The People We Would Have Never Met (Pre-COVID)
Emboldened by early-day pandemic "end-of-world" confidence (which very quickly dissipated), I decided to reach out to a couple of my favorite authors with some questions on their path to publishing.
One of those was the incredibly talented, yet totally down-to-earth Marianne Power. She answered all of my questions graciously, and also started some fantastic "Writing for Fun and Sanity" workshops, which I've been able to join a few times (you should check them out!). It was at one of these sessions that a girl named Carrie from Kerry, Ireland (so good) reached out to me on a private zoom message and basically said "Hey, cool name! Let's follow each other on Instagram." And just like that, I had a connection with a writer in Ireland. I had no idea at that point who I was connecting with, but it felt quite good having a stranger engage in such an open and welcoming way.
What I came to find out about Carrie, is that she's a pretty incredible human being. Diagnosed with Huntington's disease, a life-limiting illness, at 31 she's decided to embrace whatever time she has left in full colour. That looks like planning a wedding, becoming an award-winning writer (after only starting her writing journey 8 months ago), taking on causes close to her heart in an effort to help many, building Apps, helping other writers, continuing to connect with new people, and maintaining her faith practices. A seemingly endless list of things that she takes on with joy and energy. All while having to manage a degenerative neurological disease and to navigate within a world that, at the end of the day, is not very accessible.
Maximize the Minutes that Make up Your Life
After her diagnosis, the things she spent her precious time on changed. If you'd met her before her diagnosis, she'd say she was proud of her job, her pension, the respectable things that she was conditioned to want before her world (and the world at large it would seem, around the same time) was flipped on its head. She'd always thought that she'd do the things she wanted to do, those colourful and exciting things, when she retired. Now with that "someday" time gone, she came to the realization that no one should wait to live their lives in colour.
On Valentine's Day she hosted a workshop with Marianne on how to love your life. She's so entertaining to listen to, her stories charming and funny and life-affirming. She makes me want to live a better life. But she also provides some great suggestions to make the most of your time and to live in all the colours of the rainbow.
Let Go of the Joyless Activities
Why spend your time, whatever you have remaining (because while Carrie's diagnosis gave her a sense of urgency, none of us know how long we have left) on things that aren't purposeful or joyful.
What are you doing because you think other people expect it of you? I was a stickler at work for heels, nail polish, make-up on, hair done. But none of the time spent on those things contributed to my goals or did much to increase my joy. Well, wearing heels made me feel kinda sexy, but overall I'm really enjoying living a simpler life, with more time to focus on what matters.
And what about the stuff you have to do or the not so fun things in life? At work we call this the "necessary non-value add." Well, try to find joy in those things as well. A writer's life is full of rejection, and to face that head-on Carrie started a "100 rejections club", with the goal of pitching enough to get 100 rejections in a year. The idea that the more you put yourself out there and risk rejection, the more chances you have of something actually getting a hit. She therefore celebrates every rejection and actively encourages others to do the same.
Make a Bucket List of all Things, Big and Small
And then start making those things a priority. Today. Not when you retire. Carrie decided after her diagnosis to start writing. Part of her legacy building, she realized she had stories she wanted to leave behind, and time was of the essence. While I've spent 8 years hemming and hawing over edits to my book, she decided just last year that she wanted to write a book, and in 8 months she's secured an agent, written two books, started writing clubs, sold an incredible amount of personal essays, written podcasts, etc. It energizes her and brings her joy. If you have things to focus on that bring you joy, then do them now if you can. Don't delay. Get 'er done!
Say Thank You!
A version of a gratitude practice, but directed outwards. Carrie actually sends a large number of thank yous every week. She also regularly sends her energy and thoughts out to other people through a prayer wall filled with post-it notes with the names of those she's thinking of or praying for. There's something about that outward focus and sending joy instead of strife into the world that's really refreshing. That energy multiplies.
Take Off Those Blinders
Carrie doesn't like to think of herself as inspiring, she's just doing her thing and sharing/helping along the way. But it's pretty impossible to not be inspired by her. Every time I think of something I'm doing that makes me unhappy, I remember her words. Life is just too short to be wasted. Make that shit fun, or let it go!
She mentioned to Marianne at one point during the call that if they'd met prior to her diagnosis, they likely wouldn't have become friends. At that time she was focused on the trappings of a standard successful life (got to school, get the job, find the mate, get married, buy a house, maybe have the kids). She would have asked Marianne if she'd had any contacts in her field, and when the answer was no, as it likely would've been, she'd move on to making another connection that would contribute to her plan. She had blinders up for the other things in life that would open her up to so many of the incredible experiences she's had in this last year alone.
Connections in Unlikely Places
It's amazing and overwhelming to think of these connections being made across oceans. The fact that I have a line to one of my favorite authors who lives on the other side of the world is one of the major benefits of the way the world is shifting. She's not just a smiling face on the back of a book jacket, but an actual person that I can connect with in my day-to-day.
And beyond that, there are faces I'm excited to see and people I care about, like Carrie, that I never would have met had it not been for this awful pandemic. The distance between the person down the street and someone in another country is now virtually the same. We're all connected in this shared experience, even though our personal experiences can vary greatly. Which is really quite cool, when you decide to focus on the colour it brings to your life!
|Carrie Jade Williams|