After seven years of major metamorphosis – divorce, two cross-country moves, performing on various stages, selling a home, buying another, starting a business, growing a business, stabilizing a business – 2011 marked a slowing of change in my outer world. There were, of course, highlights: bidding adieu to clients I’d outgrown (no offense, Microsoft); welcoming new clients – including HTC, where my friend and former colleague, Michele, is creating the internal communications function from the ground up, and has enlisted me to help her in this exciting endeavor. There was also a fair amount of travel: Palm Springs, NYC, Maui (photos here), Lake Chelan – mostly with cherished friends, as well as some rejuvenating solo time. And I awoke my dormant performer by joining the Seattle Ladies Choir for their premiere season. Given that my last forays onstage were of the improv / comedic nature during my time in NYC, it was wonderful to exercise the lungs through song – for the first time in 25 years.
But perhaps the most interesting development of 2011 was the realization that many people are in periods of significant transformation. Over the course of the year, a number of them found their way to me – either through mutual friends or just as we got to know one another better – and I found myself repeatedly being asked, “How did you do it?” How did you recover from the loss of a 15-year relationship? How did you build a successful consulting business, doing what you love? How did you buy a home and create financial security when you’re single and self-employed?
When people ask these questions, I sense they’re seeking a clear answer, a sage bit of wisdom that will help them find their way through the dust clouds, fog, and cobwebs that life repeatedly throws our way. But our lives are an amalgam of the many choices we’ve made throughout our journey – thus, no one move someone makes, even if it was revolutionary for them, will cause the same effect in another person’s life.
What I can offer, however, is this: all too often, when the dust swirls and blurs our view of what’s ahead, we freak out and start looking for detours to escape the uncertainty. But compare this to driving when visibility is so poor even the fog lights don’t cut it – panicking and detouring could send you off the road and into a ditch, or over a cliff. Instead, you’d be wise to stop and wait for conditions to clear, for the road to reveal itself. And the same applies in life: stop, breathe, tune into your inner voice…and let it show you the way.
That’s the best piece of advice I have, the one I credit most for helping me get to this point. But it really pisses some people off because they want something concrete, some step-by-step guide to barreling through the unknown. Believe me, I’ve been there. It’s unnerving to just pull over and get quiet for a while. And allowing that inner voice to come alive and guide you requires a lot of time, a lot of soul searching, a lot of brutal self-honesty, a lot of risk-taking, a lot of courage, a lot of tackling life alone, a lot of tears, a lot of teeth-gritting, and a lot of letting go. When that inner voice narrates the GPS of your life, you have to be ready to accept that it’s lonely out there on the road paved by choices all your own. You’ll veer away from some of your relationships and activities as you make room for new people and opportunities better suited to who you really are – and, more importantly, who you’re becoming.
So – if you have an inner voice you suffocate with a pillow, stop it. And if you think you don’t have an inner voice, you’re wrong. It just got so sick of you not listening, it finally gave you the finger and went into hibernation. Either way, you can jab an IV of Jolt Cola into its jugular by asking yourself this question:
“If I had only six months to live, what would I at least try to accomplish?”
Close your eyes and really imagine a doctor giving you this jarring prognosis. What comes to mind arrives courtesy of your inner voice – these things are your passions, your purpose. Sure, there’s bucket list stuff like skydiving and traveling to India and riding naked on a Harley (no judgment). But then there’s the real stuff, the Six Months to Live list. We’re talking going to medical school, figuring out how to sell your art, boot-scooting your mega-yum cookies out of the kitchen and into the cases of your own bakery. Remember, you only have six months left – you may not actually get your M.D. or see a painting sold, or proffer that first double-chocolate-cherry-macadamia bite of sinfulness, but you’ll literally die trying.
My wish for you in the coming year is that, even with the hustle and bustle and electronic madness of modern life, you’ll carve out some quiet time to listen to your inner voice. And that you’ll start letting it guide you – from the bucket list stuff all the way to the real, Six Months to Live List stuff. I also hope you’ll keep in mind that no one ever “arrives” or is fully enlightened. We’re always evolving on this topsy-turvy ride called life, though I believe we arrive at certain mile markers along the way that indicate our preparedness for various challenges – relationships, career success, children, unearthing our unique gifts and giving them back to the world. Because there is something you can do better than any other. Your inner voice knows what that is and, if you obey it, you’ll do it – before the ride is over.
Blessings, peace, health, and happiness to you and those you love – this season and throughout 2012.
With much love,