Is it Confidence?

Carroll’s “Alice Nelson”

I return to my dog-eared copy of Louis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” time and time again. To ground myself in a reality that has little to do with the real Mad Hatters out there. And because, in my opinion, the main character Alice Nelson gives constant inspiration. Take, for example, Alice’s views about birthdays. Convention, she says, tells us that we get just one day a year to celebrate; but what about the “364 Unbirthdays”? Without a cynical bone in her body, Alice urges us to consider each day a gift ready to be opened. The entire tale (and that of “Through the Looking Glass”, for that matter) is – among other things – about Life: unpredictability, precariousness, and sometimes crushing loneliness and heartache. But it’s also about daring and adventure. Living bravely. Seeking ‘experience’.

Where I live in California, people have begun dragging out the lights and decorations for fall and winter holidays. (Some of my neighbors, I notice, have given up on Nuisance and leave these ornaments in place all year. I’ve decided that I like seeing reindeer striking a pose on hot summer days.) I don’t “do” holiday decorations, but I love to use small lights, paper lanterns, whirlygigs, and banners that I enjoy making myself (some are Japanese print-fabrics, others look Balinese) in my yard.

My Confident Banners

I was recently switching-out my Summer, for my Fall banners (a brown-gold batik pattern) late in the afternoon, when a friend and neighbor walking by stopped to say Hello. She complimented me on the “fall” fabric I’d chosen, then began describing how much my mini lights and banners and whirlygigs meant to her. (Huh?) My neighbor saw “artistry, creativity, boldness, and confidence.” Confidence? Yes, she said. I demurred. It’s just a kind of self-expression, I said. Really: the banners are just something that I like to see swaying in the breeze. Movement. But my friend said, “Oh, I’d never feel confident enough to display anything I made in our yard.” Ok. I wanted to be encouraging, but her confession seemed so…Sad. Longing to create, but not feeling your creations were beautiful enough for your own eyes and enjoyment, in your own yard. Who squashed your dreams, and how long ago?

Life’s moments can be very synchronistic; the Universe playful, and even a bit inclined to give a Smackdown to Smugness. Several days later (post- banner chat with my neighbor), I was in a group-dynamics class, doing a kind of ice-breaker activity. I found myself with a large sheet of brown paper and a stack of rainbow colored markers. I was creating a face (already criticizing it as child-like and pretty ‘lame’). At the end of our session, the leader of the class – also well known mixed-media painter in my community — said, “So, you’re an artist as well as a writer?” She pointed down to my psychadelic caricature of a woman’s face, all blues, pinks and greens. “I’d love to see some of your other work.” (Wait – is she messing with me?) She seemed sincere…


And suddently it hit me. I looked back down at the face I’d created and thought, Yes, indeed: it’s a bit of ‘Picasso’ right there. Confidence. One person, willing to share what they see, what they feel in seeing what you’ve created. Confidence to explore; to have an adventure; to take a risk. How wonderful to feel it from both sides: giving, and receiving. How humbling to know that I need it, just as much as you do.

Passion and Purpose

Talking with a friend this morning, I asked her how her job was going. She’s a psychiatric nurse at a residential facility for troubled kids. You might assume that she has both good, and bad days in this role; you’d be correct – as she freely admits. As with other people-serving professions, there’s huge potential for burnout in her job. Nevertheless, each time we chat, she says “I’m so lucky !” My friend explains:  she never dreads going to work; and, unlike some of her colleagues, ‘Fridays’ aren’t the Finish lines of end of the week exhaustion. My friend’s ‘luck’, according to her, was entering a career that’s consistently satisfying and motivating – even on bad days.

For many people I know, work’s just a part of Adulting. My own peer group didn’t give it much thought after high school. They went to college, or, they went to work. They took jobs that were offered. More than a few of them ‘ended up’ in careers not remotely connected to their college majors. Others entered a family business, while still others took minimum wage jobs right out of high school and relied on promotions over the years. They married, had families, got divorced, sent kids off to college, planned for retirement. In the midst of all that, I can’t recall ever discussing, or being taught about the need for Passion and Purpose.

Growing up when I did, I’m sure that my parents and grandparents probably would have laughed me right out of the room if I’d suggested I needed time to contemplate my Life Purpose. Moving out of my family home after high school, while I was still only 17, I took a part time job while I went to community college. I lived on a meager salary, and on my deceased mother’s Social Security (until I turned 18 and was cut-off). So busy trying to survive and make something of myself, I still didn’t have the luxury of thinking about Passion and Purpose. And yet, I got the schooling and the career that I, too, feel “lucky” to have had. How did this happen?

As I’ve grown older, clarity around Passion and Purpose has made me realize that anyone can discover both, and everyone deserves to discover both. How often do we ask ourselves, especially as Life grows more complicated and demanding, What do I feel most passionately about? How often do we then give ourselves permission to do, and be whatever that is ? Alana Fairchild (one of many practitioners who’ve interpreted the teachings of the poet Rumi) believes that each person on our planet has her, his, or their unique “soul-light”. She writes, “Every light holds its own beauty, and every light has a particular task to fulfill. We’re given a built-in reminder of this. That reminder is our Passion.”

Honoring ourselves, honoring and trusting what our instincts tell us about our true natures is the path to discovering our Passion. Our Passion, in turn, leads us to the Purpose (or task) we’re meant to fulfill here on planet Earth. One doesn’t need to believe in or rely upon a deity or higher power to discover Passion while writing poetry, playing music, sculpting, dancing, photography, painting, teaching, building, helping a child, animal or an elderly person. The list of passionate pursuits is as endless as there are humans on the earth. Fairchild continues, “We may be fearful that with  (following our) Passion there are no guarantees of success, or that we may even be throwing away a stable life to pursue our Passion.” 

It might be true that pursuing one’s Passion, one’s dream of How Life Can Be, can feel risky at first. Some might seek Passion through a hobby that becomes a livelihood; others might keep that “day job” and allow passion a part-time existence another way. But Passion and Purpose are what’s really behind the “luck” so many of us feel in our daily work lives. What better way to greet each and every morning? It all starts with finding meaning in your own beating heart; loving your heart for its life-giving energy. Accepting that your life has incalculable meaning in, to, and for the World. What stirs you? Do that. Be that. Start right now…

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