Water in the Desert

This is a story about the gift of contrast. Water and desert are used as analogies not labels – I could use, for example, the polar ice caps and the tropics. Water and the desert just work for me.

Imagine you’ve focused your life’s work on the study of water and you move to the desert.  Like anyone who has a career specialty, we hive together feeding off each other’s energy, comparing our pails of water.  When I moved from Toronto/New York to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I had no idea where to put my bucket.

It’s a beautiful thing to be a stranger in a welcoming place. You must learn to navigate a new space and before you can know where you belong, you have to know where you are.

Now, you may think you know where this story is going. The water/desert metaphor is just too strong and it would be easy to assume that there is an epiphany of the desert needing the water.

Cue the plot twist.

As I look out my big studio windows,  my current body of work reads:

  • episodic hourly drama series pilot/pitch complete
  • reality tv show pitch complete
  • two podcasts in development
  • national staged project fusing sciences and arts in production
  • jewelry design company
  • special projects for regional organizations that utilize my particular ‘water skillset’

This has been the most productive time of my entire career. Yes, of course, obviously, there is a lot of creativity and artistry in the foothills of these mountains- that is a given. Yet in learning about this place, I have learned so much about myself. It has redefined my work with a freedom that I did not find while swimming in the ocean with my bucket.

Huh! Plot twist revealed –  Turns out that what my study of water was missing, was the desert.

 

 

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Opportunity vs Crisis – the New Age of Mid-Life  

The greatest potential for growth and self-realization exists in the second half of life”. Carl Jung’s words are more than just comfort for an aging society. They are about opportunity!

When my two kids were launched into college and beyond, seeking their bigger lives beyond our front door, I was also launched. The structure that provided the bedrock of family life for the past decades wasn’t needed. With anticipation, I looked at this new phase as a page yet to be written.

It turns out that I am not alone. What used to be described as a Mid-Life Crisis could now be more aptly described as Mid-Life Opportunity. The tired traditional stereotypes of mid-life crisis involve a man with a receding hairline, new sports car and younger girlfriend – a desperate attempt to hold onto or recapture a past. Not only is this picture outdated, it rarely reflected a woman’s journey. In fact, it wasn’t until the movie Thelma and Louise, that women found a collective voice when turning against their circumstance. As Thelma says, “I don’t recall ever feeling this awake. You know. Everything looks different now.” With this model rather than having a younger boyfriend or new sportscar, the result of an acknowledged woman’s Mid-Life Crisis was to grab your best friend by the hand and drive off a cliff!

The Crisis in Mid-Life Crisis, comes when the subscribed rules of our past push against the blank slate of our future. Fearfully, we cling with white knuckles to a familiar life structure while acting out in sometimes ridiculous ways, trying to quell that persistent itch of curiosity. Affairs, gambling, over-spending, immediate gratification rather than deep reflection. Mid-Life Crisis, even in its name, is inherently about destruction. An implosion of monumental proportion.  How do we manage the transition that comes with entering the middle state of life while minimizing collateral damage?

Carl Jung’s words provide the first guidepost on the journey through mid-life. I believe it is only a crisis if we mistake the excitement of the future as a restlessness with the present. When we experience a big life change that typically aging brings – empty nest, health issues, death of elderly parents –  it can trigger Mid-Life Opportunity. Self-awareness and honest personal conversations combined with knowledge and experience that only living can give, set a new course. It is the time to take stock. It is the time to pay attention. It is the time to fulfill potential.

Recently I was at a family gathering where it was revealed that most of the couples and the single people of my generation, were either embarking on or contemplating big life changes. Selling homes and moving miles away; planning months of travel; taking on new career paths; rediscovering dormant creative lives.  Exciting opportunities were being sought out that would put them on entirely new life paths. There was no crisis here! Instead, I was hearing about a renewed sense of adventure. A rediscovery of what it was like to live unencumbered by an obligation to something other than themselves – almost like being a teenager again! But this time, with experience. Couples were facing this together, rather than one acting out destructively. Single friends were blessed with realizations there were new choices ahead that could take them where ever they desired.   Mid-life was asking the question ‘what comes next’?

I like Jung’s optimistic view. This is the time to fulfill your potential with a renewed energy while armed with a lifetime of experiences. Maybe that’s all it takes. A re-branding. Rather than dreading aging, we can look forward to this next phase.  When curiosity and anticipation replace fear and angst, Mid-Life Crisis is no match for Mid-Life Opportunity.

Being the Author-ity of Your Life

When Nora Ephron, the famed director/writer of notable works such as ‘When Harry met Sally’ and one of my favorite of her books ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck; and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman’, died from complications from cancer in 2012, it was a complete shock to most of her friends and colleagues that she had even been sick! Ephron had decided to die the way she lived – on her own terms. She controlled the narrative. By doing so, she wrote her own story, maintaining the authority of her life.

In being the author of our own lives, we choose to pen our narrative. Our ‘story’ is the life we live. The plot is our day to day actions and interactions, the setting is where we are rooted and where we journey, the cast of characters are those we choose to have around us. Our narrative told in our own unique voice!

Being our own authority takes on richer meaning. Now that we recognize we are the authors of our own lives, are we holding tight to its authority? We should be! For me, being the authority of my life means that I am the best one to tell my story. I try not to give this power away. In defining my voice I have realized that when I give someone else authority over my story, it is seldom to my advantage. There is no benefit to giving energy or time, to those who belittle, insult or undermine. Instead, I put my energy to action – taking on projects that ring true to me and my story; having people in my life who honor; and building strong intentions to continue to create a narrative of which I can be proud. This is when I am in full authority of my story.

As the author and the author-ity, we are fully accountable. This place of ownership is where fruitful partnerships can blossom. It is learning to keep your own power by creating respectful boundaries for yourself. From here, you can be mindful of others boundaries too.

Nora Ephron created some of the most seminal works for women at a time when we were just finding our collective voice. It’s good to be reminded that when we take author-ity of our lives, we define how the world perceives us and also, a clearer picture of our story is created. Nora’s personal mantra remains true for me – ‘above all, be the heroine of your own life.’

Prose, Music, Self, Humour, Conversation

If you liked the Vagina Monologues, you will LOVE Heroines!
Heroines discussions about women conforming to the smallness that society expects, for me, hearkens back to the conversations we were having when The Vagina Monologues were presented for the first time in London 10 – 15 years ago. How do we fit? What if we don’t want to? Women have big feelings and big plans yet rather than being encouraged to stretch it is reinforced that small and contained is what is acceptable. Susan’s questions in Heroines are hilarious and touching as her characters beautifully reveal the triumph of the women’s spirit.” – Director/Producer Louise Fagan

The Circle Women’s Centre presents

the Jeanne Adamson Memorial Event of The Sophia Series

http://www.brescia.uwo.ca/thecircle/events/the_sophia_series.html

In Heroines of the Sexual Gothic, critically acclaimed author Susan Swan explores her relationship to some of her most intriguing characters — the giantess Anna Swan, the fiercely independent Asked For Adams and the romantically idealistic Mary “Mouse” Bradford. Woven throughout Swan’s explorations is original music composed by Donna Linklater and performed by The Billie Hollies, Toronto’s popular opera noir quartet. The soulful sound of The Billie Hollies singing passages from Swan’s novels bring these characters to life, allowing the audience to powerfully connect to their own hopes, humour and struggles.

 Heroines of the Sexual Gothic is a theatrical performance that illuminates the body as an ongoing cultural dilemma for women and for men, while exploring how overcoming limiting perceptions of one’s self can lead to brave and daring triumphs. Employing both poignancy and hilarity, Heroines asks these questions: Is this transformation of dark into light a universal quest? Is there room in Western culture for a treatment of the female body that isn’t diminishing, exploitative or threatening? And what does the creation of Swan’s characters tell us about the current cultural situation for women–a time when many young women are reclaiming feminism (yes, they are!) and re-launching, re-visioning and re-inventing initiatives to continue the work started by their mothers’ generation of feminists, only now within their own social context.

Swan’s Heroines struggle with these issues using live music and a backdrop of projections based on the performance by Swan, the author. Drawing from the characters in her bestselling books, along with a study of the culture of being female, the author becomes actor, lecturer, student, and character. This performance has been artfully shaped and directed by London legend Louise Fagan, whose expertise as a creative development producer brings this performance to its fullest creative expression. Join us for this unique evening of performance – Susan Swan, Louise Fagan and The Billie Hollies have created an evening of talk and music you’ll never forget!

Directed/Produced by Louise Fagan; Co-Produced/ Assistant Directed by Mariel Marshall

Thursday 2 May 2013, 8:00 p.m.

A meet & greet reception with the artists will follow the performance.
Brescia Auditorium, BresciaUniversityCollege, London – Free Parking 

Tickets: $20.00; $15.00 for Circle members

Purchase Tickets ONLINE through our secure site: http://www.brescia.uwo.ca/thecircle/events/the_sophia_series.html

To learn more about this multidisciplinary performance visit:

http://www.heroinesofthesexualgothic.com/

Meeting the Demands of the Universe!

Much has been written about the power of intentions, what you put out in the world you get back, how our personal intentions have a huge impact on our lives.  The Rolling Stones said it best:

You can’t always get what you want 
But if you try sometimes well you might find 
You get what you need”

What you ask for comes back not in the form you expect, but likely, in the way that you need! 

You don’t have to agree with this, yet if we look to the Universe the example is there. We cannot exist in this world without some sort of engagement with it. Our very being, our living, is in co-existence with the Universe. We breathe, we eat, we build, we take, we give…this exchange is mandatory. The Universe demands it. So if this is the reality, then our  choices lie in how we engage. I don’t have a lot of time nor patience for another list of things I have to do to be ‘good’ or to get what I want or even to think about justifying why I make the choices I do. Yet understanding that resisting the energy of this world is adding to my fatigue, then I have some changes to make.

This photo by the renowned Yann Arthus-Bertrand illustrates how the desire to be pink in an all-green world is possible!

This photo by the renowned Yann Arthus-Bertrand illustrates how the desire to be pink in an all-green world is possible!

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote”Once you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen’. (This is just one reason why he is one of my all time favourite authors!) Physical, spiritual, personal, communal, the energies we expend are received and returned. It is up to each of us to decide how we want participate. I try to choose  joy, generousity, humour, love, knowing that grumpiness, anger, fear at times creep in. My spring and summer intentions are going to be mindful of this.

The Universe demands our participation – so heck, why not be brave enough to see how far this welcoming partnership can take us? After all, it is a big wide world of possibilities out there and I kinda like the thought of knowing the Universe has my back…