“I Declare” by Lisa Coughlin – Guest Post and Photos

I’m happy to welcome back the lovely and talented Ms. Lisa Coughlin! We’ve been corresponding by mail and on-line for almost four years, and we’ve shared some similar paths through life, even though we haven’t met in person yet. I can’t wait for that day,so we can share a few doughnuts and check out an art museum or two.
And now I’m going to go try the idea she’s written about. Thank you Lisa – I, Elise, am inspired by you and I’m glad you’re part of my life.

Recently, at a fall festival, children were invited to participate in a fill-the-bucket relay race.

There were two lines, several sponges, and four buckets.  Everyone was instructed to dunk the sponges in the bucket of water before them, then to run to the other bucket with the now soaked sponge, squeezing it into the empty bucket.  The goal being to fill up your team’s bucket to overflowing.  A couple times during the race, children ran to the opposite team’s bucket.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, as the adults piped up, telling the children they needed to go to the other bucket.  I thought, “This is how I feel many a day—I’m filling up the wrong bucket.”

I received some sad news regarding a long-standing, time and thought-consuming goal. What I tried didn’t work.  This is not the first time I’ve heard this type of news, and it won’t be the last time.  Only this time, I didn’t respond so well to the disappointing news.

Have you heard this anonymous saying—or one similar to it? “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do with what happens to you.”  I’d like to think I subscribe to this sunny-side-up-attitude all the time, but my brain is more a scramble of this stance; more melancholy than happy-go-lucky.

In my continual quest to nourish a positive outlook, I’ve turned to writing, creating art and reflective photographyI search for ways to transform my uncertainty and doubt.

My daughter has served as a constant inspiration and motivation, giving me a healthy daily dose of perspective.  The other day, after reading one of her latest mystery books, she observed a pattern she noticed in a few of her books:  Often a character would make declarations such as “I, ______________, am ______________.”  “I, _________________, do not ______________.”  I asked her to write down statements about herself, thinking it would be a good prompt to get her writing.

Later, in my feelings of despair, I recalled this writing exercise and thought, “I need to make my own declarations.  I need to take charge of my intense sadness and turn it around.”  The news I received wasn’t going to change—at least for now—so I needed to take notice of what was in my control.  Instead of second-guessing all the decisions I had made up to this point, I needed to affirm myself.

My “try something new” was to write a list of declarations, focusing on what I am—to overthrow an inner dialogue that tells me what I am not.  In an effort to silence my tendency to be critical of myself and my decisions, instead I choose to highlight my talents and gifts.

Like the detective in my daughter’s mystery book, I want to solve big mysteries.  I want to listen and watch for the clues my life experiences and circumstances reveal to me.  I want to define and refine the way I live, so I am focused on what is important—to me, and to my family.  Making declarations is just another tool to help me do this.  As Elise reflected on her evening walk“Habits grow when we keep showing up and trying, despite varying weather and moods.”

*What are your declarations? 

“I, ________________, am _________________.” 

If you have children, how would you state them in terms of the way you parent? 

“I’m the kind of parent who _________________.”


4 thoughts on ““I Declare” by Lisa Coughlin – Guest Post and Photos

  1. I, Margaret, strive along side you younger women (and men) and the wide world to continue to learn and to live an authentic and meaningful life. And, I am , beneath the inevitable fears and doubts, HOPEFUL!
    Thanks, Lisa, for the guest blog. I appreciate your candor and trust in sharing your story.
    Love, M

    PS I’m the kind of parent who believes that my children enrich and redeem the world with their contributions to their families, communities and the building of social strength for the future. I’m amazed, inspired and redeemed.

  2. Hi, Margaret–Thank you for sharing your declarations. Speaking of the contributions of your children…I forgot to inquire what happened with the architecture contest–I did vote!! And Elise is an amazing contributor to the world in so many ways–I’m so grateful I found her through the Reggio discussion group.

    Elise–Did you get my email regarding the links in this post? There seems to be a glitch. Thank you for sharing this space, as always, and for all you continue to share regarding your, and your family’s, path of learning and exploring.

    • Hi Lisa, I feel as if I know you somewhat from the years of blog community and your good friendship with Elise.
      The contest was a good exposure, for sure, but it was impossible to understand it’s purpose. There were so few images to evaluate and no idea who designed the spaces, AND S and K had two projects competing with each other. I know they appreciated the support and interest. Their work is amazing.

  3. Pingback: What do people do all year? 13 for ’12 | The Family Lab for Inquiry and Play

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