I just got a new tattoo. It wraps around my arm like a growing vine and states: "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams." It is a quote from one of the greatest movies of all time, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Actually, it is also the first line of a poem, "Ode" by English poet, Arthur O'Shaughnessy. The poem in its entirety is to the left.
If you do not care to read the poem, I will cut to the chase. The poem chronicles the struggles of the creative; creating and destroying themselves many times over until at last they must let go of their golden age in order to make room for the next, bringing forth the dreams their fathers scorned while simultaneously scorning the dream of the coming dawn in a vain attempt to cling to glory for a moment more.
As I lay on the table getting my tattoo, feeling the needle pull across my flesh, leaving blood and permanent ink in its wake, I remember my love for this particular kind of pain. It is a vivid pain that your body races to deal with and numb, but in the case of this particular tattoo, cannot. I am not ignoring, but attempting to feel every bit of it. I feel it so that my eyes well up from the beauty this pain courts. This pain is not me. It is pain, and it will pass. That is where the beauty lies; in my ability to feel it deeply and then release it.
Sitting with emotional pain and discomfort is part of coming into your own. Sitting with it, without need to dull it through sex, drugs, alcohol or television, to embrace it and be accepting of yourself is the key to freedom. You come to see that your pain is not you. It is temporary. You can let it go.
Clinging to judgement, to ridicule from others is in essence clinging to other people's pain. It is a waste. This is what happens when you don't accept and own your pain; you throw it at others and try to make yourself believe it is their problem.
Revel in your discomfort. Push through your pain. Show appreciation for those who would challenge you with theirs. Thank the people who expect you to march to the beat of someone else's rhythm section, then tune into the sounds coming from your gut, from your soul. Even if those tunes are flat or seem discordant with the world, they are yours, and they deserve your care and attention.
According to this poem, the poets are the movers and shakers, the creatives are the builders of cities, but they wrestle with their temporal nature:
"The glory about us clinging
Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
a little apart from ye."
Everything about this life is temporary; pain, power, love, everything in this physical existence will die with you. You gonna hold on to what holds you back until your body dies? You gonna let your pain keep you from your greatness, or are you going to use it to propel you there?
For after you have embraced and released your pain, you are better. You are stronger. You are smarter and more human.
Push past your discomfort. You will be a better human for yourself and the world.
We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;--
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample a kingdom down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself in our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
A breath of our inspiration
Is the life of each generation;
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
Unearthly, impossible seeming--
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.
They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising;
They had no divine foreshowing
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man's soul it hath broken,
A light that doth not depart;
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
Wrought flame in another man's heart.
And therefore to-day is thrilling
With a past day's late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,
Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
The dream that was scorned yesterday.
But we, with our dreaming and singing,
Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
The glory about us clinging
Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
A little apart from ye.
For we are afar with the dawning
And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
Intrepid you hear us cry—
How, spite of your human scorning,
Once more God's future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
That ye of the past must die.
Great hail! we cry to the comers
From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
And things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
And a singer who sings no more.
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In order to change pace a bit, I am going to answer the question I get asked more than any other regarding workplace performance from managers, employees, and business owners of all stripes and colors:
"How do I bring more creativity into the workplace?"
The very short answer to this is that people who bring creativity to work with them don't wait for permission. Giving your employees a blueprint or a plan for creativity is by its very nature almost certainly bound to fail because, well, that is not how creativity happens. Creativity is a Feng Shui-like phenomenon. It happens when you make room for it to show up. I will give you an example or two.
I am a person who is lucky enough to bring creativity with me wherever I go. That is just how my head works. Why? I am a rebel. Very recently, I created "Facebook in the Real World" day at work. I walked around hanging pictures of myself on the walls, handing out articles to people, letting them know that I thought they would find it interesting, I walked into rooms and announced mundane tidbits about my cat, and "liked" and "poked" people at random. It was epic. Everybody loved it. Laughing, smiling, and general merriment ensued wherever I went.
The best part about this was that I did not ask permission. Why? It didn't occur to me. I didn't think I needed to. That is the kind of work environment I am lucky enough to exist in.
Another thing I did recently was wear "The Dress of Good Fortune" to work. I wrote a bunch of quotes from famous women authors on small brown pieces of paper and sewed them onto a dress of mine. I invited people to take a fortune from "The Dress of Good Fortune", because, who doesn't like a good fortune every now and again? It stirred conversation and interaction between all who participated.
Here are ten ways to encourage creativity in your own work space or in the work space of your employees:
There you have it. Ten ways to bring creativity into the work place and the one rule to which you must abide if you are going to be a rebel. DO NOT WAIT FOR PERMISSION. Go forth bravely and create. We are desperate for your particular brand of genius.
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My long history of on-line dating has provided me with a perspective that enables me to do more of it with little effort. I know how to handle myself, the safeguards I must keep in place in order to stay out of trouble, and how to turn even the most unfortunate experiences into something that I can eventually use.
I consider myself fortunate because of my thick skin, my ability to be direct, and my relative openness to new experiences. I have come to the realization that most people don't have this vast expanse of wisdom to draw upon and might not be as well prepared or suited to date as one who has, like me, gone out with hundreds of men.
Let me just say that in these situations, when you have gone out with several people who all seem to be the exact opposite of what you are looking for, it is important to remember that all it takes is one good date to basically wipe all the challenging experiences out of your mind. In fact, that one good date can very often make you feel more accomplished if you have persevered through much seemingly meaningless and painful first dates.
To illustrate my point, I am re-posting a blog I wrote several years ago about one of my dates that went very, very well. I have a strange feeling that some of you might need it right now, and hell, I love this story. It gives me hope. It is from my 20 Dates in 20 Weekends project that I completed in order to pull myself up from rock bottom. For the record, I do realize it is a strange idea to go on dates with strangers in order to pull oneself out of a deep and hideous morass. All I can tell you is that it worked, and here, if you are interested, is a piece of tasty fruit that resulted from my heavy labor:
Lucky Number Seven
Date Seven did not start out well. It was the Monday after a weekend where I had dates on both days, and I was a bit tired. I even had brief moments where I thought I might cancel, but I decided not to, as this date would put me closer to my goal. I was supposed to meet Number Seven at 8:30 at the Laurelthirst Pub to listen to music. I figured if I got home from work in enough time, I could take a nap and still have plenty of time to get down there on my bike. Of course, because I had to return a few phone calls, this got postponed. One of the calls I had to return was to Grampa Tom, my date from Saturday. I was calling him to let him know I would not be going to the Mariners game with him the following Monday.
The conversation went well until he told me he wanted to ask me something and I might not like it. This guy and his stupid sentence intros. You would think that after a person has lived a bit of a life, they would shake the need to qualify and introduce, but no. He evidently still felt the need to not only inflict pain with a question, but to set me up to feel anxiety beforehand as well. Foolishly, I told him to go ahead and ask. “Do you ever wear make-up?” Oysh. I had not worn make-up on our date because I had ridden my bike downtown, roughly a 14 mile ride, and then supposed that we were going to go kayaking. Neither activity was conducive to make-up wear. I replied that I did, but did not that day for the reasons I just mentioned. He then went into how he had spoken to a friend of his and wondered to her why I hadn’t worn make-up. I added that the way I look without make-up is the way I look, so if he didn’t like it, it might be an issue.
He also mentioned that he was surprised that I was so willing to talk about sex. I replied that it was an important part of a relationship and that not talking about it is the dumbest thing you can do, especially if you want to enjoy the sex you might or might not be having eventually. He agreed. After some small talk, the call ended and I was able to take a cat nap before my ride into town.
When I awoke, I felt somewhat groggy, but I knew that the ride would wake me up. As I was dressing, I noticed that it had started raining. Not great news, given the conversation I had just had with gramps. So, I left the house, hoping that it would let up on my way to the pub. It did not. In fact, at some points, the rain poured down on my bike helmet so hard that I considered waiting under an overpass or a tree until it let up. As I live in Portland, Oregon, I knew that I could wait forever for that to happen, so I kept going. About half way there, my right eye started stinging, badly. I kept wiping it, wondering what the hell was going on, then I remembered I had not washed the make-up off of my face that I had worn to work that day before I left on my date. I had to keep it closed most of the time, so there I was, riding my bike at night in the rain with one eye open. Not my proudest moment.
Then, as I came within about a mile of my destination, my other eye started stinging. As there was no way I could ride with both eyes closed, I kept stopping and trying to wipe all of the make-up off of my eyes, which was basically impossible. I started to hope that he wouldn’t show up so I could take the Max home and go to bed. It was a Monday anyway, I figured, it didn’t really count either way.
I eventually made it there, on time too, which was pretty much a miracle, and then realized that I would not even know him if I saw him, as the only picture I had was a side pose of him, which I had looked at roughly two weeks before. I was soaking- my hair, feet, face, everything was absolutely and miserably drenched.
Then he walked in. Number Seven was handsome, with dark features and broad shoulders. I wished fleetingly that I could hide, but then I decided better of it and took a step toward him. He looked at me, kind of unsure, and then we both introduced ourselves. “Yeah, I got kinda wet”, I said, dripping from every angle. He actually smiled at me and said he was sorry and felt bad that he hadn’t given me a ride, and then he gave me a hug.
Now, I am not a hugger. I do not like hugging people I know well, much less someone I am meeting for the first time. I am well known for my “space bubble” that I must have between myself and anyone around me. But when he hugged me, it just felt like such a relief, I actually enjoyed it, and found myself wishing it wasn’t a Monday.
I went to the bathroom to clean up and he ordered us a couple of beers. I wiped all the make-up and mud off of my face and changed into my warm three-layered after-biking get-up: two long underwear shirts and my OCAC hoodie. I had brought a skirt to change into, but I figured that was a bad idea as all I had to wear on my feet was what I had on: a pair of drenched wool socks, my bike shoes and my shoe covers. At least the top half of me would be warm. I tried to dry my hair off under the hand dryer, but the most I could do was dry my bangs, so I got all my stuff together and left the bathroom to look for Number Seven.
I found him in the room next to where the band was playing, going to shut the door so I wouldn’t be cold. There were two beers sitting on a table, so I sat down, and though I felt very awkward, I started talking. It was an easy conversation, and he was really smiley and laughed a lot. He said he was a critical care nurse, a part-time dad, and in his spare time went to a lot of music festivals, drank beer, and made stuff, like a quilt he had made for his bed out of old shirts. Clearly, he was a hippie, but I did not care at all, mostly because I was so distracted by how great his smile was.
I told Seven about some of my dates, what I was trying to do in my research, and how I handled some of the things people said to me. Of course, I was starving from the long and wet bike ride so I ordered a BLT and a cup of chili. He had already eaten, so I devoured my food while we talked. He seemed really interested in my project and what it was like going on so many dates. He had not dated much in the last few years which he thought was due to his height. Sadly, shorter men have a hard time being with taller women. Oh well, more for me.
After a while we went into the room where the band was playing and the people were dancing. He said hi to some of the people at the bar and then we sat and shared a beer. We had to sit very close together so we could hear each other. It was horrible because I could smell him and he smelled so good; like soap and grass and beer. I couldn’t believe it was a fuckin’ Monday- just my luck. I kept looking at him and had to force thoughts of sex with him out of my head so that I could listen to what he was saying. It was awful. After the band stopped playing he offered to drive me home. I was so happy to hear those words, I almost cried as my pants and socks were still soaking and my jacket and gloves were dripping wet.
We gathered our things and headed out to his car. He had a minivan with some huge hula hoops in it. I told him I wanted to see him hula-hoop, so he stood there in the rain on Glisan Avenue, hula hooping. It was hysterical. After we loaded my bike in the car, he told me, “don’t move, stay right there,” and then he kissed me. It was a great kiss. It was so great that I hated it, and started wondering about the wisdom of not counting dates that occurred during the week. We got in his minivan and kept talking. I was so happy to be going home in a car and so happy that this was such a good date, I was completely unconcerned that it was 11:30 on a school night.
We got to my place and he helped me bring my stuff up to my apartment. I was nervous and really excited. I was weighing the pros and cons of having him stay for a while, and decided that if this was to be our only date, I should really make the most of the time I had. It was the best way to end an amazing date, and as I slipped into sleep much later that evening, I thought it made sense that he had been my Lucky Number Seven.
So, there you have it. Hope in even the most desperate of places: The Craigslist Personals. If you want to read more of this 20 Date undertaking HERE is the link.
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"And if you feel that you can't go on.
And your will's sinkin low
Just believe, and you can't go wrong.
In the light, you will find the road."
I was talking to a friend today about Love. She was telling me that she had been so broken-hearted from past relationships that she wasn't sure that she wanted to go through it again. She told me that she sees life as a series of painful heartbreaks which only serve to fuck you up for extended periods of time. As she said the words, I could feel it and I could tell that she still hurt. She told me that she would not Love again because of the pain that she associated with the ending.
For this, as for everything in life, it is about choice and thoroughly understanding what you are choosing. You can choose to live with fear, or you can choose Love. I myself have said a million times, "I think I'm done." When the topic of Love comes up. My Bestie always replies, "I've heard that before." She knows it's the pain talking and that I will always come out of it and jump right back in with both feet. I know it too. It's how I roll. All feet. I have lived without Love. It is fine. But Love is badass, Love is always worthy of a capital letter.
When a person decides to choose fear, they are choosing a cage from which to experience life. We are born with the capacity for great Love, but over time, we experience trauma, heartbreak, and great pain at the hands of great Love, so Love becomes our scapegoat. But without Love, we are stilted and jaded. The world is a less beautiful place because our under-used hearts lose their ability to identify beauty as time passes. Our capacity for growth and development lessens. Additionally, we are by nature, pain-averse. So we do what we can to deal with or dull the pain, which very often ends up keeping us from feeling other things as well. Soon enough, in a life lived without Love, the world becomes a never-ending cycle of drudgery. There is less pain, but there is less joy as well. Life becomes as predictable as a never-ending series of sitcom re-runs. Sit-coms which were never really that good in the first place.
Love is birth. It is in Love that we awaken. It is potential in the form of human emotion. Artists know that in order to create anything, they must feel a Love for it. Communication of something loved? It is a poem, a song, a dance created to awaken the light. In Love you live fully, you are busting out of your skin with vigor. You see the potential in everyone and everything, especially yourself. Love is brave and optimistic and compassionate. In Love, you are sharper, brighter, you feel like a hero. You are open and you feel more like yourself. You trust more. Everything tastes, smells and looks better. If you have been in Love, you know this. You remember that feeling of boundless energy. Of endless optimism. You remember who you are in Love.
If left unmanaged, Love will shrink and die. When fear is left unmanaged, it becomes boundless. Choosing fear is the easy path in the beginning, as it is effortless. Choosing Love, therefore, must be a conscious effort of will, stamina, and grace. Love looks so easy in the movies and in TV. It is falsely represented as the happy ending to every predictable story. It is the end game sold to us in all manner of media. But Love is not the ending. It is the beginning. That is why we want that story. Because it ends where our real experience begins and gives us room to dream into how easy it is going to be.
Love is fucking hard. It is scarier than almost anything else. This shit requires you to be AWAKE. There is no other way to put it. You must go bravely into Love ready to demand the best for yourself and give with the passion of an artist. Do not go into Love half-assed. Do not go into it fooling yourself. Above all, do not go into it settling for less than you deserve. You will be disappointed in yourself, in the person you are with, and then, you will find yourself, once again, in great pain, wondering where you went wrong.
Make no mistake, it takes courage and it is not easy. But the reward is a connection that enables you to fulfill your highest potential. We are here to Love, pure and simple. Not to accumulate. Not to exert control. The test and the challenge is to Love. Everything else is secondary.
Millions of people choose NOT to do it every day. What's your choice?
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