What if, instead of managing our lives, we began to create them?
What if we embraced the truth that we are all creative beings?
And what if we started living more from the creativity within and less from the noise without?
We are all in a constant state of creativity, but often it isn’t conscious creation. We create by the choices we make; the thoughts we think; the reactions we have; the way we problem-solve; the stories we tell ourselves; and by how well we listen to our inner voice, versus all the outer noise which surrounds us. These daily practices of life have enormous influence on outcome in our lives. And the more conscious we are about them, the more power we have in creating a life we love.
Being able to paint the perfect setting of a hot pink sun; designing and planting a garden full of lavender Foxglove, startling blue Hyacinths, friendly white and yellow daisies; capturing with camera or pen the essence an elderly man in a brown tweed hat and suit sitting on the bus stop bench; baking fabulously delicious gourmet ginger cookies with fresh ginger and a sprinkling of dark chocolate — truly these are creative acts. But the art doesn’t stop there.
What if our very life, is our art?
I’m talking about taking the raw materials of our lives, exactly where they are right now, and not wishing them away, but looking them straight in the eye, shaking hands with them, getting to know them, and then working with them as your current creative material. This is the creative process: how we meet and use the everyday, raw material of our lives as they are right now.
How we live our lives is our most important creative unfolding. We are empowered when we become more mindful and authentic about what we think, the attitudes we adopt, and the choices we make. As we do we become conscious co-creators of our lives.
Often we deny our creativity. Why? Because we can’t paint, can’t sew, can’t throw a perfect ceramic pot! Our view of ourselves as creative beings is stunted because of the narrow view we have been given about creativity, and in so doing we deny one of our most stunning features of being female. Women are the essence of creativity. We are the life givers. We are the part of the species that has the inherent ability to create a brand new human being within the walls of our own body.
Creativity is about trusting that which is unseen, but possible, the mystery of life’s synchronicities and miracles. Creativity is deeply spiritual and connects us to our creator. The call of creativity is a call to life as a process, life as a way of entering a deep flow, of learning to surrender and trust and to connect with that which is held most deeply in us – our own infinite intelligence, with its wisdom and power of creativity.
As a child, I lost both of my parents. Their deaths were devastating and required discovering and relying on the deepest internal resources I could find to survive such a profound loss. (See my “About the Author” page). I also grew up in a low-income family. We had enough to eat, a warm and pleasant home, and adequate transportation. That in itself is prosperity. But there was not enough for extra. As a result I learned resourcefulness and hard work early to meet my needs. I made some of my own clothes and dyed and decorated hand me downs to feel good enough about how I looked to go to school. My life was a bit of a patchwork quilt as I gathered and stitched together pieces of the fabric of survival – a little bit of tenacity here, a little scrap of creativity there.
I actually loved high school. I had amazing friends and began to bloom as a writer while working as co-editor of my high school newspaper – The Spud Tri-Weekly! (I grew up in Idaho.)
After getting a degree in communications/journalism in college I became a newspaper reporter for a large daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, Utah. The resourcefulness, ability to work hard, and also the courage, curiosity and compassion I had developed as a result of the experiences of my youth became incredible assets in creating amazing success early in my career.
When I was assigned, by mere happenstance, to cover my first court hearing – an arraignment for a man being charged with two murders — my attention was drawn to his girlfriend, a small, red headed elf of a girl who was wearing a dress and make-up for this chance she had to see the man she loved. After the hearing I followed my instinct – not as a reporter, but as a human being — to ask her if she would like to talk over a bite to eat. She consented.
Less than six months later, the case had turned into an international story. Gary Mark Gilmore had been found guilty of murdering two young men and was given the death sentence. If carried out, it would be the first execution in the United States in 10 years. Utah was besieged with press from all over the world, trying to get any kind of scoop on the story. They wanted to know why he had committed the murders and why he wasn’t appealing his sentence.
By this time his girlfriend Nicole was visiting him in prison several times a week and became the target as a source for the story. She refused to talk to The New York Times, The National Inquirer, and a host of others. She said yes, to 22-year-old me. Why? Because of our innocent casual connection. In our first six- hour interview she lent me over 1,000 pages of letters Gilmore had written from death row, a scrapbook full of his artwork which was eerily amazing, and confessed she had entered a suicide pact with him.
I was taken off all of my other reporting work and assigned specifically to her and to the Gilmore story. The day my front pages stories about the case hit the newsstands, my life changed literally overnight. Barbara Walters held up my stories and quoted me on The Today Show. Numerous media outlets contacted me to interview me for a story. I worked with the BBC on a documentary they made about the case. I was offered a contract with the movie producer who had bought the rights to the story and spent a lot of time with him. He introduced me to Bill Moyer over dinner which led me to interview him. Later, I met and was interviewed by Norman Mailer several times for his book The Executioner’s Song. And at age 23, I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for my stories.
I could not have imagined what lay in store for me. One might have imagined a lifelong successful career in journalism, but my life had its own unique course. Despite being accepted to Columbia’s University’s Masters of Journalism program in New York City, I chose instead to take a leave of absence from my job and sought refuge in the home of my oldest brother who lived in the Pacific Northwest, adopting a quieter life and giving myself time to sort things out. I was in search of the soulfulness I had lost in the fast pace of my career and the world into which my success had thrust me. Much later in life, I would also realize that I had been traumatized by what I was exposed to in reading the letters and covering the execution when Gilmore was killed by a firing squad.
I had not been prepared for the deep waters in which I had been swimming. I made some big mistakes, lost an important part of myself for a time, and needed time to recover.
Slowly, over time I reconnected with my own voice again, my own truth. I had to make a decision about returning to the newspaper as my leave of absence ended. I had no idea what I was going to do next. What I did know was that going back was not right for my life.
Very shortly after that I met the man I have now been married to for 35 years, Brian Allred. We both knew almost immediately that we had met the person we were meant to spend our life with. It was a deeply spiritual experience in which I felt I somehow recognized and knew him even though our paths had never crossed before on earth. We got engaged after our second date; married three months later and soon after began our family. The family we have created together eventually grew to include six daughters. It now includes eight grandchildren; four sons-in-law and is still growing!
The minute I held my first daughter in my arms, red-headed Annie, I fell in love all over again and knew I had a lot more to write about! I fell in love five more times as each of the rest of our daughters were born over the next 12 years. We raised our daughters in a blue 1920’s house in a neighborhood rich with ethnic and cultural diversity in Portland, Oregon. A stay-at-home mom, I wrote about larger lessons of life drawn from the simple moments of motherhood in a weekly column called “On the Homefront,” which was published in a Portland magazine with a circulation of over a million readers. I was blessed to have the privilege of hearing my daughters say their first word. Later I would help them edit their written words for school papers. I helped them learn to ride their bikes and later drive a car. Having been deprived of mothering for so many years I relished the joy of loving and nurturing these six little girls and getting so much love back. My favorite word, out of all of the million words in this language, is still “mommy.” Mothering, though not bringing recognition or acclaim, felt like the most import work I would be doing – helping these little women develop their individual potential. This is work all mothers do whether or not they work outside the home!
By the time my last daughter began middle school I entered a new season in my life, and heard yet another call. It was finally time to get the master’s degree I had considered so many years earlier – but in a different field – counseling psychology. In a way my life had come to its own full circle. Now over 30 years later, with much more experience and understanding, I was again drawn to the art of story, but it would not be just the reporting of stories. Now I would be helping others to heal and expand their stories, by honoring their deepest sense of self and purpose.
My vantage point now at age 58, affords an observation and an appreciation of how our lives unfold and are created over a lifetime – a concept that is often lost in our fast-paced world. I have learned the lesson that my life is my art, that it is the most creative undertaking I have ever embraced. This perspective has given me permission to make mistakes, take risks, experiment and to accept whatever was on my spiritual plate as an opportunity which, if seized, led not just to windows opening, but new worlds revealing themselves to me. I am a co-creator of my life.
Looking back now at the acute moments of choice when my career was accelerating and I chose NOT to go to Columbia, NOT to continue my career as a journalist may defy logic. But, logic did not hold the deeper call of intuition that I heard and responded to. My life has unfolded into a rich tapestry created with small, but important stitches holding together both the beautiful pieces of life and the shadows, mistakes, and adversity which have been such important teachers. For me, it has been the perfect creation, an ever evolving work of art!