Not long ago, I wrote about how Maddie loves to build magical worlds under the dining room table. Recently I found her there, lying on her back, staring up at the bottom of the table. When I asked her what she was doing, she said “oh, I’m daydreaming. I have to do it here because Madame doesn’t let me at school.”
Now, I’m a big fan of daydreaming, so I told her to go ahead and do it at school – just hide it by pretending she’s reading! (I got away with that many times when I was in school! I still do!)
Well… what do you think I did this morning? I climbed under that table, where Maddie has her boxes, her magical stool, her stuffed toys, and now her Little Lovely painting from Connie at Dirty Footprints Studio, and I daydreamed! Because what’s a better way to spend a morning when you’re still hiding in your cocoon waiting for your energy to come back?
About five years ago, I worked my way through a book called The Path, by Laurie Beth Jones. Laurie believes in daydreaming too (though I think she calls it “visioning” – a grown-up version of the same concept). She suggests that you sit down and write a vision for the future, a fairly specific “day in the life” of the person you dream of being in five years. She says that in her experience, a lot of people who do that kind of visioning end up very close to what they write about – maybe not in five years, but somewhere along the way.
Yesterday I pulled out my five year old daydream. There are a few parts of it that have come true – like the part about my husband coming home after teaching in his first classroom and feeling good about having gotten through to at least one student. He’s finally got a full time teaching job and I don’t remember when I’ve seen him happier. It’s a pretty tough school, but he’s in his element, helping inner city kids realize the value of education.
There’s a big part of the vision though – the part that’s mostly about MY dreams as opposed to my husbands – that hasn’t been fully realized yet. If I wrote another “five year vision” it would probably contain essentially the same thing. It’s the long held dream of making my living as a full time writer/speaker/consultant.
It’s closer to coming true (now that Marcel has a full-time job), but I’m not quite ready to quit my job yet. I’m not in one of those “just putting in time to bring home a pay cheque” jobs, so it’s not one I have to run away from. A few of the blogs I read are about people who are excited about quitting “the man” and launching their own businesses. Well, I wouldn’t really be quitting “the man”. I did that six years ago when I left a secure, fairly high level job in federal government for non-profit. For me it would be more like quitting “the woman” – by which I mean the marginalized, impoverished women who are being supported by the incredible organization I work for.
I keep wrestling with it, in fact. There are times when I can hardly WAIT to walk away from a 9-5 job and sink my teeth into a life of writing, speaking, traveling, and teaching leadership and creativity workshops. But then there’s that little voice that pipes up and says “Hello!? Remember how lucky you are to have a job that gives you such a great opportunity to use your gifts in leadership, creativity, writing, etc., that fits so well with your passion for justice, and that lets you travel to some of the most interesting parts of the world in search of a good story and photograph.” And lately I’ve been excited about the new staff I’ve hired who bring lots of great energy and ideas and who are a pleasure to lead. There’s a lot of exciting potential going on that I would be sorry to leave.
The truth is, though, when I lie under the table and daydream, that old familiar dream comes back to me every time. I’ve got a book (or two) published; I’m traveling to conferences and retreats to speak to people on topics related to leadership, beauty and justice, and leading a creative life; and I’m writing, writing, writing.
The past six years at my job have been truly incredible. I’ve stretched in incredible ways, I’ve met some of the most amazing people in the world, I’ve slept in a tent on a farm in a remote part of Kenya, I’ve held hands with a young teacher with a beautiful soul on a tiny island in India, I’ve taken incredible photos all over the world, I’ve gotten to write lots of stories, I’ve learned more about leadership than I could have imagined possible, I’ve lead film crews through Ethiopia, India, and Bangladesh, and I’ve been reminded time and time again that some of my greatest lessons come from my failures.
I remember six years ago, when I first got the job, I said to a friend “this job will stretch me” and I couldn’t have been more right.
I don’t know for sure when the time will be right to leave this work I love. I’m not really in a rush. But I can’t let go of the idea that the past six years have been preparing me to step even more fully into my calling. The possibilities are endless, and I’m ready to ride the wave wherever it takes me.
What about you? I’d love to hear what would be in your daydream if you sat down and wrote about a day in the life of the person you want to be in five years.
I’m writing this from my little cocoon on the couch. The big picture window lets me catch glimpses of the outside world, but until I am sufficiently healed from my breast reduction surgery, I remain mostly indoors, in this position, with a few good wisdom books, some green tea, my journal, my laptop, and a box of tissues within reach.
The last time I remember cocooning like this was in September 2000. I was in the hospital for a few weeks hoping the baby I carried would remain in his little cocoon long enough to emerge a beautiful strong butterfly. He didn’t, but that doesn’t mean a butterfly didn’t emerge. It was a transformative time for me, Marcel, and our family. Transformation that was brought on largely because of those three weeks I sat in the quiet little retreat space that my hospital room had become, holding space for the son who would never breathe but would change my world.
During that time, my friend Stephanie gifted me with a story about how a butterfly had become a beloved symbol for a woman who had gone through the loss of her dad. She also gave me a butterfly clip that I wore until I left the hospital. Amazingly, after that day, butterflies started showing up everywhere, including my 5th floor hospital window.
Even after I left the hospital without Matthew, butterflies served as a regular reminder of my son and the way that he had changed me. The following Mother’s Day, while we ate lunch outside with our family, an amazingly friendly butterfly, with one flawed wing, landed on the heads of almost everyone at the table. It was my son, coming to bless us on Mother’s Day.
This week, I’m cocooning again. I was resistant at first, wishing for the time to pass, wishing for friends to visit, wishing I could at least accomplish something. But then I listened to Jen Lee’s simple but wise podcast about how sometimes, when it looks like nothing’s happening, the truth is that everything’s happening. When Jen talked about the transformation that happens when she’s busy taking a nap, it triggered a deep, resounding “YES!” in me, and soon I was relishing my quiet little cocoon on the couch.
The thoughts that came after Jen’s podcast sent me to my bookshelf for an old friend. More than 20 years ago, a beloved teacher/mentor I had at the time, gifted me with “Hope for the Flowers“, a transformative little picture book about a young caterpillar who, after trying repeatedly to “reach the sky” by climbing to the top of a “pillar of caterpillars”, learns to give in to his true nature, climb up on a branch and spin a cocoon. Only once he is willing to take that risk and just be still is he ready to be transformed into the butterfly he is meant to become.
Re-reading that book for the umpteenth time reminded me of how valuable it had been, nearly 10 years ago, to pause from clamouring up my own “pillar of caterpillars”, and rest in my little cocoon with my unborn son as my spiritual guide.
With rather uncanny timing (isn’t that often how these things happen?) I stumbled on Lianne’s lovely (and free!) e-book that asks the provocative question “What is dying to be born?” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that question since I read through the book. (It’s beautiful and full of so much goodness!)
Wow! What is it that has to die in me in order to let something else be born? What do I have to be willing to abandon in this cocoon in order to emerge the butterfly I am meant to become?
Last year was a restless year. Despite a great job and lots of goodness in my life, I was full of some deep dissatisfaction. Try as I might, I couldn’t find the right way to FIX it. I tried some new things, took some new paths, restled with demons, but still the dissatisfaction lingered.
Until… well, until I was willing to do two of the things I’d been avoiding. Rest. And wait.
I haven’t quite figured out what is dying to be born in my life, but I know that I won’t figure it out with restless clamouring, trying to reach the sky.
I’m giving in, and spinning my cocoon. Some day soon, the body that I chose to transform through surgery, will carry me through the deeper transformation into my butterfly life.
School supplies are bought, everyone is equipped with indoor and outdoor shoes (yeesh), the oldest two have carefully written their names on all of their belongings, and each child is outfitted in new clothes for the first day of school. And so it begins.
Tomorrow morning, Maddie meets her new teacher. Madame R. The same kindergarten teacher Julie had. The woman is a marvel. I have seen her transform a group of five-year-olds from screaming and chaotic into quiet subdued sitting-on-the-floor-and-listening with one wave of her magic wand. Well actually it was one well-timed game of follow-the-leader around the classroom, but to my admiring eye it looked like magic. Maddie is ready to be a schoolgirl like her big sisters. And so it begins.
Yesterday Marcel met his new cooperating teacher and spent the day at his new school. He will finally be student teaching in a high school in the subjects he’s been studying for – history and social studies. This is his last year of more than 5 years of university. After a summer of being the only one awake at 7:00 in the morning, I had to smile a little when his alarm went off this morning. And so it begins.
Soccer practice for Nikki this afternoon. Julie starts again soon too. After a week at soccer camp, they’ve learned new skills and are raring to go. They have play-offs from now until the end of September. And so it begins.
Julie and Nikki are both happy with the teachers they get this year. They’re switching teachers. Julie’s moving into the grade 5 class Nikki was in last year and Julie’s teacher from last year is moving up to teach grade 6 where Nikki will be. They both liked these particular teachers last year, so they’re offering each other words of hope. And so it begins.
Beginnings for everyone. Except me. I’m thinking it’s time for a new beginning for me too. Perhaps an art class. Or photography. Or pottery again. Something that sends me out to buy school supplies for ME.