I recently listened to an interview with Mary Catherine Bateson, a linguist and anthropologist, whose parents are the famous anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. (In case you need a memory jog, Margaret Mead is credited with saying: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”)
During this interview, Dr. Bateson spoke about the importance of framing situations in regard to how we approach them. To illustrate her point, Dr. Bateson recalls how the word “juggle” was used early on to describe women with children pursuing active careers.
She said many women shared with her how difficult they found this transition and often reported the following: “My husband says I’m not a serious person, because I don’t have a consistent career line. I feel like such a failure.”
Dr. Bateson observed women were working harder than their husbands and doing a good job of managing both home and work life. She wondered what metaphor would support women feeling differently about their efforts. Dr. Bateson, therefore, coined the phrase “composing a life” to reflect the creativity required to improvise a life which worked for them.
I like the word “improvising” because it acknowledges the ever-changing state of our world.
In other words, you may have a plan but events conspire that require you to throw the plan out the window. Being adaptable, imaginative, and resourceful allows us to navigate unpredictable situations or to improvise. Having compassion and forgiveness for ourselves encourages us to keep doing so.
One other gem I wish to share from Dr. Bateson’s interview is the necessity of practice. Dr. Bateson remarked that improvisational jazz players practice many hours a day to become excellent performers.
In other words, daily practice is an investment in future outcomes.
If I want to be a kinder person, then I need to practice being kind. If I want to have stronger muscles, then I need to lift weights. If I want to speak Italian, then I need to study the language. And the more I engage in these activities, the more likely I will be kind, strong and fluent in Italian.
Keep in mind practice also involves making mistakes.
I wish you all could have heard me practicing the Italian alphabet last night: a native speaker would have shuddered. So least you think I’m perfect, you can rest assured I am not. Some days I fail miserably at being kind. Other days I make an excuse not to lift weights. I am definitely in a constant state of practice.
Which reminds me of something our son’s second grade teacher said many years ago: “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” (Thank you Ms. Kelli!)
I love Ms. Kelli’s reframe. With that simple lesson she taught all her students that perfection was not the goal. Instead Ms. Kelli encouraged her students to practice, so when it came time to apply the learning, no matter what situation they found themselves, they could.
I, therefore, invite us all to sit with question: “What kind of life do I want to compose?”
As you answer the question, notice what you might have to learn in order to compose the life you want. Then practice, make some mistakes, and practice some more. Together we will make beautiful music.
Kim Bushore-Maki is a soul-driven entrepreneur who understands the undeniable urge to create a business and a life filled with meaning and purpose. Her vision of opening a center where women could heal and grow led her to open Shakti in the Mountains in Johnson City, Tennessee: a place where the creative, feminine energy is nurtured and valued.
Five years later, Kim is still in the flow of supporting and building a healthy, vibrant community and now guides retreats, teaches yoga, and provides one-on-one services for women who want an immersion experience into the life-affirming, Shakti energy.
Kim’s training as a therapist and yoga teacher allows her to safely and compassionately guide women on a heart-centered journey to Self, where women re-connect with their beautiful, authentic spirit.