Saturday, July 29, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 29

Through the ages, talented women have been squeezed into narrow pigeonholes. We were expected to be wives and mothers, and our avocations were supposed to enhance our primary role. When I was a girl, guidance counselors advised me to "not spread myself too thin." Meaning, I should choose a career that allowed a long summer vacation, one that coincided with my childrens' holiday. Most importantly, I should choose  a profession that I could set on a shelf, to retrieve at a later time. "Be a teacher or a nurse," my mother said, "so you'll have something to fall back on if your husband dies."

The pressures are less--and greater--for modern women. We have more options, yet many of the old-timey constraints are present. We are expected to create beautiful homes while tending a family (possibly one that has come apart by choice or necessity) and while managing a career. On the side, we should grow our own tomatoes. 

Yet I continue to hear that people -- especially women -- should never try to excel in multiple disciplines. "Stick to one hobby or career," we're told. "Find the one thing you love, and you'll shine."
The exceptions are stellar.
Beatrix Potter was an extraordinary artist and writer. Since the 1980s, Martha Stewart has delivered home and gardening advice, along with craft projects and dog-tending tips.

In recent years, celebrities have reinvented themselves. Reese Witherspoon acts, produces films, and created a charming website, Draper James. Actress Jessica Alba is the brainchild of The Honest Company, and singer Trisha Yearwood landed her own cooking show. Oprah is a Renaissance woman who continues to inspire. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres is a marvelous house flipper--and she designs dog outfits and pet carryalls. But for every Draper James we see a Preserve (actress Blake Lively's lifestyle/shopping website) go belly up, or a GOOP (Gwynneth Paltrow) that attracts scorn.

If you possess more than one skill, if you are multi-talented, you risk standing out in the pack, and not always in a good way. The most talented woman can lose her nerve. No one likes being the object of envy or ridicule, and no one wants to be labeled a show off-- or worse, an outsider. As a result, women tend to muffle their skills or downplay them. It's just easier to give up, especially when you find out that being gracious and humble won't always protect you from naysayers and nitpickers. Or, if you dare to show your many talents, you may pour vanilla over them--or add a little food coloring. You could end up being like a macaron, lovely and delicious, but ubiquitous. Except for pastel tint and flavor, our gifts may be indistinguishable from every other macaron.
(It's no accident that macarons are labeled.)

But maybe we are more multi-faceted than anyone ever dreamed. Who says a woman must do one thing and do it well? Why can't she take a photograph with one hand and rock the cradle with the other? In the many years I've been writing and blogging, I have met women who are amazingly talented, and they always inspire me.
They made a difference in my life.

Not all of us look at blogging from the same hilltop. Success is defined in a thousand ways.  A blog can exist for the joy of sharing a unique slice of life, or it can exist as a business. It can exist to share knowledge of design, food, gardening. Now and then, blogs are used for taking, in the guise of giving. But you'll find positives and negatives in any career.

A small blog with a true heart may never reach a wide audience, but it may reach the right people. The smallest voice can have the biggest impact. Unbreakable friendships may be forged. A life may be touched and changed for the better.

Today's Inspiration:
You are a multi-talented woman, in a unique position to touch people's lives.
Embrace your many gifts.
Click the camera. Stir a bubbling pot of homemade soup. Hang a quilt on the wall. Create a butterfly garden in clay pots.  Dance, sing, paint.
Write fearlessly.
Live fearlessly.
If you can't move the needle for yourself, how can you move it for someone else?
Move that needle, baby.


  1. Applause, Applause!! Thank you for celebrating those of us with more than one interest! We are all multi-dimensional. Your post today and whole series this month is so affirming!

    1. So happy you enjoyed it, Carole! Thanks for reading, dear lady.

  2. This post just made me smile all the way through, and especially the ending!! Thank you for your thoughtful way of inspiring us to be all that we want/can do!

  3. A small blog with a true heart may never reach a wide audience, but it may reach the right people. The smallest voice can have the biggest impact. Unbreakable friendships may be forged. A life may be touched and changed for the better

    This spoke to me in thunderous waves..thank you Michael Lee.. for reminding me of this.. I enjoy your blog so much..

  4. Loved this Post! ☺ Jeanie

  5. Such beautiful and wise words filled with sage wisdom. We are women of a certain age. And we grew up knowing we weren't to "out do" men or we would be frowned upon. We kept our light hidden.

  6. I love today's ending inspiration. Okay then, let's do it!

  7. I vividly remember sitting in my high school counselor's office in a discussion about college and direction. I wanted to study interior design. She felt that wasn't a wise choice. I should get a degree in education and teach. As you pointed out, her reasoning was teaching (or nursing) would allow for raising a family, a career that could be put on a shelf and picked back up. I was insecure and naive. I got an education degree and taught elementary school. Ironically I never had children of my own, and the reason I was counseled toward education was a mute point in that regard. I had a very rewarding career and didn't look back. I could have gone on and pursued a career in design later in life, but I didn't. Instead I carried the passion into my daily life and into my own home.
    I like what you said about small blogs. ;-) I like every post you've written for this series. Thank you, Michael Lee!

    1. That's so interesting--I was interested in ID from a young age. I painted my bedroom peachy pink with apple green trim and was evermore rearranging my mother's stuff. But I was told that ID required (back then) a Home Ec degree (and, while I was a Home Ec major in high school, I was the only one who made a skirt without a zipper), and my college required a year of general chemistry. Nursing required the same. I was advised to major in pre-nursing. :-)

  8. Well said! And I think I am a small blog that will remain small. I love the circle of friends I have made. Lots of authentic gals who are dancing to their own music and sharing with others. I had a reader whose dog had just died. She was in the depths of heartfelt pain. She happened upon my blog reading about the loss of our golden. She wrote the most lovely note about needing to find me and my words on that day. It moved me that I Helped her on that day. We just never know how we impact others. Love your series! Sheila

    1. You're so right--we just never know. Dogs have been on my mind, as well, and this series helped me find closure.

  9. So enjoyed reading all your thoughts for the month, it's been a wonderful reintroduction to your blog :-)