Monday, May 21, 2012

Wherever you focus, there you are.

Once I was entrenched in a job I hated.  From my office, I cried on the phone to a friend about how miserable I was.


She said to me:

"You worked really hard to get there.  You read the right things.  Wrote and published in that field.  Got the right degree.  Thought about it.  Talked about it!  Seems to me like you're powerful.  Seems to me like wherever you put your focus, there you are.  Imagine if you focused your energy on what you love?"

First I thought:  Shit.
Then I thought:  Oh my god.  She's absolutely right.



Those words inspired me to make a change.  Even though I already had a Ph.D in another field, I enrolled in an MFA program in Creative Writing.  I dove into reading and writing, relishing in it like a dog enthusiastically rolling around in a stinky spot on the beach.  I squeezed every drop of learning and inspiration out of all my classes.  I didn't have a grand scheme.

I just wanted to love life again.

Now I'm the author of four books, and I teach creative writing. 

Over the years, I have become a woo-woo believer in the power of energy.  I think of life as a moving stream.  When we try and try and try to paddle upstream, we sweat like a bugger but don't get very far.  But when we go with the flow, we are in synch with life's rhythms.  We can harness the power of the stream; we can enjoy the moment and be delighted about what might appear around the next bend.  To me, going with the flow means tapping into what we love.  What we love is the essence of who we are.  When we are lined up with our true essence, we are at our most powerful.

It's also about this:  We suffer when we face the direction we don't want to go.



In other words, it was "upstream" of me to keep focusing on how much I hated my job.  I didn't want to be in my job, and I kept talking about that, thinking about that, dreaming (nightmaring) about that.  Once I allowed myself to turn around and face the "I love writing" direction, everything began to unfold.  The details of what that direction meant appeared around the bend.  And the next. And the next.

Of course this is a life lesson to learn again and again.  When I went through a bad break-up of a fifteen year relationship, I wasn't really free until I began to focus on what I wanted, not what I thought I'd lost or how angry I was at being deceived.

At first the focus was on feeling:  I want to be happy!  I want to embrace life!  And then details began to come in focus:  I want a lover who is fun and who is as devoted to me as I am to him.  I want to surround myself with uplifting people who expand my world.  I want to travel, to explore new places.  I want to love my body, my mind, and my spirit.  And if I'm going to change the world, I want it to be because I authentically inspire, not because I attempt to motivate.

I believe that wherever I put my focus, there I am.  The "proof" is what's around the bend--that what I've been focusing on has been proliferating in my life:

1) Finals (this week):  What I describe above led me to a new job, which I've now held for seven years.  I love my job not only because of what I get to teach but also because of the flexibility of my schedule (on campus three times a week) and all the time off (summer's almost here!).  The semester is ending with finals this week.  It's been a stellar semester of teaching creative writing, literature of our campus' visiting writers, and new book/film combos in my Film & Literature course (including The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Kite Runner film, novel and graphic novel).  Most interesting and challenging was Kiss of the Spider Woman, an amazing novel that reinvents what a novel can be. The film is pretty great too.
William Hurt won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman

2) Blues fest (end of May):  I'm a kind of weirdo savant when it comes to remembering music lyrics, and I've always known music has the power to transform my mood--to manifest pure happiness into my spirit.  Dave, though, has expanded my enjoyment of music into a wide array of new venues and types of music.  Soon we're going with a crew of friends to dance all day on the lawn in Aptos to the Doobie Brothers (whom I haven't seen live since 1980), Joan Osborne, Los Lobos, and more. 

Seeing the Doobie Brothers with Nancy in summer 1980.

3) So Cal (June):  So many friends, so much time to play together!

4) Mexico City (June):  I've written before about saying YES when people invite us to spend time in their worlds.  So we've accepted our friend Paul's offer and will be hanging out with him, exploring, eating, salsa-ing, and doing whatever else strikes our fancy in the place he loves to live.

5) Family reunion (July):  Every year about fifty of us congregate in the Bay Area to celebrate our connection as family.  This year will be even more exciting because there's a new baby in the mix, little Kennedy (born to my cousin Johnny and his wife Michelle).


Our wedding location

6) Hawaii wedding and honeymoon (July-August):   Going with the (lava) flow has made this a low-stress wedding-planning event.  Yes, I said low-stress wedding-planning...it's really possible! Once we realized we'd be in Hawaii at the same time as Dave's sister and brother-in-law, we decided it would be a good place and time to get married.  On a whim, we sent out an evite to some family and friends to see if anyone might like to join us for an informal wedding on the beach, followed by dinner at a restaurant.  Next thing we knew, more than thirty people had bought plane tickets!  My Kona friend then told me about an amazing, new beachfront venue, the Lava Lava Beach Club.  It just opened and is the perfect place for a barefoot wedding at sunset, followed by an outdoor reception, including Hawaiian music, food, and a hula dancer!  All these details have been falling into place in a way that really makes me feel to the bone the power of the moving stream.

It works!

7) Preside over a San Jose wedding (end of August):  Focus on weddings, and more wedding-love appears.  It all started when my cousin asked me to read a poem at her wedding last summer.  Then I caught the bouquet.  Then my friends Daisy and Tung asked me to perform their wedding ceremony.  Online, I became a minister in about 10 minutes. (I love the democratic flair of that!)  As Daisy and I were exploring writing scripts for the non-religious ceremony and trying to find fitting poems to include, a student of mine just happened to mention to me that she has performed dozens of weddings.  In fact, she was writing a book about it!  She emailed me a plethora of materials, including a fabulous selection of poems that Daisy was thrilled to receive.  (Um....wherever you put your energy, there you are.)



8)  Celebrate my Jubilee.  My 50th birthday is this year, and Dave is already drumming up fun (secret) stuff.  It's been so fun to see how all my friends who are turning 50 are celebrating this milestone.  Clearly, 50 is the new 21.

9)  Caribbean Jam Cruise. 
Us to friends:  Want to go?
Friends:  Hell yeah!
So now it's on.  Another event that isn't planned but inspired.  The details will unfold around the bend.  No stress, just down-streamin'!

10)  JazzFest.  Dave's been a million times but we've never been together.  So what better way to celebrate his 55th next May?  Music!  History!  Celebration!  Love!  Dare I say it again?  Wherever you focus, there you are...

How about focusing on dancing in wild colors?



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