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Change-Maker.

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Story-Teller.

And, I’m back. With some New Year’s Desires.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 by Marianne Elliott

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2012 started for me with a small conversation that has been causing big ripples.

I was celebrating New Year’s Eve with a handful of very close friends, plus the guest of one of those friends. That guest was Ella Saltmarsh, who has just finished writing a feature-length screenplay set in Kabul. Ella works “at the intersection between storytelling and strategy” and she is ‘evangelical’ about using the creative industries to build a fairer world. She’s also a yogini.

As you might have guessed, we had plenty to talk about. And then, just as the conversation was getting going, Ella asked me –

Do you have any plans to get back into the field?

As I started to answer, I found myself tearing up and realised that I haven’t been paying much attention to how much I miss living and working in places like Afghanistan. I’ve been telling myself that work in Afghanistan is better done by Afghans, and that I don’t need to look any further than my own neighbourhood to find opportunities to use my passion for storytelling to support social justice and change.

And at the same time, I’ve been quietly applying for short-term consultancy positions with various UN agencies and as I miss out on one after the other, slowly losing my confidence. Without wanting to admit it, I’ve been inching towards the conclusion that yoga teaching is the only marketable skill I have left to offer ‘in the field’.

So do I have any plans to go back into the field? Yes, actually I do. Or more accurately, I have a won’t-go-away, ache-in-my-belly desire for it. What I need is a plan. More on that soon. For now it was enough to acknowledge it.

Then she asked –

What are you working on now?

And – despite the fact that I’m working like a crazy person at running a restaurant, launching a book, teaching yoga, creating a new online course for change-makers, and setting up a co-working space and a communications collective – I felt like I had nothing to tell her.

Why? Because I couldn’t think of anything I was working on that related to our shared passion for that intersection between storytelling and strategy, between communication and social change.

Of course in one sense, everything I do touches on that space. But – I realised in that moment – not quite in the way I need it to. Some of the projects I’m working on have potential to get closer and closer to filling that space. But for now they are only tangentially related.

And I want more.

Some wise(er than me) friends of mine talk often about the importance of desire.

Jen calls it “Being committed to living your truth more than anything. Even more than your own comfort. Certainly more than your own ego.”

Danielle says “Follow your desired emotion.”

‘Don’t analyze it too deeply’, she says. ‘Just let it roll and rumble a bit. It may be there to humble you, expand you, heal, surprise or reinvent you.’

So this year, although I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions, I do have some New Year’s desires to follow.

Starting with these desires:

  • to write more meaty posts, to explore those ‘big’ ideas and questions that lurk on the edges of my mind, tempting me to dive into deep caves of reading and thinking.
  • to write more for the Huffington Post (last year I earned myself a regular gig on HuffPo and then proceeded to write all of two pieces in eight months) and to be smart, professional and bold about seeking other writing opportunities.
  • to go back to Afghanistan – and work with Afghan writers/storytellers to co-craft stories that explore the relationship between Afghans and internationals working there.

Those are the desires that made themselves known to me in the form of tears and discomfort at the dinner table on New Year’s Eve. So I figured they were a good place to start.

I’ll be kicking things off this week with a post on why I think passion isn’t enough – for writing, do-gooding or yoga. Next week I’ll be posting a substantial piece here and at the Huffington Post. Like I said, I have some big ideas and questions to explore. I hope you’ll come exploring with me.

I’ll also be creating one post per week here with links to things I want to share with you. I come across so many amazing things and although I share them on Twitter and Facebook, I just want to put the very best of them together in one place. So I’m going to follow that desire too.

And I’ll continue my series of interviews with change-makers because I love finding out what makes the people I admire and respect tick. These interviews will continue to be erratic in their frequency, since I’m not making resolutions here, just following my desires, remember!

Any desires lurking for you? Anything you haven’t quite admitted you want, despite the deep pull in your belly?

I recommend a Desire-Amnesty. Give yourself permission, just for a moment, to want what you want. Take a break – just for this one time – from the reasons why you shouldn’t want it. Let yourself desire what you desire. And then follow that desire. Even just for a few steps. Let’s see where our desires take us.

As Danielle said, they may be there to humble us, expand us, heal, surprise or reinvent us.

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13 Responses to "And, I’m back. With some New Year’s Desires."

  1. amy denmeade says:

    i can’t wait to see where this takes you!

  2. i love you i love you i love you!

  3. Rachel Cole says:

    Marianne. I love these words and the sentiment here resonates so deeply for me. I love your willingness to admit your “true hungers” and invitation for each of us to check in to see what’s there. LOVE.

    xxoo

  4. this is so beautiful. can hear the truth pouring through. excited for you and picturing each and every one of your desires taking flight with wings.
    love,
    t

  5. Brigitte says:

    This post brings up a lot for me. How I keep telling myself it’s okay to do the safe thing “for now.” How that’s part of the larger plan. And although I do believe those things to be true (and that the safe path is still pretty scary), I think I need to explore my desires more, as well.

    Welcome back, Marianne. I’m excited to go down this road with you.

  6. Roxanne says:

    Such power comes out of this message, Marianne… So many ideas fermenting. You know we share a passion for telling the stories of life in conflict and post-conflict zones, and I hear you on the “field bug.” When it returns, it’s scratchy and demanding our attention. I cannot wait to read more and to follow your ever-inspiring journey.

  7. Paula says:

    Thank you for this post. I love how you show that important realizations often occur in response to an event, a situation, and in this case, a question; in other words, not in a vacuum. I’ve spent lots of time sitting alone, thinking about what my “truth” might be and trying to experience a “desired emotion”, but without outside stimulus I feel like I never get anywhere. That’s tricky too, though, because it’s easy for me to take on what others think I should do. I think for 2012 I’ll just work on sussing out my own desires and stop doing the things that don’t fit on that list. Maybe by letting some things go I can see what I want by what I have left. Happy new year!

  8. megg says:

    I. loved. this.

    Oh Marianne, it’s going to be a remarkable year for you!

    My dream – my desire that needs amnesty – is also about stories and listening to women. Thank you so much for putting it back at the front of my mind. I had sat on it quite firmly this year… and now I have goosebumps!

    xoox

  9. Donna says:

    Marianne – you have been such an incredibly wonderful wayshower for me…. ‘reflector’ of so much of me.
    ACKNOWLEDGE * ACCEPT * ALLOW… mmmhmm! Kind to Self FLOWS perfectly.
    Thank you! <3

  10. This resonates deeply for me, Marianne. Thank you.

  11. Swirly says:

    This post brings up a lot for me, the main thing being that I think it is important to be careful about trying to live up to what someone else’s definition of meaningful work is. There is so much I feel called to do, but I accept that it will not be possible to do it ALL. So I do what I can, and I trust that by applying the same passion, intention, mindfulness and awareness to EVERYTHING I do, I am living in alignment with my purpose, my gifts, and the most positive impact I can have. Even if, at times, the impact isn’t felt beyond my own backyard.

    I can understand how this conversation you had re-kindled a spark in you, but I hope deep down you see that through ALL the work you do – and you just being YOU – you are doing that work you are passionate about…the storytelling and social change and everything in between. You do so much. Never doubt that my friend. You do SO MUCH.

  12. Sera says:

    Mmmmm. Resistance is such an amazing thing, isn’t it? Back on Jan 16th I read this post and it moved me deeply to share my truth that calls out to me. And while I’ve been running around crazy planning a move (next week!) from Connecticut to Savannah,GA and saying bye to everyone in between… I still sense the pull of resistance to speak these words.

    But this morning I woke up and thought, “No more. First things first today.” Coffee, oatmeal and a safe place.

    So for 2012, I chose a word, which I’ve never done before: ‘BELONG’. It’s been an amazing month in so many ways.

    I’ve found an amazing circle of inspiration online and continued to consciously build upon it. So many beautiful, soulful (mostly) women seeking to share their truth with others. Teachers, longing to learn and share their knowledge and deepest selves with others. I keep hearing a voice, “this is where you belong.”

    Truth: I have a degree, a lot of debt because of it, and so much guilt surrounding it, that I’ve almost become paralyzed.
    ‘Why is this calling so different from what I went to school for (Commercial Interior Design)? I can’t change my focus AGAIN. It’s time to stick to something for once.’

    OUCH. It’s not that I feel I don’t deserve it, I think I’m scared that I do. I think I’m scared to be wrong again. I feel that I belong among these ‘teachers’, these lovers-of-life, these soul-urging phenoms.

    I belong. A strong word for me. But I get anxious, Marianne, thinking of changing my course, abandoning my pursuit of this ‘career’ I naively spent fortunes on as a college student.

    Mmmmm. That’s my truth. That’s my silence that is screaming to be heard.

  13. […] Back in January, someone asked me: Do you have any plans to go back into the field? […]

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