The Magic of I Can Do This and I Want to Help You Do It, Too
I turned 54 today. I am giving myself the gift of community and three goals that felt too overwhelming for me to accomplish this past year (write a second book, build muscle--a chicken’s legs out-muscle mine these days, and find a place of my own to live).
Some amazing things have happened in my life, and in the last few years in particular, because of other people having my back in surprising and transformative ways. I am learning how to receive, how to open my heart and my mind to the world with YES, okay, YES, I can do this. I can be here. I can thrive. I can love. I can accept love. I can dream. I can show up to the world so I can help others show up, too.
It has been much harder to learn how to receive than to learn how to give. Receiving feels dangerous in a way that giving has felt easy. Giving feels like a one-way ticket to I’m a Good Person Land. Receiving, truly letting in the fact that another human being wants to give me something wonderful, takes my breath away and leaves me frozen. I want to dance with giving as well as with receiving. I want to live in flow.
My mother died eight years ago yesterday. I wish she were still alive. I wish she had finished her book before she died so she could have read what people said about her work on the front page of The New York Times Book Review and in The New Yorker. She had never verbalized having those dreams to me—of her writing being praised in two of her favorite publications because I bet she would have felt embarrassed for sounding so full of herself. Just think! If she had started even a year earlier, maybe she would have been there for her own party! Maybe she would have seen that her book exceeded her wildest dreams. It was not only published after all by Yale University Press, but it was celebrated!
(Isn’t it funny that full of yourself can be an insult. You’re so full of yourself. What the heck? Who else are you supposed to be full of? George Washington?)
My mother felt responsible for so much: she was a wife, a career woman, a parent, a friend, a church-goer, a volunteer. She was a gardener, a knitter, a quilter. She liked to bake pies and bread and cookies. She did yoga, went for walks. She cleaned the house. She did the dishes after she cooked dinners. All of these things took time, and for decades all of those things came before writing, and so she did not write, and so she lived a life she loved but she also lived a life where she was skirting around her heart’s desire: to get a book about Louisa Catherine Adams in print.
Later, when she decided to get serious about her writing, she created a biographer’s group and then she was really in the game. She made time each day to research and write; she invested money in her project, and even when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and even when she was having chemotherapy and radiation, she wrote.
Even in her last days when she was high on morphine, she would make her way to the computer, and my father, fearful of the damage her wild brain might do to her work, had to steer her back to her bed, telling her there were others who were helping, and there were: friends and family members had stepped in, and so after my mother died, with her notes, these wonderful people were able to get the book 1. done and 2. published.
(The fact is that the book wasn’t really done. My uncle wrapped it up well before the ending my mother had intended, but as miracles would have it, Yale accepted it, published it, and made this dream of my mother’s available in bookstores and on Amazon.)
What if all of us had a posse of people to help us realize our dreams? What if we decided that this year, 2019, was going to be unlike any other year we’d ever lived? What if we decided to take three dreams, three goals, three oh my god I’d feel so good if I got this done things and what if we did them? What if we made our goals public, had someone (me!) to check in with once a month for a ½ hour phone call, and had a community of people with whom we could share our successes and hurdles along the way? What if we could help each other with ideas, connections, raw materials?
I had a friend once who strung a rope between the kitchen window of her house and the kitchen window of her neighbor’s house. The women put a basket on the rope and called it the wine line. When one neighbor needed something: wine, masking tape, flour, bubble bath, a note reminding her of why she’d wanted kids, she could call the other and ask for help.
The cool thing about asking is that it’s not a demand. The neighbors weren’t going to feel terrible about themselves f they didn’t have masking tape to share—it would be one of those maybe next time things. Learning to ask for what you need is like learning to walk. It’s a really helpful tool.
With that said, learning to say no is an equally helpful tool. If you have a neighbor where the wine line only goes one direction, that’s called being a pig, not being a team. Before you can say yes, you have to be able to say no so you have a sense of safety and boundaries. All of this is a dance, asking, receiving, giving. It can be stressful or it can be really, really, really fun.
I’m here to suggest we go for fun.
So, finally, here’s my idea. I am going to form a private Facebook group called Three Goals, A Year, A Cheerleader, and a Bunch of Meditating Maniacs Who Have Your Back.
Because what if you had the following?
1. clearly stated goals
2. a supportive community
4. investment in the outcome
5. a feeling that the universe had your back?
How could good things not happen?
This is my vision: Each person who decides to participate commits to wholeheartedly pursuing their three goals and helping others in the group as much as is comfortably possible. Each person pays $50 a month to me for a half-hour coaching/cheerleading call (I charge $150 an hour normally). Every day, at any time, each person spends one minute meditating on a mantra such as May we thrive. May I love and support myself. May I love and support this blessed group. This way, we’ll know that at any time of day, someone out there is sending us love and support; we’ll know we aren’t alone and just as we are sending out love and support to others, others are sending it to us.
I mean, we could do this for a year and see what happens, or we could just skip it. Which choice is more apt to conclude with some incredible outcomes?
I believe in us. I believe we get more done when we know people care, when we know people are watching us, expecting us to finish, cheering us on, offering orange slices and cups of water in the race to finish. I want us, as a group, to become a force. Writing a book or leaving your wife or painting your house can seem impossible when you wake up each day and already are thinking old thoughts, repeating old patterns. How can you change or do new things when you are stuck on repeat?
Let me know if you would like to be part of this group. We start January 1st, 2019. More than anything, I want your dreams to come true. I want dreams you didn’t even know you had to come true. I want you to feel the magic of community. I want you to experience the majesty of you.
Here’s to 2019 and all that we can bring to it.
Here’s to love. Here’s to us.
Here’s to you.