Note: As I continue to battle shingles I find I have less creative energy–less energy overall, truth be told. So on days when I feel myself a little overwhelmed, I am re-publishing some of my favorite posts from the past. I hope those of you who are new to the blog will enjoy reading them for the first time and that followers from long ago will find something new in them.
AND, I am taking the time I would normally take writing this morning’s post to do a step-by-step recipe for Kim’s Date Nut Bread. It’s posting tomorrow so be sure to watch for it.
What Does It Mean to be an Artist?
It’s much easier to write about faith and hope than fear and despair. But I am human and these emotions are part of the fabric of my life too. I don’t think it’s always supposed to be easy. We’re tested and pushed as part of the plan.
I liken it to carbon under pressure producing diamonds, or a grain of sand becoming the pearl—pounding iron in the forge to make it stronger. It seems to be a universal pattern and I don’t think it’s because life is cruel. We don’t get the light without the shadow. One shapes and defines the other.
Like all of us, I have my shadow side where the less comfortable human emotions dwell in darkness. I get scared. I doubt. I want to be taken care of. Until fairly recently I haven’t been willing to admit this openly to myself, let alone to others. I believed it showed weakness and, like all prey animals, I’ve spent a lifetime hiding any sign of vulnerability and flinching at every scent of danger.
Many Native American cultures see the black unknown as a place of growth, not something to be feared. They believe we go into darkness to find light, that in the stillness of the void we heal. And I have to say it’s been true in my life. The darkest journeys have offered the greatest illumination once I’m through to the other side. Roethke says, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see”.
The life of an artist demands leap after leap of faith. It can be very challenging. When I’m staring at a blank computer screen or an empty canvas and nothing comes, when my checking account is down to almost nothing and my savings are gone, when every fiber of my being tells me it’s all over, it’s the end, it’s not working, I’ve lost, my life demands something of me: Not that I be fearless but that, if I am afraid, I face it. I don’t run. It asks me to stand in the self-doubt and the fear, to get comfortable there, to know I am human and this is part of it, to have compassion. I am guided to embrace this scared and vulnerable part of me—to bring her out into the light where she can breathe. To face the blank canvas, the empty bank accounts and continue to believe.
And I have. Through it all, this magical, mysterious journey continues to unfold. The paintings and the words come, collectors buy. The sun comes up in the east every morning and sets in the west. And little by little I know I can trust. I can have faith.
There is a wonderful plan for my life and I am on the right path. It will not always be easy and it’s not meant to be. But I am to relish the sun AND the rain, the shadow as well as the light. One is not right and the other wrong, one good and one bad. It is all part of a rich and beautiful whole. As I explore both, as I find my footing, I will one day live my way into balance. And perhaps, soon, I may make my peace with fear and it will become a welcome visitor to my creative life.