sharedstories

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Today’s *shared stories* come from singer-songwriter Kim McMechan in Canada and artist Terri Conrad in the US.

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Kim McMechan

Five years ago, I was living in a small, dimly lit basement suite.  The walls were beige, the carpets were beige and the counters were beige. 
 
Beige pretty much describes how I felt about living in that house.
 
I had just moved away from a city and community I loved dearly and a lovely and spacious house with a screened-in-porch and quiet rooms where morning sunlight slanted across the hardwood floors. 
 
I stayed in the beige basement suite for a year and a half.  My husband and I had a second daughter.  I tried to adapt to a new and different life.  And then when I realized I could not adapt, I decided to find us a new place to live. 
 
What made it hard was that my husband was happy where we were.  “I know it’s small, but I like it—it’s urban living,”  he said, as he found new and interesting ways to stuff boxes into our single storage closet.
 
It was me who had a need—a deep need I discovered—for space, for quiet, for rooms with walls that hemmed me in and windows that let in the sunlight. 
 
I longed to live close to the downtown core, close to cafes, playgrounds, bike paths and the lake.  I could imagine myself running along Abbott Street, along the beach, past the big, old character homes with vines climbing around the doors.  But everything in that area, as it turned out, was way out of our price range.  


 
So I looked in other neighborhoods, more “affordable” neighborhoods.  Neighborhoods where I supposed I could live, but which I didn’t feel particularly excited about living in. 
 
Meanwhile, every day, almost without thinking, I would drive along Abbott Street, wind in and out of the side roads looking for “FOR RENT” signs in the windows.  I knew it was unrealistic, but I could picture the four of us there—walking the new baby, making our way to the beach on a hot summer’s day, picking lilacs in an alley, pulling a sled through the snow.
 
One of these mediocre houses seemed to make sense, so we prepared ourselves to sign the lease.
 
And then I noticed an ad in the paper for a house on Water Street, just off of Abbott Street.  Just off of it enough to be within our price range. 
 
The house was everything I wanted;  two blocks from the water, a quick bike ride to my favorite café.   It had oak hardwood , a wood-burning fireplace and a white-on-white kitchen with multi-colored tiles along one countertop.  Best of all, sunlight poured through the East-facing windows in the mornings and in the afternoons, it switched to the kitchen.  We’ve been here over five years now.  I’m writing this at my desk, which looks out onto a row of cedars where red finches are pecking at a birdfeeder.


 
What I want to say is that I think that pursuing our true life’s work is very similar to this.

I think that first, you recognize a dissatisfaction.  Something missing.  You name it.  You say it out loud and you say what you want and need.  You may learn that others around you don’t need this, don’t in fact feel that change is necessary. It’s okay.  It’s your work, your path to walk.  Then you begin your search.  You look and look and look.  You restate what you want and what you are looking for.  If you don’t know, you find out.  It’s okay if that part takes a while.  You  look some more.  You drive around in the neighborhood of your desire, and things get clear.  More is revealed.
 
For a long time, my desires were murky.  As a singer-songwriter and writer, I wasn’t clear on where I wanted to go.  I wrote songs and poems, performed and recorded a little, but there was a vagueness to everything I did.  I was terrible at finishing.  Or I wrote things and then stuffed them into my piano bench. 
 
Getting clear has been a life-changing step for me.  I have a deeper trust in the process of a desire and where that can take you if you allow yourself to go there, to wander, to wish and also act.  I’m learning that those things together are very powerful.

[All images courtesy of Kim McMechan.  Kim is a poet, singer-songwriter and art student who lives in Kelowna, BC, Canada.  Find out more on her website]

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Terri Conrad

I am a working artist. This is how I earn my living and I love what I do.

I believe our life is a testimony of who we are and that each of us comes to life with a promise, a gift, a passion and a deep heartfelt desire. As we become aware of what each of these elements represent for us, life then becomes a quest of sorts, bringing our self into alignment with the experiences that will ultimately lead to self-realization – being and doing what we love.
 

the promise

Our promise is what we have come to life to master. We have made a promise to our self to overcome, resolve or heal some aspect of our consciousness. As we face our life’s experiences, we are given the opportunity to fulfill this promise. How we respond to our experiences determines whether we fulfill or break the promise we have made to our self.  One promise for me is to continue to overcome, resolve and heal the pain and discomfort I feel surrounding my sense of value and worthiness.  A self-taught artist, I wonder, am I worthy enough to belong to a community of professional artists? After all, it was just this May, that I participated in my first formal art instruction, and attended a week long art retreat. When I evaluate the question and answer it on an intellectual level, the answer is a resounding yes, for me, and for any artist who is self-taught.  I allowed the prompting of my spirit and its unique gifts to guide me to where I am today, licensing my art to manufacturers who sell my products domestically and worldwide.

the gift

Our  gift is what we have come to give to life. It is the cornerstone of self-determination and self-actualization. Our gift constitutes our talents and abilities – the special things you do as only you can do them. Our gift is enhanced or diminished by how we do what we do and how we share with other those things that we do naturally or well. It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and that is where the discovery of my gift began. After having both my girls, I knew I needed to return to work at some point in the then near future and did not want to return to the only thing I had done (and didn’t love) , working as a legal assistant. I had been playing with designing some pieces for my own home, hand painting furniture and signs when I began to turn my eye toward art licensing, thinking (wild high-in-the-sky how-dare-I kind of thinking), “I wonder if I could do this; work from home, earn a living and still be the primary caregiver to my daughters?” I began to slowly research art licensing, read books on the topic and even attended the art licensing show, Surtex, in NYC so I could learn as much as possible to determine if this was a path I could take.

Just as I was beginning to open my gift, and deeply receive what it had to offer, my plans were put on hold while I navigated some very painful life experiences, including the flooding of a newly remodeled home, a divorce from my husband, and then six months later, a house fire that was devastating to me on many levels. My resilience and determination were certainly called up during this time and it would have been very easy to succumb and pursue a more predictable & reliable path. Instead I chose to continue to listen to the prompting of my spirit. I have discovered through many painful life experiences that there are gifts hidden deep within the folds of  life’s challenges, lessons to learn, and much like the Sycamore tree that sheds its bark, fast & new growth to be experienced. I was determined to open the unique gift I believed was mine to give to life. My husband and I remarried each other, and began to rebuild our family life. In 2007 I launched my first licensed product and even in the midst of our tenuous economy, am oh so grateful for the sufficiency my licensing program provides my family, and that it continues to grow & prosper.

the passion

Our passion represents those things that you pursue for the sheer joy of it – those things that you do that make you feel alive and meaningful; valuable and worthy. We are often frightened away from or talked out of our passion. We are made to feel it is inappropriate or useless. Imagine what life would be if we gave ourselves permission to pursue our passion, to do what we love.  I adore watching children play because they do so with abandon, without care or worry. They participate fully in the moment in the activity – to me this is passion, wholeheartedly pursuing and participating in that which brings you joy. I am passionate about creating art that will warm your heart and home. I want to connect with the heart of who you are, and for the heart of who you are to connect with my art. I am filled with joy when I receive a message telling me how something I’ve created has special meaning for someone. Our promise, our gift, our passion and heartfelt desire are a circle of self-love worthy of honor and recognition. It is irrelevant whether we earn our living with our passion. What is relevant is that we seek it, we open the gift, we explore it, we honor, recognize and share it. A gift is meant to be given, and the beauty is that when we give our gift, we receive so much in return.

the heartfelt desire

Your heartfelt desire is the thing you most want to experience in life. Some want love, others want acceptance. Most of us want both. The difficulty we face is not losing our identity or integrity in the pursuit of the heartfelt desire. Like many of us, I do not give enough time & energy to my heartfelt desires. My days are filled with meeting deadlines, caring for my family and my home, and managing the business side of my creative work. As I reflect here though, I return to my promise above – I want to feel acceptance, I want to feel belonging. These are innate human desires that hold the potential for fulfillment when we allow our authentic, imperfect (self-taught artist) selves be seen in the wide open, and to reach out and engage with one another.

On a more material level, my BIG dream & heartfelt desire is for my creative business to be sufficient in wholly supporting and providing for my family, to travel to England & Paris with my husband for a work/pleasure excursion, and to have a home with a studio that overlooks the ocean– a girl’s gotta dream!

It is an absolute joy to realize (albeit mid-life!) that my journey has actually manifested into my destiny. How blessed I feel to finally have this knowledge, to understand it and to be wise in sharing it. My deep heartfelt desire is to encourage, nurture & inspire  the unique beauty, beloved spirit, and unlimited possibilities in each of us, particularly the little girl in every woman. I hope through my art you are personally touched, and inspired to embrace the girl within, and to nurture fertile soil for her “bloomin beautiful heart.” Go for it girl! Weave a ladder of dreams, climb to the top. Be courageous! Have faith, and Aspire!

Thank you, Beth, for the opportunity to share my love for what I do with your readers. Do What You Love is a beautiful community of creative spirits supporting and encouraging our collective journey to making our world a little bit of a better, and most certainly, prettier place to live.

[All images courtesy of Terri Conrad.  Find out more about Terri by visiting her website or blog, or connect on Facebook]

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Missed the retreat? Why not join the Do What You Love e-course?

This online adventure starts on June 6 and will take you step-by-step along the path towards doing what you love.

Read what a powerful impact it had on previous participants here.

Find out more and register here.

This is your life we are talking about…

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