Hope: It’s Complicated

Desert Night © Quinn McDonald. Fabric, marbled paper, stitching on watercolor paper background.

Desert Night © Quinn McDonald. Fabric, marbled paper, stitching on watercolor paper background.

Hope is a tricky emotion. It’s necessary so we can imagine what will happen if we take action and overcome hardship. It’s useful to use as a ladder out of sorrow: we can imagine life getting better, and we go where we look.

So why have I said that I’m not a fan of hope? Heretic. Well, in a way, yes. When we expect hope to be enough, to be the only fuel to drive a dream into reality, hope isn’t enough.

When we rely on hope to create what we cannot, we will be disappointed.

When we take that word for 2014 and expect it to change who we are, to be the magic eraser that vanishes all problems, we are making it carry to much of a burden.

Treat hope for what it is–the clay that we shape into a plan with the skill and

It's not clay; it's a rendering made to look like clay. A good metaphor for hope. From: http://www.secondpicture.com/tutorials/3d/clay_render_in_3ds_max.html

It’s not clay; it’s a rendering made to look like clay. A good metaphor for hope. From: http://www.secondpicture.com/tutorials/3d/clay_render_in_3ds_max.html

talent we have.

Take another look at your word for the year and make sure it’s strong enough to last a whole year, to push you when you want to stop, and to be the chuck under your wheel so you don’t roll back.

That’s a strong hope.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach. And the author of the Inner Hero Creative Art Journal, published by North Light Books.

A Poem for Your Journey

Watts Towers in Los Angeles, built by Simon Rodia.

Watts Towers in Los Angeles, built by Simon Rodia.

Counting down to New Year, choosing who you will be in 2014, trying to find that special word to be your amulet–it can all be a bit confusing. “I want to be a better me” is hard to define in specific terms. We can’t shed our skins like a snake and become someone new. Even the snake stays a snake. A bigger, stronger snake once the skin is shed, but still a snake.

Detail of the Watts Towers, made of cement and broken pottery, found and discarded objects.

Detail of the Watts Towers, made of cement and broken pottery, found and discarded objects.

Frankly, I wouldn’t even want to create a whole new me.  I like the dinged, battered, missing-perfect-by-a-mile me I’ve become, because working on what you are with what you’ve got makes you more interesting. And more honest. And certainly more sturdy and vulnerable.  I’d rather be a Watts Tower than the Dubai Building (the tallest building in Qatar).

Being who you are is hard work. No pretense, no hiding behind a new model, a new name, a new location, just recognizing what you can and can’t do is more than a year’s worth of work.

dubai-towers-render2

The Dubai building in Qatar.

I’m still working on the final draft, but one of my big recognitions in 2013 is that I am not a healer. Don’t want to be one. Most likely I am a teacher. Even that seems too big a burden sometimes–to claim expertise in something. It’s also possible I am a witness to other people’s stories. At best, I help them edit them, keeping what is useful, and culling out the misery and pain that holds them back from knowing who they want to be. That’s why I wrote the Inner Hero book.

So while you are figuring out who you are, too, here is a poem by Mary Oliver struck me as being perfect for the work behind and the work to come.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

-Quinn McDonald is still figuring out who she is.

A Word for 2014 and a Giveaway

defaultNever a friend of New Year’s resolutions, I recommend another ritual that’s more powerful and has more potential than New Year’s resolutions: Choosing a word for 2014.  You choose a word that will symbolize the year for you–set the intention or create a verbal amulet.

The word should be limber and supple, without any stiffness of punishment, or benchmarks to measure yourself with and find yourself coming up short.

Choose a word that has possibility for you–a word that will inspire you or keep you at peace, a word that makes you reach in anticipation or offers a rich depth of exploration.

Verbs are good, because they are action words. And taking action is a favorite step of mine to get unstuck or move ahead.  Of course, there are also the state of being verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. Small verbs, but powerful.

Other people prefer nouns–things or ideas: creativity, intuition, freedom. Nouns can be things you hold in your hands–paper, pen, seeds, feathers. Or they can be things you hold in your heart: wishes, wisdom, peace.

Now is a good time, at the end of the year, to think of a word you can hold and use for all of 2014. Choose a word that will last, that will build you up and support you. You can choose a word that is both a verb and a noun.

You can, of course, choose a description of your first inner hero to honor in 2014. Something like Stubborn Kindness (which has a long history in my family), or Explorer, or Spark-Striker.

Your word can be any part of speech, and you can use it in as many ways as you תרגוםwant–present tense, active voice, transitive with an object or not. Use it as many ways as you can and see how you change it and how it changes you.

If you keep a journal, you can write it down and visit it every week or month and see how that word has shown up in your life at the end of every week and how you would like it to show up the next week. You can write it on a piece of paper and put it in your pocket and rediscover it every day. Write it on a key you use every day and remember it when you unlock the door.

What is the word you want to invite into your life for the year? Leave it in the comments, and tell us why. I’ll pick two winners on Friday and will send a copy of my new book Inner Hero Art Journal to the winners–as soon as I get my copies!

Update:  Pia from ColourCottage won one of the new Inner Hero books! The other winner was Suzanne Ourths–congratulations to both winners! As soon as my shipment arrives, two books will be on the way to new owners!

—Quinn McDonald is choosing a word for 2014. Right now, she is inclined to choose an inner hero and re-visit it once a month.