Welcome to Sing With Your Feet, the podcast in which we take joy very, very seriously.
The podcast in which we re-discover what brings us joy and make space for it in our lives.
The podcast in which…
My name is Lily Fields, and I am going to be your Fairy Godmother for the next half hour or so.
This week’s podcast, which is Episode number 27, is going to be our last until September—that’s right, your Fairy Godmother is taking a little summer break to be with her scalawags and indulgent Prince Charming while they are all out of school.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect it to be so difficult to decide to take the summer off. It’s one of those decisions I had to make according to the checklist I shared with you back in Episode 23 about Making Wise Decisions—like “under what circumstances will I regret making this decision,” and “what part of my ideal life is this decision feeding”, and which part of my Ideal Life will suffer by making this decision.”
Sharing this time with you each week is something I enjoy very much, and I’ll admit, I’m going to miss you. But the truth is that the Ideal Life circles of Parenting and Marriage are the predominant ones I need to focus on this summer. So there we go.
You’ll definitely want to follow the podcast’s Instagram, that’s @singwithyourfeet this summer, though, because I’m planning to give you a few Ideal Life reminders now and then.
LiElla Kelly, is hard at work on her own podcast, a mini-cast called Death Becomes Her, which you can find on all your podcatchers. If you need a summer dose of your wicked stepsister, she’ll only be few clicks away.
All right…now that we’ve done a little bit of housekeeping, Cinderella, let’s get down to business. Let’s talk about Passion!
THE SUBJECT AT HAND.
Would you believe me if I told you that the origin of the word Passion in Greek is the word “to suffer”, or “to be acted upon?”
This might not surprise you actually, since last week, in our discussion of relationships and duty, I mentioned that “Compassion is love in action.” It literally means, “to suffer with”.
I love love love this idea that Passion is suffering. Because…well…it just hits so right in a very Fairy Godmotherish kind of way.
I want to throw a little quote at you here, because I think it sets the stage for everything else we are going to say this episode. It’s from Albert Einstein, who said, “I have no special talents. I am just passionately curious.”
Before I started uncovering the fairy dust in my every day life, and the digging up treasure that was hidden in my own back yard, and most importantly, before I learned how to set boundaries and limits in my relationships, I would suffer for lack of time to do the things that made me feel alive.
Do you remember how last week, I told you that before I undertook to learn how to love myself, I used to hand over a permanent marker to everyone I knew and let them fill in my calendar for me—filling it with lots and lots of time-consuming projects that were not necessarily things I wanted to do? Well, once I learned how to set limits and learned how to say “no”, I had more time to actually do the things I loved to do. And, just to head off what you are about to say, Cinderella, which I know you’re about to say because I can read your mind: yes, but Lily, I have small children. I just can’t say no.
I did not learn how to set limits until after the addition of those time-consuming little creatures I call my children. So it is possible. As a matter of fact, it might even be because I had those little creatures that I learned how to say “no”, finally. To be honest, my children were the first people in my life I have ever been able to systematically say “no” to and not feel guilty for it.
Pre-children, I used to feel guilty for using my time to do the things I loved. I used to feel like I owed my time and talents to others, for some existential reason, and that I didn’t have the right to use my time the way I wanted to.
So I would daydream. I would fantasize. I would suffer from longing for the day that I could actually do what it was that I wanted to do. Then one day it hit me that if I didn’t prioritize my own joy, well, no one else would ever do it for me. So I started taking passion much much much more seriously.
And, to take a page from Albert Einstein it didn’t require any special talent to make this shift. It just required passionate curiosity. Curiosity, first and foremost about myself and why I didn’t know how to prioritize my own joy. Secondly, curiosity about those little silvery threads of joy that still were there, jumbled up in my heart from a lifetime of disuse. And thirdly, curiosity about the world and how things worked.
Now, I will admit that I had, in this process, one very important partner in crime, and I am going to try to be careful not to project the totality of my experience onto you for this reason. My partner in crime was my husband, Prince Charming Fields, who is not called my indulgent husband for nuthin’. He has always put up with my busy schedule and has long been willing to shoulder a bunch of responsibilities around our house so that I could sneak away to attend to my commitments.
But in spite of his collusion to help me get out of the house, there was still a problem: I was committed to a lot of things, yes. But I wasn’t committed to things that made me feel alive. I was committed to a myriad of activities that people asked me to do and that I agreed to because I felt like I owed everything to everyone.
So I was busy, and I was being super helpful to a lot of people, but I was not experiencing joy. All in all, once I was able to start shifting how I made my commitments, my husband’s experience of my busy-ness barely changed, except for one small thing: I complain a heckuva a lot less about my commitments than I used to.
That is one benefit of pursuing our Passions. We complain a lot less. We suffer a lot less.
IN MY IDEAL LIFE I AM A PERSON WHO…
It’s been a very long time since we’ve talked about just how awesome it is to feel alive. There’s a reason for that, of course. In the early days of the podcast, I gave you a bunch of homework to do to help you start defining your Ideal Life: first, there was the prompt that said, “In My Ideal Life I am a person who…” You were to finish that sentence as many times as you possibly could to start getting an idea of how all the different parts of your life were interconnected.
Then, I suggested that you list out a good memory for each of the first 18 years of your life and describe the circumstances of the most memorable or most pleasant of those 18. It was a way to pull out little silvery threads that once brought us joy.
We talked about how those activities might just be ones that could still bring us joy, if we were able to bring them back into our lives in small doses appropriate to our current circumstances. That is the focus of the Passions circle of our Ideal Life Blueprint.
Just for a quick digression, the third element that we talked about in the early episodes of the podcast was virtue, and how those noble characteristics that we want to be remembered for when after we die (AKA, virtues) can become like the edge pieces on the puzzles of our lives, which make it so so so much easier to make decisions and do hard things.
This summer, while you are waiting for your Fairy Godmother and Wicked Stepsister to come back from their hiatus, I highly recommend you go back and listen to the first 10 or so episodes for a refresher. They might actually hit a bit differently, now that we’ve taken a deeper dive into our Ideal Life Themes.
But today, we are talking about Passions. Those silvery threads that look a heckuva lot like joy. Actively pursuing, teasing out those threads and giving them a try again is a much-ignored part of self-care. We aren’t talking about becoming a professional race car driver, here, or climbing Everest or winning a Tony award. We are talking seeking out and taking advantage of opportunities to try those things we’ve always been interested in. You like to drive fast? You like to climb mountains? You like to perform on stage? Well, passions are those things that we know will increase our happiness, even in tiny doses.
They are the things that make us feel alive and the things that we are willing to take risks for.
Let’s pick apart those definitions, shall we?
Just before we do, peruse your Ideal Life statements, look for the ones that connect back with those silvery threads to the activities we enjoyed doing as children, or things that we wish we could do more often.
I usually share my In My Ideal Life I am a person who statements here to help dislodge some ideas for you, but I don’t want to influence you, or to make you think that you your passions aren’t valid.
Whatever makes you feel alive is a valid passion. Whatever you are willing to take risks for is a valid passion.
So my first definition of our Passions are the things that, in the absence of which, we suffer a little bit.
My second definition of Passions is: the things that make us feel alive.
For you it might be hiking or cooking or meditating. For me it is making music and textiles. My sister Poppy loves to travel. I have a very dear friend who loves animals and spends every possible moment with them. My father-in-law is passionate about naval warships.
Whatever your passion is, it reliably brings you joy.
Now, I want to address something here, because a listener once brought it up, and I want to be very very sensitive to those of you who might be hearing me wax passionately about passions but just aren’t feeling it.
I am not a mental health professional, so keep that in mind. There are people who struggle to complete the exercise about the good memories for the first 18 years of their lives, because they suffered very difficult childhoods. There are also people who are anhedonic—people who have no experience of joy or pleasure at all—and it is often related to childhood trauma.
Another problem might be a generalized lack of interest, or inability to get excited about anything that sneaks up on us in the form of depression or simply just a less passionate season of our life. This can happen to all of us from time to time. This apathy might not be long-lived, or it might last for years.
In either case—whether you have never felt like you had a passion in your life, or if you had passion but have lost it, then perhaps you need some professional help. A counselor, therapist, psychologist could help you navigate this. Please, please, please. Get help.
After that lengthy but important parenthesis, we were talking about our passions being the activities that make us feel alive.
It can be a pastime, a hobby, an activity. It can be something that we do completely alone or something that we do with others.
But I’m going to suggest here that, for example, playing Solitaire on your computer is not going to meet the bar for a Passion according your fairy godmother. Sure, it’s a pastime, maybe even a hobby. But, on the other hand, I will say that, perhaps, video games might be a passion.
Why, now Lily Fields, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth.
Ah, but my dear I am not.
Because the last subpart of the “making us feel alive” definition is something that connects us to others or to the natural world.
This definition is actually more inclusive that it sounds at first blush. I would argue, for example, that even if someone is doing an activity entirely alone, like, say, making jewelry out of, oh, I don’t know, bottle caps, that there is still some connection. I mean, people wear jewelry. There is a tenuous possibility that the making of this jewelry will bring that person into contact with others. Either in the obtaining of the bottle caps, or the giving away of the jewelry (and the subsequent joy that it might bring to do so…)
Plus, theoretically, by recycling bottle caps, we are keeping them out of landfills, so in that way we are connecting to nature, too.
The point is that Passions are most delicious when they are something that are shared, or in some way connect us with other people or with nature. It’s one of the tenets of the Philosopher Princess’ theory on life and happiness: connection is happiness. (Believe me, we’ve done well to leave her in her ivory tower this season. Once she wakes up and starts saying annoying things like, “Virtue is its own reward,” we’ll all be wishing she would just go back to sleep.)
How did I get started quoting that woman? Ugh. Yes. I was talking about Solitaire. Sorry. That was a really long digression.
My third definition of Passions is: the things we are willing to take risks for.
Here I go, I am going to tell a story, so settle in for a second.
My mother taught me to knit more than twenty years ago. I found it so relaxing. After making a lot a lot of scarves to master various stitches and techniques, I branched out. I still have my first knit item of clothing: it was a pale blue mohair sleeveless sweater which I still wear, thank you very much.
That blue mohair yarn came from some a monastery in a teeny tiny village in southeastern France. It was a gift from my mother-in-law, who knew I loved to knit.
It turned out that the monks at this monastery raised the animals themselves, they sheared the animals themselves, prepared the wool themselves, dyed the wool themselves and they spun the wool themselves.
For the twenty some years since I discovered that little monastery in that teeny tiny village in southeastern France, I have found the idea of wool production absolutely fascinating.
When we moved to Northeastern France in 2007, I befriended someone who has a gigantic family. Both her parents are from immense families.
Her mother and several of her aunts had maintained some of the old traditions of wool preparation and spinning, and of course, knitting. One of her aunts still had an old spinning wheel, although due to bad health, it went unused.
I will not hide from you that when I first heard about this aunt and the spinning wheel, my curiosity was piqued, but I wasn’t courageous enough, and I didn’t love or trust myself enough at the time, to take a risk and ask her to teach me, something I would live to regret.
Several years past, and the conversation about wool came up with another friend, who mentioned that they owned some property on which they kept sheep. She asked if I would like to take the wool and try to figure out how to spin it.
So I did. I MacGyvered a little top-whorl drop spindle out of the lid of a pickle jar, a dowel rod, a random little hook and some washi tape. Oh, I learned to spin. I did it poorly, but I did it.
I made a jacket out of that handspun wool, which I wore (and still do wear) so proudly. So proudly, I tell you.
Well. Then Covid. And we lost that lovely old woman of the unused spinning wheel, and along with her, all of her knowledge and skill.
However, my friend’s mother thought of me when they were emptying the house, and asked if I would be interested in keeping the spinning wheel. So what do you think I said? Uhmm, yes please.
So now I had a spinning wheel, but no more wool. The spinning wheel sat there for a long time.
And that is where the Little Prince and a theme park I go to with my boys nearly every weekend come into play. You’ve heard of Le Petit Prince? By the author Antoine de St Exupéry? Go back and listen to episode 14, called Know Thyself, in which my indulgent philosopher husband makes an appearance. He quotes St Exupéry, and I remember it was quite lovely.
Long story longer. One of the first things the Little Prince does in the little poetic book is to ask the narrator to draw him a sheep. And the narrator sums up his whole tale by saying, “I know the little prince existed because he was charming, he laughed, and he wanted a sheep. If anyone wants a sheep it is proof of that he exists.”
I know. You should really read the Little Prince. It’s full of lovely little poetic thoughts like that.
This little theme park has an entire petting zoo themed around sheep and pigeons, because, well, it was with a flock of migrating birds that the little Prince embarked on his adventure around the universe.
Last summer, every single time we would go to the park (which we do quite often), I would say to my eldest scalawag, “I wonder what they do with the wool?” Because here are like 40 sheep of maybe a dozen different breeds, with all this gorgeous, varied wool, and I was creatively drooling every time I would see them.
Finally, my son said to me, after about the thirtieth time I had said, “I wonder what they do with the wool,” “Why don’t you just ask them?”
Now, let’s step out of the story for a second to introduce a very important point about the essence of Passion. Passion is something you are willing to take risks for. Something that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone for.
You know me well enough by now. I don’t like to step out of my comfort zone. I don’t really like to talk to strangers. Staying safe, though, is a surefire way to live a boring, passionless life.
My son was right, of course. For all the times I had wondered about the wool, and secretly imagined spinning up a lovely coat from some of those long locks, the only thing keeping me from an answer was my inability to talk to strangers. If I could just ask someone, then I would have an answer.
I know how small all this sounds, but I still remember the moment at which my interest in wool went from a pastime to being a passion: it happened when I was willing to take a risk and talk to a person I didn’t know.
“Excuse me?” I said to the person who cares for the animals. “What do you do with the wool after you shear the sheep?”
The guy gave me a strange look, sizing me up as just one of those weirdos who asks stupid questions about the animals at the park.
“Nothing. Do you want it?” the guy replied. He might have been joking, but my son immediately cut in and said, “Yes she wants all of it.”
And with that, my passion was solidified. Indeed, he would be very happy to see the wool go somewhere other than the trash. He was interested in what I would do with the wool…I insisted on saying that I was a novice, but that I had a spinning wheel and that the only thing I was lacking was the wool to use on it.
We exchanged numbers, and he promised that when the shearing was done in the late springtimer, he’d give me a call.
So after many many months of waiting, I got a text message about a month and a half ago telling me that the wool was waiting for me. I received about 100 lbs of wool…which is only half of what he could have given me…but I have a little bit of a storage problem in our current configuration.
But for the last month or so, I have been passionately literally reinventing the wheel…figuring out how to wash, card, spin, felt…
I always loved wool. But it became a passion worth my time and energy when I realized that I was willing to take a risk and get out of my comfort zone in order to make it happen.
Incidentally, this passion does pass the connection test also: it connects me back to nature—with the wool and the beauty of the natural fibers—it connects me to others, because I am developing a project with my children’s school to teach the children about wool and the history, art and science of wool. And I am making little gifts out of the wool for all the people I love because there is literally nothing more poetic than a rose made out of the wool of the Little Prince’s sheep.
Wow. That was long. The point is this: there are activities you might love but that don’t qualify as passions because you wouldn’t necessarily sacrifice your comfort for it. Passions are what we are willing to sacrifice for, take risks for and…to take us back to the original Greek definition of Passion, passions are activities we are willing to suffer for!
LiElla Kelly, Death Doula and your wicked stepsister is here to share with you a slightly wayward story about someone who wants to express their passions, even in death. You’ll see. LiElla will douse out the fire of those passions pretty quickly!
As you know, I’m a bit wicked, a bit deathy. What you may not know is that Lily, you know, your Fairy Godmother is getting deathier and deathier with each passing day. I know this because she sends me a variety of oddities that are right up my alley. I take it as a compliment. My deathy enthusiasm appears to be infectious. It seems that recently, Lily was perusing the D&D chats. For those of you who you don’t watch Stranger Things, D&D is short for Dungeons & Dragons. Why Lily is spying on the D&D crowd, I don’t know, maybe she’s a closet Dungeon-Master…in petticoats, maybe that’s her secret Wildcard.
At any rate, Lily sent me a letter that was on a D&D chat. It was written by a 36 year-old woman about her husband’s end-of-life plans. She writes,
“My husband of 12 years has had some medical problems recently. The topic about end-of-life plans came up, and I asked if he wanted to be buried. He didn’t want that. Nor did he want to be cremated.
My husband wants me to have his skull taken from his body and cleaned. Then he wants that skull put on the mantelpiece in the living room. The rest of his body he wants sent to one of those places that makes the gems out of bodies and made into two blue diamonds. He then wants the gems to be put in the eye sockets of the skull to look like eyes. Then he can, quote. “watch the family home” and “be passed down through the generations.’”
So, is this possible? Let’s examine the elements.
First, upon his death he would like his head removed from his body and cleaned? Who is going to do this? Well, it’s not going to be the death doula, the doctor or the family. The best hope is going to be the mortician and I’m guessing that’s going to be a tough sell. Morticians do provide deathcare and while you could make an argument that embalming is invasive, it’s nothing like getting out a saw and removing the head from a corpse. I have however, read about a woman whose job it is to do just that. There is a fascinating book called Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers. In the very first chapter, we learn of Yvonne and her exceptionally unique job. Yvonne is the Lab Manager and resident Cadaver Beheader in a lab where surgeons practice surgical procedures like face lifts. Since donated bodies are very valuable, you don’t use a whole body to practice a rhinoplasty. Instead, heads are separated from the rest of the body. The heads can be used by the plastic surgeons and the rest of the body can be used for other purposes. I’m guessing that getting a private audience with Yvonne isn’t an easy task, so she may not be available to help you with your…well we’ll call it a legacy project. Here’s another problem, even if the mortician or the decapitation specialist (I don’t think that’s her real title but she really does deserve a special title), even if one of them was game to segment the body, most states have laws pertaining to abuse of a corpse. I can’t imagine that a funeral home would love the optics of being associated with corpse abuse or the legal implications.
But let’s say your legacy project has passed that first hurdle and now you need to have the skull de-fleshed. I live in Montana and de-fleshing skulls isn’t as uncommon as you may think. Skulls of one sort or another are frequently used in western art, bison skulls, elk skulls, cow skulls. There are plenty of people familiar with the process. However, once again, those pesky abuse of corpse laws could make it difficult to find someone willing to do the procedure on a human skull.
But for the sake of argument, we’ll assume that the creepy-crawly bugs have done their part of the job and the skull has been boiled and you now have a nice, clean, de-fleshed skull.
Back to the now headless body. The body needs to be cremated. The cremains (which is the fancy name for ashes) will contain carbon. When the cremation is complete, you’ll need to send about 1 cup of cremains to one of the companies that can turn the carbon into a diamond. A company called Eterneva offersthis service. They will make a 3-carat blue diamond for $50,000. You’ll need two for this project, so that’s $100,000. 3-carat diamonds are certainly substantial on your hand but we really need a stone more comparable in size to an eyeball. A 100-carat stone is about the size of a lollipop, still a bit small to fill the eye-socket of a skull but this is getting a bit pricey so we may have to settle for 100-carat eyes.
So ultimately, our grand total is going to come to millions of dollars and a few broken laws…but, you will have a skull that would be a valuable family heirloom. One more little side note, it’s not technically legal to keep a person’s skull but perhaps with the expressed wishes of the deceased, maybe you could get a court judgement in your favor. So, let’s add a few extra legal fees and court costs to the grand total.
Lily, I hope that answers your question.
Before I leave, I want to thank you, the listener for your enthusiastic support of the Wicked Step Sister. I so appreciate the warm reception. This episode marks the end of season 1, but if you’re interested in continuing our death chat, you can find me on my own mini-cast called Death Becomes Her. I hope to catch up with you there. And last but certainly not least, a great big Merci Beaucoup to Lily for sharing the floor with me. Au revoir
Oh, LiElla. I’m going to miss you this summer!! What will we do without our wicked stepsister?
Let’s take a few minutes to answer the four questions we answer for each of our Ideal Life Themes, for this, the theme of our passions.
1: What is working? Did you have an uninterrupted day to do something that you love? (Who am I kidding? How about an uninterrupted hour?) Is there an opportunity for you to take an activity from being a hobby to becoming a passion, if you just have the courage to take a risk? How exciting!! Enjoy the honeymoon phase with a new passion!!!!
2. What isn’t working? Does this talk of passions leave you feeling tepid? Are you having a hard time imagining the last time you did something you loved? Are you suffering terribly for want of time? Do not despair. Just be honest as you answer this question.
3. What do I need to consider? If you are in a season of life where pleasure and passion is conspicuously absent, please consider getting professional mental health support. Or at least, consider having a heart to heart conversation with someone who can listen compassionately to you. Go back to those silvery threads we talked about earlier. Which ones of those would you be willing to go out of your comfort zone to reincorporate into your lives? How could you do it? Or…if you are faced with a lack of time to do what you love, consider how you use your time. Without standing in judgment as to how you use your time, consider the ways you might be wasting it on things that don’t matter and how you might channel some freed up moments into what you love.
4. Lastly, what can I do today to get me closer to my Ideal Life in this area? Is there a phone call you need to make to sign up for a class, or someone you need to contact who can help you make a step forward? Do it today and then celebrate that little step forward!!!!
You are unique. You are special. You were created with an exquisite palette of talents and passions, character and personality that qualify you to make an indelible mark on this world. I believe that you can make a difference by using the full palette in a way only you can.
Be willing to get out of your comfort zone for the things you love. The reward is for daring to pursue your passions is a life of greater satisfaction, more moments of happiness. The Philosopher Princess loves to go on about how virtue is its own reward. Well, I would like to add that passion also is also its own reward.
Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe on your podcatcher, and please, if you enjoy something you’ve heard here please share it with someone you think could use a fairy godmother, too!
A great big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie for the Intro and Outtro to the show. Also, thanks to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
We’ll be back with you on September 1 to start examining the Ideal Life Theme of Marriage.
In the meantime, lace up your dancin’ shoes, darlin’. It’s time to start singing with your feet.
Talking Points: What is Passion, anyway?; Taking risks and getting out of our comfort zones; Dungeons, Dragons and Death.
Episode 27: Passionately Curious is part of our series on the Ideal Life Categories, this week’s theme being “Spiritual Life.” The series began back in Episode 15: The One About Our Bodies, in case you want to get caught up!
Learn more about LiElla Kelly, Death Doula, on her website and blog, Leaving Well…The Blog. or on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/leaving.well.death.doula/ or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=leaving%20well%20end-of-life%20planning
You can contact Lily by email: email@example.com, or find her other work here: https://linktr.ee/lilyfieldschallenge
A great big thank you to Seven Productions, https://7prod.fr/, here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie for the Intro and Outtro to the show. Also, thanks to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.