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So, about that job interview…

…You know, the one I wrote about in my last post?

…You know, the one with all the gravitas and questions that made me ponder how I do the work?

Well, I was offered the position! And I accepted it!

And I took all the unicorn smarts and BIG IDEAS (!) to someone else’s office,

where I sat at a computer

with all the e-mail,

and all the systems,

and all the passwords,

and all the plans,

and all deadlines,

and all the importance, day after day,

after day,

after, day,

afterday,

afterdayafterdayafterdayafterday

…like any normal person might!

(I really, really wanted “normal person” to work for me in this instance.)

And that went on for 11 weeks until I realized:

No!

and also:

whycoloured worlds of because 
do not stand against 
 YES
which is built by
 forever & sunsmell

(thank you e.e. Cummings)

…and then I quit.

Nearly everything.

All at once.

I recently went on a job interview that was conducted with a considerable degree of gravitas. It was an affair that required metered parking, a conference room, and an entire assembled committee present to ask questions. This is exactly the sort of thing I have been doing my best to avoid for the last decade of my work life. Yet, there we all were sitting at the table with all the questions. One of the questions posed in the interview was an unexpected delight:

How do you do the work?

That’s it.

That’s the whole vague and fantastic question.

At the time it was posed, I was confounded. I had never given voice to my process. How I do the work has been a very long and winding road across time and country, over the river, and through the woods. While the answer I gave summarized that journey, there is something about that question that has been revving and honking (with a Klaxon-like “AHOOGA!” sound) at me ever since it was posed. That question feels like a tiny clown car that I could get inside with twenty friends, and we could go anywhere in it.

So today I am here still mulling over that question with the intent to share some thoughts and scenes from my everyday work life that may help shed additional light on the answer as it continues to unfold. As Rainer Maria Rilke has written,

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

How do I do the work?

First off, there is a generous supply of silliness in my work, and that is by design. I have to do quite a bit of work on myself on a regular basis to get my mind-set right. That work begins with Shakti-building exercises and intentional goal-setting to keep me a happy, healthy human. I guess other people would probably call this “planning” or maybe “self-care.” Anyway, the way I do it looks like this:

Big plans

Having the right mind-set prepares me to deal constructively with the obstacles and menacing hindrances that inevitably present themselves as I’m going about the work, whatever that work may be…

Laundry Day Impediment

When working through problems and I get stuck, allowing time for conscious play, or blending the lines between work and play does wonders for unsticking the stuck.

The Building Blocks exhibit at the National Building Museum

A lot of the work I do is setting the stage with the right props and providing the space, time, and encouragement necessary for other people to play and learn and express whatever it is they want to say. Serving as a witness for this self-discovery is one of my favorite things about my work.

there were so many story starters in this little friend’s mind

It isn’t all fun and games. Yesterday morning’s work was a frenzied internal battle to get idea from brain to paper. When the dust settled this was the scene that remained:

Shrapnel from the War of Art

There have been times I have been crushed by the work and fellow passengers pulled me from the wreckage. Other times, Good Samaritans have come along to fluff me back up when I’ve gotten deflated. Never underestimate those singing spirits of the world who hide right out in the open.

~*~

How do YOU do the work?

What questions are you loving and living?

bullet journal goal tracker

…a great deal of real art is made under the radar. We barely know we are working. We just suit up and show up and grab what moments we can, and it is only in cozy retrospect that we can see the level of skill we were able to muster. It is humbling, the degree to which we are like automatons. Our art moves through us despite us.

–Julia Cameron, Finding Water

The most important thing creators do is work. The most important thing they don’t do is quit.

–Kevin Ashton, How to Fly a Horse

Today’s retrospective analysis of the last 10 years of My Little Spacebook revealed an overarching theme running through many posts.  Since the beginning, that theme is showing creative work – my own work and other people’s work that I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with or to witness.

In the last decade there has been a lot of work shared and a lot of shared work!

There’s been knitted work, decoupage work…,

dec2012 022

…messy work in progress,

Mess

…incredibly weird work,

hypertufa planter head

Herman the Hypertufa Planter

outside work…

midsummer 2013 001

messy inside work…,

june 6 012

mosaic work….,

August 2012 064

…and exhaustion from the work.

Picture1

 

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.

-Pablo Picasso

battleship cheat

 

 

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

–Sun Tzu,  The Art of War

 

 

Battleship

Magic

Last week I heard myself say possibly the weirdest thing I’ve ever said at work:

“Ooh, that’s right! Today is the day the ponies have to go to outer space.”

But that’s exactly the sort of thing you have to say when zombies, aliens, and monsters invade Pony Land and the battle lasts several days. Fortunately, the ponies are a forward-thinking species that have resources and contingency plans to deal with such problems.  While the Pony Queen fended off the monsters, the little ponies said their magic words to make the door to the rocket ship open and allow them safe passage.

Pony Exodus.jpg

The ponies blasted off and flew through outer space and arrived safely in their haven on the moon.  Meanwhile, Fred the taxi driver loaded up the defeated monsters into the back of his dump truck and hauled them off to their monster hideout.

Taxi Driver Fred

Headed to Zombie Hideout

The ponies are doing well colonizing the moon.  The monsters, aliens, and zombies are on the road to recovery.

———————————————————————————————————

A job title doesn’t even come close to answering the question: “What do you do?”.

Robert Fulghum, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It   

It’s December and I am on a mission! There is a bunch of stuff I need to get done to wrap up the year. I have added new goals and resolutions to this month’s spreadsheet.

Today I decided to tackle the toy collection that is taking over my office.

With the closet and cabinets crammed with tests and materials, the bathtub has become a make-shift toy box.

toy-before

Before

I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond hoping to find inspiration to organize this mess. For under $50, I came up with this solution:

 

toy-after

After

 

I’m not done yet! I need a couple more hanging organizers, but already that feels sooooo much better!

 

We show up,

burn brightly in the moment,

live passionately,

hold nothing back,

and when the moment is over,

when our work is done,

we step back,

and we let go.

-Rolfe Gates, Meditations from the Mat

fire

Beneath those flames

the charred remains

of four years of work.

Therein the ash and smoke

lie thousands of hours of

hopes

dreams

plans.

The fire ate them all

with no regard

for the size or shape of the ideas.

I stood and fed the greedy tongues

as they hissed and sputtered,

devouring it all indiscriminately–

the fire and I whispering

all of your names

on the wind.

–Lunar Euphoria

 

And within the course of a week life went abruptly from this

butterfly2016

 to this

staypositive

This was the first summer in a bunch of years I didn’t teach a summer course, which freed up a considerable amount of time, energy, and brain power. I know exactly where all that extra time, energy and brain power went because I am still keeping my weird little daily spreadsheet to track the time spent on my goals/resolutions.  For the month of July it went like this:

  • 24 hours PRACTICE MANAGEMENT — This excludes the time spent in sessions with clients. I recently started tracking this because I was curious how much unbillable time I spend doing things for the practice. Now I know.
  • 20 hours DANCING — Teaching, practicing new choreographies, reviving old choreographies. This includes drills, exercises, rehearsals.
  • 16 hours GARDENING –Watering, weeding, harvesting, planting, watching butterflies, cutting flowers. In recent weeks there has been a lot of  violent killing. I have fed literally hundreds of Japanese beetles to the ducks and chickens. I have squashed squash bug daddies and mommas and their babies while cursing their ancestors.  No poison was involved; I didn’t want to accidentally kill the good bugs or bees or do any damage to the birds or frogs, so the violence has been all up-close and personal. It’s a terrible thing and I’m not proud of it, but it happened. This whole garden thing is probably wreaking havoc on my karma. But I give away a good portion of the spoils, so maybe it all balances out?
  • 12 hours RESEARCH for the book I’m writing and 8 hours of WRITING the book. I really need to increase the time spent actually writing.
  • 10 hours COOKING…pickles. Yes, it was all spent making pickles from the garden cucumbers.  I canned some bread-n-butter pickles last Thursday. The horrible squash bugs completely wiped out the squash plants before I became aggressive with them. Now they have found their way to my cucumber plants, so that may be it for pickling this year.
  • 4 hours MEDITATION.

When I showed El-D the spreadsheet last night he said, “Geeze, you could work for the government. The engineers would love you.” They really like spreadsheets too apparently. And then he asked, “How many hours did you spend putting numbers in your spreadsheet?”

Hmph.  A couple seconds a day!  The spreadsheet, as lovely as it is,  isn’t the goal, it’s just a tool to help me understand where my time and attention go. It also gives me insight into how I flow across time.  For example, fifteen minutes of meditation is forever long. Sitting around doing nothing but listening to my own thoughts is horrendous most days. Truly. Sitting down to write at a computer – not much better and sometimes worse. Sitting down to write on paper, doable and sometimes enjoyable, and sometimes absolutely necessary. I flow way differently in the garden. I’ll set a timer inside then step out the door and become completely absorbed by everything until I get hunger pains or it starts raining or somebody shows up and stares at me expectantly, or something else happens that draws me back into a world where there is such a thing as a clock ticking.  Today I disappeared into a game of peek-a-boo with a praying mantis for who knows how long?  Anyway, I guess the point is time is a weird concept. Or maybe it’s that spreadsheets are great.

“You haven’t the time? Time is all you have, your life energy to spend as you will.”

–David Ross

 

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