As a part of her I'm Making It program, Sandra Magsamen shares daily activities that will help you create things with your own hands, explore your creativity and journey through self-discovery.
This week is about making things with our hands. It's important and fun to use our hands, together with our heads and hearts, to craft things. The things we make can have many uses—some are practical while others are edible, giftable or meaningful.
When we make things, we make our ideas, thoughts and/or desires tangible. We bring to life things that matter to us so we can share them with the people who matter most to us.
Throughout our busy lives, we often think about making things, wish we had time to make things or even start to make something without finishing it. But if we do make something from start to finish, we quickly feel a sense of accomplishment, understanding and self-discovery that can be found nowhere else.
In the spirit of I'm Making It, we are going to make stuff this week. We are going to get started on using our hands to make things that we have thought about, previously started, read about, dreamed about or just plan want to do.
I am always delighted when people share their stories with me of what they have made and why. Below are a few stories that have inspired me to make things, and I know they will inspire you too.
Denise was about to celebrate her 50th birthday and all she really wanted, she said, was to get to know her family better. Over the years, they had moved away from each other, raised families, built lives—and had also drifted apart. Even when they did get together on holidays, they ended up telling the same old stories over and over again. This time, Denise decided to get creative.
She invited her parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews to a restaurant for the big birthday dinner. Before anyone arrived, she placed a small papier-mâché box with a cake painted on its lid at each seat around the table. Inside every box were 25 slips of paper, each bearing a different question: Who would play you in the movie of your life? What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you? What is your greatest strength? If you could do one thing over in your life, what would it be? Who in the world would you most like to meet? What are the three words that you would want other people to use to describe you?
One at a time, the guests (including Denise) opened their boxes, pulled out a question and answered it. The night was filled with laughter, joy and even a few tears. Although the restaurant was wonderful, no one remembered the food. But everyone now has memories of stories told and the gift of themselves that they shared. The evening celebrated one birthday and the rebirth of friendships and family closeness. Denise's reconnection to the people she loves was the greatest birthday present she could have received.
Denise made her birthday a huge success in part because she made these simple question boxes. What can you make to make a celebration more meaningful?
A few years ago, I was in the audience for a talk given by Marianne Pearl, author and widow of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal war correspondent who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002 by terrorists in Pakistan. She told us about the amazing outpouring of love and hope she received from people all over the world after the heartbreaking vigil that ended with the news of Danny's brutal killing. In particular, she spoke of a gift that came for her infant son, Adam, from a woman in Austin, Texas. Marianne read from the letter that accompanied it.
"Dear Marianne," it began. "Please accept my gift of a quilt for your son. I was deeply touched by your tragedy and wanted to do something for you."
Though she was a stranger and not in a position to help Marianne in person, this woman was a quiltmaker and, as she put it, "nothing says love, in my mind's eye, like a quilt." She went on to say: "Hopefully the quilt will bring you both pleasure, security and a bit of comfort. That is my wish."
Both of these stories speak to a simple truth: Each of us wants to connect more closely with the people in our lives. We want to know that we belong and are loved, and we want to make others feel the same way too.
These stories also celebrate something else: Our innate desire to create. Creativity is one of the basic human needs, right up there with love, companionship and hope. The desire to make beautiful, meaningful moments and things is an undeniable part of who we are. It's there in our spirits.
This week is going to be a bit different than other weeks. I'd like you make this week about making things that matter to you. Be deliberate each day about making something and documenting it in your journal.
Search your heart and your head for things you really want to discover and do with your hands. Remember, there are no rules! If you don't know how to do something, go online for directions or go to the library or bookstore to learn how. It's up to you—you can make one thing or 100 things.
Here is a list of ideas to get you started thinking about what to make:
This week, create something with your hands. Create a garden that exudes beauty, create love, create a home that nurtures yourself and your family, create a memory, create a quilt to cover someone with tenderness, create a moment, create yourself, create a friendship, create an experience you will never forget. I want you to see that you can create because you must.
Days 58–64 Make a list in your journal of all the things you want to make this week.
Each day this week,make something from your list. At the end of the week, write a summary of what you made and make a celebration (even if its just with yourself).
I love to read autobiographies. Each page is filled with the details, accounts, adventures, ups, downs and dreams of another person's life. Sometimes I am in awe of the life someone has lived and the choices they have made; other times I am heartbroken and learn valuable lessons from the paths taken and consequences gathered.
We each have a story to tell. Each one of our lives has unfolded in our own unique and original way. Our lives are made up of moments, people, places, experiences, days, plans, accidents and goals. Each life is important and a gift. Documenting our lives with our stories is a way to treasure and share them.
This week, we will spend time writing down our own stories, using our memory to recall and recount who we are, where we come from and what and who matters to us. There are lessons to be learned from our lives as we write about ourselves. Patterns will emerge and themes will rise up, giving us the opportunity to look at ourselves in a new and transformative way.
This week, you will become the storyteller of your life. You don't need to be a "writer" to complete this week's assignment. You just need to be honest and open with yourself. It doesn't matter if you spell everything correctly or punctuate perfectly. The content and the stories you tell are at the heart of this week's adventure.
This is your story. Honor it, learn from it, share it, embrace it, celebrate it and allow it to take you to the places you long for.
Take a few moments to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Allow yourself to remember the details of you life. Ask yourself a million questions about your early years in life.
Where was I born?
Who are my parents?
Where did we live?
Who are my siblings?
What jobs did my parents have?
What religion did we practice?
Who was part of my life as I grew up?
What were my dreams?
Who did I admire?
When your mind is full with memories and answers to your questions, open your eyes and start writing in your journal. Start any way you want..."Once upon a time," or "I was born in a log cabin," or "I remember when..." Allow all your memories to fall, spill and splash out on the page. Keep writing until you can write no more. This is the beginning of your story.
Day 66 Be honest with yourself about a difficult or challenging experience.
Make an entry in your journal that completes this sentence: "The worst thing that ever happened to me as a child was..."
Allow yourself to drift back to an incident, a moment, a place and a time that allows you to write this passage. Ask yourself a lot of questions to get to a time and place. Be sure to be honest with yourself.
Who was there?
Why was it the worst thing?
How did you feel?
When did you feel better?
Do you often think of this time?
What did you learn?
How has it affected your life today?
Write for as long as you need to and craft a story around this event. It might be hard and painful, but remember that you made it through and there is much to learn from it. It is part of your story, and you will discover much about yourself in the way you have grown and have lived with this incident. Be kind to yourself as you tell your story.
Day 67 Make an entry in your journal of a day or event in your life that was extraordinary and wonderful.
What brought me joy?
What stands out as remarkable?
Why this day, this event?
Who was there?
Tell your story in all its glory. Recount what the day looked like, felt like, wanted to be. Fill in all the details as you share this special moment.
Day 68 Write about an important person in your life.
Make an entry in your journal sharing as many details as you can remember of a person that is important in your life—perhaps someone you admire, love or believe in. Ask yourself questions about them to gather the details for your story.
Was there something they did that touched your heart?
Why did you admire them so much?
Who were they?
How did you come to know them?
What did they look like?
The people in our lives and our relationships with them are at the heart of living a happy and contented life. This assignment asks you to focus in on one of the people you care about and share details, experiences and feelings that express your relationship. When we understand our relationships, we can embrace them more fully and they become even better. Enjoy sharing the story of someone you care about.
Day 69 Make an entry in your journal where you write about the food that you ate when you were a child.
Perhaps your family had a ritual of making pizza on Friday evenings, baked ham with pineapple on Sundays or a special chocolate chip cookie for Christmas celebrations.
Think about how you ate dinner—was it in front of the television or around the dining room table?
What was considered a treat in your home? What was special? Did you ever eat out at a restaurant?
Was there a food that you hated and were made to eat?
Did your family grow a garden?
Let yourself drift back to the ways your family prepared food and nurtured your body. Write a story about one evening or about many. If there are recipes that you remember, write them down. Enjoy this delicious walk through your memory and perhaps some of these yummy recollections will inspire you to create these treasured meals today.
Day 70 Make an entry in your journal that tells the story of you at work.
Ask yourself a lot of questions:
What do I do?
Why do I do it?
What do I love?
Why is it meaningful?
Who do I work with?
Where do I work?
What does my desk or office look like?
Who have I met that I really care about?
This is a chance to focus on the work you do and craft a story about what matters to you as you make a living. If you love your job, great—write about why. If you don't love your job, write about why not.
Learn about yourself and your work in this activity. We spend a lot of our waking hours at work and this is a chance to think about it, learn from it, make changes if you want and tell the story of where you are right now with your job.
Day 71 Focus on the present and tell a story about yourself as you are now.
Make an entry in your journal that tells the story of who you are today. Imagine someone picking the story up and reading about you. What do you want them to know? What matters to you? Take time to think this through and craft a story as long as it needs to be to tell this part of your tale.
How do I describe me?
What do I want people to know about me?
What words clearly sum up who I am?
What experiences do I want others to know?
What accomplishments matter most to me?
As the week comes to a close, go back and read your stories. Ask yourself what you can learn from them. What have you left out and where do you want it to go?
Each day we have the opportunity to write our stories through the decisions we make and the way we live our lives. Be deliberate, be focused, enjoy, dance, connect, cry, love, play, rest, look, hear, take in the details, kiss, bake, remember, take time for a friend, be nice to yourself and live your story.
Remember: You are an original, a one of a kind, a work of art. In all the world, there is no one else like you.