BREATHE

Today a reader mentioned Christine Kane’s blog in her comment on MY blog essay RESOLUTIONS. (Thanks, Michelle!)

I’m actually a huge fan of Christine’s blog. But I keep forgetting to check in regularly, and I’d missed this one. I’m glad Michelle mentioned it, because when I read Christine’s essay on Resolution Revolution, it resonated with me immediately.

I realized my word for 2007–the one I’d inadvertently picked up halfway through last year–was “breathe”.

It was when I realized I was totally stressing myself out about what I could and could not physically do in Tae Kwon Do, and climbing, and riding. I realized I had to let go, relax, and….breathe. And simply do what I could.

It also helped me not to panic about preparing for new and different shows, for getting ready for even more surgery last month, for everything else that seemed piled on top of my life. For dealing with odd and huffy situations, dealing with demanding and demeaning people, and even dealing with me when I got whiney.

It worked, too.

It took me on a tiny mental vacation, a mini-break. A moment to center myself, and remember that though I may be the center of MY universe, that doesn’t make me the center of everyone else’s universe. And that as tricky, or as embarrassing, or as difficult as this moment was, it would pass.

Breathe. Breathe!

It will be fun thinking of “the word” for 2008. I’m thinking it might be, “just try.” Or maybe, “do better.” Or her suggestion, “release”. That’s a good one.

For now, “breathe” will do just fine.

RESOLUTIONS

There’s a character in our lives, my husband’s and mine, who is a tragic figure. We affectionately call him “our Hamlet”. He’s always wistful about life, about what it could be, “if only….” Women get sucked into his sadness, sure they can bring him real happiness. Alas, alack, it’s just not meant to be. They eventually leave with broken hearts, having lost the battle of making him happy.

As time goes on, the charm of this wears thin.

So I challenged my DH this morning.

No. More. Whining.

Neither of us are by nature cheerful, upbeat people. But we’re usually able to put a good spin on stuff. We work hard, we believe in our work, and we have a lot of energy for it.

But something changed. Maybe we just got older. Things got a little harder. It crept up on us. Trying too hard to figure out what our next steps would be in our professions. Trying too hard to figure out why the big breaks were not happening. Trying too hard to force turning points and decisions. And now….

And now, we’re just as bad as our friend.

When did we get to be “that guy”?!

It’s easy to catch others doing it. The trick is catching yourself.

My first inkling I was becoming “that guy” (metaphorically speaking, because I am, of course, not a “guy”) was when I was reciting my latest list of physical ailments and setbacks to my martial arts instructor. I related why I was finding life discouraging right now. I shared my frustrations with my aging, aching body. I was wistful about why the class was so hard.

He nodded sympathetically, and when I paused to catch a breath, he started in about the new mileage reimbursement policy at his place of employment.

It was long and involved. Very, very involved.

I nodded sympathetically, but all I could think about was, “I hurt all over and he’s telling me about how unfair his mileage reimbursement is. What’s up with that?”

Just about the point where my eyes started glazing over, he stopped and said, “And my point is, we all have our stuff. My stuff is important to me, and your stuff is important to you. But when we come to class, we have to focus on class and what we want to accomplish, and what we can accomplish–and leave the rest of that stuff behind.”

Boy, is he sneaky. And smart. It’s the first time someone has said to me, “Hey, cut that out!”

I’m at a point in my my life where the normally good advice of “listening to my body” is a two-edged sword. Because my body is very whiny right now, and not fun to be with. Giving in, however, is no longer an option–not if I want a shot at being healthy and active at age 70, 80 and beyond.

How does this relate to my art? And to this year’s resolution?

Maybe I am a whiner by nature. I can’t choose my nature.

But I don’t have to subject other people to that. I can choose not to.

I hereby resolve to not be “that guy”.

No. More. Whining.

Of course, I whine a lot in my blog, and will continue to do so.

But only to share why it doesn’t get me anywhere. And only to share with you what will get you somewhere. Things like choosing differently. Persevering. Going back to what works and figuring out why. And simply doing the work.

I have some new things to try in 2008.

Step back…

No wholesale shows, for one.

Try something different…

A new venue or two. I’m putting together a local open studio tour for this spring.

Start where I am….

Since the mechanics of making big, big, big wall hangings has proven too intimidating, I’ll focus on smaller ones for awhile–and build up again. I give mself permission to get back to what I know, for now.

Challenge myself….

I have a new challenge for my jewelry. More of my components have to be handmade by me. I resent that, but maybe it’s a good challenge. I’m already at work on it.

Move. MOVE! Even if it hurts, keep moving…

Right now, I can’t even belay, due to complications from surgery, and a hand injury. But it will get better. I’ll be belaying and climbing again soon. Maybe it’s time to walk more, and slip some swimming in there. Everyone around me is suddenly talking about snowshoeing. Maybe I’ll give that a try.

Breathe. Breathe.

I just found a new yoga teacher. I am so bad at yoga. But I’m finding it keeps me in the moment. I’m looking forward to doing more of it in 2008. It makes even something as simple as breathing seem more….profound.

And most important of all…

No. More. Whining.

I CAN’T HEAR YOU

Sometimes the best advice is right under our nose. We just heard it five minutes ago.

But we can’t hear it. Why not?

Because we aren’t ready.

We may think we are. We hound friends, family, peers, complete strangers for advice. “Tell me what to do!” we beg.

But if we aren’t truly ready, if our hearts aren’t open, if we haven’t made room for it, we cannot hear it.

Not all advice is advice we should act on. People have their own agendas, and they don’t always have your best interests at heart. Sometimes you just need to nod your head and murmur, “hmmmm….yes….” and leave it at that.

But sometimes, we are so caught up in our own stuff, we can’t hear the best advice in the world.

Here are two recent examples.

This weekend I did a small local craft show, my first in over ten years. It was a nice little show, artist-friendly, well-managed, decent quality work being sold, in a beautiful setting.

I overheard someone talking to a jewelry person near me. I’d seen her at several other shows recently and was familiar with her work. It’s straight bead stringing, nothing exciting, but competent, pretty work.

The person was asking her if she’d tried displaying her work outside of her small covered case so people could see it. She defended her decision, saying she tried that once, and it didn’t work. She said that some of her work was already out and touchable, but honestly, she couldn’t see people buying more of the pieces that were out.

Now, I’d looked at this woman’s jewelry at two different shows. As I said, it’s pretty. And lord, was it cheap. Ridiculously cheap. So I kept thinking I’d buy a few pieces as gifts.

But I couldn’t.

For one thing, although she didn’t have a ton of stuff, what she had was crammed together in her display. No one piece stood out.

Her display was so crowded, I couldn’t touch the pieces that were out. Everything was arranged nice and straight. But there were so many items they were almost piled on top of each other. I was subconsciously afraid of making a mess if I tried to pick up one piece.

It also wasn’t clear it was okay to pick up piece to look at it more closely.

Last, her personality was….large. She had a big voice. She knew everyone at the show, and talked constantly. That can be a good thing, if you know when to to talk and when to get quiet so people can shop. Sometimes I’m in the mood for “big”. But if I’m not, I walk away.

I ended up walking away again without buying anything.

I think the advice she got was good. I think she would have more sales if the pieces had more “breathing space” around them, if it were easier to touch and actually pick up the pieces.

But she couldn’t hear it.

She probably tells herself after every show that people are simply cheap and won’t buy nice jewelry at any price.

But she’s wrong. I was steadily selling jewelry at three times her prices. I think she could have sold out, at her price points, if she’d made it easier on her customers to actually buy.

(Caveat: As always, this is IMHO. Maybe she didn’t care, or maybe she was perfectly happy with her sales.)

Here’s my second example:

A few months ago, I was ready to test for placement in my new Tae Kwon Do class. I had tons of issues–feeling out of place because the curriculum has changed so much; my age; my injuries and physical condition.

The head teacher encouraged me to test at the level I’d left at twelve years before (green belt.) He said I had at least that skill level, maybe even higher. He knew I could do it. It would be a challenge. But it was something I needed to do for myself.

The closer I got to my test date, however, the more I panicked. I felt my limitations strongly. I was terrified of failing.

I asked to be tested for a belt below that, yellow belt. I was pretty sure I could pass yellow belt with no issue.

He argued that I was selling myself short. Yes, there were physical limitations. But my training was sound, and my techniques were consistent. I would make it, if I worked at it. (A good school only recommends you for a level they feel you are ready for.) Most of all, he kept saying, “You need to do it for ‘Luann'”.

But I couldn’t hear him.

All I could feel was the fear and self-doubt. I felt if I got a belt–any belt–I could settle in and move on.

Although the final decision was theirs, in the end they tested me for yellow belt. I passed with no problem.

But they were right. I should have gone for green belt.

It’s odd, but once the stress of anticipating the test was over, I relaxed. I “fell in” with the class more easily. And it became crystal clear to me what I’d done.

I told my teacher soon after, “I could hear your words. But I couldn’t hear what you were saying. My fear and self-doubt got in the way. I know that now. I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you.”

Now, maybe I needed to take that easy step to just get to that next level.

But next time, I may just take that leap of faith instead.

DO THE EASY CLIMB

Today at climbing I was too pooped to accomplish much on the more difficult walls. I did too much in tae kwon do last night.

That’s when Lin suggested I climb the “easy” wall instead.

It’s just another part of training, she said. When you get stuck, persevere. But it’s also okay to take a step back, and go back to what you know.

It made sense. I work just as hard on the “easy” wall, and I can get up and down it quickly, many times. So that’s what I did.

It felt pretty good.  I got a good workout.  It felt like I was keeping my hand in. And it built my confidence back up, too.

Come to think of it, we do this in martial arts.   We always go back to the basics.  There’s always room for improvement.  But it also lets your mind relax and go through the familiar moves.

It’s like meditating.

I worked with a new TKD student last night. We did the first kata over and over again. (It’s all she knows right now.) Nervously, she said, “Aren’t you bored? Do you want to do a different form?”

“Nope,” I replied. “I like this form. I could do it a thousand times and still find ways to improve it. And it centers me.”

It occurs to me that maybe that’s what all these smaller shows this season were about–doing the “easy climb”. Getting ready for these shows had its own challenges: How to simplify my booth so I could get everything in one car load. How to streamline my set-up to accomplish in four hours what normally takes two days.

But everything else was a return to familiar territory. After the last eight years spent doing major shows and wholesale shows, doing website overhauls and contemplating a new PR campaign,it actually felt kinda good to do something I already know how to do.

Try it the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with all your new challenges.

Simply go back to what you already know. Warm up, take it on, succeed.

And see if you’re invigorated to take on that “harder climb” again.

THE RIGHT EYES WATCHING

There’s a terrific line from an old TV series called ABsolutelyFABulous (affectionately known as “AbFab” ) that I absolutely adore.

It’s not a series normally known for insightful and inspirational words. AbFab is the modern adventures of two hysterically funny, well-to-do, aging-hippy women who are not going gently into middle-age. They’ve managed to remain ignorant, self-absorbed and silly even as the ’70’s and ’80’s have passed them by.

But in this particular episode, the main character Edina scolds her extremely shy and self-conscious daughter Saffron for being so fearful of taking risks. Never mind that in this episode, Edine is wickedly manipulating Saffie into doing something for ulterior motives. The statement is still so powerful, so true, it still makes me gasp.

She tells Saffie, “You have made yourself a prisoner of other people’s eyes.”

OW!!!

Some of us–many of us!–are so worried about what other people will think of us, it paralyzes us.

It keeps us from taking risks, or from trying new things. We shut down and shut ourselves off from new situations, new opportunities, new venues.

We’re so afraid we’ll look ridiculous or stupid, we literally imprison ourselves, as Edwina said.

My second favorite expression is, “You won’t worry so much about what other people think of you, if you knew how little they think about you at all!” As one of my martial arts instructors said recently, “No one’s looking at you messin’ up. They’re too busy freakin’ about how they’re messin’ up!” Which is also probably true.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about other eyes watching us.

The right kind of eyes.

One kind is the eyes of a good teacher.

My climbing inspiration, Lin, an older woman who is remarkably fit and incredibly enthusiastic about climbing, watches us newbies go up a wall. “Beautiful climb!” she calls up from below. “You are amazing!”

You can actually feel your heart glow when she says that.

There are the “right eyes” of the constructively critical teacher. I think my current martial arts instructor falls into that category. You can relax your guard, knowing the faults they point out are nothing they haven’t seen before. Their feedback will set you on a better course.

Another set of “right eyes” are the ones I spoke of yesterday, in THE BUDDY SYSTEM, the eyes that can give you a fresh viewpoint.

The “right eyes” I’m thinking of today are the eyes of people following in your footsteps.

These are the people who desperately want you to be successful–so they can be successful.

Like wanting you to be a successful artist. I know there are people who want me to make it because I feel that way about other artists myself.

Recently, someone commented on how much more I could be doing to get more fit.

At first, I took it as criticism–implying I wasn’t really trying now. I felt indignant–“I’m doing what I can!” “You don’t understand how hard it is right now!” “You don’t know how much everything hurts!! My foot, my other foot, my hamstrings, my sciatica, my neck bumps, my shoulders, my back…shall I go on??”

But then I realized these are often people much younger than I am. They are often people who are incredibly fit themselves.

Now, maybe they want to believe that getting older, and getting injured, couldn’t possibly happen to them.

But I’d like to think they simply might also want to believe that if I can find a way to stay active in spite of my setbacks and injuries, then someday they can persevere, too.

In other words, I can be a good example of hope.

I’m thinking that myself with the older people who join us climbing. There are people in their sixties, seventies, even their eighties, who are still climbing. And not just climbing, but climbing with strength and skill.

They amaze me. They inspire me.

Not just because they lay that myth to rest, that as we age we get weaker and less able, and therefore are helpless. They prove just how able they are every time they get up that really difficult wall that much younger, stronger climbers still struggle with.

It’s also because they show how much we can accomplish if we persevere.

They have aches and pains and injuries and setbacks, too. But they find a way to keep going.

Their lives–and mine–are so much richer for it.

I want to remember those eyes on me, the next time I work out.

FORGOT

When my daughter was teeny-tiny, she loved to show us all the letters of the alphabet she knew (courtesy of Sesame Street). She was so little, she wasn’t even speaking in complete sentences yet.

One day, my husband pointed to the letter “Q” and she said, “O!” He said, “No, that’s a ‘Q’–see the little tail?”

She slapped her forehead and exclaimed, “Forgot!”

Last evening I came home grumpy and depressed after a less-than-stellar workout in Tae Kwon Do last night. Once again, I’d flooded with the impulse to simply leave. Once again, I was embarrassed I’d even felt like that.

Last night I dreamed was I back in a school room, teaching a class, only to have them mutiny halfway through. The students started yelling at me, “You can’t teach worth beans!!” (Or words to that effect.) Other teachers joined in. It was excruciating. I remember thinking in the dream, “They’re right–who am I to tell them anything?!”

In the wee hours, I woke up in distress over various little matters that seemed urgent at 4 a.m. I actually made a list of them. (And as I look over the list, well, maybe some of them are a little urgent. Like asking that guy who’s going to cut down some of our trees if he’s actually ever done that before.)

At any rate, this morningI was exhausted and crabby and thinking of all the things I’m doing wrong. I thought of all the things I’ve tried to fix all those wrong things. None of them are working.

Where is my magic fix??!!

And suddenly, like little Robin, I wanted to slap my forehead and exclaim, “Forgot!”

There is no magic fix!!

I can remember the day I made a decision to become an artist. I can remember how powerful I felt after that. I can remember the successes I had once I realized I only had to decide to do it.

I forgot the parts that were still hard.

I forgot that there were still setbacks, disappointments, outright failures, even back in my “full steam ahead” days.

That day of declaration wasn’t my magic fix. It was the first decision of many, many smaller decisions. Weekly, daily, sometimes minute-by-minute decisions. The decision to simply refuse to give up, to refuse to give in.

What kept me going was my decision to keep going.

So here I am this morning, remembering that.

There is no magic fix. No treatment, no therapy, no pills. (Well, I am lovin’ ibuprofen lately….) No magic press release, no magic show or exhibition.

Just little steps every day. Cherishing the ones that move me forward. Letting go of the ones that don’t work out.

Practicing my forms. Making my artwork. Working through the physical roadblocks. Writing my way through the mental roadblocks.

There is only the decision that this is important to me: Continuing to study the martial arts. This is what I want to do: Make and sell my art. This is how I want to live my life: Stay active, make art, be with people I love and respect. Breathe. Breathe!!

There are strategies and coping skills that help me persevere–this blog, going to class, taking commissions and making commitments for my artwork. Going to the doctor when the discomfort interferes too much, wearing the damn air cast, taking the occasional aspirin-or-aspirin-substitute. Learning to belay until I can actually climb again. Remembering my horse is still out there somewhere.

But what will ultimately keep me on my path is remembering:

I have to choose this.

I have to choose this, over and over. Every single day. Sometimes many times a day.

The power is in the choosing. And it’s never-ending.

BEAUTIFUL DAY, BEAUTIFUL GIFTS

It’s an achingly beautiful autumn day. The fall colors are at their peak, and the sunshine is brilliant and clean.

Last night was our little community’s world famous Pumpkin Festival. My husband Jon made a delightful little movie about it in 2005 that still captures the essence of this incredible event, which you can view here.

Last night, I volunteered to man an off-site parking lot for the event. I was kinda dreading it–who wants to spend Pumpkin Festival in a parking lot two miles away–but I actually had fun.

As cars pulled in, I guided them into multiple lanes to keep the lines moving, took money (most of which goes back into the fund to put on next year’s festival, and gave them directions on where to park, where to catch the shuttle bus, and (of prime importance)where the PortaPotties were.

Most people arrived excited and happy: “This is our first year at the Pumpkin Festival!”

But sometimes they arrived anxious (“The signs were awful!”) or distraught (“What do you mean the lot is full?!”) or out of sorts (weeping children, scolding parents.) Sometimes even downright grumpy (“$5 to park?! Outrageous! Can’t I park downtown for free?? And I suppose we have to pay for the shuttle bus, too!!”)

I could plainly see my mission here.

I had 20 to 30 seconds to get them to a different place, physically and emotionally.

To the formerly-lost people, I’d reassure them, “Oh, thank you for telling us about the signs–we’ll let them know for next year!” (Though I have no idea who “they” are…) “I’m so glad you made it–you’re going to be okay now.” To the grumpy people, I chirped, “Oh, this is so much more convenient than parking downtown tonight–let us keep your car here while you relax and take the shuttle bus. And not to worry, the bus is free–this is the last fee you’ll pay tonight! Hey, are you kids excited about the Pumpkin Festival or what?!” To crying children, I’d exclaim, “Ohmigosh, what a great costume! You look so beautiful/scary/er, enigmatic!! Are you ready to see all those pumpkins?” They’d smile through their tears and nod.

If the lot was full, we had to send them to the next one. I was amazed how many people took this with such good grace. But the ones who were totally frantic, we’d point to the six cards ahead of them and say, “They’re headed up to the next lot, too–just follow them!” And we’d add, “If you get lost, just come back–we’ll have openings by then. Don’t worry, we’ll get you to the Pumpkin Festival!”

In the greater scheme of things, this is small potatoes. But I also felt like this was their first encounter with our city, and our Pumpkin Festival. It felt good to help them get to a place where they could relax, and enjoy it.

Twenty seconds to turn someone’s heart around….

I thought of all the snarfy columns I’ve written about booth design and salesmanship in the last few months. I want to apologize if it sounded like I was disrespectful.

Because the beautiful thing about all these clueless craftspeople is, THEY WANT TO MAKE COOL STUFF AND SELL IT!

So they start out making odd stuff and displaying it badly, and not doing a very good job of selling it. So what? They’re out there doing it. They’re out there doing the best they can.

As Oprah says, “When we know better, we’ll do better.” And so when they are ready, and open, to doing a better job, they’ll find a huge craft community full of people who will happily help them get better at it. Hopefully, people like me, Bruce Baker and all the folks who helped me get better along the way. (Thank you, Bonnie, Mark, Jeff, Alyssa, Alisha, Terri, Christine, Mary, Mark, and I could go on and on but you get the picture.)

On another note, I was getting ready to post that though my lumps are still problematic, and though I’m almost definitely facing several more consults, tests, and some surgeries, I also seem to be cancer-free.

And coincidentally, this week I saw a friend who in a six week period, found out they had an aggressive form of cancer, underwent an equally aggressive treatment–brutal, in fact–and just received a clean bill of health a few days ago. A miracle, in fact. A gift.

All without a word to anyone.

I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed at my own very public panic in the face of this “muscling through” the fear and anxiety on my friend’s part.

But then I thought–I was brave, too. I handled it differently. But then, he and I are different in how we handle things.

Bottom line–I’m so very, very grateful and relieved he is okay. We are both here, on the other side, he after fighting a huge battle (and winning); me knowing I skipped this particular battle this time.

It is two miracles. Two gifts, in fact.

I discovered this weekend I have received yet another gift. I realize that, after almost a year of doubt and frustration with my martial arts, I really am where I’m supposed to be for the next few years. I’ve truly found my next teacher in the martial arts–one who has the patience, the depth of understanding and the skills I need to get to my next level.

So as we rouse our grumpy family this beautiful morning to go to breakfast and visit a particularly beautiful stretch of road my husband discovered yesterday while hiking up Mt. Monadnock, I think of my blessings.

I realize that every day, every precious morning is a blessing, full of gifts to be given, and gifts to receive.

Even while working as the proverbial parking lot attendant, in 20 seconds I could give the gift of enthusiasm and good cheer.

When you follow your passion in life, there are people along the way who will be there to help and advise you, who will celebrate your successes and who will get you through the hard parts.

Even as I was caught up in my own scary health battles this month, not only did I come out the other side okay, I have been given the gift of a good friend, a brave friend, who’s going to be around for many more years to come.

I know again the gift of, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

It’s not even Christmas yet, and the gifts are just incredible.

THE UPSIDE OF DOWN #4 Goals Will Get You Through

Fourth in a series about making the best of things.

When the doctor said, “No, no and no” to riding, martial arts and wall climbing, I could almost hear my heart hit bottom–kerplunk!

I recovered quickly. “Well….what can I do?” And some activities, like wall climbing, lent themselves to cool solutions. (see Learning to Belay )

But a larger issue was at stake. One that was a little harder to cope with.

I’ve been “drifting” in Tae Kwon Do class, waiting for the powers-that-be to figure out where to place me among my fellow students. I’ve got the training, but the years have taken their toll. And the curriculum has changed drastically since I first left TKD a dozen years ago. Am I starting totally over as a white belt? Or as a yellow belt? Or even a green belt??

I thought I could just hang out indefinitely until the decision was reached. I thought I could wait patiently, that I could simply show up and work hard, waiting for my body to heal, waiting to get my weight back down, waiting to regain some strength and flexibility.

Then I had to take two months off to recuperate from surgery. I was just starting to get back into the swing of things when this “month of aircast” was laid at my feet.

Going back to doing “not much of anything” in Tae Kwon Do felt like a huge step backwards. Like TWO huge steps backwards. And suddenly realizing, it might be like this for the rest of my life–one step forward, two steps back.

It didn’t help that a class the week before I got “the word” was one of the most strenuous and difficult I’d had all year. I actually left early, feeling humiliated and overwhelmed. “What the hell am I doing here, anyway?” I fretted. “I can’t do this!! Who do I think I’m kidding?? This ain’t gonna happen!”

Once I got home and cooled off, I felt pretty stupid for walking out. After all, I doubt anybody else had sailed through that session, either.

The telling point was how I felt when the doctor said, “No Tae Kwon Do”. Instead of relief (“Hooray! I’m off the hook!”) I felt that sinking feeling instead.

I don’t want to quit.

But I don’t want to wait anymore. Maybe it’s true that, at my age, it’s just going to be one damn thing after the other. So what? Does that mean I shouldn’t try?

I contacted my instructor, asking for some sort of decision.

And he gave me support, and a plan, and a goal.

It will be slow going, and I will have to make many modifications. But I’m not standing still any longer.

I am moving forward, with a definite destination in mind. And that has made all the difference.

So I’ve learned this:

Goals will get you through periods of inaction more than action will get you through periods of no goals.

How does this relate to my art?

The decision to take a year off from wholesale shows in 2008 is forcing me to think hard about where my energies should go, where my next steps should take me. It hasn’t hit me quite yet, as I finish off orders from the last show.

But come next year, when money is tight, I know I’ll be working hard to figure it out.

Instead of drifting and seeing what hits my plate next, I’ll be forced to come up with a new plan, a new goal. A new road map.

I need to think about what I really, really want to happen with my art. It’s time to look at old dreams, dust off some goals I’d set aside, and see if they still fit.

If they do, time to get busy. If not, time for some wonderful new ones.

Time to dream big!

It’s that old saying, more true than ever–you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you want to be. A map is no good without a starting point, an end point, and some idea of how to get from one to the other.

So much good stuff…..

Gosh, don’t you wish you spend a month in a cast, too?

BLACK BELT PEAK

I had a talk with my Tae Kwon Do instructor the other night. I can’t remember the proper title for him, and sensei isn’t it. I’ll try to find out before I post this.

We were talking about my goals for my study, and whether I should/could/would strive for black belt. Part of me wants to do this. Another part recognizes that my age and physical condition will make this difficult–and certainly a very different process than that of an 18-year-old or young adult.

He shared with me a concept that really got me thinking. He talked about the concept of perfect black belt peak.

He said that ideally, a black belt candidate has reached a certain peak of physical and mental/spiritual perfection.

Sometimes, though, those peaks just don’t coincide. A very young candidate has reached a level of physical perfection–but perhaps the mental/spiritual aspects need more time to mature. Older candidates–those who come to the sport later in life–may have missed that window of physical perfection. But they may also bring a rich and deep level of mental/spiritual perfection.

Ideally, a program accommodates all three kinds of candidates. The young black belt continues to grow and mature. The older candidate struggles constantly to do the best they can with their growing physical limitations.

At first I felt a rush of disappointment. Yes, I’ve definitely missed that perfect black belt peak. I’ve missed many windows in this art! And, in a quick burst of dismay, I realized I’ve missed so many other “perfect peaks” in other areas of my life.

I never went to art school. I never traveled much as a young person. I didn’t take a lot of challenges when it came to work, or so many other things in life.

Just as quickly, I came back to myself. My life is what it is. And there are some areas in my life where I have found that window, and I have been brave, and I have taken risks.

And the biggest obstacles in my life have been when I’ve given up because I felt I’d missed the opportunity for the perfect peak.

Do you do this? Walk away from your dreams because you see that the opportunity for the perfect peak has passed?

I hear it all the time. “It’s too late to go back to school.” “I’m too old to do that.” “I don’t want to try that, I wouldn’t be good at it.”

Life isn’t always about the perfect peak. When it happens, it’s a small miracle. Most of the time, though, we are dealing with missed windows, missed opportunities, imperfect peaks.

What matters is that you want to try–because it’s important to you.

I’m pretty sure what my answer will be about the black belt test. It terrifies me! I know that everything I’ve ever said “no” to, everything I’ve said I’m not good at, will be on that test.

Because that’s what a black belt test is–testing what’s left when your strength, your endurance and your wind is gone. The test isn’t just about how good you are.

It’s about what you do when you think there’s nothing left in you.

For me, it will be about knowing my limits. But it will also be about not giving up.

I hope the next time you hear yourself saying, “I’m too old”, “I’m not good enough”, “It’s too late”, that you’ll take minute to stop and really think….

“How badly do I want this?”

and “What am I willing to do to get there?”

and “Do I really care how long it takes me to get there?”

and “What would it mean to me to be on the other side? To be able to say…..”

I DID IT!

P.S. Just to give you context for where I am in martial arts, here is the last time I blogged about my goal for black belt: Leaving