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I heard my first Christmas song on the radio last
night.  It was John Lennon’s “So This is
Christmas,” one of my favorites, and it made me smile with delight.  I am always super excited about the holidays,
but never more than this year.  It’s for
a multitude of reasons, not the least of which are my children, who have that
uncanny ability to make nearly every day seem like some sort of holiday.  They just have a joyfulness that I’d like to bottle
for myself.

With the holidays comes the end of another year, and this
one has been a good one.  I am in a
different place than I was this time last year, and the idea of a season of
thanksgiving and joy and service makes my heart glow.  But it’s not just the holiday season that
makes me eager to capture the Christmas spirit, it’s all the possibilities that
a new year brings.

I’ve made some decisions this year to embrace some of my
dreams and aspirations and to cut back on my time in the classroom in order to
focus on my writing and creativity.  This
has been a pretty big deal for me, since much of my identity is wrapped up in
being a teacher, but I think I have used that as an excuse to not fully explore
some of the other things I’ve always dreamed of.   Essentially, what I’m doing is removing my
crutches and my reasons for not having pursued my dream, and frankly, I’m a
little freaked out, but I’m also more excited and on fire than I have been in
years.  And for better or worse, at least
I’ll know.

Suddenly, I feel like I’ve been let out of prison.  Whether or not my writing is getting any
better remains to be seen, but I’m doing it, and better still, I’m having fun
with it.  I look forward to getting up in
the morning and sitting down to work at my desk.  I find myself carrying notebooks and pens
everywhere I go now because the ideas are so many, I almost don’t know what to do with all of them.  And best yet, I feel
like my real self for the first time in I don’t know how long. 

About a year and half ago, I came across a cute, super
bright and cheery website called Free Spirit Knits.  Shannon Kinney-Duh is an artist, mom,
teacher, and blogger, and I was immediately drawn to her upbeat attitude and
beautiful art.  She offered an e-course,
something I was completely unfamiliar with, called “Inside Out,” which taught,
among other things, art journaling and self-reflective writing while creating
an uplifting community of other women at various stages in their creative
pursuits.  Out of curiosity, I signed up,
and it was the beginning of something really good for me. 

I have always been creative. 
In fact, I’ve never been one of these folks who doubt their creative
abilities and shies away from artistic expression, but somewhere along the way,
I lost touch with that part of me.  It
wasn’t anything traumatic or even super dramatic; it was just the whirlwind of
life, of doing things I thought I was supposed to be doing rather than what I
wanted to be doing.  I kept signing up
for jobs, paid and volunteer, and signing up for activities and committees and
organizations, and all the while, I was moving further and further away from
what I really wanted.  I didn’t even know
it was happening until one day, I realized I wasn’t happy or, at least, as
happy as I could be.  “Why aren’t you
happy?” I thought.  “You SHOULD be
happy.  Look at what you have.  What is your problem?”

The answer didn’t come to me right away.  In fact, I’d say it’s taken well over a year
to really solidify what it was that was bothering me.  I have all the ingredients for my happiest
life—kids I adore, a supportive and funny husband who encourages me, super
friends I can depend on no matter what, a job I enjoy, good health, and
security.  I saw all of this and
recognized my tremendous blessings, and I have always been extremely thankful.  Still, something was off. 

It wasn’t that I was missing anything; it was that I was
covering up the things I did love with things I didn’t necessarily love.  I had lost focus on the things that really
made me happy, that gave me a sense of purpose and personal satisfaction and
that utilized my gifts in the best way possible.  I was in a rut.

Shannon’s class is part of what started the ball rolling for
me.  I am, as you know, a huge fan of
journaling anyway, but Shannon’s visual approach taught me knew things in my
journaling practice and allowed me to look at things from a slightly different
perspective, something we all need from time to time.

Shannon gave me a great gift, something I want to pass along
as well.  As part of my fired-up holiday
plan this year, I’m expanding this website to include helpful tools and
information for other people who are looking for the same thing I have been– a
simpler and more joyful purpose-driven life.

Like most things in life, I expect this journey will have
several unexpected twists and turns, some exciting new ideas and friends, maybe
a few stall-outs and false starts, and a multitude of lessons learned.  Whatever it is, I’m really excited about
beginning it now, during this time of celebration and joy, and carrying it
throughout the new year.  I’ll be honest
and tell you that I’m scared about it; there’s always the possibility that a
new project might fail, that others will criticize, or there won’t be any
interest in what I have to say, but I’ve decided that I’m more afraid of not
trying and playing it safe than I am of trying and failing.

Some of the things I’m most looking forward to are
interviews with other moms, writers, artists, teachers, runners and general
students of life, including one with Shannon who will be sharing her thoughts
on creativity and being what she calls a “bold explorer.”  There will also be exciting giveaways, a new
issue of Sparrow magazine in December, and plans for my own e-course, which
will be available in Spring 2012.  It
promises to be a fantastic new year, and I for one, can’t wait!

Journal Topic:  What dreams or
goals have been on your “to do” list for several weeks, months or years?  What do you think is holding you back?  Is this dream or goal still important to
you?  List five small steps you could
take this week to begin making that dream a reality.  What are you waiting for?