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Kelly: The Purple Cottage

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we might oft win, by fearing to attempt.”
–William Shakespeare

That quote is included in a gift book sitting on my desk called “The Strangest Secret,” by Earl Nightingale. Nightingale talks about the very same message shared in the book “The Secret,” but here’s the kicker:  Nightingale wrote his message in 1956.  I’ve had the book on my desk since my friend Ken Whitener gave it to me, but I must admit today was the first day I really looked at it. Ken used the book as the background for a leadership program he’s presented for me several times. Nightingale’s basic premise and his “strangest secret”? We become what we think about.

I’ve kept the book on my desk not necessarily for the subject matter but more for a reminder of the person who gave it to me. Ken and I worked together on programs ever since I started with the college, and he became more than just a guest speaker for me; he became a dear friend, a dear friend who passed away suddenly of a heart attack just a few weeks after he gave me the book earlier this year. Ken did live his life becoming what he thought about.  Whether he was presenting one of his leadership programs or his stock and trade comedy hypnotist shows, he exuded confidence and self-fulfillment and always had the same message: “YOU CAN DO IT!”  I can still hear him say it. (I just pulled up his website and saw that it’s still active; it was nice to see his smiling face.)

I can’t say it all started 15 years ago, but maybe it was just further cemented 15 years ago. I started working in Student Life in January of 1994. That fall, my supervisor at the time facilitated a college-wide retreat of our area. B.J. is a creative type herself, so I knew we were off to a good start. As part of the retreat, she gave us all big sheets of paper and put a pile of markers and crayons in the center of the table. Our instructions: draw your dream. She gave no further instruction; it could be a personal dream, a work dream, whatever you wanted to share. It was really done more as a group get-to-know-you activity rather than a departmental goal activity. Took me no time at all to get started because I already knew exactly what I wanted. I drew a funky little purple cottage with the name “The Happy Shack” emblazoned across the front. I remember the exact set up of the room and exactly where I was at the table. I even remember what I was wearing and how I did my hair that day. Fifteen years ago. I was reminded of that through an e-mail conversation I had with Miranda this week about the stressful time I’ve been having at work the past two weeks (she’s damn good at making you focus on your dreams, in case you haven’t already figured that out :-)).

Though many people consider my house to be the proverbial “Happy Shack,” and I guess in some ways it is, it’s not the Happy Shack I envision in my dream. That Happy Shack is a funky little art gallery/studio, filled with my creations and the creations of other creative souls. It’s a place where those creative souls come together and share their creativity, whether it’s teaching skills or swapping stories or just creating art together. Over the years it’s had a bed and breakfast attached to it at times, and my DH particularly likes that part of the dream. And it has lots of furry friends…dogs, cats, maybe even a chirpy little canary named Ladybird Lulu. But whatever manifestation it’s taken, it’s always been purple.

While the family and I were in St. George Island for our vacation, we visited the island art gallery, called the Sea Oats Gallery. Guess what was right next door to the Sea Oats gallery…a little cottage, once called the Book Nook, but now out of business. The sign on the door said, “Out of Business. Retired!” Guess what color that little cottage was. Yep, purple. It was surrounded by a bunch of stray cats, including a black and white one which was particularly friendly. Serendipity? A little reminder of a dream? The little yellow and orange flowers peeking up around the front porch certainly seemed to be saying so.

So what am I to learn from this? It definitely has been an incredibly stressful time at work, and as I’ve shared with you here before, I’ve been looking at different options here and there for quite some time now. Is it time to make a change? Yep, I do agree that it’s definitely time to make a change, yet in the short run I’m hopeful that change involves just a change in position, my first preference being a new position soon to be advertised at the college, still in Student Affairs but a little broader reaching than just Student Life. I’d love the opportunity to give it a shot because I think I’d enjoy the challenge that comes with a newly created position. Keep your fingers crossed for me. But in the long run…I keep going back to that little purple cottage, maybe with a bed and breakfast attached, and a chirpy canary named Ladybird Lulu…being circled by a friendly little black and white cat…who is great pals with a big goofy brown dog. It’s in a quaint little town that people like to visit for the sheer charm of it. It’s near the water, since along with art, water is what feeds my soul. And it’s a happy place, a happy little shack. It’ll happen. Maybe five or ten years down the road, but it’ll happen. Thanks, Ken. I CAN do it. I will become what I think about.

“Live this new way and the floodgates of abundance will open and pour over you more riches than you may have dreamed existed. Money? Yes, lots of it. But what’s more important, you’ll have peace…you’ll be in that wonderful minority who lead calm, cheerful successful lives…you have nothing to lose—but you have a whole life to win.” –Earl Nightingale

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. I can’t believe how often I’m reading/hearing this now. Talk about serendipity! Thank you SO much for this, for solidifying it for me – this essential answer in how one might live life following one’s bliss, and how to pay strict attention to that. I do firmly believe that we can make things happen with just a shift in perception, or a shift in thinking – from believing it to be only a dream, to knowing that it can happen. And, it CAN.

    I hope you follow your dream and your serendipitous discovery of The Happy Shack. It sounds absolutely beautiful, and very likely the right place for you. 🙂

    July 3, 2009
  2. wonderful. and tearfully, exactly what i need to hear right now. thanks, kelly.

    July 3, 2009
  3. Kristine #

    I loved this post, Kelly. I think we all have a purple cottage, and it’s a nice reminder to keep our eye on the prize, knowing that someday we will in fact get there.

    I wish you the best in your job.

    July 3, 2009
  4. ophelia, i just read blog post on running! sounds like we are having similar type thoughts. 🙂

    didn’t mean to bring on the tears, cath! i hope they are happy tears.

    and kristine, i agree completely. we all have a purple cottage of some sort. may we all get there soon!

    July 3, 2009
  5. hey, kelly, for info re: tears, see fb updates and today’s blog…

    July 3, 2009
  6. In a way, you’ve already created a virtual Happy Shack right here online. And maybe that’s a step toward creating the real one.

    July 3, 2009
  7. I think you need to expand your Bed and Breakfast idea into an artist’s/writer’s retreat, where artists can go to get away and get a little happy. I know I’d come!

    Can you imagine… you’re working on something, stuck, not feeling the mojo… You reserve a room at The Happy Shack, and find yourself hanging out and collaborating with other artists of all different types? Can you imagine the subsequent explosion of creativity???

    July 3, 2009
  8. brittany, that is a fabulous idea! i will definitely add that to the dream plan! 🙂

    July 4, 2009
  9. I’d like to book a room, please….

    Kelly, I just love this post. And as I mentioned earlier, it is YOU who inspires ME.

    The idea of the original (and re-make) of the secret is so simple, but so unbelievably powerful. I’m trying to mix this in with a dose of Eckhart Tolle to live in the moment while believing I am living my dream RIGHT NOW.

    I can probably sum up my life’s ambition quite simply: live with my relatively happy and healthy family in a beautiful home; earn an income and and touch the lives of others through my writing; have time to work in the garden, read, putter around, just enjoy — and breathe.

    I have the family and the house part already, and I should acknowledge that every day. Yes, an important part of my dream is to be able to write rather than work. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I’d like to whittle down my client list to a few very special and interesting projects. Instead of spending 30+ hours a week on client work, I’d like to spend 20 hours a week on my own writing and occasionally make room for a one-off client project. I could go all the way and say I’d like NO client work at all, but if I could get to a place where my primary focus was my own writing, and I wasn’t experiencing the considerable stress of my current work situation, I think I’d be able to say I’m living my creative dream. So how do I turn that into the present moment? Make the dream my present reality, not some ghostly future shadow?

    I need to focus on how I *am* living my creative dream right now. As in, focus on the time that I *do* spend writing in my library. Really be present in those moments, so that they begin to dominate the less enjoyable work stress. Keep the client work in a box as much as possible. Immerse myself in the crystalline family moments that are given to us every day. Remember that “someday is today.” I already have the “right” notes in this particular song, I just need to play them a little more loudly so that I don’t forget that the harmony is already audible. “Focus on the positive” doesn’t mean much at this point because it’s such a tired cliche, but bringing this back to Kelly’s friend Ken, the power is there.

    Not to belabor the point, but there is an important distinction between thinking of your dream as some “if only” fantasy and instead breaking that “dream” down into a tangible goal — and then realizing that there is at least some amount of that goal (or goals) that you are already living. (We have touched on this several times in different ways on this blog.) By focusing on those in-the-bag parts of your dream, you create a momentum that will carry you the rest of the way.

    Sunday sermon’s over! 😉

    July 5, 2009
  10. hear, hear, miranda!

    July 5, 2009
  11. see there!? what she said! 😉 now that’s why I said Miranda is so good at getting you to focus on your dreams. great sermon!

    July 5, 2009
  12. Jen #

    I’m so glad I popped by — this is exactly what i needed to read this morning, both Kelly’s beautiful post and the wonderful conversation about it. So much truth here. Thank you, all!

    July 6, 2009
  13. i always wanted to open a working self-sustaining creative collective and farming place in the berkshires….there was a property near my college i used to drive by and and sigh as the place to do it…trade a day of farm work for a day of creativity and a night in a bed was my concept. and i wanted to milk goats and make feta cheese from it, too to sell locally…

    July 6, 2009

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