As an artist, author, vocalist and Top Chef wannabe, I am quite the Renaissance woman, not to tweet my own tune. My friends will tell you: I do it all. (Thanks, friends!) But ask my family a few years back and they’d claim I was best at being Mean & Ornery & Hard to Get Along With. MOHGAW for short.
I can’t help it; it’s in my blood.
I never wanted to emulate my mother, though she is pretty sweet these days. As a stay-at-home mom of nine children who gave up her dream of becoming a nurse, Mom made MOHGAW her motto. I craved a family, but also to develop and share my own gifts with the world. Anything less seemed like a cop-out.
Once a bright-eyed collegiate turned ambitious young adult, I planned to become the next C.S. Lewis/Beatrix Potter combined. I moved east with great expectations and – blink! – somehow found myself married with four young children, struggling to not disappear under piles of dirty dishes and laundry.
While I love my kids, parenting well is demanding work. I began to understand – and resemble – my mom as I despaired ever achieving my career goals. Oh, the mom-guilt! Why couldn’t being the best possible homemaker satisfy my needs? Why must I want it all?
Still…I did, and it showed.
Deciding I could no longer wait for the perfect circumstances (there is no such thing), with our two oldest in school and portfolio, toddler and swaddled infant in hand, I met with a local author who generously agreed to mentor me. For the next several years, while trying to keep family my priority, I wrote and scrupulously edited the first book of my YA fantasy trilogy. To contribute financially, I went to work part-time teaching music at my children’s school. (How better to share that gift than by passing it on to the next generation?)
I created and donated art for charity, and kept up an illustrated parenting blog to encourage other moms while providing self-therapy. Life was fulfilling, exhausting…and totally unsustainable as we welcomed our bonus baby.
MOHGAW Momster reawakened.
Thankfully, and long before Oprah Winfrey put the sentiment into words, I had an epiphany: It really is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I was cheating everyone by trying. Pace myself and I might actually enjoy the life I already had, while creating the one I dreamed of.
Granting that permission to slow down was the kindest thing I’ve ever done – for myself and everyone around me. Skip ahead: Thirteen years since penning that first novel – the year after my firstborn graduated high school – it was published. Two more children left for college, and I gave birth to two more volumes. More are coming, all in good time.
And I’m not so MOHGAW anymore. Just ask my family.
C.A. Morgan, author of Emrysia: The Three Sisters Trilogy (Emrysia Awakening, Lament & Endurance) is a lifelong learner and champion dream chaser who loves to encourage others to contribute what only they may to the world. From northern Michigan to remote mountainside in Vermont’s northeast kingdom, she is equally at home on stage or in her garden, and is currently sharing the gift of music in a hospice choir, and completing illustrations for her children’s book on the fears associated with diagnostic testing. She and husband, Roger, are enjoying a quieter house these days, raising their belated blessing with occasional unsolicited advice from her adult siblings. To learn more visit her online at: www.camorganwrites.com, facebook.com/reademrysia, and twitter@camorganwrites.
On this first of May, set a new goal for what you’ll accomplish over the next 30 days, before we reach the halfway mark of 2018.
Start writing your book or finish it? Read more often and read more widely?
Grow more vibrant in one area or calmer in another?
Stretch beyond a comfort zone?
Speak up for yourself when warranted and surrender the need to be right otherwise?
Love like never before (including yourself)?
Seek the good more often or settle for daily cynicism? Dance like no one’s watching or deny your youthful dreams?
Whatever is on your heart, let it live in your life and blossom into something special.
Iris E. Holliday has contributed to Life Untapped before, to share her journey into a fulfilling season of retirement after a lengthy career in corporate philanthropy. She returns this week to share a heartwarming essay about achieving her lifelong dream of visiting India. Settle in and enjoy this bird’s eye view of her adventurous spirit as a solo traveler….
My fascination with India began in the living room of the Holliday home in Washington, D.C. My father and I began what would become our monthly ritual-filling out the “for more information” cards in magazines, circling numbers for destinations, products and such. This began my lifelong addiction to mail, starting with the first mail addressed to Miss Iris E. Holliday from the Embassy of India, and one from the Embassy of Morocco. There were so many stamps on these large manila envelopes.
Of course, my 8-year old self proclaimed that I would travel to India and ride on an elephant. And quite a few decades later…I recently did.
The India of this child was images of princes and princesses, majestic palaces, statues of mythical gods, home to Gandhi and the sacred river Ganges, and people clothed in silks reposing on their heavily adorned furniture. Such is the fantasy of childhood.
The India I saw as an adult in my travels to the Golden Triangle-Delhi, Agra and Jaipur- screamed of complexity, beauty, contradition, conflict, passion and intensity.
My body of historical knowledge was woefully inadequate to receive the jaw-dropping architectural marvels of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (called UP everywhere I went); some now UNESCO sites.
India is a moving color wheel-people, clothing, food, flowers, transportation, and art. It is also dramatic as joy and sadness come in high octaves. The sheer number of people occupying the public spaces with you brings a dazzling affirmation of humanity in fast forward motion.
Anyone who really knows me acknowledges my obsession with preparedness, so reading a dozen or more books on travel to India would come as no surprise. I also confess to being a fan of Bollywood movies and Punjabi music, all tastes cultivated way before the movie SlumdogMillionaire. I credit award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair and her movie Salaam Bombay for further piquing my interest. After all, I have carried the dream of traveling to India for 57 years.
Each airport has its own Zen, especially after 9 p.m., and Dulles and Frankfort are at opposite ends of the spectrum to me. The snowstorm I encountered in New York on the first leg of my trip posed some interesting flight challenges. However, there was no problem hitting 10,000 steps as I traversed the gates en route to a new carrier and flight time, and in desperation, not wanting to raid my rather large snack stash, I got a tuna melt. Oh God, why? Awful, inedible.
The time was made tolerable and rather entertaining by a brief encounter with a Duke University MBA student on his way to India for the first time. Our chat was so lively about technology and art and Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Obama that I forgave him for dissing my iPhone SE. He had an iPhone X. Yep, tech matters and in all things shallow and cultural, tech is a distinct marker of status, intelligence or hipness.
On this direct flight to Delhi, I heard voices more audible in different languages, predominantly Hindi, as the time zone changed. I also noticed the sea of orange, lemon yellow, ruby red and fuchsia turbans reflecting the Sikh faith of my fellow passengers. Time to tackle the large print Word Search on Plants and Flowers scored at the Dollar Tree. Not one to miss out on free movies, I viewed The Greatest Showman and really disagreed with the move critics who panned the film. I downloaded the soundtrack as the flight info screen showed “7 hours and 5 minutes to Delhi.”
On the movie roll, I discovered a two-part epic Indian movie Baahubali – the sixth largest grossing Indian film worldwide. Watching both parts would absorb nearly five hours. No popcorn, but that was okay.
It wasn’t hard to settle in, wrap up in my pashmina, and position the pillows. This fantastical movie had handsome stars, romance, and political intrigue with powerful, immoral rulers, bromance, martial arts, religion, kingdoms on mountains beneath blue skies with billowy clouds. I loved the descriptions of the hero of the film: “His strides are like the wind…Even death does not scare him…He is like a bright shining star…an immovable mountain.” Oops, forgot to mention the music. Yes, there is singing and tattoos.
The now-quiet flight of the sleep deprived is inching to Delhi over Ankara, Kabul, Doha, Dushanbe and Ahmadabad. In less than two hours, I will be there, after eating a way too spicy “chicken puff” and reflecting on this engrossing movie.
Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport is truly magnificent, more like one gigantic hotel lobby. It is 2:00 a.m. As one of the sleep deprived, it is truly funny when you are looking for the right Immigration and Custom’s counter and realize that you are now the foreign passport holder with a visa.
Candidly, I don’t remember all the details of the early morning hours except the spacious hotel room and the note to meet my driver and tour guide at 9 a.m. Oh, I do remember being greeted with “Namaste” and responding in kind.
The beauty of solo travel is travel without negotiation, compromise or resignation.
Being the museum devotee that I am, I began to embrace Delhi through the National Gallery of Modern Art.
Established around the time of my birth, the collection shows 5,000 years of Indian history through arts and crafts. The sculptures both wood and bronze and stone, textiles, miniature paintings in a range of styles, terracotta pieces captured my interest for hours. I lurked in the “jewellery” gallery lusting after several eye-popping gemstone pieces; didn’t know that diamonds have been mined in India for over 3,000 years.
Museum visitors are intriguing, and it thoroughly surprised me to meet students on field trips. These students (who appeared to be ages 12-16) were not guided through the galleries as is the norm, but were self-guided based on interests. Hip-hop culture is global and their fashions were the latest sneakers and strategically torn/ripped jeans. Some of the students wore hijabs and still dressed in Gen X wear. They enthusiastically agreed to pose for pictures. Smiles are still part of the universal language. Not a huge fan of audio-guides, I am glad that I used it in this museum.
Old Delhi offered the Red Fort and the India Gate, the homage to Indians who fought in World War I, and modeled after the Arch du Triumph in Paris. The much anticipated visit to the Jama Masjid, one of the largest in Asia, welcomed all, however only Muslims were allowed in the actual mosque prayer area. With shoes off, men and women entered separately and the security was highly visible. Those who did not respect the site enough to wear appropriate dress were given long covering robes to wear. The sun was blazing and I am so glad that there were long runners leading from the entrance to the interior. One step on the brick pathway meant scorched feet.
With all the people I crossed paths with, what are the chances to see again, a Muslim woman I had encountered in a different part of the city. With that recognition, we exchanged greetings and mental hugs. Truly a serendipitous moment.
The UNESCO World Heritage sites of Qutub Minar and the tomb of the Emperor Humayun left me in want of more details of Mughal architecture. Named after a Sufi saint, Qutub Minar is a minaret on the Qutub complex that stands 239.5 feet tall with 5 tapering towers. Construction began in 1192, and each of its columns are of a different stone-pale red sandstone, marble, marble and sandstone and are engraved with texts from the Holy Quran and decorative features. It is alleged to have been inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan and built by Hindu artisans.
The Emperor’s tomb has the distinction of being the first garden tomb in India. Commissioned by his first wife, the Mughal Emperor Humayun’s resting place is a solemn garden now filled with tombs of his descendents. The Persian-influenced architecture and gardens divided by walkways or flowing water intentionally reflects the view of paradise described in the Holy Quran. I found it hard to focus on this site as a tomb because of its astonishing beauty and serenity.
The streets of Delhi require bravery to navigate, with the mode of transportation being either foot or rickshaw, tuk tuk or car, bicycle or motorcycle – doesn’t matter. Not one to be skittish about close encounters, I exercised deliberate calm in the car as a passenger, and certainly in the rickshaw. The proximity of one rickshaw rider to another in a separate rickshaw was hands distance, and the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk redefined the word narrow. There was constant conversation with other drivers and vendors. The horns of vehicles never stopped and continued all through the day and night.
The rickshaw ride is also an opportune time to talk about Old and New Delhi, education, the gossip on Salman Khan (film idol), and preservation. I was struck by children, very young children, who were selling loose peacock feathers and a fan made of peacock feathers. Of course, they should be in school; however school is mandatory from ages 6-14 but not heavily enforceable. And to the issue of peacock feathers, it is illegal to sell these; they are banned like ivory for commercial or retail sale.
It’s time for my dinner and the night lights illuminate Delhi’s sky, and even on the fifth floor, I can hear the incessant sound of honking. I am craving a bowl of dal, with yellow lentils and garlic naan. Soon, my appetite was satiated by the best dal on the planet and the most attentive food manager and wait staff at the Radisson Blu. The open kitchen afforded the view of chef creating elaborate dishes and it was a wonder to see my soup being blended, spiced and adorned based on my preferences. It was as if there were no glass wall between the chef and I. The night was capped by my first cup of masala chai.
This would be my beverage for the start of the day and the ending. With cows being sacred, did I even ask what type of milk was used in making the chai?
Nope, I just savored it. The question would be asked and answered at another time.
Iris E. Holliday is a third generation Washingtonian (Washington D.C.), a Cruzan (St. Croix) and Hoosier (Indiana), and both a Howard University University Bison and VCU Ram. During a career spanning more than 35 years, she advanced the reputations of government entities, corporations and nonprofits, including serving as Director of Corporate Philanthropy and Community Partnerships with Dominion before retiring in 2016. A recent graduate in museum studies, she looks forward to traveling to other dream destinations and sharing her excursions with Life Untapped readers.
Were you one of those kids who believed that ghosts or monsters lurked in your bedroom closet, waiting until the lights were out and you were trying to sleep to make their presence known? (See my raised hand.)
Or, maybe you were the young adult with the world before you, yet you were so anxious about making wrong decisions that you opted more often than not to play it safe and make choices that were safe. (Hand still partially raised.)
Or, could it be that now, as a full-fledged adult, you view your age, weight, finances, personality or other personal circumstances as reasons for staying in a holding pattern or coasting through each day? (Hand NOT raised.)
It took me a while, but after living for a bit and surviving a couple of life’s major “D’s” – death of loved ones and divorce – I’ve come to realize that life’s not meant to be expansive and enjoyed only after you’ve conquered your challenges; instead, while you’re wading (sometimes knee-deep) through them, you could be growing, learning, laughing, loving and even thriving in your inner soul.
Watching my now-deceased older sister find enjoyment in simple things after surviving a double lung transplant in 2011 taught me to value each breath, each opportunity to connect with loved ones, and indeed, each day.
Experiencing the death of important relationships and the snuffing out of their accompanying dreams taught me to value myself, flaws and all, because even if no one else is around, I have to live with and love me.
Pushing through all kinds of highs and lows with others shook me and shaped me into a more empathetic, peaceful and purposeful person – someone filled with more resilience, hope, deeper faith and joy for simple blessings than I otherwise might have possessed.
While my experiences have been uniquely my own, the benefits they’ve yielded are universally possible.
What has hampered you or broken your heart? What has made you press pause and enter a journey of self-examination or sacrifice? What has led to tears that have filled God’s bottle with your name on it, yet also grew a garden of unexpected supporters and mentors to surround you?
Consider those consequences as the gems for your journey. Allow them to fuel your steps forward and foster more hope and heartiness where needed.
Fear comes to us all, yet fear can’t take up residence unless we grant permission.
When it pays a visit, greet it with these behaviors:
Acknowledge the emotion’s presence, then try to assess why you’re afraid.
Envision your worst-case scenario. If the thing you’re fearing were to happen, how would you survive? (Your faith, your Plan B, support from family or friends, or all of the above? )
Envision your best-case scenario and how this outcome would empower and elevate you. If this were to happen, how would you stay centered while sustaining the success?
Remind yourself that whatever comes, you are strong enough, smart enough and loved enough to fall down and get up, or to stand and wait, or to rise and forge a new path – whatever is required.
Remember that by some accounts, FEAR is simply “False Evidence Appearing Real.” You have all within you to overtake whatever is causing you to stumble or spin your wheels.
Embrace the five suggestions outlined above and execute them routinely – one moment, one hour, one day at a time. Refresh and repeat as necessary.
Invest attention and intention in yourself, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself shedding your cocoon and soaring, in your solely special way.
You’ll be living life “untapped,” in a space where regrets are few, life lessons are abundant, and grace is more than sufficient.
So why can’t we – once babes in arms – grow into purpose-driven world changers?
With intention, discipline and greater expectations, we can, and so can the children we’ve been given the opportunity to steward.
Let go of your fears and grow.
Where to start? Right here, right now.
How to start? With every simple or significant opportunity that comes your way.
Try one new thing today and see how it feels. Say yes to something you’d normally avoid. Consider embracing hard truths rather than running away from feedback, even if it stings.
Listen more and learn from others.
Get comfortable with silence so you can both hear yourself think and give your heart the space to respond. Consider another person’s perspective and why their view matters.
When you can’t literally stand in another person’s shoes, do your best to find other ways to empathize. What if it were your sister, brother, mother, father, son or daughter, best friend or spouse facing what this other person faces? Would you care enough to help, be an ally or be an upstander?
Shed unsuitable labels that those around you have given you. Beginning today, define or redefine for yourself who you are, who you are going to be and why your life matters.
Dust off the dreams you once held dear, but perhaps gave up pursuing. If necessary, give yourself permission to dream new dreams.
Accept that age truly is just a number. Celebrate the wisdom that has come with maturity, yet remain young at heart and as optimistic as the bright-eyed youth who sees a goal and declares it a birthright.
If Vera Wang could become a fashion designer at 40, Samuel Jackson could achieve stardom at age 46, Laura Ingalls Wilder could write her first book at 65, and Etta Baker could record her first blues record at 78, what can’t you do?
Make up your mind and fix your resolve to do it afraid, if necessary. (You get to determine what “it” is, and you may have more than one.)
Implement positive and productive practices that become positive and productive habits. Tell yourself to keep going when it gets hard. Push through and pat yourself on the back.
Cry if you must, then regroup. Get back up each time you wobble, fall or fail. Practice makes perfect, and important lessons are often learned through trial and error.
Know that what you’re you’re sacrificing now is worth what you’ll eventually gain.
Someday you’ll look back with gratitude at the seed covering, caterpillar shell and irritated oyster bed you outgrew.
On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the best), are you pretty satisfied with life?
Wherever your gauge lands, I hope you’re somewhat content, because the fact that you’re breathing and able to read this is a sign that there’s more to do and be and experience.
Whether you’re in a season of 1 or 2 on the scale (life is really hard right now) or clicking on all cylinders (10 – couldn’t get any better), the reality is that all of us experiences ebbs and flows, ups and downs and swings of the pendulum that leave us struggling to get by or enjoying bounty beyond measure.
With each shift, however, comes an opportunity to be grateful, and in the process, an opportunity to grow. May sound trite, but it’s also true.
So today, assess where you are and where you’d like to be. Instead of beating yourself up (or gloating), challenge yourself to be braver or kinder or more strategic or more laid back. Don’t stop when you find yourself uncomfortable, afraid or tired. Winners push through, and I believe you’re here to win.
Here are some tips that you and I both can practice until we hone them….
Don’t let your motivation to do well or do the right thing be driven by what others do or don’t do. Be excellent and operate with integrity regardless of how it’s received.
What others think of you truly is their business; respect yourself while respecting their choice to choose.
Lead with love, because this is still what we all need most.
Remember that what you see isn’t always what it is. A fleeting perception or assumption about someone or a particular circumstance could be completely wrong. Base your opinions instead on that person’s repeated actions and attitudes, because who they are will spill out over time. Accept that truth whenever it’s revealed, and be okay either way.
Choose joy. Life is too short to let grudges, gossip, guilt, greed, jealousy or the like derail you. Joy is the secret sauce that keeps you going and gives you hope.
Speak your vision for your life and prepare for it. Instead of wishing your circumstances were better or different or easier, embrace what they are currently and trust that the better experiences of which you speak will someday become your reality. Then get busy creating a better, different, more meaningful life for yourself and your loved ones.
Have fun and go for gold; but don’t “get yours” and leave others to fend for themselves. When you open your heart enough to care about and make sacrifices for the benefit of all humanity, you’ll enrich your own world more than you could have imagined.
Decide to get uncomfortable enough to try something new. You never know what opportunities, blessings and growth are just waiting for you to show up.
Take time to be kind or to simply be available. You are the gift someone needs today.