Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Be Fruitful Manifesto

Could somebody please explain to me the art of effortlessness? Does it work like random acts of kindness? If you don't plan, overthink, outline, scheme, revise, strategize, market, wear down with persistence and soak something in earnestness, will it still produce the results you desire?

I'd like to think that the biblical command to "Be fruitful and multiply" meant more than procreation. We've been entrusted with mind-blowing capabilities beyond our reproductive systems, wondrous as those are.
So I hereby claim that directive and repurpose it for anything and everything we are pouring our hearts out to create and launch.

What leaves much to be desired is the outcome of all this scurrying about trying to be fruitful. And the timeframe for seeing any outcome.

I seem to have arrived at the point of wanting certain areas of my life to have something to show for all my time and effort. Sure, I've had a peach cobbler of a time these last two years as a reinvented version of myself. To be this self-directed is the opposite of joining the army. For someone both driven and nonconformist, it's an ideal arrangement. I had no idea how happy it would make me just to be able to decide for myself what time I wake up (no alarm clock but the sun!), when to eat (no need to schedule a lunch break!), what to focus on (my own priorities!) and when to knock off (no pressing need to hit the sack because I don't have to get up early the next morning).

But it was bound to happen. I couldn't continue indefinitely que sera-seraing my way through the trance-inducing textile transformations for my upcycled clothing shop. There was only so much counting quick-quick-slow for my beginning dance students before I began wanting validation for these new identities I've assumed. I need to sell something from my shop and I need to grow as a dancer. Preferably soon, and over the long term.

Here's the catch: No matter how many affirmations we express and elbow grease we generate, ultimately our success hinges upon SOMEONE ELSE. Some other person must decide they want my quirky, frilly dresses—enough to actually buy one (although there are plenty of likers, since it doesn't cost anything to click a mouse). Some other dancer must decide he wants to partner with me—and keep his word despite earth-shaking distractions, such as another dancer with longer legs than mine.

Geez, why does this feel familiar? Oh, yeah, it's not that different from job-hunting. Someone else decides. Someone who is not invested in helping me succeed. Which is why I stopped looking for a job two years ago! I call it my personal energy conservation.

So here we are.

But I wouldn't have written this post if that last sentence was where it ends.

I remember wanting so badly to get out of the newspaper job I held back in the '90s, during what in hindsight seems like a dress rehearsal for a real recession. Filling out applications felt like the random flashes of mirrored light sent out by a camper lost in the woods. Too much left to chance. Did anybody even see?

Around that time I had become somewhat of a flower gardener. I say "somewhat" because with the clay soil and arid weather where I live, one of every two plants I attempted to grow eventually withered. So I tried growing from seeds. To give them a better chance against birds and wind, I followed someone's suggestion to goop them up in unflavored gelatin. Didn't make a bit of a difference. With the next seed packets, I didn't bother. I ripped those suckers open and dumped the contents onto the dirt. Some of them actually sprouted and bloomed.

My sister got a letter from me about my fruitless job hunt. I'd written, "I'm just gonna keep throwing seeds down, hoping something will take."

Over the years, my garden began yielding pockets of gorgeousness that I blissfully recorded. You can see some of them on my flickr page. The same thing happened with my writing career. I experienced bouts of usefulness and a tinge of prestige here and there. The jobs even lined my pockets substantially. I leveraged the abundance to cheer up my workmates and wipe out the last of my credit card debt.

But just as the Bible is full of cautionary tales of feast and famine, my life decided to get interesting, in the way the ancient Chinese meant when they cursed, "May you live in interesting times." The marriage, wonky from day one due to the blended family situation, took a nosedive in year 14. I moved out. Without me, the garden dried up. All those years of work, and neither the marriage nor the garden had anything to show but a few pressed flowers and several very confused children.

The garden lay fallow. Professional counselors and well-meaning friends called the time of death for the marriage. But it was the match that refused to flicker out. 

Five years after I left, I moved back home. We had killed off our soap opera characters and brought in their Good Twins. It's turned out to be an area of life that has been fruitful. A separate post on this, perhaps.

Then the writing job forsook me. Hence the reinvention.
And we've circled back to the present.
The point at which I've put my hands on my hips and questioned the point of all this effort at needle threading and prancing about.

Fortunately, either because I caught God when He wasn't too busy or because I'm a very good listener, I heard the whispered answer.

I had a dream about ants. I don't remember what they were doing, but I looked it up. There are two ways to interpret this. Either "This dream is a message to keep up the hard work, it will pay off in the end," or "You are feeling neglected or insignificant. Petty things will annoy you."

Both turned out to be accurate. The day after my dream, I received payment from the company that now advertises within four posts in my archive. I had been saving a witty graphic I'd found on another site that says, "Writer received mad scrilla." I never thought I'd ever be able to use it, but you can find it at the bottom of my blog, merrily fulfilling FTC disclosure requirements. By the way, yes, I'm aware that skrilla is misspelled in the graphic. Eh.

The very day my blog made a little bit of money, I received an email message from my dear friend and sister in faith, Angie, who blogs at Gifted and Grateful. It was a story titled "You reap what you sow," and concluded,

"God is going to shift things around today and let things work in your favor."

I don't believe in coincidences.

"I'm just gonna keep throwing seeds down, hoping something will take," I'd written my sister so many years ago.

That's how I'd sum up my present state of mind. I'm going to keep dreaming up and sewing my anti-cubicle statement garments. I'm going to keep carving out time to master more dances. If someone should show up wanting a showcase dance partner, I'll be ready. But I won't be pre-selecting the music nor daydreaming about the costumes and choreography. You won't hear me singing the dance world equivalent of "Someday my prince will come." I'm open to learning the art of effortlessness, if anyone cares to teach me.

This weekend I went out to the garden and planted bulbs again for the first time in many years. Dutch irises, daffodils, alliums and scillas. It was worth the backache.

Because if a marriage can come back from the grave, so can a garden. And if such miracles are possible, why not others?

So listen, last night I dreamed I had hairy legs...

"To see your legs in a dream indicates that you have regained confidence to stand up and take control again. It also implies progress and the ability to navigate through life."

Don't you just envy my rich dream world. But wait, what's this:

"If you are a woman and dream that your legs are hairy, then it suggests that you are domineering or that you dominate in the relationship."

Well alrighty then. In the interest of full disclosure, that might be true, too. But let's not ask Mr. Scrollwork.

What about you, have you got a mad/maddening desire to see something in your life bear fruit, finally? Or have you been blessed with a harvest after faith and persistence?

P.S. Happy dance! I just sold a dress out of my etsy shop today! (It's the day after I published this post.) Wow. I like how this is going!

P. P. S. Someone just asked me to be his showcase dance partner! (It's four days after this post published.) OK, now this is feeling like the Twilight Zone, as my niece likes to say. Keep the fruit coming, Lord!

Monday, October 3, 2011

A farmers market is therapy for the frazzled soul. An outdoor market as clean, orderly and genteel as this is a novelty to an immigrant like me. I have unflattering memories of Divisoria, "the mother of all markets in Manila" as WikiPilipinas calls it. The stalls were sardined together. Personal space was at a premium in the constant crush of human traffic. The smells were dizzying. You could get lost in there.

Evidently I remember it accurately, as Wiki mentions that malls have sprung up around Divisoria in the last two decades "to cater to bargain hunters who wanted to avoid the crowds, frenzied atmosphere and maze-like set-up of the outdoor markets."

The farmers market is a summer fixture in California's Central Valley. Downtown Modesto holds its farmers market outside the county library. In the early '90s when I wrote for the regional paper, which has its headquarters downtown, a brisk stroll to the Farmers Market was how we began our day. I usually came back to my desk pleased to be lugging a bag of fragrant bread or freshly picked fruit.

The day I walked around with my camera, someone was serenading the marketgoers, accompanying himself on his guitar. It's the community's time to come out and trade pleasantries. You have the rare rule breaker, of course, the one who chooses to ignore the formal request to leave the pooches at home. But the dogs were well-behaved.

You'll find beauty queen veggies as well as imperfect beauties... 

All kinds of feet are welcome at the farmers market. There's a place for tip-tap-happy feet and tired dogs.

The county library was holding a book sale the weekend I went. It captured the turnout from the farmers market. From the looks of it, not everyone downloads their books. I find that comforting.

A farmers market offers a more relaxed feel than the impersonal places where people go to buy—the grocery, the mall, the gas station Quikstop.

Fall's arrival signals that the farmers market's days are numbered, at least until next summer. There aren't many things about summer here that I miss, certainly not the oven-baked temperature. But the farmers market makes it bearable. Till next summer then, adieu.