A Nest Too Small

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I came across these pictures taken a few springs ago outside the building where I was working. We first noticed these little guys when they were just tiny beak tips emerging above the rim. The pictures were taken on the day before they left the nest for good and, honestly, they were wedged so tightly together, I wasn’t sure how they would even get out. But they did, and it got me thinking about nests. In common idioms, nest implies some level of safety and security; “nest egg”, “empty nest”, “love nest”. But what happens when the nest becomes too small? The obvious answer is that you leave it behind and move on, but that’s sometimes easier said than done (ask the parents of the “boomerang kid” generation).

Six years ago, at the height of the nation’s financial downturn, I unexpectedly lost a job and career that spanned nearly three decades. I’m sure to touch on “blessings in disguise” in future posts, but at the time, I was set adrift and I wasn’t alone. It seemed there were a few different camps when it came to coping with a layoff. Some, who were committed to their careers, sought and found other employment without missing a beat. Others had their confidence shaken, settled for a “subsistence” job and opted just for survival; a whole subset of bitter engineers-turned-baristas. I tread water for a while, knowing I had a great opportunity, but unsure what to do with it. I tried the survival jobs until I realized I had lost sight of the search for my true endeavor and nearly squandered the opportunity I’d been given. I was grateful for the security of work I could do easily and a regular income, but eventually being “safe” wasn’t enough. We all need a secure place to land and rest a while when we get tossed around by life’s currents, especially when we’re trying something new. But how do we know we’ve rested long enough? When does the nest become too small?

The signs are there if we’re listening to our spirit. Are you wedged into a nest with people who want you to stay because THEY need you, or until THEY think you’re ready to go? Do you embrace each day ahead of you or dread it? Do you minimize your skills and talents so as not to intimidate or offend? Do you hold back your knowledge and ideas for fear they won’t be well-received or even understood? Are your elbows chafing against the constriction of unfulfilled dreams? If you felt a “Yes” rising up to any of those questions, your nest may be too small. It’s time to peer over the edge, extricate ourselves from the closeness of fear, slide out onto the skinny branches and open wide our wings. Ready?

A Message from Mr. Tanner

A man walked down my street singing today. That act in itself wasn’t so unusual, but it was the way he did it that attracted so much attention in my quiet neighborhood. It wasn’t a careless hum, or a jogger’s off-key rendition of a tune that only he and his iPod could hear. This man walked at a relaxed, even pace and sang loudly, and very well. So much so that people (like me) came out of their houses to see who it was. Even the group of young men across the street interrupted their horseplay to stop and listen – and then they applauded! The singing man continued on with a smile and friendly wave to all who acknowledged him.

As I watched him pass, a phrase popped into my head – “living out loud”; another one of those maxims that sounds empowering when I hear it, but somehow isn’t as easily applied to my actual life. What does it really mean, anyway? And why are we so hesitant to do it? When did we discover the fear in acknowledging our gifts and sharing them freely and joyfully? Was it when other voices became louder than our own?

Singing showed up for me more than once this week. I spent an afternoon on the set of  “American Idol”. Love or hate the reality TV premise, there is something so exhilarating about watching talent expressing in such a big way. And then as I was pondering the emotional dynamics of performing, I remembered Mr Tanner. He was the creation of the gifted, story-telling troubador of the 70’s, Harry Chapin. Mr Tanner was a dry cleaner with a wonderful voice, who sang as he worked. His customers finally convinced him to do a concert, but the harsh words of a critic kept him from sharing his voice again. It’s an achingly poignant song, set against the beautiful counterpoint of “O Holy Night”. The words of the refrain touch something deep in me every time I hear them.

“Music was his life, it was not his livelihood.

And it made him feel so happy, it made him feel so good.

And he sang from his heart, and he sang from his soul.

He did not know how well he sang, it just made him whole”.

Click the link below to see a live performance of “Mr. Tanner”. It will be 5 minutes well-spent. 

Mr. Tanner

What is that thing that “makes you whole”? Have you made a space in your life for it? Why do we wait for others to tell us whether our passion has value? There will always be cheerleaders and naysayers (the latter most likely those whose gifts remain unexpressed), but the only voice that matters is our own. Why should it not be heard above the rest? I challenge myself now to stay relentlessly in search of wholeness. And thank you Mr. Tanner for reminding me.

Balanced

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my morning mind fills quickly

with plans and lists

and last night’s dreams

the hours ahead loom large

with too much should and not enough joy

i ask the day to wait a bit

so that senses and spirit can be fed

i listen gently and give them what they hunger for

bare feet on wet grass

buried face in purring fur

deep inhale of fragrant flower

feline stretches, magical songs,

sweet fruit, strong coffee,

silent looking inward

captured words on paper

i’m ready now

i step into my day

balanced

A Blog by Any Other Name

I never imagined that the most difficult aspect of birthing a blog would be choosing a name. Of course, selective amnesia allowed me to forget that I had the same issue when my son was on his way.  “Possibilities” was actually the first title I selected nearly 3 years ago. I had been, most unexpectedly, separated from a corporate management position at a company where I had worked for more than 28 years.  Once the resentment and anger began to subside, I embraced my deep-felt belief that events have reason and that the universe had finally released me from a place that no longer served me, and turned me toward a more truer purpose. So I envisioned a blog that would joyfully chronicle my journey to my true calling, a more balanced and satisfied life, a career that suited me perfectly and compensated me abundantly, and a platform for creative expression. Although I wasn’t really sure what any of that was supposed to look like, the options seemed unlimited and I faced them with expectant anticipation, hence “Possibilities”.

I never made another entry in that first blog (except once on 1/11/11 because I didn’t want to waste a great date).  As the days…. and months….. and years…… wore on, my optimism flagged. Job interviews were few and far between, fear and self-doubt often sat on my shoulder, and I realized I had no idea what my “true calling” was supposed to be.  Somehow the “possibilities” that had once held so much promise, became a jumbled, writhing morass of unattainable options that only mocked my ability to choose a path and move forward.

But life moves on, and my inner voice with the obsessive need for self-disclosure, never gave up the need to make itself heard. So, blogward again we go, but again – what to call it?  It’s not really that I can’t make a decision (though my husband would beg to differ) , but the title should reflect the persona of the author. All of the blogs that I follow have a specific subject and personality. So which “me” do I want to share; the fledgling writer, the middle-aged job seeker, the music lover, the student of metaphysics, the observer of life, the performer, wife, mother, daughter, volunteer?? And the choice suddenly came quite clearly in the form of my favorite quiz answer; “D – all of the above”. 

My astrological sign is Pisces, two fish swimming in opposite directions. Characterized by some as wishy-washy and indecisive, I choose to embrace the positive aspect of being able to see all sides of a situation. I tried to describe this to some friends using my menu preferences as an analogy; love Chinese – one from Column A, one from Column B – you get the picture, and why not the surf AND turf? Buffets are glorious and I’m always the first to suggest, “Let’s all get something different and share!” And if there’s one available I always go for the combination plate. ‘That’s it”, my friends announced in unison. “Your blog will be called ‘Combination Plate’.” It made perfect sense and I sat with it for a long while to be sure. Ultimately, I had to set it aside, along with the equally appropriate “Buffet” and “Smorgasboard”.  Too foody. I didn’t want to mislead anyone into thinking this would be a recipe site (although not to say you won’t find one here sometime). I also took a spin with my favorite Jeopardy category, “Potpourri”, but had to let it go, as well.  Too flowery in a fragrant, holiday-bazaar sort of way.  And finally I came full circle – back to “Possibilities”. After all, my intention hadn’t changed, I was just a little off on the timeline.  And as I’ve said before, it’s not that I can’t make a decision, it’s just that I love the expansive freedom of being at choice. That’s when the possibilities make themselves known.  They live in those exquisite moments of “anything can happen”. Possibility lives in the seconds before the slot machine reels stop spinning, in the tip of a pen poised above a blank sheet of paper, and in each morning that our eyes flutter open and the day before us is a blank slate.

So I welcome you here to discover with me. I imagine that visiting here will be like reaching into a bowl of Halloween candy with your eyes closed and seeing what you pull out. I hope that it will be more chocolate than sugar-free gum. I want to share and create, provoke thoughts and inspire dreams, inform, vent, and contemplate – but mostly to discover what each of us is capable of.  And perhaps just the act of reaching out and sharing the infinite strands of life that hold meaning for us, will bring us closer to discovering our passion and our purpose. So – I’ll show you my possibilities if you show me yours.