Monthly Archives: June 2014

and back again: the completion of beginnings

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Lovers, haters, readers, followers, those who have listened and given any care or attention to what has unfolded in the past 12 months… lend me your voice. You’ve been listening to/reading my words and have acted as great motivators and a generous audience. I’d like nothing more now than to thank you publicly and also hear and read what you think or have to say in response to the past 365 days. The yearlong experiment officially comes to an end this week and like any program creator, director or implementor, I can’t walk away without an assessment of some kind. Has a year really gone by? What the heck just happened?

As in everything I do, I am always looking for feedback – the good, the bad, the kind of critique that makes me question everything I’ve ever done. Bring it! Now it may seem strange that I’m asking for your honest opinion on my personal-development model (ie: the way I’ve lived my life for the past year) but hey the whole process has been strange – no? Are you really surprised that I am asking? I am open and eager for your comments or questions.

Many are already asking me… “What’s next?” “Will you continue to let others lead your life?” I think I am more compelled by the questions like “What came out of the experiment?” and “Why did you actually follow through with it?” – “What did it do to/for you?” As I start out the next chapter of my new story it may lead with those questions, rather than jumping just yet into the “next”.

A year ago, my main goal of carrying out Living Chapters was to help me achieve the act of “letting go”. Honestly though, did I really know what that meant? And do I know any better or feel any clearer today about the concept? I thought “letting go” meant being a little more flexible, changing up a routine and letting go of controlling and planning every little thing. I knew it would involve loosening the reigns and questioning the direction and guidance that I have instituted over my life until now. I didn’t expect it to be life changing.

What I am beginning to understand is this – “letting go” is more accurately defined, in my mind, as the adoption of living a life with some kind of faith and trust. (not just simply becoming less of a control freak). It is not only about the faith and trust I put in my friends who have guided me, but the faith and trust I put in myself to make all things work for both myself and others in my life.  And the faith found in the unknown that replies back to us “Yes, you DO know what to do and things WILL fall into the places that they need to”. Throughout the year, I learned how to trust fully and become at home in this “unknown”. I learned how to sit with resistance and fend off fears. I consciously stopped trying so hard to force a future or figure it all out. And I gave a valiant attempt at focusing more on setting intentions and making mindful decisions. (still diligently working on all this!)  So yes, the year has changed me. If you’re interested in how…just ask.  Be specific as you’d like… I’ve been living my life as a semi-open book for the past 12 months.  I think I’m finally ready to share almost anything and have already experienced more honesty from myself and others than I thought humanly possible.

Your suggestions and support this year have given me a constant forward momentum and your questions can and will only motivate me to be accountable in living out the lessons learned from the entire Living Chapters experience.

(Please do respond here on the blog or leave your questions and suggestions on the Living Chapters Facebook Page) Your thoughts are important to me.

So what is next? I don’t know exactly? All that is clear is that I have come back to yet another “completion of beginnings”; a time to start fresh, build upon foundations, expand outward. And where I am physically, spiritually, mentally emotionally? All huge questions not able to be answered and edited into this last June blog post.

Here and now, I find myself in suburban Pennsylvania, a place in which I have not directly planned or chosen, facing what seems to me the most uncertain time of my life to date.  It is fitting to be here where I grew up, living with my mother the person who has made me who I am today and who has shaped and challenged me the most.  She has written more of my chapters than maybe even myself.  Here I am, living out what may be the last of her days, while simultaneously scheming my own departure for the beginning of my new unknown story. Right now, locked in position, ready to choose a new place to live, create a new job, direct a new life experiment to live out, develop and foster new relationships to commit to and dig up new adventures to navigate. In this completion time, I feel the most ready and open I have ever felt before such a beginning. I no longer have questions of what, where and when the next something will occur, Living Chapters has taught me that the how is more important. New chapters themselves will come and go throughout life but the way I choose to live out the story will remain the most important thing through any given plot twist. It is the choice of continuing to read between the lines that will ultimately lead my story onward. Thanks to all who have been witnesses of my story.

6/28/14

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 find out the rest of the story.

with and without: logic

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Is it logical to let others lead my life choices for 12 months?  Is it logical to share long journal entries filled with personal emotional and physical details via the internet each week?  Was it logical to jump rope insanely until I  sprained my ankle or was there logic in the days of silence communicating only in written post-it notes?  What about the time I spent an hour floating naked in an isolation chamber in a random New York City apartment? Hmmmm now that’s a hard one to find logic in! I really haven’t been working too hard on sharpening my “logical living” skills this past year. I’m not worried though.  I feel pretty good about what’s unfolded thus far and am beginning to believe putting faith in the act of letting go is in itself it’s own form of logic.

It’s not surprising that I have resisted my final Living Chapter’s task  – the life goal logic model.  I have always felt strongly and have vehemently stated that living one’s life can not really be “modeled” and that life itself does not fit into a box.  I don’t believe that filling out a quiz can depict my personality and I have problems creating “profiles” that upload my lifestyle in Instagram images.  I find myself checking the “other” box frequently on forms and cringing when people ask me to choose a “genre” that suits me best.   I have looked outward from this perspective and fought my way through 37 years defending my sentiments.

Oddly enough, as driven and motivated as I am, I have also fought the idea of creating “life goals” or “life plans”.  I felt as if setting these end points or lists of things/desires or accomplishments would limit me from becoming who I was or could be without restrictions.  But what is really limiting me? Could it be my resistance in general? Is it the fear or dislike of wandering down this particular “scary” logic avenue that may be keeping me from my chosen destination?  Is it a fear of choosing what I really want? These questions have agitated me to the point of action so I have finally decided to stop resisting and just dove into my last chapter challenge of creating the life goal logic model.

So what is a logic model? Good question! Take a peek at these images  And if you want to learn more after being (inundated by these graphs and charts) read up here on what Wikipedia has to say. I went directly off of Elizabeth’s guidelines in her chapter outline. My logic model consists of rows each holding a “life goal” and four columns each outlining the steps taken to achieve those goals and the impacts and outcomes of accomplishing the goals.  The columns are as follows:

  • INPUT: what do I have to put in (or be) to make this goal reality?
  • ACTIVITIES: what things to I need to do to make this a reality?
  • OUTPUT: What is created when I do these activities?
  • OUTCOMES: What is changed, disrupted or benefited from these actions

Elizabeth would be very proud to know that I probably spent at least 3 – 4 hours organizing my life desires into the little boxes of this chart.  She may not be proud of my poor chart making/design abilities but the good stuff came out of the thinking and feeling that went into filling these boxes.  Doing this tedious exercise now has me seeing through some slightly different logic lenses.  Doing this not only helped me move beyond the fear of stating and deciding on the things I want in life looking forward, but it even forced me to map out some definite plans to achieve them.  However, I am still not convinced that this process on its own is enough for me.

I believe that the “life plan logic model” seems to be missing one VERY important column.  It’s called “unpredictable out of our control LIFE”.  If we were really to assess our life goals and create a plan to achieve them, would we not have to account for LIFE itself? All the unexpected miracles, disasters, and chaos that comes along with it.  Would we not have to account for our environment and others in our lives that also have life goals and ambitions? All of which is something that can definitely not fit into a box and often can not be predicted.

Yes, I must admit that logic is a useful and necessary tool in the task of planning and presenting a future goal. It is a great guide to get started, motivated, even organized! Its like planning your garden and planting the seeds. There is no harvest without the initial efforts.  However, in addition, I also believe in becoming highly attuned to the changing tides, weather patterns, and the seismic shifting plates of the earth. Without the preparation and the ability to accept and adapt to life’s next curve ball, all life plans are lost on their own.  What seems logical to me is learning to understand the importance of and the logic behind letting in the bits of logic that work for you and letting go of all the rest. You know what they say “the best laid plans”…

For those that are interested in charts: here is my attempt at the “life goal logic model” I took my two list of goals “TO BE” as the main goals and “TO DO” as the activities to achieve the main goals.

 

Life goals:

to be, to do, to have, to let go of

Inputs:

What I have to put into the goal

Activities: 

What I need to do

Outputs:

What is physically produced

Outcomes/Impacts:

(anticipated or desired) Changes or benefits that may occur

 

1. To be: HEALTHY 

Attention to diet, exercise and spiritual practice Move: dance, hike, walk, swim Balanced and mindful eating habits, movement and meditation practice More energy, stronger body, clear mind Less illness, less stress, positive attitude/life, better relationships

2. To be: LOVING

Commitment, follow through, openness, honesty, time, passion, devotion LOVE: self, life partner, family, friends, community Playing, talking, thinking, touching, working, listening, confessing, flowing, exchanging, sharing Friends, confidence, partnership, marriage, family, good work, art, beauty More love, strong relationships, commitment, strong values, whole self, whole communities, transformation

3. To be: OPEN

Ability to say yes, ability to not project, ability to be vulnerable, ability to accept others Absorb and learn Trying new things, talking to strangers, accepting challenges, being uncomfortable, being spontaneous New experiences, adventure, fun, strange days, full living new self knowledge, increased intuition, increased confidence

4. To be: PRODUCTIVE

Ideas, time, focus, effort, drive, structure Write: blog, book, letters, articles Following structured steps, reading photographing, editing, thinking, sharing, Articles, blog posts, audio pieces, books, art, experiences, events, talks, letters, emails Exchange of ideas, inspired thinking, sharing of expression, stronger relationships, stronger values, more opportunities

5. To be: BALANCED

Restraint, awareness, objective thinking, light and dark, silence and communication Absorb: listen and learn all that I have space for, nature, knowledge, energy Experience/accept resistance, give/receive equally, address hopes/fears, moderation, spend less/make more $ Healthy diet, healthy body, clear mind, more savings, less stress, less worry, less struggle healthy relationships, stable finances, increased mental focus and clarity, happier environment

6. To be: MINDFUL

Awareness, attention to detail, time, meaning, care, commitment, curiosity Meditate: center balance listen, be in present Think and assess before acting, make promises, keep promises, ask and answer questions Change of habits, greater understanding of others and the environment, More peaceful and positive environment and stronger relationships

 

7. To be:  FLUID/FLEXIBLE

Trust, courage, creativity, willingness, openness Move:dance,hike,walk, swim Create open life structure, say yes, compromise, focus on the moment, respond to the present actions not past or future Annoying reactions from non fluid thinkers, new ideas, experiences, mindfulness Confusion, clarity, present moment living, growth and death of experiences

8. To be:

GIVING

Time, love, care, money, work, thought, acceptance, passion Love myself fully, Share: talks workshops, radio interviews be with others, talk to others, write, listen, think of others, volunteer, donate time or money or creations Confidence, friendship, partnership, good intention, gratitude Shared experience, model to follow, healthy relationships, healthier communities better businesses,

9. To be:

GRATEFUL

Awareness, humility, awe Collect and highlight others’ stories, audio, and imagesMake gratitude lists, say thank you, recognize others generosity Warmth, love, validation Increased giving, stronger relationships, validation, contentment amongst giver and receiver

10. To be:  HONEST/TRUSTING

Vulnerability, loyalty Connect: nourish and create relationships Seek the truth, avoid secrets, share openly, banish lies, make promises, keep promises More honesty, more trust Stronger relationships, quicker solutions, less drama

11. To be: DISCIPLINED

Time, devotion, commitment, organization,consistency Focus: hone skills in writing, audio editing Create structure, make lists, follow lists, set limits, boundaries, guidelines, make promises, keep promises Satisfaction, accountability, productive habitsGreater focus Higher productivity, Higher success rates, Greater self-confidence, Increased skills

12. To be: COURAGEOUS

Trust, confidence, curiosity, Explore: natural landscape, cityscape, new territories Take risks, push boundaries, break rules, be creative Independence,Adventure, confidence, new skills New opportunities, breakthroughs, transformation
 

6/27/14

 

12 goals & intentions: to be & to do

IMG_9259IMG_9260After nearly 12 months of translating pre-written chapters into my actual living, breathing days. I am being asked to lay out an outline to script the rest of my story. I guess I should be ready by now to set the stage and jump into the next 12 chapters.  After this intense programming of attempting to let go fully – living the part of the abiding protagonist, am I ready to take back the director’s chair and orchestrate some independence? I believe Elizabeth is prepping me to do so whether I am ready or not.

Last September I was given a similar challenge from chapter writer Amy Dehuff. While exploring my existential existence, Amy’s questions and tasks unfolded each week similar to this concluding June chapter.  Her requests drew me deeper into the difficult and revealing questions of the what, why and how I choose to navigate my way on my path.  Both writers laid out specific guidelines and instructions on how to arrive at potential answers simply by asking me to set guidelines, directions or goals to define where I was going.

In September, Amy blatantly requested that I make a 1 year, 5 year and 10 “life plan” as a way to direct my path.  This week Elizabeth asks me to state or name 12 goals in which I would like to accomplish in the upcoming 12 years. A bucket list of sorts?

For some reason both of these requests (although simple, and helpful) bring up a serious amount of resistance for me. For some reason I have always responded poorly to the notion of setting specific goals (or making the checklist of life) to lead my choices.

The business dictionary defines the word goal as being An observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe. There really is something about the words “end result” and “fixed timeframe” that make my skin crawl. Maybe this is why I have dodged the process of setting goals.  To me if feels like traveling with a set agenda or cooking with a specific recipe; there is not much room for spontaneity or creativity.

But where is this intense resistance coming from is it the “measurable end result” that makes me nervous or the achievement expected in a more or less “fixed timeframe” that makes me uncomfortable?  Defining a completion has never been my forte.  I am not sure if it is the fear of negating all the potential opportunities and open avenues that inevitably arrive along the way.  (fear of commitment?) Or if it’s really just a fear failing (or worse yet succeeding and concluding!) arriving at the final end destination? (hmmm…fear of death?)

Either way, even with these rooted fears, I am not opposed to setting goals and am not unaware of the benefits of doing so.  I’ve had no problem in the past working hard or working towards defined outcomes.  Recently though, I have realized that setting intentions has become much more valuable, illuminating and important to me.  Looking, not at the far-flung future, but giving myself daily dose reminders of who and how I want to BE rather than where I am going to go and what I want to DO has brought new confidence and clarity to me.

I believe strongly in stating intentions – even writing them down.  Desires are really only dreams unless we visualize and physically live and breathe them into action.  Spending the time to write or state them directly manifests movement into the world making it real.   I believe in the true power behind consciously doing this.  Maybe that is what I am really afraid of? The true power of manifesting what we actually desire into being!? These few quotes keep echoing in my brain:

“Ask and you shall receive” – “Be careful what you ask for” – “If you build it they will come”

So why do I allow resistance to block my path when I can let it flow freely through me and just finish this chapter challenge?  If I learned anything through this project, it has been to closely examine resistance as a means to confront and conquer fears. Sitting with and in discomfort helps me understand what it is that is holding me back and what it is that could project me forward.

My core philosophy believes that yes it is important to set goals but first feel strongly about and see clearly what the intentions behind those goals are.  Examine and sit with that resistance! Is it coming from an external place or an internal source.  If I allow a goal to guide my way – it needs to come from within and grow with intention – not be pushed by external expectation.

In my response to life planning in September I stated these “goals”:

  • Create and nourish positive relationships
  • Do meaningful and useful work
  • Learn, create, and explore new things
  • Be adaptable to changing environments and new opportunities

Within 10 years I stated my life plan to “exit ambition and move to meaning”.  An ambitious task at hand! I guess I best get busy this next decade cultivating a mindful practice toward creation of meaning while working through and out any last seeds of ambition that have been planted along my path.  It seems I need to get busy pacing out my personal pursuit schedule and decide on the balance between how I really want to be and what is really important to do. I am hoping the following two lists of my 12 intentions and 12 goals will help guide me.

to BE:

  • Healthy/Energetic
  • Loving
  • Open/Accepting
  • Mindful
  • Productive
  • Balanced
  • Fluid/Flexible
  • Giving
  • Grateful
  • Honest/Trusting
  • Disciplined/Determined
  • Courageous

to DO:

  • Love: self, life partner, family/children, friends, community
  • Meditate: center, balance, listen, be in the present
  • Write: blog, book, letters, articles
  • Share: talks, workshops, radio interviews
  • Absorb: listen and learn all that I have space for, nature, knowledge, energy
  • Create: spaces, art, music, food
  • Move: dance, hike, walk, swim, be in fluid motion
  • Focus: hone skills in writing, marketing, media, organize ideas and projects
  • Connect: nourish and create relationships
  • Collect: stories, audio, and images,
  • Explore: natural landscape, cityscape, new territory
  • Live intently: choose and abide to lifestyle choices

6/22/14

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.

internal:external:eXchange

IMG_9045IMG_9041 From a young age, I have always used the phrase “mapping out my life” as a way of thinking about moving toward the future. I would pull out a napkin, a place mat or an envelope and start making random marks, circles, and connecting lines as if this act of defining it on paper would set my decisions and movements into action – (strangely enough many times it did.) Maybe this is why Elizabeth has asked me to create a mind map of sorts to represent what has transpired in the past 12 months of this Living Chapters project. She asked me to create a diagram that could illustrate what I have taken in and what I have given out over the length of this life experiment.

Thinking about putting the chaos of this self-discovery life experiment in an actual road map has left me feeling a bit dizzy, mixed with a bit of resistance. Something similar to what I felt when asked last July to pick only one symbol that would represent me as a person. How can all that has unfolded being distilled into one single diagram? I feel as if I am still working through this long involved equation, learning how the pieces that are coming together will ultimately affect the outcome or possibly come to some kind of solution?

Instead of getting completely overwhelmed and frustrated with this task, I decided to take my own advice from last July and simplify the request. Less is more correct? Could I come up with a diagram that could represent not exactly what I have taken in and what I have given out over the past 12 months but could it reflect or focus on the process of how I have shifted my process of taking in and giving out? Could determining the HOW help me pin point the WHAT?

So what am I talking about here? Well, it’s been a hard concept for me to put into words as well – I’ve been thinking about it all week and feel that Elizabeth’s task is on point. It really can more easily be understood through a diagram, a form or by using symbols. So I returned to the symbols  that I contemplated last summer when trying to find a visual to represent my professional work. A few particular symbols have stayed with me throughout the year and now seem to clearly represent the motion and meaning of the process that has evolved for me this year. Specifically the Rune symbols.  Runes, as stated by Ralph Blum, are tools (or diagrams) for assisting us to guide our lives in the present, runes assist us to navigate unfamiliar waters, a tool for keeping us on track and a training device for our intuition.

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The power, movement and meaning behind these drawn lines has stayed with me since examining these symbols last year. How can the arrangement of lines guide our paths or how we live them? I am not going to dissect every thought about each symbol I have been contemplating currently in regards to this months task.  But I would like to bring attention to the exercise itself and I would like to share some notes, collections of images, drawings and mapping life exercises as a way to observe my own process in understanding the intake and output from not only this year’s journey but life in general as it has unfolded.

the below sketches were taken from journals 1998 -2004 thinking about the same issues that I am now

What I believe Living Chapters has ultimately helped me do  this year is learn to observe and practice balancing the external and internal input in life. Really looking closely at both the external and internal sources has helped me define and illuminate my core values which in turn is starting to hone my focus and navigation of my external and internal output outcomes, progression, and direction.

After doing last week’s time travel assignment/timeline of my prior actions, habits and patterns, I realized that I do not personally move in a straight line forward or backward or up or down. I am also not simply circling and retracing a path back to its beginning. The motion that most resonates for me is a radiating vibration outward and forward. And in order to do this, I feel there must be given an equal amount of focus weight and motion in all directions while standing firm and still on the core of my center and the present moment. Maybe the images shared here will distill my thoughts and ideas on this in a clear or different way that resonates more than words.

The below images and sketches were collected and made this past week: Special thank you to Jesse Price of The Quondam Tree who opened up his artist studio and workshop for me to explore and photograph in and created the set of beautiful wooden Runes displayed in the photographs above.

6/14/14

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.

travelling through time

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In response to my first “logic and order” exercise, I was very happy to be able to be able to refer back to my website I created in response to chapter two. The hard work organizing my professional life in an online portfolio clearly laid out a good bit of my life from age 25 and on. But when traveling further back into my early years my memory starts getting fuzzy. I have no idea what I liked to eat or wear or what I liked to eat! What the heck did I do on a day-to-day basis? What were my hobbies? I was doing something different all the time! Hmmm…. Have I really changed that much since I was 5? Well I guess that is what this exercise was set out to investigate. Is there something I can find in the core of myself that doesn’t change? Can I find a thread that runs throughout as I did in my professional life? We’ll see….

Luckily both my parents were picture nuts (and I wonder where I got it from?) so I have tons of images to spark my memory and search for clues to these questions Elizabeth asked of me. Below is the list of questions she asked (some I tweaked and some I added)

What do you look like? (what are you wearing how do you present yourself?)
Where do you live?
What is your job?
What do you spend most of your time doing (3 favorite hobbies?)
What are you eating? (your favorite foods)
What do you consider “home”
What is the most interesting thing you did this year?
What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced
What are your closest relationships?
What are you most proud of? (What 3 things do you like about yourself)

5-year-old BB: circa 1982

What do you look like? Mom said I decided to stop wearing dresses at age 4. We made a deal that I would wear them for special occasions.

Where do you live? Dillsburg, PA

What is your job? Bothering my big brother and trying to stay quiet in the car. My mom paid us 10 cents every minute we were quiet (that was good money back then)

What do you spend most of your time doing Coloring in books on paper and sometimes on the walls, hanging out with our cat Sally, and digging in the sandbox.

What are you eating? marshmallows?

What do you consider “home”? My front and back yard

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Recovered quickly from an intensive operation that removed a tumor.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Accepted a new step dad and step sister into my home and then said goodbye when my mom got divorced

What are your closest relationships? My red teddy bear, my mom, my cat Sally and my brother Jason

What are you most proud of? My red teddy bear and drawings on my bedroom closet walls

10-year-old BB: circa 1987

What do you look like? A chipmunk kind of? I was very small and had big front teeth! I liked blue jeans and sometimes nice things in my hair.

Where do you live? In my family home in Dillsburg, PA with my mom and my brother

What is your job? Going to 4th/5th grade

What do you spend most of your time doing Listening to 45 records on my Smurf record player, doing arts and crafts, camping in the backyard, writing in my first diary, spotting monsters and setting fires in the woods

What are you eating? Fluffer nutter sandwiches (marshmallows) and spaghettios

What do you consider “home” My back yard and the near by woods of the game lands.

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Recorded the sound of rocks in the woods and in my metal mailbox on my portable tape recorder OR making rap songs with my brother on the same tape recorder

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? My brother was diagnosed with mental illness and left the house and our family for a long time.

What are your closest relationships? My brother, my mom, best girlfriends (Jenny and Leah), and my dog Molly

What are you most proud of? Beating all the boys in my class math competition, giving a performance lip syncing to “Another Brick in the Wall” and organizing recess craft activities for my classmates

 

15 year old BB: circa 1992

What do you look like? Similar to my 10 year old self – I liked blue jeans and sometimes nice things in my hair. I liked neutral colors and probably shopped at the GAP

Where do you live? In my family home in Dillsburg, PA with my mom and a foreign exchange student

What is your job? Going to School (9th/10th grade) and working at a “Greek” restaurant serving pizza and calzones

What do you spend most of your time doing? Hanging out with friends, doing arts and crafts, taking photographs, traveling with my family

What are you eating? First year drinking coffee and eating a lot of  “greek” pizza and calzones

What do you consider “home” Exploring the woods and hanging out in the graveyard near my house with friends

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Welcomed a foreign exchange student into our home, spray painted my shoes, and made button necklaces.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Gaining and losing a sister

What are your closest relationships? A small group of solid friends, my Spanish sister Maria

What are you most proud of? My artwork, my Spanish sister Maria

 

20 year old BB: circa 1997

What do you look like? Practical and simplistic fashion sense (yes more blue jeans)

Where do you live? Started out this year in Towson MD (Goucher College dorm room) ended the year living in an apartment with 4 women in Glasgow Scotland (Junior year abroad at Art School)

What is your job? Going to College (2nd and 3rd year)

What do you spend most of your time doing Exploring, making weird objects from dreams photographing new places, and developing the images in the darkroom.

What are you eating? College Cafeteria food, fish and chips and a lot of dark beer (first year cooking for myself – so lots of grilled cheese)

What do you consider “home”? Exploring new towns and cities alone, spending time in the darkroom alone

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Travelled to an Island called Eigg and stayed in a trailer in the middle of a field with no electric overlooking an island called Rum. That trip was almost as interesting as learning how to weld.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Adapting to living in a foreign country and city with a new structure of a European art school– developing my own structure within a new social, work and physical environment.

What are your closest relationships? I relied mostly on myself this year – but also had close friendships with Living Chapters player Gabe that supported me before during and after all my explorations. Living Chapter player Ashley who joined me in school at Scotland.

What are you most proud of? Changing my focus from sculpture to photography and hitchhiking without getting killed on the isle of Arran with my friend and Living Chapter player Ashley.

25-year-old BB: circa 2002

What do you look like? Different every month? I was into dying my hair, wearing wigs, hats and sometimes having to dress “nice” for museum work. When I was not wearing my wheels of wonder bright colors and silver glittery shoes – I was in my usual uniform of blue jeans and weather appropriate semi stylish shirt.

Where do you live? Started out this year in Boston, MA in an apartment with my boyfriend and 2 other room mates) end the year living in a 3 story house in Providence Rhode Island with a flower shop on the first floor and 6 rotating room mates sharing the 2 above floors

What is your job? AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer: Community Outreach Coordinator for the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. That is a fancy professional title, my real titles were: The Wheels of Wonder Woman, art on a cart children’s hospital patient visitor, and literacy through photography artist in residence. Check out my professional portfolio if you want to know more.

What do you spend most of your time doing? Creating ways to engage youth around creating art, reading, photographing, driving a large bookmobile through every corner of the state of Rhode Island (my job)

What are you eating? I honestly do not remember eating? How did I survive on an AmeriCorps salary?

What do you consider “home”? Being in a group of kids spinning a large wooden colorful wheel, and sitting silently in the Buddha room at the RISD museum

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone and had a volunteer job with an absentee supervisor. I created a new structure for my life.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Started the year leaving my first true love for an unknown city, job and future in Providence, RI. Ended the year with both of my grandmothers passing away in the same month.

What are your closest relationships? Fellow AmeriCorps partner and new boyfriend along with my students.

What are you most proud of? Making the decision to jump without a net to Providence and landing in the role of bringing art and photography to youth oncology patients at Hasbro children’s Hospital

30-year-old BB: circa 2007

What do you look like? The same but older? I wear glasses more than contacts now.

Where do you live? In an apartment in a row home in the neighborhood of Remington, Baltimore Maryland. I live alone with lots of plants and lots of neighbors!

What is your job? Program Director for Art on Purpose. I create, develop, implement and manage community art programs, workshops and exhibits bringing awareness to and advocating for social justice issues.

What do you spend most of your time doing? Creating ways to engage people around creating art and telling their stories (working my job) photographing and making objects, hanging out on my porch with kids, gardening, volunteer work helping to create a community association and organizing community programs

What are you eating? Thai food and chili – fresh veggies from the garden

What do you consider “home”? Sitting on my porch with kids and whoever shows up to play games and make stuff on Porch Art nights and being in the garden

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Taught a map making community project with my neighbors  – This is tied with seeing the Dalai Llama give a speech on the top of a mountain in Ladakh India

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Getting over altitude sickness and finding time to breathe in general

What are your closest relationships? Living Chapter players Gabe and Anita and Laura and my current boyfriend

What are you most proud of? Starting porch art

35-year-old BB: circa 2012

What do you look like? The same but happier! I stopped dying my hair

Where do you live? I started out this year living in an apartment above a garage outside of Cambridge Maryland overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. I ended the year living in a pool house connected to a garage overlooking the Miles River outside Easton, MD. (Both places on the Eastern Shore of MD)

What is your job? Program Manager for Practicing Democracy at The Maryland Humanities Council. Practicing Democracy uses the humanities to bring people with multiple perspectives together for passionate and respectful dialogue about issues that are critical to the health of their communities. Focus project “Lets Be Shore”

What do you spend most of your time doing? Creating ways to engage people around community issues by telling their personal stories (interviewing, making videos – working my job) Driving for exploration, for work and to visit friends. Being in beautiful places, spending time alone.

What are you eating? Oyster stew and buffalo burgers

What do you consider “home”?  Visiting friends in Friendsville, MD

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Attended a Muskrat Skinning Contest/Beauty pageant/ interviewed Honduran children about their life and school/sailed from Florida to Annapolis with a world record-breaking sailor.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Getting use to being fluid and being comfortable with it.

What are your closest relationships? Living Chapter players Cosmic Jim, Elizabeth, Emily, Myra, Moira and my sailor boyfriend

What are you most proud of? Living rent-free (and mostly stuff free) for more a year in extraordinary places

36-year-old BB: circa 2013

What do you look like? The same but healthier! I’m more active this year

Where do you live? I started out this year living in a pool house connected to a garage overlooking the Miles River outside Easton MD and I ended the year living on a sail boat in Annapolis, MD

What is your job? Program Manager for Practicing Democracy at The Maryland Humanities Council. Practicing Democracy uses the humanities to bring people with multiple perspectives together for passionate and respectful dialogue about issues that are critical to the health of their communities. Focus project “Defying Definitions”

What do you spend most of your time doing? Self-reflection, writing blog posts, making images for the blog, driving for exploration, for work and to visit friends. Being in beautiful places. Spending time alone.

What are you eating? Things I can make in one pot, veggie wraps, eggs, fruit.

What do you consider “home” Visiting friends in Friendsville, MD, sitting around a fire pit with Elizabeth and sleeping on the boat with the hatch open under the stars.

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Started Living Chapters

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Presenting my life online on a weekly basis

What are your closest relationships? Living Chapter players months 1 – 6 and Cosmic Jim and Elizabeth

What are you most proud of? Keeping my promises to my Living Chapters writers

37-year-old BB: circa 2014

What do you look like? The same but healthier and happier! Tropical climate and environment suited me when I was there. Spring and Summer on the East Coast is also keeping me happy.

Where do you live? I started out this year living in St. Croix Virgin Islands and am currently living in Mechanicsburg, PA

What is your job? Helping people make transitions (including myself) I am helping my good friend Jim move to a tropical island and am now helping my mother pack up her home to get ready to move to a smaller home.

What do you spend most of your time doing? Self-reflection, writing blog posts, making images for the blog. Before leaving the island, photographing, spending time with my 10-year-old friend Grace and appreciating nature, and exploring new connections and opportunities. After returning, helping my mom navigating the system for elder care and housing

What are you eating? On island: fruits, vegetables, home cooked meals. In Mechanicsburg some home cooked meals but more food from restaurants and take out places

What do you consider “home”? Connecting with friends

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Tried to move to a tropical island and ended up in Suburbia PA.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Put my life flow (not my plan but my way of living in a flow) on hold as I try to help my mother transition. Attempting to create a new form or pace of my flow.

What are your closest relationships? Living Chapter players Cosmic Jim and Elizabeth and my mom

What are you most proud of? Learning how to live day by day and be comfortable without planning my future

Future years: 38, 39, 40

I must apologize but I cannot predict or answer any of the questions Elizabeth asks for the upcoming 3 years. I’m just not there yet. I spent the last week traveling backward through time, which took intensive reflection collection of images and awareness of where I have been. It did a number on my time travelling head – I think that forcing myself in the same short time to be thrown into the future would bring me something close to altitude sickness I had back in 20007. I am going to give myself a bit more time before making projections. My greatest achievement, I believe at this point in my life and what I am most proud of right now is my ability to be ok and even comfortable with living in the present moment. Being able to balance living day by day with out too much stress, anticipation, or expectation. I believe in preparing not planning for what may happen next. Not saying I don’t want to set some goals but HEY that’s my task for week 3 of this month right? I am taking the little time I have to let week one’s time traveling assignment sink in before I am thrown into the future in the upcoming weeks.

6/8/14

confusion and clarity

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Nearing the end of this year’s story and I’m wondering if I’m in a state of confusion or a state of clarity? I’m beginning to believe that the two states of being are more equal than separate. I feel that they can be  one in the same depending on how I decide to present myself and react in any given moment.

In the past 11 months, I learned that I needed to be aware of but let go fully of who I thought I was in order to truly become the person that I am meant to be.  This is a much harder task than I anticipated.

I learned that being lost was the first step in finding myself. I found that detaching possession from objects, people, and places helped me feel free fluid and alive. I also found creating and nourishing connections with people places and objects helped me feel free fluid and alive. I now know I love to be heard and read as much as I love to listen and read. I do dread aerobic exercise but can dance in bliss until I drop. I crave structure and routine but resist it vehemently when it is forced upon me. I thrive around and thirst for people’s company but insist on time alone. I have found answers in feeling more than thinking and yet have spent more time reflecting than doing.   In a nutshell, I have learned that I am simply a walking contradiction.

I can see how this month’s chapter writer and confidant Elizabeth Brady would ask me to consider the tools of logic and/or order once again as I now ask, “What is next?” I have to confess, though that I am less concerned now with that question of “What is next?” then when I began the project a year ago. I am more concerned about the question of “What can I do, feel, and resonate now?” I am more interested in preparing now for a possible future rather than deciding and planning for it to happen accordingly.

Last July in chapter two I found the lessons of logic to be extremely helpful during a difficult time dealing with personal relationships, family and living challenges. The lessons of logic and order brought me a particular focus I needed to balance out the overly emotional environment and circumstances I encountered then. Eleven months and chapters later and I am once again dealing with life’s dose of difficult challenges.

I have been playing this game for 37 years now and admittedly, I have not mastered the rules of logic, maybe because I never found life to be logical? There are not always explanations for the events and occurrences we experience.   There is no one equation that brings me quick fix answers or solutions, it’s a constant process of learning how to catch curve balls. In this chaotic day to day, with or without chapter writers or wild card guidance, there is no winning or losing. There is only the practice of learning the right balance for staying in the game. Statistically planning the outcome has never and will most likely never be my focus. Instead I have chosen to continue to better my playing tactics through preparation and mindful practice. I continue to hope for the best and strive to create learning opportunities in what may look like losing circumstances.

In last year’s reflections on logic I learned that I do possess a great deal of order in my life. It just has come from an internal guidance. I simply present in a vastly different way than some are used to seeing or experiencing in this externally logic based society.  My order in things rolls out in more of a flow pattern rather than a linear time constrained path.

Can practicing Chapter writer Brady’s logical exercises and using her tools help me find the focus I need to balance out the external guidance, we are all given on how to live life, with the internal guidance I can not deny? If practicing tools of logic and order can help me feel more grounded and present in my day-to-day goals than I am all for trying this linear system out. Thanks for the challenge!

6/4/2014

The beautiful book photographs in this post are by Emily Wheat.

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 12

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Beth,

Over the past 12 months you have tested, trusted, learned, expanded and contracted your mind and tested your limitations.You have followed and bent rules, heard guidance, and created new paths for exploration within yourself.

You have listed reflections of your learnings from the past 12 months. You have found personal strengths and limitations you didn’t know you had. My challenge to you, for your 12th month, is this: stop looking back. Look and plan for your future. These plans may evolve and they may change, but consider this a starting point. You know more, trust more, are more prepared than you have ever been to make a plan. I want to encourage you to push yourself to make actionable decisions. Encourage means literally to “put courage into someone”. Take the courage your friends have literally put into you these 12 months. Take the influences they have put into you. Create your own action steps towards a future goal by examining these influences and who you are. Define your next 12 books, not just the next 12 chapters.

You have 4 weeks, and 4 major tasks.

  • Step 1, week 1. Reflect. In the form a child’s questionnaire, you will reflect on who you have been and who you are, not only on the past year, but in the past and far into the future. Doing this should be childlike, enjoyable, nostalgic, and non-intellectual. What were the literal items you wore, things you did, review your past self, and define your future self. Enjoy the nostalgia of it. When you were 5, these things were defined in many ways by others. How has that changed? How many of these answers are still defined by others? Should they be?
  • Step 2, week 2. Look Inward. Create a mind map of this past 12 months. Who you are in the present and what flows out of you. Think of this as a creative model of you – what you have taken in, what you have put out.
  • Step 3, week 3. Create life goals. Identify 12 things you would like to accomplish or become in the next 12 years. Maybe these are career goals, maybe these are life goals or improvements. Maybe these goals will change. Take the inputs that you received from your journey this year, into these goals.
  • Step 4, week 4. Check the logic. You will now create a logic model for your goals. What will you put into it? What will come out of it? What outcomes did you expect, what do you want to strive for?

Step 1, week 1. 

First. Reflect.

Starting at your 5-year-old self, fill in your blanks to the italicized sentences below.

BB (5 years old)

BB (10 years old)

BB (15 years old)

BB (20 years old)

BB (25 years old)

BB (30-40 years old, each year. Some of these will be forecasts)
I live:

My occupation is:

My 3 favorite hobbies are:

My favorite food is:

My favorite clothes are:

I consider my home to be:

The most interesting thing I have been invited to is:

3 things I like about myself are:

3 things I want to improve about myself are:

The single most interesting thing I have done this year is:

My friends helped me:

(add to this if you feel useful)

(Adapted/ Inspired by designer, Dana Tanamchi)

 

Step 2. week 2.

Look Inward at the past year. Mind Mapping. Creative chaos. What have you taken in, what have you put out, what questions has your Living Chapters journey raised. What is the visual representation of this journey?

This is about you and the past 12 months. mind map is a diagram used to visually organise information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.

Here is an example. This can be as simple or complex as you need it to be.

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Step 3, week 3. 
12 goals, 12 years

Step 4, week 4.

Develop a life goal logic model. In its simplest form, a logic model has four components: Inputs, Activities, Outputs, Impact or Outcome. Adapt this to work for you.

Create one for each of your 12 life goals. Ideally you have unlimited inputs, activities, outputs and potential outcomes for each goal.

After you complete these, reflect. Does this change your 12 goals? Adapt them if the logic doesn’t feel right. You do not need to share your logic models, but modify your 12 goals accordingly.

 

Inputs Activities Outputs Outcomes/impacts
what do you have to put in to get to your end goal impact or outcome what activities you need to undertake to get to your end goal impact or outcome what is produced through those activities the changes or benefits that result from the achievement of this goal
For example: Let’s say your goal is “Own a Boat”
What inputs go into this, (e.g., money, research?)
For example: “Own a Boat”
What activities need to happen, (e.g. sailing lessons, trip from Annapolis to St. Croix)
For example: “Own a Boat”
(e.g. sailing culture becomes a part of your life, lifestyle changes, community changes)
For example: “Own a Boat”
(e.g. increased skills/ knowledge/ confidence, leading to…new job, personal non-profit to help youth learn to sail, etc.)

6/1/2014

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.