“Drifting off to sleep, I thought about her. How nobody is perfect. How you just have to close your eyes and breathe out and let the puzzle of the human heart be what it is.” –Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
I am being told to slow down. I’ve written in this blog that I am done with drama and I take the messages of the universe, now, as they come. But it’s not true. I’ve been feeling stressed and overwhelmed for many, many weeks now, but I’ve taken almost no time off. I’ve turned down invitations to parties, I’ve said I don’t have time to go to lunch with friends. I’m doing The Artist’s Way with a student, we’re in the 10th week, and I haven’t taken one artist’s date (for those of you unfamiliar with the book, artist’s dates are alone time when we take our artist out to have some fun, to fill our creative reservoirs). In fact the only down time I’ve allowed has been when I have out of town visitors or have gone to Taos to see Chip. This from a woman who says I must find my joy within and not depend on finding it outside of myself through the influence of others. Oy vey!
So I’ve been nudged yet again, this time with a broken ankle and torn up hand. Clearly the universe is speaking, but I’m still finding it impossible to give myself time off. A good friend just told me to listen to my body, that I’m injured and must heal, but I’m thinking, “I’ll just write one more post…”
So what is this? Why can’t I stop? I left my corporate job and became an artist, but I’m still driven. Why? I fear I don’t know how to play.
OK, I’m going to stop, right here, right now and I’m taking some time to heal and restore, physically and mentally. I’ll be back in a few days to look at this through fresh eyes. Until then…
I’m back, after a full weekend off and, although I still need to rest more, I’m feeling less tired and more grounded. Long conversations with my friends Sam and Chip helped. I DO know how to play. It just doesn’t take the form I was thinking it should. In fact I am playing when I’m out on the Land Grant, looking, smelling, feeling, gathering rocks, singing, dancing, taking photos. My time there fills my heart and I am completely out of my head. A perfect definition of play, I think.
But I need to look at this pressure I create about working. And the fact is, even though I’m doing non-traditional work, I’m still driven to work because it’s still where I find my identity. The key, I believe, however, is to BE—no labels, no attachment to a sense of self as artist or anything else, to just be—in fact it’s what we’re all here to learn to do, I think. In genuinely being, the work will flow naturally. Chip likened it to a flower opening. It doesn’t know what it’s opening to but it opens naturally anyway. I need to just blossom and, because I’m an artist, the work will be born of my own coming to self.
Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, makes a distinction between discipline and enthusiasm. She believes art is not born in discipline, a rigid schedule to get to the studio at 5 AM every morning, but rather a deep enthusiasm for getting up early and getting to the canvas. It may seem like a fine line but I agree with her. I’ve been telling myself what I must do and have been closing off aspects of my life that bring me joy because I tell myself I don’t have time. Instead, I need to make the time to experience joy and the paintings and the posts will naturally flow from that.
Leaving corporate America 14 years ago was not the answer in and of itself. I still brought “me” into this artist’s life I’m now living. While I’ve learned untold numbers of lessons since then, there is still much more to learn (or unlearn). So today it begins: Today I let go of scheduling absolutes. Today I begin to accept invitations. Today I will read for pleasure and I will relax and let my body heal. And I trust the art will come, my living will be made. This is just one more step toward recognizing myself and getting out of my own way–one more step toward being.