Ushering in Vision and Symmetry

Adios 2019.

An uneven year you were,  

leaving me undone and barely passing your test.

A descending arrangement, 2019

A year that began with labored conversation and bedside visits.

A year that stretched me beyond my defined limits.

When the beginning of the year delivered a sad ending—

to the depths of darkness, I could have easily regressed.

I’ve been there before.

I know how sorrow and despair can quickly tear one’s soul.

But being consumed with sadness is not what came to pass.

Rather, I found inspired purpose and a renewed appreciation for life,

recognizing that there will come a day that will be my last.

In my rearview mirror, I watch it disappear.

That uneven and unsettled year.

I look forward with goals, desires, and dreams.

A new year stretched before me with secrets,

yet to be revealed.

Hello 2020.

An even year you are,

offering vision and symmetry at its best.

Balanced like a horizontal teetertotter, 2020

A year that began with a toast, 1920s décor, and smiles a plenty.

Me in a flapper dress and my date in a bow tie,

we celebrated with others, dressed in similar attire.

We ended the evening, back where we started the night-

in a historical hotel in downtown Chandler,

whose history, with ours, is intertwined.

A stroll to an underground speakeasy, revealed a cool vibe.

When the clock struck midnight, the quiet whispers came alive.

Adios 2019.

An uneven year you were,  

leaving me undone and barely passing your test.

Hello 2020.

An even year you are,

offering vision and symmetry at its best.

View from Westwing Mountain, taken January 1, 2020

Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem about endings and new beginnings. I hope that you had a relaxing and enjoyable season and are recharged for the new year.

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to read my words and glance at my photos. For optimal viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Picture 1: Tortolita Mountains, Pinal County Picture 2: Westwing Mountain, Peoria, Arizona Picture 3: On the road to Lake Havasu, Arizona Picture 4: Lobby, Sheraton San Marcos, Chandler, Arizona Picture 5: 2020 Celebration, Gilbert, Arizona

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Only So Many Days

Life sometimes delivers a diversion

from what currently is and reveals all that can be.

That is exactly what happened to me.

I was walking a familiar path that had become stagnant and uninspired.  

Looking

for

the

light,

I found only fragments of the sun’s rays here and there.

I kept walking, accepting that this was my fate,

but quietly praying that I would find my way.

That I could find the courage to run

toward

the

light,

that radiates promise, hope, and wonder.

My dreams were dwindling with each setting of the sun.

Then life took care of what I could not.

It forced me to confront personal loss.

My heart exposed; my soul reclaimed.

I was reminded that I am given

only so many days.

We are each given

only so many days.

Only so many days-

To pause on our well-worn path, look up, and wonder.

Only so many days-

To find a gap in the dark and run toward the light.

Only so many days-

To nurture our own dreams, like we do those of others.

Only so many days-

To greet our fears like a harmless stranger –

look her in the eye, extend a firm hand, and say hello.

Only so many days-

To be surprised by what we can dream up, act on, and accomplish.

Only so many days-

To create our own path and be our own hero.

Only so many days-

To be the incredible you; the only you there is.

Don’t let your hope dwindle.

Don’t let your dreams go dark.

Look for an opening, find

the

ray

of

light.

Toward the ray, find the courage to run.

A ray, that might begin as only one.

A ray, that will expand,  

and in time,

 surround you

with love.

50 Life Stories update:  I am currently working on Story #32. I lingered on Story #29 for a bit, because it was such an important story to tell and I needed to relive and move through intense moments and emotions. Story #29 centers around my experience fleeing from a fire in the Black Forest near Colorado Springs in the summer of 2013. Many lives were changed that day, especially the many families who lost homes, and sadly, lives were also lost. I have completed the story and shared the story with a few friends close to the situation. The story has evoked some tears, but it seems to have also delivered more healing surrounding the situation. For that, I am grateful.

When working on the final draft of Story #29, which included adding pictures from my week in Colorado, I had a serendipitous moment that told me I was absolutely on track with my writing purpose that day.

This is what happened, leaving me surprised and speechless:

I had just written out my writing goals for the day, which included completing the Black Forest Fire story. I then opened my FB account to search for a picture, and staring back at me was a picture of me and one of the main characters from Story #29-a lady I met a few days before the fire, and one I formed a special bond with, after fleeing from the fire together. Apparently, six years prior to the day of my writing, I had posted a picture of the two of us, that was taken at the airport, just before I flew home to Phoenix. In the post I told her I missed her. I posted the picture of the two of us five months after leaving Colorado. I had forgotten about the post, and I certainly had not intended on writing our story exactly six years later (or at all). Seeing the picture of the two of us confirmed I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing on the exact day I needed to do it. Special gift of synchrodestiny.  

Preview of upcoming interview: I am in the process of interviewing an inspiring family of five who recently left the security of living and working in Arizona to make a bold move to Hawaii. I look forward to sharing more about their journey, which to many, including myself, sounds like paradise. However, like all major moves, it hasn’t been without its challenges.

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to follow my blog. For optimum viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. However you choose to look at my posts and pictures, thank you, the only you there is!

Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Picture 1: Sea Lion Cave, Florence, Oregon. An opening that revealed the ocean below and took my breath away. Picture 2: Sunflowers in my backyard Picture 3: Arizona sunset Picture 4: Me in Cottonwood, Arizona @ Dead Horse Ranch State Park Picture 5: Me at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona

© 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Making More Space for Hellos

My intentional change journey involves taking steps to live my best life, now. An important aspect of this process is releasing possessions, thoughts, memories, relationships, and routines that do not support me on this path. Writing and sharing allows me to clear my crowded closets and frees up valuable space. My poem, letter, or whatever label you would like to give it, lists a few farewells. Glance at them quickly, for they are leaving; I am letting them go. Thank you and hello.

I encourage you to take some time, to write your own “Farewell/Hello” list. Who or what do you feel compelled to say farewell to? So that you can make more space for hellos. Write your list. Then share it, shred it, burn it, mail it, or … whatever (helpful) release feels right to you.

Farewells and Hellos

A poem. A letter. A list. Call it what you will.

To the teacher who told me to, “stand in the back row, to hide your full figure” before a group photo-

Farewell.

To the girls who talked behind my back when they had each other, and I stood alone-

Farewell.

To the college student who took credit for my writing and the professor who praised his work-

Farewell.

To the lady who chided me, when I confided that teaching high school may not be my path. “You need to figure out what you’re doing with your life,” she said.

Farewell.

To the people who mistake kindness for weakness-

Farewell.

To the fearful and burdened version of myself-

Farewell.

To the voice inside my head that whispers, “You can’t!” “You shouldn’t!” “What will they think?”

Farewell.

I no longer have room for you. You have been replaced.

With friends.

To the storytellers who give their words breath-

Hello.

To the fellow dreamers who know we should never stop exploring-

Hello.

To the artists whose creations make me pause and ponder-

Hello.

To the inspiring people who support me and shine the light-

Hello.

To my teachers, your belief and guidance leads the way-  

Hello.

To the daughter who taught me how to see the world through artist’s eyes and with an open soul-

Hello.

To the man who met me where I was, and alongside me, has walked the path of love.  

Hello.

I am making more space for you. I hope that you can stay.

My friends.

Preview of upcoming interview: I will soon be interviewing an inspiring family of five who recently left the security of living and working in Arizona to make a bold move to Hawaii. I look forward to learning more about their journey, which to many, including myself, sounds like paradise. However, I suspect it is not without its challenges.

Picture 1: Me in San Diego, CA Picture 2: My guy and my girl in Oregon (studying on the beach) and in Santa Cruz, CA (heading to a wedding ceremony in the woods) Picture 3: Me in Granville Island, BC

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to follow my blog. For optimum viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. However you choose to look at my posts and pictures, thank you!

If you are going through a life change or know someone who is, I would love to learn more and possibly share your/their story on a weekly post. Please send me a note if interested.

Thank you and have an inspired weekend!

Michele

Hello!

© 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Outward Change Reveals Inward Transformation

The personal story that follows took courage to share and it is my privilege to write it in a manner that is respectful and honoring of the strong woman I interviewed.

Krissy claims (everyday) that, “Today is my favorite day!” Such a grateful way to greet the day.

My husband and I have been blessed with several neighbors, across two states, who we have formed friendships with and who have added richness to our lives. Those friendships have taken many forms through the years. Together as neighbors, we have watched children play and grow, we have laughed and celebrated, and we have supported and been supported. Not to be understated, we have been greeted with friendly faces and welcoming waves more times than we can recall.  

We have also experienced the sting of not-so-nice-neighbors, so we were thrilled to meet our new neighbors after making a move back to the valley just over seven years ago, after living in Tucson for five years. In a mirror floor plan, directly across the street, lived a young family who were immediately kind and inviting. The husband, Glynn, and wife, Krissy, introduced themselves with smiles and dispositions that could brighten the cloudiest of days – smiles and attitudes that have been unwavering since our first encounter. Their young children exhibit the same cheerful outlook and loving nature that they so generously convey. Watching Glynn and Krissy’s kids play with other children in the neighborhood was reminiscent of our daughter’s carefree cul-de-sac childhood in Henderson, Nevada. Over five years of friendly hellos and farewells would have been enough to enrich our lives, but their actions went beyond those appreciated gestures. They invited us to several gatherings, including their yearly memorable Halloween celebration, complete with a bouncy house in the front yard. They are equally gracious hosts as they are kind neighbors and we always felt welcomed and energized by their positive presence. We delighted in watching them prepare and return from their many family adventures, and are forever grateful for Glynn’s willingness, without prompting, to mow our lawn when my husband was recovering from foot surgery. They model neighborly goodness and that is what made seeing their for sale sign so difficult when returning home one afternoon, over one year ago. I understand. Sometimes families need more space. We couldn’t be too upset with them, after all, we have planted six for sale signs since we were, ourselves, a young family forging friendships and then moving on to the next location.

Fortunately, our neighbors did not move too far, or at least close enough for a stop in and say hi visit. It was on one of those visits a few months ago that Krissy said something that didn’t shock my world, but I did file it away for later consideration.

When I told her, “You look great! Have you lost weight?”

“Yes, I lost thirty pounds. I stopped drinking,” she said casually.

“Oh, that’s great,” I said, as we were departing.

We drove off, happy to have reconnected with our “old” neighbors. I didn’t think much more about Krissy’s alcohol abstinence until I sat pondering:  who do I know who has made a life change recently that I can learn more about, with the goal of inspiring and motivating others. I immediately thought of Krissy and her lifestyle and physical transformation. I reached out to her and she agreed to be interviewed. The conversation that followed is a reminder of you never know what other people are going through, including people with heartwarming smiles and contagious laughs.

I knew that my neighbor is a fellow Arizona native, but I wanted to learn more about the Krissy I didn’t know. I learned that she has two older brothers and that her parents are married and will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary next year. She is close with her family and they see each other often. I have many more things to learn about my neighbor, my friend, but our conversation quickly turned to her personal history and the focus of our fifty-minute discussion. Her disclosures were surprising, based on my false assumptions about someone with a radiant attitude, but they are far too familiar to many families, including my own. Krissy shared her experience of attending Al-Anon© 1 to understand and support a family member’s drinking and addiction challenges. She had been going regularly to these helpful meetings for almost two years when a conversation with her Al-Anon© sponsor revealed that, she too, might have an issue with alcohol, and that like her family member, her relationship with alcohol might also be damaging the relationships she most valued. The conversation caused Krissy to take an honest look at her own choices surrounding drinking. In doing so, she realized that she needed to make some changes, or risk permanently altering the course of her marriage, and ultimately, her life.

Krissy made the decision to stop drinking on April 22, 2018 and has been sober since. Saying no to alcohol on that day, turned into a week, then a month, then six months, then a year. She continues to say no to the substance that made her life “blurry.” Focusing on one day, sometimes, one hour at a time in the beginning of her sober journey, has brought her to a place of absolute gratitude, joy, and strengthened relationships. Krissy continued to attend her Al-Anon© meetings but had not attended an AA® 2 meeting until she reached one year of sobriety. At the one-year mark Krissy attended that meeting just to pick up a chip to mark her year milestone. It was then, after attending Al-Anon© for over two years, that she was ready to admit to herself, and others, that she wasn’t just taking a break from alcohol, she was an alcoholic and the struggles of her family member, were also her struggles.

Krissy realized that alcohol directed too many of her days and her family trips, and that those patterns were consuming her and damaging her most cherished relationship – the relationship with her loving husband, her best friend. Those habits consisted of drinking on good days and bad days, drinking to the point of blacking out, fighting about things that she never would have cared about sober, drinking excessively and embarrassing loved ones, and over-planning the drinking schedule for family vacations. Anyone who drinks or has drank to excess, even one time, can probably admit to at least one of these consequences; I certainly can. It takes someone with tremendous courage to admit when negative consequences have become habitual, and then be strong enough to seek support, before those habits erode relationships and sense of self. Krissy is someone with tremendous courage and her bravery and grace are helping others through her involvement with support groups and through the life she is living.

Gratitude is the Key to Happiness     

Krissy is “genuinely happy” without alcohol in her life and she feels “like a million bucks.” She attributes the foundation of that happiness to practicing gratitude. This “key to happiness,” as she describes, is helping her stay sober, especially during difficult situations that test her sobriety.

Practicing Mindful Gratitude has allowed her to:

  • Be fully present and aware
  • Know tomorrow is not ruined
  • Let go of the need to control situations and others
  • Remember everything
  • Be in control of words and actions
  • Not feel shame or embarrassment
  • Learn to have fun on her own
  • Practice honesty and forgiveness
  • Let go of resentments
  • Be accepting of others and herself
  • Embrace a willingness to change
  • Let go and let God
  • Feel God’s grace

While drinking Krissy said she didn’t think about leading with gratitude throughout her day. To hear her talk passionately about being grateful in all situations, it is hard to imagine that awareness hasn’t always been a core strength of hers. Practicing gratitude is a gift that she has extended to her family and her home reflects that awareness.

The “Family Gratitude Jar” contains notes of gratitude experienced throughout the week. The small gratitude notes are then read at the end of each week. An inspiring family routine that is strengthening grateful hearts, and a family bond.

Prepare the Mind, Prepare for the Day

Like I am rediscovering every day, morning meditations provide quiet space for prayer and prepare Krissy for the remainder of her day. Praying before her day begins and leading with gratitude throughout the remainder of her day has transformed Krissy’s attitude and has given her inner peace and strength. Krissy has radiated positive light whenever we have seen her over the last seven years; now, she has been able to shine that light inward, as well as outward. Krissy has modified both when she prays and how she prays. Her transformed prayer life is now led with an accepting heart, versus an asking heart.

Motivational quotes Krissy has learned and does her best to live by each day:

“I can do this today.” “Accept things for what they are.” 

“Progress not perfection.”  “We heal what we reveal. 

“I can help other people today.” 

“I am not better than, or less than, I am equal.”

Krissy describes her turning point as a time when, “I was able to get off the elevator before I went to the bottom floor.” Krissy does not make that statement from a place of superiority. She acknowledges God’s grace in giving her the strength to make life changes before consequences became more serious and permanent. With the encouragement of an incredible husband, a loving family, supportive groups, and a strong faith, Krissy has been able to leave that descent and walk a new path – a hero’s path. She isn’t just walking a new path; she is shining a light on the path for others.  

…………….

The goal of this piece is not to tell people to stop drinking, and it certainly is not Krissy’s goal. That is a personal decision. The goal of this piece is to share a story about a strong woman who had the courage to be accountable for her choices and then take the uncomfortable steps, one day at a time, toward a stronger and healthier life, for herself and her family. Her willingness and determination to do so serves as a model for others who might be following in her footsteps, or as Krissy would prefer, alongside her.     

Resources:

  1. Al-Anon© is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. Description found on the Al-Anon website. For more information, please visit https://al-anon.org/
  2. Alcoholics Anonymous ® (AA) is a an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. Description found on the AA website. For more information, please visit https://www.aa.org/

Enjoy your weekend and if you are receiving this post through email, please visit my blog for additional pages and previous posts.

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Adventurous Arizona Athlete and Teacher Inspires Others

Emily Gerlick finds adventure, tranquility, and breathtaking moments while increasing her physical endurance and belief in herself.

I have had the privilege of following inspiring athlete, Emily Gerlick, for a few years now on social media after meeting her at work over four years ago. I have looked at dozens of beautiful photographs of Emily running in picturesque scenes in several states, including Arizona, Colorado, and Utah and have often wondered how she makes it to so many remote locations, while also maintaining a busy teaching and coaching schedule. I am in awe and I am inspired by her, and I know I am not alone. Emily’s photographs reveal more than colorful landscapes in hidden valleys, they reveal dedication, desire, determination, and talent. Her photographs of running through the woods, or standing over crystal-clear lakes, or gazing at mountain vistas also do more than momentarily entertain, they beckon the viewer to get out, get moving, and get exploring.

From the moment I met Emily, I was immediately drawn to her independent nature and her compassionate teaching style, but as it often goes, it is difficult to truly get to know another teacher in the confines of the workday, when their classroom is across campus. I sought out an interview with Emily because she recently made a professional move, leaving our mutual school in Glendale, Arizona and accepting a position over 140 miles north, in Flagstaff, Arizona. Changing jobs and relocating can be a terrifying proposition; her story may help or motivate others who might be considering doing the same. Emily has also continued to push herself with her fitness goals and her results are incredible and motivating. I have learned several details about Emily during our interview that further add to my admiration and I am thrilled to share her story. I also learned to not wait so long to get to know someone who I admire from afar.

Running in nature is “soothing and meditative.”

Who is Emily?

Emily is from a Wonder Lake, Illinois, a small-town northwest of Chicago. She went to high school in Woodstock, Illinois. Arizona is her home now, but she misses the downtown square, the mom and pop restaurants, and lighting of the Christmas tree, which she described as being beautifully lit.

Not surprising Emily enjoyed playing outside as a kid. As someone who is working on adding more play to her life, I love that Emily continues to allow her inner child to play, run, and explore. As a child she loved to do those activities barefoot – in the summertime of course. She has fond memories of being three years old and watching bonfires in her family garden, during changing seasons. She would sit and watch as long as she could, until the cold became too much, and then she would race her dad, fifty yards, back to their house. She learned discipline as a young gymnast and ballerina. As an eight-year-old, she fell in love with softball and would continue playing through middle school, high school, and eventually at the University of Iowa. Softball is also one of the sports Emily has coached, passing on her love of the game to aspiring players.  

Emily enjoyed playing outside as a kid.

Emily feels the influence of growing up with four seasons (something native desert dwellers cannot relate to). Illinois winters gave her grit and those long cold winters also gave her an appreciation for spring and summer. She is both an athlete and a fan – supporting the Bulls, Bears, and Cubs. She remembers watching Michael Jordan play with the Bulls and considers him to be an inspiration for her and her athletics.  

Who Inspires Emily?

Emily is inspired by her parents.

She said, “They both worked so hard to give my sister and I the best life they could. They worked hard and showed up at all of our events that we both participated in.”

Her students with special needs also inspire her, “… to be a better human. They have so much courage and work so hard and still have time to smile and laugh.” She thinks of, “them often when … out on the trail.”

Making the Moves

University of Iowa to Arizona

Emily fell in love with Arizona while competing against Arizona State University every spring. She completed a strength and conditioning internship with ASU the summer before her senior year, then moved to Arizona after graduating from college. Arizona surprises her most by the abundant places to explore and the beauty in the state. She mentioned one of my favorite spots, the Mogollon Rim.

She stated that she has “… not even covered half of the cool spots to hike, explore, and camp” in Arizona. Based on her posts, I would say she is covering more of the state than most. Although the Illinois cold gray winters gave her grit, she doesn’t miss having to shovel snow, however, the endless summer days in Phoenix, that never cool down, even after the sun disappears from the horizon, require their own form of grit.   

Phoenix, Arizona to Flagstaff, Arizona

Emily’s most recent move – the one that prompted this interview request – was her move from Phoenix, where she had lived for thirteen years, to Flagstaff. For those who are not familiar with Arizona’s geography, the two locations are distinctly different, and an example of the diversity in the state. Her desire for new adventures, new career and personal challenges, and the abundance of trails, motivated her to head north. Landing a job in an area she has always loved and leaving the security of the known for the unknown, demonstrate Emily’s ability to trust and believe. Two additional qualities I admire in this adventurous athlete.

She has faced the challenges of starting over, but her risk to leave the familiar is paying off. She is meeting new people, settling into her new job, learning new running trails, and she is loving the small town feel of Flagstaff. A feel that reminds her of home, in a place that is starting to feel like home.    

Blazing a Trail

Emily’s first trail running experience was a seven-mile trail at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, in Buckeye, Arizona, in 2008. She was hooked! Her trail running began with hiking and running with friends. She loves the reward of seeing beautiful views after a climb. Her Instagram followers also love those views! Running in nature, and surrounding herself with natural beauty, gives Emily an immediate release from everything else going on in her life. Trail running has also given her ways to cope with the intense struggles of anxiety and depression.

She loves her supportive, and ever expanding, trail running community and she loves sharing her trail running and outdoor adventures with friends and family. Through her sharing, she has, “met some pretty amazing humans.” I would add that through her sharing people have seen beautiful hidden corners of several states. It is Emily’s hope, and my belief, that her running and sharing will inspire others to get out and find their own adventures.

If I haven’t yet mentioned, Emily is also humble, but I am happy to share that she qualified for the 2020 Boston Marathon. She believes it will be her last road marathon. As her interviewer and someone who has seen her push forward and grow, I am not convinced it will be her last.

Emily’s Top Five Reasons to Hit the Trails

  • Repetitive movement is soothing and meditative
  • Fresh air to the lungs
  • Connecting with earth
  • Seeing amazing feats of nature
  • Sitting in a cold creek listening to the sound of rushing water

Emily’s adventurous spirit, beautiful photographs, and willingness to take risks, both professionally and on the trails, inspire me to get up, get moving, and go beyond my comfort, which “is where life begins.”

For your own weekly dose of visual inspiration, follow Emily @ em_run_teach_love

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Shatter the Sameness

Must see collection at the Phoenix Art Museum. British born artist, Cornelia Parker, created the installation from the charred remains of a Texas Baptist church that was struck by lightning. Creativity and beauty inspired by “charred remains” is a lesson I can incorporate into my own life.

Parker, Cornelia. Mass (Colder Darker Matter). 1997. Burnt wood, wire, and string. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum.

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” ~ Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein

Like many people, I am a creature of habit. That is, I was a creature of habit prior to last June. Before taking the leap into the unknown (that has since become my life) my daily routine was so consistent, that the movements of one weekday looked exactly like the next. Beginning with two snoozes of the sleep shattering alarm, then stepping through my re-traceable morning routine, on to my synonymous work schedule, followed by my familiar drive home and my repetitive evening rituals, I was caught in a cycle of sameness. Getting caught in the same loop (pun intended) is understandable; sameness is encouraged throughout many aspects and phases of our lives. Sometimes we need to shatter the sameness to discover our unique gifts. My wake up, work, and repeat routine gave me certainty, which is my preferred state of being, but my routine also turned me into a rote robot, mechanically stepping through my life. My predictable path gave me stability and robbed me of creativity. A change was needed.

Many changes have occurred in my life over the last four months since stepping off my predicable daily path. First, I had to move through the fear and regret of leaving stability. Or at least my belief in that concept. As most of us know, stability is just an illusion – if we capture it, it rarely lasts. Unexpected news can tear through our “stable” lives and leave us scattered. However transitory, my routine had become a series of carbon copy days that outlined what I needed to do in life, but not how to live. Next, I needed to rest, reflect, and restore. Focusing on those three overlooked “Rs” during the summer months gave me a mental and physical reboot. Recharged and redirected, I am now able to practice presence, listen to inner guidance, and explore other life paths. This exploration has encouraged me to invite more intention, purpose, and spontaneity into my life. Opening the door for these changes has also left plenty of room for uncertainty to step in, which sounds less terrifying now than it did four months ago. Through this journey, I have been reminded that the most memorable people, places, and sights are often those we discover when we take the side roads and take our time getting there.

Change your routine. Change your mindset. Change your life.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The one thing we can count on is change” or some variation thereof. As someone who worked in public education for many years, I know this truth. However, in this common context, this approach feels reactionary. Change is thrust upon us and we are expected to adapt, whether we agree or not, or whether we have a say in the situation or not. Being able to adapt to change is vital to the survival of all species, and we are certainly no exception. Rather, we are the exception. As humans, we have the ability to not only adapt to change that is thrust upon us, but we have the incredible ability to do more than react to our environments. Among other human gifts, we can set desired goals and then determine if our current way of living and thinking will get us there or not. If not, we can proactively change what isn’t working and embrace a new way. Those changes might require life or mind modifications and they might create discomfort and disruption, but if we keep moving forward, adjust when needed, and surround ourselves with positive influences, we can achieve the change we are seeking.

As I move through discomfort and move forward with of my own journey of change, I have discovered unexpected gains from this walk.

Here are a few recent highlights:  

What I’ve Changed What I’ve Gained
Saying hello to strangers, rather than focusing on my own running to-do lists or staying in my personal bubble A chance meeting in a coffee shop with a young college student who is pursuing a career in a similar field to a close friend of mine. A quick exchange of contact information gave her a contact and a viable job lead.
Saying “yes” to new experiences that are outside of my norm, rather than saying “I am too busy” -Attending a class on learning how to create a 10-inch-hide drum that will be given to a youth in the valley.
-The joy of making something with my hands and connecting with a caring community
Freeing myself up in the evening, rather than focusing solely on my classroom responsibilities -Finally signing up for the weeknight photography class that I have thought about for years.
Joining a group at my church and meeting a lady who just moved here from out of state
Giving up watching the news in the morning, and most evenings Learning something by watching a twenty-minute informative Ted Talk, or inspiring podcast
Making a commitment to moving and exercising Increased strength and overall improved mental outlook
Sharing my words with an audience outside of my classroom A creative outlet, rediscovered joy, and a connection to others
A willingness to step outside my certain and predictable career path Time to explore new professional opportunities
An overcommitted schedule -An ability to be present and be there for my loved ones
-Pockets of cherished time to work on my 50 Life Stories
-Applying to assist the elderly in my community
Releasing excessive stress and the physical ailments that follow
-More time for healthy meals

Some discoveries have been expected and others have appeared wrapped in surprise and disguise. I may not know what next week or next month will bring as I work on intentional life changes, but I am learning to embrace the uncertainty and even delight in the mystery of it. I also look forward to sharing the stories of others who have created their own intentional and inspiring changes.

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Your Conversation is None of My Business

Embracing the creative energy found in public spaces.

Learning to tune out, go within, and write privately in public spaces

One of the many changes I have made in my life over the last month is joining a writing group. The group of diverse writers share space and energy, more than story ideas or critiques. We meet in a large coffee/sandwich space every Friday midday for two hours. The space has ample tables to spread out our laptops, tablets, and other personal belongings, including our name cards, so that we can greet each other and create a writing community. The walls of the building we meet in are mostly glass, or they have large windows that let plenty of natural light in. The pulse of the shop beats with a constant stream of customers, and there is a pleasant hum of energy and uplifting music playing through the speakers overhead. There seems to be a core group of dedicated attendees, but otherwise the group varies from week to week, as people show up when they can, balancing their writing time with life demands. One writer I met during my first visit had just finished a book and was preparing to write and travel abroad.

Get ready to write …

After a fifteen-minute greet and get settled period, everyone begins working independently on their own project. Several writers are working on book projects, another is writing a script, others journal or blog. Even though we are not collaborating on writing projects, we are creating a group energy that I could not recreate on my own. We write for twenty minutes, rest for five, and repeat, during our two-hour time together. This timed routine of focused attention, followed by a short rest period is helpful and healthy and one I should have been following for years as a teacher, while grading endless papers.

I was a bit reluctant to join the group, because I did not believe that I could be productive in a coffee shop experience, with the distractions of movement and conversation stealing my attention. My hesitation in joining the group was also grounded in my reluctance to share my writing with strangers. Not that I had a writing project to share during my first visit, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to critique or have my work critiqued by another. Not yet, anyway. I had many reasons to not attend my first writing group, but I put my hesitation aside and joined the other writers five weeks ago. I have attended each week, with the exception of my week away in Tucson. I am so glad I did not let my reasons for writing in solitary confinement derail me from the experience of sharing space with other writers. I have learned many things about my writing self in a short time.

I have learned …

  • that I can tune out busy-ness around me and tune into my inner thoughts and actually complete a coherent sentence.
  • how much I enjoy being in the presence of others who share the common goal of putting their thoughts on paper, regardless of what each final writing purpose or project might look like.    
  • how important group accountability is for my growth. Knowing I am connected to a group of writers raises my accountability and the likelihood that I will “show up” and get some work done.

My initial hesitation about being too distracted to write in a coffee shop was unfounded. To my surprise, I was able to type two pages of draft during my first visit and the experience left me energized, not depleted, as I had feared. I thought my only path to inspired ideas and creative writing had to take place in the quiet solitude of my home office. I was wrong. Perhaps my hasty judgments about my ideal writing space were based on my experience of trying to write or grade in a classroom alongside forty restless teenagers. It just did not happen, so I stopped trying. Even if my students were supposed to be quietly writing themselves, there were always a few distractions and I felt it my responsibility to supervise my class and not allow myself to be fully immersed in my own work. Their productivity and safety was my top priority and my writing tasks would have to wait until I had quiet time after school to focus without interruption. The writing tasks I was attempting to complete were related to my teaching responsibilities, but I felt it more important to be fully available and accessible for their needs-which were many and constant.

Of course, these responsibilities included grading, grading, and more grading. Too many times of being interrupted while trying to grade essays, research projects, or tests while my students were also working, caused me to restructure my grading routine. For the most part, it happened only after school, when I could read and comment on one sentence one time, versus having to reread and repeat, due to interruptions. My teaching philosophy and style did add to my workload and hours, but I have no regrets about being fully committed to my students’ progress. Now, it is my time. It is my time to write, express, and share and not worry about the group of teenagers talking over their lunch, or the group of seniors catching up over tea, or the toddler hitting the writer across from me with a Styrofoam sword brought from home (true story). The conversations and movements of others are theirs to share and no longer mine to manage.  

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.