Not-So-Manic Mondays: On Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference & the Search for Whimsy

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On Painting my Shoes, losing some Heavy and living a Better Story

By Idelette McVicker | Twitter: @idelette

I lost about 35 pounds of Heavy last week.

It happened somewhere after exit 201 to the Tulalip outlets and before exit 252 to Bellingham on the I-5. We were on our way home from Donald Miller’s Storyline conference in Portland, munching on chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels and deconstructing the question: How do we live a better story? Somewhere between 2am and 3am (which might have had something to do with the giddiness) I turned to Tina and said: Something has shifted. My “roar” (my one word for the year) feels like a big belly laugh. It doesn’t feel like the serious O-to-roar-at-the-injustices-in-the-world mantra anymore. It feels lighter.

It felt like my deepest, most authentic sound was coming from a different place. Not a have-to place, but a get-to place.

A big belly “HA!” right from my core. [Thanks, Ellie!]

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Two words that kill the human heart the fastest = “ought to.” –Donald Miller

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I’ve been Serious Girl for a very long time. I tend to ask deep, serious questions … I like hearing honest answers. I don’t like to waste time, meaning I like things to have a purpose—even a holiday. Sometimes I think my sisters-in-law imagine having a conversation with me is a bit like signing up for therapy. My truth is: I find deep joy in connecting with someone in her place of truth and revelation. So when I don’t see people I love that often, that’s my go-to place.

But sometimes my Truth-seeking also makes me Heavy and not all that fun to be around.

Momentary Lapse

So, there was a moment in the conference, so blissfully seated between Kim Bruce and TGIF Tina, when Donald made this remark: “If it ticks you off, it’s rubbing against your core value.” He mentioned a few quick examples, including this: “… like when they cut the arts program at your local school.”

Tears shot up. Not even a few; a LOT of them. I scrounged for Kleenex.

“How strange!” I thought. The remark didn’t come as part of a story. I wasn’t emotional about the woman (who we heard from later on) or the story, really. Something else in my psyche was responding from a place that didn’t necessarily make cognitive sense.

Flashback to a scene of 16-year-old me walking through Woolworths in Paarl with my mom, wearing one shoe painted in bright neon colours (my handiwork); and one shoe in its original white. It was all my mom could do to walk with her eccentric daughter through prim-and-proper town.

I’d forgotten about that girl.

And it felt like SeriousGirl who roars at injustice turned to me and asked:

  • What happened to ArtistGirl who roars in colour and light, Idelette? What happened to her?
  • What happened to the 16-year-old who walked through town in her painted clothes? What happened to the girl who designed her own outfits for the dance?
  • What happened to the girl in Taiwan who sported a different hair colour every few months and couldn’t walk past a slide in a park without swooshing down it?
  • Even the girl who wore pink feather boas to church that first year in Canada?

Quick answer? She tumbled down a few stairs, she learned about responsibility, she gave away all her vintage clothes and her Grandma’s hats, she immigrated, she birthed a few kids and landed in a slipstream that embraced Banana Republic.

Far cry from the freedom and whimsy of painted shoes in a mall.

And that’s where I heard the question: So, did you effectively cut the Arts program from your own story?

Thud.

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OK, so I don’t have a neatly wrapped answer for this question yet. I’m working my way through it as we speak. I know there are many arts programs around; it’s likely time to sign up for adult classes.

But for me it’s about more than Adult Art Classes. It’s about losing a part of myself in the journey through decades and across continents.

Irony is: I married Fun Guy. The guy who can’t hang out with our kids for five seconds before it becomes a tickling or wrestling match. He’s the guy who loves to make three-year-olds, 23-year-olds and 73-year-olds laugh and it usually includes fart jokes.

But it’s not enough to marry Fun.

It’s time to re-install whimsy on my own heart drive.

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So while I go dig up some feather boas and reprogram my life, here are 10 gems that sparkled for me from the Storyline conference:

  1. “What makes a great story also makes a great life.”
  2. Story is made up of a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.// So what do we really, honestly, deeply WANT?
  3. It’s important to know what we want. “If we don’t want anything, we are living
    boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories.” (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, p. 125)
  4. The bigger the WANT, the greater the tension. “To live in the tension is where meaning is created.”
  5. “Life involves a fight.” Just because we want something, doesn’t mean it’s going to come easy. (Just ask Tina how we fight for TGIF every week.)
  6. “Your children won’t talk about what you say—they’ll remember what you do.” [Preaching to myself right here.]
  7. “Don’t do what a character would do to ruin the story.”
  8. “Where you do what you do matters.” The setting/place of our story means something. [Donald Miller gave the example of talking to your daughter about
    men while looking at a shark tank.]
  9. God doesn’t want us to watch from the sidelines. Bob Goff, one of Donald Miller’s friends and mentors, has this wonderful story about how they created a New Year’s Day parade on their street. The difference? Nobody is allowed to watch.
  10. And this quote from Robert McKee:

“Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.”

So here’s a big toast to Monday, more whimsy and dazzling the world as we live our greater Story. Or as Bono might say: Let’s give the future a big kiss.

But let’s start today. K?

Questions:

  • What’s the most whimsical thing you’ve done lately? (Slide, anyone?)
  • Have you lost a part of you on the journey of life? Which part of you would you love to reclaim?
  • Last Wednesday the kids and I put on Canucks jerseys (my first time ever), filled up the car with balloons in Canucks colours and surprised Scott at work on game day. What does living a better Story look like to you today?
  • Which one of the Storyline gems/lines resonate with you?

About Idelette:
I like soggy cereal and if I could travel to every spot on the map of the world, I would. I am a whole lot of dreams and hopes and sometimes that makes me intense, but I am learning to be totally OK with it. I have three kiddos and this place–right here, called shelovesmagazine.com–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I like to believe us girls can be kind and loving to each other–be each other’s greatest supporters–and that will make us a force for great good on the earth. I also like to believe Love covers a whole lot of everything, including my mistakes and my Taroko Gorge gaps. I blog at idelette.com and tweet@idelette.

Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt

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