that will inspire you.
  • Something sensational—for your sense of taste, that is—a healthy recipe! Something delicious and nutritious—brain food!
  • Something professional –a tip or challenge to help you overcome a weakness and/or keep your creative juices flowing!

AND

*Wild Card* Sometimes I will add a physical challenge since I believe that exercise is a powerful tool for enhancing creative flow! So, get ready!

TODAY’S INSPIRATION

Body2

You pull your floral wrap a little tighter around your bust and carefully adjust your Erykah Badu head-wrap and sunglasses as you stroll onto your favorite beach feeling safe, and therefore confident, in the sun although the sun is barely touching any of your bare skin. Your kids sprint past you, carefree and happy, towards the welcoming waters that beckon, but you resist the temptation, settling into your beach chair to catch up on your summer reading. This is great, you say to yourself. So relaxing. But you ignore the puddle of sweat that is making small rivulets in the sand beneath your chair. Apparently, the cool cotton cover-up is not so cool after all! As you adjust to pry apart your thighs which are stubbornly sticking together you hear a man whistle. Looking up you quickly realize who he’s whistling at: a bikini-clad woman is walking straight towards you! She’s about your height, about your weight and, yes, your complexion too, but she has none of your hang-ups. Her varicose veins are in full view, climbing up her dimpled thighs like ivy. Her not-so-trim tummy tips over her bikini bottom and her breasts are all smooshed inside a sports-bra-style bikini top that is working way too hard to keep everything together! Her curly hair is swirled into a bun on top of her head and she’s wearing huge sunglasses that cover half of her face. She has on bright red lip stick, big hoop earrings and high-heeled sandals that make her look 6 feet tall!

Amazing!

Did you just say that out loud? Her shoulders are back and her head is up. She smiles as her eyes meet yours. “Hey girl, you are rockin’ that head scarf! Mind if I sit here?”

“Of course!” She sits and you listen as she tells you where she’s from, where she’s been and where she’s going. Then she stands abruptly and says, “well, it’s been nice chatting with you, honey, but I think I’m going to take a swim, it’s so hot out here!” And off she goes. Kicking her shoes aside she trots, cellulite and all, into the cool blue sea, happy and free, while you sit, sweating and safely covered under a head-wrap and not-so-cool-cover- up…

Fear can hold you captive. It can absolutely confine you to a tight space and convince you that there’s nothing else you can do–so don’t even try! But, if you look, you’ll see that there are people all around you who are doing it. They’re pushing past the fear and going for it–running headlong into their dreams, diving head-first into the ocean of probabilities, not allowing the uncertainties to hinder them. They don’t look back to consider “what if” and don’t worry about what “might be”. They can’t allow the thinking of others to slow them down, they have to accept that the sea holds their destiny and, however imperfectly, if they dive in, the worst that can happen is they’ll come out wet!

If they can do it. Why can’t you?

It’s summer. Shed the wrap and give the beach the body you’ve got!

It’s your life. Stop holding back! Shed your fears and give it all you’ve got!

What have you got to lose?

TODAY’S SENSATION: Try this tangy citrus salad! It’s a guilt-free snack or dessert that’s perfect for summer!

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: Next month I’ll have a creative challenge for you. But it’s summer! Head to the beach or community pool with a pad and pen (leave your laptop at home). Jot down whatever comes to mind–without editing–and come back to it later, when you have time. You’ll be surprised by what emerges when you allow yourself the freedom and space to just be!

Happy Summer!

SignatureMed

Cover Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Girl in swimsuit photo–Facebook post.

Mayhem Monday: Are you Open for Something New?

She sat alone on the metal bench. Her body turned away from me slightly so that our eyes wouldn’t meet. I could tell she didn’t want to talk. Her brow was furrowed and her lips were formed into a tiny rose bud. She folded her arms as her gaze followed the horizon without noticing the sunset.

“Are you enjoying the conference?” I asked, attempting to open her up.
“It’s fine.” She remained closed.

The heat of the day had finally given way to a cooling breeze that lifted the corner of the top sheet of a ream of papers resting on her lap. She lifted the stack, patted it, then gently slid them into her canvas tote.

“What’s your story about?” I tried again.

Her eyes sank into the darkness where her manuscript had disappeared and it seemed as if she were considering whether to climb into that depth with it. Eventually, she dragged herself out to look up at me. “It’s a love story” she sighed, “but apparently they’ve all heard it before.”

Slowly she unraveled the tangled threads: the “they” to whom she referred were all of the agents, editors and publishers whose hands had passed over her precious work. For one reason or another it wasn’t what they were looking for.

“I’m done,” she said. “This is it for me.”

“Have you thought of trying a different approach? Maybe revising the story? Or taking a different path to publication?” I asked.

“No.”

She remained closed. There was only one approach. Only one path. It was either going to happen this way or not at all…

My conversation with this determined, yet dejected author that day got me thinking. It has been said that tenacity and perseverance is the way to achieve goals, and there is certainly anecdotal evidence to prove this to be true, but could it also be true, that on this journey towards success, there’s also a place for compromise?

I think there is something to be said for flexibility and openness. Yes, we should absolutely have a vision of how our future success will look—write the vision, make it plain! Pursue and persevere! Keep your eye on the prize and don’t let anything take you off course! But…

if we persevere and pursue the vision without allowing any adjustments or compromise, might we actually cut ourselves off from the very dream we are pursuing?

I think tenacity cuts both ways. For example:

  • Publishers may be looking for the next best seller, but they don’t always know what that looks like. They base their expectations on what has worked in the past, so they may turn away new proposals that don’t “fit” those expectations; it doesn’t mean the works they turn away are not good. It simply means they aren’t what they were expecting!
  • Likewise, writers who have an expectation that success means acceptance from a major publishing company may also assume there is no other measure of their worth and no other means to accomplish their goal of getting published.

The result is both writers and publishers are looking for one thing and neither is open to looking for something new; so each is missing out on a blessing that awaits them.

Yet, blessings come in many forms! The Jews did not reject Jesus because they weren’t looking for him. They rejected him because he wasn’t who they were looking for. They needed to be open to the fact that their Savior had a different look than they were expecting.

Writers may have to pursue other means of publication in order to demonstrate their merit, and publishers may need to think again about what they assume will make a best seller.

If you’re not a writer, but you’re trying to pursue what feels like an impossible dream—don’t worry! There’s more than one way to succeed! You may just need to consider a new approach.

What are you looking for?

Do you need to adjust your expectation? Maybe what you’re looking for is right in front of you! Beauty and genius will never be confined, pre-packaged or pre-set by pre-determined algorithms.

Beauty and genius emerge from unexpected places, like the silky shadows cast across the horizon that my friend and I watched that evening as we sat on the metal bench at the writers’ conference while authors, agents and publishers passed by—they didn’t see her and she didn’t see them. They would only see each other if they were open to seeing something new!

Happy Monday!

SignatureMed