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Four Easy (Not Really) Lessons

I’ve officially been on sabbatical for two weeks (out of the eight weeks I’m taking), and I can already tell you that time off, while extremely important for self care (and for getting things done, like packing up this house and moving our home elsewhere), is also a valuable learning tool.  What could one possibly learn from an unpaid vacation?  Read on, Dear Friend….

Lesson #1: Prioritize Your Priorities

The primary purpose of this sabbatical is to pack, move, and then unpack and settle in.  So what does one do when one is not actively engaged in packing, moving, or unpacking? Those first few days of my “time off”, I had zero clue what to do with myself!  I even went so far as to look at sites on what to do when one retires, all of which had three things in common:

  • They all suggested taking up a hobby.
  • They all suggested taking up a sport.
  • They all suggested getting a part-time job.

Which left me wondering: if you’re so bored now that you’ve retired that you need to develop a hobby, take up a sport, and gain a part-time job, then why the hell did you retire in the first place?  This got me thinking a lot about my own priorities, and about priorities in general.  

Most people have a list somewhere in the back of their brain (or, perhaps, if they’re lucky, in the front of their brain) of the things that are the most important in their life.  Now, these may be things that are truly important–things without which life becomes bland and/or unlivable–or these may be things that are peripherally important–things that are necessary to facilitate the truly important things.  My experience of abject boredom during that first week of my sabbatical made me take a long, hard look at my own priorities, and sort through and differentiate the truly important from the peripherally important.

So what is truly important?  In the interest of not boring you to tears with the details of “my little life”, let’s answer that question in an “across the board” fashion:

  • Peace
  • Love
  • Happiness/Fulfillment

Yes, I know that might sound trite, but I have found it to be an ultimate truth.  The hippies in the 1960s got it right: so long as you have peace in your life (a life free of drama llamas, including yourself!), love in your life (whether from a beloved, or from family and friends), and you are happy and fulfilled (able to do things that make you smile and laugh, as well as feed your passions), pretty much anything could happen in “your little life”, and you’d still come out relatively unscathed on the other side of whatever happened!

Boredom, at its deepest core, is a feeling of emptiness: it’s that thing we feel when we’ve lost sight of our priorities, and forget for a moment to simply enjoy the peacefeel the love, and focus on happiness/fulfillment.

Lesson #2: Plenty Is As Plenty Does

We live in a society where the word plenty somehow automatically equates in our minds with monetary wealth, but when it’s all said and done, ultimately, money is one of those priorities which is peripherally important.  Money is a thing which may help facilitate those three things that are truly important, but it doesn’t lie at the core of any of them.  Plenty, on the other hand, often does.

Plenty is actually defined as “a large or sufficient amount or quantity; more than enough”.  

I ached over the need to take this sabbatical, because I was afraid it would interfere with my previous definition of plenty: i.e., plenty of money to pay my bills, help out around the house, and purchase the furniture and things we’re going to need in our new home.  What I have found over the course of the past two weeks is that I have exactly the same amount of that particular definition of plenty, whether I’m working my tail off every day or not.  Meanwhile, when I’m not working my tail off, the really important plenty has increased three-fold: I may not have plenty of money, but I do have plenty of peacelove, and happiness/fulfillment!

The bottom line is: plenty is as plenty does.  When you sit around focusing on money as the definition of plenty, all you ultimately wind up with is realizing precisely how poor, financially, you actually are.  In the process, you also end up killing peacepushing away love, and feeling sad/unfulfilled.  However, when you focus on the really important plenty, you find yourself doing plenty:  enjoying peace breeds more peace; recognizing love breeds more love; focusing on happiness/fulfillment breeds more happiness/fulfillment!

Lesson #3:  Don’t Complain, Explain.

To complain is to explore a situation by focusing on the most dissatisfying or annoying parts of that situation, whereas to explain is to explore that same situation by focusing on the most relevant and meaningful parts of it.  Complaining shatters peace (it is the ultimate drama llama bait!), annoys love (it pushes people away), and denies happiness/fulfillment. On the other hand, explaining can actually bring about peace, foster love (as it encourages people to listen and then attempt to meet genuine needs), and lead to happiness/fulfillment.

The entire process of selling a house, packing your belongings, finding a new home, and then moving your stuff and unpacking it into said new home sucks.  I’m not talking a little amount of suckage, like “wow, rainy days really suck”, I’m talking major, industrial vacuum cleaner level suckage, like “you stubbed your toe on the couch so hard you’re now bleeding? Man, that sucks!”  The whole thing is a bigtime complain vs. explain opportunity.

I’m not gonna lie: I spent most of the period just prior to taking this sabbatical complaining.  I complained about the lack of sleep I was getting, due to early call-times by our real estate agent for showings, as well as other issues.  I complained about the size of the yard at every home we looked at.  I complained about having to put my much-loved stuff in storage.  I complained about having to take the cat out of the house in ninety degree heat on short notice.  I complained about how the entire business of having to keep the house spotless for showings while also having to pack impacted my work schedule. I complained, and complained, and complained.  Consequently, there wasn’t a moment of peace to be had: I officially became a drama llama.  I drove my Beloved bugnuts, which had some serious ramifications in the love department.  I was constantly unhappy and unfulfilled, and pretty much on a mission to get everybody else on the unhappy/unfulfilled bandwagon.

And then something wonderful happened: I stopped complaining and started explaining.  I’m still not getting enough rest, but in two more weeks, we’ll be in our new home, and I can sleep whenever I please (between unpacking and homemaking, of course).  The yard at the new house isn’t exactly huge, but you know what? It has an actual tree, and less yard just means less to mow!  I am presently staring at blank walls and mountains of boxes, true, but all the stuff that’s already in storage is probably safer for the move than the stuff presently sitting in boxes in my office, so now I wish I had packed it all from the get-go! We may have had to take the cat out of the house on short notice, but guess what? We made new friends!  Finally, in keeping the house spotless for showings, I discovered there are more fulfilling forms of work than my work-work: making Suzanne smile is the most rewarding thing in my corner of the universe!  Guess what? Now I have peace, and I realize just how deeply I’m surrounded by love, and I’m as happy and fulfilled as the loudly purring cat who is presently asleep in my lap!

Lesson #4:  Your Stuff Should Tell A Story

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two weeks (and the months prior) deciding which things to throw away, and which things to actually wrap lovingly in bubble wrap and put in boxes.  As a borderline hoarder (who is in love with a chronic purger), that has been a really tough process for me.  As an artist, I have a desperate need to be surrounded by pretty things. That has made putting things in boxes very tough.  I also tend to attach memories to things (more on that in a moment), so throwing things out is very hard for me.  As the boxes have mounted to fill our entire storage space, and now my office as well, I find myself wishing I had learned the previous three lessons sooner than now….

Because if I had, I would’ve realized: your stuff should tell your story.  If it doesn’t actively tell your story, or if it doesn’t help you tell that story, then you don’t actually need it in your life.  When I say it should tell your story, I don’t just mean that your stuff should somehow be symbolic of your actual autobiography. What I mean is way deeper than that: it should tell the story of what you wish and want your life to be.  It should represent a deep expression of those truly important priorities we talked about in lesson onepeacelove, and happiness/fulfillment.

This theory came into play a lot when I was cleaning out my desk.  Obviously, my desk is where I do all of my day-to-day work for Iaconagraphy.  It is also where I keep all of my important documents (like Michelle’s birth certificate), my myriad notebooks for online gaming, and all of my snack food.  Betwixt and between all of that, there are also a thousand dead lighters, a vast collection of character-shaped erasers, and various other flotsam and jetsam from my life (such as saved movie tickets and things “I might scrap one day”).  In short, apart from those important documents, there was a lot of crap in my desk!  There were legit six boxes of cookies in my snack drawer!  Six boxes!  

As I was going through all of that stuff, it occurred to me that the vast majority of it was autobiographical, but patently did not tell the story that I want or wish to tell.  It was autobiographical in that yes, I really like cookies, I smoke a lot (I have to, to maintain the necessary intake of coal tar to keep our disabling psoriasis on at least an even keel), I like quirky things, and I really enjoy scrapbooking.  But the story that all that stuff told was not the story I want or wish for: instead, it was a story of getting fat, being annoyed (because there are few things more annoying in life than a dead lighter), putting my own quirkiness in a drawer or on a shelf, and never having time to do the things I really enjoy.  So the cookies went to that great cookie graveyard in the sky, and the lighters joined them in the trash bag.  I kept the erasers as a reminder to stop putting those quirky parts of me in a drawer or on a shelf, and I resolved to actually scrap the things “I might scrap one day” as soon as we’re settled in our new home.

Everything I pack now is weighed against the question: does this tell my story as I wish or want my life to be?  I have a feeling this new lease on life is going to lead to a lot of throwing things away during my unpacking process!

So what dowish or want my life to be? What’s my story?  Once upon a time, there was a guy who had to die to learn how to live.  He loved the ocean, he loved a beautiful, brilliant woman (who loved him in return), and he also had the love of good friends and extended family.  And one day, he realized the ocean wasn’t someplace you go; it’s a feeling.  So he decided to surround himself, and the beautiful, brilliant woman he loved, with that feeling every day.  He realized the call of the gulls as you lie on the beach is really friends talking to friends, so he decided to be a seagull, and finally embraced his wings.  He discovered that cleaning and homemaking and creating beauty all around him gave him the peace he craved, so he decided to do those things all the time, instead of the things he had been doing, which made him perpetually cranky and constantly reminded him that he was financially poor, making him very, very sad.  He finally understood just how loved he was, and he basked in that, the way sunbathers bask in the sun.  And the dead man who learned how to live and his beautiful, brilliant woman, and his good friends and extended family lived happily ever after, and they were all fulfilled.

What’s your story?

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International Women’s Day: A Male CEO Celebrates His Boss-Lady

All elements from Iaconagraphy’s upcoming ArtLife, by Connla and Francis.

As the male CEO of a heart-centered, woman-owned business, International Women’s Day is possibly a bit more “earth-shattering” for me than for the “average male”.  My situation–that Michelle is not only my “Boss-Lady”, but also my “home address”, given that she’s how I have a life here at all, thanks to shamanic mediumship–makes this an even more profoundly personal day for me, as a “dude”.  Striking a balance in my situation is (not gonna lie) often tough: I’m often left with the feeling that I “do all the work”, while she “gets all the glory”, and sometimes, that can be disheartening; other days, that can be downright painful.  Too many days, I forget to just stop and celebrate all the wonder that is her. Today isn’t going to be one of those days!

Michelle Iacona is an amazing woman who was forced to live in a “cage” for far too many years of her life.  So many, in fact, that she almost forgot how to soar free, like the brilliant phoenix that she is.  But that’s another part of my job description:  I’m often her flight instructor!  (Well, one of them, anyway–Suzanne deserves a lot of credit in that department, too!)  All those years, having to hide the true depth and breadth of who and what she is, have left some major scars.  Scars so deep that when the tough gets going, so does she: right back into the comfortable confines of that cage.  Which is how I wound up the CEO of a woman-owned business.

I spent two decades down South, “pretending to be Mishy”, and even though we’re up North now, where we both can be completely who and what we are, two decades is a long time, and it’s hard to shake those learned patterns of behavior.  Too often, in certain circles, I still find myself aching under the strain of feminine pronouns and “keeping up appearances”.  The truly tragic thing is, so does she.  Michelle is such a powerhouse that, honestly, “her” or “she” are words-too-small-for-her; Mishy should be (and often is in our house) a pronoun in and of itself!  That “pretending” pattern, even though we’re in a position now to unlock ourselves from it, too often leads both she and I to feel that we cannot or do not get credit for what we, as distinct individuals, do or have done: I’m the primary artist here at Iaconagraphy now, as its CEO, but Michelle is profoundly gifted as an artist in her own right (she paints beautifully; she’s incredible at papercrafting; her pen and inks are a marvel), she just doesn’t really “have it in her anymore” to put it out there, publicly.  I’m the one doing ninety percent of the writing nowadays, but she has self-published four books, two of which are available here , and two more via Smashwords, is writing another (that I fear may never see the light of day), has a degree in English (with emphasis on Creative Writing), has taught creative writing classes, and has actually won numerous awards for her writing.  Those are some mighty big shoes to fill as CEO of this business, and trust me, even though I “wear” her feet, I often feel daunted in trying to fill them.

Michelle grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina where she was literally a local celebrity for too often being “the smartest person in the room”, as she puts it. With that, there came the constant (they thought) encouraging words of: “One day, you’re really going to make a name for yourself and be rich and famous”.  People expected something truly great from her; the problem is, they expected their definition of it.  Their definition of “making a name for herself” and “being rich and famous” meant getting published with a major publisher, or perhaps gaining a teaching position where she might teach something they would actually understand, or at the very least, approve of, and making tons of money from either or both.  Instead, she’s in her mid-forties, self-published (and proud of the independence that brings), and teaching this one guy (that would be me!) every day what it means to truly be alive.  And she has made a name for herself:  she’s an ordained Ollamh (Druidic vision-poet-priest), who helps guys like me every day of her life by stepping out of the way and letting us actually have one.  She might not be rich and famous by their definition, but she certainly is by the deeper definition of both of those words: simply knowing her enriches the lives of everyone who truly knows her, and she is, in fact, famous by the older definition of that word, too. She is a woman of Honor.

Too often people assume that Michelle channels as a mechanism of somehow “running away” from her life, but the truth is, while she has plenty of good reason to run away (and plenty to run away from), quite the opposite is true: Michelle channels as a mechanism of running toward, not away.  Every day that she lets me be here and run this business for her, she is running toward her greater purpose, a purpose that all of those people who fed her “one day, you’re really going to make a name for yourself and be rich and famous” can barely imagine, much less fathom.  What purpose could that possibly be, you may ask? To show everyone that the world is a much larger place than most people can begin to understand.

And that’s the purpose that it’s my job to help fulfill, and to put forward with everything I do here as CEO of Iaconagraphy.  That’s the purpose that all of the artists that work in her employ, all of whom are permitted to be here through the simple fact that Michelle can do what she does (as a shamanic trans-medium), are expected to uphold and further through their work.  That’s a huge obligation to fulfill!  And we all take it very seriously.  Because at the end of the day, Iaconagraphy is about more than one woman’s dream of finally living up to their definition of what it means for her to be great; it’s about way more than just slapping some things together and calling them art; it’s about way more than making a dime so that all of us herein can have a wee bit of financial independence and no longer feel like a burden to those whom we love and who (thankfully) love us in return.  At the end of the day, Iaconagraphy is about waking people up to their own human spirit, and realizing that their human spirit is enough.

Other people’s definitions of you and of the world don’t matter.  They aren’t going to pay your bills, and they certainly aren’t going to teach you how to fly; how to really be free.  No: they’re only going to oppress you and cage you.  My Boss-Lady has been teaching me that for twenty-four years, and I am deeply humbled that she has entrusted me with taking the helm to share her message with all of you.  Every man in the world has had a woman, somewhere in his life, who has taught him how to more deeply be.  Women have a way of teaching that lesson to the world that most men simply don’t. Maybe it’s because they are more tightly bound to the process of Creation itself; maybe it’s because they are genetically designed to nurture and give life. I don’t know; those are questions too large for me to answer.  But what I do know, from twenty-four years of being gifted with inhabiting a woman’s skin, is something perhaps even more profound:  deeply being has nothing to do with the exterior skin that you wear, and everything to do with how gracefully you wear it!  I haven’t always worn Michelle’s as gracefully as I should, but I’m learning, day by day.  And I’m learning from her….

 

 

 

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ArtLife: Thinking In Color

Digital background paper, spirals, string cluster, and photo mask from Imramma by Connla and Duncan (upcoming). Lone hawk feather from Taliesin’s January Gathering: Winter Wonder: A Winter’s Tale, currently available.

“Creativity is not about painting a picture or producing an object; it is about wrestling with demons and angels in the depths of our psyche and daring to name them, to put them where they can breathe and have space and we can look at them….Art as meditation becomes our basic prayer form.” –Matthew Fox

Somewhere along the way, most of us get convinced that we are not artists: we start to suffer from I-can’t-even-draw-a-straight-line-syndrome, courtesy of a teacher, a parent, or some other mentor (or even the world-at-large) who told us we “lacked talent”.  But ultimately, being an artist has absolutely nothing to do with “talent”, and everything to do with our willingness to name and claim what makes us us.  When we think of prayer, whether coming from a Christian or Pagan/Heathen background, we don’t tend to think of that as something that requires “talent”; it’s simply a dialogue, between you and Deity; no “talent” required.  Prayer is also a process of naming and claiming what makes us us:  we send up our praise, our gratitude, our deepest petitions, and trust that they will be heard/received; possibly even answered.  Art–true art–requires that same level of trust; it does not require “talent”.

Certainly, “talent” or ability helps, but it’s not an absolute requirement to be an artist: We are all born into this world as artists, and if you require physical proof of that, simply watch the average three year old at play with a pack of crayons and a coloring book.  They see absolutely no need to stay within the lines. Instead, they see an image that they like, and then they think in color: the color becomes what defines the image for them, not the outlines that make up the image.  Lines which make up a drawing–which define a space as this or that “thing” that has been drawn–that may take a certain amount of “talent” to create, but color?  Our world positively blooms with it in unabashed array, everywhere you look, with no rulesno judgments, and nothing to contain it!  You thought in color once, too, though you may have to dig pretty far back in the recesses of your mind to even call up a scant memory of that time.  I’m very blessed that I never let the world stop me from thinking that way–from thinking in color.  That’s why I’m able to sit here and write this blog, and create all of these wonderful assets for you to use as you rediscover your artist within (and likewise for the rest of the artists here at Iaconagraphy).  Today, I want to help you return to thinking in color, too, so that we can start reclaiming your artist within.

To begin that process, we’re going to start with a coloring page (please click the image below to download):

 

Now, print out your free coloring page and go color it. Seriously, I’ll wait….

Oh, you’re back? Great!

So how did that feel? Did you stay within the lines, or did you find yourself going all over the place? Did you criticize yourself when you didn’t manage to stay within the lines? What colors did you use to bring this image to life? What do those colors mean to you? What significance do they have in your life?

Realizing what those colors mean in your life is the first step to thinking in color!  The second step, of course, is to stop criticizing yourself when you color outside the lines!

For example, I use a lot of olive green in my work here for Iaconagraphy and in my own artist journaling–all different shades of it:

Background paper, journaler, and photo mask from January Gathering: Winter Wonder: Winterfell by Daniel for Iaconagraphy; other elements created specifically for this project.

All elements from Samsara by Connla, currently available.

To me, olive means growth and prosperity. A little online color correspondence research results in the following meanings for olive:

olive green: space, wisdom, feminine leadership qualities, peace through compassion for humanity, new hope, acceptance, understanding, celebrating individuality, compassionate empowerment, a bridge between the will and the heart, balanced duality, health, youth, good luck, money

When I put my personal meanings for olive together with the meanings I discovered in my color correspondence research I arrive at “in order to grow and prosper, I need to balance my own duality when it comes to my more feminine leadership qualities, while at the same time practicing compassionate empowerment of myself and others.” See what I did there? Now you try it with one of the colors you used on your coloring page. Neat, huh?  You just unlocked the first doorway to your artist within.

Want to unlock some more of your doors?  Stay tuned for details on our upcoming ecourse, ArtLife, which we hope to launch at the end of March! In the meantime, you can explore more of your personal artistry through art journaling with Samsara, which is currently available. Maybe start with this prompt:

I think in full color!

If you do go out on a limb and create an AJ page with Samsara, we’d love to see it! Come on over to our Facebook Page and share! (If you patently do not Facebook, you can either attempt to add yours below, or email your art to us at sicilianomishy@yahoo.com; please put ATTN: Connla in the subject line!)