Email Agony (Sorry J. Kilmer)

I think that I shall never see
an email answered thoroughly.

Replies that answer questions asked
instead of adding to my task.

Concise with information needed
Instead of three-times asked and pleadedsadtree2

And then forgotten with a Huh?
A smiley face, a shrug, a “Doh!”

I hunger for a sentence rich
with information, scratch my itch!

It isn’t hard, first read, then write
Answer the question, end the plight!

-Quinn McDonald hopes Joyce Kilmer will forgive her. He never had to deal with emails that don’t get answered, or get partially answered.

The Grant that Wasn’t

This past January, I applied for a small grant to work with veterans, helping them come to grips with their lives through journaling. The exercises were going to be from the book I’m writing, Write Yourself Whole.

Writing a grant is an art and a science, one with which I have little experience. A kind person who had recommended that I apply read my drafts and made suggestions. It was helpful.

This flower is persistent, climbing up a fence every spring. I love this backlit vision.

This flower is persistent, climbing up a fence every spring. I love this backlit vision.

Today was the day Kosmos Journal announced the receivers of the grants. I did not receive one. I am not disappointed. Yes, of course I would have loved to be a winner, but I do not feel like a loser. I worked hard on the proposal, I was proud of the idea, and that brought a great deal of satisfaction. After the application was sent in, I had a feeling of non-attachment. I did not mark the announcement day in my calendar.

The winners were organizations with a lot of experience in community work and activism. A lot of good will come from these projects. People will be helped. How can I not be thrilled for all the help being offered?

I do not believe in “this was meant to be,” predestination, or the phrase, “This is all part of God’s plan.” I’m not good at sitting around waiting for a deity to take care of me.

I’m glad I applied. The work I am doing will continue. Nothing is lost. One of the things I have learned over my life is that resilience is an important component of creativity. Mistakes, loss, missing the mark, failing–all are part of a rich life, deeply explored. They don’t always feel good, but they always teach us something–even if it is the energy to get up again and try again.

-Quinn McDonald has a lot of work to do. New plans are already in the works.

 

 

Talisman for Clarity

Clarity is hard to come by. My coaching clients struggle with it. My training clients re-write till the document becomes clear for the audience.

So when my jeweler-scultptor-pal Matt Naftzger (who owns Works of Man) created the Window of Clarity pendant, I knew it was the right talisman for me. I own several other pieces that Matt made, and all of them have powers to remind me what I want to be.

Front view of "Window of Clarity," © Matthew Naftzger

Front view of “Window of Clarity,” © Matthew Naftzger

Another benefit of Matt’s work is that he works in titanium, which is light and strong and non-reactive. Starting in late April, all my silver talismans and jewelry go into hiding until October, when the weather cools down. For the hot days of summer, I can wear only gold or titanium. The combination of heat and the tiny bit of copper or other metal in silver makes my skin break out. (I will spare you photos or descriptions. Not pretty.)

So, no steel, surgical steel, copper, brass, gold-plated or low-karat gold. Or silver. But yes to titanium, gold, and silver pendants on longer gold chains.

What makes an amulet different from a talisman? An amulet is believed to give

Back view of "Window of Clarity" © Matthew Naftzger

Back view of “Window of Clarity” © Matthew Naftzger

protection, a talisman offers some other kind of benefit. A talisman does not have the power, the wearer does. The talisman reminds you of powers that may not want to stick around in hard times. A talisman builds strength because it is worn; it stays close.

So what is this talisman about? Matt calls it “the window of clarity.” I had him customize it by putting a window on the front and another one on the back, but in a different place. Clarity doesn’t come in at the same place every time.

The best recognition of the truth and power of the talisman is the answer Matt gave me when I asked him, “On this pendant, why is the window so small?” The answer? “Because people can only take so much clarity at once.” And that is a reminder for me, too.

—Quinn McDonald knows that clarity is sometimes hard to take.

When Authentic Isn’t Enough

One image of a Gordian knot. There are many interpretations. I like this one for its art value.

One image of a Gordian knot. There are many interpretations. I like this one for its art value.

Digging through my journals, I came across a story I want to include in the book I’m working on. (For now, the content of the book is not important.) The story is about my mom’s struggle with authenticity. She stewed in the perpetual heat of anger. One day, I asked her, “What is it that makes you so angry all the time?” I asked it in the softest voice possible. I really wanted to know; it was a key to our Gordian-knot relationship.

She looked at me and explained, “This is who I am. You always say it is good to be authentic. This is me, authentic. If you can’t deal with it, it is your fault. I am being true to myself.” The fable of the lady and the asp flashed through my head, but I remained quiet.

how-to-stop-your-anger

To this day, I still feel anxious when I hear anger–even if it is not directed at me.

She had a point. Except her anger was so damaging, so painful. But most of her friends–those whom she liked–didn’t feel the sting of her anger. She did have another side. I rarely saw it.

Fast forward to now, when we encourage people not to change, to be happy as they are. What makes me think this? Listen to the language we use:

  • It is what it is
  • That’s you being you
  • Be yourself, everyone else is taken (attributed to so many people I’m not even trying to be sure, although I like Oscar Wilde.)
  • Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” –Bernard Baruch

We love being ourselves without excuse. “Don’t judge!” we warn. But somewhere there has to be a difference, a line, a distinction between back-stabbing gossip and being authentic.

When we say, “it is what it is,” or “haters gonna hate,” we are not excusing others, we are justifying ourselves and writing everyone else off as envious–lesser. There is then no cause or reason for criticism. We win. And so does everyone else, in their mind.

I beg to differ.  Language shifts our culture, so let’s be clear about the definition of “authentic.”  It is your deepest best self, not the shallow way we behave without thinking. Being authentic takes some reflection, asking, “Who would I like to be seen as? My character is my reputation, how do I want to present it?”

That’s the person we want to be. The person who builds a reputation; the person who is loved by dogs.

–Quinn McDonald spends a lot of time watching how language and culture influence each other.

 

Starting Over

freshpaintsigncroped

The gallery is in Yarmouthport, Massachusetts

Starting over. Starting fresh. It sounds like a new coat of paint over a tired life. The messy slate of the past is wiped clean, and ahead is a shiny new start. We can put on a new face, a new attitude, a new effort. It seems like we can create a whole new identity with as little effort as a new website.

Soon enough, that new effort is overwhelmed by the old ideas, old habits, old behavior–the old us. Alcoholics Anonymous figured this out years ago when they said, “If you are a drunk in Cleveland, moving to Peoria for a fresh start isn’t the answer. You’ll be a drunk in Peoria, too.” It’s a wise saying, although a tough one. (AA never pretended to have easy answers.)

When I went to Catholic school (I’m not a Catholic, but that’s another story), I loved seeing my friends go to confession. They’d say their prayers and their sins were wiped away. Poof! Just like that, they were brand new and sin free. Unfortunately, the old habits didn’t vanish, and my guess is that the same sins got repeated in the confessional time after time. And since there were different priests, no one really noticed or cared, and little personal growth resulted.

Teresa Jennings Robinson read this post and sent me the gorgeous hand-lettered quote she made for her art journal. See more of her work at rightbrainplanner.com

Teresa Jennings Robinson read this post and sent me the gorgeous hand-lettered quote she made for her art journal. See more of her work at rightbrainplanner.com

And that’s the danger of new projects. They seem free of the past baggage, but they are not free of us. We show up with our past, and relive it because it’s familiar. In a few days that new project takes on the fingerprints of the old us. If we don’t like the old us, we’ll hate the new project, too.

I have friends who are start-up junkies. Addicted to new beginnings, these eager people will start up a company with the fervor of Ron Popeil selling the Veg-O-Matic. But they aren’t good at running a company, which seems tedious and boring, so they dash off to do another start-up, leaving the clean-up team to handle the rest.

Any beginning feels like the creative part. And it is. But the road-test of creativity is showing up every day to do the hard work. The book I am writing is hard work. It’s satisfying, and I enjoy it, but it’s not riding rainbow unicorns. It involves saying “I can’t go to the movies with you, I’m writing,” or thinking, “I need to re-write this chapter, it’s not working, even if it is the fourth re-write.”

Creative work is hard. We want to give up, we get bored,  we want to do something fun and new. Yet what gets the work done is moving steadily ahead, when it’s not fun and not new.  Learning from your mistakes and getting up every time you fall is what the real work of creativity. And it pays off.

—Quinn McDonald is working on a re-write of a trio of chapters. She has done it before, and she may well do it again.

Creativity Hop, April 4, 2015

Broken mirrors have brought New York photographer Bing Wright a lot of luck. He photographs sunsets in the shifting glass surface of broken mirrors, then creates prints.

Broken+Mirror_Evening+Sky(Agfacolor)

The exhibition, called Broken Mirror, Evening Sky  at the Paula Cooper Gallery looks like vibrant stained glass windows.

Broken+MIrror_Evening+Sky+(Kodacolor)

A quote from the gallery’s website says, “Cracked glass seemingly generates doubled reflections, disjointed gleams and refracted light into shards of images.”

While on the topic of glass, here is more interesting work, this done with mirrors.

mirror-1

Alyson Shotz created a picket fence of mirrors and let it reflect the scenery around the fence within the mirrors.

50_alyson-shotz-mirror-fence-2Here is the same fence from a distance. You have to work to see it behind the first row of trees.  If you look slightly above the ground, you can see the straight line created by the top of the fence.

50_alyson-shotz-mirror-fence-3

Here’s another  installation that both reflects and disappears into the landscape.

Have a creative weekend!

Quinn McDonald loves the reflective nature of art.

What To Put on the Last Page of Your Journal

You already know what to put on the  first page of that new journal. No more staring at blank pages for you!  Once you get past the middle, you can decide how to end your journal.

How do you  end a journal so you don’t have to continue a thought, a project, or a story into another journal?

Create a table of contents of favorite pages.  I like to come to the end of a project or idea flow in my journals. I don’t mind having a few blank pages in the back. Over time, I’ll fill those blank pages with dates of pages I keep looking up or those with favorite quotes or poems.  I don’t number my journal pages, but I date each page, so sometimes I write the start and end date at the end of the journal. It becomes a useful index to the contents.

Three pages at the end of a journal, cut decoratively. Do not cut the last page that is glued onto the cover.

Three pages at the end of a journal, cut decoratively. Do not cut the last page that is glued onto the cover.

Decorate the end pages. If there are a few blank pages left, I also cut steps into them. I trim the last page about an inch from the end, the next one two inches, and the third one three or four inches in from the book edge. Using a craft knife, I cut a wavy line and create a three-page landscape. Remember to put a cutting mat under the page you are cutting.

Tinting the page edges gives it a nice finish. I use a water color wash to keep the color pale. You could tear the pages straight down or give them a deckled-edge look. I like the curved look better.

Use stickers or postcards. Daniel Smith, the art supply house, puts a sticker dont-throwmeon small or lightweight packages in larger deliveries. The sticker is bright orange, about 4 x 6 inches and says “Don’t throw me away.” It strikes a chord, so I often use one on the final page of a journal. It seems about right. You might be done with it, but there is lots of meaning to be made.

Add a photo of yourself, your children, your pets.  That way, when you look back over them in the years to come, you’ll have an evolving view of what you looked like. Adding a photo of your house shows how it changes over the years. A photo of the kitchen is always fun with advancing technologies changing what our appliances look like.

The last page of a journal doesn’t have to be an ending. For a powerful last page, flip back to the beginning, and read the first post or two. End the book with a recognition of how far you’ve come.

Quinn McDonald keeps a journal and helps others do, too.

The Universe Has a Future

Yesterday, when I was so bummed that I couldn’t grab an opportunity, I remembered another story from a different time in my life. That story still has value.

That's the right way to break the board--both feet have to be off the ground.

That’s the right way to break the board–both feet have to be off the ground.

Some years ago, I decided that taking martial arts would help me stay flexible and strong. Instead of starting slowly, I visited a studio for TaeKwonDo, a powerful fighting martial arts, in which you can get hurt. Eventually I broke several bones sparring and doing exhibitions, but I digress.

At the studio, Sensei Lee put me through some paces to see where I would start, and put me in the beginner’s class. Because I have always been competitive, I immediately asked, “How long will it be till I am a black belt?” Mr. Lee, who did not take kindly to women in martial arts, sighed.

He then said, “If you make it through all the tests, if you work out three times a week here in class, you will make it to black belt in five years.” It might as well have been till the 12th of Never.

Sparring match in TaeKwonDo.

Sparring match in TaeKwonDo.

I looked at him with disbelief and said, “But I will be 37 years old by then!” It seemed to me that I’d be ancient. And the progress was so slow!

Mr. Lee remained placid. He sighed again. “Yes,” he said. “But in five years, you will be 37 years old anyway.”

It was an important lesson in setting goals and working toward them steadily. It was an important lesson in knowing what you want before you start and planning. But most of it, it was knowing that anything worth having is worth waiting for.

Quinn McDonald no longer practices TaeKwonDo, although she did earn her black belt and celebrated by kicking through four cinder blocks, barefooted.

The Universe Says “No” Sometimes

The dream first. I was standing in a tall building, looking out over the mountains in Phoenix. A voice behind me said, “This is a higher calling.” I looked around, and I was standing in a room of packing boxes. A poetry book was on a box next to me. I’d probably been reading it.

The next morning, I wrote down the dream, and indulged in an ancient kabbalistic meditation on the creative spirit. Then, to work. And hard work it is, writing my new website. I’m on the third draft, and the webmaster is trying hard to stay polite and the account executive is probably going home to stick pins an a voodoo doll of me. I don’t blame her. But I won’t put up a website that isn’t well done. So. It’s hard work.

The phone rings and on the other end is a poet whose books I’ve read and whose writing and teaching I admire. A wonderful conversation later, I discover he teaches a course that sounds as if it were designed for me. Two years and I’d have a certification in healing through poetry. I want to do that. It sounds perfect. It matches the dream!

I check into the price, and it is more than I can afford. Way more. Of course, the price is worth it, that’s not the point. But both of our cars are more than 12 years old, one of them has more than 200,000 miles on the odometer. The family room needs a new floor. The carpet, even when clean, looks like a plowed field waiting to be seeded.

Sometimes the dream is not a sign.

Sometimes the dream is not a sign.

It seemed like a good time to turn over the problem to the Operating System of the Universe. I went back to work. OK, I may have mentioned it whined a little on Facebook. I should have kept my fingers concentrating on the website.

The emails began to trickle in: “Jump and trust. The money will show up as you fly.” “The universe will provide you the money. Sign up!” “This is an investment in the future, just do it.” “The dream was a sign! Go now and the money will come.” “Write a love letter to money!” Oh. I’m not big on blind trust. I noodle some numbers, and nope, it’s just not feasible right now. That happens, too. Even in an enlightened universe. Sometimes the Universe says, “No,” even if you have a dream.

1354416871_4777_tantrumThe next step was also interesting. “You didn’t try hard enough.” “You didn’t trust enough.” “Maybe you didn’t deserve it after all.” “You are playing small.” “Write another love letter to money.” Wow, so if the universe doesn’t deliver, suddenly it’s my fault. What happened to blind trust?

I have a few days left. Maybe the Universe will write me a check. But if it doesn’t, I’ll have to be disappointed. There is nothing wrong with disappointment. It does not reflect on my character, my will or my ability to manifest. It simply means that something I wanted it out of my financial reach. That happens. Even to deserving people.

Tomorrow there will be more webwriting, but mostly workbook writing. Sometimes the Universe helps you by letting you deal with loss and then move on.

Quinn McDonald trusts in the Universe, even when the answer is “No.”