Monthly Archives: May 2014

Protagonist parting words


I’ve been spending time (as requested by my wild card this month) reflecting on what I have learned about “me” through the Living Chapters project. I feel like I have learned many universal lessons but what do I now know about me? It felt kind of like an awkward research project reading back through my blog posts from the past year.  Did I really compartmentalize my experiences through an online public journal? Could I glean any understanding from reading where I started and comparing it to where I am currently? Would the clues from my own written advice unveil my overall sense of purpose or where I may head next?

A year ago I set the below intentions as my purpose for Living Chapters.

“Living Chapters is a process I have created to help achieve the goal of letting go.  I see it as an experiment or a performance of sorts, playing out, witnessing and examining this art form that we live and breathe each day.  It’s a chance to live out different plot twists and directions that I may have never chosen or found alone. An exercise in trust and collaboration and an uncommon chance to reflect on the decisions we make when faced with change, challenge, and discomfort.  It is a rare opportunity and moment in my life that I am able to devote this period of time to the observation of what can be learned if we decide to let go of the reins we hold so tightly over our lives.”

I wanted to take risks, seek personal growth and “say yes to what life threw at me”. I wanted to “find new ways of becoming a better person for myself and to others” and “explore how our personal and online networks of family and friends can assist us in the process of improving ourselves.”

I wish I could say that I have come up with a beautiful visual or poetic way to present what I’ve learned thus far as wild card Myra asked for. Unfortunately I have not been able to cohesively bring all that has happened together yet. Fortunately I have one month left to reflect upon the content I collected and will hopefully be able to bring it into a focused image. Or maybe I won’t understand what was learned at all until I am asked to utilize and engage with the lessons first hand as my upcoming chapters unfold? I am not sure.

I will however leave you with my first set of ideas in list form (I warn you – the lists are long and growing every time I return to them). Looking through the below lists – I realize that much of the lessons and revelations learned are facets and facts that I’ve known about myself for a long time. Doing this project publicly and visually is just what it took for me to mindfully recognize them within me again. The question now is, “how will I continue to be mindful using these lessons with each new chapter I embark upon?”

With still a full month to follow through on with this project, I am not yet ready to determine any ultimate conclusion or illumination on what was and what was not accomplished. I am hoping that June will give me the time to do so and give me any last pushes that will keep me moving forward toward my next steps.

What I learned about myself:

  • I hold strong passions and have often let them lead the direction of my life
  • I have resisted cardio exercise my whole life and do not enjoy it
  • I need to have a good amount of sleep to function
  • Taking care of my body helps my mind
  • I want to be more mindful of my health and include more movement
  • I love yoga (aerial yoga!!)
  • I love walking (and for lengths of time)
  • I love dancing
  • I love making music and singing
  • Following personal purpose is very important – staying on my path/not others
  • Connections and relationships are #1 priority for me
  • Images, color and symbols help me communicate and translate ways of thinking
  • Focus is something I struggle with the most and would like to develop
  • Discipline, Diligence are also traits that I feel I would like to improve upon
  • I have used stories as a tool to create connections
  • I have used images as a tool to create connections
  • My past path is rich and will influence my future path and decisions
  • My greatest advocacy tool is listening to others, creating spaces for sharing voice
  • I believe in asking for and sharing ideas rather than telling and teaching ideas
  • I learn by doing, seeing or experiencing more than reading or researching
  • I crave structure and routine in the form of personal mindful practice
  • I also resist structure and routine and create something new through my resistance
  • My physical environment affects my sense of home greatly
  • I believe that choice of place to be or live will affect my lifestyle – a choice of place = a choice of lifestyle.
  • My community is not defined as the place I live. It is my circle of strong connections that I can reach on a daily basis.
  • Meditation builds a mindful practice of making purposeful choices and actions
  • Meditation benefits my physical body and sleep patterns
  • Meditation has opened up a spiritual practice for me
  • Mediation calms my mind
  • Mediation helps me live in the moment and helps with focus
  • I still do not know how to meditate
  • I am too damn serious
  • I desire more laughter on a day-to-day basis
  • I meditate while doing dishes and laundry
  • I am not a religious person
  • I am a spiritual person
  • I don’t believe in one God
  • I also don’t believe that God doesn’t exist
  • I don’t think there is a meaning of life
  • I think there is meaning in the way we live life
  • The only control I have is to define my own space/place/reactions/mindset
  • Letting go of external issues/ideas/demands/expectations is necessary to find or fulfill my inner issues/ideas/demands/expectations
  • Being open to new opportunities and chapter suggestions (guidance from others) has allowed for change and growth
  • Listening to my own inner suggestions has created the direction for the change and growth
  • I am now more interested in facilitating creation and connection than creating objects
  • I now will write to express myself instead of immediately making a photograph or an art object
  • My best communication is through personal letters
  • I love objects that hold stories
  • I love being alone and in silence
  • I love being with others in silence
  • I love sharing with groups of people
  • I surround myself with creative active and motivated people to sustain myself
  • I am not myself if I am not creating
  • I am still me if I have given away my creations or objects
  • Breaking attachments to (things people places) makes me feel free and fluid
  • Creating connections with (things people places) makes me feel alive
  • I love to be heard as well as listening.
  • Recording my story is important to me
  • I love being interviewed
  • I love being on the radio
  • I love editing audio
  • I love connecting with strangers
  • I can speak in public without freezing up. I would like to get better at doing this and want to work on this!
  • My work revolves around encouraging others to create, connect, listen, share themselves
  • I am adaptable to almost anything…
  • I navigate through life using the tools of photography, writing
  • I learn most when reflecting my experience with another through conversation
  • I make photographs when I feel lost
  • Clean spaces and color affect my mood
  • Being active clears my mind lifts depression
  • Routine and structure create a sense of home for me
  • Letting go of my ego is strengthening my relationships with others – bringing me closer to them
  • Transformation/change in my thinking patterns is helping me learn and move forward
  • Letting go of what I think I know is helping me understand who I am and what I truly feel

universal lessons:

  • Simplify life – less is more
  • Take things one step one day at a time
  • Setting measurable goals leads to more achievable goals
  • Listen internally first before listening to external sources
  • Listen to the physical body and feelings equally or more than thoughts and cerebral tendencies
  • Loyalty as accountability loyalty teaches discipline
  • Address and learn from resistance
  • Adding fun to things we resist can dissolve resistance
  • Practicing mindfulness allows improvements to come naturally
  • Letting go of surface appearances (what others perceive) helps with letting go of fears/anxiety
  • Learning from the past helps to plan the future
  • Exploring balance in all aspects of life (in food, exercise, finances) benefits each area (physically, mentally, spiritually)
  • Being comfortable with the unknown is the most important step in letting go
  • Focus on the journey/process is more important than any outcome object or destination. (the meaning is in the making)
  • Detachment is an important exercise to practice regularly
  • Allowing myself to feel lost leads to greater clarity on what I understand, believe and where I want to go
  • Giving my time to others is the most generous gift I have to give
  • Letting go of ego is not the same thing as letting go of confidence and self-worth



Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.




May Writer’s Response



Here are some thoughts for you:

I have been thinking a lot about purpose.  Questing some things.  Trying to dig a little deeper into the theme of purpose and living intentionally.   Purpose could mean taking your talents and using it to what you love.  It could also mean that it’s important to consider where you are and live intentionally in that place.  Purposefully.  Understanding that every season is meant for a reason.

I recently went to Starbucks and on one of their java jackets staring right at me had this Oprah quote:  “Follow your passion.  It will lead you to your purpose. “

What a great gift to get such a perfect quote during this month!  I thought that this was perfect.  When in doubt, do what you love!  When you’re sure, do what you love!  Passion=Purpose!

Sounds great, right?  Perfectly easy, right?  Well…

What if?  What if you can’t do what you love to do right now?  What if you can’t abandon all because of current responsibilities, other needs, or financial limitations.

If you go back to thinking about Thomas the Train, a train is only as good as its track.  Being slightly off track doesn’t mean you can’t find purpose in what your doing.  If there is a crack in the track causing you to stall, re-evaluate.  Fix it.  Take a different way.  Go another way.  Sometimes there are delays.  That’s ok.  Stay focused.  Stay positive.  Consider options. Don’t get inpatient with the detour.  Enjoy the view.

– Dena


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

Dear me…


This month Chapter writer Dena asked me to write letters with the goal of strengthening my relationships. She felt it might be a good process to help me sort out what I felt my purpose might be. Maybe she secretly knew that I would find the process to be part of what my purpose is. She also asked that I write a letter giving advice to my past self (10 years back). Writing letters has always been the most expressive and best way for me to communicate ideas and connect with others, so I welcomed the task this month.

I’ve actually been writing letters outside of writing the blog throughout this entire year long process but I must admit, I have not yet written a letter to myself. In chapter six last year, I tested out what it would be like to interview myself. It was an enjoyable weird experiment. Since then I have not written any formal letters or given myself any of the advice I so often dish out to others. I found this exercise to be quite helpful. Before doing so, I spent the last week reading over my prior chapter posts from the Living Chapters project. In a sense I consider these posts to be letters and advice to myself more than anyone else. I figured reading my own words would not only help me in my current wild card task but would also give me fodder for my writing letters to my past and future self.

I wish I had tried this earlier. I had no idea how helpful giving advice to myself 10 years ago could be. In writing my letter I realized that the many things that I was unsure of then or that caused anxiety at that time, had all been worked out in one way or another over the past 10 years. I also realized that even if I had the chance to give advice and change anything, I really would change very little of the wandering path my 10 year younger self was about to embark upon. These realizations give my present self a certain comfort and confidence that I sometimes lack when dealing with current difficult life circumstances and wondering about the future. The following letter may be of little interest to an outside reader but I thought I would include it anyway. In it I shared some honest advice to myself. Writing this gave me a solid sense of grounding, hope and excitement about the wisdom and advice I’d have for myself in 10 years time.  Where and who were you 10 years ago? What advice could you give yourself for the next 10 years?

Dear me,
It’s May of 2004 in your world and its hard to believe but it is me, I mean you, writing to you from 10 years in the future. Don’t worry… its not so bad. You’re almost 40 now but still not OLD! You still have a ton of energy, haven’t fallen into a rut and are still doing things that surprise almost everyone around you including yourself! Life is for the most part pretty darn good! I am writing to try to put your mind at ease and give you a bit of advice. I know you are feeling a bit nervous and excited at the moment. I seem to remember that the Spring of 2004 brought huge changes. You may feel that it is crazy or risky to be moving out of your home, leaving your job, and crossing an ocean to take on a new traveling and artistic adventure at the same time. If I could give you any advice about your anxiety or trepidation on all this new change while moving puzzle pieces around in your life, I would tell you to relax, enjoy and pace yourself! Things work out for you! They really do. Within the next 10 years you will somehow move homes, changes jobs, travel to a new country every year and reinvent yourself more times than you can imagine. And somehow you do it better each time you do it. This trip to Ireland that you are about to take is just the beginning of many foreign excursions you will take leading you on your path of discovering and living out your purpose.
My main advice to you now is to just keep doing what you are doing. Stay open and alert, be fearless and continue to follow that keen intuition you have as well as your solid and reliable common sense. Sharpen your skills along the way though. Don’t put down the camera! Your passion for photography is key in almost everything you will do from now on out! And listen up, please start writing more now! You will need those skills in 10 years and also will be so happy to have some of the amazing stories you are living out now on paper to share. Speaking of stories, you have done a great job luring all sorts of amazing individuals into your life year after year! Keep that up, but as you do try to keep them in your life when possible! Collect their stories. Write them letters. Reflect more as you are moving so quickly from one place to the next. Keep jumping but take with you the lessons that you’ve learned from one place to the next and hold onto the amazing connections you will make along the way. Last but not least DO NOT DOUBT YOURSELF – take it from me, (I mean you!) You are on the right path, YOU ARE NEVER LOST each time you feel confused or overwhelmed – just ground yourself in the place where you are even if it feels foreign – enjoy it for what it is. No matter how foggy or foreign, difficult or strange, uncomfortable or upsetting it may seem – Make the best of your current situation and simply change it if it is unhealthy for you or others in your life. Honestly, you do not really need this advice you will figure it out, you always do. I just wished… I mean hope for you now, that you will give yourself a bit more credit for all that you do and all that you are. Fill yourself with much confidence and don’t allow external situations or people to shake your strength or devalue your self-worth.
Don’t worry about defining your purpose just continue to engage, connect and reflect what and who you are – and don’t forget to have FUN in the process.
Yours truly


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

May wild card



Hi Beth!

What I read in your posts at the start of this month is a desire for both structure and action at this time.  I see that, as the month has progressed, you have created your own assignments, similar to those that others have created for you over the last 10 months.  That’s really cool! In some ways, you are exploring how this practice might be sustainable or incorporated into your lifestyle after this project is over.

In considering that this is your penultimate month, I’m going to draw back a little to return to Dena’s request for reflection.  The rest of this month can be an opportunity to encapsulate or sum up for yourself some of the things you’ve learned throughout this entire process.  So, for the Wild Card, I’ve designed an exercise to help structure the reflection that Dena proposed.

The Wild Card:

I’d like you to make a list of the things that you have learned about yourself while going through the Living Chapters process.  It may be that you learned that you hate something that you thought you might like.  Or you may have learned meta-lessons, such as, “It’s hard for me to follow someone else’s vision.”  What have you come to understand about your nature, who you are, what is important to you, what is not important to you?  My goal is to have you walk away with a solid understanding of what this process has brought you.  I would imagine that looking at these assets, after you’ve written them down, can tell you a lot about purpose.

By the end of the month, I’m asking you to produce a solid list, not of questions moving forward, but of things you know for sure about yourself and what is important to you that you have taken from this last year.  Again, these are not universal lessons but things you know about yourself.

So here’s the wild card – to provide some structure to the worthy goal of reflection:

  1. Find a time every weekday to spend at least 30 minutes on this.  Find a quiet place to do this where you can really feel yourself.  In order to explore what you’ve learned, you can either do some writing for yourself or write letters one or more of the participants in the project, reflecting on what you learned in relation to their month;
  2. After some written reflection, either through personal writing or letters, create the list of things that you know about yourself and what is important to you that you’ve learned over the last year.  Find whatever form is comfortable for you for the list (e.g., phrases, paragraphs, etc…);
  3. [EXTRA] If you finish this list before the end of the month, create a cohesive way to present what you’ve learned. Maybe you want to create a written statement.  Maybe you want to make a series of photographs.  Maybe you want to make a short video.  The form is up to you but it should encapsulate what you know about yourself now as you near the end of this year.  Only do this bit if you go through the rest quickly.  Follow your own pace;
  4. Share the list (and the thing you make from the list) with us!

Have fun.  It has been beautiful watching this process unfold for you and I am really proud of your ability to follow the process through with such dedication and sincerity.  You have a lot of people supporting you!

With love,



Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.


honest intentions


In this past week, I have been practicing setting intentions of purpose daily and attempting to follow through on them. Making these statements of purpose or daily mantras has been a helpful tool for bringing me back on task with my in the moment objectives. But let’s be honest, I’m not always succeeding with these hopeful mantras and am realizing that I need A LOT more practice outside of spending just one day in May following them.

Being an “On Purpose Person” is much more complicated than anticipated. Especially when my focus has been to diligently seek balance between being fluid in letting things go while also being mindful and proactive. I’m not sure that “making life make sense” is the best advice for me to follow. Because frankly, I have found that life doesn’t make sense all the time and I’m ok with that.  Accepting things the way they are (even if it they are sometimes a chaotic mess) seems like a better approach then trying to overly control or make sense of my every move.  Again, there must be some way to balance right?

Last weekend, I went to visit this month’s chapter writer Dena and her family in Richmond Virginia. She was having a yard sale. Dena and I decided that it might be a good reason for me to come visit. I could try to sell some of my mother’s belongings at this yard sale (as I have been trying to help my mom downsize in preparation for her move.) Now…. filling up my car with stuff and driving  2 states away with the purpose of selling old stuff from someone else’s front yard does not seem like a logical mindful thing to do. When it was all said and done, I spent about the same amount of money on gas and food on the road as I made in sales. Not to mention the immense amount of time spent in preparation, organizing, packing etc, I am pretty sure we lost more than we gained. However, it was a fantastic social visit! I rarely get to see my cousin and her two little ones. Maybe creating this “reason” or purpose to visit Dena really did work out after all!  But why couldn’t I just have been honest with myself about the real or true purpose of this visit (wanting to see my family) and planned it more efficiently?

This made me wonder about other things in life that I give a “purpose” to.  Am I being honest about my intentions? Do they hold true to my own purposeful goals desires and intentions? Or am I constantly trying to “make life make sense” in external ways that sound like the right thing to do or what others might like me to do?  What kind of actions or work align with my personal purpose? Do the people I spend time with support or hinder my personal purpose? Have I been following an idea of what I think should lead to greater purpose or am I pursuing true personal passion and creating purpose along the way?

Dena and I juggled these questions together last weekend and came up with this: Purpose surfaces in life when the doing of what we love most (our passions) intersects with the doing of what we do best. It may be found in a job or a career – if we are lucky. Or it may be something that comes naturally and daily, like how we interact and share conversations with others, how we prepare a meal or greet a stranger.  This may or may not hold meaning for others but it holds personal meaning for ourselves.

I’ve always felt that work itself would bring me a sense of purpose. Over the years, I’ve gravitated to many jobs that held a particular cause to fight for. Whether it was working with inner city youth in Baltimore City or with farmers around water quality issues on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I was always drawn to bigger picture purposeful work hoping to effect change of some kind. However I now realize looking back at job after job that none of these causes were the crux of my personal purpose or my passion.  What I learned from Chapter 5 last October is that the meaning (or purpose) lies in the making or the process – not the job itself, an ambition, an object or a lifestyle. It’s always been embedded in my passion for engaging sharing, and connecting with individuals and their stories. So maybe I should be revisiting that mindful mantra for the rest of this month of May.

What is your passion? What are you best at doing? And are your current actions and intentions honestly helping you engage in these things?


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.


practice makes purpose

practice makes perfectplanner

Are you a daily planner? One who keeps a book of days filled with long lists of things to do, buy and get done each 24-hour cycle? Personally, I have a hard time keeping an organized planner. (I’m more of a sketchbook or journal keeper) My electronic calendar organizes my work appointments and I am guilty of penning goals and tasks down into lists on random scraps of paper that lead my personal life. It somehow feels so purposeful and triumphant to cross the tasks off at the end of the day, crumple up the lists and WHOOSH! The day is history!  Let’s be honest… getting sh*t done feels good!  But what is left after crossing everything off that list? Is there any accomplishment left  when the “get er done” adrenaline subsides? Have I just been filling my days with long lists of doings that I ultimately want to see disappear? Is there some room on these scraps of paper to make some meaning in between the lines?

Last October in my quest for purpose, I decided that the meaning was found in the making. I literally looked under every rock I could get my hands while making a pilgrimage in the search of my personal definition of purpose. My Wild Card that month, actor, writer, and director, Doug Sadler asked me to “Define my in the moment objective”. He also asked me to “Define my life purpose or super objective”. It’s a hefty role to create and I’m not sure if I fully realized the protagonist part in that chapter but I did learn a few very important lessons. The most important thing I learned was to set intentions!

Setting intentions is very much like planning a day. Listing out the things to be done. But instead of just listing the doings, could I also list the how, why, and when I would be doing these doings (the purpose behind these things)? I tried to engage in this process last year, but realized that “setting intentions” was not an easy involuntary act for me. To be successful in this I need some practice and diligence with the effort.


Is it possible to create a habit of intentional purposeful acting and doing? Well, I’m giving it a go again and am trying Doug’s “in the moment objective” exercise in a simple day-to-day way.  For the rest May’s calendar days, I will practice “on purpose mindfulness”. Instead of just speaking, acting and doing first, I will attempt to consider the how, why, and when I am doing something beforehand. And I am going to use my own “purpose on post-its” planning process to get me started. Practice along with me if you’re feeling mindful. I’ve included my instructions to myself below.

Supplies needed: A weekly planner, Post it notes, or blank cards, a marker and a bit of time to think about daily purpose

1. Make list #1 of all the “doings” I would like to be more mindful about in my day. (for example: eating, engaging with strangers, walking to the mailbox, writing, talking on the phone, cleaning, waiting in line, observing, breathing, cooking, reading, conversing etc) I will have to think about what it is that I do daily. It may be a list of 23 different specific things or just a few basics I really want to focus on.

2. Make list #2 of mindful changes that I would like to add to my day.  Include the how/why/when behind my doings (for example: with a smile, slowly, without judgment, in the morning, every hour, twice a day, before bed, to make someone laugh, in stillness, to release stress) With this list, I will think about how I would like to do things rather than how I currently do things.

3. Match up an action and doings from list #1 with one or more mindful change(s) from list #2.

4. Number my post-it notes with the dates of the month on the front and put the pairings on the back (for those of you planner types trying this out, just jot each pairing in your calendar) I need the visual reminder on my wall to remind me to do this. If there are more pairings than days, then do more than one in one day. If there are less pairings…practice certain pairings more than one day!

5. Follow each day and live out the “mindful mash up” game created, taking on the task that has been laid out for each day. Observe and reflect… is it all purposeful or pointless? Hopefully it will at least be fun.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

past, present, purpose


What am I doing? What have I done? What am I going to do?

And does it matter at all or have meaning? Could one discover such a treasure as a key that would open up the answer to life’s purpose?  Reading and reflecting on others experiences grappling with these questions is helpful. Opening up someone else’s story helps me find grounding in my own time and place. And I do believe that in its essence it is the purpose why I choose to share my own thoughts and words of my own experiences.

Do you think about placing particular purpose behind the actions you make? Or are you, like me, feeling more (and thinking less) your way through life, trying to balance the turning and tumbling from one plot twist to the next?

In all the excessive reflection I’ve put into this Living Chapters choose your own adventure series, I believe I’ve already done much of the intensive thinking on the questions Dena has asked. But now what? I’m about ready to move forward in action but feel as though I am still missing something. How do I pull together all these collected pondered pieces into some kind of structured/cohesive plan of “purpose”? I was lamenting this last night, when Dena (as she does) sent me a quote pulled from the bedtime story she was reading to her son.

 “I thought there was nothing a train could not do”, said Thomas. “But now I know that just is not true. I learned a big lesson from one little crack. A train is only as good as its track.”

– “A Crack in the Track” from the railway series by Reverend Awdry

There are many ways to translate this bit of Thomas the Train wisdom. What I got out of it is this: It reminded me of an earlier lesson from Chapter 2’s Wild Card. It is a logical conclusion to take a peak at where I’ve come from to understand where I’ve landed. And another lesson from Chapter 4, it’s a good idea (no matter how much I resist it) to lay out even a slight plan or a track ahead for plotting the path forward. But the most important lesson is one that was learned just last month.  Attention to the present moment is all that really matters. Just that one crack living under spinning wheels on any track can de-rail any grand plan. So I’m staying focused this month on setting my intentions in the present tense on a day by day basis.  Step by step in a simple way, staying as fluid and flexible (as physically possible) was how I moved through last month. Could I use the same lessons from April to lay my tracks for May?

Below are my initial ideas on how to take some simple action steps in response to Dena’s May challenge.

What will happen this month as you reflect?

I’m going to practice “doing” more in addition to reflecting. Each day for the remaining days  of this month I will set at least one basic purposeful intention and live out the day with it in mind.

Call those you haven’t spoken with in quite some time.

Although I grew up here in central Pennsylvania, it is not a place that I easily connect with but may be a good place to reconnect with old friends I have lost contact with. This may be a good way to re-engage with the place and the purpose it has held in my life.

Send letters. When you think about that person, ask yourself why you are doing it and find meaning, or purpose, or reason for doing it.

I feel that the best way of creating a rich and meaningful connection with a person is through the exchange of written letters. The letters I write this month will be written with the intention of strengthening my relationships and acknowledging the purpose and meaning each connection has brought to my life.  The letters will also have the purpose of becoming the beginning of an outline for creating future self-written chapters.

Dish yourself some of your own advice.

I have been giving myself (and anyone reading) advice for the past 10 months through this blog. I am going to re-read my own “live by example” experiences in the past 10 months. Will I glean any overarching purpose from this project?

What will happen when the Living Chapters Project is concluded?

Well as far as I know it’s still month 11. I am still living my chapters and not writing new ones (yet!) so I am leaving that question unanswered until next month. With the long track I just laid out for May, I’ll be lucky if I make it through without a cracked track!

“I think I can, I think I can”


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

point or purpose?


“What’s the point?  Is there meaning behind what we are doing?”

My cousin Dena opens the eleventh chapter by asking direct questions.  She brings me back to examine the theme of “Purpose” for the second time in the Living Chapters project and I am ready to dive back in.

What is my point in writing Living Chapters these past eleven months? What is my purpose with this project or in life? Is personal purpose found in my career or my relationships? Does it live in my actions, my words, in my doings or in my non-doings?  Is purpose something that directs and guides my life or is it something I created myself to bring the meaning I sometimes hope and search for?  Good questions eh?

Six months ago in Chapter 5, writer Emily Wheat and Wild Card Doug Sadler dug in deep and picked this theme apart in great detail. They gave me incredible guidance and initially engaged me with both provocative questions and action oriented steps. Emily tapped into my tendencies to create and connect with others while Doug asked me to look at the bigger picture and define my individual role in it. This month my cousin Dena challenges me to do the follow-up work that I just couldn’t finish in the mere four weeks last October.

I discovered a lot about myself that month and am happy to pick up on this much-needed  exploration and try to learn from last year’s lessons. Revisiting this theme at this particular time in my life  is fortunate. In between homes, relationships and career choices, I am on the precipice of making what could be some very exciting life changes.  Where will I end up after I am finished helping my mother make her transition? What will I choose to do? And who might I choose to be with when making those decisions?  How could I actually make these decisions if I do not hold a focused purpose or intent?

I feel happy and lucky to be guided this month by this particular family member who has not only acted as a caring and loving cousin, but also has been a great friend my entire life! Although Dena is only a few years younger than I am, she has always been someone who I have looked up to and admired for leading a purpose-driven and meaningful life. Dena plays the role in the family that keeps everyone in check – always sending supportive cards in hard times, inspirational quotes for random occasions and news on relatives that I didn’t even know I had. “Great Aunt Delores just turned 90! Drop her line!” … I didn’t even know I had a great Aunt Delores! She remembers everything about our childhood (even the things I’d rather forget!) and thinks about everyone, making sure they know they are in her thoughts. Growing up with Dena taught me to be thankful for the people in my life and also has reminded me consistently to keep up my correspondence and connection with others. In many ways I think Dena helped shape my idea of what purpose in my life means to me today. I am thrilled to have her support in this further exploration this May.

The month of April (Chapter 10) had me physically moving and grooving – taking action in addition to my intensive internal reflection times. I welcomed this awakening change from my winter contemplative reverie. Although Dena says this month’s work will “be a bit more on the reflective side than the actual get out there and go do side” I beg to differ.  I need some action this month too! I think that along with sorting out what my purpose is internally, it’s also time to figure out how to put that purpose into external action and to form a plan of meaningful intent.  These 12 chapters are nearing their close and I am determined to jump into action soon and write the next 12 myself with purpose and meaning in mind.

Thank you Dena for getting me started.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.


chapter 11




It’s hard to believe that it has been almost a year since you began the Living Chapters Project.  What do you think so far?  How have you changed?  Have you changed for the good?  Has the project served its purpose?

Purpose is our theme for this month of Living Chapters and for sure it is going to be a bit more on the reflective side than the actual get out there and go do side.   So, let’s talk about this.  What’s the point anyway, right?   When we start asking ourselves these questions, we begin to find meaning behind what are we doing.   Meaning might be as simple as defining our wants, desires, and needs.

Do you think about why you do the things that you do?  The big things, or even the little things!

Why in the world did I just eat an individual size bag of peanut m and m’s as a midmorning snack?   After further reflection, here is what I discovered: My decision for eating them is quite affirmed.  Lunch was a few hours away! But simply, I like them.  Also to mention that they were my mom’s favorite: I always love thinking about how when I was a kid, I always snuck a few when I found the left over ones in the bright yellow twisted bag that she earlier tossed in her purse to save for later.
So, how do you make your big time, bigger than what kind of tasty snack you will have, kind of decisions?

Maybe there were some jobs that you didn’t apply for because you were afraid the company or organization might not hire you? Maybe you broke off a relationship because you were afraid of getting too emotionally involved?  Maybe you got rid of stuff because it served no purpose in your life any more? Maybe you didn’t call someone because you were afraid of what could happen?  Maybe you didn’t run that 5K because you didn’t think that you would make it.

Personally, I haven’t run any 5K races because I think I would be last!  But more importantly, I almost didn’t take a job because I was afraid.  I thought Oh, what if this would happen and I would need to resign.  What if I didn’t get hired?  Alas!  What if I did get hired and fell in love with a job because FINALLY I am able to do something that I love!   Can I tell you how I came to the decision for applying for the job that I am quite passionate about?  It’s because of you!   You taught me to not worry about the “what if” questions.  You taught me to forget about what my resume read (i.e. hanging on to a position for tenure or not applying would be a waste in particular if I didn’t get hired).  You reminded me that a new opportunity might not work out…or better yet, maybe it would!

Have you ever made a decision because you knew that, while feeling a little anxious about the unknown, you were meant to do something really great?   Everything up to this point has absolutely made you ready for the next step.

Some tips for self exploration…

1. What will happen this month as you reflect?

2.  What will happen when the Living Chapters Project is concluded?

3.  Who do you need to call whom you haven’t spoken with in quite some time?

4.  Who do you need to send a letter to?  When you think about that person, ask yourself why you are doing it and find meaning, or purpose, or reason for doing it.  I think (and hope) that this might deepen your relationships with others.

5.  Dish yourself some of your own advice.  Write yourself a letter if you have to.  Write one to your former self 10 yrs ago.  Write one to yourself for when this project is over.  Why?  To help you discover your purpose and find meaning!
These questions might not be just for your career, but I also encourage you to consider the details of your relationships.   When you start exploring the purpose of some of your behaviors/actions, relationships, and other areas in your life, you may begin to find a deeper level of meaning.  This might help us to live more intentionally.  Thoughtfully.  Reflectively.  One would hope that when someone else recognizes this in you that they might want to explore the same possibilities….Of finding purpose in their life too!  Who knows?  You never know who might grow because of you!

So, grow on.  Grab your favorite candy bar.  Discover why you chose that one.  Take the stairs a few times this month and really think about why you would ever do that when there is an elevator button calling your name.  Think about your health.  Think about your career.   Enrich your personal relationships.   Reach in.  Dig Deep and promise that you won’t ever stop looking for it.

Cheers to purpose!


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.