May 20, 2020No Comments

How’s That Working for You?

The three of us were discussing the unspoken rules we live by, and what happens when other people don’t play by those rules. The question: How do you respond when God puts people in your life who don’t fit into your plans, make you feel out of control, or upset your way of doing things? We took turns answering, as we had for the six previous questions in the study guide. My response: I double down, trying to keep things in control through my own perfect behavior, and when that doesn’t work, I get frustrated/defeatist and shut down/try to disappear. 

There was a pause, then one friend asked, “How’s that working out for you?” I replied, “Not well,” with a self-deprecating laugh. It was a question posed to me many times, and my answer was ready and worn-in. 

She replied, “Well, it’s working on some level. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be doing it.” 

I opened my mouth, inhaling, preparing to respond. But no words came. After a beat, I said, “Right… I guess… I guess that’s true.” I scribbled down her words and our discussion moved onto the next question. 

Later that evening, as I stood over the stove making dinner, I considered my friend’s question and comment. It was said with a good natured laugh, a recognition that she, too, experienced the tension of knowing something doesn’t work and continuing to do it anyway. I rinsed broccoli crowns, moving them one at a time from colander to cutting board to be trimmed. 

I recalled a series of moments with my ex-boyfriend. These moments all tangled together in my memory, the pattern identical in each. He did something that bothered me. I didn't know how to talk about it, so I turned it back on myself, carefully figuring out what I did wrong. I’d come to him and humbly apologize for the role I’d played in the situation. And then I waited. I looked at him, expecting him to read my mind and apologize for his nonsense. 

It never worked. Not once. And yet I kept doing it, as if a perfectly executed apology would enable him to read my mind and know what I wanted. An impulse of conscience told me that this was an effective means of communication, and if he wasn’t getting the message, well, I should just try harder. 

He should just know, I thought to myself each time, not knowing that my habit of obsessively turning interactions over in my head looking for my mistakes was not a habit most people shared.

After preheating the oven, I tossed the broccoli in olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. I pulled out my non-stick pan and heated a drizzle of oil. I cut open the package of chicken and patted it dry with a paper towel, preparing it for the pan. Thinking back on slight after slight, adding up like so many papercuts, it was a particular feat of dysfunction that the relationship lasted as long as it did. 

My method, though entirely ineffective, provided me with a way around the discomfort of confrontation. I remembered the chronic turning in on myself, my refusal to direct my annoyance and anger at another person.

I didn’t see it at the time; I was too far down the rabbit hole, buried under an endless list of rules for how the world works that I pieced together in other moments. My place in the world was one that didn’t make a fuss, that didn’t ask for anything, that didn’t feel anything other than fine. 

I saw it, rifling through my memory as I pushed and turned the knob on the stove and considering how desperately I clung to my method and my rules. But I didn’t see it at the time. I thought of that moment and the ones to come. How many of my habits continued to work in a way that was not healthy for me or my relationships?

What wasn't I seeing that would one day become obvious? And why did I expect myself to know it all at once, right then and there, as if thinking hard enough could illuminate the path to perfected control.

I slid the chicken into the pan. The corresponding sizzle and lack of leaping flecks of oil confirmed that the pan was hot enough. Five minutes on this side, the recipe told me. Then five minutes on the other. The details of the new recipe jumbled together in my brain. How much cumin? When does the chicken go in? Only half of the seasoning? Why can’t I find when to use the other half?

I substituted ingredients with reckless abandon when I didn't have the right kind of milk on-hand. I missed it in my scan of what was needed before beginning. Always read the recipe all the way through before you start, I heard my mother say in my head. My method was more chaotic, a lawless rush to toss prepared ingredients here and there-this in the oven, that on the stove, this in the sink, that in a bowl.

This recipe, one from a meal kit, required me to make a sauce. I groaned inwardly. I never add the ingredients at the right time or over the right level of heat, and I always want it to simmer down to a thicker consistency than it wants to. Cooking for one allow me the freedom of cooking without fear of offending someone else's palate. Any missed ingredients are mine to reap the consequences of alone.

The timer dinged, announcing that the broccoli was done. I turned off the oven and let it sit until I had room for it on the stovetop. Stirring the fig and balsamic reduction, I watched the small bubbles dance in the too-thin mixture. I turned off the heat, resigned to a runny reduction. 


I plated the meal and poured the sauce over top, then settled onto my couch to eat. Tentatively, I tasted a bite of dripping chicken. I chewed, considering. Tastes fine to me, I thought, shrugging. I turned on an episode of The West Wing for company. I might still be operating under the same rules of conflict that I had at seventeen. But that night, at least my haphazard, fast and loose recipe-following method worked well enough for me.

May 19, 20202 Comments

How to Talk to Your Inner Critic

I stared at my computer, at the email I’d perfected over the past month. Attached was my manuscript proposal, which I honed on and off for the past year and a half. The send button glared back at me, daring me to press it in one moment and repelling me in the next. 

Alone in my office and in spite of the fact that I had checked and rechecked and edited and gotten feedback, I couldn’t seem to trust that I’d done enough to hit send. This email would go to my two top choice literary agents. I knew that my platform was pitifully minute, and so I put even more pressure on the other elements of my proposal. 

The longer I sat there, the more paralyzed I felt, the more I wondered if I was making the right decision, if I was missing some key element, if my book idea had the legs I thought it did. 

Our brains are committed to homeostasis, to keeping things the way they are. The tension comes when we also want to grow, when we realize that just because things are a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the best way. And then on top of that we want to create things and share the result with others.

It can feel like our brains will do literally anything to keep that from happening. 

In addition, as Christians we believe there is an enemy that "comes to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). While I am reluctant to blame every little thing that goes “wrong” on the devil, I don’t think he’s not a factor in our internal process, particularly when we are working to bring light and hope into the world. 

So, how do we deal with these things? We know that the resistance is not going away, yet we want to be able to persevere in our good work. Here are some practices to walk through when your inner critic makes your creative work feel like life and death. 

What does it sound like? 

Are there any phrases or feelings that you notice coming up? Be as specific as possible. As you’re noticing the feelings you’re experiencing, whether it’s fear, frustration, sadness, or doubt, pay attention to the story you’re telling yourself. 

For me, I notice the phrase, I can’t do this a lot, as well as, What’s the point? Nothing you do matters, and Your hard work will never pay off, so you might as well give up. I notice myself feeling anxious and my perfectionistic tendencies dialing up to eleven. I notice tension creeping up my neck and my breath becomes shallow. I notice that I fold in on myself and my thoughts feel like a shaken snow globe. 

Is it true? 

Our inner critic wants us to buy into the idea that our creative work is not worth sharing, that it doesn’t matter, that it’s not good enough. And so, when we notice those thoughts beginning to swirl around, we can non-judgmentally ask ourselves if the story our brain is telling us is true. 

A friend of mine suggested that I make a chart with my self-doubt’s greatest hits, and next to each one write a bit of truth. I chose to use verses from the Bible for mine, so that when one of those thoughts pops up, I can gently point my brain back to solid ground. 

Another way to approach this one is to question how we define the attributes our brains are putting onto our work. How are we defining “good enough?” What do we mean by “perfect?” What about our works makes it not worth sharing? 

What if it’s true? 

This is more of a stoic approach, but one that helps my perfectionist brain walk through some worst case scenarios. I used it more so when I was auditioning and I’d worry about puking in the middle of my sixteen bars. Another way to phrase this question is “What do you think will happen?” These questions can help us follow our logic train to the very end of its tracks. It’s helpful to do this with a trusted friend or counselor who can help us see where our logic isn’t lining up. 

If I’m worried about sending a query letter to an agent, for example, I might get caught up in the fear of making a bad first impression and landing myself always and forever on some sort of blacklist. It is good to edit and to have someone proofread. But if I get to the point where I’m so obsessed about not making a single mistake that I can’t even send the letter, it’s worth looking into that. So I might ask myself, Alright, brain, what’s going on here

I’ll walk through the naming exercise and notice that I am worried that I’ll overlook some detail that will cause the agent to dismiss everything else about my letter and proposal, and they’ll think I’m unprofessional and a bad writer. Ok, what if that happens? What if you forget something? Once I ride the wave of paranoia a bit, I then can consider, Ok, even if that does happen, is your desire to get your book in the hands of those it’s designed to help worth the risk of that happening? 

If I reach that question and find the answer to be “no,” but it’s still something I feel I need to do, I have a great therapist and some trusted friends and mentors who I know will challenge and encourage me. 

How can I imagine this differently? 

Our imaginations are powerful tools that shape our thought patterns and our perception. We can expend energy and bandwidth using our imaginations to worry about all the things that can go wrong. What if we also chose to consider all the things that could go right? What if we imagined ourselves held by God through the process? What if we imagined delight and joy instead of shame and guilt? 

I can imagine an agent looking at my proposal and picking up a red phone that connects him to other agents and telling them, “Watch out for that MaryB. character. She put a comma in the wrong place in her query letter. She is banned from the inner circle forever and always. Tell the everyone.” 

Or, I can use that same energy to imagine God cheering me on as I take a creative risk. I can imagine him saying, “This is my [daughter], whom I love, in [her] I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). I can imagine that God’s love for me does not depend on the placement of a comma. I can imagine that the agent is passionate about finding new writers with new ideas. I can imagine receiving rejection or silence and choosing to continue in my good work anyway. 

What do I believe God would say about that?

 This is one to enter into prayerfully and with discernment. The point is not to put words in God’s mouth but to examine our heart toward God. If I believe that God has invited me to participate in his work on this earth through the gift of words, how do I think he feels when I opt out? If I think he’s disappointed, is that backed up in the Bible and in my experience with God? 

More often than not, I find that my self-doubt comes from a place of pressure to follow rules that I’ve picked up along the way, but that are not from God. Somewhere along the line, I learned that I could guilt and berate myself into better behavior, thus avoiding any real heart change, maintaining my illusion of control, and making people believe I’m better than I am all in one. I am nothing if not efficient. 

1 John 4:18 says that, “Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Romans 8:1 says that, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:15 says that “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Several places in scripture call God “... gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” 

Though our brains will continue this warped effort to protect us from change, and the enemy will try to get us to live in fear and shame, God delights to invite us into this work. We are not bad or wrong for struggling with self-doubt. We’re just human, and God knows that. 

When the inner critic starts up, let’s have some practices in place. But also, whether we walk through them perfectly or forget them altogether, whether we do the work scared or put it off another day, we have more of a choice than we think we do. That choice does not determine our value or worth, but it is a choice. Today we might choose to trust the truth, tomorrow maybe we trust the self-doubt. 

One thing my therapist always says, which has made its way into my core values, “There is no losing. There is only winning and learning.” Let’s choose to learn.

May 14, 2020No Comments

Why A Great Question Is Sometimes Better Than A Right Answer

I sat in Dr. Therapist’s office recounting my week. It was my Monday ritual, to start the week sitting on that couch and untangling the thread of ordinary and extraordinary incidents. As we came to the end of the session, he concluded in the usual manner: “Any last thoughts or questions?” 

Instead of my customary “no,” I said, “Actually, yes.” I went on to describe a situation wherein I’d caught feelings for a guy who was about to move away from the city probably forever. My brain decided that I needed to confess said feelings before he left, but I was uncomfortable at the prospect.

Dr. Therapist asked why I thought that was a good idea, and listened to my reasoning. I pontificated for a few minutes about the need to be honest. He then asked two questions which hadn’t crossed my mind. “What exactly do you expect him to say if you put him on the spot like that? What would you say?” We walked through both hypotheticals, and I felt a little better. 

But the questions he left me with, the ones that wriggled their way into my brain and refused to leave me alone: “Why do you feel the need to pass off uncomfortable feelings like they’re a hot potato? Why are you unable to just sit with them?” 

I was immediately indignant. First of all, rude. Second of all, you don’t know my life. Third of all, the ever living nerve of this dude. I skulked out of his office, brows furrowed and lost in thought. 

As I pondered the questions, I remembered that Dr. Therapist does know my life, and he is very good at what he does. But my defensive instinct gave me pause. The more I sat with the questions, the more I saw moments of uncomfortable confession peppered throughout the course of my life. And with this new filter, I experienced the memories in a totally different light. I recognized the story my brain told itself to justify those decisions, to make them righteous and noble-courageous acts of honesty and vulnerability.

In those instances, I believed I was making the obvious morally correct decision. But sitting with these questions, I realized that the situation and my motives for confessing might not have been as straightforward as I thought. 

While Dr. Therapist did, in this instance, say, “No, absolutely not, that is a terrible idea,” he also took the time to ask questions that helped me reach that conclusion as well. He gave me some alternative action steps. But he left me with these questions that revealed a deeper reality that had never crossed my mind, something I’d hidden under my desire to see myself as right and good. 

As I gave the question time to settle, indignation turned to curiosity. The clarity was dazzling at first, and I had to wrestle with the uncomfortable feeling of exposure. But eventually, I realized that I also felt a release, a new found freedom to breathe. And that’s what a great question does. 

A great question is one that stops us in our tracks. A great question rankles, equal parts repellant and compelling. It feels a bit like a sucker punch, not because it is especially painful or aggressive but because there is that brief moment of breathlessness and disorientation. It takes off the blindfold we didn’t realize we were wearing. 

A great question cuts through the noise and dithering and the assumptions we clutch with white knuckles and shows us what’s underneath our desperate search for information. A great question is an hourglass, on the cusp of running out of sand, being turned over at the last second and releasing us from the pile we didn’t realize we were trapped under. 

A great question uncovers what we keep hidden, even from ourselves. 

It takes the problem we see one way and reveals a truer side to it. It takes our assumptions about the direction in which we think the solution lies and turns us around to see that it’s actually nothing like what we supposed. 

A great question humbles. It takes us outside of our limited perspective, removing the blinders and showing us an alternative we could never have imagined. 

Information is good, as is knowledge. But so are mystery and nuance. So is the inherent finitude of our humanity. 

I took Dr. Therapist’s advice, sitting down for coffee with the guy and having a normal conversation, at the end leaving the door open to friendship moving forward. Even as I felt the instinct to firmly slam that door out of a desire for certainty and comfort, I sat with the discomfort and chose to engage. And because of that decision, my brain was able to learn that discomfort would not be the death of me. 

The discomfort still happens, but this moment became an example of resiliency to cling to in future uncomfortable situations. And having Dr. Therapist’s question in my back pocket gave me a better filter for making nuanced decisions in my relationships. I realized the wisdom required to resist the temptation to give a blanket answer for what is actually a symptom, and the power of listening in between another person’s words. 

Sitting in my office the day after surviving the uncomfortable conversation, I scribbled a couple of notes and taped them to my office wall. 

The first, “Ask better questions.” 

The second, “Don’t settle for symptomatic solutions. Always go for the root.”

May 13, 2020No Comments

The Parable of the Egg Whites

It started with a dull discomfort in my mid-abdomen. Could be anything, I told myself. Until the discomfort turned into sharp pain.

I sat outside the tiny Australian-inspired coffee shop writing in my notebook. Its front wall is a garage door of windows. On nice days, they open the door and the tables and customers spill onto the sidewalk. It was just such a day, and I sipped the best cold brew on the Upper East Side and dug into a turkey wrap. I noticed that the wrap came with mayonnaise, but told myself it would be fine.

Recently diagnosed with an egg white allergy, I was still testing its limits. So far, baked goods were fine. Omelettes? Definitely not. Mayonnaise-based sauces lay somewhere in the nebulous middle. 

After consuming the wrap, I felt the familiar cramping I could finally identify as an allergic reaction to consuming egg whites. I decided to finish what I was working on before heading home to ride it out, until the pain reached a level I hadn’t experienced in this context.

I didn’t fully understand what was happening or why the reaction was so severe. I just knew it hurt more than it should and I needed to do something to make it stop. 

My pain-addled brain concluded that the only solution was to walk to the closest ER. None of my friends had a car, and they all worked normal jobs. As this was the middle of a weekday, they would be tied to their various desks. I thought about taking a cab, but I was not so far gone that I forgot that walking is free. 

I walked the thirteen streets and two avenues (one mile) with the pain level steadily increasing, but still manageable. But upon arriving at New York Pres, I realized I had no idea in which of the monstrous buildings I might locate the ER.

Pain Brain thought, I can just figure it out without looking it up, and I proceeded to spend seven more minutes wandering around the streets of Manhattan looking for an indication as to where the ER might be. 

By the time I walked in, I was doubled over and tears leaked out of my eyes. I waited for the random yahoo in front of me to ask every question under the bless-ed sun about their non-emergency “emergency” before I made it to the check in desk. 

“How may I help you?” the nurse asked.

“I… I’m having… stomach pain… I think… I think it’s… an allergic reaction to eggs… I need… to see someone,” I managed to gasp out. She handed me a clipboard with a form to fill out, and I sat down to wait. 

As I sat in the waiting room at NY Pres, still bent double and crying, I had a passing thought about a friend who was in her final year of P.A. school. Didn't she live somewhere around here?

I texted her to get her opinion, and it turned out she was doing her rotation at the hospital where I was waiting. In fact, she was about to come in for a shift, and would I like for her to come a few minutes early? Yes, yes I did. 

She sat down and asked me some questions. The pain was beginning to ebb a bit, so I asked if I was ok to leave. She said it was my call, but if I went back to see a doctor, they would do imaging, I’d be there for hours, and they wouldn’t be able to do anything for me that some over the counter medicine wouldn’t also do for a lot less money. I told the skeptical lady at the welcome desk that I was feeling better and had decided to leave. 

She raised an eyebrow and said, “Are you sure?” 

“Yeah,” I breathed, smiling to conceal any residual pain. 

“You were crying when you came in. Don’t you think you should see someone?”

“I really am feeling better, so I’m going home.”

My friend told me exactly what to get at the pharmacy and suggested I take the bus instead of walking home. Would I be able to make it home on my own or should she call someone? I said, “No, I’ll be fine.” 


I made it back to my couch without incident, and the medicine took effect right on cue. I sipped a ginger ale, texted my friend to let her know I was feeling better and to thank her, and turned on an episode of Parks and Recreation. As I watched Amy Poehler and the gang work through the minutiae of planning the Harvest Festival, I made a mental note to avoid mayonnaise and all its derivatives moving forward.

May 5, 2020No Comments

How to Say “No” to FOMO

“Hey, not sure if you’d be interested, but I know someone looking for a freelance writer.” 

The text came on your typical Tuesday evening during which I was watching Netflix and questioning my choice to leave the relative comfort of the restaurant industry and write full time. I sat up, fully focused on the words on the screen. A contact had asked my friend in passing if she knew a freelance writer who might be interested in some work writing on recycling and renewable energy. 

I vacillated as I considered the question. It was a paying gig, but I didn’t know much about recycling and renewable energy. The familiar train of overly idealistic thought started up. Sure, I didn’t know much, but I could learn! Sure, this had nothing to do with my expertise and I’d have to do a ton of research to even begin to write on this topic, but it was a paid gig! As much as I felt the instinct to say no, I also felt the pull of what if

My friend and I went back and forth, and she ultimately left it up to me to reach out. 

If you’re a freelancer of any variety, whether a performer or writer or designer, you’ve likely come up against a similar situation. In my days of pursuing a singing career, there was the added pressure of accepting unpaid gigs. And in the opera world especially, gigs and programs for which I had to pay. It can seem like we must say yes to everything or we will miss out. We never know which opportunity might be the one that leads to more opportunities, or which one might be our big break. Especially in the early stages of our creative journey. Especially when work is particularly scant. 

How do we say no without experiencing the fear of missing out? How do we determine which opportunities are worth our time, and which will send us off in the wrong direction? Here are three practices to walk through when you feel that FOMO and self-doubt start to creep in.

Reflection

Thinking about the offer my friend presented, I needed to first determine if it was worth pursuing. In Essentialism by Greg McKeown, he lays out a strict criterion for when to say yes and when to say no. “It’s either HELL YES or it’s no.” By running through a series of questions that laid out the factors I needed to consider, I was able to gain clarity by using McKeown’s method. 

  • Is it worth the time required and amount of pay I will receive?
  • Am I the best person for the job? (don’t let this one trip you up if you’re prone to underestimating yourself)
  • Will this opportunity continue to move me toward my goals?
  • Is this a person I want to work with? 
  • Does the topic excite me?
  • Do I want to do it?
  • Is it the best way to help me meet my financial goals?
  • Do I feel energized when I think about this work? 
  • If unpaid, is this a valuable experience that will teach me a skill I need (teamwork, collaboration, working on a deadline, etc)? If so, is that worth the cost (time, stress, loss of focus, bandwidth)?

Though I could easily say no to most of the questions, I still wanted to make sure my judgement wasn’t skewed by something I might not be able to see. Which brings us to the next practice. 

Connection

Mayhaps like me you have a tendency to overthink yourself into knots. If you’re a more established creative, mayhaps you have a team you can talk through this stuff with. Or, if you’re married, it’s the kind of thing you sort out with your spouse. 

For those of us who don’t meet either criteria, it’s still important to reach out and connect with someone who knows us and knows our goals. They can’t make the decision for us, but they can remind us of our values when we get tangled up in a decision without a clear right or wrong. In the current scenario, I was able to work through these murky thoughts with the friend who brought me the opportunity. 

Normally, I would run the opportunity by one of a set list of friends whom I have known for years and whose opinion I trust. They are familiar with my priorities and personality, and can see what I can’t about myself. They also resist the temptation to solve the problem or answer the question for me. They may give me advice and point me in a specific direction, but they mostly ask questions and let me verbally process, reminding me of what they know to be true about me and my work along the way. 

Currently, I’m part of a mastermind group, which gives me access to three coaches and twenty-six fellow writers who are all committed to their work. Connecting with my cohort has been a game changer, and working with coaches? They have helped me clarify my goals, expanded what I believed to be possible for my creative work, and pushed me in all the ways I needed pushing. It has not been comfortable, but four months in, I have no regrets. 

Do you have a few go-to people who can help you see more clearly and focus? What would it take for you to find people committed to your growth? 

Direction

At the end of the first quarter (March 31), I took the day to distill my goals into a value ladder. Before that, I had a nebulous sense of what I might like to do to increase my income and move toward my larger goals. But they were murky, so it was easy to get pulled off track. I didn’t have a clear picture of where I was going. I knew there was a book involved, but other options had crept into my imagination. 

So I took the time to develop a path, a series of products and services that stack up to the ultimate thing that will best serve my audience. Now, when an opportunity comes along, I feel more equipped and empowered to stay in my lane. The ladder might change over time, but for now, it’s a filter through which I can see with more confidence what fits onto it and what doesn’t. 

Do you have a clear sense of where you’d like to go? If not, take some time to sketch it out. I used this blog as a starting point, but it’s not the only one out there, and it’s designed for more general entrepreneurs, as opposed to specifically for artists/creatives. However, it’s a good jumping off point to help clarify your path and your next steps. 

So what about FOMO?

I never reached out to the contact. Though I felt the tug of all that I thought the income promised, I said no, not knowing if another opportunity would come my way or if that might have been my golden ticket. But I learned something through the process of saying no. 

The secret to not getting FOMO is that there is no secret. Any time there is an opportunity that presents us with a series of unknowns, the what if’s will creep in and make us second guess our instincts. And sometimes we will learn something later down the road that suggests that we made the wrong choice. 

Using a combination of these three practices-reflection, connection, direction- we can build resilience and confidence over time. They’ve helped me wade through the ambiguity of the creative life and develop a system for making decisions without as much wasting bandwidth on overthinking. They help me resist the temptation to chase every shiny thing that comes across my path. 

Maybe I’ll miss something, but I’ve noticed that a win/lose mindset doesn’t serve me well in this situation. One of my core values for my business is “Learning, not Losing.” It’s a riff on something my therapist says to me a lot. “There is no losing. There is only winning and learning.” There will be times when I don’t make the best decision. There will be times I’ll miss out and times I’ll over commit. But getting hung up on making the perfect decision every time and listening to the FOMO only ensures paralysis. Take the time to step back and reflect, connect, and direct your steps. And if we whiff it, we have the opportunity to learn and try again. 

If you’re having trouble with any of these practices, or sussing out which you might need to focus on, I offer one-on-one coaches. Check out more here and sign up for your free 15 minute intro call!

April 30, 2020No Comments

7 Questions to Keep Things Interesting When Talking to Yourself

Tired of running through the same tired questions and scenarios with yourself? Looking to spice things up in the self-conversation department? 

We’ve all been there. Sure, you’re interesting and charming, but without anyone else to help steer the conversation, you always end up rehashing that argument you lost five years ago.

Or over-thinking that time in grade school the principal thought you were laughing at her, but really you were laughing at something your friend said making fun of your principal, and when your principal confronted you about it, you didn’t know what to say.

Or the time you said you knew how to pin a boutonniere (which you did know at one point), but when you realized you were 17 the last time you did it and might have forgotten some key elements and everyone was watching you and waiting for you to finish, you panicked and left a substantial amount of the pin poking out of the dude’s lapel all but guaranteeing it will impale him or someone else. 

If you’re like me, you’re ready for some fresh material. So, here are seven conversation starters to take talking to yourself to the next level.

What is my favorite song/movie/book? 

This one might seem like a surface level question, but mayhaps it’s been a while since you thought about it. For example, I chose my favorite book senior year of high school. But reflecting upon it now, I could not tell you why it holds that spot. I remember loving it, but I haven’t picked the thing up in 10+ years. I don’t even have a copy of it in my current dwelling. Mayhaps that is an indication that ‘tis time to look past the reflex answer and come up with another one. 

How long has that mark on the wall been there? 

This is an opportunity to put to use all of those true crime documentaries and detective shows you’ve been watching. Describe the color and texture, recall moments of banging into other walls to try to jog your memory. Look at old pictures to determine when the mark started showing up in them. Feel free to make a crime board on which to list your evidence and deductions. 

How often should I clean my vacuum?

This classic philosophical quandary can provide you with hours of stimulating debate. Is it reasonable to be expected to clean the thing that cleans? Isn’t that, like, its job? How is it, exactly, that that much hair has fallen from my head and gotten wrapped around the twirly part? The avenues of discussion are truly endless on this one. 

Should I rearrange my furniture again?

There is nothing quite like a three dimensional game of Tetris to liven up a conversation. Sure, you meticulously planned the optimal layout for your furniture given the minute nature of your apartment and its oddly shaped walls. But you know, maybe you were wrong, maybe the couch will fit against that wall. 

Which instrument should I learn? 

You have a guitar sitting in its case gathering dust, but you know, you never truly connected with it on a spiritual level. Yes, that was the problem. Maybe now is the time to invest in a cello. You could pick that up with a couple of YouTube videos. Or perhaps the harp, with all its regal majesty and soothing arpeggios. You could serenade your neighbors through the walls. They’d love that. Where does one even get a harp? Wait, harps cost how much??

Should I start a podcast?

I mean, your friend Brittany has one, and she’s not even that interesting, so it can’t be that hard. You’ve always thought it would be fun. What would it be about? The lifecycle of the mark on your wall? Your journey as a harp prodigy? You could honestly talk about anything to avoid the quiet stillness of your isolation. *googles “best podcast microphone”*

Should I cut my hair?

Look, you can learn anything on YouTube these days, and everyone is posting their derpy self-cut hair. Map out the pros and cons, watch a couple of how-to videos and shout questions in your computer’s general direction. 

Though we are socially distant, it doesn’t mean we have to spend our isolation in utter silence, staring into the void.

If nothing else, why not use these as a warm up before your next Zoom call so you remember how to put sentences together?

Stay strong; stay well. 

April 28, 2020No Comments

An Ode to What I Left at My Office

Sitting at my table in the living room/office/kitchen, I count the weeks since this quarantine started. Six, going on seven. I find myself pining for the office for which I pay rent, and all the things in it and all the things around it. 

As I sit in the minute nook of my apartment that has temporarily replaced this creative haven, I recall the things I left behind, convinced this situation would resolve itself in a matter of weeks, not months. I didn’t think I needed to bring it all with me; I grabbed only the essentials as if dashing for a life raft. 

And so, this is my ode to you, the items (and humans) I left at my co-working space. 

To my external hard drive, which satiates the angst of the increasing day count since backing up my laptop. Though the quarantine has only lasted 42 days, daily does my laptop note that it has been 93, 94, 95 days and counting since it was backed up. 

To my 4’x6’ rug that has never been vacuumed. I miss your color splotches and the random strands of fallen hair that form into balls for me to discover and discard. You always knew how to keep me humble. 

To the pile of books I swear I’ll finish one day, staring at me judgmentally from my gold and glass bookcase. Your bookmarks peek from where they’re nestled, reminding me of a task unfinished. I’ll circle back to you at some point.  

To the pile of books I used to quote directly instead of paraphrasing. You contain wisdom that I have definitely read but only partially remember. Oh, to be able to pull you from where you sit and flip through your pages, glance at highlighted and underlined sentences, until, at last, I find the one I was looking for.

To the pile of books I swear I’ll start one day, bought on impulse to support the author or to indulge a momentary intellectual rabbit hole upon which I stumbled three months ago. I’ll get to you eventually. 

To my Study Bible, filled with snippets of commentary and context that help me feel like I’m not guessing at the meaning of certain passages. It was a comfort to know that, if pressed, I could point the blame for any controversial interpretations in your direction with a shrug. 

To my 32oz Yeti. How you kept my water cold and my thirst quenched. I regret leaving you at the mercy of whatever bacteria is festering in the last of the water contained in your depths, because I neglected to wash you before my abrupt departure. 

To my desk chair, which rolls and swivels and raises and lowers. The chair I rely on now was not made for marathon sitting sessions, even with the recommended adjustments. As the sages have said, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” 

To my office slippies that have a hard sole. Though I have home slippies, you were always an indication that it was time to work. Now I am in a perpetual state of lounging, and for this I only have your absence to blame. Nothing else. Just the office slippies. 

To the woman down the hall with the impossibly loud laugh. I miss being annoyed by this disruption multiple times in a day. You always kept me on my toes. And, by measuring my level of irritation, I could gauge when I was due for a break. 

To the one guy on my floor whose name I know. I miss our random conversations, which were entertaining and enriching, but also pulled me out of my head. You made me feel social and friendly without the undue pressure of meeting anyone else.  

To the kombucha on tap which made me feel healthy. You never revealed how much sugar you contained, and for this, I was grateful. 

To the bathroom I didn’t have to clean with seemingly unlimited toilet paper. The journey to your stalls was filled with steps and turns, a welcome respite from staring at my computer. You satiated my fitbit’s hourly demand for movement. 

To the scribbled quotes and verses taped to the wall and littering my desk. You made my office look like something out of A Beautiful Mind, which made me feel smart and important.  

To the glass walls with nary a bit of sound absorption. You gave me the illusion of coworkers and companions. Hearing and being heard, we all pretended not to hear each other. I learned much about your life and office drama without ever learning what you actually do. 

Soon, dear co-working space and even dearer glass box office, we will be reunited. Perhaps I will commemorate the moment by reciting an inspirational speech from one of the LOTR movies. But until then, we must make do with what we have and dream of the glorious day when we shall be together once more. 

April 22, 2020No Comments

The Parable of the Email

On an unexceptional Tuesday in November, everything changed. 

The week started like any other that time of year. It was nearly the end of my first full year as a writer. Though the year started with the usual fervor and commitment to 87 unattainable goals, November arrived with only a handful of them met. Stepping into my office and flopping down into the chair, I tried to resist the mental pull of the spiral of overwhelm that inevitably ended in defeatism.

I started my computer, then pulled up Gmail and read through an email from the online writer’s community I joined two months prior. The subject read, “We’re starting a mastermind!” I received the email that weekend, but assumed it was something to do with their conference, which was happening that weekend, I decided it could wait until Monday. 

I opened it and felt the dormant thrill of excitement rekindle as I read through the email. Clicking on the button to learn more, I was whisked to a web page filled with details. I devoured the descriptions of monthly one-on-one coaching calls with the co-founders, all-cohort calls, weekly office hours, and three in-person gatherings. All focused on helping the cohort members make significant progress toward their writing goals in 2020.

Every word echoed a deeply felt need inside of me, missing links I’d been unable to complete on my own. I wanted someone to help me see what was possible for my work, someone who had been in my position or was currently in that position to run ideas by. I craved someone who might notice if I gave up on a project before it had time to take off. I wanted someone I felt entitled to ask for help and guidance. I didn't need someone to do the work for me, just someone to challenge and encourage me in the way only another creative can.

As I reached the bottom of the page, I knew they were building up to the cost. With all they were offering, it had to be steep. I inhaled sharply as I saw both the price and the application deadline-that Saturday. 

Five days to make a monumental decision that would require significant monetary and emotional commitment? Would you also like my social security number while we’re at it? Could I trust these people to follow through on what they were offering? Would I allow myself and my work to be truly seen?

As much as I wanted to click the button to fill out the application and pay my non-refundable application fee, I worried I was getting swept up by my own desperation. I needed time and space to think. I tried to put the offer out of my mind as I thought about completing that week's writing tasks, my upcoming podcast season, and the query letters I’d sent to literary agents. Each reminded me how deeply I wanted what the cohort offered, and that the current trajectory of toiling away on my own was not pointed toward success. I struggled through my immediate tasks before giving in and turning my attention to the mastermind. 

I mentally walked through my options and reflected on where my hesitation came from. Part of me logically deliberated the offer and potential ROI, then considered the business-y variables. But there was also the fearful, self-doubting voice that demanded its day in court. 

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to measure up to the challenge, that I wasn’t a good enough writer or marketer. I was afraid it was a bad investment. I was afraid that I’d get into this cohort only to find that I didn’t like working with the other masterminders. Cohorts are, I reasoned, dependent on the people in them

The next day, Tuesday, I fought to focus on the day’s tasks, but my brain drifted to the mastermind in my unguarded moments. That evening before shutting down my computer and leaving for the day, I said a tentative yes. I decided to apply. 

I can always decline, I reasoned, and who even says I'll get in? Maybe I would be rejected-I’d get my application fee back and the decision would be made for me. I filled out the application as honestly as possible, put in my credit card info, and hit submit. 

Over the next week, I talked to five confidants: my therapist, my sister, and three friends. Two of those conversations happened on walks, and one perched atop a rock in Central Park. Each helped me move through the pros and cons, and asked what I wanted. They helped me see potential alternatives. 

But, in their wisdom, none of them told me what they thought I should do. None of them would make the decision for me. Even as I hashed and rehashed the variables, I realized I wasn’t just looking for advice. I was hoping to defer responsibility. 

Frustrated by the high quality of my friends, I sat quietly with God, asking for some guidance. I heard a quiet, It’s your decision. What should have been freeing was just maddening. If I couldn’t even cast responsibility on God, I didn’t have a fall guy if things went sideways. Rude. 

One week after submitting my application, I received an email from the co-founders. It took me to a webpage with a video. The first word uttered was my name, “MaaaaaryB!” They each said their lines, obviously scripted but with enough personal details to show they knew who I was and what I was about. They said yes to me. They wanted to help me. 

I knew they also wanted my money, but I started leaning toward trust when I heard them say my name. They didn’t call me “Mary,” as countless other professional acquaintances had in the past.

They made the effort to say the “B.” 

The information below the video stated that I had five days to indicate my acceptance by making my first payment, with the assurance that I could reach out with any questions. Over the course of those days, I privately pondered, and watched my acceptance video at least thrice daily. It was nice to feel wanted, but I was determined not to let it go to my head. 

The day of the deadline, I met a friend for brunch. It was Sunday and our neighborhood go-to spot overflowed with energy as we sat at a hightop table near the door. After catching up on her life and work situation, I burst out the practiced spiel of pros and cons. Each point ended with the same phrase: “I dunno, though.” 

She also did not tell me what I should do, but listened patiently and asked questions. I barely ate as I explained and gesticulated, fretting myself in circles. We paid and parted, me leaning toward saying no and creating an accountability structure of my own. 

I  went about my day wondering why I couldn’t just decide. It should have been straightforward. I wanted and needed accountability and guidance. I knew this could be a game changer for my creative work. And yet, the thought of investing that amount of money in something I wanted sent my brain into a tailspin with only one objective: talking me out of it. It wanted guarantees and assurances. It wanted to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that these people were trustworthy, that they were the ones I should ask for help. 

That night, with the deadline looming, I slumped onto my couch and grabbed my iPad. I opened the web browser to the saved page. I watched the video and nearly chose my payment plan. The familiar reel of questions and “should’s” started. But after ten bless-ed days of spinning my wheels and thinking myself into many-a tension headache, something released in me. 

Bottom-line, I wanted to do it. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe it would be the best decision I ever made. Even if by some happenstance the cohort was made up of garbage humans, the rest of the offerings were well worth the price. I realized that it’s always a gamble when humans are involved. And since I exhausted all avenues of objection and still wanted to go for it, I had my answer. 

I took a deep breath and clicked “Select my payment plan.” When the deed was done, a confirmation page popped up. Animated confetti rained down over the brief welcome message. I hoped to feel relief, thereby confirming that I’d made the right decision. It didn’t come. Excitement came, but clicking the button satiated none of my fears. There was so much I wouldn’t know until I was in it. 

I sat back on my couch. I said a big yes to my creative work, a yes that other people would hold me to when I inevitably questioned the decision and the work. I decided to gamble that these people could be my people. Whether that bet would pay off or not, I’d said yes to the step that seemed best given the information I had in spite of my insecurities. And for the moment, I reflected, that was victory enough.

April 15, 2020No Comments

The Parable of the Masterclass

I stood on the stage in front of the renowned German vocal coach and 30 of my new peers and professors in the sweltering performance space. It was early July, and I’d arrived in Austria only five days prior. Two months before that, I walked across a stage and received my Masters of Music in Vocal Performance. And two months before that, I walked into a classroom at a university outside of Atlanta to audition for a six-week opera training program in Austria. 

I arrived three days before the program officially started. The six weeks were littered with a series of masterclasses and performance opportunities, culminating in a final Meistersinger competition. The auditions that would determine in which concerts we would sing occurred within the first three days of the program. Knowing that jetlag adversely affects the voice, I decided to give myself a few days to adjust so that I’d be in tip top shape for the auditions. 

I’d learned a few new pieces for the program, and brought a couple more I wanted to work on with my new teacher. It was my first time choosing and learning songs without the guidance of my voice teacher. But I had a masters, so I figured I was up to the task. For the audition, however, I chose to present pieces I knew inside and out. In the three days I spent acclimating to the new time zone and learning the layout of the city, I focused all of my nervous energy on the auditions.

Orientation day arrived with its flurry of meetings and introductions, tours and information. The program would start in full force on Monday, after the auditions. In the meantime, they had arranged a few opportunities for some lucky singers. One of those was a masterclass with a vocal coach whose resume was enough to make any opera singer gulp nervously. I was in that weird emotional place of confidence from my freshly minted degree and lingering insecurity of being a student. I knew the degree gave me heft, but it was a perception I didn’t feel I totally deserved. 

I walked into the Heim (our dorm building) and inspected the bulletin board on which they posted announcements. My stomach dropped when I saw I’d been put on the list for the masterclass. There was a space next to my name to write which aria I would present. I paused and considered before writing down one of the brand new pieces I’d brought. It was lovely, and it was short, so there’d be plenty of time to work through it. As the masterclass was the next day, I didn’t have time to arrange a rehearsal with the pianist. I shrugged and figured it would be fine. 

Masterclasses are their own special kind of hell for a perfectionist with performance anxiety. One stands before the teacher or coach, sings their piece, then the teacher coaches one through areas of improvement. This would be all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that it occurs in front of an audience. It is sold as an opportunity to learn from a great teacher, and for the audience to learn along with you. For me? It amplified my general insecurity and dialed it up to eleven. I learned, over the course of grad school, that in such situations it is best for me to go first and get it out of the way. Otherwise, I compare myself to all the singers that go before me and work myself into such a state of anxiety that my brain shuts down. 

The hour of the masterclass arrived, and I walked into the small performance space dressed professionally and made up. I grabbed a program and groaned when I saw my name in the middle of the list, just before the break. I sat down and focused on my breathing. At least the seats were mostly empty, I told myself. 

The first four singers worked through their arias, all of which were lengthy and impressive. They were all older than I was, and had come into this program with the intention of meeting agents and taking their singing careers to the next level. The seats had gradually filled with late comers who snuck inside in between singers. 

My hands shaking, I climbed the three stairs onto the stage, handed my music to the pianist, and walked to the center of the stage. I took a deep breath and said, “Hello, My name is MaryB. Safrit, and today I’ll be singing ‘In quelle trine morbide’ from Manon Lescaut.”  

The second I started singing, I realized I had made a colossal mistake in choosing this aria. Having only practiced it a capella, I neglected to make note of the piano part, which didn’t line up with the melody. Except, since I hadn’t practiced, I kept trying to make it line up with the piano part, and the pianist kept trying to play it correctly. I lost track of the rhythm, where I was in the piece, the emotion of the piece. Everything crumbled and my face became a granite sheet of wide-eyed terror. Any shred of confidence I’d managed to cling to evaporated, culminating in the cardinal mistake a classical singer can make-I breathed in the middle of a word. 

The teacher stopped me. Though the piece consisted of a mere two pages of music, basically a jingle in the world of Italian opera, she cut me off. That’s when I knew I was in for it. And the worst part was, I knew I deserved it. I knew I’d made the wrong choice, and now it was time to face the consequences. It was the second day of this program, my first time singing in front of my peers. And I had completely whiffed it. 

The teacher spent the next 10 minutes eviscerating my performance. I didn’t know the rhythm, I wasn’t leading the pianist, my Italian wasn’t pure. But worst of all, “You have no passion. And you will not make it as an opera singer if you have no passion.” 

As I ingested every unfiltered word, I focused every ounce of energy on receiving her feedback graciously. I wouldn’t cry. I wouldn’t argue. I forced my face into a polite smile and swallowed the heat of shame threatening to overtake me. My humiliation was bad enough without adding an inability to receive criticism to the list. She asked me to try again. I began, and this time it was, if possible, even worse. She stopped me again, then told me to sing the last couple lines of the song. I obliged, not completely butchering it and even mustering out a passable sustained high note and some acting. 

When the music ended, there was an excruciating pause. She shook her head, then told me to sit down. It is customary to applaud when a student finishes their time up front. The room was silent as I collected my music and climbed back down the stairs. 

The teacher announced that we’d take a ten minute break before hearing the next singer. Everything in me wanted to leave, lock myself in my dorm room, and try to forget what had just happened. I considered this course of action as I shoved my music back into my bag. The room was not only filled with peers, but the faculty of this program, professional voice teachers and coaches who would hear me sing for my audition the next day. There were few things more unprofessional than showing up unprepared for a masterclass with an esteemed teacher. The only thing worse would have been if I performed in cut-offs and a crop top. 

I decided that I’d lost enough dignity that day without adding “cry baby” to “unprepared” to my list of terrible first impressions. I sat through the remaining singers, some of whom also got stern lectures, but all of whom at least got to finish their arias. Once the masterclass concluded, I did my best to exit at a normal pace and walked back to the Heim. 

I reflected as I lay on the twin bed in my dorm room rethinking my entire life. The worst part of it was that she was right. The opera world was becoming tougher every year as houses closed and opportunities dwindled. If I didn’t have a deep passion for the work, I wouldn’t make it. 

I’d left grad school unsure of what exactly I wanted to do with my degree. Becoming a professional opera singer wasn’t a lifelong dream of mine. But I now had that skill in my tool chest, and there was something comforting about the fact that I was on a designated and respectable path. I stumbled into grad school having never sung an aria, and yet here I was, getting yelled at by a big name vocal coach on a stage in Austria, the birthplace of some of the classical greats. 

I realized that she touched on something in me that day-a belief that lived in my bones and came out in moments like this. At least part of me didn’t believe I had the talent to make it as a singer. And every time I walked onto a stage, I carried that with me. Every song I sang was infused with a need to prove to myself and the audience that I was good and I deserved to call myself a singer. 

Like with any moment awareness, I wasn’t sure where to go from there or how to perform differently. But I knew that I had an audition the next day, and then a few days after that, the classes and performances would start. I reminded myself that I was there to learn, and in that regard the masterclass was a success.

As I prepared a binder for my audition, I made a mental note to figure out who the pianist would be and to find time to practice with them. I texted a couple of friends from grad school, who commiserated, and made the scheduled call to my parents. Once my affairs were in order, I showered and got dressed for that evening’s mixer, met up with my suitemate, and prayed none of the people I spoke to would bring up that day’s masterclass.

We mingled and made friends and for a moment I forgot the humiliation of earlier that day. There were a lot of unknowns about what was to come, but for the moment, learning and living to fight another day was enough.  

April 14, 2020No Comments

Should I Be Creating Right Now?

Yesterday, I hit my quarantine threshold. I've been doing everything that a good quarantiner should--creating routine and sticking to it, making time to move, connecting with my people. Even so, the indefinitude and my lack of control caught up with me. As if on cue, the pervasive rain of the day broke and the sky cleared. I frantically threw on my shoes, a flannel, and my mask, and escaped to the park.

I walked the four avenue blocks, desperately wanting to take off my mask so I could breathe in air that wasn't my own. I snuck a gulp of the cool, fresh breeze, grateful it lacked the smell of urine that is quintessential New York.

I entered the park at my usual spot, just north of the Met, and was immediately greeted by a whiff of spring. The trees, missing the memo that the city was on lockdown, bloomed. Their defiance was so strong, I smelled it through my mask. In that moment, all of my frenetic, swirling thoughts stilled and I remembered that buds and leaves operate on their own schedule.

Spring happened without anyone telling it to. The empty branches were filled in their own time regardless of what was happening just a few blocks away.

Four weeks ago, I, and many of my fellow singles, found myself facing a new reality-living alone without a sense of when I’d be able to regularly resume meeting with other humans in three dimensions. When was the next time I would receive something as simple as a hug from a friend? Where the parents I knew still had overfilled lives, mine was empty. And I was faced with the reality that I was responsible for filling it.

Like the textbook performer and achiever I am, work was the obvious solution. Not just because I needed the distraction, but because problem solving is caffeine to my brain. All of a sudden, we were all faced with a new set of obstacles and unnavigated areas of stuckness.

Staring down the barrel of a nationwide shut down that has meant unemployment, anxiety, and a paradigm shift for so many, not to mention the actual life and death risk placed onto essential workers, the stakes felt too high to play it safe creatively. I wrote and I started an IGTV series and I strategized. But I also assessed what I already had in the works and stayed the course in those. In considering how to add value, I thought about both creative pivots and consistency. 

But most of all, I filled my time with purposeful work because it’s what I needed to keep the emptiness from overtaking me. I knew myself well enough to recognize how much my mental health depended on creating as much structure as possible, and also leaning into the creative problem solving part of my brain. 

Many of my creative friends, married and single, did not receive the upheaval the same way. They gave themselves time and space to grieve. Deep feelers that they are, they needed to first acknowledge and honor those feelings. 

Creative community has a way of bringing together the thinkers, the feelers, and the doers. As one of those groups continued to meet virtually, I noticed the pervasiveness of a word. 

Should

And as someone who was driven to create in this time of crisis, my questions were Should I not be writing publicly right now? Should I stop? But for many of my friends, it was Should I be writing right now? Should I be doing more? 

Whatever our situation, we were looking at each other and wondering if their way of coping and adjusting meant that mine was wrong. 

Under the best of circumstances, the struggle to stay in our own lane is challenging. When our nerves are on edge and everything feels extra insecure? Dial that up to eleven. 

As creatives, our job is to communicate and express, to entertain and evoke, to encourage and challenge. And the beauty is that we each have our own way of doing that.

Those of us who are action-oriented thrive when there are problems for which we can offer solutions. Those of us who are more deliberative thrive when they give themselves margin to absorb and notice and think. Those of us who are feelers ground us and refuse to gloss over what is hard in favor of what is ideal. Each has their strengths and pitfalls, and each has their own way of using their orientation to create beautiful and useful work. 

As we enter week five of quarantine, mayhaps some of the adrenaline is wearing off. Mayhaps you’ve picked up a few tools and learned what you need (and even what your audience needs). Given the nature of pandemics, normalcy can shift in a moment. But as the newness wears off you might be left with the guilt and pressure of should. What if we were free to consider a different option altogether?

Maybe now isn’t the time to produce, but to plant. 

All of what I have produced in the last four weeks was already in the works, or was wisdom I cultivated through nearly three decades of tumultuous life experience and two decades of living with anxiety. The fruit you are seeing didn’t just happen, it was the result of seeds that were planted months and years ago, and countless small steps and moments of healing. And it came to fruition in its own time.

Just because I’m producing blogs and posts and a new website doesn’t mean you’re behind or missing out. Consider the words of Psalm 126: 5-6, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”  

Maybe right now is the time for journaling and keeping up with your day job (or looking for a new day job). Mayhaps getting creative and casting vision is what your soul needs right now. We are all speculators at this point, exploring what is possible based on the variables available to us. Part of the beauty of being part of a body (ie the body of Christ aka the church, or being part of a creative community, or a friend group etc.) is that we all get to learn from each other. 

We need the doers and the thinkers and the feelers. We need the “right now” and the “not yet.” We need the pushing forward and the pulling back. We need the reaping and the sowing.  

As for me? I’m both reaping in joy and sowing in tears right now. It’s part of the job, balancing present and long term. I recently received the advice to be the most MaryB. I can be, and MaryB. is a relentless doer, but also an eager learner. Because of the seeds that were planted, I get to steward those gifts in an outward facing way, while also being mindful of the ultimate vision God has given me for this creative work that has not bloomed yet.

Our work is to plant the seed, to nurture it, but it is not in our power to make it grow at a specific time. Today, if you find yourself caught up in a web of should, consider where you are and remember that God is present in this moment. Whether we are creating publicly or God is germinating something within us that hasn't reached its time, should will only distract us from the good work that's happening now.

Communicator. Creator. Coach.

© 2020 Mary B Safrit LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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