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!

12 Replies to “My Quest. Your Quest? The Happy Hearts Quest, 2011.”

  1. Sally –

    As always, you’ve written what I needed to read – when I most needed to read it. I’m at that place where I’m finding my dance – but everything else seems like it’s falling apart by contrast. What do I want to do? What are my dreams? Where do I start? It’s overwhelming in that state of mind, and easy to forget to be grateful for all the joy in my life.

    Thank you so much for this – now I have somewhere to start.

    un grande abrazo,
    .-= Mari´s last blog ..Sticking the End =-.

    1. Mari!
      Marvellous. Start. Just start somewhere that feels good, give it your all, and the next step will be revealed, I am certain. A joy list can provide the clues to our dreams, I think. When I’m not sure what I want to do, it helps me to do what I LOVE doing and consider that my soul’s gifts and also its wishes might lie somewhere in there.

      I do think that the moments of falling apart might be the moments of great excitement in the soul… something is brewing and there is the chance for movement in a good direction. Know what I mean?

      Perhaps you might consider joining the Happy Hearts Quest on FB. No pressure to do any of the tasks of course, but you might gain some inspiration, as we go. If not, no worries. Just delighted you got something from this post, and that you shared back.
      Warm hug and good journeying in 2011, SC

  2. Hey Sally,

    If we’re ever both in the UK in September/October/November come and see me for delicious home grown raspberries. I picked about 15kg in 2009. Sadly in 2010 the whole crop went to waste.

    I’ve started on my Joy list, and you know what? I’ve made all sorts of lists but never a Joy list! As a true techie, it’s at v0.1 right now. When it reaches v1.0 I’ll share (some of) it on the FB page. With a bit of luck before you post the second task 🙂

    Feliz año nuevo.

    1. Mark! Brilliant!!!
      Am delighted to hear you are working on a Joy List. Thank you for joining the Quest. I know you will get something good from it and also give something good too. You’ve already begun your big and beautiful path of the heart for sure, and it is inspiring. No turning back, is there?!
      Happy happy 2011. I hope to see you soon.
      Abrazos muchos, SC

    2. ps. Raspberries. What a shame they won’t travel well in the post! I adore them beyond words, with great granola and creamy yoghurt, both of which I have at last tracked down in BsAs!!! SC

  3. Very timely for me too. I’m trying to find the next steps in my own life–and a recent tool has been a list like this. Mine lives in a cheerfully striped little journal that I can carry in my purse.

    I’m learning that, of the options I’ve been considering and the plans I’m trying to construct, there are no wrong answers. All of them are good, and all of them are progress from where I am now. All of them reflect significant aspects of what I want.

    I’m also learning, from some other/related things, that it’s true what they say: “Man plans; God laughs.” And that’s useful too, because it reminds me that if something disrupts one of my nice little plans–and something, large or small, almost always does–I can adapt. And I am allowed to change my mind.

    Un grande abrazo!

    .-= The Accidental Tangoiste´s last blog ..History repeating =-.

    1. Hellooo A.T. (and sorry slight delay in replying, mega busy week!)
      So glad my post was timely for you. I do think it’s great to carry a Joy List with you… I have one (Joy List C in the post) in one of those tiny address books that slips handily into most of my (usually rather gi-normous) bags! I love to refer to it, add to it, scribble on it, stare at it… on buses, in cafes, in parks… it kind of lives and breathes with me and it definitely isn’t static.
      I totally agree that for me there are no ‘wrong’ answers… I think I said the other day on the Happy Hearts Quest that there are no ‘right’ answers but of course what I really I meant there are no ‘wrong’ answers! I believe that all answers are ‘good’ (and some might say ‘right’) because they all lead us on to learning and growth and ultimately I think bring us closer to our soul’s truth.
      I am not a planner any longer, more of an ‘intent-er’. I like to have a feeling of direction and a clear picture of my dream, or the next phase of it (my current understanding of The What, in my mind, but I let the Universe worry about the The How, and I am open open open to shifts in circumstance and in the dream itself.
      I used to worry that it would be embarrassing if I declared my dream and then it changed… not anymore. Sod it. I go for it anyway. How can it ever be embarrassing to try and live your dream in any given moment; it’s something to shout about, just in case it encourages someone else to go for theirs! Plus, if others see me slipping and sliding a bit on the path, they’ll be relieved that you don’t have to have it all worked out before you start! No?
      Am so grateful for your comment. And so happy you are on the path of joy.

      ps. I love this from your recent blog:
      “Gentlemen, when you are dancing with a lady at a social event–not at a class or a practica, where one is seeking to learn new things and practice the things that give one trouble–and she has difficulty with a particular step, it is good manners and considerate dancing not to keep repeating that step as though you are hoping she’ll have a sudden breakthrough if you just do it again and again. ”
      For full post see:
      This happened to me recently with a well-known and widely respected teacher/dancer… what are men saying about themselves when they do this? I find it fascinating. The worst aspect for me though was that I found myself apologising for my dancing. I gotta learn from that, because it did not make me feel good at all.

      Huge abrazo into 2011, SC

      1. >if others see me slipping and sliding a bit on the path, they’ll be relieved that you don’t have to have it all worked out before you start! No?

        Yes, indeed! It’s been very reassuring, recently, to learn that I’m not alone in changing directions. And that it’s people of all ages and different apparent levels of establishedness who may need–or want, which may be the same thing–to make changes. Life will always take us to unexpected places, and we’re all always changing, aren’t we?

        >Am so grateful for your comment. And so happy you are on the path of joy.

        Thank you, ma’am. And likewise, on all counts.

  4. Hola Sally Catalyst! (Love it!)

    I’d like to share something which I hope you and your readers won’t think of as a “downer.” When my always-optimistic husband was dying very slowly of cancer (and he was only 53), he made his own “Joy List” of 200 things that made him happy. I couldn’t bear to read it later and I gave it to his son, but he put such lovely joys on it as seeing the flocks of birds circling the sky, watching sports on TV, drinking tea. He was an amazing person who I learned a lot from, and this is something I still am working on: my own list of simple joys. Sometimes sadness and worries tend to outweigh the joys, but we just need to put more energy into our happy things and less into our trying times, don’t you think?

    Congratulations on your new Quest and endeavors! May Joy follow you everywhere all of your life!
    .-= cherie´s last blog ..Dancing in the City of Angels =-.

    1. Oh Cherie!
      How could anyone possibly find your words a downer. Moving. Beautiful. Honest. True. Yes.
      “flocks of birds circling the sky”
      “drinking tea”
      I would like to put your late husband’s words in my heart’s well, and keep them there forever, getting them out for poetry, encouraging others, and singing songs of joy and tears.
      I think what you say about the energy we put into the worry versus the joy is oh so important. Later on the Happy Hearts Quest I will be sharing exactly how I personally do that; I am playing at the moment and developing my ideas to make the whole thing fun and real and totally possible and within all our grasps.
      I want to tell you Cherie, that you were a big part of inspiring me to make a start on the Happy Hearts Quest; at Los Cons one night before Christmas you said to me that I could do it, write an inspirational book, communicate, connect with others… I listened to you and I believed you. I thank you for encouraging me; for putting courage in me with your words. It was a Christmas gift direct from God and I mean to make good use of it.
      Welcome back. See you tonight.

  5. Very moving reading all the comments here. Cherie, thanks for sharing your late husband’s joy list. As someone who has spent years writing to do lists that are so impossibly long that they set me up to fail, it is a wonderful liberation to write a joy list. This latest project has an amazing energy, Sally Catalyst, and I am certain that you are on to something big big big!! So glad you listened to Barbie, and to Cherie. Hx

    1. Hi dear H.
      I am really happy to hear you might be doing the Joy List! That’s fab. Me and C. have both done one now. It was really nice to share our lists with each other too. A bonus I hadn’t expected.
      Yes, I honestly do not think I have ever had a week in my life quite like this one. It’s a pretty cool feeling… I kinda feel like the cogs are finally slotting into place and The Universe is breathing a big sigh of relief, Oh thank God for that, at last she gets it; she’s ready for the good stuff now! I’m so glad you are a part of it all.
      Now, manana, let’s go DANCE!
      Besitos muchos, SC

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