My Quest. Your Quest? The Happy Hearts Quest, 2011.

2011. The year before the end of the world?
I’m going to live it as if it were my last.

(If you do not know by heart who Sallycat, Barbie and VOD are, please read this post of February 2009)

On the afternoon of the eve of the great and mighty year of my lucky number 11, I was in Buenos Aires, wondering what I was going to do next on the path of my life’s work. I was joyful with the journey I’d taken in 2010. An affirming and confidence-boosting review of Happy Tango had just appeared in the classy UK dance magazine Dance Today. It was cause for great celebration of one dream lived, but it had reminded me that while I must push on with promoting Happy T. around the world, the cycle of creative thinking that had conceived and written the book was complete.

By synchronicity in the days leading up to the year’s end, I’d read this brilliant Paulo Coehlo post titled Together. Inspired, I’d asked my artist friends to contribute their own art on a Facebook comment thread, so that we could, Together, light up a beacon of inspiration to lead us, into 2011. One of the artists who commented on the thread called me Sally the Catalyst. It felt good. Another friend smiled when I told her and said Sallycatalyst. It felt great.

I decided to check in with Barbie. I’d put her out on the balcony with the plants over Christmas; maybe I’d sensed she wanted something as fresh as zesty green. I’d given her leaves to touch, stood her between the mint and the oregano, lifted her skinny arms to welcome the good energy in. On New Year’s Eve, I picked her up and stroked her long blond hair, hair like I’d had once myself when I was fourteen before I cut it all off and it grew back brown then grey.

How you doin’ beautiful little girl? I said.

Well. About bloody time, Sallycat! She stamped her tiny foot and I imagined she longed to shove a branch of oregano right under my nose.

Thank God you kept me breathing in those Morning Pages all summer and autumn and summer again! Thank God for Julia Cameron, eh? But Sallycat, forget about Paulo and Julia! Remember that inspirational book we want to write, will you? You know, that one that’s going to transform the lives of millions… written by You and Me… together. Time to make a start! Don’t you think?

Oh Barbie. I know. I know, I whisper. I never ever forget that book. My one true dream, to somehow pass on to others what life has taught me about the quest for…

But before I can utter the single word that packs my heart so full that it longs to burst and share, VOD pipes up, all sing-song-y and booming like a tuba as if I am deaf,

It’s just that you don’t really have any ideas, do you? No. No. Nooooo. It’s all already been done. Paulo and Julia have it cra-acked.

He sings the last word like it has two syllables and he crushes on, with his stuck record that’s called Keep-Sal-Safe,

How can anything you write ever make a difference when the world is gleaming with bright stars like Paulo? You don’t have a vision, and you’re not clever enough to think one up. I mean, what are you gonna call this book of yours? Oh… um… oh I know… what about ‘Happy Hearts: Sallycat’s Guide to the Quest for Joy’, for bloody example? I mean, how friggin’ ridiculous is that? It sounds so naff. Happy Tango? Happy Hearts?  Joy? Magic?  Quests? Oh pleeeeeeease…

But now it is his turn to be interrupted,

Oh pleeeeeeeese… that’s IT! I LOVE quests! Barbie squeals at excitement pitch, and VOD immediately shrinks to the size of a shrivelled pea.

Barbie jumps out of my grasp on to the Mac keyboard on the table in the square metre of space just inside the balcony doors that is my work/make-things-happen zone. She dances up and down on the keys clapping her hands…

And, let’s face it, Sallycat. Some folks did think we were a weeny bit mad when we called our guide book Happy Tango, didn’t they? But we weren’t. It was fun and different and carries our spirits to those who want to embrace them! And we still feel happy whenever we see the book, don’t we?

Yes Barbie, we do. We DO!

Sallycat, it’s time to make something new? But look, not a book yet. Let’s play first! You love technology, right? And so do I, but I’m a teeny bit bored with WordPress. I want to conjure with photos and links and podcasts and  multimedia and easy-peasy-to-usey. Let’s be all 2011 and go with the flow of millions! Let’s use Facebook! I love Facebook. It’s soooooooo clever. The perfect place to spread magic fast. And, listen up Sallycat, if our experiment works, we’ll be on to a book anyway…

She shuts up and leaves me to believe.

I put her back among the plants to recharge her batteries. I’m gonna need them. Then, I think for about 5 minutes.

A Quest. The Happy Hearts Quest, 2011. A Quest for Joy. A global community of people on a path of the he(art) together. On Facebook, because I want the challenge of a new medium with which to channel my creative energy into the world. My head spins with ideas. VOD is nowhere to be heard. I sit at the Mac. And this is what I create. Click


to discover the Happy Hearts Quest on Facebook. It is now into its sixth day and 33 open-minded life-adventurers have joined the Quest. Will you be the 34th?

On the Quest there will be inspiration. There will be practical, useful and empowering tasks. There will be community. There will be shared art. And, there will be joy, if we want it.

2011. The year before the end of the world? I’m going to live it as if it were my last. What about you? Go on. Encourage your he(art). Take part!

Here’s the first Task of the Quest, to give you the idea, in case you are not on Facebook yet. The remaining 51 Tasks will always appear first on the Happy Hearts Quest Facebook Page because it is the platform on which I feel I can best achieve the sense of community that I want to encourage with the Happy Hearts Quest. Some or all of the posts may also be shared on Sallycat’s Adventures, but I’m not sure yet. I always reserve the right to change my mind!

Task 1: the Joy List © Sally Blake 2011

In my life before tango, I didn’t really have any dreams at all.

I understand when people say,

But I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I wouldn’t know where to start. I mean, how do you find your dreams? How do you KNOW?

In the summer of 2006 I didn’t know. I thought my life was over when my husband walked away and left me wondering at the real value of a a perfectly manicured lawn, detailed plans for a loft conversion and an MX5.

Five short weeks later, in the Casablanca bar (Bayangol Hotel, in case you should ever need fairly central and half-decent lodgings in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia), I wrote a list. It was the simplest of lists — a list of things I thought might possibly bring me relief in the days gaping back at me from the UK autumn that was to come.

You can see I wasn’t very convinced about the list’s worth, I wrote “What’s the benefit?” at the top of it. I really meant, What’s the bloody point? It will all fall apart anyway, in the end.

My Mongolian friend wrote a list too. We talked the lists over into 2am, in the country that we, by that stage in the Gobi adventure (great pictures here) we had just travelled, referred to as Neverland. By the time we’d finished, I had a second list scribbled, with a fraction more energy in it. See the word in capitals at the top, ticked to indicate I’d make it a priority? Well… my friend’s Italian girlfriend danced, and he wanted to learn so they could dance together at their wedding. To be honest, I’d been thinking of salsa, but the giggling enthusiasm of my friend talking about something called “Argentine tango” made me change my mind.

I didn’t know it then, but in the time it took me to write down those five letters, my life path had shifted, and a future of unseen possibilities had formed to lay in wait behind the bleak desert landscape that bulged in my mind.

I had many rocks to scramble over until tears stopped blurring my view — a lonely journey back to Moscow on a Russian Tupolev, a second divorce (I’d already known one), the sale of the garden and home I’d nurtured for one and a half decades, a broken love affair or few, learning to walk backwards in stiletto heels, flying alone out of my country for the first time, opening my heart to the unlikely possibility of true love, putting down the cigs I’d picked up (after a fifteen year break) on a Gobi desert dune, enduring several bouts of depression beyond the point of wanting to die, cracking a new language and culture, letting go of friends and lovers whose paths needed to diverge from mine, becoming the daughter I needed to be, becoming the partner I wanted to be, becoming the whole soul God had always intended me to be. And a few more things besides, that I have yet to reveal.

On the way to fewer tears, I unwrapped an unexpected gift. I danced. I wrote a blog. I made books. I played with information technology. I shared my truths and experiences with people and saw how watching their growth boosted mine. I learned what I loved to do (and what I didn’t). I began to know the dreams of my soul.

Let’s hear that echo of who I was once, again..

But I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I wouldn’t know where to start. I mean, how do you find your dreams? How do you KNOW?

I have kept a Joy List in a notebook ever since that first list in 2006. I didn’t believe in that one when I wrote it. But I did it anyway. And I’ve DONE the things on my Joy Lists, if possible, one every day. Some of them I’ve not loved with wild passion, and they’ve fallen by the wayside or faded (eg. kickboxing). Others, it turned out, are as important to me as breathing, and so, they led me to KNOW.

Joy List C was written in 2010. Scrawled in the back of a tiny notebook, added to as the year went by. The focus has changed a bit since the 2006 lists; less about what I think might bring me joy and more about what actually does. In the lands of one of the most vast deserts in the world, I was starting from what seemed like nothing. Now, somewhere between Buenos Aires and the Shropshire hills, I’m building on and exploring from within a life I already love.

On January 2nd 2011 I sit at home alone feeling a weeny bit sorry for myself because C. has gone out with a friend and I had expected him to spend the evening with me. I could go dancing at La Milonguita, but I’m sulking unattractively on the sofa, so I decide not to. Then, staring at the Christmas tree lights flashing in the hearts of angels and fairies, I remember the coaching session I gave a friend last week. I’d set her a task, told her to make a beautiful and worthy frame for her Joy List, to celebrate it, to make it real. I get out my pack of new felt pens (actually written on my Joy List C as “a new set of felt pens”). I start a very colourful work of he(art), Joy List D.

By the time I’m done, and I’ve propped the list up next to my bed where it will be the first thing I see when I wake, I’ve forgotten about my self pity, and instead I just can’t wait to write this note for the Happy Hearts Quest. I’m excited to try out Facebook as a blogging medium, and to see if anyone is interested in making a Joy List for themselves. A Joy List to kick start their own evening, their week, their year, or even their whole-damn-lives.

The morning after, I read my Joy List D, to C.

He says, How special that so many of the things on it are so small, I mean in a good way small.

Yes, I say, What a relief it is to realise that the things that can give you most joy in life cost nothing and you can have them any time you want.

But there is more beauty in a Joy List than that. The things on the list may seem insignificant, but actually they may be the keys to the discovery of dreams. A “set of felt pens” could mean illustrations drawn for a book one day. “Singing Once in Royal David’s City solo for friends” could mean bringing a viola-playing-past back to life with Carrillón De La Merced the first composition learned and played. And a single word, followed through and pursued with passion, could bring into focus a future beyond the wildest imaginings of a life-weary mind, as it did for me.

Which words on your Joy List could unlock the life you have always wanted? Or which already have?

Depending whereabouts you are on your Happy Hearts Quest, you will have a different story to tell. And I cannot wait to hear it.

Week 1’s Happy Hearts Quest Task is to write your very own Joy List, frame it with art from your heart (paint, glitter, felt pens, photos, words, silver paper all allowed and positively encouraged), take a photo of it (or a piece of it to preserve privacy), and post it to the Happy Hearts Quest wall. If you dare. Go on. Encourage your he(art). Take part!