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From Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. This paragraph makes me “smile out loud” every time I read it.
Her word resonate with surprising urgency for us to embrace our creativity. So powerful for me to read now as I am in a period of intense writing + composing.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” you darkest interior voices will demand.
“It’s funny you should ask,” you can reply. “I’ll tell you who I am: I am a child of God, just like anyone else. I am I constituent of this universe. I have invisible spirit benefactors who believe in me, and who labour alongside me. The fact that I am here at all is evidence that I have the right to be here. I have a right to my own voice and a right to my own vision. I have a right to collaborate with creativity, because I myself am a product and a consequence of Creation. I’m on a mission of artistic liberation, so let the girl go.”
Now you’re the one doing the talking.
“There is an extraordinary beauty to someone who has risen up through their own grit and courage, not because they are falsely buoyed up, but from a deep reservoir of faith in themselves, looking deeply and compassionately at their failures and owning all the moments, not just the good, holding their course regardless of opposition to their spirit, their very self, or their ideals, a fierce love for their vocation or craft, and a desire to be authentic which FAR overrides their fear.”
Isn’t it incredible how some of the most concentrated worry comes from jobs which take a few minutes of daring to sit with and navigate?
Just a few minutes of getting focused can take away days and weeks of stress.
How is it that we spend so much time worrying rather than taking the tiny, incremental steps to undoing or doing, figuring out and problem-solving?
The thing is, we don’t want to problem-solve. We’re comfy on the edge, looking at the festering crater that is The Job/Email/Marking/Cleaning/Work/Conversation that needs to tackled. We doubt ourselves, rather than starting the process.
Sometimes it’s a big job which causes us to fear our abilities. But how can we possibly alleviate them without starting?!
Perhaps it’s actually taking the step, breaking through the fear-factor, and sitting in the discomfort.
Once you’re there, in the thick of it, or standing at the edge, you find a way to navigate. You recalibrate. You can’t help it.
The next day is doesn’t look quite as insurmountable. You’ve made a start.
Often, it is the THINKING REQUIRED which is the scariest thing, not the actually DOING. Once things are thought about, locked-in, on the calendar, in the diary, it’s not as challenging.
You don’t have to do it all at once.
You must have faith that you have what it takes to do it.
Look at those glorious paintings formed of hundreds of brushstrokes, or thousands of stitches in an elaborate embroidery, a fully-fledged adult after a million and one seconds of parenting, or climbing a mountain. These are all works of quiet persistence and incremental, tiny steps.
Focus. Look ahead.
Take the first step.
Spend the first few minutes getting uncomfortable, and you will be amazed at how much clarity can be found.
What do I know to be true? Morning scribblings and conversations, in the middle of the holidays, on a still morning with a plunger of coffee. Total, unexpected oasis.
That you cannot shame anyone into changing their behaviour or actions. For there to be lasting change, people have to want it deeply. I read it from Brené Brown, and fought it all through my university years. What I would say to that 17-year-old hopeful, heartful, impressionable, intensely dedicated girl if I could have my time over, I now say to all my students with a great deal of warmth and humour: “You all have excellent crap detectors on your head. Use them. Trust you teachers and mentors, but above all, trust yourself. When the intent is right, you will know that you are entirely safe, in well-being, mind, and heart. And that is the only way to learn.”
You cannot protect and cocoon yourself up forever. Sometimes, you don’t even know that you are doing it. You’ll be happy enough, but is that really what you want? Life is always going to have ebbs and flows, moments of grace and moments of intensity. You have everything you need to ride those waves. For God’s sake, do something and have something to say. Thoughtful, considered, and entirely yours. You need to lean into life in order to really engage and live.
You will absolutely NOT be happier when things are “done”. Sometimes in the haste to wrap up and finish, and get to the happy pontoon at the end, you miss the amazing moments of industry. The really interesting bits that frustrate and challenge you. Again, it’s not going to be comfortable. It’s going to be downright annoying sometimes. But you are absolutely alive. You’re not when you’re safely passed out on a couch, in relative terms.
Push yourself to be industrious, but also to be human. Believe it or not, you will be most happiest when you are filled with purpose, when there are things to do. Complain or joyfully proclaim to the world how busy you are, it’s never going to be a perfect balance. But you will feel the muscles of agency building, and the inevitable and wonderful hum that comes from creating and being.
You’re here to live, not to be static or just appear. Ask questions, be all-in, find things out, push up against boundaries, reset them, carve out time, then swim into each minute. Be unique, be controversial, be gracious, be generous. But above all, BE.
Find your moral compass. My God, you’ll need this. Being deeply committed and indebted to yourself is a daily, and sometimes hourly, struggle. Hold yourself accountable, even if the rest of the world gives you a free pass. Don’t for yourself, if it doesn’t line up with your values.
Stand your own sacred ground. Whatever you are doing, whether you are in battle, in struggle, in glory, in joy, in grace, in pain, in love, in play, in life. You matter, my darling, so much. For me, most days are joyful, industrious, or rewarding. I like the ordinary, it makes the little special moments explode with the spark of “extraordinary”. But on the days that I’m unsettled, I’m going to lean in. That’s some serious arse-kicking courage right there for an introvert who would love nothing better than just to cocoon up. Take down one puzzle piece, and begin, and you take down fear breath by breath.
I have a fear of being too much trouble, being annoying, or asking too much. This fear has been well-hidden for ages, and mostly doesn’t bother me, but when I really look and dig deep, it’s right there.
I’ve recently come back from an extraordinary Gwinganna retreat in the Gold Coast which was NOTHING of what I expected, but gave me so many little starting points in how to improve my health, my well-being, my thinking, and in embracing life. Now I think I’m reasonably healthy in many things, and I think my strength is my emotional well-being, but this realisation with lingering fear surprised me.
I’m able to ask for what I need in my professional and personal life with consideration and generosity. I’m fair and thoughtful in my dealings, and always try to be compassionate and put things into perspective. But I realised there is another fear beyond all this…it’s the fear of pushing boundaries when things get really uncomfortable. When this happens, I quietly abort mission and make sure everyone around me has their feathers smoothed, their favourite blanket, and a nice hot drink, metaphorically speaking. Or, if I do not respect the person, that they leave with their sense of self intact, EVEN IF I DO NOT RESPECT THEM!
I realised that I am uncomfortable with discomfort!
So when life is going well, and everyone is reasonably happy and calm, my requests and boundary-setting all work perfectly. I don’t mind being “audacious” then, because no-one’s back is up. But what about when it really counts? When the turmoil hits? When there is deep stress that needs navigating?
I realise I am afraid.
And this fear is something I’d like to challenge, and something I’d like to patiently sit with and develop stronger navigating skills for. Already this year, I have had a few moments where I’ve had to step in and be the captain of some of these intensely stressful moments, where emotions are high and there is tension in the air that I can almost tangibly feel. I REALLY don’t like these situations; for one, I’m intensely introverted, and secondly, I go into life wanting to engage with people from a place of joy + energy! I don’t handle grinding, harsh confrontation very well. This is different from conversation and discourse, where there is a sharing of different opinions, information and ideas, and where both sides are deeply valued from the onset; THAT is invigorating for me. But those times where I stand to be unreasonably annihilated by someone who is just on a verbal rampage…well, those situations affect me deeply, and I admire those people who know how to navigate those times.
And it manifests in other ways. Sometimes, but not all the time, I will reuse a mug rather than getting a beautiful new one, order a meal that’s easier to prepare, agree to something because it puts less pressure on the person being requested of. Or even when I’m in disagreement with someone and in line to receive an apology, I will make it as kind and easy for that person to apologise as possible. So while I take care to have the boundaries that look after me, sometimes it still comes at my cost, when it should be the quiet strength and fairness of the situation that should win out.
Sometimes, I deliberate between compassion, fairness, and forgiveness, and which is actually at play. But THIS FEAR; fear of walking into a storm and avoiding those intensely difficult situations, is something I’d like to get better at. Even though it is exhausting, even though it takes a lot out of me and I don’t want to do it on a regular basis, I’d like to know that I could be the captain of that ship.
And in my heart of hearts, I know – I deeply know – that I can do it.
So here’s my little “imperfect” challenge to myself, to start facing this fear. I’ve been given a Country Road voucher as a thank you present, and rather than spending it on something practical, useful, or something people “expect” me to wear so that they feel safe, I am so going to consciously spend it on something that is different, something a little whimsical, a different style to what I would normally wear, and something that will take a little more care and time to wear properly, not just something I can put on for practicality’s sake. Because as colourful and vibrant as my outfits are, they are also embedded in practicality. I’d like to practise the “imperfect” challenge but wearing something a little frivolous, whimsical, and different. Wearing it strongly, and embracing a different aspect of me.
And I have a new mug lined up for my tea. 😉