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Symphony of the Soul by Sharon Cummings

Symphony of the Soul by Sharon Cummings. Used by permission.

It’s New Year’s day and my soul is a symphony… life doesn’t get any more orchestrated than during this time of year. But rather than dive into a discussion on resolutions or goal-setting, I want to share notes from 2013 that I’m carrying forward into 2014. Perhaps some of what’s resonating with me will also strike a chord with you.

70 is the new 100

A credentialed individual recently counseled me with these words: 70 is the new 100. If you’re like me, and operate under a standard that expects no less than 110%, this will be hard to hear. How can lowering one’s expectations be a good thing? To be honest, my mind was reeling with a dozen other doubts and questions about the comment and I didn’t fully hear the response, but in essence it was “less is more.” Just imagine what you might accomplish or become when you’re free of the overwhelming pressures, performance anxieties, and the ever impossible perfectionism. Or, to bring it back to my symphony: with space to breathe, a note can be held longer and be made to ring more clear and true.

What do you think? Can 70 be your new 100? Will you score closer to 100 than if you were aiming for 110?

Commit to finish

In the beginning, when you’re first starting out, there are a million reasons not to write, to give up. That is why it is of extreme importance to make a commitment to finishing sections and stories, to driving through to the finish.

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I’m good at beginnings, a great starter. I haven’t always been as good with endings, but that’s changing as time goes on. A part of what makes it easy to embrace a commitment to finish, though, is when you get a taste of an happy ecstatic ending.

In Re-Creating Kokopelli I mentioned a short story that came out of the experience. Even though this story was one of the ‘easiest’ and most ‘inspired’ pieces I’ve written, I recall some crazy-making moments. Only a few paragraphs from the finish I wanted to walk away. How could I tame all the thoughts and ideas bouncing around and bashing on my brain? But I’m glad I kept going and pushed through the pain. It is finished and, oh, the euphoric joy! I’m so proud of this baby. You’ll likely hear more in the months to come.

So, if this is my experience with ‘easy’ and ‘inspired’ writing, just imagine the cause to quit when the writing’s not working! I’m taking to heart a commitment to finish.

How about you? Have you ever walked away? Are there any stories that need to come out of the drawer? Have you ever pushed through to the finish and how did you feel?

Don’t Get Depressed

One of the highlights of 2013 was editing and co-writing a family-friendly book of Advent reflections, Face to Face. The print publication was one process, but I also posted the daily reflections here on my blog. Along the way, I met Hyatt Moore and now I share his words of wisdom:

Don’t get depressed

Why would I tell myself that? Because I know how I am. I’m quality oriented; I want to get good, and I want to get good fast. Just like you.

The thing is, growth is incremental; we hardly see it. In our mind it can seem like we’ll never get there. And that’s not an encouraging thought.

Discouragement, nurtured, leads to depression, and depression leads to quitting. Once we quit, that kills all chances of ever getting good.

So: Don’t get depressed.

There’s more from Hyatt Moore:

Don’t Make Paintings, Just Paint

Whatever your particular new interest is, I recommend this approach…

Just get painting.

Or writing.

Or learning.

Or serving.

Or whatever it is that’s on your heart to do.

The reason you haven’t done it yet is because you haven’t started.

And you haven’t started because you’ve made it too important. Too scary. Don’t you know the hardest step on a thousand-mile trek is the first one?

The results of your labors won’t be grand for a long time. But they won’t be anything at all if you don’t start.

So, whatever your art, whatever your contribution . . . to yourself or to others: Don’t worry about the masterpiece; that’ll come later, much later. For now, just get painting!

Whatever happens, it’ll happen because of that.

Writing is discovering

We write to discover what we think. — Joan Didion

You’re likely familiar with this quote. If you’ve ever written an essay, a story, or a letter, you’re also likely familiar with the truth behind it– we discover what we think when we write. When we capture the chaotic thoughts and ideas that bounce around in our brains, when we wrap them in words, tame them, our thoughts become our own–readable, understandable, shareable.

I write to discover. — Kelly Dycavinu

I write to discover what I’m capable of; I write to discover who I am, the state of my soul; I write to discover others, to learn empathy and compassion; I write to discover details, to learn words and meaning; I write to discover the story; and, mostly, I write to discover the Storyteller.

It seems I have a lot more writing to do.

In the meantime, here are a few moments where I was acutely aware of the act of discovering as I wrote:

The Ways We Say ‘I Love You’

To My Son– My Superhero– Age 6

The Stranger’s Friend: The Refugee

Co Violet by R. Dycavinu: The Literary Lessons I Learned

How about you? Why do you write? What have you discovered?

It’s out of our strengths we can change

You have weaknesses. I have weaknesses. We certainly don’t need anyone to tell us of this fact–we know it already! And while our weaknesses may indicate a need for change, while they may spark a desire for change, they don’t help us create that change. That’s what our strengths are for– or so I’m told. I’m still in the process of figuring it all out.

You have strengths. Do you know what they are?

I have strengths. I know some of them. I’m about to pay attention and discover what the others might be.

Going forward, as you resolve to make changes– to finish your novel, get in shape, be happier or more kind to others, to run a marathon, get out of debt or fix a relationship– don’t focus on weaknesses. Don’t ignore them, but don’t give them the last say. Let your strengths do some talking.

Know your strengths and you’ll know change.

All the best to you in the New Year! I leave you with Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf–a stunning symphony where every character is represented by its own instrument.

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Symphony of The Soul © by Sharon Cummings. Used by permission. Follow her on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest

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