Since becoming a life coach over a decade ago, I come to attention when I hear stories of how people developed their gifts and passions. So I was particularly gratified to receive in my email box my daily edition of The Writer’s Almanac on the last day of 2012.
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In it I learned that Henri Matisse had no interest in art as a young man, but while recovering from appendicitis a neighbor suggested he paint as a way to pass the time. He later said: “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.”
Because Matisse and Nicholas Sparks share a Dec. 31 birthday, I also learned in that email edition that Sparks “started writing to pass the time while recovering from a sports injury.” He published The Notebook in 1996 and that just got him started.
Sometimes it’s that clear for people. But every so often a client comes along with a clear passion and our mission quickly becomes apparent – figure out what to do with it.
A penchant for knitting great scarves or a knack for playing the piano doesn’t necessarily mean you’re supposed to make a living from it. That’s not impossible, mind you, but maybe what it’s saying is, ‘pay attention to me and don’t ignore me like I’m some kind of bad habit. I may not bring you an income stream, but serenity, creativity, diversion, and satisfaction count for something, don’t they?’
You like to cook. You make a mean few dishes that are in high demand with your loved ones. Is this a chef’s calling? Or is this a joyful skill that helps you express?
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The last few weeks I’ve been turning this question on myself. It seems I enjoyed doing some rare (for me) entertaining over the holidays. First I planned a family gathering to make it easier for a cousin who was only home for a short time from a year abroad. The planning of the menu, coordinating the best times for everyone, pacing, all of it made me feel so vibrant.
Less than a week later, I invited friends to my home for my birthday. Again, laying out the food table, finding creative ways to decorate it, thinking of outside-the-box uses for serving dishes, introducing a new sweet dip into the savory buffet – what a rush of adrenaline.
In both cases, as the gatherings were in full swing, I occasionally immersed myself in watching people interact, really connect or reconnect, enjoy good wine and food, and ultimately walk away expressing happiness and gratitude. I was part participant, part observer and it felt great.
I know this isn’t a revelation to lots of people who entertain regularly. But for me, well, I confess I’ve been shy about entertaining. It took me a long time to be comfortable enough with my terrific but humble home and less than stellar housekeeping skills to open it up to guests on a regular basis.
It was always something. The walls need painting. Or the layout isn’t conducive to socializing and flow. Or I’m in a decorating transition. You get the idea.
But slowly over the last few years I’ve been relaxing my preconceived notions of what entertaining should be. Yes, the carpet in the building’s common hallway is being replaced and there is an unattractive floor there temporarily, but who cares? At one time, I would have. Now that seems silly.
Something Oprah Winfrey said a few years ago stuck with me. She said your home should rise up and greet you when you walk in the door. Mine does. Every room has that feeling on most days because I’ve made a point of surrounding myself with things I love.
But this is not just about comfort – or not – with my home. One of my career incarnations was as a television producer. While I wasn’t particularly good at some aspects of it, what I did excel in was the organizing, the trouble shooting, the overseeing, the attention to detail and the anticipating of needs. I don’t aspire to produce TV again, but those skills translate well to other things, including planning parties.
I don’t want it as a career, but it doesn’t mean I have to leave those skills to die on the vine. I found myself writing a Facebook status that said:
I think I’m supposed to entertain more.
And so I will.
No need to move heaven and earth, go get another degree or fancy myself the next Martha Stewart. But I can pay attention to the nice lift it gives me to invite people over to my home and see them enjoy themselves and I can make good on a vow to do it more often.
Simple. Appreciation of friends and family. Stimulating conversation. Opening.
Yes, opening. I think it’s really about that. Opening means no longer being closed, right? No self-imposed perfection standards. Accepting that people might see a messy drawer or an errant dust ball and not be horrified. Being confident enough to flex our creative muscles in a different context. Trusting that people who don’t know each other will potentially connect beautifully because we’ve chosen friends well.
This is opening. Another lush dimension of life.
And in the case of this life coach, another experience to draw from when I work with clients.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.