Archive for RiskADay

New Ventures

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I am in the process of finding new ways to work in the world.

I’m exploring career changes, making discoveries about how to use my skills in new ways, and making a commitment to earn more money.

Lately I’ve risked contacting people I don’t know to ask about their work. What if they resent the intrusion? What if they think I’m horning in on their area of expertise? What if they ignore me?  What if I offend them somehow? What if I look stupid?

I’ll have to take those risks if I want to grow. I’ll have to try new skills, brush off old ones, and (gasp) make mistakes.

In the past week, I’ve volunteered with a professional in one potential new career area, and emailed someone else whose work I admire. I pledge to make two more career contacts in the next two weeks.

Let’s see where they lead.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

The Same Old Question

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

Why don’t I make more money?

I ask myself this question every couple of years, and I always come up with the same reasonable answers:

  • My field, non-profit live theatre, doesn’t pay well financially. The personal rewards of doing good work in this field are huge, but there’s no money in it.
  • My family means a lot to me. Choosing to homeschool my daughter and live close to my mother has curtailed the time I can afford to spend at a high-paying job.
  • My husband has a good job, so my family isn’t suffering. In fact, I work hard to run a frugal household, so that we can live comfortably and save for retirement. I enjoy the challenge.

Those three answers are so strong, they ought to put an end to the question. But somehow, like a bad penny, it keeps turning up.

Why don’t I make more money?

I’ve decided to risk changing the question, rewording it in order to rethink it.  So here goes:

  • Do I really want to make more money?
  • What, specifically, would I do with a higher income?
  • How much more money would I like to make?
  • How could I make that amount?
  • Am I willing to make the sacrifices and get the training I might need to make that amount?
  • Do I give myself permission to start finding the answers to these questions?

I think you can guess that I’ve already given myself permission to start finding answers. I have a long way to go. But I’ve given myself one concrete, though completely arbitrary, answer to guide me, at least for the time being. I’ve decided that I would love to make $40,000 a year for at least five years. After that, who knows?

I don’t know where this search for answers will lead. But just reframing the question has opened my mind. There was implied self-loathing in the first question: why don’t I, the stupid, flighty, creative type, make more money? Why am I dependent on my husband’s salary?  Why have I squandered my intelligence and education in a low-paying career?  What’s wrong with me??

That line of questioning was getting me nowhere fast. I’m risking new questions, seeking new answers, and keeping a firm handle on my self-respect.

I won’t ask that same old question again.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Dare I Ask?

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I decided about a month ago that I would pick up the phone and start asking people questions.

I’m constantly asking questions inside my head.

  • How can I give my daughter the education she needs?
  • What’s the best way to support my aging mother?
  • What do I want to do with my career when my daughter is grown?
  • What adventures are in store for me and my husband?
  • How can I strike a balance between community life and personal life?

I took the plunge and asked one specific question this past month:  how can I give my daughter a great high school education? Should we continue to homeschool, or look at schools? If we look at schools, which ones? If we choose a private school, can we afford it?

I had brought up these questions with my husband and daughter several months ago, but I had never taken the plunge and contacted schools.

I think I was afraid of taking action.

If I didn’t make the calls, I wouldn’t have to make any decisions, and I wouldn’t risk looking foolish for not knowing what to do.

Hmmmm . . . .risk. Aren’t I supposed to be taking risks these days?

So I called a school and asked the headmistress a few questions, and the next thing I knew, I had scheduled a visit.  It’s coming up next month. I told my daughter about it, and to my surprise, she said, “If we’re going to look at one school, I’d like to look at several.” She got on the internet and looked up more schools in our area.  She read their philosophies and wrote down the dates of their open houses.

Will she go to any of those schools? Who knows?

What I do know is that asking one question has opened many doors. My daughter learned to take more initiative in her own education. I learned to risk asking questions – for information, for guidance, for help.

Today, I will ask a question.  Will you?

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Road Not Taken

By guest blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I was talking with a good friend recently about a decision I’d made, and speculating about what might have happened if I’d made a different choice. He said, “Hold on. Let me tell you something my brother told me.”

His brother, a psychologist, has helped a lot of people through tough times. I wondered what pearl of wisdom was coming my way.

It was this.  “The hallmark of a good decision-maker,” he said, “is that when she chooses A over B, she stops thinking about B. It no longer exists.”

In other words, when faced with a decision between two options, choose one and forget the other. 

It was like being splashed with a bucket of cold water. Suddenly I felt more awake, more present, more able to get on with the business at hand. My decision had been made, and I was only torturing myself by thinking about what might have happened if I’d chosen differently.

Two days later I had to make another important decision — not an irreversible one, but one that mattered. I consulted a few people, and I wrote several drafts of an email that explained my position. I knew that whatever I did would have consequences, at least for me, and possibly for several other people. I tried to be conscientious and respectful and friendly (because, heaven knows, I want everybody to like me, but we’ll talk about that another time).

Ultimately, it was time to write a final email and click send. And I did. As soon as I lifted my hands from the keyboard I felt that familiar wave of doubt. Had I made the right decision? Had I said the right thing?

Then I heard the voice in my head saying, “The hallmark of a good decision-maker is that when she chooses A over B, she forgets B.” It’s bold, and it’s risky, and everybody might not like me for it, but I want to be that decision-maker.

The road not taken no longer exists.

 

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

Trudging through Anxiety

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I am anxious these days.

I know from experience that the feeling will pass. Oddly enough, in parts of my life I’m having fun and feeling productive, even as I feel anxious in other areas. I’m rehearsing a play, and I always feel a generalized anxiety until I really know what I’m doing. It’s frustrating to be carrying the script in rehearsal when I want so badly to be able to cut loose and act. At the same time, it’s fun to play and experiment with my fellow actors, not tying myself to any specific performance choices too early in the process.

The rehearsal anxiety will pass, because it has to.

I have to learn the show. It has to be ready for an audience in just a couple of weeks. I can count on a sense of relief and release as I gain confidence in my performance. My schedule will become simpler when I’m not rehearsing eight hours a day, six days a week. I know I’ll breathe easier soon.

In the meantime, my anxiety spills over into other areas of my life. This always happens. I worry more about my daughter. I worry more about my aging mother. I worry that I’m not doing enough for them. I try to solve problems that can wait.  I feel guilty for all the time I”m spending away from home. It’s part of the package. I’ve learned to live with this.

And yet . . . this time there’s more.

My daughter is thirteen, and I’m struggling to learn how to parent this new individual living under my roof. I’m considering sending her to school next year (we currently home school), because I think she needs more than I can give her. I suspect that prospect scares the you-know-what out of both of us, but I can’t ignore my gut feeling that something needs to change, for her sake and for mine.

And my mother .  . .  my darling mother . . . has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, and may already be developing dementia. Our roles are reversing. We are in the process of moving her for the second time in a year. Soon she’ll be living about five minutes from me, in a nice assisted living facility. My life is probably going to change significantly, as I visit her more often and help her adjust to her new situation (both physical and mental/emotional). You know what? That scares the you-know-what out of me as well.

These are challenging situations.

Of course I’m anxious. Right now I don’t know where rehearsal anxiety ends and real-life anxiety begins. I really believe I’ll feel stronger and calmer in two short weeks, when the show opens. I’m doing everything I can to learn my part so that I can relax about something.

Mostly, I just have to let this process run its course. So that’s my risk. For the next two weeks, I am going to risk living in the moment as much as possible. I’m going to resist the temptation to make any big decisions. I’m going to risk trusting that things will work out with my daughter, with my mom, and with my work.

I’m going to risk believing that I am doing my best, and that my best is actually good enough.

And just choosing that risk, and committing to it, makes me a tiny bit less anxious.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Letting Go, Part Deux

By Carolyn Cook

I have so much to learn, still.

I’m fifty years old, and I’m still learning that I have control issues.  I am even beginning to see my old perfectionism as a form of control:  if I can do everything perfectly, then I can control how other people perceive me.

I got into trouble early in my marriage by trying to be the perfect wife.  It took several years for me to see that I was only hurting myself by trying to fit an imaginary mold.  What’s more, I saw that I had been trying to control my husband’s perception of me, instead of trusting that he loved my imperfect self.

Lately I’ve noticed that I can slip into “perfect daughter” and “perfect mother” roles with my mother and daughter.  I’m not fooling anyone with my textbook caregiving and parenting; my mother and daughter just want to be with me.  They can see right through my efforts to make everything perfect.

I’m making a conscious effort to step back and let events take their course without my control, even (gasp!) in my own home.  I’m learning a lot from the experience.  Something tells me I will always have more to learn.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Being Here Now

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

I’m risking making space in my life for the present.

I was inspired by Debbie Kerr’s recent post about cleaning out her closet. I have a lot of stuff in my house right now. Much of it came from the homes of my mother and mother-in-law. Their extra belongings filled our extra space, as we eased their journeys into assisted living.

It’s time to begin digging out from under the clutter we accumulated.

My husband is working on an estate sale for his mom, and I’m slowly taking inventory of my own clutter, before I even deal with my mother’s.

Recently I gave some lovely pieces of clothing to a theatre costume shop. The gift included two gorgeous pairs of shoes that had been my grandmother’s, that I had worn occasionally and really loved. There was also a nice business suit that was just a bit too small for me. (It had been too small even when I bought it. Wishful thinking made me believe I’d lose five pounds.) All of it was beautiful, and all of it represented a part of my life that I had held onto longer than I needed to.

As I let go of those clothes, I heard myself telling the costumers that I hoped they’d be useful in a play, because they didn’t belong in my life. They were reminders of who I’m not anymore, and I’ve decided to be who I am now.

Let somebody else be who I used to be.

I realized that I was only able to let go of those things because I’ve started shifting my thinking, very slowly, toward an appreciation of the present.  The words “be here now” are the best advice I know of, as I seek to live peacefully within my changing emotional landscape.  I have so much to be grateful for, when I stop and pay attention to it all.

Letting the past be the past, and not burdening the future with my worries:  those are my risks for today.

This post first appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay blog, a project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. You can now read about her life and insights at her own blog here.

Risk. Regret. Realism.

By Guest Blogger, Andrea Lea-Kraus.

risk

1: Possibility of loss or injury : peril
2: The chance that an investment (as a stock or commodity) will lose value

regret:
1 a : To mourn the loss or death of
1 b : To miss very much
2 : To be very sorry for

realism:
1 : Concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary

Sometimes… when the concept-mosquitoes are swarming around the muggy, boggy swamp of my mind… 

I have to dip into the clear, cool, as-yet-untainted (by that sticky, humid, south Georgia-in-July, bulldog-with-a-bone mind), Merriam-Webster-well take on what words mean. Take it back to the basics. Detach a little. Relax the jaw.

Somehow, grabbing onto a definition helps things feel less personal when every thought in the swarm seems to itch for days, sometimes at an intensity level that sends me clawing awkwardly for that unreachable spot one inch to the right of the angel-bone – you know, the one on the tight-shoulder-side of life.

Words like shame, regret, disappointment, regret, never, too late, settle, dissatisfaction, regret, are fast-breeding parasites in the muddled mind; squatters in the high-rent district whose rights are illogically and ironically protected by universal law, who have only to show up to get a free meal and a place to stay.

How unfortunate and unfair that words like forgiveness, self-love, beauty, perfection, joy, good, have to be lassoed into one’s consciousness over and over, with never-ending dedication and a fool’s faith – like doing crunches every day to keep in touch with those abs we’ve heard are underneath – just to make a blip on one’s screen of awareness (I mean, how many crunches have you done without seeing any result? What does it take???).

So, several parasitic concepts are giving me the itch right now.

The double-edged blade of “risk” is neither friend nor foe, though we tend to sing the praises of the shiny side of the sword here (and rightly so – enough of that toothy, serrated side being worshipped out there), but I cannot help but see how the risks I have taken in my life have mostly led me down the painful path to regret. My mind is pretty clever sometimes, in the Cheshire Cat way that minds can be clever enough to lead one just out of earshot of one’s higher voice – one’s True Voice? – so intellectually I know that I can take this idea and spin it into a positive… but where does the spin begin and where does it end?

Once I start the new-age “think positive” spin, how do I decide what was first spun and what is just REAL?

I can say that all my risks worked out because we all got out alive and it could always be worse, but that’s not real – that’s not what I really feel. That’s a manufactured thought, designed by the Cheshire cat mind and the new wave of feel-good thinking which, by the way, I buy into 99%.

I keep being drawn back to the scene in Adam Sandler’s Spanglish where Tia Leone’s character is having a nervous breakdown in her big, black SUV with her mother standing by the window saying, “lately your low self-esteem is just good common sense.”

I usually only write or appear in any way when I have something figured out; when I have trekked past the mirage’s promise of quenching my thirst on the surface, and burrowed deeply enough into the earth’s bosom to slurp one sip of crystal clear truth, swirling it around on my parched palate, grateful and cleansed…

But that is not where they send my mail. I am thrilled to have a glimpse now and then and bring home my big fish tales to anyone who’ll listen, but I dwell too in this buggy swamp with the squatters and skeeters.

I am not sure what I am risking today. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually known what was at risk in the moment that I “took” it. There has always been an unfolding of joys or consequences I could not have seen around those corners. I’m not sure if it is “good” to share the negative feelings while they still feel negative. I’ve always gone with the if-you-don’t-have-something-nice-to-say dogmatic principle, so this is a new approach for me.

I’m going to say that I’m risking looking at my shit realistically and owning the fact that I feel, at times, like I could drown in a sea of regret. Like I am on damage control. Like I’ll do the best with where I got myself but I followed that damn disappearing, hallucinated Cheshire cat so far off course that I have given up on finding my way back… like I can never risk again because I am frozen by the cold reality of how long and empty the hall of life can feel and how far an echo can travel. Like I need to mourn some losses (is mourning a task one can ever complete?).

Maybe I’m risking a different kind of honesty.

My life is so good and I have so much to be joyful about in the NOW – but I am apparently never quite finished punishing myself for my past mistakes, so I have to rip myself out of the moment (don’t worry, I know it’s wrong and I am already punishing myself for this, too). That’s not the sort of thing you admit on a blog! This is a place for higher thinking and self-development, answers and solutions, steps forward and progress!

The best I can say is that Mercury is retrograde and I am, too.

This post originally appeared on True Voices’ RiskADay Blog Project which has now concluded.

 Andi Lea-Kraus is a yoga teacher, personal trainer, writer , and all-around artist who is cracking the code of the symbolic and recording the spiritually hilarious. Her adventures so far have included several years and a cooking show in post-Apartheid South Africa, a stint in rural south Georgia, a brief but sparkling singing career which she intends to revive, and a glorious indigo daughter named Dom. When she’s not teaching, training, writing, painting, taking photos, singing, or doing laundry, Andrea can be found in her kitchen, channeling her grandmother through new recipes, and feeding folks. Andi’s plans for the future include finding her way to the musical theatre stage. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website here.

What’s Your Anthem?

What’s my Anthem? I need an Anthem???

Yes! In fact you may need more than one. An anthem is a song or speech or poem – or whatever it is that works for you – that you want played loudly (over the PA system, through your earphones, or just in your head) as you walk, practically petrified, through the daunting arenas of your life.

I have Arenas? You mean with lions and bulls???

Well, not exactly real lions and bulls, although there are certainly times in the arena when we feel like we’re about to be eaten alive. Sometimes simply showing up as who we really are and saying what we really think, can feel just that dangerous.

I know you’ve experienced this. Maybe your arena is a board room, a sales pitch, a stage, or even being present for a difficult conversation with someone you love. Perhaps you could’ve used an anthem in school when you faced that all-important test or, worse, the principal’s office. Yikes.

There is a way, though, to make stepping into your arena, with your anthems playing, less scary – even rewarding.

It’s the Daring Way™.

Watch for more to come about that. Today I’m here to tell you about  anthems.

The other day I was writing to the members of a Daring Way™ group I’m running. I was elaborating on an assignment, reminding them to come to this week’s session with the names of their anthems.

Originally, the exercise was for them to pick a song by which they feel uplifted, encouraged, and remind them of how brave and magnifecent they are, and what authentic gifts they bring. But since music doesn’t affect everyone the way it does me (or Brené Brown who chose to include this exercise in her Daring Way™ program), I extended the assignment to include anything that empowers them to be themselves out loud.

What about a playlist?

Making a list of examples to send them turned out to be so fun for me, that I didn’t want to stop! And I didn’t want to keep that list all to myself and them either. So, you’re in luck! I’m posting it here for you.

I do have one caveat (and confession): This list is by no means complete. Which is why I didn’t want to stop when I was making the list of examples. There are so many more great candidates! Maybe I’ll get to those in a later post (or posts), but for now, you’ll hane to just enjoy these.

Music:

Poems by:

  • Billy Collins
  • David Whyte
  • Derek Walcott
  • Emily Dickenson
  • Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī (Rumi)
  • John O’Donohue
  • Lucille Clifton
  • Mary Oliver
  • Maya Angelou
  • Naomi Shihab Nye
  • Oriah Mountain Dreamer
  • Pablo Neruda
  • Richard Gilbert
  • Shamseddin Mohammad (Hafiz or Hafez)
  • Shel Silverstein

Books by:

  • Alice Walker
  • Anne Lamott
  • Bill Wilson
  • Brené Brown
  • Charlotte Kasl
  • Christiane Northrup
  • Dale Carnegie
  • Daniel Gilbert
  • David Schwartz
  • Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Julia Cameron
  • Hermann Hesse
  • Laura Overstreet Biering! 🙂
  • Louise Hay
  • Marianne Williamson
  • Nancy Blair
  • Napoleon Hill
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Pema Chödrön
  • Randy Pausch
  • Rick Tamlyn
  • SARK
  • Sonia Choquette
  • Sue Monk Kidd
  • Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Viktor Frankl, or maybe even

Quotes from:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Albert Einstein
  • Anne Frank
  • Ben Franklin
  • Betty Friedan
  • Beverly Sills
  • Billy Jean King
  • Eleanor, Franklin, or Theodore Roosevelt
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton
  • Elizabeth Kübler-Ross
  • Erica Jong
  • Gloria Steinem
  • Helen Keller
  • Henry Ford
  • Indira or Mahatma Gandhi
  • Jimmy Carter
  • John or Robert Kennedy
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca
  • Malala Yousafza
  • Martha Graham
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Mother Teresa
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Ovid
  • Richard Branson
  • Rosa Parks
  • Steve Jobs
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • Vince Lombardi
  • Walt Disney
  • Warren Buffett
  • William James

Also… there are some inspiring Academy Awards Acceptance Speeches (see my March 13th blog post to get you started with these), and there are some awesome TED talks (get the top 1o here) and TEDx talks (get the top 10 here)…

OK. Since I have other things to do today, and I’m sure you do, too, I’ll stop here.

Now it’s your turn.

Pleeeeeease, even if it’s only one a day, take these like vitamins – try them out, take them in, and decide which ones make you feel the best. Then make your own list. You can start by “cheating off of my paper.” Then, before you know it, you’ll be choosing anthems seemingly written for you.

And please check back in with me here so I can “cheat off of your paper, too.” I hope you have fun perusing my anthems and then picking yours. Why?

Because it’s time to march confidently into your arenas, head held high ( even if you’re quaking in your boot), with your anthems turned up to 11!

 

PS I apologize for not providing you links to every single item above, but that would have surely gotten me in trouble with the Google police. And “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Dropping the Ball

By Guest Blogger, Carolyn Cook.

OMG, I forgot to blog on my assigned day.

I know in advance that I am forgiven, so I’m not even going to pretend to obsess about this.  I know that you understand how it feels when you drop the ball. Right now, my life is a like game of catch. Most days, the ball is winding up in my glove. But on days like today, I’m not only dropping it, I’m watching it roll down the street and into the storm drain. Goodbye, ball.

I can’t even think about taking an intentional risk today. Risk is built into the structure of my life.  I am taking risks every day, because of the choices I’ve already made:

I have chosen to homeschool my child.

I have chosen to move my mother, who has dementia, to an assisted living facility that is five minutes from my home, and to be actively involved in her care.

I have chosen a career in the arts, which means I make very little money for a very large commitment of time, energy, and emotion.

There are new risks I want to take, and I’m looking forward to the time when life feels safe and boring again so that I can shake things up with an exciting new venture. But now is the time to hunker down and deal with the risky choices I’ve already made.

My next blog date is my fiftieth birthday. If there’s any risk I need to take at this stage of my life, it may be the risk of slowing down, dropping more balls, and letting them roll away. I simply want to love my husband, my mother, my daughter and my siblings. I want to be grateful for this amazing life we have with each other before it slips away.

If there’s any risk I need to take right now, it’s the risk of admitting that I am not in charge. Life is too big for me to hold in my glove. I’m part of a team, and it’s okay to let other people catch the ball sometimes. That’s how the game is played.

This post originally appeared True Voices’ RiskADay blog project, which has now concluded.

 is a sometimes peaceful, sometimes frazzled individual who works to a raise a daughter, build a marriage, and explore the human condition through theatre, art, music, history, literature, and relationship. She is now posting her insightful thoughts on her own blog here.