Sometimes when I’m feeling confused, down or just plain blah, I get a jolt of inspiration when I read about the journeys of other women – how they cope, what energizes them, and how they find courage to stay true to themselves. This next Free Spirit Spotlight shares with you one such woman – where when you read a small piece of her story you can’t help but take a deep breath in and smile.

It is a privilege to introduce you to Kelly Dahl. She is a mother, personal coach and a lover and explorer of life.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee, kick up your feet and sit back while you enjoy her very personal, honest interview as she shares how she’s learned to dig deeper,  take some risks, and ultimately follow her heart down a path towards her authentic, exceptional life.

Tell us a little about your creative life.

Why is it that this question freezes me up? Who am I? Well, I am a person who is always seeking and working to figure that out, to grow and learn and expand all the time. I am my role as wife and mama, editor of Sparrow Magazine, personal coach and blogger. I love being with my 5 year old son and 2 year old daughter. I love being with my husband and experiencing the miracle of growing, learning, and figuring out life together.

I never really thought of myself as a creative person until Inside Out helped me fully embrace the glorious creative being inside of me. I can now see that creativity has been the spark illuminating everything that I’ve done. I was a middle school English teacher for several years before returning to get my Masters in Social Work. Most of my professional life has been dedicated to helping young people better understand themselves and the world around them, to gain the strength to go out into the world capable of seeing their dreams come true. Many of the young people I’ve worked with have had a variety of obstacle on their path, in the shapes of poverty, substance abuse, victimization, and cognitive, physical, and mental health differences. I know now that at the heart of all the work I’ve done is creativity, in my ability to connect with people different than me, and my ability to see the tiny sparks of hope in any situation.

 

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Now creativity is part of my every day. Whether I am creating art by myself or with my children, or even just making a grocery list. I try to do things in a way that inspires me, that makes me happy, and that has a little bit of beauty in an every day task.

How did you get to a place in your life where you can embrace yourself as a creative being?

This can still be a struggle. Most of the struggle comes from the judgmental voices that I hear all the time. “You aren’t good at drawing and painting. Why are you wasting your time and money on that? There are so many people who are so much more creative than you. You might like that, but you don’t have the raw talent it takes.” I was never a stand-out in the creative pursuits. Honestly, art classes were some of my lowest grades in school. But I was always happiest doing creative things.

The first step for me was really taking the time to recognize the judging voices. I’ve spent a good amount of time analyzing some of the sources (mostly past experiences and relationships). By exploring that I can sometimes name the voices or put them in context. This helps take away their power over me. I’ve also realized that my self doubts and the judging voices are going to be there no matter what. So sometimes I just hear them and say “Okay, you’ve said your piece. Now I’m going to do mine!” It’s not a perfect system. I still get insecure and doubt myself. But most of the time I can just be free to create as I wish.

You mentioned that you took the Inside Out e-course – can you share a little bit about what you gained from taking it and how it helped you along your creative journey?

Inside Out was a life-changing experience for me. I was a part of the very first run of the course back in January of 2010. At that time I was in the depths of many struggles….possible post-partum depression, extreme exhaustion from never sleeping for more than 3 hours at a time, living in a new city where I didn’t have any friends or support. It was a very tough time. Inside Out was a life line to other like-minded women. It also was the first time I really focused on being creative without judgment. I connected with amazing women around the world who were having struggles very similar to my own. I also connected with incredibly inspiring women who do admirable things, and for the first time was able to see them as women just like me. This was a major awakening. I realized that it doesn’t take genius or extreme talent to create something amazing. It just takes deliberate action, the freedom to create a vision, and being open to the creative process.

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I participated in Inside Out a second time in January of 2011. This time I was able to dig even deeper and discover more about myself. It was really amazing to see the ways I grew between the two courses, to compare answers to some of the journal prompts, to see what obstacles I’d removed and what new ones had crept in. It was especially amazing to see that I had achieved some of my big goals. This made creating new goals that much more exciting, because I knew that I would see them come true.

I really loved being an active member of the Inside Out discussion forums. I’ve made some amazing friends through Inside Out, people that I know I can turn to for advice or if I need support. While these friends may live far away from me, I know they are there for me in whatever way they can be. These connections have made me a stronger person.While the creative exercises opened me in new an amazing ways, the journaling was definitely my favorite part. I have always been a writer, and have looked to my journals to help me make sense of my life. The prompts in Inside Out took my self exploration and kicked it up a notch, helping me dig deeper than ever before. I now know myself better than I ever have in my life. I feel confident in the person I’m uncovering, like my true self is finally emerging and is ready to take on anything.

What’s your favorite art medium for self expression?

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Painting is my favorite medium right now. I love the fluidity and the unpredictability of it. When I paint I can turn off my thinking and analyzing left brain and just be with myself. I find it very meditative and soothing. If I’m having a bad day I can take out some paints, lose myself for even 10 minutes, and truly feel like I’ve hit my reset button.

What is a free spirit to you?

 

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I believe a free spirit is someone who is living life on their own terms. A free spirit has created a life that meets their needs–creative, spiritual, financial, familial, and communal. A free spirit lets go of judgment and sees hope, beauty and love in everything.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I love to read, and do so all the time, whether it is books, blogs, magazines, or fliers hanging in the local coffee shop. I love to take in information, digest it, try to make sense of it, relate it to myself and others in my life. I even get frustrated sometimes that there aren’t enough hours in the day to read.
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My children are amazing sources of inspiration. I love to watch how my children embrace life with so few filters. When they dance they move their body every which way and you can just see how good it feels. When they create art they do so freely, often with their entire bodies. When they play they are loud and messy. While this can cause problems, like when sand is thrown or a toy is grabbed or the paint goes flying across the room, it is so inspiring to watch. I love how both my kids love to go up to strangers and exclaim something as simple as “Me 2!” (from the 2 year old) or “I go to Kindergarten now!” (from the 5 year old), as if everyone is thrilled to know these things. They are free from thoughts of “Do they like me? Is my outfit cool? Do I look fat? Do I sound stupid?” I know these inner critics will come along for them at some point, but I relish in the lessons they teach in being free, confident, and happy to be alive.

How do you manage to find time and make space for your creative projects?

One thing I do every Monday is what I call Weekly Inspiration. I take some time in the morning and look through some of my favorite books. I have a habit of reading books like I’m still in school, underlining passages, starring sections. I leaf through the pages re-reading parts I’ve marked, until I find something that really speaks to how I’m feeling that day, or how my week is looking. Then, I open my big art journal and create a page for that quote or phrase. I might create a background, or a doodle, or do something with the words. I leave the page open all day so that I can add to it when I have a minute or two. Sometimes the page is finished in the morning. Other times I don’t finish it until the next day. I take a picture and post it on my website as a source of inspiration for myself and others.
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I love having one little creative project that I can count on every week. I also love taking the time to really think about how I’m feeling and finding a way to express that in someone else’s words.For me, the biggest thing that allows me to be creative as a mama is to accept and embrace imperfection. If I want to create something while my children are up and playing, I will be interrupted and my arm will be jostled at some point. If I expect anything different I’m setting us all up for discomfort, frustration, and some sort of yelling episode. If I really have something I want to focus on I do it after the kids are in bed.

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What would you say to those who want to live a creative life and find their artist within, but don’t know where to begin?

First, I would recommend signing up for Inside Out. I think that is a great starting point for anyone. Then I would say practice creating freely, without judgment. Take a playful attitude to creating. Focus on the process, the feel of a paintbrush in your hand, the way the paint moves and swirls, the reaction between colors on a page, instead of thinking about the product. Don’t plan, just do. Then, put whatever you create away for a few days. Come back to it. It is always surprising how different your art looks a few days after creating it. Dive into the process again. And again. Make the time to create, just a little, every day. Add a doodle to your grocery list. Draw some spirals on paper with your kids’ crayons. Tear inspiring images out of a magazine and tape them on a wall in your bedroom. Even if it seems small and insignificant, taking a little time to be creative can open up so much more that you would ever think.

What new projects are you working on and where can we learn more about you?

I just released Sparrow Magazine – a project I put together with my lifelong friend Emilie. Sparrow Magazine is an online publication dedicated to inspiring deliberate living. Emilie and I both believe very strongly in the idea that if you are making wise, mindful, and deliberate choices in all aspects of your life you can do really amazing things. Every aspect of your life is connected — the food you eat, the way you move your body, your home, your relationships, your creativity. Everything. When you nurture all aspects of your life it opens up enormous and glorious possibilities. Sparrow Magazine is about that. It’s about caring for your Body, Mind, Nest, and Connections so that your dreams can take Flight. The articles in Sparrow help inspire readers to do just that. We’re so excited about the incredible response we have had to our vision. There is an amazing community developing on our site as people are reading and commenting on the articles. Sparrow Magazine is a quarterly publication, free for all readers. Our next issue will take flight December 1, 2011.

Perched to Fly is my Personal Coaching site. I work as a coach helping people to live an exceptional life. I believe very deeply that everyone is capable of excellence. I assist people in defining their own personal life of excellence and then taking action on making their dreams a reality. My work is a merging of my background as a teacher, Social Worker, and therapist, as well as my own life journey as a seeker, explorer, and believer in the creative process. I provide inspiration, creativity exercises, ask big deep questions, help clarify and synthesize ideas and visions, and whole heartedly support people in creating a life of excellence.

Thank you, sweet Kelly, for sharing your beautiful, honest, creative, compassionate spirit with us all. Now, pour your second cup of coffee and get on over to read the first issue of Sparrow.

Your Personal Reflection

In what ways do you allow yourself to go within and get more in touch with your true self?

You are a creative being. Nurture your creativity to awaken to an authentic, more peaceful life.

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