Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Change Your World

(Updated Feb. 2013)

Let me ask you something, if you’ll indulge me.

Do you think you can change the world?

No, really! I’m serious.

I’ve been wanting to really write about Pathways for a long time now, but it seems anytime I talk about something that can truly change lives for the better… change the world for the better—no one really believes me, or else, no one wants to listen, because change is scary.

Too scary.

I’ve decided I’m going to write this anyway, and if you believe me, then great. If not, then at the very least, perhaps I’ve given you something to think about.

What exactly do you DO in Pathways?
That’s the question I hear most often. Well, here are the basics: you work individually, with a partner, with a small group, and within the whole class, intermittently.

Here’s a wee bit more information…
  • You take a hard look at what’s holding you back in your world and how it happened.
  • You learn to take accountability for your reactions to what has happened to you, as well as the bad habits you put in place that perhaps at one time protected you, but are now holding you back.
  • Through a pretty intense process, you have the opportunity to let go of a lot of baggage that’s holding you back from living the life you want.
  • You learn to identify negative habits that you once created as coping mechanisms. After identifying those habits, you learn how to replace them with positive habits.
  • You put all the tools you’ve learned into practice in the “real world”, including creating a plan for your life.

How long does it take?
The training takes place across a four month span. The first three training sessions are pretty close together. Here’s an example schedule with the name of the training first, followed by the date:

  • The Weekend – Jan. 8-10 (Fri-Sun)
  • The Walk – Jan. 20-24 (Wed-Sun)
  • P1 – Feb. 5-7 (Fri-Sun)
  • P2 – Mar. 5-7 (Fri-Sun)
  • P3 – Apr. 9-11 (Fri-Sun)

It’s an investment that works out to about $10 an hour. And now that the price of the first training (The Weekend) has been reduced to $199, it’s an absolute steal.

My journey
For most of my life, I struggled with such intense depression. It turned me into a needy person. I kind of wore out the people who loved me, because I constantly needed to know that they accepted me. I had high anxiety and lots of anger. I was shy and withdrawn.

I’d tried therapy, I’d read tons of self-help books and psychology books, and I’d tried support groups.
Nothing worked because all of the changes felt too superficial. Nothing felt like it went deep enough to really “stick,” so to speak.

I was looking for something truly different.

I entered the Pathways training. At first, I really knew nothing about it. All I knew was, I’d seen my boss go through it and make a huge change in the way he behaved. He was nicer. He was more responsible. He was more focused. He was happier. He was peaceful. He finally married his best friend—a woman he had loved for 19 years, but he’d kept her at arm’s length because of fear.

Seeing these major changes in my boss, I was not only intrigued, I was downright hungry.

In August 2004, I began my journey to change my world.

The training was hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done for myself, outside of graduating from college. But, it’s also the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done for myself. Today I am a healthy, strong woman from the inside out. My emotional intelligence and maturity are considerably higher than it ever could have been, had I not had the blessing of going through this training.

The biggest, most major thing I dealt with in the first part of the training was my mom, and all the issues I had with her. She was so toxic to me in so many ways… and at one point, I had very seriously considered cutting her out of my life. I couldn’t do it, though, because I knew that would mean cutting my dad out, too, and that was out of the question.

I am even more thankful for my Pathways journey now, because of the healing that took place between my mom and me.

She passed away in November 2012. I am so thankful that we didn’t really leave anything on the table—no unresolved issues or anger. I am so grateful for that—more grateful than words can ever say.

I owe that to Pathways.

Pathways was the beginning for me. It was the start of a new way of life, a new attitude. I felt joy for the first time, ever. Since going through the training, I’ve grown exponentially. I learned how to accept myself for who I am, and in doing so, I’ve taught people (including my mom) a better way to treat me.

I am so far removed from the sad, angry shell of a woman I was back in 2004. Thank God!

I’ve continued my journey with Pathways as a training assistant or TA, where I have the opportunity to help others on their journey. In turn, I continue my own growth, and let me tell you—it’s a process that continues to give and give, over and over again.

Now? Now I am confident, laid-back, and happy.

I have deeper, more intimate, and more meaningful relationships than I ever thought possible.

I'm more productive at work, too. I'm confident yet humble, and I've learned to accept criticism without taking it personally.

I'm proud of where I am. I recognize that I'm a work in progress, but instead of dreading the process of growth, I actually enjoy it!

In a nutshell, I never could have gotten where I am today without Pathways.

I’m passionate about this organization because I’ve seen the results, over and over again. It worked for me, and through volunteering and helping other trainees change, I’ve seen it work for hundreds.

In truth, Pathways has been around for nearly 30 years, and it’s been the catalyst for literally thousands of people to change their lives. Thousands!

It’s not an end-all be-all solution for everyone. While my heart longs for everyone in my world to go through the training, I recognize that it isn’t right for every person. That’s why there are so many options out there, after all.

Our society is in so much pain, collectively… hard-working folks are losing jobs, committed relationships are falling apart, kids are bearing the brunt of poor decisions made by their parents, and individuals are experiencing more pain and hardship than ever.

Pathways is one way. It’s one way to heal—to face fears and let go of pain that’s held you down for many years. It’s one way to gain awareness of how you’re “getting in your own way” and learning what else is in your way that’s keeping you from living the life you want to live—a life by design, rather than by default.

If you’re interested… Click here to register, or click here to donate.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What happens to jewelry after it leaves my hands?

What happens after a piece of jewelry leaves my hands and ends up in the hands of the recipient? I often wonder exactly this!

Whether it’s someone who purchased the jewelry for themselves, or someone who I gave the jewelry to, or someone who bought the jewelry as a gift for someone else, I always hope the jewelry is enjoyed and treasured. I’m no fool, though. In fact, I’m not afraid to admit that I have full knowledge that my jewelry doesn’t always stay the way I intended it.

I even have a couple of examples. I was in a show last year where I showcased some jewelry designed with beads I’d made. One woman kept eyeing a necklace, stating openly that she didn’t like the way I’d finished it (with a silk ribbon), but that she loved the focal bead so much that she might buy it anyway, and do something else with it.

While part of me wanted to impulsively grab the necklace right out of her hands and stash it in my pocket, another part of me thought, “Well, why not?”

And you know what? She did buy the necklace. I saw the look of absolute glee on her face when she gazed at that bead that I had made. How could I refuse that sale? She got something out of it. It made her happy.

And I’m sure she ripped the necklace apart as soon as she got home and re-did it however she wanted to.

I once put together a necklace made with leather and raku beads (not just beads that had been painted with raku glaze, but beads that had been fired using the raku method), as a gift for a friend. I took care to consider her favorite style and colors. I was still pretty new to making jewelry at this point, and I was really proud of the finished product. It was one of the best things I’d made at that time.

Several months after I’d given the set to my friend, I saw the exact beads I’d used in a completely different necklace on her website.

The necklace was for sale.

At first I was upset and my feelings were really hurt. I mean, how could she? This was a gift I’d crafted especially for her.

And then? I got over it.

Once I gave her the gift, it was out of my control. It was her gift to do with as she pleased. In the grand scheme of things, she could have turned around and sold the necklace as her own. She could have tossed it in a drawer and never looked at it again. She could have re-gifted it. She may have loved it but never saw herself wearing it. I have no clue, and the reality is—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I had the thought to give her the gift.

I think this works for any form of art.

What about a visual artist who sells paintings? She would expect you to frame her painting, but what if it’s more important to you have that you have that piece of art… not so much that it’s in a nice frame? So, it sits on the mantel unframed, so at least you can look at it while other things bump their way up the priority list and you never quite get around to framing the thing.

Do you think that, if the artist knew, she’d refuse sell me another of her paintings?

Well, I can’t speak for all visual artists, but we have four paintings in total from that artist… and only one of them is framed—with a store-bought frame, no less. We fully intend to have the other three framed, at some point. (What can I say? It’s been a rough few years financially.)

Beethoven wrote the famous 5th symphony. Most people only know and love the first movement. But what if the last movement is my favorite, and often the only one I ever listen to from that symphony?

If Beethoven were alive, do you think he’d really give a shit?

Of course not! He’d be thrilled that I found something in his music that touched my soul. It moved me in some way.

Or, perhaps a more relevant example—if a DJ cuts in a few samples of Beethoven’s 5th, thereby modifying his composition and indeed turning it into something completely new and different, is that a bad thing? Is it harmful? My take—it’s actually a good thing. It exposes new listeners to a tidbid of classical music, and they may inquire about the original piece. It modernizes something that many would automatically recognize, and it gives the new artist immediate credibility (which admittedly isn’t necessarily a good thing).

The point is, no matter what, as an artist you cannot have control over what happens to a piece of your art once it leaves your hands. It may be altered, destroyed, broken, painted over, re-sold, etc… and in cases where the action is done out of disrespect, perhaps it’s better that the artist doesn’t know.

I, for one, would stop creating altogether if I was ultimately so concerned about *how* my art was used by the recipient.

Life teaches us that we’re supposed to look for approval and care what others think. But what I’m learning is that what others think of me is none of my business, and in fact, it can be a serious hindrance if I get too wrapped around the axle about it.

Sure, I could have refused to sell that necklace to the woman who wanted to rip it apart—and I’ve seen that happen, too… but when I saw how much she loved the bead, it just didn’t matter anymore.

The point is… once you release your art out into the world, you truly have to let go. That’s part of the beauty of creating.

Honestly, I’d rather that my customers were upfront about wanting a piece altered in some way, so that I could do it for them. It’s something I genuinely try not to take personally. I once sold a necklace to a woman who didn’t like that it was two strands. She only wanted the one strand. I happily snipped off the second strand, and we both got what we wanted—I gained a new customer, I made a sale, and she walked away with a beautiful carnelian necklace.

At that same show last year, a woman showed me a two-strand necklace that she loved. She didn’t want the main strand that actually had the focal on it, she only wanted the secondary accent strand.

Now the interesting thing is, I’d been contemplating making that necklace into a single-strand necklace anyway, so not only did it not bother me that she wanted the second strand… it was actually just what I needed to make the change.

And that’s really what it’s about, isn’t it? Change. Acceptance and rejection. Fear of being “not good enough”.

Well, you know… I say leave all that baggage in the dirt, where it belongs.

There are necklaces I’ve had in my inventory for years, and it feels like something just isn’t quite right with them… I’ll take them out of my display inventory and put them in a bag, waiting for inspiration to redo the necklace. Yes. This happens. I have a pretty full bag of necklaces I’d like to redo, and bracelets I’d like to convert to necklaces, and other various unfinished (un-started, really) projects.

And if a customer wants something altered before buying it… I’m all too happy to do it. I want my customers to be happy with their purchases. I want them to think of me as someone who’s not afraid to push myself and make myself better… I’m only one woman—sometimes I get sick of looking at my own stuff, and if I get a fresh eye on it and someone says “Hey, I think X-Y-Z could hang this way instead of that way”, then once in a while, I may not only learn something new, but I can expand my horizons.

And as you might guess by now, I’m all for that.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More on Murano.

There are few times when I feel an instant emotional connection to something—a material item… a thing.

I had one of those moments when I returned from Murano, Italy.

The trip positively changed my life. As I've mentioned before, it made me feel absolutely connected to creativity again, for the first time in years. I suddenly felt more in touch with who I am. I felt open. I knew who I was again, at the core of my being, and I was unafraid to let everyone see. I felt at home on a torch, wielding molten blobs of glass, when I’d only sat at a torch for a few short hours prior.

I’ve had similar connections before, no doubt. I’ve been a musician all my life—a pianist, primarily, and all of my emotional connection with music fed my ability to communicate through ivory keys and brass pedals.

I lost that ability sometime in college, when the idea of being graded for my emotional outlet caused me to burn out and walk away from playing.

Ever since those days, I have wandered rather aimlessly through a sea of various creative endeavors—writing poetry or essays, and designing jewelry to name a couple—but most of those endeavors have left me feeling somewhat empty or uninspired at one point or another. The ultimate connection between the core of my being and a tangible means of expression was lost upon me.

I lived in Boston for a couple of years, and I once set foot into a piano store with a Bosendorfer front and center. It was the first time I’d ever seen one, let alone been encouraged to touch it. If you’re unfamiliar with them—it’s basically the Ferrari of pianos.

When I saw that Bosendorfer—my heart swelled in my chest and I immediately froze with remembrance of my talent and ability that I’d so willingly tossed away. I couldn’t even touch the Bosendorfer. Instead, I settled upon an electric piano upstairs that had headphones already attached—so my noodling wouldn’t have to be heard by anyone or anything but my aching heart.

I can quickly attach to a piano on a deeply emotional level. But that’s rare with other things.

Which is why I was so stricken when I returned from Italy. I realized that the emotional connection I have to expression has finally changed forms. I no longer craved moments alone to play my homely upright in a rare moment of silent desperation. Oh, no.

I craved the torch, the focused fire, the molten glass oozing its way into round around a mandrel. I craved the folding of color upon color, the swirling of patterns and the plunging of dots and the sparkle of dichroic and gold and silver and palladium. I suddenly wanted to pour my emotions out in the form of glass beads.

So, imagine my surprise when I realize my own connection to glass, and what glass can mean to me.

And then, I saw the bead.

This bead, Murano Magic, made by Sarah Hornik—an homage to a glass sculpture on Murano island.

I felt the same way I felt when I saw that Bosendorfer for the first time in my life. My heart swelled in my chest, and I could feel the edges of my eyes crowding with liquid. I had to have that bead—for what it represents, for the punctuation of what I experienced, for the underlining and exclaiming of all that is Murano, Italy. I had to have that bead.

The timing was pretty terrible—my husband was unemployed, and I didn’t have any work to speak of, and of course—while in Italy, I’d spent a little too much money.

But I had to have that bead.

“It’s silly,” I thought. “It’s a hunk of glass,” I justified.

No good—I had to put a bid on it. Because I had to have that bead.

I lost the auction, but luckily I was able to acquire the bead some months later through a private sale. Lucky me!

It is, without question, a beautiful piece of art.

But it’s more than that. It represents our time in Murano. It expresses something I have, thus far, been unreasonably unable to articulate. It represents a shift in me—a willingness to rekindle my innermost ability of emotional expression. It’s a tangible totem marking my re-awakening.

Murano Magic, indeed.