Dear friends --
As in past months, I'm highlighting some of the many insightful comments, with a quick post-script. Though this post is tinged with sadness, please read through to the end.
When dreams collide
Socrates famously stated that the unexamined life is not worth living. Thoreau took this a step further when he retreated to the woods to think. (His mother still did his laundry, but the role of women in facilitating famous men's dreams is another subject...) I once apologized to my brother for not writing more frequently. He wittily retorted, "The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the examined life is not lived at all!" As long as you are living things you love, it's better to experience life than to write about it. Elizabeth
I think dreams occasionally morph into something entirely different than what we visualized. Could it be that your current project is a result of the introspection and writing you did on your blog? Barbara Torris
Delegating is very interesting, and often quite productive. I wonder if blogging occasionally could be a good activity for the kids? Lisle
My favorite childhood book, Blueberries for Sal, describes how Little Sal and her mother go blueberry picking and gather blueberries to can for the winter. Little Sal only thinks about eating the blueberries, while her mother thinks about canning the blueberries. Maybe, like Little Sal's mother, you could "can" some blog posts for the "winter," when you know you won't have the time, energy, etc. to write. Janika
Whitney's post-script: Elizabeth's comment set the tone for this entire post; Lisle's post reminded me of the importance of bringing our children along as we dream; Barbara's that as we alternate between living and examining, our doing improves the examining, the examining, the dreaming. And Janika's, I couldn't help but again think of the farmer's market...
When a dream dies
A few things I've learned from my yoga practice: The postures are opportunities to experience levels of intensity and change, and most postures require solid grounding and an open heart. Hmmm...sounds like a wise model for what we are discussing. As we acknowledge our sense of self (our identity, wants, dreams, etc., aka, "grounding") while at the same time, maintain a willingness to accept what comes our way (dreams dying, unexpected life changes, etc., aka, "opening"), we honor two great forces for good -- human will ("I can do "x") and humility (I accept "y"). Janna
Miscarriage is truly a loss! My own experience opened my eyes to the pain of women unable to have what they want and desire above all - to be a Mom. We did have another child after this miscarriage, but the pain I felt then was a learning experience I shall never forget - nor minimize for others. Grieving is so important and cannot be rushed through. Wish I could give you a hug. Elizabeth Raubach
I just finished reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. In the book, the author says, "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." Rachael
Whitney's post-script: I was so moved by your empathy. It reminded me how ill-equipped
I am to deal with certain types of loss such as protracted, possibly terminal illness in myself or a loved
one. When others share these experiences with me, I tend to fail
miserably at offering empathy, left noticing that my dear ones are sad, not knowing
what else to say or do. Isn't it true that "when we get experience that we got
that we didn't want", we are finally able to empathize?
Rightsizing our dream: Rebecca Nielsen
I've been thinking about this post quite a bit. I still don't know that I have an application for myself yet. I found my career on the way to my actual dream of becoming a mother. The dream of motherhood was my dream deferred for many, many years. I worked very hard to enjoy my career in the meantime. Now that I am home raising my son, I am having a difficult time deciding how and even if my career has a place in all of this now Still thinking. And I will start my journal again as well. I know that will help me. Great suggestion. Macy Robison
Source: boundto on Etsy
Whitney's post-script: Macy's comment underscores the theme of examining our lives, of telling our stories, of the caring and compassion that is innate to women, made all the more poignant by the story of Stephanie Nielsen (NieNie) you shared with me earlier this week.
Stephanie and her husband Christian were in a plane crash in mid-August. The crash was fatal for the pilot, and left NieNie with 80% of her body burned, her husband 30%. In a post written by Jane, Nie Nie's sister, she wrote, the "blogging world has overwhelmed me and my family. Strangers e-mail the most inspiring words".
Jane then eloquently writes, what sacrifice would you go through personally, to personally affect thousands of lives? Your beauty?
It's now on my calendar to blog every Saturday.
I planned to last Saturday, but it didn't happen.
I'm blogging today -- but it's tough.
Don't get me wrong.
It's been a great week.
I just spent a 1/2 hour with my daughter leafing through the Harry and David catalog before we ordered this fruit basket, one which she was happy to help pay for out of her allowance.
And, earlier this week, I'd been in in the Bay Area (I grew up in San Jose), reconnected with three of my childhood/college friends, Kathleen, Annette and Lisa, eaten Mexican food and See's candy -- and our Rose Park business trip was both productive and fun.
But here's the problem.
As I live out my dream of building Rose Park, I'm again working 60-70 hours/week, and as a consequence I don't have the energy to keep up with 'dare to dream' as I'd like.
Which really kind of bums me out given how strongly I feel about our daring to dream.
What shall I do as my dreams collide?
What would you do?
Would you blog less frequently?
Would you invite more guest bloggers?
You're my 'dare to dream' blogging team -- what would you advise?
What do you do when your dreams collide?
Are there systergistic solutions?
I can't get enough of Sandi Henderson's new line of Farmers Market fabric; I keep going back and back and back.
Is it because she's telling a story with her fabric? A story of spring, summer and fall, of gracefully blending these seasons of our lives while appreciating women in seasons not our own.
Maybe because Sandi's story is so mouth-watering, many will add their story to hers, as they fashion clothing, pillows, quilts?
Or perhaps it's because there is no market quite like a farmer's market.
When we buy fresh fruits and vegetables, something deep inside of us knows that they are given to us by a Creator; that these delicious apples, cherries, apricots and plums aren't just for us, but will sustain, and most likely be eaten with, our loved ones; that we are not the center of everything, but a part -- that we are connected.
How do you feel when you go to a farmer's market?
Would you agree that for us to experience systergy we need to feel bounty, just as we do at the farmer's market?
Have you ever gone and picked fruit? I have childhood memories of picking apricots off of Blossom Hill Road in San Jose. Have you taken the young children in your life to pick fruit?
Have you read the Reader's Digest article titled Dare to Dream: What happens in your head at night is more important than you think?
According to scientific research, our dreams communicate to our conscious mind what our subconscious mind is worried about (or not), thus helping us work through the day's emotional quandaries.
1) Several years ago, I met a woman that I wanted to be friends with, but in my waking life I wasn't sure I could trust her. That is, until I dreamt about two different people (one man, one woman) in my distant past whom I couldn't trust. When I juxtaposed how I felt when I interacted with this woman vs. the other two individuals, my subconscious was telling me I could absolutely trust her.
2) On another occasion, I was stymied by how to approach a problem at work. Thanks to a dream in which my younger brother and sister, each of whom have very different problem-solving styles, were sitting around a table with me, I recognized that I could add their styles to my own to cobble together a workable approach.
3) Then there's my dream titled The Banquet Awaits. Because of this dream's relevance to 'dare to dream', I commissioned yet another painting by Mallika Sundaramurthy.
Used by permission. Copyright Mallika Sundaramurthy and Whitney Johnson, 2008.
In this dream, I was speaking to a man with whom in my waking life I had been discussing the possibility of joining the investment bank Goldman, Sachs. Though I was mesmerized by him, I found his girlfriend, who was also there, to be an annoyance.
Despite my disdain, she invited me to her home for dinner which I grudgingly accepted, not knowing I was in for something very special.
Her home was a welcoming, single story house with sleek lines, high ceilings, a fountain pool for a front yard, while the inside had a loft feel and inviting furniture. Once the guests had arrived, she proceeded to serve a sumptuous meal, a banquet really. Each course was beautiful to behold, and exquisite to the taste.
There was enough for all, an unending feast.
As I shared my dream of The Banquet Awaits with a friend, I recognized this dream was symbolic of systergy. I had discounted the woman who had invited me to her home, believing her boyfriend held the key to achieving what I wanted. When in actuality, IF I would connect with other women, what I wanted would unfold not only for me, but for all the women who had accepted the invitation to the banquet.
Do you remember your dreams?
What is your most memorable dream?
What can you learn from this dream?
In re-reading The Banquet Awaits, I've actually thought of another interpretation besides the one I've outlined -- do any of your dreams have multiple interpretations?
My friend Aaron recently went to a book-signing for Julie Andrew's book Home: A Memoir of my Early Years, had two copies autographed, and was kind enough to gift me the second copy.
Now for those of you that don't know Aaron -- he's 6' 6", and a former college football player, making his fondness for Julie Andrews all the more darling.
Even so, I was far more appreciative than I could express.
This gift wasn't just a book, it was an affirmation of my 'I', my 'I'dentity -- my self, as it were.
Perhaps you recall that when I was three I saw The Sound of Music for the first time. It was this film that prompted my discovery of music and the piano, and one of my earliest, perhaps most important childhood dreams -- that of becoming a concert pianist.
Did he, could he, have known all of this?
This past week my friend Stacey Petrey gave a similarly thoughtful gift in hosting another More Women Networking luncheon at the Harvard Club here in Boston.
She knows we appreciate her organizing the luncheon.
But I don't think she quite comprehends, nor can she, just how much of a gift this luncheon actually was.
For, just like Aaron, Stacey gave a gift to our 'I's.
So much of our lives are about shoring up our roles as caregivers, nurturers, connectors. How wonderful it was to have two hours focused on our identities, our selves.
Empowerment of women? Perhaps.
The well-being of More Women?
Without a doubt.
Has someone given you a gift recently that you were moved by, far more than you had anticipated? Were they unexpectedly affirming a nascent or forgotten piece of your self?
When was the last time you spent a few hours focused on your 'I'dentity?
We don't get our dreams done on our own.
We weren't meant to.
Which is why we need 'dare to dream' teams.
Like my 'dare to dream' creative team.
Brandon Jameson -- Brandon Jameson designed the logo and banner for 'dare to dream', everything Know Your Neighbor and my personal stationery. Brandon's design work visually captures what I try to convey in words.
LaNola Kathleen Stone -- In the first three issues of Organize Magazine, you saw Kathleen's images, as well as her work as Creative Director. Through her photography Kathleen captures the magnificence of people and places.
All rights reserved. LaNola Kathleen Stone, 2008.
Note: For those of you wondering where your 'Christmas 2007' card was, well here it is -- 'Spring 2008'. Will you make sure I have your correct mailing address?
Mallika Sundaramurthy -- Several years ago, Mallika brought a story I'd written to life through her painting; her latest feat is the myth of Psyche.
All images are copyright by Mallika Sundaramurthy and Whitney Johnson, 2008.
As I analyze the dynamic of my relationship with this creative 'dream team', there seem to be some broadly applicable observations:
1. Start with short-term projects -- If you intend to start a business or non-profit, before expanding the scope of the relationship, work on a short-term project first, such as a benefit for the community or your children's school.
Lamentably, I don't always do this. Either because I'm too relationship-centered and/or overly excited about someone's dream, I sometimes impetuously move into a major project, without vetting my partner(s) and they me, only to find out later we can't work together: we have different timetables, different visions, different views on the give vs. get. That's when things become dicey. Take it from a sadder, poorer, but wiser girl.
2. Trust our collaborators' competence -- Once we've worked on a few limited scope projects and have fully worked out rules of engagement, it's important to trust our collaborators. If we're micro-managing, perhaps we just need to stop micro-managing. Or maybe we didn't pick our partners as well as we thought we did.
For example, after I broadstroked for Brandon what I wanted for the 'dare to dream' logo, he came back with something completely different which I didn't like. But because I'd loved his previous work, I was willing to 'live' with his vision for a few days, eventually realize that his vision was perfect, just perfect -- When we put our heads together, we experience systergy, and can accomplish our dreams.
3. Recognize that our collaborators will not be good at what we're good at - If we choose someone for a project because they can do what we cannot do (design, photograph, paint), the almost certain corollary is that we will be good at things they aren't.
It was not too long ago that I believed that if you couldn't spell you were dumb. Until. Until I discovered that there were some who thought I was dumb because I had (and have) a poor sense of direction (even after living in Manhattan for 10 years, when I came up out of the subway, and would begin to head east, you could be sure that I was heading west -- a true contrarian indicator). Am I dumb? No. Are people that don't spell well dumb? No. We are just smart in different ways - and when we can harness 'smart in different ways', we have the makings of a 'dare to dream' team.
4. Give people their due in terms of compensation and credit -- When our collaborators do good work, let's give them credit. Tell as many people as possible. Just because they don't ask for praise and/or compensation, doesn't mean they don't want or even need it. They may not know how to ask, or even what they are worth. What a gift we can give if we help our friends and co-workers to know their worth.
What 'dare to dream' project are you working on or thinking of undertaking? Do you have a 'dare to dream' team?
How are we helping our spouse/friends/colleagues with their dreams? Are we giving them enough information so that they can help us with ours? To what extent are we as parents part of our children's 'dare to dream' team? Do we collaborate with them? We can't really do vet them, but we can trust their strengths, and not micro-manage. What about the people that are part of the 'rearing our children' 'dare to dream' team? Their teachers, coaches, nannies, friends' parents? Do we trust and appreciate them?
How are we helping our spouse/friends/colleagues with their dreams? Are we giving them enough information so that they can help us with ours?
To what extent are we as parents part of our children's 'dare to dream' team? Do we collaborate with them? We can't really do vet them, but we can trust their strengths, and not micro-manage.
What about the people that are part of the 'rearing our children' 'dare to dream' team? Their teachers, coaches, nannies, friends' parents? Do we trust and appreciate them?
Are we adequately compensating people for the work that they are doing whether via money, barter (an exchange of goods or services)? And if they ask not to be paid, are we insisting -- especially with women?
I went to a Celtics game last week -- my first actually.
I was neither a player, nor a cheerleader, but a spectator.
But you know, I didn't feel like a spectator.
Perhaps because my friend Kim had purchased four tickets at the East End House's Cooking for a Cause benefit, and invited two up-and-coming professional women, and myself, along. There is something empowering about paying our own way. Remember the Destiny Child's song, all the honeys making money, throw your hands up at me? Well, I'm throwing my hands up at Kim.
Then there were the remarkably short lines in the women's bathrooms, a metaphor, odd as it may seem, that women still aren't contributing as they could in the workplace. Beth Peterson of life as a hero made the comment some weeks back that getting in the game can be so much easier, when someone invites us, and then shows us how, to play. Being the oldest of the four women, I certainly hope that I am doing my share of inviting and teaching...
The winning shot of the evening was the systergy, the connecting and collaborating, as we discussed our career aspirations, and the challenge of balancing work, family, church, and life.
None of us were cheerleaders, nor were we any of us dribbling the ball down the court.
But we were cheering one another on -- and playing ball.
Spectators -- yes.
But in all the important ways, we were players in the game.
There are so many wonderful women in my life that I suppose I sometimes take them for granted.
Which is why I think I had the dream I had this week.
Here's the redux:
A group of women I'm friendly with, all of whom have children my daughter's age, had organized a playdate, one to which all of the mothers and daughters in our circle were invited, except my daughter and me.
I was devastated at having being excluded, and needed to tell someone.
But when I sought out those who were mother/big sister figures in whom I hoped to confide my grief, each was genuinely concerned for about five minutes, and then had to run off, being 'late for a very important date'.
And so the devastation continued.
Having to dash off to to an investor meeting in midtown Manhattan helped me shake off my early morning sadness.
I'm grateful, however, for the lingering reminder...
...that we sometimes need to taste the bitter in order to prize the sweet.
The sweetness of systergy.
I do, I do, I do prize systergy -- but perhaps it is too abstract.
Which is why I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin's post 12 tips for acting like a true friend over at The Happiness Project. This post provides great helps for getting into our systergistic groove, including: 1) Be supportive when your friend has good news; 2) Be friendly to your friend's friends; 3) Show up.
My favorite tip is... Well, actually take a look at her blog.
Any recent experience that brought into relief the importance of systergy?
Which of Gretchen's tips do you think is my favorite?
Which is yours?
Any difference between what you give as a friend and what it's important for you to receive?
With the holiday season upon us, I wanted you to know how profoundly grateful I am to each of you. For reading, commenting, and most especially for your daring and dreaming.
As a token of my appreciation, I'd like to share with you Irene Chan's delightful illustration of a pineapple, the centuries-old symbol of warmth and hospitality. During the colonial era, pineapples were considered a gift of royal privilege because they were so rare, and therefore expensive. Though no longer difficult to come by, the symbolism endures. Perhaps because pineapples require effort to enjoy. Between the harvesting, peeling (the prickliness!) and coring, pineapples are no apple or banana.
Photo courtesy of www.eneri.net
Can't the same be said of 21st-century friendship? Though there are people aplenty in our lives, harvesting relationships filled with warmth and hospitality requires effort, including the occasional prickle.
What I love, though, is that in both instances, if we'll do the work, we are richly rewarded with fruit, and friendship, both of which are almost indescribably delicious.
dare. dream. delicious.