A Sense of Place

There has been a lot of talk lately about creating a “sense of place.” Maybe it is your community where people are coming together to install public art or create a business incubator. Maybe it is your church where the congregation is seeking to attract millennials with an in-house coffee shop and movie room or even your home, where you are trying to find a sacred spot in a corner to meditate. Whatever the case may be, the signals are clear – we are all in need of connection. We need to feel connected.

One of the many mindful practices I have incorporated in 2019 is devoting more time to connecting the dots for myself. I am attempting to treat my work space and my home space as a sacred spot to spark creativity and to energize. Even when it comes to groups I am choosing to devote my time to, I want to make sure that it resonates with my soul.

Sound corny? Probably.

But it is working.

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Just this past Tuesday I gathered together with 76 tourism stake holders in my community. My job was to create a retreat where we concentrated on team building and took time to network with leaders in our field. One of the speakers dealt specifically with Creative Placemaking. This workshop got participants thinking about ways to attract visitors and at the same time, create a sense of place for locals. Everything from installing public art or creative way-finding signs to re-purposing empty buildings and blighted neighborhoods.

At the end of the day… it got me thinking.

It made me think about my own life and how I could transform my personal space.

It could be something as bohemian as a meditation corner. Or maybe even something like this:

Or maybe a nice reading nook.

I think finding a space to decompress and recharge my battery is key. Afterall, I’m an ENFP. I may be an extroverted-intuitive-feeling-perceptive person, but I, too, need to find a place to leave that frantic energy and allow my brain to cultivate creative ideas to share.

I learned a few new ways to do just that at the retreat.

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We had a fantastic workshop on the DISC personality test. Here I am with my fellow extroverted people/people. We love to chat it up and are open to new ideas.

But then we answered a question that proves not all extroverts are alike. We were asked a simple question: If given a choice, would you rather finish a task or check in with people.

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Our large group of extroverts suddenly divided. Across from me (you see in the photo above,) were our task-oriented outgoing folks. I am more of a “check-in” with people extrovert. Which means, if I like you – I will help you. If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. The folks across from me are not only single-focused, they are vocal about it. Which means we could butt heads even harder than with the people on the other side of the room – the introverted/Task oriented or the introverted/people-people. The Introverted-doers typically avoid my personality type (to the best of their ability.) And the relationship-driven introverts are the people my personality type would call, “Some of the nicest people we have ever met.”

FASCINATING stuff. I’m learning even more about what makes me tick and others around me. It’s like a huge self-awareness bulb just went off and I feel like I can function better.

Boy… it only took 45 years and 11 months. 😉

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Overall, the day went really, really well and I felt like I had accomplished a huge step in building my department.

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In the very same week we had a First Friday event in downtown Americus. Here you see our local organic/small market sharing a mini workshop on making your own bath salt. It was such a treat to go in and have this happening, plus a wine tasting right next to this table. Across from that a Georgia Grown cheese and jam tasting. Talk about a sacred space! I loved walking around and checking out the new products, learning about some of the local dairies, and sampling items. If you ever get to come to Americus, make sure to check out Center Stage Market.

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And talk about the sacred – I got to address an old friend: the American Heart Association. Remember when I used to work for them in Birmingham? I traveled all around the Southeast spreading the importance of heart health. Well… Friday was National Wear Red Day and our staff decided to Go Red For Women. We had Phoebe Sumter (local hospital) provide blood pressure checks in our Visitor Center. Outside of the great community benefit, it was bitter-sweet for me, because it brought back those old feelings and my old life: living in Birmingham, married to someone else, a whole different set of friends and activities – it felt like a different Nicole. And each year I get to relive it…. even just for a day. It is not always comfortable…

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But the beauty is: it gets easier and easier. That whole life was 7 years ago, but feels like a lifetime. I’m assuming I’ll never really have positive closure, but the pain is not as extreme. Proof that time does heal all wonds.

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This weekend we got a glimpse into the future. Tim’s oldest, Alex, is a rising senior and is beginning to think about college. We started the first of what I assume will be many weekend trips to explore colleges and universities in Georgia. We started off 2 hours from Plains in Valdosta, Georgia at Valdosta State University.

The school put on quite a show! Their marketing efforts to attract students was very aggressive. Tim said they sent a text, just about every day, reminding us about the big Open House day coming up. This went on for several weeks. Even after the trip, they sent a survey with three options:

  1. Yes, your search is over.
  2. Maybe, VSU is in the running.
  3. No, VSU is not for us.

Poor Alex, she didn’t know what to think. We were afraid to respond, because we knew the hard-core text/sell would come after that. Not sure if it was a good method or a turn-off.

Needless to say, she enjoyed the visit. They put on a very exciting pep rally and allowed you to explore the different degree options.

In a way, this whole visit reminded me that Tim is about to enter a new phase in life and I need to help him create a sacred/safe space – An Empty Nest. I can feel his apprehension. I can feel his anxiety. However, the inevitable is coming. I need to make sure our nest is comfortable and designed with a new life in mind.

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I think all of this pending change had Tim seeking something familiar. We headed out to the farm, and specifically the cabin. We took Cotton with us and I think I counted at least 4 times with him saying, “I sure do miss it here.” I felt like this was a sign and I realized I might need to step up my game as a supportive partner. Life is changing fast, and my introverted-task oriented guy is not a fan of change. Maybe… this is where I come in.

Maybe God puts us with people – in situations – in environments where we are the one that shines and where we might act as the anchor. Maybe my ability to travel the winding road with ease is just the security my big strong man needs in his life during this next phase.

As we sat in church on Sunday, I looked over at him and his youngest daughter and realized how precious this time we have left with his kids is. I also realized that life can turn on a dime. I know… I’ve lived enough and changed enough for 3 life times.

If the universe is constantly sending us signals and God is directing our paths, I think this past week was loaded with previews of what is to come. It is up to me to trust the path, create sacred space, and slow down just enough to savor what is now.

Until next time….

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