On 4-Leaf Clovers, Big Magic & Working Your Ass Off

The first time I found a four-leaf clover was in the 4th grade. I'd just moved to a small rural Idaho town and was the new girl in our elementary school. The class play that year was Robin Hood, and, of course, all the girls wanted to audition for the lead role of Maid Marian, including me. It was a musical and we had to sing a solo for the audition and for some hair-brained reason I chose Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I practiced and practiced the song and a monologue and apparently I nailed both, though, because I landed the part, and the chance to kiss Robin Hood on stage. Unfortunately, I also landed the dislike and distrust of several dozen 10-year-old girls I'd just met. So I spent lots of recesses sitting in the far fields of the playground grasses with one or two other kind girls looking for four-leaved clovers.

And I found one.

It didn't bring me luck, that I can remember, but did bring me a bit of elementary school fame for an afternoon, as everyone wanted to see my treasure, students and teachers alike. And it may have just gained me a few new much-needed friendships.

I think back fondly on that small version of myself, and how brave I was in that contested theater production on that little school stage and how my mom made my costume out of a nightgown and a piece of yellow poster board and some tulle.

Ever since, I've spent long stretches of time sitting on sunny lawns, drinking beers with friends or playing at parks with my kids, still searching for that illusive good luck charm. It only took me thirty years, but yesterday while enjoying the spring sun with Arlo in our backyard, I FOUND ONE. My second clover in a lifetime.

I don't think it's really about luck, though. It's about having a keen eye and good observation skills. It's about being persistent and relentless and patient. It's about coming back after you've spent countless hours and recesses with no luck. It's about trying a different patch of earth on a different date in a different season over and over and over again. It's about learning new tricks and revamping old ones.

But, it's also a little bit about magic. I'm currently on the last pages of Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. In her easy conversational way, Gilbert writes about creativity and this kind of bullshit notion that inspiration is mysterious and that you have to suffer to live an artistic life.  She writes about catching a story or a poem and that it might not wait around for you to pay attention, but leave and find another writer who is ready. She talks about working shitty day jobs and writing and writing and writing for no money and for no other reason than for the sake of getting better. She talks about showing up and doing the work repetitively so you are always there and open and ready to capture that magic idea or opportunity when it presents itself.

photo courtesy of Nancy Buffington

photo courtesy of Nancy Buffington

I've been a body image activist for the past seven years, in small personal ways in in large internationally famous ways. I study and read and talk and listen and write and write and write and show up every day, doing the grassroots work of a revolution. I was ready when the TedxBoise producers asked me to share an idea worth spreading in 18 minutes on a major stage, and I was open to the magic that came out of my fingertips as I wrote a raw and engaging talk four months ago. I've woken up every single day for the past three months and memorized and practiced and tweaked that talk at least twice while Arlo naps. 

I think that little lonely girl on the playground would be pretty proud of the hard-working woman that will show up, again, on a big important stage this Saturday night, talking about courage and education and fear and love. I think she knew then, too, it's all about more than luck, but always being open to a little bit of magic.

(Join me in the magic-making of reframing radical at TedxBoise this Saturday April 2, 2016 at the Egyptian Theater downtown Boise. There are still a few tickets left for the all-day conference!)