Sunday, January 19, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few days later than his actual birthday, but tomorrow we will celebrate his life and also the life of Rosa Parks since their lives wove together in a way that changed us all.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Every year I post this poem on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 
birthday in honor of all that he gave us and in hopes that
we live up to his words.

Twenty-six he was when destiny crooked its finger,
beckoning the still-green minister-scholar into the world.
Forty-two she was when she pounded on the door
Theoretically opened ninety-four years before.

It was the first of December, 1955, when history wove
Their fates together into a multi-colored tapestry of change.
“Tired,” she said, “Bone tired. Tired of giving up.
Tired of giving in,” she said and sat in the front of the bus.

Montgomery, Alabama, shivered as the temperature rose.
The old ways could be heard keening long into the night
As 42,000 people left the buses to stand by Rosa’s side.
381 days they walked: nannies, maids, carpenters, all.

Two hundred years of anger rose up to shatter the silence
And from this deafening roar came a molasses-rich voice
Spinning a song of hope with a melody of peace and love.
“I have a dream,” boomed and echoed across the land.

The young minister-leader painted a picture of a life
without color lines, a world without violence.
His voice lifted the dream: Richmond, Little Rock,
Dallas opened their buses, took down their signs.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about things that matter," he said, never silent again.
He took our hands and led us step-by-step onto a new path,
Brothers and sisters connected by heart rather than skin.

“Always avoid violence,” he said.
“If you succumb to the temptation …
unborn generations will be the recipients
of a long and desolate night of bitterness,
and your chief legacy to the future will be an
endless reign of meaningless chaos."

Thirty nine he was when one man with a gun silenced the voice,
But not the words …those four words branded into our brains:
“I have a dream …,” saffron-rich messengers left behind to
Carry forward the dream of a color-blind world of hope and peace.

Dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. born January 15, 1929;
Assassinated April 4, 1968.
And Rosa Parks, civil rights activist, born February 4, 1913
Died October 24, 2005

-- Joyce Wycoff, copyright, 2011

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Find Your Purpose: Bah Humbug!

"Your purpose in life is to find your purpose 
and give your whole heart and soul to it" 
-- Buddha

Energy Unleashed
I'm sorry Buddha, Oprah, Deepak, and all you other self-help gurus … you, too, Joseph Campbell, you blissful one … I love you all but I think you led me astray.

Google "find your purpose" and you'll find 715 MILLION responses.  Scratch a therapist or consultant and you'll find the word purpose … or bliss.  And, yet, sit down with any one of your friends over a cup of coffee or glass of wine and ask them if they know what their purpose is and then listen to the hemming and hawing that comes forth.

Very few of us can clearly state our purpose and I'm not sure that's such a bad thing. While the experts claim that knowing our purpose energizes and focuses us, they don't mention that it can also be limiting. The child who knows that her purpose is to be a doctor may feel the joy of saving lives but miss precious moments of her own child's life or the opportunity to discover she has a talent for growing succulents.

There is a common trail that leads to this "purpose" and "bliss" line of thought. A writer, thinker or researcher is intrigued by what makes some people "successful" while others with similar levels of talent, education and opportunities never break out of the pack.  What they find in most cases is that these leaders and accomplishers of great tasks are driven, have a sense of mission  … and, yes, purpose. What goes unquestioned, of course, is our definition of success which values the start-up of Facebook more than the raising of a child.

Nevertheless, after the research and interviews comes the book, the speaking tour, the articles and the TED talk, all explaining how, if we just find our own purpose, follow our own bliss, we, too, will be more successful, more wealthy and more celebrated for our achievements.

Grinding wheels. Screeching halt. Wait a minute.  

What if the purpose of life has nothing to do with success, money or grand accomplishments?  What if the purpose of life is to live life?  What if the purpose of life is kindness … kindness to those around us and to ourselves? What if the purpose of life isn't to follow some orgasmic bliss but to simply keep moving toward what attracts us, following those momentary fascinations that sometimes lead to grand passions or gritty determination to do a job that needs to be done, and sometimes flitter away like bright butterflies that lifted our hearts during their brief lives?

What if we don't have to buckle down, get serious, stay focused, keep up or make a difference? What if our only job is to allow our lives to unfold like a flower in the sunshine … or to follow the bread crumb path the Universe seems to sprinkle before us?

After experiencing life for almost seven decades now, I can look back and understand that I was never competent enough to state my "life purpose" and probably still am not. I keep discovering new pieces of myself that I never knew existed … new interests, new strengths, new weaknesses, new fascinations, new burning passions.  The world is always shifting around me and it seems like I am just some ball of ectoplasm that jiggles in a new way with each shift of my world. Why would I even try to nail a ball of ectoplasm to a plank of purpose?

Several years ago in reaction to taking one more workshop that was trying to help me find my life purpose, I wrote the poem below.  Obviously, I didn't heed my own advice because I kept looking and falling into the trap of "find your purpose and suddenly everything will be crystal clear and you will ride the shooting star to fame and fortune."

Today, on this fifth day of the first month of this new year, I quit.  No more purpose for me.  No more looking for that elusive bliss to follow. No more expecting myself to have a clear focus, a life mission, or a heroic path. I now give myself permission to follow whatever calls me, to be kind to myself and all around me, to relax and be completely grateful for each day, to accept myself as flower, weed or cactus.

In thinking about this post, I found an article from Kris Carr who thought she found her purpose when cancer struck and she thought she could help others.  After that illusion passed, she wrote an article in Huffington Post:
Your purpose has nothing to do with what you do. There, I said it. Your purpose is about discovering and nurturing who you truly are, to know and love yourself at the deepest level and to guide yourself back home when you lose your way. That's it. Everything else is your burning passion, your inspired mission, your job, your love-fueled hobby, etc. Those things are powerful and essential, but they're not your purpose. Your purpose is much bigger than that.
"To guide yourself back home when you lose your way."  I love that.  

So here's my new year's wish for you (and myself) … May your year be filled with purposeless joy, fascinations to follow, and gentleness with yourself and the people around you. May you recognize the perfection in Ram Dass's words when he said, "We're just walking each other home."

Life Purpose

The child walks 
toward passion
as naturally 
as she reaches toward 
a bright toy.
Wherever she looks, 
a world of joy beckons.
No thought of “should”
 or “ought” enters her head.
She just points herself 
in the direction of 
the bright beloved
and puts one foot 
in front of the other,
Moving, totally focused.

She doesn’t stop
to ask for it.
She doesn’t worry about
whether or not
it’s the right it.
She doesn’t stop to 
consider the possible responses.
She feels no fear;
she hears only
the siren call
of her one true joy.

Oh, that I felt
that clarity,
that ability
to feel passion
For every cloud 
and dust mote,
every shiny bauble
and every glittering face,
Rather than searching
high and low
for that one
right calling
That one
all-fulfilling wish,
that one bright island,
when life is a sea 
of perfect possibilities.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Wonderous Meander

"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, 
is a way to make your soul grow. So do it." ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Journal Vision Board #2
Wonderous Meander ... those are the words on the cover of my journal and my intent is to spend 2014 meandering ... following my fascinations and the wonders that call to me.

Last year, it dawned on me that the bottom line of my attempts to sell my art in the normal gallery and shows fashion was a large negative number.  So I quit.  For several months I did not make art.  I spent a lot of time looking for more "productive" projects (read financially rewarding).  

I kept thinking, "I followed my bliss and the money didn't follow."  But, then, after chasing money projects for several months, I realized that they were making me a little crazy (and depressed) ... and weren't all that productive financially either.  

So, I had a long hard talk with my checkbook, who said, "You've got a year to make up your mind.  Either make more money or cut your living expenses." It's pretty simple really ... just arithmetic ... dollars in ... dollars out.

So, I have a year.  I'm going to meander along an unmarked path trying to see where it will call me.  I'm going to make a lot of art, write a lot of words, meet a lot of people and see where it leads.

Page 1 of my collage journal tells me, "The daring are never done."  This year I will be daring ... "audacious" (the word that's on the back of my journal) ... willing to say "yes" to the universe.

I invite you to join me ... for me, posting this is the first step into a year of unknown.  If you're a blogger on a similar journey, comment with your blog address and I'll add you to the "Companions on a Journey" list.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The More I Paint

Yesterday a group of women sat together and made vision boards as a way to begin the year.  Since I begin a new journal every year, I put my vision boards on the inside covers of my journal so they are always with me.

Here's the board and some of the thoughts that came with this page:

Journal Vision Board - #1
The new year is the perfect time to ReImagine our lives and to remind ourselves that we are "never done." Sometimes (sometimes?) when I start a new project, I over-complicate it so this is a reminder to start simple and follow the path ... in this case the diamond "stepping-stones" which are there just to remind me that the way doesn't have to be hard or ugly.

This year I want to spend a lot of time being inspired in San Francisco so the picture of Coit Tower is a reminder of that commitment with, again, a caution that it doesn't have to be fast ... I can take my time and wind up in a magical place ... a crystal palace of glass and light and color.  And, of course, ART is part of the destination.

The quote which is too small to read in this picture says, "The more I paint, the more I like everything." -- Jean-Michel Basquiat.  It's probably true that the more we do anything we love, the more we love everything.

So do something you love every day ... that resolution alone might change the world.

PS I am doing Lisa Sonora Beam's 30 day journal process ... if you want to join us, go to  It's free and powerful.