Misadventures

Covid Crisis Silver Lining - Permission to Say NO.

It has occurred to me that this awful covid pandemic crisis could have a silver lining.
 
No, not that more people work from home, but that's true.
No, not that we're all more aware of how we spread our germs - all kinds - but that is a good thing.
No, not that we've figured out how to better appreciate time spent at home, but that is cool.
No, not that we've all learned to bake banana bread, but I won't complain about that.
 
The silver lining I'm thinking about is that this crisis offers us a stock/standard reason to say NO to some things...to get out of some commitments...to make changes we've wanted to make but have thus far hesitated.
 
Have you noticed how tolerant we've all been with each other during this time (not all, but many)? When people say they're having a hard time focusing, we say, "it's understandable." When people lament that they weren't able to meet _____ expectation, they get empathy and support. People get it - this is a weird time. We're in flux.
 
Sidebar: After I was first diagnosed with cancer, I got all kinds of grace and understanding when I backed out of things or changed commitments, or changed my mind or goals. It's understandable and was warranted. This is what loving human beings do for each other.  AND...every now and then, I played the "C-Card" to make a change that I would otherwise have been too self-conscious or guilty to make. And while you might be thinking I was being a manipulative person, using my disease to garner unwarranted support, hear me out. If I was no longer committed to something or still inspired to accomplish a goal, I should never have felt bad about making that change. But sometimes we do feel weird, because we don't want to disappoint others. But here's the kicker, people are often more disappointed when we aren't straight with them about what's really important to us and - perhaps - what is no longer as important.
 
Back to covid. It's a great time to take stock of your life and identify and changes that you've been wanting to make but have hesitated. Use the current situation to provide a bit of cover, to make it feel less weird. I LOVE this idea and have already implemented a couple of changes. Several more are in the works. And the lovely thing is that these changes will set me up to experience a more fulfilling and misadventurous life. 
 
What might you STOP, START, or CHANGE that would make a big difference?
 
Repeat after me: You know, this covid crisis has turned parts of my life upside down and I've been thinking about what it all means or should mean. And what I realize is that _____________ (this is where you say, what you want to stop, start, or change).
 
And this is all true and authentic. This crisis, like any (even like being told you have cancer), has made us all take stock a re-think some things. Let's use this opening to act upon what we know is best for us now.

Build a Bolder Mindset and Re-Think Misadventure

Time to re-think misadventureIf you look at the dictionary definition of misadventure, you might think they're something to be avoided at all costs.

We should avoid driving off a cliff.

We should avoid ingesting poisonous plants.

We should avoid jumping into a pit full of hungry tigers.

Some of the more common words used to describe misadventures include mishap and misfortune. Even tragedy. And misadventures can be these things and often are. But let's talk perspective and scale.

Common mindset based on what we often learn about misadventures: Misadventure = something to avoid.

Consider another, bolder mindset about misadventures: Misadventure = opportunity to live full out and have a more vivid experience.

But how do we avoid driving off a cliff but welcome trying driving with no destination in mind or map? How do we avoid eating a deadly berry but welcome experimenting with new foods?

Misadventure as opportunity is a mindset that nudges our every day habits closer to the edge of our comfort zone. Eventually, misadventure as opportunity is a mindset that routinely takes us out of our comfort zones, but not irresponsibly (like jumping in a pit of tigers).

This week: Reflect on what misadventure as opportunity might mean for you. It's different for each of us, because our comfort zones are at different places.

For me, nudging or blasting through my comfort zone could mean:

  • Being really open and nurturing, spending time in this way.
  • Transcending what I think I'm capable of physically.
  • Engaging in a new enterprise that requires strong teamwork and co-leadership to succeed.
  • Cooking something new from scratch.
  • Taking a trip with no agenda or plan.

Yes, I'm a recovering control freak. I'm currently cooking up potential misadventures for all of these types of experiences. What might your list look like? And if you embraced your list, how might this impact your work or life? I think the more we nudge or blast past our comfort zones, the more interesting and fulfilling our live will feel.


Break Apart to Surge Forward

Untitled design (8) copyIn Anthony Brandt's TEDxHouston talk, he shared how creative endeavors involve bending, breaking, and/or blending. If you're interested in creativity, I recommend you listed to Anthony's full talk. 

This weekend, I'm contemplating the breaking apart part. Knowing some of my habits and assumptions are fairly ingrained, perhaps breaking some of them are in order. 

Like the spider plant pictured here, we can become root-bound and stuck. Stuck in our thinking and ways and stuck with beliefs that no longer serve us. Still alive but not growing. The antidote for the spider plant, and perhaps us, is to clear away some of the hardened roots and reimagine a freer way to exist. This task involves some risk.

The planting exercise was one of my weekend mini-misadventures, but it's also a pretty good metaphor for what we all can try to make leaps forward in progress.


My Father the Misadventurer Extraordinaire

Mr. Misadventuer

I remember my father, Lee Devine, often, but there was a double dose of reflection yesterday because it was Father's Day. We lost my father in 2015 after he succumbed to prostate cancer that had metastasized. I bit of a surprise because our money had been on the heart disease, diabetes, or Alzheimer's to do him in. He was 85.

My dad was a world-class misadventurer, and I learned about how to find and get in the middle of a misadventure from him. This is not an exaggeration or some sappy made up dedication story. Consider:

  • He routinely set our house on fire while tinkering in his shop or attempting to jury rig some broken mechanical concoction back to life.
  • He once made a jeep/dune buggy Frankenstein vehicle out of six other vehicles. It had no doors or seat belts, but had a horn that played several different melodies.  He took me (8 or 9 years old at the time) for fast rides in it, which did not please my mother but pleased me very much.
  • He got this fun new zero turn radius riding lawn mower. Top of the line for the time! He then drove it into our canal because he was going too fast and the grass was a wee bit wet. He stayed sitting on it and screamed as it kept going into deeper and deeper water.
  • He brought me home a turtle that he found on the side of the road. It was a snapping alligator turtle. 
  • He then got me a chicken and rooster (we live in a small city). My rooster Chico crowed a lot. Then the alligator in our canal ate my rooster.
  • He built a diving board to go into that very same canal. 
  • He believed in pyramid power and started making small pyramids in the scale of the Great Pyramid. He gave me one to hang from my rearview mirror in my first car (a VW Fastback). I then crashed three times. I was 16, so the pyramid may have had nothing to do with it. Or did it?
  • He built a pool in our backyard in the shape of Africa. Southern Algeria was very deep, deeper than most pool companies deemed safe. I loved sitting on the bottom while holding my breath.
  • My parents divorced when I was 13. My dad started having toga parties and made me help the guests fashion togas out of the bed sheets they'd bought. Some things are hard to unsee.
  • He would take me to the uninhabited canals in Cape Coral to catch wild guppies to feed to our Oscar fish. The wild guppies ate the pretty colorful tails off all the ornamental guppies we had. Envy?
  • He started painting after retirement and was prolific for a time. Not his strongest skill, but always interesting.
  • He took up making stained glass and did some beautiful work.
  • He liked it when I made him new, made up cocktails. 
  • He bought and sold crap and garage sales. He once gave my mother fake pearls from a garage sale. This did not go over well.
  • He routinely ran our boat onto sandbars. One time, we all got off and walked to a nearby beach that they didn't realize was a nude beach until too late. 
  • He drilled a small hole into the edge of my boxer turtle's shell so I could walk it on a leash and to keep it from escaping. This did not work.
  • He played harmonica and a few other instruments a wee bit. He'd jump in and play at any hootenanny. Even when we was clearly losing his battle with cancer. The harmonica pic above is one of the last I have of him. Playing, still, but out of breath and strength.

I could go on. And consider these are just some of the stories I remember. Being the youngest child, he'd already lived a life chock full of misadventure by the time I was born. Heck, I might've been one of those misadventures since I was born seven years after the next youngest sibling (oops! hahaha).

The spirit of the misadventurer is unmistakable. They demonstrate an almost childlike willingness to jump into a new situation - with known skills or none - and give something a shot in the name of adventure and having a great life. Or just to figure something out. 

What a special gift it was to have watched my father misadventure his way through what turned out to be a fascinating and well-lived life. 

May we all embody the misadventurer's spirit.


Misadventure: Making Thyme for What Matters

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One of the ways I experiment with making my life more misadventurous is to go against my type and strengths and try something that falls into the category of "things I usually botch." Often fabulously and flamboyantly botch.

Today's story is about a wee thyme plant (pictured above).

I'm a hit and miss gardener. Not much in the way of good instincts, but I've learned a few things that seem to work for me. As a result, we tend to have a decent herb garden each year. If you've read my stuff for a while, you know that my husband Bill does all the cooking. The herb garden is my contribution to our food preparation. And placing pick up orders. 

I decided to broaden the narrow list of things I managed not to @%$* up by one or two but knew I'd need to find a coach or take a class. Not read a book. Have you read gardening books? Most are far too detailed and so boring they make better sleep aids than skill builders. No offense to gardening book writers out there (but, come on...).

I found and decided to take Ron Finley's gardening class on Masterclass. He calls himself the "Gangster Gardener," and was the perfect teacher for me because he cut to the chase and gave practical, doable advice. He talked action, not science. 

One of his lessons was on propagation - making new plants from other plants. Propagation is a 301 level gardening class, and my capabilities had proven to be 101 at best. But Ron made me think I could do it.

I had a dead thyme plant that had been undone by Lexington's cold and wet winter and spring. Poor thing. I had cleared it out of its planter and was about to throw it in the compost bin (another thing Ron taught me to do). I looked at the ugly mess on my planting bench. Was it really all and completely dead?

I decided to try propagating a part of the brown, brittle herb plant. I cut it down to the base and separated a small piece that felt less dead. I stuck the new creation in the corner of one my raised beds. I vowed to talk to it every day to encourage my creation to spring to life.

At first, it did not look promising. The wee twig/plant just sat there. But then, weeks later, I saw a tiny green leaf. And then another. And although I've never really had motherly instincts related to humans babies, I found myself proud of my little creation. I starting planning for when it would grow up big and strong and change our culinary world.

Ron had been right.

Propagation is the slow way to go, though, and after three months my wee thyme plant is still just two inches tall. During this same timeframe, I've managed to plant and kill a dozen other herbs and vegetables (the confidence I gained from taking Ron's class might've gone to my head). 

So while home grown tomatoes, broccoli and melons will not be featured on the Haneberg dining table this year, we will have, in time, very special thyme.

This misadventure has been a circuitous but resounding success (she says with her fingers crossed behind her back hoping not to jinx herself given that much can go wrong in matters involving outdoor gardening). 

What new against-type-and-strength skill shall I try next?


Make an Impossible Promise; Bring it to Fruition

Not sure if you're like me, but I break promises I make to myself way more than I fail to follow through on promises I make to others. This is pretty natural, I think.

It therefore makes some sense that if we want to up our chances for follow through, we should make more external commitments.

AND! If you want to amp up the misadventure-quotient (that's a measurable thing*), you can make a commitment to do something, or achieve something, or create something, that seems impossible at the moment that you make the promise. And extra credit if the commitment has teeth - skin in the game - like enrolling in your first marathon, or entering a story writing contest, or putting something at risk if you don't follow through.

Here's a recent example. I've been wanting to create a space where active writers worked together. A cool, enriching, tricked-out workspace filled with literary creatives. This was a tricky idea because most writers don't make very much money and can't afford market-rate office space. Coworking spaces are nothing new, but they're filled mostly with tech workers because they work for companies who can afford the space rental. It was also unlikely to succeed because I was relatively new to Lexington, KY and had not yet developed my writer network. 

Had I started by creating a business plan, with financials and outlined all the barriers, it never would've happened. Instead, I tried the back-assward (technical term) approach.

First, secure the space. I asked the owner of a coworking space to show me some rockin' corner unit space. I told him I wanted that space. It was going to be pretty expensive.

Second, find a couple of writers who love the idea. I then started meeting with a few writers to share the concept and recruit partners. I was lucky to get a recommendation to contact two writers who were at the time barely acquaintances. BUT! We clicked and they loved the idea. They were in.

Three, do the stuff most people do first. When all where all in, we went back and figured out all the things that needed to happen to make this idea a real thing. 

And it's a reality and I'm now the proud board chair for our legit nonprofit org., the Lexington Writer's Room.  We've had some major challenges (covid!) but have created something truly special and better than the impossible vision I imagined. It's 650sqft of literary productivity wonderland, completed with snacks and a high-speed printer. Our member writers are delightful and talented. 

I'm quite sure this would've never come to fruition had I approached the idea using a methodical and logical route. I got BACK to that approach, but not before I was in too deep to wimp out.

Promise, then Figure it Out

Personally, I'm just not motivated or disciplined enough to do things in the correct order. But if I put enough skin in the game, I somehow tap into my ability to make the impossible possible (perhaps this goes back to the 40% rule I blogged about earlier?).

Give this a try and tell me about it. I'm cooking up my next big promise now...

*Not measurable, but you'll feel the power of it.


Misadventure - The Night STING Spat on Me.

I thought I'd share the story of a one-night misadventure that happened when I was in my twenties. Slightly embarrassing for sure and kind of magical. It was a time I played full out to mixed and debatable results. 

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In the late 80s, Sting was in reinvention mode. The former lead singer of The Police launched his solo recording career. He played pseudo jazzy music, dedicated himself to daily yoga practice, and starred in a Broadway Play called the Three Penny Opera.

I was a big Sting fan.

So I was thrilled when I saw that the Three Penny Opera would be playing at the National Theater (Theater of the Presidents!) in my home town of Washington DC. I called the ticket office and blew all the credit I had left on my Visa Card to get two front row seats.

Front row! Sting from the front row! I wanted to be close to Sting, to look directly into his eyes, to feel his breath, to get the full sense of him and to see his new and improved physical flexibility.

I asked a guy I had been dating on and off to go with me and was surprised when he agreed because he was way out of my league and I had anticipated the subtle brush off for weeks. David was classy, dressed impeccably, drank expensive Martinis, always had money, and drove a red Alpha Romero convertible. I, on the other hand, was bumblingly eccentric, a bit soft in physique, dressed using the Garanimals method, and traveled by subway to the puny efficiency apartment I couldn't afford. He told me that I had that “je ne sais quoi” and but I figured my sais quoi would one day become just ne ordinary.

I bought a fancy black dress and stilettos not made for walking so that I could look the part of an elegant theatre aficionado. We enjoyed a lovely dinner before the show and then took our seats ready to see Sting dance and sing.

And see we did! My first row spot brought me within two feet of him. Every slide of his hips and every facial expression was vivid and seemed just for me. We were connecting.

Something else just for me… Did you know that it takes a lot of air to sing Broadway songs? It does, and I know this because in addition to enjoying Sting’s theatrical performance, I became the landing spot for his spit. Especially during his dramatic rendition of Mack the Knife, which apparently requires a lot of projection.

I was in heaven. Spit is personal shit.

After the show, David and I went for post-theater martinis two doors down at the Occidental Bar in the Willard hotel. This was to be a civilized ending to a lovely evening in this most historic watering hole (Nazis! Cuban Missile Crisis!). The dim lighting, bespoke suited men, and thickly perfumed air was intoxicating. The gin was too, especially since I couldn’t hold my liquor, was on my third, and ate very little at dinner because I was afraid of popping the zipper on my new dress which I intended to return the next day due to the fact that I could not afford it.

I gazed out the window of the bar and saw a group of people walking toward The Mall (THE Mall, not a mall). Looking closer, I saw Sting in the middle of the group. “Fuck!” I yelled loud enough so that everyone in the bar turned toward me. And then I ran in my heels across the bar, down the steps, though the lobby, out the exit, and onto Pennsylvania Avenue after Sting.

Running.

Oh my god!

Running.

Where are they?

Running.

Sting! Sting!

Out of breath, ankles buckling.

Sting, where are you?

I couldn't believe I'd lost them and I spun around for several blocks like a drunk hummingbird on crack. My chance to find and reconnect with Sting was slipping from my grasp. How could this be?

After a couple of iffy encounters with other drunks on the street who – in all fairness to them – helped me stand back up after I fell to my knees because the adrenaline that had kept me upright was wearing off, I made my way back to the Occidental Bar and told David that what had happened was that I had a sudden and really bad charley horse and needed to run it off and but that he did not need to worry because I was fine. He bought it, smiled, and ordered another round. Je ne sais quoi indeed.

I am pretty sure it was Sting I ran after.


Taking on a Big Challenge - the Navy Seal's 40% Rule

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To live a more misadventurous life, I need to do more things that challenge me and inspire me to play full out. These challenges could be physical, mental, intellectual, analytical or something else. 

Right now, I'm focused on taking on a physical challenge because the I've suffered from fatigue and lethargy for months and I've lost a good bit of my physical strength. If I wanted to, I could make make some pretty good excuses (health conditions and prescriptions) but going down that soul-sucking road would not be a good use of my time however true it might be.

Here's the mindset I think will be more helpful - I'm much stronger and more capable than I think.

Have you heard of the Navy Seal 40% rule? It basically goes like this. When you think you've done all you can, and you feel like you need to quit, you've only used 40% of your strength and capacity. There's a good discussion of this on the Age of Obsolete blog.

No this is not a scientifically researched number. Whether it's really 40%, 50%, or 30%, I believe that we quit - or feel ready to quit - well before we have to. I reflected on times in my life that I proved this to be true. Here are two vivid and relatable examples:

In 2009, I walked the very hilly Flying Pig half-marathon (Cincinnati) while carrying an extra 80-90 pounds of excess weight. It took me 4 1/2 hours to walk the 13.1 miles and I felt like quitting hundreds of times. There was a mental aspect to this challenge too, because I was keenly aware that I looked much heavier than nearly everyone and I imagined that people were looking at me with pity or scorn (I was embarrassed). I also felt pressure during the second half of the walk to stay a block or two ahead of the sweep cars closing the course and picking up those who'd not be permitted to finish. I made it! And truth be told, I was probably capable of going farther.

In 2014, I completed the 2-day MS 150, a 150-mile charity bike ride from Houston (flat) to Austin (not flat). We'd trained every weekend for several months, and while I was pretty strong, I was still carrying a ton of extra weight. Not so problematic on flat roads, but the hills on the second day were killer. Pain management became an even bigger challenge than the hills. It took everything I had plus more to finish near the end of the pack.

In both of these examples, I got to the end by pushing through barriers and finding a deep determination I didn't know I had. I did it in spite of myself. Sadly, I can remember many more times when I gave up too soon. When I quit at 40%. Those are regrets I have learned from.

My current state of strength and fitness is far lower than it was in 2009 or 2014, so I'm at a different starting point. That's OK.

But the process I need to use is roughly the same. Set a big and inspiring goal anchored by promises and commitments. Rearrange life and habits to move in that direction. Do small and directionally correct things every day to manifest the goal. Go until I want to stop, then go a bit more. Make big requests, when needed. 

I'm tired of being tired and weak and am ready to begin a new misadventure focused on becoming strong again. There will be many misadventures along the way that I will surely relish and remember. 

I'll share more about my thinking and plan over the next two weeks. If you want to challenge yourself in a bigger way, please share your goal in the comments so I can cheer you on.


Our impact on nature - the small things.

FledglingI don't know about you, but I get pretty nervous when faced with a new-to-me mother nature situation. Last week, I was watering the plants in the back yard and two adult cardinals started chirping at me. They seemed upset, not that I speak cardinal. I realized that the large hydrangea bush had a wee fledgling in it. 

Their fledgling.

The little bird hopped around and tried to fly. It flew into the wooden fence on the other side of our yard, which is just 15 feet away. I shut off the water and moved away but watch. I didn't know if I should DO something.  My first instinct (generally wrong) was that yes, I need to get the little bird back up into the big tree from where it presumably fell.

I grabbed a rake and wrapped a towel around the end, so it would be a soft perch. Somehow I thought that if I extended the rake, the little bird-brained cardinal would realize I was here to help it and jump onto my express ride back into the tree.

You know that didn't happen. The parents got closer and pitched a fit. They looked ready to dive bomb me. The little bird kept trying to fly away but could only get a few feet off the ground.

The moral to this story is: Google before you do anything. 

A quick search confirmed the error of my initial approach. Leave the bird unless something bigger is about to eat it. The parents will continue to feel the fledgling while it is learning to fly. It will never return to the nest.

For three days I kept checking to see if the bird was still in our back yard and alive. Because we have a very small yard surrounded by an 8-foot fence, I worried the fledgling didn't have enough space to get aloft. I worried the parents would give up if the bird did not learn quickly enough. I worried some other creature would kill it.

After the three days, there was no sign of the fledgling. Dead or alive. A promising sign was that the parents were gone too. 

I choose to believe that the baby cardinal made it out and is an accomplished flying machine, versus that it was consumed whole by something else.

Did I impact its chances? Am I a big dummy? Probably. You likely know how fledglings work and what to do. 

Every first offer a tiny adventure (or misadventure) and it's fun explore and learn about how other creatures live. 

Now, if someone could just tell me whether I've killed my chances of getting broccoli from my broccoli plants if their leaves are filled with holes and no broccoli-the-vegetable looking shoots are shooting? 


Does it take courage to dance alone? Or something else?

Disco

Twenty-two year old Lisa was a loner, just like the fifty-six year old version is today. Even so, this young lady loved disco music and dancing. Even more, she loved participating in disco-dance competitions. She and her partner (just a partner, not someone she was dating) won a few at the ABC Liquors lounges in the Tampa Bay area where they both attended college.  A hundred bucks split two ways was a decent haul for two near broke young adults. ABC Liquors was what we might refer to as a Tier B or C place - low hanging fruit with less competition from good dancers because the good dancers went to nicer places.

There were a few Tier A discotheques in town, too. They had dance contests, too. Young Lisa entered several but never won at a Tier A place.  Why? Were they not good enough? There was no THEY at Tier A spots. Lisa chose to enter these contests by herself. No dance partner. Just Lisa, in the middle of the small carved out area on the dance floor all by herself. Everyone's eyes on her.

Lisa was a good dancer. Not to a level worthy of being featured on a reality TV show, but good. She had a touch for the underlying rhythms of each song and loved the hard thumping songs by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Depeche Mode, and Adam Ant.

She never won when she danced alone. Even so, she kept entering.

I don't quite understand what motivated Lisa to do this, and I don't specifically remember how she felt before during or after her solo dance performances. I remember high highs and low lows. I do remember one specific low low. After not winning, Lisa went out to the parking lot where she'd parked her piece of shit Honda 120 motorcycle. She'd left her helmet hanging upside down on the bike and it had rained. She poured out the water that had pooled in the helmet and then put it on. Water squished out from the soaked foam that lined the inside. A metaphor for the evening?

It takes a lot of...something... courage, ego, determination... something... to enter a dance contest in a crowded Tier A lounge. And double of that to enter it alone. Maybe zest, or zeal, or challenge. Remember, she was a loner, so the motivation was not to be seen or noticed. Like the older version, disco Lisa preferred to fade into the background unless something or someone in particular intrigued her. Then her movements and communication were clear, direct and focused. Dancing in front of a few hundred people was far too shotgun an approach for socialization to be the motivator.

I'm pretty sure that the key to understanding why Lisa danced alone lies in the high highs and low lows. Being humiliated, embarrassed, and a loser is not so bad as failing to play full out. Full out. Complete self-expression.

I'd like to tap back into my twenty-two year old self every now and then. Be so inspired by the potential to play full out that I risk complete failure.

My exploration of misadventures began well before my twenties, but my confidences and courage peaked during this time.

What did your younger self do that amazes you today?