Most of us reach a stage in life where we realise we have less years ahead of us than behind us. I have a little trick where I imagine the number of years I can reasonably expect to have ahead of me, and then check back to where I was in life the same number of years in the past. I convince myself that I was a mere youngster at that stage and so it seems, I have a fairly reasonable length of time to…… what? Fulfil my destiny? Write the novel? Move to Fiji and sip cocktails forever? Recently, I found myself asking the question, Do I want to live thirty five more years? Or do I want to live one year, thirty five more times?
The actress Jane Fonda describes life, not as a bridge-like arch with the rise of youth, the plateau of nurturing and the decent of old age, but instead, an ascending stairway. Taking each stage and building upon it, rising all the time. So where does that put those who choose to live the same year over and over again?
About two years ago, I came across Danielle LaPorte’s “The Desire Map - A guide to creating goals with soul”. Already an enormous fan of Julia Cameron’s “Artist’s Way” and a daily Morning Pages* writer, The Desire Map is a self-development programme with a sassy, funky attitude and its reflections and guidance, offers an inspirational and lit-up application to life. I made the decision to award myself a three day retreat and hit a delicious spa resort where I worked my way through those shiny-bright pages. Powered by my Core Desired Feelings and with a road map to my soul, I was transformed and rejuvenated. I departed that resort with the firm conviction that there would be no contented decent into old age for me. From my elevated position on Jane Fonda’s ascending stairway, I would make a new start. I was an UpStart.
A New Dawn
Some of you will identify with the following excerpt from my Morning Pages* from over a year ago, dated Thursday February 19th (4.35am). My mother had passed away after a long illness just a few weeks earlier.
Sleep has been and gone and the mellow smooth jazz on my iPad is deliciously comforting as I write these pages. The music slips over me like the softest cashmere and I know that in this darkest hour, I am not alone. The start of my day now, so utterly different in its cool simplicity to those other mornings not long gone. I think of all the mad, frustrated, delightful, anxious, rewarding mornings over the years when my primary role was that of mother. I could never, in those days, have contemplated the serene scenario my morning rituals have become. The haven my beautiful old writing desk affords me with my scented candle lit, my pens and paper at the ready, and the barely audible ambient music. My coffee aroma wafts and I not only catch my breath, but I breathe it all in.
I’ve been thinking about it all a lot lately though. How the mother-life dynamism fades. All those head-spinning super fast decisions made, opinions offered, aid administered, kindness extended, explanations demanded and corners fought. The kisses-better, lunch boxes filled, waffles toasted and sharp pleats ironed. Trainers found, keys lost, fees“chequed” , car defrosted, traffic negotiated, school, school, school! And then all over again. Pick-ups, homework, food, food, homework, grocery shopping, dinner, sports wear washed, ironing, more decisions, lectures, permission slips and rules enforced. This life was not for the fainthearted! It was a ride we dreamily climbed into and then hung onto for dear life as it spun faster and higher. Terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.
It’s come back to earth time for me now… and I find myself on a whole new ride. I’m neither daily mom or daughter now. Nothing would go terribly wrong if I took to my bed for a week or packed myself off somewhere. Heavens!!! We got them safely here. Mum has gone and thoughts of her comfort and care no longer fill my waking moment mind-scan. Those days are over. And so………I find myself on stand-down now. The trick of course is to accept that today I’m a tall building and no longer a bouncy-castle. A bouncy-castle is inflated for a purpose. It’s perfectly adequate as a means of entertaining and occupying its inhabitants for a period of time. When the occupants leave, it is deflated and no longer useful. No! Now I must remember I’m a tall, majestic, sky-scraper. Each day I’ve added bricks and mortar, interesting corners and viewpoints, levels of support and areas of comfort, warmth and security. A community has developed within it and my sky-scraper grows taller still. It’s very walls are the structure of our world. My girls can come and stand at the top with Alan and me anytime they like. They can take shelter, sleep peacefully, protected and safe and then spot something in the distance which sings to their soul. Waiving as they run into the sunlit street below, they joyfully begin the construction of their own world.
My role is not diminished. My role is to maintain that beacon atop my sky-scraper. We have built majesty together and I sit comfortably upon my throne.
A New Day
Today I am a Licensed Desire Map Facilitator and I run workshops and retreats for women and UpStarts of all ages. At the heart of the programme is the excavation of our innermost desires, our unique and profound calling in this life. How we want to feel and bringing those feelings into the light, making them central to our choices and most importantly, finding opportunities for their expression in our daily lives.
“Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity
that you can have. And generating those feelings is the most powerfully
creative thing that you can do with your life.” Danielle LaPorte
My Core Desired Feelings are Beauty, Freedom, Inspiration and Shine and I find these at the heart of every choice I make and everything I do. It is my delight to share this map and these tools for a liberated and transformed life. The life you were meant to live.
The day I decided to leave the descending arch of the bridge and step onto Jane Fonda’s ascending stairway, I found opportunities for growth and expansion presenting themselves in every direction. Ms. Fonda, uses the language of an actor in the discussion of her theory on aging. She calls that post-nurturing phase, “the third act”. I believe that Act one is lived with the permission of others. Act two is lived in the consideration of others. But Act three? That’s for me!! Act three is when it’s time to write your own script and claim centre stage of your own life.
For UpStarts…………….magic happens…
*Morning Pages is one of the twelve step exercises to reclaiming your artistic self in the hugely popular, Julia Cameron’s 'Artist Way' books. It is the practice of writing longhand in stream of consciousness, shortly after waking - about three pages. It is not intended as a diary or journal but more a thought depot and a safe space for nudges and niggles to struggle to the surface. This is where a thought can be examined and discarded or indeed to spark an idea to life.