Today was a fascinating day, so full of thoughts and emotions that my head and heart are both full to overflowing right now. I spent the day at Aidan’s house with Danielle LaPorte and a fascinating, diverse group of 23 people (22 woman and 1 man). We started with introductions. Most people talked for 2-3 minutes about where they were in their lives, what they did and wanted to do, and what their challenge was. I spoke for approximately 15 seconds and ended my brief sentences with a shrug. I was reminded today of how, in a group of strangers, my default is to feel awkward and shy. I felt very shy in that room. I didn’t talk again all morning.

Danielle spoke about her own story, commenting on the inflection points and decisions, wise and unwise, which had brought her to where she is today. Among the comments that she made that I remember verbatim was that you have to ask for what you want. A promotion, readers, success, a contract. You cannot expect good things to simply come. You have to meet grace halfway, she said. Asking for what I want – or for help of any kind – is something that makes me both nervous and uncomfortable, so I don’t like hearing this, but I know that it is true.

Danielle asked several thought-provoking questions, among them:

What are you sarcastic about? (this may indicate a place of defensiveness)

What do people thank you for? (gratitude is tied to your own genius)

How do you want to feel?

This last one led into one of Danielle’s key points. She asserted that we are all driven by our need to feel a set of core desired feelings. That all of our behavior and decisions are in search of these feelings. To figure out what those are, therefore, is a critical step in clarifying what our life should look like. What professional and personal infrastructure should we have to maximize how often we feel the way we want to feel?

I don’t even have answers to Danielle’s searching questions yet. Just more questions. More than once today – in fact, over and over – I welled up with tears. I found myself in the grip of a swell of emotion both powerful and inchoate. This is not the first time I’ve felt this. I have moments where I feel full to the brim with thoughts and feelings that I am powerless to control and unable to name. I know there is a tide turning in my spirit, but I don’t exactly understand where the undertow is taking me.

I struggle to remember that there is a design in what looks like utter lack of order, a reason why things happen. I know in my core that I believe these things. I fiercely want to trust that there is a place where I will feel unfettered and like I am doing what I should be doing. I have never felt that, have not felt passionate or intellectually alive since college. For all of my grandiose aspirations and big, inarticulate dreams, I know that I also, truly, fundamentally, want to feel useful. I want to contribute. To whatever it is I am doing, to the big or the small, to something.

I end today with many more questions than I began it with. Zora Neale Hurston said there are years that ask questions and years that answer. I’ve had a series of question-asking years in a row. I look forward to the fruition of some answers.

3 thoughts on “Firestarter”

  1. Yes! To feel useful. To contribute. To contribute to something that is meaningful. That is larger than just my small life.

    THIS has been on my mind all week. As I struggle with the choices that I've made to work outside the home and spend so much time away from my kids, THIS is what I think about. My job is not meaningful. It is not useful to the greater good. It is only really useful to one man. To me this is not enough. I need more from life. My time. And myself.

    More questions? There are always more questions. I wait for answers. I try to answer them myself. I give it time. But the questions flood in faster than I can handle them sometimes.

  2. So well said, Sarah! Even though you didn't take any notes, I can see how much you left with. I often think that those impressions matter more than the details of each thing that was said/noted.

    Have you thought of literally answering some of Danielle's questions? I, for one, can't wait to start Style Statement, but realistically think it'll be a New Year's project.

    So glad we connected!

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