“I’m scared,” said Goldilocks to the Three Little Bears


Unexpected sunrise today

On Sunday I wrote about cultivating the unexpected, about Elizabeth Gilbert’s book BIG MAGIC and about courting a life that refuses to stay in ho-hum ruts.

Inspiration begged me to start a daily journal recording Unexpected Happenings during each day.  When inspiration strikes me (I don’t know about you) it feels like a fire burning deep inside.  It feels like you’re suffused with joy, paddling in the flow of life, deeply in love with the creativity of the spanking brand-new moment of possibility.

However, if you’re anything like me, inspiration has a way of snuffing out.  The flame of delight too often dies.  You often can’t create a roaring bonfire with one match of inspiration.  Somehow you need to keep kindling the baby fire with sticks of dry kindling, coaxing it into a sustaining fire, one that gives light and warmth and toasty marshmallows.


Another shot of this morning’s colors in the woods. Unexpected. Gone in ten minutes.

I have a history of huge bursts of creative inspiration followed by fallow fields. Starting in Third Grade I would write stories with no endings.  They started out SO STRONG with so much inspiration and by page six, then simply fizzled.  Adios, goodbye dear story, where did you go?

In Fourth Grade I did write an epic novel of 148 pages and damn straight finished it.  What a success!  It was about a little girl named Gretel who escaped the Nazis.  She ran and ran and ran, visited castles in Bavaria, and basically got away from the Bad Guys with guns.  (I was deeply affected by the Sound of Music and spent the next 40 years dreaming about escaping from Nazis.  Who knows?  At one time I was 100% convinced I died surrounded by barbed wire in the Holocaust.)

The little novella sits up in our attic in the Little House in the Big Woods even today, along with two hundred once-inspired but unfinished tales.

So, with this history, I have been very interested all week with these questions:  What kills inspiration?  What nurtures it?  How does one invite inspiration to live alongside of you, to keep you wooing the Unexpected hour after hour, day after day?

I think we can summarize the answer to the killing question with one word:  FEAR.  Fear in its many boring variations.  Starting on Monday I watched all the ways the mind began to damper the flame of inspiration.

  1.  This is stupid.  Why court the unexpected?  Isn’t the expected as OK as the unexpected?  What a dumb idea.
  2. Nothing is happening.  Nothing is happening.  Nothing unexpected is happening.
  3. How can I keep thinking about this all day?  This just makes me nervous.  I have better things to do, like play Mah-Jong Solitare or Sudoku.

You get the drift.  I am only listing three arguments from the direction of Expected Thought. There were at least 75 snarky comments from the mind in the past five days.

“I’m scared,” said Goldilocks to the Three Bears, “I simply can not keep up the inspiration of creating this porridge. I must go back to doing the expected.”

We even feature a Sacred Tatoo Studio.

Is this picture unexpected? Did you think it said “Scared” when you first noticed it? Isn’t it interesting how scared and sacred look almost alike?

As I analyzed and thought and journaled about this challenge during the week, here are a few pointers that seem to be keeping me faithful in my commitment to marry the unexpected.

  1.  Fear and inspiration will walk together.  Goldilocks can admit she’s scared and I will listen to her.  But we’re still making porridge.  We’re still letting the three unexpected bears show up for breakfast, even if they eat the poor little girl.  Life is short, my friends!  Life is short, Kathy!  Let’s more fully recognize fear and make him an ally instead of an enemy.  Can we at least give it a try?
  2. Unexpected things are happening ALL THE TIME!  Seriously.  They are just usually so little itty-bitty-tiny that they fly under our radar screen of attention. (They can be as simple as a white-tail deer wagging her tail in the woods or the first dandelion popping out so marvelous and yellow and amazing.)  But by repeating the intention of courting the unexpected, and by faithfully recording them, they grow like crocuses in spring.  I have faith.
  3. Be aware of the voice of fear, recognize it as a sweet little old scaredy-cat and proceed anyway.  Use this exercise of courting the unexpected as an opportunity to Proceed Anyway.  When you don’t know what to do next, try two options.  Keep walking into the unknown or stop and wait.  Learn to trust that the Universe is waiting to share the next step.  While it may be easier to soothe the fear of the unknown by playing Spider Solitaire, it’s OK to just sit and actively listen.  What direction does Unexpected Life want to flow next?  And next, and next?
  4. Hey, it’s OK to play Spider Solitaire.  No beating up allowed.  Let’s just gently and patiently look again for the unexpected.  Ready or not, unexpected, here I come!

Blue river flow

Having thoroughly dived into the swimming pool of analyzing fear–and learned one heck of a lot about how to breast-stroke through some of the mind’s paralyzing responses–let me share some of the Unexpected Happenings that rocked this week (as recorded faithfully in the journal).

  • I made curry with the spice garam masala!  (Who even knew it existed?)
  • Listened to Tom Waites for the first time in this life (Who even knew he existed?) By the time I got to “Hell Broke Luce” video this mouth was hanging open in shock.  Wow.Crazy stuff.
  • Listened to Prince’s Purple Rain.  (Yes, I knew he existed, but never listened before.)
  • Cleaned two book shelves.  Wow!  Have been putting that off since…1984?
  • Read Barry’s fishing magazine.  Ha, ha, just to shock him, you know.
  • Unexpectedly invited one of my best friends to lunch on Tuesday to celebrate her 61st birthday.  (Couldn’t even believe the invitation came out!)
  • Got annoyed and irritated at a different friend and unexpectedly calmed down–just like that–in less than five minutes–and realized it was just her opinion and not God’s gospel.  Seriously, folks, this was a huge unexpected revelation.
  • Ate a smoked oyster.  Again, to shock Barry.
  • Pretended I was 90 years old and experienced a huge revelation.  May blog about that someday.  (Before I’m 90.)
  • Ate fried rice instead of steamed at birthday luncheon.
  • Wrote this blog just now–very unexpected.
  • Realized I DO finish things as much as I get sidetracked in fear.  It’s just that I want to develop a new relationship with that scaredy-cat.  You know, take Goldilocks along for the ride.
  • There were a lot more entries, but I’m keeping mum on the rest because this blog would be 2,000 words if I keep writing!

And you?  Did any of you consciously court the unexpected this week?  Did any of you meet the flip side of unexpected, Mr. Fear?  Please feel free to share your adventures or discoveries here.



About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in April, 2016, Unexpected and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to “I’m scared,” said Goldilocks to the Three Little Bears

  1. jeffstroud says:

    Certainly! Mr Fear wakes up with me many mornings and I am learning to say, “Good morning, set down, we are going to have a talk.” Which usually happens on my morning pages for if I do it internally mister shadow takes over and I retreat to my cave.
    He was unexpected because I have been so positive and motivated on a regular basis, so when he showed I got busy again. When I looked at what I had accomplished in spite of fear leading the band shadow moved away.

    Everything happens for a reason, that reason sometimes is to understand how or why but not always right away.


    • Kathy says:

      Way to show that Mr. Fear, Jeff! He can show up at the most unexpected times. I like how you have learned to sit down with him and have a talk. I LOVE that you’re acknowledging your fear and including him. Thank you so much for sharing your creative encounters of the fear kind.

      • jeffstroud says:

        In order for my life to move forward I have to meet Mr Fear on his/her own space. I am in the process of building an essential oil business which will allow me the freedom to experience abundance in a whole new way, And it scares the crap out of me, yet shadow and I have danced this dance before. The Universe informs me that the world is full of abundance, so I am going to get mine!

  2. Val says:

    For me, it’s more tiredness or actually just forgetting to do things, or getting sidetracked that stops me doing things that inspire me or spark my enthusiasm. A lot of the sense of fear that I used to have has just gone as I’ve got older. However, if I were to do what you did, and tell people that I’m going to do things before I do them, then that would just make me feel pressured. I wonder if that might be part of the problem for you, Kathy? That if you tell someone you’re going to do something that you then feel committed to doing it? That’s a pressure that I think most people don’t need (unless they are a competitive type which I am not and I suspect you are not – but do correct me, please, if I’m wrong).

    And here’s another way to think about ‘the unexpected’: you can turn ‘the expected’ into the unexpected at any time you want, you don’t even need to seek it. I have unexpected moments and experiences everyday – a colour of something I’ve seen daily for months will strike me in a different way or make me remember something that delighted me in my youth; the hills and pastures that I see everyday here, change their appearance depending on how the light falls on them; a piece of music I’ve listened to for years will suddenly come across to me differently as I find I’m concentrating on a specific instrument (that’s an experience I’ve had since childhood and it’s always unexpected!) And so on. I think a lot of life is about finding the new in the old.

    Good on you for trying all the things that are new to you – well done, it’s good to add new things to your repertoire of life experiences, but please don’t be so hard on yourself with the self-analysis . I spent too many years of my life analysing things when I could just have been relaxing and enjoying what was there at the time.

    Oh, and no need to reply to this. 🙂


    • Kathy says:

      Such interesting things you have brought up, Val. Thank you for widening the circle of thinking around this topic of creativity and fear. (And I am responding to comments on this subject recently because I want to and it makes me zing to be discussing this.)

      There is a point about announcing our projects and then feeling pressured. It about killed me in the first or second month of daily outdoor blogging. On the other hand, I love the idea of sharing enthusiasm with others. So that they can take off and fly with it if they are inspired. It feels so much more *alive* to share inspiration, and it’s also an added plus that it keeps me on track. Now if I had listened to the thought that said, “And we can blog about it every day!” that would not have been cool. It would have been totally not appropriate for this project.

      As to your insights about turning the expected into the unexpected–Wow! I really really love that and will use it. What a delightful way of looking at it. Thank you so much, Val.

      Even though I talked about fear this post, it has really been a fabulous week and have really loved it more than most recent weeks. Have felt relaxed and energized and even thoroughly enjoyed the analysis. The analysis isn’t going around and around in circles, going nowhere. Instead it keeps inspiring the next moment or soothing the next fear. Am still really inspired.

      Thank you again.

  3. Dawn says:

    I haven’t deliberately looked for the unexpected…and I haven’t finished the book yet either. In the book I’m at the part where she is describing all the things we tell each other which kills creativity, much like you have described. The biggest one for me is fear that there are so many other more talented people already doing whatever it is I’m interested in doing…writing…painting…photography. You know.

    BUT…you are right..Katie and I have experienced two unexpected things just this morning, and early too. We had the same sunrise you did, deep red and pink streaks, though only for a few minutes. And at 5:30 when Katie demanded to go outside and I turned on the big light and opened the front door, there stood one solitary white tailed deer staring blankly at us for the longest moment. Right in the driveway, about 10 yards from the house. Katie and I froze too until it leapt (is that a word?) away. Was pretty unexpected. And fun too.

    Thanks for keeping up with your project…you will inspire more of us to join in!

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, I am almost done with the book, but not quite. Thank you for articulating that fear–about so many talented people already doing it so much better than we can. Oh, that’s a fear that can stop us in our tracks. It’s interesting how many fears are almost unconscious, and how it’s possible to slowly let them out to breathe.

      Also, I loved reading about your unexpected sunrise and that solitary deer so very close. That is the kind of ordinary enchantment that can really light up our days.

  4. debyemm says:

    My oldest son (the artist soul) has that same problem – getting fired up with inspiration and then quitting before he finishes. However, he has just finally (with tons of stress) completed a piece of his current inspiration.

    My husband inherited my Dad’s barely used “smart” phone. It’s a bit of a challenge here because all my household “knows” about such devices is iOS (my iPhone and my son’s iPods) and the new phone is an Android. However, our 11 yr old (the tech geek) is helping his Dad make progress and I spied my dear husband (the guy who told me the phone was wanted NOT for playing around with to pass time but for “business” reasons) playing – OMG – Solitaire !!, during a break in my son’s filming last night. BTW my son has created one amazingly awesome “effect” and I am excited to see his end result after he applies some of his CGI tools to it all. My oldest son has not done a “movie” in several years now (he has been busy developing computer “games” instead, he started making “movies” at the age of 6, he is now 15).

    The only thing “unexpected” for me recently was getting through the grocery shopping last night without getting wet. Thankfully, it didn’t rain until much later in the night.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, Deb, perhaps sometimes even when we don’t finish a project, we’ve discovered the nugget that we needed in the inspiration. And then we move on until we find the next nugget…and then the next nugget. I am thinking now of the spiritual teachers in 1,000 books I’ve read. Usually there is just one nugget (or sixteen) in the book and that was what was important. Anyway, back to the original point–maybe there’s a hidden gift in not finishing projects where we’ve actually succeeded instead of failed. Just a thought!

      Also thank you for sharing about your family and their new unexpected pleasures and challenges. Very cool.

      (And congrats about making it through the grocery shopping. What doesn’t happen can be as unexpected and appreciated as what does.)

  5. Elisa says:

    I am often inspired to consider that I have a very limited idea of what inspiration IS and how I want to control the outcome, make it my own, rather than let it fly. Thus, I often pine and i whine why oh whyyyyyyyy can’t i ever finish anything. Is finishing Inspiration? What does it look like? How does it feel? What do i do with that scary pit of what will i do next or have to see If i am DONE?!

    • Kathy says:

      That’s fascinating, Elisa, maybe we all have a limited idea of what inspiration is. It’s like a lifetime quest just figuring it out! And controlling the outcome, yep, have done that, too. Or tried. Please read what I just typed to Deb (comment up above) about finishing a project. Am re-thinking my entire idea of the value of finishing!

  6. Carol says:

    I think I need to do what you suggested – start a journal, listing unexpected things or things that give me pleasure, make me smile, make my heart beat a little faster perhaps. The problem I foresee with that is that it will need to be written down immediately, before I go off another direction and it fades and goes away. I will start with a yellow pad of lined paper – if I am successful, I will buy a journal. Thank you for implanting this idea!

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, oh yes, I’ve run across this problem already. In the beginning of the week I wrote down every single thing as it happened. But that got to be a bit cumbersome, even though it was fun. Now I am sitting down at the very end of the day–although may add artwork to the page earlier–and write only what can be remembered. In the morning I get up and intend the unexpected. Before bedtime, write down what the Universe wants remembered. If absolutely nothing can be remembered I go do something unexpected like stand in the cold air on the deck for five minutes or walk around in the dark. (At least that is the plan. I have been able to remember something every day so far.)

  7. cderozier says:

    Wonderful! I firmly believe that fear is an ally that we simply need to create a new relationship with. And watching for the unexpected… you will always find it and it will be delightful! I am so happy that you are writing again. One of these days I will journey to the U.P and take you to lunch!

    • Kathy says:

      Celeste, it’s so good to hear you’re of like mind about that Mr. Fear. We can’t ignore him, but we can figure new ways to interact. I also like your attitude about the unexpected–we WILL find it if we look! As for you coming to the U.P. and taking me out to lunch, wouldn’t that be wonderful? It would be totally unexpected! 🙂

  8. Kathy — In my mind’s eye I lay fear across the tracks and then drive my “I Think I Can” train across it. Crazy as it sounds, it works for me 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, I like your technique for keeping fear at bay. I can see how that would work, especially for the kind of fear that silently says, “You can’t. You really can’t. Do even try.” What good advice! I hope you’ve taught that at your writing workshops. Do you talk about fear and obstacles to creativity much?

      • Kathy — Yes, indeed. We talked about that very topic in the “author-to-author” workshop at the Writers’ Institute two weeks ago. We also talked about feeding our Muse (and how it looks different for everybody).

  9. Carol Ferenc says:

    I just started reading Big Magic and I’m hooked already. Thanks for the recommendation, Kathy. I’m hoping I’ll get some real help in managing Mr. Fear. By the way, I’d love to read any post you write about pretending to be ninety!

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, I am so glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I just finished yesterday. Would like to go back and just highlight a couple of the sections that really spoke to me. And thanks for your kind words about the 90-pretend-game. We shall see what the creative muse has to say about that. 🙂

  10. Barb says:

    Well, we left unexpectedly this morning because another snow storm was on the way, and we needed to get across Vail Pass before it hit. We’re now in the middle of UT, it’s raining, and I’m propped on a hotel bed unexpectedly writing this to you. Tonight, I unexpectedly ordered french fries with dinner and ate nearly all of them, deciding not to feel guilty. It’s a trip, after all! I think Barry may be your unexpected muse…

    • Kathy says:

      See, see? Don’t you love it how really so many things are truly truly truly unexpected? (I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that third “truly” were you?) I like that you decided not to feel guilty about those french fries. I have eaten wayyy to many french fries lately. Need to go on some more unexpected walks!

  11. Hmmm, nice post with lots of ideas and observations. Since, I’m not a writer and don’t pretend to be one I have a wee bit of difficulty identifying with being creative. But I do know that my blog begs to have more posts and photos on/in it and I have many drafts that sit in the dark. I need to begin again on the story of my son’s dog “She, Was a Lady (part II) and I don’t want to write because it is difficult for me. And I worry about folks thinking it is just so much nonsense. I had nice reception on part I but then I worry that folks are just being nice.

    About the unexpected, I took a nice fall late yesterday evening just before dark as I was walking to turn a water faucet off. My shoe caught on a partially buried 3 foot piece of metal rod. Dang I was mad. Today I feel awful but the ground was soft from rain of 3 nights ago. It could have been really bad. But I don’t relish that sort of unexpected. 🙂

    Anyway you were born to write that is for sure. And I think that your photos just keep getting better. The sunrise and the small running creek are beautiful.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh, Yvonne, I am so glad you brought up that bit about creativity. So many times we get to thinking creativity is about, well, creating something. I think creativity is about LIVING! Not necessarily about writing or making art or any of those things, although that can be part of it. That’s what I like about the energy of “unexpected”. Any of us can play along. It’s as simple as choosing to eat lunch outside under a spruce tree when it’s 40 degrees. Brrrrr, I do not necessarily recommend it. But it was unexpected yesterday, and fun, and energizing.

      As for that *other* side of unexpected, I am so sorry to hear about your accident. Not fun. I am glad the ground was soft and you didn’t get hurt too badly. But you are probably a bit bruised and shook up, still.

      As for those photos, it’s still very strange. I don’t really take any credit or get too excited about them (unlike the writing which can make me tizzle and zing and feel all warm & fuzzy.) Am always amazed when people sometime like the pics because I would never take them for myself. In fact, mostly quit taking pics when not blogging because they don’t interest me that much. (OK, a tiny bit maybe.) But I will tell the camera you liked what it created. 🙂

  12. Francine Brady says:

    I don’t write much because I have phonic dyslexia….I can read but I can’t spell…even spell check can’t figure it out…very tiring looking up the same word over and over. Like your spirit.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh, Francine, that must be quite a challenge. I am impressed that you are able to write such a lovely comment without a single mis-spelling. Thank you for taking the time to do so. What I love about this *unexpected* challenge is that it applies to life and not just writing or art. Doing something new and different in the next moment just because we can–and because it can provide so much joy. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  13. Lori says:

    There is so much to distract us nowadays, with the entire world in a computer screen to explore. I wrote something similar back a ways, about how I sit down to write and I don’t write. Sigh. Thanks for sharing your tips for getting past the fear, Goldilocks. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Lori. For some reason I am so excited about this subject of fear and avoidance–go figure. How can a person get SO EXCITED and inspired by the subject of fear? As for Goldilocks, I figured there would probably be a lot of us out here with the same fear about fear-bears. Ha ha! Headin’ over to read what you had to say…

      • Lori says:

        I like the subject of fear and avoidance. It’s a great topic for discussion.

        • Kathy says:

          Lori, I absolutely LOVED the movie you suggested: Defending Your Life. It was so good and funny and made me think. I laughed aloud for most of the two hours and then wrote it up as the #1 Unexpected event of Friday. Thank you, thank you! So fun to follow the flow like this…

  14. Connie T says:

    I get all inspired when I got to the grocery store and they have all this great buys on meat and it looks great so I grab some steaks and stew meat and a steak to slice up to make Mongolian beef and hamburger meat. Then I come home and cook one or two dinners and then think what was I thinking, I don’t want to cook and then I feel like I have to cook it. By the end of the week I don’t want to buy anything to cook. I get tired of the same old food. I want to eat out. I hate to do dishes. My inspiration just goes away.

    • Kathy says:

      I love your story of inspiration and burn-out, Connie. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about. Not necessarily about just writing stories or taking photographs, but about ordinary inspiration about dinner. One of the ways I keep the inspiration going around meal-times is by mixing things up. Creating new and different dishes. Really going out of my comfort zone. Or eating out. Definitely eating out!

  15. Barbara Kass says:

    I wrote you a blog this morning over on Eternal Presence, Kathy. I think you should do what makes you feel alive and happy. If your inspiration lasts long enough to fill these delightful blogs and this is what fills you with joy, then who is to say that is not enough except for you?

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, I am so glad you wrote and I will go read right away. You would not BELIEVE how much joy and fun I’ve had this week with this Unexpected project. I loved writing about the fear-side, too, and exploring the unconscious and what derails our joy. This has been the best week in ages. And your advice about doing what fills us with joy is great. (However, I did notice that not as many readers–except a few–were interested in the fear aspect. That makes me ponder that there may be another place (a book, a different blog?) where I can explore this and find more like-minded souls who love to look very closely and astutely at the shadow side. I love that a lot of our Gaia buddies seem to like doing this.

  16. Pingback: Delightful Unexpected Flow… | Lake Superior Spirit

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