Expectations and Surprises

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(You might see some smoke coming from the street half way down and off to the right… there’s a woman barbecuing fish outside her house)

I’ve been on walkabout in our new town today, inspired by another exercise from the Creativity Workshop… The one where I meet me (or to be exact me from a parallel dimension) in a piazza in Florence. I’m sitting there in Florence having a coffee while I write in my journal and along comes me. We have a great chat about the differences in our lives. There’s not many differences, actually, but there is one big difference. Love.

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(Can you see the cute metal steps into this grocery shop?)

Remember how I was telling you about my idea pregnancy? How I get these great ideas all the time and how I fall in love with them but ultimately I fall out of love with them? I think there are a few reasons why I fall out of love, one is fear. Fear of failure. Another is giant expectation. Giant expectation that everything will go well. And finally a huge reason I fall out of love with ideas is to do with money. Financial success. I think they are useless… unless they bring me money, when I already have enough money to survive.

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(This is a statue of Pedro Nunes, he’s a famous mathematician, google him. He was born here)

It turns out I was disrespecting my amateur status. The dictionary (well the apple dictionary) says amateur is a person who engages in a pursuit especially a sport on an unpaid basis. Or more cruelly, a person considered contemptibly inept at a particular activity. Fortunately, these are not the only definitions and last week at the workshop I got the definition that best suits me. The me that lives in this parallel dimension (note: anytime you think this is weird remind yourself, nothing weird is going on here…) An amateur is someone who does what they do for the love of it and not for financial gain. Me in the other dimension (note: you know what to do) has embraced this definition. She does what has to be done to bring in enough money to survive and then she nourishes the idea she loves. She still has fear but that does not stop her. She has dropped giant expectations and instead enjoys the giant excitement of surprises.

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(Ciara! Fred has a Fred in a parallel dimension sunning himself here in Portugal)

So this morning after breakfast (and after doing the jobs that have to be done) I went off to meet the other me at a cafe by the river. I brought my journal and I ordered a coffee. She’s a great listener. She understand me, she doesn’t judge me, and I think she might even like me. I wanted her to tell me what to do now, this minute, to move my latest idea along faster but she wouldn’t. She reminded me of the slow gestation period. So I got a bit irritated with her. She didn’t mind, she just looked at a seat two tables over. I followed her gaze.

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(Blue tiles, blue sky)

Right so, we have to jump back here. To the Interview exercise. You remember Virginia? From a couple of days ago? She of the great story? I know I haven’t told you her story and it’s not ready yet but I will tell you as soon as I can. For now you just have to remember that I was interviewing Virginia and the process of temporarily becoming Virginia had a huge (maybe even profound? no, too pretentious, remember expectations? huge is grand) impact on me. Well that’s kinda my latest idea. (Are you keeping up? Should I set up a help desk?) Can’t go into details about the idea as I’m honouring its gestation period. Suffice to say it involves interviewing people… Got it?

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(An open door…)

So there I am this morning following the gaze of me (from a parallel dimension) when I see a young man sitting at a table two over. I say, you can’t be serious! Me (from a parallel dimension) says absolutely nothing…

Me: I can not interview him!

Me (from a parallel dimension):  Still says nothing…

Me: What if he doesn’t speak English?

Me (from a parallel dimension): …silence

Me: What if he thinks I’m selling something?

Me (from a parallel dimension): …silence

Me:What if he thinks I want to be his friend?

Me (from a parallel dimension): …nothing

Me: What if he wants to be my friend?

Me (from a parallel dimension): …nada

Me: What if he expects something?

Me (from a parallel dimension): What if he doesn’t?

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(I love the way this door is shedding its skin)

I can hardly believe what happened next… I picked up my bag and phone, I got up and went over to the young man and after confirming that he did indeed speak English (he was bilingual! Portuguese and English! I’m not joking) I told him about my idea. He talked to me. He didn’t expect anything and he didn’t want to be my friend.

This is me enjoying the giant excitement of surprises. Mairead.

Is this morning sickness?

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(I like this house in the middle of the city. It’s behind a big gate, I peeped in…)

I think I might be pregnant or I’m a gardener… it’s one or the other, I’m not sure.

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(Who lives at 55?)

When I write a blog post I just sit down and start dumping all the things that are in my head into the computer. Then I delete some things, add some things, change some things, mix up some things, until I’m happy enough with what I see and then I post it. I never expect the first dump of words that come out of my head to be the finished post. I have to let them come out, not criticise them, not mistrust them, not judge them, not shout at them, just allow them. Allow them to sit in the computer for a while before it’s time for the pruning. Only then will they get a chance to thrive. This week at the workshop I realised I am a gardener for my blog.

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(There’s a garden behind this door…)

Last night I couldn’t sleep (me either, Julie!) because I have a great idea and I don’t know what to do. If you know me or get me or even just read me you will know that I say the sentence I have this great idea, regularly. It’s one of my favourite sentences in the whole, entire world. It’s always closely followed by a bunch of my least favourite sentences in the whole entire world, That’s a terrible ideaBut how will I do it? I can’t do it! Someone else has already done it! People will think I’m ____. What if I can’t do it? I hate this idea!

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(This is a wise owl’s house)

This morning (3am ish) I started to think that maybe I need to be a gardener for my ideas? The gestation period for the blog posts lasts a few hours and then it’s born, but the gestation period for an idea lasts much longer. I’ve heard, a good gardener honours the gestation period of his seeds. He does not prod at the seed. He does not start pruning as soon as the first teeny tiny leaf pops out of the seed. He does not expect every seed will survive. He does not warn each seeds that his entire reputation and the reputation of his family depends on them and they better perform well.

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(Lines, angles and branches)

I am gestating a seed of an idea. It might take a while. It might take months. But nothing is gong to happen unless I put the seed in fertile soil, on a sunny window and water it. Even then nothing might happen. But I love this idea so much I will trust it to do its best to grow. This reminds me of a quote the I love from the Talmud, Every blade of grass has an angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow! Grow!” I will be the angel for my idea.

Turns out I’m not pregnant, I’m an angel, Mairead.

I have a great idea! No, hang on, it’s a terrible idea!

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(I went for a walk to find the chiming church)

There’s a church in the town and every hour it chimes, quite a long tune, from a loudspeaker. I noticed it every hour yesterday… I’ve only just this moment noticed it today. That means I missed at least six chimes. (I’m not sure if it chimes on the half or quarter-hour as well.) Anyway, just another example of how one’s brain ignores the familiar…

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(Interesting animals)

This campsite is interesting, I think I said that yesterday and one of the things that make it interesting is the Tubes… The Tubes are cement cylinders. You may have seen ones like them when passing motorway road works. I think they are used to redirect rainwater or maybe they hold electrical wires? Not sure.

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(Three Tubes together)

But here at the campsite they are used for accommodation. They have a bed with thick mattress, an electric light and curtains and windows! They are tiny apartments for people who would like to experience camping without the tent! I am very attracted to them. I am starting to have an idea about buying a field and putting Tubes in it… and you can come visit me or just visit the field if I’m travelling! I haven’t completely (or even slightly) thought it through. I’m in the very-excited phase of this idea. Many of my ideas don’t get past the very-excited phase. It’s my favourite phase but it’s not very productive. It’s where I think This is a great idea and I can’t wait to bring this to the world and this will definitely be workable and I love it and I will work on it every day and in no time at all it will be completed and I will enjoy it for the rest of my life. In mindfulness circles this is living in the future… I am particularly fond of my imagined future.

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(Two Tubes side by side)

Any idea that gets through the very-excited phase moves into the very-scary phase. Very, very few ideas survive the very-scary phase, it’s my least favourite phase and it’s also not productive.This is where I think this is a terrible idea, how did I ever like this idea? I could never share this with the world, this is like that time that people thought my idea was terrible and told me… This is the worst idea I ever had. Here we have living in the past, a particularly scary tiny bit of the past. No fun. It is truly remarkable that any idea would get past this phase, but some do! Anyway, I’m in a very-scary phase of an idea at the moment, I’m encouraging it into a productive phase but it keeps slipping back.

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(Breaking news: The church chimes every half hour, just heard it. Can you see the loudspeaker?)

Step 10. Live in the present, Mairead.