The next number of posts, all titled Conversations on… come from email communications between a dear friend and me. With her permission, I am publishing excerpts from them because I feel they pertain to everything we’ve been discussing on the blog. Kate has been in the process of trying to figure out how to be a writer and still maintain her teaching job. She has very recently decided she must leave her job and fully embrace a “writing life.” At her request I’ve changed her name and am using initials for people she brings up. Those of you who have not read any of the earlier Conversation pieces, may want to go back to have a better understanding of Kate’s progress. You’ll find her story under the topic category, “Kate’s Story.” It’d be great if you all would join our conversation…
All photos in today’s post were shot by Kate on visits to New Mexico.
… From your point of view, I see exactly why one would have the expectations you had when you first entered this life, and it makes perfect sense, given where you were at the time and the history you brought to that part of the process. Considering how much you have held back from yourself, it also makes sense that you would see that tremendous and momentous step as an answer. In many ways it is, which is misleading.
And this goes right to your conclusion that living this dream “shows ourselves to us,” the self is revealed in ways that are scary and unsettling and challenge the essence of our being and our assumptions, because in order to live that dream we have to allow ourselves to live in the dark places, be in touch with the shadow side, in its very own truth, as you have experienced in your art and artist’s life since you began, and as you have been seeing ever more keenly lately. For whatever reason, you have come face to face (perhaps in a new and more intense way?) with the despair, maybe gotten closer to its source. Perhaps you have grown so much and the roots of your strengths have become more firmly established, that you have trod the deeper and darker woods of your psyche or pushed your art and yourself further, and then found yourself in the sad and scary place you have always known but see anew, the same tangled orchard, one of the wild places you know but are still trying to understand. But those flowers of your mind are like stars breaking through the clouds, making it possible to find the way; these loved places are loved for their mystery, for what they can reveal to us about us, for what they can reveal to us and about our place in the universe, if we venture deep enough and look into the darkness. That is what, I believe, Katherine Mansfield is getting at when she writes of “the mind I love.” This is the mind that plants the flowers along the path. They wouldn’t be there by happenstance.The mind in creation, by virtue of its being in–intentionally entering and remaining in–that uncomfortable and at times painful space, is responsible for our experiencing the beauty amidst the despair, longing, and loss. It is also the vehicle (the miracle) through which we face the pain in our hearts, resolve to make sense out of it…and make art out of it.
I see that the struggle to love the injured you as well as the strong and daring and innovative you, the you that you see more and more clearly as you move deeper into your life and work, without the security of whatever protection you have relied upon before, is the intense challenge you are seeking to resolve now. I’m hearing a similar desire when you talk about finding peace. It makes complete sense to identify with Finn and Kelee because of the suffering they have gone through, as a witness to how they–in their nature that is not ours– seem to be able to let go of their suffering and be in the present comfort in ways we just can’t. We see it as relative, whereas they just live in the now with the old agonies, the unbearable life housed somewhere deep in the bones, re-surfacing in the aches and pains, the panicked moment of being left alone or threatened by hunger, but not re-lived in the moments of the everyday.
My own thoughts–which are just initial thoughts, based on my own experience and nothing more–are that joy is something elusive, something that, if we are lucky and if we are open to it, visits our lives and shows us our blessings in the bright glowing light. But it’s the sorrows that reveal to us our blessings in intensely powerful ways, when we struggle to break through the pain and the dark and persistent clouds, and in the process shed more and more of our safe but false beliefs about ourselves. I don’t think the darker elements ever truly leave us. Maybe I’m just not one who can envision life as nothing but joyful. For me–and isn’t it for you too that–this struggle through pain and sorrow brings us to the sharp and difficult edge, sometimes almost a breaking point, where we find our focus, make art and thus give life its meaning, for ourselves and for others. Here I relate very strongly to your end comments about finding joy in fully recognizing, accepting, and loving the most difficult aspects of who you are.
Thank you for sending your post. I loved reading and engaging with it. If I have misread or misinterpreted your feelings, please let me know. I’m just opening up in ways that are new to me, too, risking saying things that come straight from my heart without censoring my thoughts. I’m just letting my most honest thoughts run in response to yours. I hope I have not offended your sensibilities in any way in this process. And I hope you don’t read my comments as in any way critical. They are not in any way intended that way.
To be continued…
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Love to you all,