When I saw the beautiful facemasks Lori had made for nurses in her community, my first thought was, “That’s what I’ll do! I’ll make masks!”
Never mind that the last time I sewed was five years ago. Never mind that I don’t even have any bobbins. Never mind that in the time Lori can make forty masks, I would be lucky to make four.
Copying someone else’s actions is not a solution, unless those actions are aligned with who we are. Mask making is the best use of Lori—the quilter—in this moment.
What is the best use of Jule in this moment?
My website says that I write about the hard stuff of life, so we can better navigate those hard times. If a grading scale for hard times existed, it would be hard to top ‘global pandemic.’ If my writing suffered because I was spending time fumbling at a sewing machine, that’s not a good outcome.
We need to know who we are because when we know that truth, and act in alignment with that truth, our lives can make the most meaningful impact.
Yes, the coronavirus is still with us, but it’s time to go back to our topic of Finding Our True Selves. We are being tested. When we know who we are, we can be more useful in the storm.
If you’ve been taking notes as we go through these exercises, please get them, so you can add to them.
This week’s exercise: Lifeline
Get a big piece of paper, the biggest you have. If you were at work, you’d probably grab flipchart paper. But you’re not at work. Do you have butcher paper? Do you have wrapping paper with a blank back side? Whatever you have, get it. And if all you have is 8 ½” x 11” letter paper, that will work just fine. Tape two sheets of paper together, joining them at the 8 ½” edges.
Lay the paper horizontally (landscape) and draw a horizontal line across the middle of the paper. Label the end of the line on your left ‘0’ to represent your birth and label the end of the line on your right whatever age you think you will be when you exit the planet.
Add hash marks to note every decade.
If you have a different color pen, now is a good time to switch. If not, no worries.
Make a star on the line at your current age.
Now, look back on your life, taking it a decade at a time, starting with birth to age 10. Note the peaks and valleys of your life. Peaks go above the line, valleys go below it.
For me, the first significant peak happened at age 5, when I learned to ride a bicycle and the whole world (or at least the world larger than the block where we lived) opened up to me.
The first big valley was age 10, when my parents told me they were getting a divorce (which they didn’t do until I was 29).
Consider each decade of your life and mark the peaks and valleys, making them proportional. The very best moments should have the highest peaks, the very worst moments the lowest.
Be honest about what you draw. I’m a little embarrassed that the point at Trent’s death goes so low, but that’s how I felt. If a divorce makes you feel more happy/relieved/liberated than sad, put it above the line. They’re your dots, you get to decide where they go.
After you’ve plotted your history, set the pen down and take a good look at the life you’ve lived. You’ve done so much! You’ve lived so much!
But wait—there’s more! You’re still on the planet and there is a length of line stretched from now to when you leave.
You might look at your lifeline and say, “More is gone than what I have left.” Maybe. It might depend on how you look at it.
I could look at my life and say it’s two-thirds spent. But I didn’t become an adult until about thirty, so I say my adult life is half gone. Which means I have half left! And even if it’s less than half left, there is still so much that can happen in a few years. Pick any five-year period of your life. Any one of them. A lot happened.
So, the thing to do now is look at that length of line to the right of the star. What would you like to see happen in your life during that time?
Sure, maybe some things won’t happen or won’t happen the way you want. But they definitely won’t happen if you don’t imagine them first.
A freeing way to do this is to use the question, “What if I…” and then fill in the blanks.
Some of my recent “What if I’s” were:
- What if I went to Paris?
- What if I left full-time work?
- What if I lived like a real writer?
It’s your turn. Pick up your pen, ask yourself “What if I?” and plot those moments on your lifeline. Relax and have fun! It’s only pen and paper. You can always draw a different one.
After you’ve finished plotting ideas for your future, take a look at what you’ve drawn. Does anything surprise you? Is anything tugging on your leg like an insistent child, pleading, “Me! ME! Make me happen!” What clues do you see about what your True Self wants from what you have drawn?
Chewing the Cud of Good
Thankful for the thirty writers who log on to a Zoom call every Monday through Friday so we can be a silent and supportive community for one another as we work.
PS: On last Thursday’s call, in the chat, we deviated from our norm after one person acknowledged that they had been struggling. People chatted in suggestions, which resulted in this:
Wisdom for the Quarantine
- Move slow. If I start feeling manic, stop and wait for it to pass.
- Focus only on today. What can I do today and what will make today a win?
- Check-in regularly with myself and those I love. How am I feeling right now? What do I need right now? Then ask those I love the same questions.
- Reread favorite books.
- Journal to be reminded of what’s in my control and what’s not.
- Choose vulnerability.
- Be grateful.
- Get dressed.
- Know that I am not alone.
- Push the pebble. (This is shorthand for ‘Do the next minimum viable action toward something that matters.’)