I spent last week making art in two different workshops. It was a very humbling week. I encountered that first hard bump of learning something new, that first jolt of, “Oh no, I can’t do what I want to do, I can’t make what I see in my head or feel in my heart.” When I learn something new, I experience a brief grace period (beginner’s mind?) when what I make or do is satisfying. Then the bump, the frustration, the ouch comes — it’s not working anymore! Oh no!
I’m proud to say that my critic did not come out with his stick poised to beat me up. I was gently curious during the entire bumpy week — and I did feel fear and despair. As I said to my friend Kristina, “I’m worried now I won’t be able to make visual art anymore, that I’ll go back to the old me who yearned to create and could not. Just could not.” Kristina said, “Isn’t that what all artists think?” Her comment made me pause and see the bump for what it is. I thought back to college and my second attempts at writing fiction (the first had been in high school). I got a C in that class because my stories were average at best. I thought about what I tell my coaching clients and retreat participants and what I know to be true, just as I know my bones support my flesh — it ain’t about talent. It is about perseverance and passion and prayer. Lots and lots and lots of it. It’s also about seeing how our life lessons actually end up providing some of our deepest inspirations after we have waded, splashed, or floated through them (your choice).
Speaking of bumps, in my network of friends, both online and off, there have been some struggles around how we can or why we should keep going, keep living, and keep loving even when someone dear to us is ill or passes away. We get submerged in the urges of empathy (please let me get sick instead or suffer with this person) and the “survivors’ guilt.” Appreciating life is the deepest challenge and the most life affirming choice. It’s like the Borg always says, “Resistance is futile;” but it sure is tempting and in a strange way it is a shadow comfort that seems to say that if we don’t give in, then the endless cycles of creation will stop.
There are theories out there around how our entire material world is made up of the same atoms that have been around since the beginning of time. Our molecules continue to circulate in one way, shape or form, giving reality substance. However, it’s the animating spirit that we miss when we encounter serious illness or death in our circle. It’s that feeling that a part of us is now missing, but you really have to ask…is it?
Perhaps, just perhaps, we can approach the situation like a Fool…maybe we really don’t know what is going on, what will happen next, or who we or anyone else will be and for how long. Maybe we can reconstruct our trust, our innocence, one breath at a time and confirm our commitment to creation–with all of its limitations, vulnerabilities, and infinite twists. In this way, we realize that we are the flow and our attachments, while important, are not meant to isolate our spirit. They are meant to help us grow, learn, express, and be with more love.
Jennifer Louden is a best-selling author of five books, including her classic, The Woman’s Comfort Book, and her newest, Comfort Secrets for Busy Women. She’s also a creativity and life coach, creator of the Inner Organizer, and a columnist for Body + Soul Magazine. She leads retreats on self-care and creativity around the country. Hear her live on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius Channel 112 every Sunday at 8 am Pacific, 11 am Eastern. Visit her world at: http://www.comfortqueen.com and http://www.jenniferlouden.com