Accepting life’s plot twists

“Life is a story, if you wouldn’t read the one you’re telling, write a different ending.” Good Life Project

 “Would you want to read the story of your life?” Jonathan Fields asks in the Good Life Project podcast.  You know what, I actually wouldn’t and I realised in that moment that having taken a different path the plot of my story diverged and was reshaped.

I had a plan mapped out and before the plan could be realised, circumstances dictated I go another way. For several years I have craved to go where my heart had planned and now I realise a strong physical yearning has taken up residence in my core.

As the author of my life I know I can edit and rewrite my narrative at any stage. I am reassured that the strong pull I feel is confirmation that I haven’t missed the opportunity. That it isn’t too late to go where I had intended. That I may still develop that arc more fully and weave new adventures into the fabric of the tale.

Fields’ question helped me realise that even though the current plot line I’m living isn’t the most absorbing, it is purposeful and so one not to regret or lament. I realised too that there is still colour and texture and taste and smell. It it might not be the stuff of legend but it’s real and it’s honest and it’s part of the short time I have on this magnificent planet and therefore not to be erased or footnoted.

Armed with this reframing I understood I was still the main writer, that I could confidently tell my story identifying its richness and look forward to the time I can take that other path and explore it more fully.

Are you shining the best light on your story to make it worth reading?

 

 

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Scaling new heights in Rome

Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world the way they’ve been told to.  Alan Keightly

I’ve climbed a few mountains in my travels. I’ve scaled the 1237 steps to the Tiger cave temple in Thailand and made my way up several other steep staircases to magnificent temples, castles and rooftops all around the world, but the hardest climb I’ve ever made was up just 28 wooden steps in Rome.

My journey up the Scala Sancta, the Holy Stairs, also known as Pilate’s Stairs was one made on my knees.

The Scala Sancta are housed in one of the most important papal sanctuaries in the Roman Catholic Church. I grew up indoctrinated in the Catholic faith but was never aware these stairs existed. By luck and a Lonely Planet guide-book, I discovered them on a trip to Italy some years ago.  Early one morning I set off on foot to locate the very unassuming building that houses this treasured relic.

It is thought Jesus climbed these stairs, once part of Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem, on the day he was sentenced to death. The stairs were later transported to Rome by Saint Helena, she secured a number of other holy relics also. The Holy Stairs were housed in a few places before the current sanctuary. The marble has been covered with wooden treads to protect them from wear and at certain points there are little glass windows that offer a view to the marble beneath and to stains, thought to be the actual blood of Jesus.

The truly devout will think poorly of me, for I had not worshipped in a church for many years nor had I knelt in prayer for some time, though my faith was strong. Having travelled across the world and appreciated the peace and quietude of other sacred and blessed places, I felt moved to join a small number of morning visitors up the stairs.

What I didn’t realise, despite my sincerity and solemn approach, was that to truly pay homage, to honour and respect the sanctity of the chapel and the man to whom it stands in remembrance of, one had to go slowly, with deep reverence. Each of the faithful climbers offered a prayer on every step. Not a short and sweet prayer but a decent, well-considered prayer. Many worked rosaries in their hands. I later discovered many climb the stairs to be forgiven for sins and seek favour with God.

With a genuine respect I proceeded, offering some long memorised prayers alternating with personal prayers of gratitude and thanks. It was a humbling and moving experience.

At the top of the stairs is a private, papal chapel adorned with 13th Century frescos and a 4th century painting of Christ, thought to have been begun by Saint Luke and completed by an angel. This Sancta Sanctorum, is viewed through a grated opening.

Descending is much easier with a set of steps on either side of the Holy Stairs. These can also be used by those interested in viewing the chapel who do not wish to or cannot ascend the Holy Stairs on their knees.

Once reserved as a place for popes the Scala Sancta and the Sancta Sanatorium are now open to the public for a small entrance fee. When visiting ensure appropriate and modest attire is worn. Arriving early in the morning there were no tourists in sight. In fact the whole piazza was empty.

It is easy to be critical and questioning when faced with monuments of faith. Is the story true? Did a man called Jesus climb these stairs? Were they once part of a palace in Jerusalem? Are they stained with blood? Whose blood is it? Regardless of faith, regardless of belief or facts; historically and anthropologically this experience made my mind buzz with intrigue. It served as a gesture in humility a chance to count my blessings and reflect on the sweetness of life. I hobbled away more enamoured with life than before my visit, which is saying something — I was in Rome after all.

Have you been somewhere that moved you to experience the world in a different way?

The spaces we inhabit are extensions of us

“Houses are like the human beings that inhabit them.”
— Victor Hugo

I have owned only two houses in my life. The first for seventeen years. It was heart wrenching to leave having inhabited the space for so long, seen my children grow there and begun my married life there. It was my first really grown up thing to own.

It flooded you see. After a huge renovation that transformed the house it was inundated with filthy flood waters in 2011. While others left the area, part of our house was still habitable but changed. The sense of peace and tranquility we’d established felt sullied. Each time the rains came, panic rose in my chest. Would we flood again?

So having loved that space and the surrounding area we made the difficult decision to leave. Four years on, I feel really comfortable and settled. I inhabit a new space. A large, open, light space. On a hill. Each nook and cranny of this space reflects our personalities. It’s comfortable and convenient, close to the city and facilities yet tucked away from the hustle and bustle with a forest close by.

Now, my beloved and I find ourselves at a new juncture of our lives. Nearing retirement, with a moderate debt still in play. We have discussed ways to become financially independent. One solution is to downsize. My anxiety levels rise at the thought. I feel like I belong here. There are so many positive reasons to stay. There are so many features of where we live we couldn’t find elsewhere for a fraction of the price.

We’re at a crossroad.

I know it’s only a house we inhabit and that it’s the people you are with that make life full and worthwhile. I do know that. I also like comfort and beauty and space. It is more than just the house too.  One becomes settled in a place, part of the landscape, especially when that landscape appeals to the senses, as the river did (before it flooded) and the forest now does.

There is another element in our mix. Do we stay in this city, my beloved’s hometown, or do we move to a much-loved holiday destination in the Blue Mountains? Crossing state borders as well as a new threshold.

Why is it so hard to make these decisions about a material possession? Well, I think it’s because, for me at least, my home is my safe place. My retreat from the world and a place I can craft to express myself. A house is not just a place to inhabit but a place that creatively reflects who we are. Location too plays a role, as mentioned earlier. Where we live is as much an extension of us, or we become and extension of it, as much as the house itself.

What is special about the place you inhabit?

When your buttons are pushed

When peacemaking doesn’t work and you can’t deal with the button pusher, or your own buttons you just have to abandon your adult sensibilities and join forces with your  inner child.          Shannyn Steel

Every now and then someone comes along and pushes all your buttons.  Those great big red buttons, best used in case of emergencies. The ones best avoided due to the inevitable ugliness that can arise. Sometimes those very same people push those very same buttons on a seemingly regular occurrence.  The worst button pushers, in my book, are the stealthy ones.  The ones who won’t actually confront you, who actively avoid direct contact with you but make a raft of comments to others, provide input when you are not present and actively and subtly undermine you.  They just seem to make those comments, dismiss and devalue you and your work in a calm, off-handed yet deeply cutting way.  Their many small jibes, combined, are as strong and powerful as an upfront all out attack. Those buttons, once pushed, can send you reeling, into an internal rage or plummeting into an abyss of self-doubt and torture.

Of course, psychologists, and those whose buttons haven’t been pushed in the moment, will tell us the other person cannot make us feel a particular way, it’s our choice how we react to the momentum they use to push our buttons. They are, after all, our buttons.  I agree and good advice suggests we attend to our buttons.

My first question in situations like this is always – where am I at fault?  Is there some justification for the way this person is behaving (not that I condone bullying but behaviour happens in a context). It’s hard to stay calm and so terribly easy to dissolve into a trade of unpleasantness, behind the person’s back. But it’s wise not to go there, apparently (but by golly it does feel good to let it all out with a trusted friend). Sage advice also suggests we avoid confrontation.  I’m onboard with that, though taking a direct and civil approach has yielded good outcomes for me in the past.

When calm reason fails, peacemaking doesn’t work and the professional advice just don’t cut it, I abandon my adult sensibilities and join forces with my inner child.

I actively avoid my inner child as a rule but she comes out to play, in ways never intended by the gurus, coaches and psychologists, when flummoxed by a button pusher and when I’ve failed to deal with my own buttons. At times like these, thank goodness they don’t happen often, I feel my demeanour slip and I slide dizzyingly into a place where biting, kicking, stamping and yelling feel like the best course of action.  Of course, this isn’t entirely appropriate in many settings (mind you, I haven’t actually succumbed and staged this drama for real) but no one else sees the montage playing in my head, right!  The physical and mental relief that would flow from a good old tantrum might just have a much-needed transformative effect.  That got me thinking about healthy ways adults could unleash the inner beast of frustration in socially acceptable ways.

Running is good.  People tell me drinking helps them but that doesn’t meet the healthy criteria (and this was all about avoiding self punishment), getting out in nature and sitting on the grass under a tree rates highly, walking too. Writing your frustrations is suggested by many (hey, I’m a genius and didn’t know it).  Talking to a friend and a myriad of other great tips exist to relieve the frustration and stress of a situation.

Exercise and physical movement get high marks by a lot of sources.  I guess we all knew that, though in a light bulb moment the realisation dawned that if our emotions, our stress, our anxiety can trigger chemical reactions which effect our physical health causing inflammation, a weakened immune system and more, then reversing the equation could have a similarly positive effect. Combined with the instinctual need to throw a tantrum I hit upon the single best outlet for dealing with the aftermath of your buttons being pushed.

When peacemaking doesn’t work and you can’t deal with the button pusher, or your own buttons. When you can’t seem to move on and things are weighing you down and you just have to punch the shit out of something;  go a round with a boxing bag. You can hit and kick and yell and grunt and flay about until you have nothing left to give. It’s acceptable adult behaviour, and it’s a damned good salve for a raging mind, a wounded heart and a dinted ego. Plus, there are a whole raft of physical benefits from the release of endorphins. A good old round with a boxing bag can not only reduce the stress that’s mounted but stave off anxiety, boost self-esteem and improve sleep too.

Have you stumbled on any unique and successful ways to cope with an awkward situation and regain your equilibrium?

On a serious note: if you are experiencing workplace bullying or are in a difficult situation, don’t ignore it.  It won’t go away on its own.  Seek the assistance of the workplace advisor, a health care professional or a skilled and trusted colleague. 

 

 

Remembering and giving thanks

The bugle is sounded; it’s playing The Last Post.
The diggers spring to attention when they hear that mournful note.
They have two minutes silence.
You don’t hear a sound.
That’s in respect for the soldier in the ground.

The diggers wear a flower, the poppy is red
They throw it in the grave when a soldier he is dead.

Joe McSweeny – Soldier

 

War 1914

What a mug I have been
fighting in the war for the Queen
trying to dodge the enemy lead
jumping over the stinking dead.
Someone said you got good pay;
the mighty sum of four bob a day.

You chase the enemy day and night
strike me lucky, they give you a fright.
There are bursting shells of every type,
this goes on all the night.
I feel so crook and half fed,
I’d give a quid for a night in bed.
My legs are aching, my feet are sore
I have a toothache and a very sore jaw.

The Sergeant said, “In you go.”
The trenches is cold and covered in snow.
You shake and shiver to early morn
Out you hop, over the top, at the break of dawn.
Now the big guns boom and bark
they send big shells out in the dark.

Now the Diggers brave and true,
they hop over the top, same as you.
They fight the enemy, they were brave,
the hungry Digger without a shave.
Now they laugh and give a cheer
we would give a quid for an Aussie beer.

The soldier’s life it’s like being in hell
They take him out and give him a spell
They march him round and he is feeling fine
Seven days later, he is back in the line.

The Aussie boys are fighting machines,
They proved that by beating the enemy at the city of Messines,
In the trenches in Belgium and on the fields to the south
They Howitzer the enemy and bayoneted them out.

Now the war is over you can hear people say
‘Thanks to the Diggers, we will keep it that way’.

The bloke that wrote this was a backwoods kid
Everybody laughed at whatever he did.
Now he is old, his hair is grey
and if he was writing for money he would starve the next day.

Now you have heard my prattle and chatter,
No wonder I am as mad as a hatter.

Joe McSweeny

The bloke who wrote this was my great-grandfather.  A quiet and gentle man when I knew him.  He wrote a few ‘poems’ about his time in the war and while there are only several pages of notes and few words the essence, between the larrikin humour and the now political incorrectness, reveals a horror I hope never to face.

Lest we forget.

Returning to Maycomb County


“For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seethe.”  Isaiah 21:6

The release of Harper Lee’s second book, Go Set a Watchman was a hot topic of conversation a couple of years ago.  I missed it.  Somehow I was otherwise distracted and so didn’t read anything about it or engage in any conversations other than the passing acknowledgement that it was available.

I came across a hardcover copy last year in a second-hand book store for $5:00.  It sat neglected for months until this last fortnight, when I could not settle into a book after reading a riveting crime novel.  Within moments of realising I was spending time with Atticus and Scout, I was drawn in and satisfactorily engaged.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s blockbuster, has long held a spot high on my list of favourite books.  Having to teach it to reluctant teenagers did not tarnish its lustre.  While I had a significant adjustment to make to the older Scout in Go Set a Watchman I was compensated by recollections of her childhood which provided a good and detailed account of the passage of time in the lives of many of the main characters.

My beloved Atticus, gentle, wise and honourable, who reminds me of my grandfather, was not as forward facing as I’d have liked.  And I’ll admit I was at first a little disoriented and confused by his portrayal, though I was delighted by the large roles of the critical and complex Aunt Zandra and the charming and captivating Uncle John.  I missed Jem and Dill and Calpurnia, though Lee cleverly fed me enough information to propel me forward.  This is not a novel about Atticus, neither perhaps was To Kill a Mockingbird though I made it so.  Go Set a Watchman is a coming of age novel about one Miss Jean Louise Finch. She probably narrated her 1930’s childhood summer at the age she appears in this current novel.

Though the narrative was disturbing and meandering it held my interest. It’s a powerful and brutal bildungsroman.  It’s a brutal coming of age for Scout and a brutal read for devotees who find the idyllic Maycomb ravaged and transformed by historical events.  The ample dialogue caused me some consternation and rereading when I confused speakers. The novel ends satisfactorily with an invitation for Scout to return to Maycomb, to join forces with others, who, through strength of character, righteousness and will, could set the moral compass for Maycomb and be the watchmen of the town.

What was your experience, returning to Maycomb County?

Using tech to keep track of resolutions

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ”
― Anaïs Nin

“Good resolutions are like babies crying in church. They should be carried out immediately.”
― Charles M. Sheldon

Every year between 41 and 63% of us, depending on the country you are from, make resolutions, set goals and have shiny new aspirations for the year ahead. January is usually a month of promise. All our plans are firmly in our heart and mind, they are enacted with zeal. February sees us still buoyed by our visions, by March we are slipping away slightly from the goal. In April, May, June that little voice in our head tells us we really should get back on track and do that stuff we’d planned. Sadly, as the months roll on the resolution is a dim memory, discarded detritus. Most resolutions don’t see the year out.  80% are forgotten, sidestepped or bypassed in 3 months.  Does that mean it’s futile to set resolutions?  I don’t think so, though I think there are better ways to improve life.

I gave up on the resolution idea a long time ago.  It  didn’t work for me, I sucked at it and it added more pressure than was necessary to a life already complicated in other ways. I opted instead for making a bucket list to support a well lived life.  It was a long list of joyful activities, challenges and pursuits to colour and flavour the year ahead. No pressure, no strict deadlines, no do or die expectations. Some years later I started creating a photographic montage, a treasure map of sorts, a nice visual reminder of those bucket list items which I started to call my love list (giving it a more positive spin). The visual cue was  successful. I achieved way more on my love list than ever before. It was appealing, motivating and in view each day.  Some time in between I used post it notes and a big wall chart to plot my goals and progress.  The visual was good. Adding, updating and moving notes to the progressed section was appealing.  I experimented with boldly writing goals on the shower screen in non-permanent pen.  In bright colours my yearly goals were accompanied by affirmations and uplifting quotes.  There was no missing them. They were quite ‘in your face’.  I liked that too. Though I’m not sure I saw any progress.

This year, as I contemplated my visual treasure map, my son intervened.  He sent me an invitation to view his goal list for the year.  He was building accountability by sharing his goals and aspirations.  I was honoured that he would consider me a worthy ally in his quest.  The vehicle he chose to keep track of his goals is a tool called Trello.  He encouraged me to use it too. My first challenge for the year.

I have a fairly open mind when it comes to technology but I’m awkward with it.  I love pen and paper, I love building things and crafting things by hand.  So I wasn’t at first impressed by it.  It felt flat and bland and simply too hard for me to work out.  Until one Saturday morning with a cup of tea I decided to explore a little more.  I moved away from the way my son had used it and painted my own adventure.  I created something I liked. I added some images for appeal and was quite happy with my creation. Doubt lingered however. I wasn’t convinced it would be as immediate, arresting and useful as my good old A5 photographic treasure map. It required a different set of behaviours and habits on my part for it to work.  I can report, that two months later, with a little persistence and a change of attitude, I’m hooked.

I am pretty sure Trello was never designed for a middle-aged woman (despite how young at heart, vibrant and energetic she may be) to create her love list for the year.  It is, however, a brilliant project management tool that can aid the smallest personal project through to the very largest corporate projects.  It’s basically a great big empty wall you can fill with ‘post it’  notes to keep track of your stuff. You can add comments, create lists, add labels, cue due dates, send messages to other people in your project, label progress and that’s just in the free version. For a small fee there are loads more tools at user disposal.  Oh, gosh, that sounds like an advertisement, doesn’t it?  It’s not meant to be.  I simply wanted to share a new tool that is working for me that may work for you.

It’s an extremely flexible tool too.  Once you create your “post it notes” you can move them around and order them, you can insert new ones at will, discard them, batch or group them.   I am finding it a useful place to hold my ideas, I can share them, I can ask for input from my son who I share my board with.  My initial fears and concerns have been allayed.  I am referring to it regularly to keep track of my progress and add new adventures.  It’s fun and engaging.  I could use it to plan an overseas holiday.  I could also have used it to plan the multi million dollar project I am managing at work.  If you are looking for a way to motivate your goal setting or a neat project management tool, check out Trello.

If, like me, you are a novice with technology, keep Walt Disney’s sentiment in mind – don’t be afraid to keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things. Being curious leads us down new paths and who knows where that will lead?

 

Pass the popcorn ― how to have more fun

Uimage

It’s crazy, waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.  ― Shannyn Steel

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that nobody is here forever. You have to live for the moment, each and every day . . . the here, the now.”    ― Simone Elkeles

I’ve been marking time. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting to find the thing that would propel me into the joyful, purposeful life I’d hoped for. Toward the end of last year the penny dropped and I suddenly understood what I already knew but wasn’t able to acknowledge. It’s crazy waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.

After all that waiting I’ve finally twigged that the trick to this whole fulfilment thing is to get out there and do stuff that I want more of in life. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A startling discovery, made as a result of this brain wave, is that the one thing I want more of in my life right now is not time, not spiritual connection, not more authentic relationships, though that would be nice too. What I want more of in my life right now is fun. Yes, fun. Now don’t get me wrong. My life is not devoid of enjoyment. There are plenty of things that bring me joy; spotting a flower dewy with raindrops; the smell, texture and colour of soggy leaves on the forest floor after a thunderstorm; the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of kookaburras laughing from the great pine tree in my neighbour’s yard. Those things and more fill me with joy. I also have many pleasant ways to pass the time that would constitute enjoyment too. Long strolls on the beach, reclining with a good book, baking a batch of cookies for my beloved’s lunch. Those things are enjoyable to me. What I’m after is in a whole different category.

Fun to me is more outrageous than enjoyment. It’s buzzy and exciting and perhaps more “in the moment” rather than a slow burn. Do you see the difference?

I have begun gathering a list of big fun and little fun activities in earnest.  Big fun activities are those that may cost a bit of money and require a little planning like indoor skydiving, parasailing, swinging on a trapeze. Little fun is something that could be undertaken on the spur of the moment, is relatively inexpensive and something that could raise the fun factor on any given day. Such as jumping on a swing in the local park and throwing your head back to drink in the sky.

Maybe you’d like to do the same. As ideas come to mind they could be written on a piece of paper, thrown into a big bowl with the intention of pulling an idea from the ‘popcorn’ bowl to infuse life with fun.  I’m going to experience ‘popcorn’ fun weekly and plan big fun, depending on the scale of it, monthly or quarterly. Oh, and I am going to scheduled those big fun activities to give me something to look forward to and to ensure having more  fun becomes a reality rather than a hope, wish or a dream.

Here are some popcorn fun ideas my friend Margaret, a kid at heart who  hasn’t lost sight of how much fun life can be, shared with me to start filling the bowl. I hope you get some ideas to add to your list.

Build a sandcastle or mermaid on the beach.
Water pistol shooting
Play SNAP (the card game)
Bubble blowing
Slide on a flying fox
Chew bubble gum and pop it.
Watch a funny cartoon
Singing in the shower
Dancing nude under the moon
Walk barefooted to the park
Feed the birds
Read Dr Seuss aloud
Pull weird faces and take pictures to replay
Walk on stilts
Dress up as a chicken
Three legged race
Sand dune sliding on cardboard

Everything old is new again

A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it.
Job 4:12

I faltered as I wandered through a vintage retro store. I didn’t trip, though I did stumble; on a message, a soft whispery message. A message that fluttered so delicately on the surface of my mind that I wasn’t sure I’d caught it. It intrigued me. I grappled to hold it, teetering between understanding and ignorance.

The message, a slogan almost, comprised just five little words: Everything Old is New Again.  Now that’s not so odd, given where I was. Vintage, retro and antique items are hugely popular again.  Inflated prices and crowds in store attest to that. But this message wasn’t about the items I was browsing. It was a message to reflect upon, one to shine a light on life and to learn from.

My short inner struggle lead me to realise that at this time of year in particular, when people are looking to make change and improvements, that we should look within rather than outward.  This was a prompt to look back and remember the strategies, the habits, the tools, the rituals and routines that helped us reach our goals in the past and to reinstate those that can help us achieve the curent changes we long to make?

From observation, and acknowledging my own behaviour, we too often seek the answers elsewhere when in fact, we so very often hold the key to unlocking the casket of treasures we are seeking. What routines did you have in place in the past that supported a better work life balance?  What habits did you formerly employ to stay fit? What rituals have you previously used to address overwhelm? How did you deal with difficult people successfully before? We let go of successful strategies for all sorts of reasons; they were no longer necessary, we tried a different way, we got neglectful.  It’s okay. Life happens.

If you find yourself looking for a quick fix, an off the shelf no fail plan or someone to help ‘fix’ things, take a moment to reflect. You might find you have a wealth of knowledge and actions you can revive to make your current goal a success.  Everything old could be new again — only the best bits of course.

Harnessing the power of your emotions

… let’s harness the power of emotion to get things done, to lead fulfilling lives of integrity and adventure.  ― Shannyn Steel

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.”

― Helen Keller

I have completed a number of small projects around the house already this year and I feel a great sense of achievement. To actually get in and tick them off my ‘want to do’ list has made me feel, well, good.  I thought the emotion might be pride. I don’t  like the connotations connected to pride. On closer inspection I realise it’s joy I feel.  If the power of joy can help get things done and keep me motivated, I’m choosing joy as my motivator this year.

There is some research behind engaging with your emotions to create change in your life. Dr Tara Brach says we can use the eight main emotions to help us reach our goals.  As rational beings we require the power of emotional engagement to propel us and keep us motivated. For instance, someone might think the local creek needs to be cleaned up (rational thinking) but it may not be until their disgust (emotion) becomes the powerful motivator that they join the ‘clean up Australia day’, or similar, activity to restore it. Another’s anger may be the spark that leads them to campaign for equality. Love is powerful emotion that drives people to do incredible things for others.  Instead of shying away from or hiding our emotions, let’s harness the power of emotion to get things done, to lead fulfilling lives of integrity and adventure.

How might you engage with fear, anger, disgust, shame, sadness, love, joy and surprise to move you to take positive and purposeful action this year?