Creating a vision: Michael’s story

Michael is a dear friend and someone I respect greatly. She decided to participate in a vision workshop I offered last year. I remember turning to her at one point, a message ringing clearly through my whole being that I had to share, “Six months.” We both looked at each other strangely, probably both somewhat doubting it. Six months almost to the day, her life changed drastically. About a month later, she experienced another life altering event. I asked her to share that experience of the workshop and here is her perspective. We will be offering our lat vision workshop in Phoenix on Aug. 23. For more information, check it out here.


September 10, 2011. Gathered around a cluster of tables in Wendy Reese’s Peace in the City studio, we smiled uneasily. Strangers to each other, we were about to share our intimate visions of our futures. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the assault on the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and other national icons, we were about to undertake the dismantling – and redesign – of our personal symbols.

My icon – fetish – is the written word. So I was relieved when Wendy began our morning with journaling exercises, two or three-sentence responses to complex prompts. Creativity. Story-telling. Questions of increasing subtlety whose answers demanded candor I wasn’t prepared to exhibit before strangers. But in that first hour, I discovered the strangeness – theirs and mine – subsiding as we shared, first tentatively, then less guardedly, our insights into our present and aspirations for our futures. Then …

“Grab a few,” Wendy invited, gesturing to the stacks of magazines lining the wall. We’re going to make vision boards.”

In visiting Wendy’s home, I’d observed hers, a collage framed and set where she would have to acknowledge it several times each day. “I made this a year ago. And everything I set forth on it, all my dreams for the future, have come to pass. Not necessarily,” she added, “as I might have expected or asked for.”

“Be careful what you wish for!” was the message echoing in my mind as I clutched whatever happened to be uppermost on the pile. Scissors, tape, glue sticks, markers – all had somehow positioned themselves at each place where we had been seated only a few seconds before. Tellingly, by some tacit agreement, we set our magazines in the center of the island where we were working; images and captions and ideas were understood to be common property.

I’d not worked in collage since I counted my age in single digits. My reverence for printed books – artifacts of a different age – extended to much printed material, particularly those that showed high production value in their photography and paper stock. I’d better start with catalogues, I thought. I’m not concerned with mauling content.

I was lucky: I’d pulled a catalogue featuring adventure travel clothing and gear. Having some pretensions to magazine status, it incorporated brief narrative paragraphs with enticing headlines that begged to be part of my future: “Wrap yourself in luxury”, “Flexible and durable”, and pictures set in exotic markets ablaze with the colors of unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, talismans of healthy eating.

We had discerned enough of each others’ dreams that cut-out words and torn-out images flew across the table. “This one’s definitely you!” “Reminds me of the armoire you want to restore.” “Think this is the fabric you had in mind?” In front of me suddenly appeared a woman, caught in mid-leap, legs scissored widely and arms flung high ahead and forward. Her white dress billowed behind in a gossamer cloud. My future: active and energetic and ebullient. Someone had seen me as I hoped to be seen.

The end of the day found many more clippings in paper-drifts across the table. Wendy invited us to take many or all of them with us in the envelopes she’d had the foresight to provide. I scooped up a dozen or two before setting off, the sheet on which I’d artfully arranged my future in a healthy, fit body rolled carefully under my arm.

Six months passed, and life was slow to imitate art. Three weeks in hospital with life-threatening complications from diabetes show how intransigent some behaviors are to change. Or we, to change them.

When I finally returned home, I stood in front of the refrigerator, staring at a second vision board – one I’d created that same September day from the residual words I’d brought home. This one featured no images, but its words were powerful and appropriate to the present moment:

“Enjoy the new” announced the small green sheet. The page continued:

“Starting fresh”

“The start of my new life”

“A second chance”


My spirit had anticipated six months before what I was unable to hear then – the entire reinvention of my behavior to enable me to manifest my first, more visual, board. Only when my body, mind, and spirit had been forcefully realigned in those weeks of physical extremity could they – could I – move forward as an integrated, integral whole.