Feb 27·edited Mar 6Liked by M Tamara Cutler

My great ambition in seventh grade was to move up from the 7-2 track to 8-1 classes. Mission accomplished and doing well in eighth grade, I decided I was ready for my next ambition: to be popular. What thirteen-year-old girl doesn't want to be popular, at least secretly? So, I adopted a "birds of a feather flock together" tactic. That is, sit at the popular girls' lunch table. Never mind that I brown bagged and they had money to buy their lunches. Never mind that I was leaving my friends behind. Never mind that my feathers were entirely different from the popular girls', which became obvious the first day I approached the coveted table and asked, "Could I pull up a chair?" Why they said okay, I will never know. The girls' conversations revolved around three topics: shopping for clothes two-hours away in New York City, complaining about their mothers, and gossiping about the popular boys. Since I had nothing to contribute, I listened bored out of my mind. When my family went to New York City, we packed a picnic lunch and went to the Bronx Zoo, a really interesting place. My mother was pretty interesting, too, and unfortunately didn't provide much to complain about. And the popular boys? I was going to marry Paul McCartney, so why would I be interested in the thirteen-year-old, well-to-do guys who pushed and shoved in the lunch line, told stupid fart jokes, and laughed milk out their noses? My ambition to be popular lasted maybe two days before I returned to my forgiving friends.

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The timeless adventure of travel-by-thumb will never die because we refuse to let it. See it on the map, decide to go. How many opportunities are there to explore Bruny Island, a speck off the southern coast of Hobart, Tasmania? After boarding the ferry by foot, a ride was spotted. A classic Volkswagen hippy van. Sure enough, as we disembarked the short journey, a stocky middle-aged couple rolled down the window. “Need a lift, mates?” Not a second had we been in the van when we’re handed a couple of ice-cold ciders. “Cider, mate?” Where y’all headed? We’ll take you there. But if you’re not in a hurry, how’s about a few stops along the way? We’re fishermen and we have a house in Ouse. Heard of Ouse? Probably not. Anyway, on the way to yours, we pass our favorite oyster farm. Like oysters?”

We spent the next three days in the attentive care of new friends, Archie & Gregg. A little ambition, a lifetime of memories.

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Feb 28Liked by M Tamara Cutler

At 26, I was painting commissions and teaching adoring fans who would take my classes repeatedly because I was such a great teacher. A nearby Historical Society invited me to exhibit a piece in their annual fundraising auction, another organization asking for free art. I decided to take the well-to-do town by storm. I had been working on the most tenderly crafted painting of my cherubic son sleeping by a stream. It was nothing short of those Bouguereau figures adorning greeting cards and journals and would no doubt start a bidding war. I made sure to have plenty of business cards and changed outfits several times before having my father drive me to the occasion. After setting up the easel and artwork, I retrieved my item number tag and saw that the opening bid for my masterpiece was set at $200. Not insulting at a fundraiser, I guess, until I saw sunglasses on the list for $300 and a pair of hideous wall sconces opening at $800! “These people don't deserve my painting,” I barked at my father while packing up and we left. Now, at twice that age, I chuckle recalling the unskilled painting and my overblown sense of magnificence but congratulate that young woman for standing up for herself and her work.

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Feb 28·edited Feb 28Liked by M Tamara Cutler

I come from a family of wannabe writers. My grandmother often hinted she wanted to write stories but relegated herself to the daily crossword puzzle. My aunt penned lyrical poetry before exchanging it for the word of God, becoming a missionary nun. My father fictionalized his war experiences on reams of yellow lined paper over years of stolen hours between work and family life. He felt he was close to finishing when he came down with ALS, which robbed him first of the use of his arms and hands before debilitating the rest of his body.

So far, I’ve lacked the self-discipline or urgency to write at length for myself. When I mused to a successful screenwriter friend about wanting to write a full-length screenplay, he sagely replied, “Tick tock, Hun, tick tock.”

For me, that ticking clock is the fading of ambition. There’s always an excuse – the daily grind, lack of energy, the needs of everyone but myself. And over time, quietly, insidiously, the creative fire wanes. Maybe it’s enough to lose weight, gain muscle, pay the bills, and go on vacation. Maybe if I let go of that desperate, stubborn old dream, I’ll finally find inner peace.

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Aging as a woman has been a true adventure. All the years of eating as I like, drinking as I like and hating exercise my entire life has brought me to where I am now.

50 plus pound overweight on this tiny 5’2” frame at 58 years young.

This was not, by any means, overnight. This has been a slow trajectory of continually being ambitious about “getting back to the old Shirlé” with diets, plans, gyms as well as personal trainers and the like.

Ambitious to feel good in clothes again. Ambitious to feel sexy again.

Ambitious to not be out of breath going up stairs or bending over to simply tie my shoes.

My husband and I are moving to Lisbon Portugal on March 27. In less than 30 days I’ll be living in a city of very hilly terrain and my AMBITION is to conquer them. Every day.

Where. This ambition will take me is yet to be seen. But I’ll let you posted.

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Ambition feels so complex to me. My immediate reaction when I think about it is shame. Like, if I think about what I strived for and it didn’t happen. What I’m learning is ambition doesn’t exist for me without intention. And intention doesn’t exist for me without honesty and work. And those do not exist if I am more focused on the prize and not the walk there.

I’ve surrendered ambition, it asked me to compare, to stay in scarcity, to feel less present to the now and more focused on the “when I get that I’ll be happy”

Ambition feels like a tendril of corporation. And we have made a mess collectively of the true nature of that word. There is not language to encapsulate all that corporation offers to humans. Ambition when supported fully is beautiful. The baby’s first steps, a graduation, a ceremony of union, and the cycle of life ending. This is all done collectively without individualisms- my hope is that each of us gather our ambitions, our drive, our failures and victories and shout “Keep going! Don’t stop here! You aren’t done!” I have very little ambition for myself, but loads for the us of all of us.

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Mar 2Liked by M Tamara Cutler

As I approached my 84th birthday I set a new challenge, while my clear-sighted imaginative brain once again ignored the frantic signals from my physical state. Despite this I decided to go ahead with my ambitious agenda: to do a series of large murals celebrating the wonderful magic of my surroundings, the poplar grove as transformed by the seasons.

I was on a roll and started on a 3-meter canvas on the floor, washing layers of color over it, a la Helen Frankenthaler! As I danced across the expanse of the canvas it became apparent that I was not going be able to do this. So up on the wall it went. I then realized that this too was not ergonomically suitable so I cut it in half, stretched it and built platforms to make it more accessible. I noticed that I was dancing less and relying on a rolling stool and inhibiting my movements.

Over the following months there were stages where I could have accepted it as finished but my ambition to settle for no less than what I envisioned, made me press on. Finally, my body informed my head in no uncertain terms, that it could no longer support me in this effort. Many asked me why you don’t work smaller, but this is where I must be.

I was forced to pause and reflect on bringing these two entities into relationship and harmony if I was to allow my ambition to carry me forward. I am now more realistic about the process and outcome.

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Mar 3Liked by M Tamara Cutler

I was in the middle of a hard training period. And the last week was coming up with a 60km training run on Sunday. My legs felt terribly tired and so I started running totally frustrated. There was this blaring voice in my head, "Run! Don't be such a loser!" After 10km, I sat down on a bench and fought my tears. Full of self-pity, I kept running until the next bench.

On one shoulder sat this "something" with this merciless talk of failure, on the other this crying "something" that felt so sorry for itself. I gave these two voices names and created characters out of them: "the little asshole" and "the crybaby." I went deep inside myself. I got up, started running again without listening to those voices and it became a wonderful trailrun, with such beautiful pics. This sometimes to ambitious voice is one part of me that I can't turn off, but that I can now outsmart and that I just don't take so seriously anymore since that one day.

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