All About Me (And, You Know, Not)

I have had the odd experience recently of growing into myself. My friends have seen the strong, powerful woman in me, but I have only experienced myself as the scared girl. Somehow, a confluence of events has been pulling me from scared girl to powerful woman, and it’s strange and wonderful. And about time!

I’ve been a late bloomer all my life – I hit puberty late, I didn’t date til I was in college, I needed therapy to help me figure out how to have friends. I spent a lot of time comparing my insides (scared, depressed, in pain) to other peoples’ outsides (confident, capable, happy) and I was miserable most of the time. I woke up every day of high school not wanting to live inside my own skin, wishing I could just die and end all the pain.

In college I started therapy, which became psychoanalysis, and it lasted 16 years. It got me from suicidally depressed to having friends, and dating, and getting married, and starting a family. I learned how to be flexible and how to connect emotionally and who I was being when I was being me. (The advice to just be myself never made sense – I spent all my growing up years trying to be who I thought other people wanted me to be. I had no idea whatsoever who I was.)

My growing understanding of myself has continued now that psychoanalysis is over. I’m learning from my son, I’m taking my mama bear instincts and learning to use them for myself too. Not only is no one gonna talk to my son like that, no one better talk to me like that either. I’m learning I’m strong enough to walk away and still survive. I’m learning that my boundaries are important and that speaking up for myself can improve my relationships if I do it tactfully.

So – this is all about me, you’re thinking. When does it reach the not about me part?

One of the things I’ve been learning over these last few years is what I do automatically. What my teachers at the Career Wisdom Inst call my design. What I do without thinking, like breathing, and have never valued, since I figured everyone did it. It has to do with play, and creativity, and bringing people together, and helping people learn and grow and connect using play and creativity. It’s what brought me to LEGO® Serious Play®, and this blog, and my business. And when I started to explore it, I felt like I had to make it all happen, and I was afraid I would lose my creativity when I got nervous. And then this amazing thing happened – my creativity, my play, my design flowed through me, like it was coming from somewhere else. I didn’t have to be responsible for it. It was just there.

This is the amazing part. I am not responsible for my gift. I feel like a conduit, like a channel. But I am still required for my design to be expressed – no one else has my channel to tune in to the universe. My link to the wisdom of the universe is unique to me, and yet the wisdom that comes through is not me. Not my limited brain. Not my conscious effort. It just comes to me, comes through me, flowing from the universe that is filled with love and compassion and joy and creativity and hope and connection and peace. I am awed and humbled by this feeling. I have never been super religious, but this feeling of being used by the universe to be of service to others is enough to understand a version of God. I can’t get too excited and proud of what I do, since it’s only partly due to me. And I can’t wait to do it again, to feel that flow and joy and connection, to help other people grow and connect and learn with my unique channel to divine wisdom.

My spiritual teacher says I’m just beginning my journey, and yet I feel like I’ve arrived at a place I never believed I’d see. When I was depressed and in pain I never believed I could wake up happy and excited to begin the day. (And yes, antidepressants are part of my journey, and I’m ok with that.) I feel so blessed to have reached this place, so lucky to have the universe at my back, whispering in my ear, putting me where I need to be. I feel a little weird talking about it publicly, like you might think I’ve gone a little soft in the head. But I feel stronger and more at peace than ever in my life, and I will bring that with me no matter where I go.

This is not to say I don’t have to do anything. I’m continuing to learn and practice my craft. I’m looking for opportunities to help. I’m working to keep my channel to the universe open, including meditation and exercise. (And antidepressants.) I’m actively involved with being me, and bringing me to everything I do, and hopefully to helping other people be themselves too. I love each and every one of you (except you in the back. Not you. Oh ok, you too). Thank you for being part of this amazing universe!

Play well,

Talia

Meetup – Adults Playing With LEGO® Bricks

I started a Meetup group – Problem Solve and Communicate Better with LEGO® Bricks. We had our first meeting at a local bookstore, and it was so much fun! I had eight people RSVP and four showed up, which is a pretty good percentage for a new group! And it was an interesting mix of people – an agilist (someone who consults with businesses to help them be more agile and able to move on new business ventures), a financial person struggling with health issues, a woman who had recently lost her husband, and the woman’s friend who was taken out for pizza and LEGO® play for her birthday. The bookstore owner joined us for part of the time, and a friend of mine stopped by for a little while – she was just going to drop off flowers, but the power of play was too strong and she had to stay and play with us for a little while. Plus, I got to play, which I don’t get to do when I’m working for a company. We all had lots of fun.

We started making towers. It’s a great way to get used to playing with the bricks, especially for people who haven’t used them in a long time, if ever. There are lots of new types of bricks these days, and it’s great to figure them out early. Plus, it’s fascinating how much these towers represent the people who build them. The assignment isn’t to build a tower that represents you, but somehow the towers tend to say something about the people who make them.

Our next project was to build the best or worst roommate or neighbor. Great stories came out – the college roommate who loved pink and ended up taking over the room, the college roommate who was very young and kept losing things and having trouble getting things to work for her (her model had a car with only one wheel – the other three had been lost), the smoker, the late husband who was both the best and the worst roommate, the upstairs neighbors who sounded like they were having furniture races.

LSP.Laurel.PinkRoommate.croppedLSP.Laurel.YoungRoommate.cropped

LSP.Laurel.Smoker.croppedLSP.Laurel.Shelly.Husband.croppedLSP.Laurel.FurnitureRaces.cropped

We next played with The Promotion. We each built whatever we wanted, and wrote three words about what we had built. Then, we each moved over one seat. Congratulations! We’ve been promoted. Everything you know about your job is in front of you. How close can you get to what the builder intended?

Everyone did very well. I didn’t get all the words in all the pics, but can you guess what they are?

LSP.Laurel.Promotion.Rachel.croppedLSP.Laurel.Promotion.Shelly.cropped

LSP.Laurel.Ambulance.croppedLSP.Laurel.Stairs.croppedLSP.Laurel.CubeFarm.small

Our last project was a shared model. We each built one or more aspects of what an ideal neighborhood would be, then put them all together in one shared model. Some of us built parts having to do with residential areas (people welcoming each other, no matter their house type or hat), some had to do with commercial areas (we need a bookstore, a library, a good grocery store, enough parking, good lighting), some had to do with community (put systems in place to keep people from falling out of the community, honor our elders, have a shared space to meet). In the end, this is what our ideal community looks like:

LSP.Laurel.Neighborhood.shrunk

We ended using Rory’s Story Cubes to tell the story of what we had experienced that evening. We rolled all nine dice, each one with a different picture on each side, and selected three to help us tell our story. The words and phrases that came out included:

Insight.. Wisdom…. Play to find out about our shadow selves… Growth… the Magic of ideas… Time passed quickly… Hands-on… Creativity

I can’t wait to hold another Meetup, this one was so fun! I hope we can include more people next time. And maybe you want me to do this with you too? I love bringing the power of play to the workplace or to other groups of adults!

Flow; or How Children Do Not Share Adult Priorities

My son, who is seven, is remarkably inconsistent. He says “I’m cold” but then forgets to put on a sweater, or he says “I’m hungry” but won’t eat. Just yesterday we had to get out of the car and go back to his day camp so he could use the bathroom, but he got intrigued by how the door handle latch worked, and wouldn’t go in. I find this infuriating. You were dancing in your seat! You couldn’t hold it one more second! And now you’re ignoring your bladder and playing with the door handle?! Argh!

This has been infuriating me for some time now. You were so hungry you were falling down on the floor, but now you’re too engrossed in your toys to eat? WTF?! But while I was talking to my parents about this, I realized something. My son knows way more than I do about how to get into flow.

Flow is a concept which Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi talks about (http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow). It is a state in which a person is so engrossed in his or her work that everything else falls away. It’s what happens when people forget to eat while working on their hobby, or when people at work look up and realize everyone else left hours ago. When a project is challenging and enjoyable and occupies all of a person’s attention, they really can’t notice what’s going on in their bodies. I found this fascinating – a person’s brain can only handle so much input. And when all of that input is coming from the challenging, fun, creative or compelling project, that person’s brain stops noticing things like hunger or cold. The normal input coming from our bodies can’t be processed along with the project, so it stops getting noticed.

So what that means is my son is very good at getting into a flow state. He can get engrossed in a project at the drop of a hat. He can become so absorbed in his play that he no longer notices hunger, or cold, or having to pee. Concepts like being late for school, or losing time for a story before bed, are too hard for him to process because he is so involved with the play activity. I’m trying to allow myself to appreciate this, even learn from it, rather than first tearing my hair out, and then his hair out.

How often do you get into a flow state? I used to get so caught up in a book that I had no idea what time it was. Then, I started reading while waiting for the bus and had to get used to looking up from my book constantly to know if the bus was coming, and to put the book down at a moment’s notice. I learned to break the flow so I wouldn’t miss my bus. Sometimes I get back to that sort of place, but it takes some work to make it happen. I have to set aside enough time, and have enough other work done to not have it nagging at me. I have to figure out what will be that involving, and get good at what ever it takes to do it. If I’m learning the ropes I can’t be as engrossed as if I know automatically what to do. But my kid just falls right into flow, all the time. How wonderful! Now I understand why he won’t come to dinner, even though fifteen minutes ago he was about to die of hunger. He’s caught up in a timeless, hungerless, fully engaging place, and dinner just can’t compare.

The world’s best artists, athletes, programmers, etc. are all masters of flow. In order to stay in flow, their skills need to go up as the rate of challenge goes up, so they practice and learn and keep pushing their abilities. It’s fun, even though it’s work. It’s fulfilling, satisfying, gratifying stuff. How awesome would it be if everyone’s day could include some of that?

I’m curious to see how and when my son learns to stop being in flow. I think I’m already teaching him that, by wanting him to come to dinner when it’s dinner time, and to use the bathroom when he has to pee. I think schools also teach that, since when it’s time to clean up and finish one project he can’t stay involved with what came before. It makes me wonder if I should home school him, so he can maintain his focus on what really involves him? But I don’t think I have the patience for that. I’m still wrapped up in the adult world of needing to get stuff done. I have a hard time moving at his pace. Eventually he will have to learn how to fit his moments of flow into the rest of the scheduled world. Part of me hopes he’ll figure it out soon! Maybe by dinner tonight? And part of me hopes he’ll be able to maintain his ability to drop into flow instantly for a long, long time.