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Embracing the Mystery

20 Dec


I’m going to be in Venice for New Years. Not Venice, California. Venice, Italy.

When a friend-of-a-friend invited me to stay at her Venice apartment this winter, I was reminded to not turn away the gift horse. As Sheryl Sandburg wrote in her book, Lean In, “When you’re offered a space on a rocket ship, you don’t turn it down.” You jump in no matter what is going on in your life, no matter how inconvenient. The dance doesn’t alway come around again.

Going to Venice is not convenient. It’s sandwiched in-between the holidays, a writing deadline, and a teaching trip in Memphis immediately afterwards. I’ve also been gone for the last two weeks teaching. But when is boarding a rocket ship ever convenient?  You either say, “Carpe Diem!” and do it or you stay safe right where you are, never fully becoming who you meant to become.

I like order and control, particularly as the old year transitions into the new. I like to mastermind my goals and get my ducks in a row. I work on my taxes and await the New Year with quiet respect. I don’t party it up with horns, streamers, and confetti.

In Venice the locals drink champagne in St. Mark’s square. I’ll work on my tip sheet for the publisher while downing a beautiful cappuccino and I’ll map out my goals walking along the canals. But then I’ll drink champagne too, gesticulating like the Italians as we embrace the wild beauty of the night.

On the way out, I’ll pass through NYC where I’ll have an apartment to stay on 5th Ave. near the Met and the Guggenheim thanks to a friend’s sister who is a film producer. They are leaving museum passes on the counter and instructions regarding my stay with the maid. There will be two Parisians there too. Do not turn away the gift horse.

My expenses are maxed out at present but the trip was paid for almost entirely by miles. Do not turn away the gift horse.

I will be tired and jet lagged and discombobulated teaching so soon after it all but this is life. Instead of trying to capture, control, or manipulate the Mystery, we must learn to bow to it. When she beckons, we follow. We do not know where we are going. All we can see is the magic and mist and romance of it all.

*Photo credit – Laura Sousounis

Are You In Comfort, Learning, or Panic Mode?

31 Dec

The other day I was talking with friends of mine about the significance of breaking out of one’s comfort zone while not orbiting out in space on the verge of panic. My friends responded immediately saying, “Oh, that’s what our son’s school calls the ‘learning zone.’ There’s the comfort zone where no learning takes place, the panic zone where you’re so freaked your mind is paralyzed and then there’s the learning zone where you’re just able to take in new skills and lessons.”


This explanation is spot on. The comfort zone, although cozy for awhile leads to our premature death. I cringe when I hear people say they’ve worked hard and now want to coast through life or when they feel that because they’re at a certain age, there’s nothing left to learn or they’re incapable of learning. It’s NEVER too late to learn and there is so much to discover, enjoy and do!

When we adopt this attitude, we start to shrink. Suddenly, driving a car becomes too scary; packing a suitcase seems a monumental task; and moving to a new place feels like moving to another planet. This paradigm will lock us into rigidity and fear for the rest of our lives. The learning zone on the other hand describes the edge where we stretch but don’t hurt ourselves; where we find the balance between surrender and will.

The panic zone induces too much, too soon. It’s the equivalent of throwing a kid into the deep end of the swimming pool and saying, “Now swim.” Most likely that child will not be overly fond of swimming sports as an adult. Water can be terrifying. That is too much too soon.

The learning zone takes place in an environment of thrill, risk and a modicum of safety and stability. When a child learns to walk, she most assuredly falls down. She occasionally konks her head in her maneuvering too. Yet typically adults surround her, there to assist if she needs any kind of care and comfort. Yet if the adults hover too persistently, she’ll not take those essentials steps of falter.

What motivates a child to learn is curiosity and desire. The child learns to reach, crawl and walk because there is an object, pet, or person in her proximity that she wants access to and to explore. She wants to touch this object, taste it, and to know where she begins and ends in contrast to this other entity. Growth starts with seeing this said person, place or thing and moving towards it. It starts with vision and then reaching out.

What will motivate us this year to step out of our comfort zones? What do you hope to master and delight in? I dare you to step out in 2016, staying young in heart and spirit by trying something radical, fun, challenging and new. Happy New Years!