Living Creatively: Intentional Living through a Creative Lens.
What is your value?
This is a loaded question for creatives. Artists give of themselves in their work. Performers put their actual bodies on display for the world to see. Painters paint with their instinct and intuition. Musicians play by engaging their direct link to the Universe. These endeavors are deeply personal and make for a delicate exercise in the balancing vulnerability with resilience. How on Earth does one quantify that? What’s more, what is the price tag of a soul?
The answer is that there is no one right answer. The only “right” answer, in fact, lives within each individual. The key to unlocking this mystery is beginning to understand your WORTH. What is your time worth to you? To your family? What is joy worth to you and your audience? What are materials, your education, your experience worth? Once you begin to understand how to qualify your gifts and effort, then you can begin to quantify it. The tricky part of this process is that worth and value are subjective, and are affected by environment, the market, and the relative relationships in your circles. In short, it is all a matter of perspective.
Over the holidays, I was hit over the head with this idea via a tangible metaphor. My family and I were on vacation and I wandered into a gift shop. There I happened upon case of jewelry that appealed to me – for a long while I have had a fantasy of wearing an exquisite gold and diamond ring that would resonate with wealth, or more specifically, success. I typically do not live my life with a lot of “bling,” yet this particular idea had been stuck in my head for years. When I looked inside that case, I saw MY RING! The one that had graced my day dreams. I was elated!
Here’s the irony of it: it was $32. Of course, it was not actually gold and diamonds, but the look of it was so inspiring to me that I bought it and began wearing it immediately. This ring makes me feel fancy and fun. It reminds to shine and sparkle. For me, it symbolizes a freedom that comes with choice, optimism, and unmitigated authenticity, which is especially humorous because it is fake!
My point is, the ring has value to me not because what it is or is not made of, but because of the value I attach to it. Whether other people think it is “real” or not is inconsequential. For me, the reality of it is that I love the way I feel when I wear it, and whether it is worth $32, or $3,200 is not as important as that for me, this item is priceless. In other words, I decide its worth, its value.
So I ask again, what is your value? Still don’t know? Here’s the good news: it’s entirely up to you.
Merritt Minnemeyer is a Professional Coach and owner of Master of One Coaching, where she connects leaders and visionaries to boundless success, fulfillment, and fun through powerful purpose. She has a long history in the arts and in business, and has spent the better part of her 40+ years involved in creative endeavors. Merritt lives with her family in the Hudson Valley, NY.
By Merritt Minnemeyer
Originally published by thereset.com, 2016
I have been performing (dance, theater, music) for most of my life and always felt like I couldn’t walk away from the entertainment industry altogether because it was part of me for so long. Then one day, about six months ago, I woke up and decided that I didn’t want to be part of it anymore. Just like that!
I had an opportunity to shift focus in my career and it was one of those moments when everything clicks. I wasn’t even looking for a job, but it appeared before me at just the right moment. Now I am in a position to help others who are struggling so that they can thrive in their own careers. I am no longer the one in desperate need. That feels really good.
It was as simple as a mindset shift. I had been thinking for several months that I was ready for a change to full time (after working part time, raising my kids and finishing grad school), but wasn’t certain what that would entail. On the advice of a friend, I made a list of all of the attributes I wanted in a job. I immediately noticed that “theater” was nowhere to be found on that list. It was time to let go, I knew that for sure. While it was scary to think about venturing away from the familiar, I felt ready for a big change.
The next morning I woke up and felt a calm come over me. With the adage “dress for the job you want” ringing in my ears, I put on a new blazer and went to the office. Not two hours later, the head of a local non-profit came in to contribute her expertise to a project we were doing. As she left, she mentioned that she was looking for someone to fill a position in her office. I looked it up thinking I might be able to help connect someone to the job. As soon as I read it, I knew that someone was me. From there, it all went like butter and I was in the new position within a month.
I am a firm believer in the ability to create my own experience. This was yet another example of how that has played out. Making that change was a huge stress release, and after years and years of struggle, my blinders are off. I see all kinds of new possibilities. I am growing and learning everyday. I know that I am on the right path. Now that I have this new confidence and ease, the sky is the limit and am overjoyed to be free of the weight. Onward and upward!
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Once Upon a Time…
Girl meets boy in the Big City. Boy and Girl fall in love in a mad whirlwind. They marry with fanfare. They adopt three beautiful sons, each of whom has his own quirks and undeniable charm. They enjoy an imperfect marriage, but a happy one. Twelve years in, Boy is suddenly and quite dramatically diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. After a short, exhausting year of fighting for his life, Boy leaves this world far too soon. Before he goes, Boy teaches everyone around him to cherish each moment.
Girl is now a “widow.” Girl despises that label, and defies it with every ounce of her will. Girl falls apart. Girl is drowning grief. Her beautiful sons both keep her afloat and challenge her at every step. Girl is near the edge. Girl’s friends and family circle the wagons.
Girl makes an abrupt change and relocates to a city in which she doesn’t know a soul. Girl keeps anger and mourning at bay by busying herself with big projects and big dreams. Girl makes mistakes. A lot of mistakes. Girl is totally discombobulated. Girl lives with pain. She sometimes lashes out. She sometimes hurts people. She beats up herself daily. Girl is a basket case. Her sons are her motivation to get up in the morning. Otherwise, Girl would probably not get out of bed. Ever.
Then, slowly, Girl begins to regain her footing. She remembers she is strong. She breathes in the kindness of others. She recognizes joy in the eyes of her boys. She finds a few quiet moments and learns to listen to her inner voice. She sings a little more than she did before. She starts to find beauty in their collective ability to make it to the next day, and the next, and the next. Girl discovers genuine gratitude. She accepts, reluctantly, that she is a “Widow,” but that she is far from alone. At about the age of 37 (better late than never), Girl finds that she is not a girl any more. Girl is an empowered, creative – albeit a little nutty – determined Woman.
Woman meets Man. Man has a story too. Man has been through Hell. He has been to the dark valley, isolated, and been paralyzed by hopelessness. He has emerged wiser and with a profound appreciation for the light. He has found courage and character in his journey. Man is on solid ground now, connected to his community. He has been searching for a partner. He has boundless love and gifts of sunshine to share.
Woman and Man fall in love in a mad whirlwind. Man and the beautiful, quirky, charming sons also fall in love with one another. Against odds and logic, they become a family.
The Family is an amalgamation of stories. They have come together under unusual circumstances. Each member knows sorrow. Each member knows heartbreak. Each knows that any day can be the one that changes everything in an instant. They are a family that understands the bottom. They are a family that is rising together.
This Family knows gratitude. This family lives in hope. This Family, for all of its messiness, believes in love.
The above is only one of many versions of the story of my family. Over the years, I have written about our story in other forms, but the common denominators consistently have been gratitude, hope, and love.
My own practice of gratitude keeps me focused on growth and allows me the courage to believe in our ability to thrive. That is something that was hard won, and is easily lost if taken for granted. I don’t pretend to be a master, but I do know how it works for me.
My happy place is sitting in my comfy chair at my own little windowsill and looking out into the world through the lens of my experience: my “Widowsill” if you will. From here, I will be offering stories of my family, of challenges we face, of our high-octane moments of giggles and regrets, and anecdotes of how we manage to make our life together rich in ways none of us thought possible.
I will also share inspiration and wisdom from other sources that bring me peace, laughter, or a perspective that I hadn’t considered before in the spirit of entering into a thoughtful, respectful conversation with those of you who are so inclined to add your voice to it.
I am honored, and grateful, for you to join me.
Grief And Glory
Originally published on Lipstick & Politics, April 2, 2013
Grief can hijack you. It turns victories into faults. It twists behaviors in which you would never before have engaged into survival techniques. It blames you for what is out of your control and relieves you of blame for what is within it. Sense is nonsense. Chaos reigns. It turns the stomachs of others who cannot bear the thought of it happening to them; they become exasperated or impatient, or just want you to go away. You want to go away. No one is impervious to it.
Photo courtesy of walknboston
Some of us think we can outrun, out “strong,” outdo it. We think, “If only I focus on the positive then I will no longer feel like my innards are hanging out for everyone to see.” But there they are, just swinging in the breeze. No matter how skilled we think we are at hiding them. They are in plain sight for anyone who cares to notice – and perhaps even more glaringly obvious for those who don’t care a whit.
Take it from one who thought she was the exception: when it happens to you, and it will if you are lucky to enough to love, you will come to understand the essence of darkness. You might want to escape it, avoid it, squeeze shut your eyes, stick fingers in your ears and ignore it; you might even convince yourself that you are smarter than grief. But you are not. It will kick your ass four ways from Sunday. Eventually.
When it does, friends, you will go down – like a catastrophic vehicular accident culminating in the mass destruction of you. There you will be in a feeble heap at the limicolous bottom of your life. You will feel so isolated and desperate that all you have experienced up to this point seems both light-years away and utterly meaningless.
Photo courtesy of Matan Rochlitz
Likely you will linger there for a time that feels endless; and just when you think you are ready to find your sea legs and wobble onward, something will come along to remind you that aren’t. Usually it’s something that, under previous circumstances, you would have taken in stride but now knocks your wind clean out like a flat tire, or your favorite crackers that are out of stock at the grocery store, or breathing. That cycle of shoring up and toppling over will go on for a good long while.
One day, though, you just might catch yourself beginning to find your way out. It may sound ludicrous now, but slowly you may discover tiny parcels of heaven all around you. Each little bit of light you find is an accomplishment upon which you can build. Search out warmth in the hands of those who love you. Take in the sky. Attend to the goofy grin on the face of a passing puppy, and grin back with your tongue out. Soon you will begin to count your blessings (yes, you have blessings) — not only because you have known love, as transient as it is everlasting, but also because with awareness comes compassion, empathy, and greater patience. These are keys to more love. So, you see, grief may be one of your most profound gifts.
Though I’d bet that if you are in the throes as you read this, you probably want to punch me for saying so. It’s ok. I kind of want to punch me. Because it sucks. Hard. In the most-ingeniously-engineered-evil-plan-to destroy-the-universe kind of way. And “smelling the flowers” is not easy in the beginning nor is it a cure-all. Taking stock in the glory of the minutia, however, may assist in opening your eyes to the rest of your life. What’s more, you are not alone. There are throngs of us out there who know what loss is and we want you to have faith in the value of what lies on the other side of where you are. Beauty will find you if you open yourself again to seek it.
The notion may now clang cacophonously in your delicate ears, but the truth is we are wired to endure loss. It is in our nature to wallow and seize in perpetuity when it comes to spectacular grief as surely as it is to love recklessly and with abandon. We are tasked, then to put endurance into practice for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. Survival connotes perseverance, singularly and globally. Wandering listlessly in the Land of “Why Me?” is tempting, and certainly permissible for a time, but none of us is immune to the human condition. The trick is to craft your response and become both the pupil and the master of how it will shape you.
Photo courtesy of Rhys Asplundh
You have found your test. Own it. Hate it. Allow for help when you cannot help yourself. Accept your human-ness. Forgive yourself for screwing up, for feeling out of control, for losing it. Just as you would comfort tenderly a friend in your position, so too express compassion for yourself.
Now breathe in, and let a little bit of it go in favor of something new. Your loss will forever be interwoven into the fiber of your body, but it need not impair you. Hear this: you will walk again, if and when you see fit, so long as you identify and employ the supports you need, and in as much as you choose.
Grief can hijack you. If it has, let it for a little while. Soon, you will stare down the barrel of the gun, peacefully wave it aside, turn your back with confidence, return your tray table to its upright position, and prepare to fly with the knowledge that you are one tough mother.
Your earned compassion will allow you to soar. When you do, your wingmen and women will be right there with you, helping you write your new story of what it means to you to live a fully engaged life.