Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. Howard Thurman
“What makes you come alive, Helen? What lights your inner fire?” I ask these questions often and the answers that rise up from within become bread crumb markers that I can follow as I open to fully engaging with each day in a way that feels authentic and good from the inside. And so, here I am, on the first morning of November, as a dim sun shines through the bare branches of the maple in our back yard, as frost coats the mums that sit on the deck, as jays and chickadees gather at the feeder. It is a morning for hot tea, a warm sweater, for hunkering in and fanning the inner flame. So I ask myself again, “Helen, what makes you come alive? What lights your inner fire?”
And this is the exciting part, the sparks beginning to fly part. I have no idea what is going to emerge from the inner bonfire of this morning’s personal passion. What brought me alive yesterday or last week or a month ago is old news, already decomposing with the pumpkins in the compost pile. The fire, my fire, at least, must be tended to daily in order for it to burn bright and bold, in order for me to feel bright and bold and fresh and new. And isn’t that how we want to feel, vibrantly alive from the inside out, eager and open to the gifts in the present?
So, here goes. I am tossing a log onto the fire as I answer my own questions, fully expecting that I will be warmed from the inside out. What makes me come alive? What lights my inner fire? Today, in this moment, it is a deep breath and the tea, an herbal blend my friend Leanne concocted herself from her own gatherings, and the quiet of my house and this time to write. It makes me come alive to claim the time to write, to let the words flow freely, to allow myself to be surprised by what emerges from this inner fire. Right now, it is the smell of celery and garlic still clinging in the air from the soup I made last evening in between the door bell rings of trick or treaters. And that brings me alive, the balance between mindful acts like chopping carrots and onion and parsley for a lentil soup, one that I have made from the same recipe for thirty years, and the whoosh of excitement at the door of something new, a sloth last evening, a shy two-year-old lion, a mermaid whose scales shimmered, a trio of bloody zombies, two living breathing video characters, a truck wearing a sweatshirt. It brings me alive to open my door to the new, to the possibility that trucks can wear sweatshirts and zombies can say thank you. There is so much that brings me alive!
Don’t stop, Helen; let it flow. It brings me alive to walk by the lake, the big lake, Superior. Big water brings me alive, in all its moods, in its stillness on this cold calm November day, and in its wildness, too. I love the storms of November! I’m enlivened by them! I love thrashing waves, feeling the power of the mighty, the wind that nearly bowls me over. I love bracing myself against this wind, love watching the surfers in their seal-skin wetsuits, paddling out into this wildness, then sailing themselves into shore as I, on the shore, hollering out into the wind, a hooray, “You are wonderful!” I love telling people and trees and chipmunks and great blue herons that they are wonderful because they are, because we are. It brings me alive to remember what I love. It lights my fire. I love the seasons, this subtle season of late autumn, of milkweed pods and brown ferns, of pumpkins and crispy frosted air. I love stomping on puddles of ice, shattering the ice into crystalline bits. I love doing this alone and I love doing this with kids. I love kids, love my grandkids, love feeling unleashed around them, love the way my heart opens wide enough to contain the whole world when I think of them.
And this isn’t all. There are so many logs I’m tossing onto my bonfire today, so many things that make me come alive. So I will continue asking the questions as I push the save button on this writing, as I gather myself together, as I drive down to that lake that excites me always, as I meet a friend and take a walk, as I remember to say to you that you are wonderful, because you are wonderful and you too have an inner fire that can burn bright and bold and fresh and new.