Discover more from Becoming a Butterfly
Your Calling and How to Find It
A bit about my windy path, to help you find yours
Good morning. Well, it is Thursday, the day I am determined to send you something that I find fun to write, and hopefully, you find fun and/or useful to read. I worked on my post for you today until late last night and find I want to let it percolate a bit more. I want to touch it like clay and feel it, and smooth things out a bit, and digest things in it. Also, I have this post below, that I put on my Substack website when I first began a few months ago. It was never emailed to you and I have been wanting to send it since I wrote it months ago. So here you go:
My first blog post. Well, actually, it is my second, as I learned from Substack that the first one should let you know why I am blogging and what to expect. And that post tells you why you are reading today, in the Spring, something I wrote in December.
So this is officially my second blog post. But it was the first when I wrote it.
This is how things can go when you decide to really embrace your calling. Sometimes it is just like that, with twisty turns, starts and stops, and mixed up timelines. And that’s ok.
So take my hand and come with me; here is where we begin:
It is a cool, breezy morning in Southern California, just after the Winter Solstice a few days before Christmas at my parent’s house. As good a day as any to step into my life’s purpose I guess. And at age 56, it seems better now than never.
Next to me is a cup of hot coffee with butter. My dad makes it in the morning. Today he made it with special organic coffee beans I gave him. It has been eight days since I had coffee. The smell of it wafted down the long hallway in their adobe house and somehow made it under the hand-hewn, heavy wooden door to gently brush my nostrils. I woke up and sniffed, not really believing I could actually smell the coffee way down here in the bedroom I slept in in my younger days. The days when I so desperately wanted to follow my calling. At the time my calling was to go to Sarah Lawrence College and study art history, which in my mind, would lead to work at a museum and then Sotheby’s buying and selling Renaissance art.
That dream didn’t come to be. Sarah Lawrence was too expensive, and the modern art class at UC Berkeley taught by a svelte New York woman, left me disillusioned. I remember a stuffed toilet was one of the art pieces we were shown. I told myself the money was probably in modern art and since I hated it, I let go of my dream and went back to a deflating, ongoing search.
Perhaps you know this place? The place where you know you were meant to do something; that you are here for something; and that “the something” matters. But it eludes you despite how hard you try to figure out what it might be. Some people lead lives of quiet desperation. Or quiet seeking. I think often it is a mixture of both.
(One moment, I must take a sip of coffee.)
My parent’s have wind chimes. I used to think the sound was a bit annoying. Distracting. But on this trip, I learned how many of them my dad made. Mom walked me around their home and showed me. And Dad decided to fix some of them. Now I wake up hearing music.
My parents built this adobe home from scratch. Dad fired the contractor and that was it. He took his engineering skills and began overseeing the project of his life. Five years later, after shoveling dirt for adobe bricks and turning them in the sun; after building the wall I see across from me now in my bedroom with Dad’s direction, their art project is done. Except it has never been done. That is because this house is my parent’s calling. I have finally seen that. At 87 and 81, they both continue to improve it. Mom does the art on the outside with the garden she continually evolves and Dad builds walls, maintains things, and chops firewood for the wood-burning stove in their living room. After over 35 years, the heat still does not reach their bedroom, but it doesn’t matter. When I go in to see them, their faces are almost all that is visible below the squishy blankets and warm hats they are wearing.
Mom has told me one of her spiritual teachers informed her that a Deva, a magical invisible being, lives where they built their house. She feels it is a magical place for people to come and have a sense of reprieve from the world.
Yesterday three people showed up at the door. I made them tea. Mom came out of her bedroom. She has osteoporosis now, which comes with a series of broken vertebrae. She thinks the latest injury is from lifting a large piece of wood into the top of their wood-burning stove in the living room. I don’t know. I just know that they rarely let me help. Dad likes to bring wheelbarrows of wood into the living room. Mom tends the fire. Dad climbs tall ladders. Recently he was on the roof blowing off the leaves and fixing a leaking skylight. These are my parents. They love this house, their calling.
I am glad I can see that now, as I always looked from afar at their life and thought it looked so all-encompassing to care for their home and land. I knew that was not what I wanted. But I didn’t see it as their calling and see that mine is different, and neither is wrong.
So what is my calling and how do I know? How can you know what yours is?
Pay attention when things happen
I believe I have stumbled my way towards and into it, and that is one thing that I think is common to many of us. A calling is not as clear as it may seem, and it is there.
Next to me on the bed is a book called: The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins. I spoke to Jeff a few weeks ago as I recently decided to publish my first book and am interviewing editors. The book was done, and sitting for three years in that condition. For various reasons, I wasn’t sure if I would ever publish it. In my lesser moments, I heard my brain tell me it was simply a long diary entry.
But then some things happened.
This is the first sign. Pay attention when things happen and you are searching for your calling.
Thing one: people are waiting
I am sitting in a circle with a group of women at a Unity Church in Boulder, where I found myself supposedly mostly by chance, while visiting my cousin. He had taken me to a Samhain event there and the women’s circle was mentioned. As I was free during the day while my cousin was at work, I strolled over to attend as something to do one day. (That is how random whispers from the universe can be.) The woman next to me spoke of the play she never published. She said she needed $35,000 to finish it and prayed for the money. Then she inherited some money. $35,000. And she didn’t publish it.
So I told them about my book and asked them what they thought about my concerns about publishing it.
That woman gave me a pair of silver feather-shaped earrings.
And one of them pointed out that there were people waiting for it.
I had never felt that before.
People are waiting.
They are waiting for what I write. They are waiting for you and your calling.
People are waiting for you and what you bring.
It doesn’t have to be big in our modern sense of success. Your calling is always big. Because people are waiting for it. It may be as simple as what my parent’s do (which really isn’t simple at all). Maybe you offer a place of respite to people with your presence? Maybe you start a company? I really don’t think there is a gauge of success when we pass on. It is simple. Are you doing what you are made for? What if this is your last day? Are you happy with what you are doing today? That is a sign you are following your path.
Thing two: once you feel the people waiting, it becomes much easier to offer your gift with joy
A few weeks later, I was hiking at my favorite place above the ocean at Torrey Pines in coastal San Diego. It had become a habit by now to play a game and follow my intuition when I walked regarding which way to go. I did have my usual way. But that day, something nudged me to take a different path. So I did.
Soon after, I was strolling next to a man who I could tell, was struggling with more than navigating his way down the sandstone drops in the path. He asked me what I did. In a few moments, I had told him about my book and without knowing really anything about it, simply because he liked the feel of something about me, he told me he wanted to read it. And he meant it. He really wanted to read whatever I had written, because something about me called to him.
That was the first time I really felt that there were people waiting for what I had created, if I chose to put it out there.
Before that moment, it had felt like a daunting task. On a call with someone who works for Scribe publishing, I was told how many books really don’t do well and how unlikely I was to make back any money I put into it. My mind told me other things. I studied how to market books. I learned a lot about how to get it to the top of Amazon lists. And I wasn’t excited. But that was because I was only feeling my side of things.
I wasn’t feeling the people waiting to read it.
It wasn’t a superficial moment on that hiking trail with him. In our few minutes together, we sat on a bench overlooking the sea and he told me of the death of both his sons to addiction and how much he was struggling. I hugged him and gave him my number. I hoped he would call. He hasn’t. But sometimes, it is enough to listen. It is enough to be with someone. Since I have a family member I love deeply who has struggled with addiction, I could be with him in his pain. Maybe that was enough? Maybe we gifted each other at that moment. I feel it is so.
In that moment with him, I could feel that there were people waiting for what I had to give. At that moment, my book became a gift. And I wanted to give it.
I hate searching for gifts when I don’t know what people want or need. I love giving gifts that make people excited and happy.
So that is a key thing. People are waiting for what you bring and once you feel that, it becomes so much easier to offer it with joy. Because it is your gift.
I believe a calling is joyful. It is fun. Sure you have to work at it. But I believe a true calling doesn’t feel like work. That is how I feel now. I was writing to you in my head as I fetched this cup of coffee, now delightfully almost gone (I am thinking of getting a refill…I am not beyond coffee gluttony). This morning, after making my way to the kitchen and back to my bedroom, cup of coffee in hand; I stood between my inviting bed, a pile of books on the nightstand beaconing me in, and my computer, charging quietly on the floor.
Part of me embracing my calling is knowing I will work to publish my book, and also intending to start writing transformational articles, consistently.
I did this once. Posted one article on Medium.com a few years ago. On Medium, the number of “claps” you get matters. It is like liking a video on YouTube. I think I got one or two. A few people had read my article.
I told myself it was too hard somehow, to reach people there. The validation didn’t come in fast enough.
But now I know a calling isn’t about validation. It is about offering a gift and waiting.
Because I know at least one person decided to “follow” me. And months later, when Medium emailed me that they were taking me off as a writer because I hadn’t posted anything new, I saw that my original article had accumulated many more views. People had found it. They just needed time. They were there receiving it. That was another nudge for me.
Thing three: sometimes things just need time; what you do matters
People are waiting for you too. Sometimes you put things out there, and they just need time. It doesn’t always have to be about marketing. Sometimes it is also about trust.
And this morning, I stood at one of those tiny choice points in life. I was writing this article in my head. I could pick up my computer, or go back to bed, snuggle in with my coffee and pick up a book.
Callings will nudge you.
Thing four: respond
Begin to Respond:
I chose the computer.
Welcome to my first article (ok, second…but first when I wrote it). This time, there will be more.
Jeff mentions nudges in his book. He speaks of a moment he was in a workshop on following one’s calling and struggling with imposter syndrome. Because he didn’t have a calling. Then the facilitator pointed out that many people in the audience thought they didn’t know their calling. Then he told them they did know, and were afraid to admit it. At that moment, Jeff had a word pop into his mind, “writer.”
If you are frustrated at this moment, and telling yourself that a question about your calling doesn’t help you, take a moment to think of what people tell you about yourself. Jeff’s friend pointed out to him that he already was a writer. What have people told you?
For me, people have looked at me and said I was a healer, compassionate, a teacher, and a writer. All those words are helpful to me now as I lean into bringing all those things forward, currently through writing.
Thing five: you have words; what are they
You have words. They are there, the words about your calling, if you close your eyes for a moment, just a moment, and listen. What are your words? Maybe the first ones that come have to do with what people have said you aren’t good at, or can’t do. Those are old programs placed in your mind from the pain of others. You don’t have to believe them anymore and you can love the part of you, probably a younger version of you, that took them in and believed them. You don’t have to push them away (that doesn’t work anyway). Just bring some care to them. And wait. Wait for the words underneath. Because at some point, you have heard something about yourself that surprised you and also felt exciting and scary. Since it is scary, the mind will jump in and tell you that you aren’t THAT. Not yet. Not now. You can’t do or be THAT THING.
Your mind is here to keep you safe. It will push down your words.
And people will tell them to you anyway.
What are they?
Maybe they need some time to emerge. But ask and listen. Maybe you will wake up one morning and will have your words that tell you what you have come here to do.
In the big picture, it is not about the outward version of what you accomplish, but about how your soul expresses your gifts in the world. It can be that simple. The package can change. In the end, when you look back on your life, success won’t matter. What will matter is how you lived and how much of you flowed into the world as the gift you are.
Thing six: start to believe
Recently, I went to the dentist. It was a surprise to me that I had quite a few issues with my teeth. It was a holistic dentist, so I was told my mouth was acidic, something was wrong with the color of my tongue, and I was grinding and hurting my teeth despite my night guard.
The dentist didn’t have the most compassionate demeanor. She did direct me to a nutritionist which led to the eight day cleanse I just completed. And I found another dentist, a kind dentist. Compassion comes off her like a fragrance. She filled my teeth and I felt like my mouth was a canvas and she was creating art in it. “Dentist” is the package. I would say her calling is care and competency.
And I am on a mission to learn what happened to my teeth in the short six months since my last, no-problems-here dental exam. Which led to me a late night search for the energetic and spiritual meaning of issues with teeth. Which led to an article that mentioned that people who grind their teeth are holding back their words.
Now, I mentioned I am visiting my parents. And with my parents, I have learned to listen. I believe I was taught that as a child. And now as an adult, I still find it easier to simply listen for a variety of reasons.
That does not mean I don’t have anything to say. But one needs a receptive audience who wants to take it in.
So it is funny to me that my issues with my teeth are related to my calling.
Teacher, healer, writer.
It is time for me to stop holding back the words that want to come through me.
For me, writing is like that. It flows like water. Time goes by and I lose track of it. That is what happens when you do art. Your art. What do you do that causes you to get so lost, you lose a sense of time? That is another sign you are following your calling.
Or you can do a google search about teeth. And maybe find out that teeth issues mean you are holding back your words too.
But I believe you will get your own nudges, if you look for them.
And don’t forget the universe has a sense of humor.
Because teeth? Teeth were a nudge, a confirmation for me that I am on the right track, and it is time to let my words flow and stop holding back.
Thing seven: act despite feeling unprepared:
You will never feel ready. Your mind will tell you you are not ready. That’s it’s job. Everyone’s mind does this. Its job is to keep you safe and since the status quo is a known thing, your mind will keep you there. That doesn’t mean it is the best place. People stay in abusive situations because it is what they know and are used to. It is a samskara, a deep habit wired into the brain. But not all habits are good.
I am not prepared to be good at blogging. I am not prepared to publish my book. I don’t know which editor to hire. I don’t know how much to invest. I am afraid of making a mistake; I am afraid of doing it wrong, wasting my time, not making money, and writing things that are just about me.
And I am going to do it anyway.
Recognize and ignore your fear.
“Without awareness, there is no choice,” says one of my teacher’s, John Barnes.
Now you have a choice.
You are going to question yourself and you will be afraid. That is normal. You are not alone.
Thing eight: a growth mindset will help you
Carol Dweck, in her book, Mindset, that both Jeff and I have read, talks about what it takes to succeed at something. People born with a natural skill, often don’t become highly competent in their area of expertise because things are easy for them. When things are easy, and then become hard at some point, such people are likely to throw up their hands and give up. Others, who have a growth mindset, have learned to cope with obstacles by leaning into them, rather than away. “I give up” vs. “I will keep working at this.”
Keep working at whatever you choose to do.
I gave up after those first few articles. I was seeking immediate validation.
Now I know people are waiting for what I have to offer.
I can wait too.
I can continue to learn and improve.
I will not give up.
Have a growth mindset, regardless of what you have been told or taught. It is never too late.
In The Art of Work, Jeff says you need to make decisions and move forward one step at a time. This is a growth mindset.
He also mentions Apprenticeship.
Thing nine: you don’t have to do it alone
There are people to help you, who can mentor you.
Sometimes, the mentors will teach you how you don’t want to do something.
Right now, I am looking for people to hire who can help me craft my book and my writing. I want to improve. This person will be a mentor for me. Even if I don’t like what they say, I will learn. Because when you are told something that doesn’t feel right, it is a signpost towards what does. And when you are offered something and your soul feels like it blossoms, that is also a signpost.
Recently, I have told people I am done with teachers. I don’t want to put anyone on a pedestal anymore. Because I have become disillusioned with many teachers I have had. Don’t get me wrong. I have learned a tremendous amount from their offerings and gifts to me. And I have also learned, finally, that I am the expert on me.
From this disillusionment, I told myself I did not want to be a teacher. No pedestals for me. I am definitely not wanting to be godly to anyone.
But that does not mean I shouldn’t teach. I told myself that I shouldn’t, and it isn’t true.
My teachers have shown me that I don’t want to be participating in a hierarchy. I don’t want to be the pinnacle for a group. And I don’t have to be. I can do things differently. They have mentored me in both ways. They have taught me both things I want to do and things I don’t.
You have mentors too. It is ok to let people help you and to learn from others around you. And then you listen to yourself and follow your own nudges regardless of what others tell you.
You are the best authority of you and other people can help you see that.
Thing ten: offer your gift
That is the key. What you have to give the world is something not to be forced, and it does take action to bring it into the world.
Sometimes it may take more time than you would wish.
Sometimes it may happen at what appears to be warp speed.
But the key is to allow it and to offer it, before you feel ready. You will never feel ready. I could edit my book forever as I always want to change it every time I read it. That is because I am changing and that is ok. I will put it out as the version I am of myself at that moment. And I will put out other things.
It is ok to change.
And it is ok to put out your offerings.
That is growth.
That is blooming and wafting your fragrance into the world. Just like the smell of a rose. Or the smell of morning coffee.
Welcome to my first blog post.
A book is coming.