Knock-kneed Herons of the Apocalypse

I am happy to report that I have been painting. I promised to show you the fruits of my creative efforts, even the bad stuff, so here it comes.

For months, I wanted to paint something to fill the big blank space above my mantel. I’ve been stalling because big canvasses are expensive, and if I invest in one, I need a plan so I don’t screw it up.

However, plans and pressure suck all the joy out of painting. I like to paint because it’s meditative and freeing for me—but only if I’m not trying to achieve a perfect outcome.

While cleaning the garage, I found a possible solution: two plywood crate lids that my ex had left behind. They were each 3’ x 2’, so I figured I could make a diptych (two-part work of art). Free “canvasses” mean I don’t have to worry about screwing them up!

So, one Sunday, I sat in the garage and painted for hours. I set the two lids next to each other, top-to-bottom, and painted them like one big canvas. Freely, meditatively, I layered on base colors and then stretched big swaths of contrasting colors over them. I played with different brushes, different strokes, and different amounts of water. I got some good stuff.

I made a spirally sun and I liked it.

Then, like a dork, I got out a t-square and painstakingly laid out a compass rose in one corner. (If you’re trying to be free and meditative, don’t get out a t-square. Duh.) I painted it with metallic gold paint. Since I’m going for a travel/adventure vibe in my living room, I thought it would be perfect, but it looked really stupid. It pretty much wrecked one of the lids—I’d have to paint over it and then it wouldn’t match the bottom piece anymore– so I figured I’d just paint them separately and ditch the diptych idea. Diptych is such a ridiculous word anyway. Who even wants a diptych? I painted over the stupid compass rose.

On the other board, now a solo project, I thought I’d try to paint the silhouette of a heron. For some reason, I kind of want a heron in my living room, too. I don’t know where any of this comes from.

The heron started out awesome, but ended up looking like it was doing a pee-pee dance.

Hmmm. What do you do with a knock-kneed heron? You don’t hang it in the living room, that’s for sure.

I wasn’t thrilled that I’d jacked up both my free canvasses. In fact, I was more than a little disappointed. I set the boards aside and began to clean up my work area.

A little while later, I turned around and there they were, leaning next to each other, not top-to-bottom as I’d originally planned, but side-by-side—a different perspective all together.

knockneed heron

And they looked kind of cool.

I called Maddy, my 19-year-old, whom I can trust for an honest opinion. She said, “Well, it looks like a spaceship is going to abduct the heron. And it kind of looks like the apocalypse.”

Okay. I can see that. All valid.

But I was still excited. Not because I want to hang it in my living room, but because it helps me know what works and what doesn’t. Yes, I do want a big heron in my living room. No, I don’t want a compass rose. I like the rough texture and not the smooth, I know which colors work, and I have to watch out for the apocalypse effect.

See? Progress! I actually feel like I could drop $50 on a real canvas now and paint something living-room worthy.

That’s the beauty of letting go of ideal outcomes—you can engage in the process without fear of failure, and find value in whatever results.

I so often hear, “I want to try that, but I’m afraid it’ll turn out terrible!” People who have great stories are afraid to write them. People are afraid to try painting, crafting, whatever—because it might turn out shitty.

So what? Make something shitty! Get it out of your system. Use it as a practice run. Use it to determine what you DON’T want. Not only is it acceptable to write shitty dialog or paint ugly birds, it is often necessary. And sometimes, you make something and feel lousy about it, until you step away from it and give it a little distance…and then you find something redeemable in it. Maybe even something awesome.

Gotta save up for the big canvas. When I make my masterpiece, I’ll let you know.

Let the Games Begin…Later

It’s already been six months since my big breakup. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not—have you noticed?

It’s time to get back on that horse. (tee hee hee! Save a horse; ride a cowboy? Nevermind. I will spare you the stream-of-consciousness “riding” jokes. Sorry.)

Let me tell you, as much as I would love to start dating again, I’m having a little trouble.

A) I don’t know how to meet men in real life. Remember the mattress guy?
B) That leaves online dating, and OH MY GOD, I’M SO SICK OF ONLINE DATING.

Here’s what happened.

A few months ago, I re-activated my profile on OKCupid, which is a free online dating site. I hadn’t been on there in a couple years, of course, because I’d been dating someone. I was surprised to find that all the familiar faces were still up there.

I’m not speaking archetypally here. It wasn’t just any old foot fetish guys or twenty-something cougar hunters: the actual same people were still there on the site.

Buncha losers, right? Still on the same dating site after TWO YEARS? I was feeling mighty superior until I realized that if any of them logged on and recognized me, they’d assume that I’d been on there for two years, too. I was tempted to post a disclaimer: HEY, DON’T JUDGE ME. I HAD A REAL LIVE BOYFRIEND FOR 18 MONTHS!

I skipped the disclaimer. No point in drawing attention to my failure. Instead, I updated my photos (my favorite!) and refreshed my catchy, definitely-not-desperate, sexy-yet-respectable profile.

This is so ridiculous it makes me cringe. And yet, I'm not above it.

Oh god, the shame. Either way. This is why internet dating blows.

Let the games begin.

Within a couple days, I had begun corresponding with a man who seemed intelligent and pleasant. He was reasonably attractive (a ginger, but I’m open-minded, you know) and had a job that was absolutely fascinating to me: a dealer in rare antiquities. Yes, my BS radar went off, and I wondered if he really was just an unemployed guy who believed he’d found the Holy Grail in his great-aunt’s basement. Nevertheless, he did seem smart and interesting. If he actually was a legitimate antique dealer, then that’s about the coolest, most Meg-perfect occupation I can think of.

The Ginger was quite romantic, and had big ideas about a romantic first date: walks on the beach, picnics and the like. I asked him, “Have you ever done this before?”

Nothing says “I’ve never been on an internet date” like premature romantic hopes. Let me tell you, a couple internet dates will kill those early romantic impulses dead. The first meeting is not a date; it’s an awkward, fact-checking, mutual evaluation exercise that is best accompanied by strong drinks in a public location with at least two exits.

So I convinced him to settle for ordinary drinks in an ordinary bar and scheduled a meeting for the following Friday, just a few days out. He gave me his number and encouraged me to call him.

I didn’t. I grew a big knot in my stomach instead.

Thursday night I found myself sitting on the couch, eating ice cream out of the container, bawling in front of the TV for some unidentified reason.

ABORT MISSION. REPEAT. ABORT MISSION.

I sent the romantic, unsuspecting Ginger an apologetic email cancelling our date and took my profile down before he could reply. I’d never called him, so he had no way to reach me and tell me what a flake I am.

Newsflash: if you’re still bingeing and bawling on the couch, you’re probably not ready to date yet.

Fast forward a couple more months. I was starting to get lonely, among other things. Time to try again. Couldn’t go back on OKCupid because the Ginger would probably be on there still, along with every other guy I’d interacted with over the last two years. So, I tried Plenty of Fish.

Plenty of Fish is known as a hookup site. It’s free and there are a zillion users so it’s like a giant man catalog. Incidentally, it’s where I met my ex. (There’s more where he came from, right? That’s why they named it Plenty of Fish.)

New profile. New pics. New inane conversations with men that have absolutely nothing in common with me, except that they like vaginas and I have one.

After a few days, I had begun conversations with two men who seemed intelligent and interesting: a tall, quirky I.T. guy, and a short, well-dressed Art Director. Both seemed like decent guys—courteous, articulate, and genuine. Both gave me their phone numbers and made tentative plans to meet me.

And I did it again. No bingeing and crying this time, just a big panic in my gut that said NO FREAKING WAY. I CAN’T DO IT AGAIN. I sent more apologetic emails and deleted my profile, again. Left two perfectly decent guys in the lurch.

I can’t even tell you why.

This is not a self-esteem thing. I wasn’t feeling unworthy or what-have-you.

This is not about my ex. That’s water under the bridge and I’m not harboring any hopes or could-have-beens about him.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on. I just know that there was no way in hell I was going to call either one of them, or pick out an outfit and try to look pretty and show up in a bar and make dumb small talk or any of that first-date nonsense.

Just can’t do it. Not yet. Maybe never. Maybe this time I’ll have to drag myself out into the real world and not hide behind a computer. Or maybe I will go back to the internet dating sites when I’m ready.

I always say that online dating is like shopping at T.J. Maxx—you have to dig through a lot of crap, but if you’re patient you can find some good stuff there. Maybe I just have to build up my stamina a little bit before I’m ready to hit the racks again.

This is it: I AM Grown Up

every child

Crayon image courtesy of http://www.public-domain-images.com

This is how I remember our house in 1977: green shag carpet, a brick fireplace in the center of the family room wall and padded bench seats built in on either side. I kept my paper and crayons inside one of those benches. I had a little table in front of the bench, and that corner of the room was my artist shop. (I was only five, so I didn’t know that artists have studios.) My mom would place orders for pictures and I would draw them for her.

Once, instead of a piece of paper, she let me draw on a long envelope. Because of the shape of my “canvas,” I drew a parade. I have a fragment of memory of that drawing, pencil horses attached to a circus wagon. In my memory they look just like high-stepping white horses with pretty arched necks. But I know if I were to get my hands on that drawing today, they would probably look more like kidney beans with legs.

I was going to be an artist when I grew up.

Like every kid, I changed my mind about this pretty often. I went through phases: a veterinarian, an actress, a truck driver, a writer. (The truck driver phase was inspired by “BJ & The Bear,” a television show about a truck driver who had a chimpanzee. When I understood that the chimp wasn’t standard issue, I let that one go.) But my earliest aspiration was to be an artist.

Fast forward 37 years and here I am, doing marketing for a specialty contracting firm. It’s not awful, but it’s a far cry from art. Over the last couple decades as a working mother, there’s been little time for creative pursuits. There have been scrapbooking sessions with my girlfriends and the occasional art class or workshop—those have been some of the brightest stops in the march of my days. But the truth is that art—the regular practice of it—has been missing, and I feel the lack in an anxious, pent-up way, like a dog that’s been kenneled too long.

My easel is collecting dust in a corner. My paints are dried up in a drawer in the garage.

This is not acceptable.

Today’s prompt in the writing challenge was to write about loss—and make it the first of a three-part series. I’ve written too much about loss already; I’ve wallowed in loss these last few months. I don’t want to write about loss anymore.

Instead, I’ve chosen to write about things that I plan to find again, losses I can take back. Art is an easy one.

I began this blog as a way to examine some of the questions of midlife, and here’s a good one: now that my kids are grown and my time belongs to me again, what am I going to do with it?

I’m going to make art, damnit. I’m going to set up a little corner artist shop like I had when I was five, with art supplies at the ready, and I’m going to default to my easel or my journal instead of my television at night. I’m going to draw and paint and collage and whatever else I can get my hands on.

I believe that the beauty of art is as much in the practice and meditation of creating it as it is in the finished product—in my case, probably more so. I think it’s important to flex your creative muscle whether you produce something “good” or not. So I’ll post about my process and how I’m taking back my inner artist. I’ll even show you my crappy circus ponies or whatever else I churn out.

I would love to hear from any of you who have managed to maintain a regular artistic practice. How do you incorporate art into your daily life?

 

Weekday Escapism: Bat Swimming in Baja

The air in Baja may be thicker than the air here in Orange County. I remember it heavy and soft like a blanket. When we deplaned onto the blazing tarmac, it hit me smack in the face, smothering, like my older brother had jumped out of nowhere and thrown it over my head. But that night by the pool, the blanket was cuddly and lightweight and welcome, sweet to the touch.

Of course, I was pretty drunk.

I could only feel the air on a portion of my face, the rest of me being submerged. When I relaxed completely, only my nose and lips broke the surface. Back arched, I floated dreamily as the glowing, balmy water lapped around me, filling my ears with those rushing, underwater sounds. The pool was empty; at two in the morning, most of the resort guests were still in the disco or paired off and cavorting somewhere.

I will never forget the view, straight up from the center of the pool, in the wee hours of a Mexican morning on that resort in Loreto. An enormous full-moon overhead, palm trees soaring on either side, their fronds fringing the edges of my vision, and something—I thought it was a bat, and I like bats—something swooping over the surface of the water.

The bat—it could have been a bird, though I know not many birds fly at night—was diving at the water. My impaired reasoning told me it was hunting, snatching up the bugs that floated on the surface.

There weren’t a lot of bugs. This would not be a pleasant recollection had the water been bug-ridden. As I recall it, however, with the good-natured bat hunting for appropriately distant bugs, this is one of the most relaxing memories I own.

Do bats eat bugs? I don’t know that either. It wasn’t important at the time.

I was twenty-seven, and it was my first time on a resort. My employer had taken the whole company on an incentive trip. As I have been most of my life, I was a broke, single mom and I left for an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico with fourteen dollars in my wallet and zero dollars in reserve, trusting that they really meant it when they said ALL expenses.

I wasn’t disappointed. Having grown up as one of six children, I was not accustomed to travel or resort vacations, or vacations at all, really. While I understood the concept of all-inclusive resorts, the pleasure of it didn’t really sink it until I got there. Yes, there really are unlimited free tacos and unlimited Coronas, even first thing in the morning, and you can pick any restaurant on the resort and yes, it’s actually free. Wake up in the morning, decide if you feel like swimming or kayaking or watching a show or doing a dorky activity and no, there’s no charge for that. Do whatever you feel like doing and it’s all free. I was in single-mom heaven.

At night we went to the disco on the resort, a place with air conditioning so violent it would have frozen me solid if I didn’t rush to the dance floor. Earlier that day we’d learned how hard it is to catch a buzz in Mexico, the common theory being that in 110-degree weather, you sweated it out before it hit your system. (Science!) I subsequently learned that gin will get the job done in any weather. Since dancing, in my case, requires a fairly significant level of intoxication, I ordered the resort’s featured special, the Singapore Sling, and proceeded to get my groove on.

The disco throbbed with bass-heavy dance music and sweaty tourists. I contributed my own gin-fueled moves to the melee, shaking it with friends, co-workers and strangers in a big, rhythmic huddle that even that ferocious air conditioning couldn’t penetrate.

Several Samurai Slings later, dripping with sweat, holding my heels in my hand, I padded out of the disco barefoot and swooshed back to my room. (When I am drunk, I have a heightened awareness of my feet propelling me forward, and I feel my deliberate, hurried walking like a swoosh.) It must have been 85 degrees in the dead of night, and though 85 was a delicious break from the scorching day, my disco-fever demanded a remedy. Only a night swim would cure me.

In my hotel room, I peeled off my sweaty clothes and tugged on my still damp bathing suit. I watched my feet propel me, swoosh, down to the pool deck.

It didn’t occur to me that swimming alone while schnockered was not very wise. The water felt substantial, dense like jello. I floated without trying. My hair spread out around my head like a mermaid’s, and my limbs were weightless.

I don’t know how long I floated. Five minutes? An hour? To this day, however, I clearly recall the thought that finally motivated me to clamber out of the pool. I became concerned, as I floated there with only my nose poking out of the water—I feared the bat might mistake my nose for a bug. They don’t see well, you know. I like bats but I didn’t want it to eat my nose.

There were several all-expense paid trips to Mexico from that employer, whose M.O. was to grind employees to an exhausted, stressed-out pulp, until we were all ready to quit, then revive us with margaritas and poolside limbo contests. Each year we swore we wouldn’t fall for it again. I fell for it for four years.

But to this day, when I am broke and stressed and longing for escape, I flash back to that tipsy swim in Loreto, alone with the bat and the moonlight.

Yoga Realizations: Abundance & Scarcity

Yoga. I never bothered to try it, because I assumed that a large, inflexible, uncoordinated woman with poor balance would not be able to do yoga.

About a month ago, I finally gave it a shot. All my girlfriends were doing it, and I just wanted to be cool. Peer pressure caused me to experiment with yoga.

I was correct. I can’t do it. And I love it so much, I wish I had tried it years ago.

I didn’t realize that yoga is magic. When you require your body to attempt what it really cannot do for a good solid hour, until you’re sweaty and exhausted, your brain apparently winds up in some kind of crazy super-freedom state that allows you to think beautiful new thoughts.

(Aside: I suppose this must be what certain drugs do for you, too….except if you do a whole bunch of drugs you wind up looking like shit, but if you do a whole bunch of yoga, you wind up looking awesome.)

I can tell you that I must look ridiculous in my yoga practice, which is okay because I can’t see myself. I’m sure I never look like a warrior or a tree or a crow, but at the end of class, I’ll be damned if I don’t think like a yogi.

This is good news, because my thoughts are kind of shaky these days. I’m still off-kilter from my recent breakup, and I spend a lot of time either sad, angry, or in a state of rigid avoidance. But for some reason, when I’m physically exhausted and instructed to clear my mind and focus on my breath, amazing thoughts radiate through my consciousness.

I know I sound dramatic, but here’s what happened in my brain at the end of a recent yoga class.

We’re sitting cross-legged (sukhasana! I’m learning!) and the instructor quietly suggests, “Extend your spine, take a deep breath and thank your body for all the hard work you put in today.”

Thanks, body. You did great!

“On your next exhale, round down over your feet and extend your fingers towards the front of your mat. It’s important to recognize how hard your body works and to appreciate all that it’s capable of. Hold that pose for five breaths.”

Hey, feet. Thanks for the hard work.

My feet are okay. They’re not weird-looking or anything and they never give me any trouble. I love my feet.

You know, I actually love my whole body. Hear that? I love you, Body. I have an abundance of love!

….I have an abundance of love.

….I’m not afraid of being alone because I have an abundance of love.

I really thought those things, all in a row, like popcorn popping in my brain. I was probably a little oxygen-deprived in that moment, because sitting cross-legged and bending forward like that causes the bulk of my belly to be crushed up into my lung-space, but whatever. It was worth it for that brilliant realization: I HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF LOVE.

The class progressed into the meditative portion, where you’re supposed to lie flat, clear your mind, and concentrate on your breath. So of course, that’s when my brain goes nuts.

This “abundance of love” notion rolled right into a burst of clarity regarding my recently-ended relationship. While our relationship was good in many ways, it was always marred by possessiveness and jealousy. I’ve never had that particular problem before, and I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why those problems kept surfacing, when I didn’t feel like I was doing anything to trigger them. I didn’t understand why we were constantly fighting over nothing.

And right there in yoga class, it came to me. Abundance versus Scarcity.

I have learned about abundance before, but I have always heard it applied to material things. An abundance mentality says that there is plenty for everyone. We can afford to be generous because there is enough to go around.

Scarcity is the opposite of abundance. People who live in scarcity feel that there is never enough, and so they are constantly fighting for their share.

I never applied the notion of Scarcity and Abundance to human relationships before, but BAM!—yoga clarity!—I suddenly saw how it works.

I come from a big, loving family. I was raised with the certainty that I am loved. I have a great circle of friends. I have kids who love me. I recognize that I am extraordinarily fortunate to feel an abundance of love.

I’ve never been one to feel jealous or suspicious; I’m very trusting. I’ve also never cheated on anyone; I don’t see the point—just love who you’re going to love. I have this crazy theory that almost all hurt feelings between friends are the result of misunderstandings, because I truly believe that people who love me would not intentionally hurt me. That’s what my life experience has taught me.

Not everyone has had that life experience. I suppose if you were raised in an environment that was abusive or unstable, or if you suffered through abandonment or infidelity, you might feel emotional scarcity. You might feel like you need to fight for affection, guard it and keep it to yourself. Once you have someone’s affection, you might feel like you could lose it at any moment, and easily become suspicious or jealous.

Suddenly all those fights, all that jealousy and possessiveness made sense. Why I felt so smothered, and why I felt like I could never do, or be, enough. We’re talking about opposite worldviews here. No wonder we couldn’t get along.

That just took me 900 words to explain, but during yoga, it flashed into my brain on one big exhale, like I breathed all the clarity in and all the confusion out.

Peace in… fear out.

Abundance in…scarcity out.

I’m telling you– you gotta try yoga.

Goodbye, Swoony McLovestruck

Seventeen months ago I posted about the absurdities of internet dating. Ironically, that very same night, I went on an internet date with a guy who knocked my socks off, triggered a series of lovestruck posts, and started me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could step off the dating merry-go-round for good.

Alas, dear readers; that is not how the story ends. Oh, it ended. Just not like that.

My big romance is well and truly over. So, I’ve taken the usual steps: crying, ranting to my girlfriends, buying shoes, drinking, eating, buying more shoes…and all of that helped.   I’ve taken healthier steps, too, like painting and taking long walks. I even tried yoga for the first time. (Wow, yoga! More on that later.)

Mostly, I’ve done a lot of thinking. It was hard for me to let this relationship end, because I wanted so badly for it to work. This is the first time in my adult life that I really threw my whole heart into a romantic relationship, because this is the first time that I felt like I’d found someone who was worth that kind of risk. I fell hard, and I think in the process, I forgot something very important.

I went through a lot of crappy internet dates to learn this important lesson, and one sweet romance almost blew it right out of my head.  A year later, when things were starting to unwind with my beloved, the lesson came back to me.

Here’s the short version: I can’t control what another person wants, and I can’t become what another person wants. Instead, I need to decide what I want. I need to be who I want to be, and find someone I want to be with.

When I was younger, and I first started dating, I worried all the time about whether guys would like me. Was I pretty enough? Thin enough? Sexy enough? Wholesome enough? Should I be more open? Or more mysterious? I’d be out on a date, gripped with insecurity, always worried about whether I was what my date wanted.

Then I got a little older. The beauty of getting older is beginning to accept yourself.  I’m not perfect, but I’m perfectly acceptable. I started to see what a waste of time it was to try to be what someone else wanted. When I look at myself now, there are things I want to improve and things I struggle to accept, but the bottom line is this: it is what it is, and really, it’s just fine.

Instead of trying to be what someone else wants, I need to decide what I want for myself.

That outlook greatly improved my dating life. I began to go out more, because I stopped ruling myself out.  In my early days of dating online, I’d look at someone and think, “I’m not his type”—even, sometimes, when he approached me first! I started enjoying my dates more, because instead of trying to prove myself, I focused on each person I met. I’m sure that made me a lot more fun to be around, too.

Eventually, this strategy led me to my boyfriend ex-boyfriend. (Ouch.)  For the first year, it seemed pretty close to perfect. When problems cropped up, I thought, well, all relationships have problems; this is worth working for.

So I tried hard to not cause the problems. I tried to be more tactful; I tried to be more communicative; I tried to be more available; I tried to be more feminine; I tried to be less independent; I tried to be less stubborn; I tried to be more open; I tried to guard my words; I tried not to upset him. I found myself apologizing for things I never knew were wrong. I found myself trying to change things about myself that I’d always been proud of.  I tried and tried and then I remembered:

I can’t become what another person wants. I can’t change what he wants.  I can only decide what I want.

The fights continued, but instead of trying to prove that I was a good girlfriend, I began to try to evaluate our relationship. Am I being reasonable? Is he being reasonable? Are we really compatible? Are we really loving each other?

Is this what I want?

It sounds selfish; I know. “Meg, really? It’s all about what YOU want?”

Well, yes. Because I can’t control what he wants. And I can’t be what I’m not.

Sure, I can work to improve myself, and I can work at being better in a relationship. “What I Want” includes standards for me, too: I want to be reasonable, gracious, forgiving, open and kind. I know that I fall short of those attributes sometimes, and I know when I’m not at my best. But I trust my own judgment. I know when I’m trying my hardest to be the person that I should be. I want to be in a relationship that allows me to be that person.

And I wasn’t.

So it’s over.

It hurts; I wish I could breeze through this on the confidence that I’m doing the right thing, but it’s not that easy. The right thing hurts too, sometimes.

And the question now is… what do I want next?

Wide-Open Writing

riverI love writing this blog. I haven’t posted anything in several months, but it’s never far from my mind.

I feel that my responsibility as a blogger is to give my reader some kind of takeaway: a laugh, a different point of view, a helpful insight…something of value. So, as I consider topics to write about, I’m always looking for that takeaway—what is the punchline? What is the lesson? What is different or interesting about this post that makes it worth reading?

Unfortunately, these last few months have been so overwhelming that I haven’t been able to boil the chaos in my head down to anything useful. I’ve been swept along in the current of my life– new job, new home, new relationship status/living arrangement, newly empty nest—and it’s been tough to stay afloat.

When I used the expression, “swept along in the current,” what I actually envisioned was more like falling off my raft on a whitewater rafting excursion: me, totally unfit for whitewater rafting in the first place, bobbing and flailing in a churning, twisting river with rocks all around. Periodically my head breaks the surface and I suck in a big gasping breath and then bam, back under I go. I’m not trying to swim in any particular direction; I’m not even trying to avoid the rocks. I’m just trying to remember which way is up and when I have the opportunity, breathe.

Over these last few months, my creativity feels dead. No writing, no painting…any creative effort I begin seems forced and frustrating.

Today I am feeling particularly overwhelmed. I googled for a lifesaver and found this gem from Pema Chodron:

Take the whole teatime just to drink your tea. I started doing this in airports. Instead of reading, I sit there and look at everything, and appreciate it. Even if you don’t feel appreciation, just look. Feel what you feel; take an interest and be curious. Write less; don’t try to capture it all on paper. Sometimes writing, instead of being a fresh take, is like trying to catch something and nail it down. This capturing blinds us, and there’s no fresh outlook, no wide-open eyes, no curiosity.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been struggling to find something blog-worthy to write—I’m trying so hard to capture something and boil it down that I have no fresh take, no wide-open eyes, no curiosity. No wonder I can’t find anything new to say.

A long time ago I learned a lesson about creating for the sake of creating, without fear of failure or pressure to achieve an expected result.  It was one of the most memorable days of my life. (You can read that post here.) Even so, the lesson seems to have gotten buried and writing this post has reminded me of it.

For writing, for painting, for whatever your creative process– and that includes the life you are creating for yourself–you don’t need to know how it will turn out. You don’t need to fear that it won’t be right.

The nature of creating is venturing into the unknown. True creativity is making something NEW, bringing something into existence that didn’t exist before.  If you’re in a true creative state, you’re not traveling an established path. So how can you possibly know you’re right?  More importantly, how can you be wrong?

See, I spend a LOT of time worrying about screwing things up. Can’t write this blog post; it might turn out stupid. Can’t paint a painting because I don’t have any ideas, or for that matter, painting skills. On a bigger scale, I have life decisions staring me in the face and I’m paralyzed that I will choose the wrong path.

So I started writing today not to achieve a tidy result, but just to feel what I feel, to look around me with wide-open eyes, and to practice creativity for its own sake.  As often happens when I start writing, a shape starts to form and I figure out what I’m writing about after I start writing it. In other words, I found my takeaway. It’s mostly for me, but I know there are others in my shoes who might find this helpful, too.

We create our lives. You are the first to walk your path, and I am the first to walk mine. Therefore, there is no established way: no right way and no wrong way. So we have nothing to be afraid of.  We can’t know how it will turn out, but we don’t need to fear that it will turn out wrong. It’s ours to create, and the process of creating is where the joy lives.

Thanks again to every one of you who encourages me to keep writing. You can’t possibly know how much that means to me.