Artist’s Way: Paying Attention

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I started The Artist’s Way course again. I had such great success with it the last time, and spring just feels like a good time to begin again. So, last week I started with Week 1. Week 1 helps me identify the reasons why I don’t embrace my creativity. I had great success with my Morning Pages and even went on an Artist’s Date to get some stickers and fun things to decorate my journal.

Today, I started with Week 2. Right away, I was caught by the below sentence:

It is important to remember that at first flush going sane feels just like going crazy.

~~ Julia Cameron

This week’s lesson helped describe the crazymakers in our lives. They are the people who want to sabotage you in having your own life because they are either jealous or scared of living their own lives. Misery loves company, so they have all kinds of ways of distracting you from being your very best self and trying new things. I’ve had a few crazymakers in my life, and I’ve probably been a crazymaker at some point in someone else’s too. Life – and relationships – are just messy like that. But often we enjoy the sabotage that the crazymaking brings because it keeps us from getting out of our comfort zone and trying something new.

Three Oaks, MI – Loved the Rain Garden!

Her antidote to the crazymaker is to “pay attention” to your life. It sort of reminded me of my Alanon journey. After all, an alcoholic is a King Crazymaker. Drama abounds to get your off course. She had an Aunt with an alcoholic crazymaker, but her aunt minimized his effects on her life because she paid attention to everything little thing in her life. She wrote letters that outlined everything that was going on in her life and included the minute details about the weather, what was blooming and what was going on in her mind. By paying attention, she lived a full life and focused on what was in front of her rather than what was trying to pull her away.

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So, I headed out tonight to “pay attention” down at the beach. I left my cell phone at home and used a camera so I wouldn’t be distracted by social media. I’ll just leave you with the photos. I took one photo tonight that was an accident, but I kind of like the way it looks. I was trying to make a video of the waves and the beach, but I didn’t bring my glasses. I kept pressing buttons and couldn’t see what was happening. I had about 20 pictures of my feet from different angles. So, if you decide to head out to “pay attention” in some way, you can leave your phone but don’t forget to bring your glasses.

What got my attention in St. Joseph….

Have a great week, y’all! It’ll be Friday before you know it.

Blocking the Flow: Perfectionism

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Week 7 of the Artist’s Way – the first week of the second half of the workshop – was profound for me. I found myself the last two weeks feeling a little blah about my forward movement but trusting that the process was still working whether I realized it or not. My Artist’s Date last week was writing poetry in a notebook while I watched the barges go by on the Mississippi. I felt vaguely disconnected and mildly irritated at the structure that poetry requires, so I eventually ended up writing some free-form prose about the obstacles in a river flow, the frustration with traffic flow and the lack of flow in my life. It didn’t feel very inspirational at the time, but writing about it now feels inspirational. My prose rambled on about our innate desire to go with the flow even with all of the natural obstacles in our way. We do overcome if we are persistent enough. And, being persistent doesn’t mean fighting harder. It means trying again and again until something clicks.

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So, week seven’s reading was about Recovering a Sense of Connection. It was about connecting with the flow of creation. Of course, it was about connecting with God, the ultimate Creator. Julia Cameron makes the point that art is not about thinking things up. It’s about getting things down. I know that when I’m writing in the flow, the words come to me. I can’t keep up sometimes. After I wrote my first blog, I didn’t sleep well for at least 4 nights. I had so many thoughts and stories in my head that were fighting to get out. I wrote 3 times a day at times. It was as if ‘whatever it was’ wouldn’t stop. I wasn’t writing as much as I was transcribing.

Perfectionism is one enemy of stepping into the flow. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. My house isn’t neat. I go to work with cat hair on my skirt, and I don’t care. I fly by the seat of my pants sometimes at work, and I’m fine with it. But, I was totally convicted by Cameron’s lesson on perfectionism.

“Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop – an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole.”

I realized that I have been waiting to figure out what book would sell or what people would like or to identify my expertise. The need to know ‘what it should be about’ was paralyzing me from getting started. I’m getting some rewards from that. By not starting, I can still entertain the fantasy that I am a great writer and capable of making a living from it. If I start, I may not be so great. I may not make any money from it. My fantasy might fall apart in a huge puff of failure. What I’m not recognizing is that it is already in a puff of failure because I won’t start. When I read that section on perfectionism, I felt the hammer of awareness beating on my heart. The clouds lifted, and the sun was shining on my very own private demon. Yes, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was her one and only book, but that’s not the usual path for writers or filmmakers or painters. The norm is practice, practice, practice, fail, fail, fail, and create, create, create. I was so strongly convicted by that section that I immediately committed to scheduling several hours a week for writing. I was convinced that it wasn’t about WHAT I was writing. It’s about the fact that I AM writing. WHAT will come to me naturally … or it won’t … but I will have stepped into the flow in persistence.

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I’ve lived in two cities on the Mississippi River. I became fascinated with barge traffic in Memphis. The Mississippi River has always been a powerful transportation and trade avenue for this country. Empty barges are pushed upriver against the powerful current by tugboats – little warhorses designed only to fight the flow. I would see ads in the paper for tugboat captains and barge workers, and I’d fantasize about being on that river and stepping into and against that flow day after day. When the barges are loaded down with cargo – approximately 180 freight trucks in volume – they slip more easily into the flow of the river and head downstream. They are efficiently harnessing nature’s power to fulfill their purpose. They don’t try to damn the river or slow the flow. They use it by accepting it for what it is and adapting.

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The swamplands here depend on the silt and mud in the Mississippi River for their regeneration. Because people have tried to change the river by making levees, we are losing our wetlands in Louisiana. We tried to control it, and we are suffering for it. The loss of our wetlands is one of the reasons Katrina was so devastating to New Orleans. I cannot control the flow of creativity. I can’t direct it either. But I can ignore it. I am a tugboat operator. I need to leverage my power to step into the flow, load up with the tools I need and then let the flow take me. Cameron promises there are enough screenplays, books, paintings, dances and poems out there for everybody to create. She says they are all written and created in their entirety. It’s my job to write it down. I wonder which ones I’ll get to transcribe. My office is ready. I’m making the time. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Expanding the Boundaries of Dreams: The Artist’s Way

Follow your dreams and the universeThis week’s Artist’s Way exercises urged me to list 5 things I would do if I had all of the faith and money that I needed. When I got to five, I couldn’t stop, so I wrote ten. I’m sure I could’ve easily written 20. This was my list.

  1. Quit my job and be a coach for people trying to change their lives.
  2. Go on more retreats/Women’s Quests.
  3. Write a book.
  4. Go back to school.
  5. Buy a nice business location and start a business.
  6. Be a freelance writer.
  7. Get a lower paying job and move to the mountains.
  8. Get more animals.
  9. Buy a home in a really beautiful area.
  10. Buy beautiful clothes.

When I got to the workshop last night, we discussed our answers in our group. One woman wanted to live in a beautiful foreign land and open a retreat center for artists who were struggling. Another wanted to end poverty. Another wanted to own a house where she could play any instrument she wanted at any time of the day she wanted. As my comrades were discussing their dreams, I realized how much my dreams are influenced by money. If I review my list, I realize that I still dream small and within the context of being realistic. I don’t want to be too greedy. I don’t want to take too much. There are others who have needs too.

The purpose of this weeks’ lesson was to look at why we dream so small with attitudes of scarcity. If we really believe that anything is possible with God, why do we limit ourselves in our wildest dreams? When I think of the kind of workplace I want to be in, I think I’d love to be somewhere where I can show up as my colorful self and be appreciated for being wildly creative. What I’d really love to dream is that I work somewhere like Google where there’s no boundary between personality and work, and the sky is the limit on what I want to do and can achieve. What I’d really like is to work in a beautiful mountain home looking over the mountains and making so much money that I never have to worry about money again. Oh yeah, and I’d love to have great coworkers who have big dreams, and our work just keeps expanding and inspiring others to do the things that are in line with their God-given gifts. What I’d really like is for everyone to be paid what God thinks they are worth and to be able to unapologetically change the world. And while I’m at it, let’s have 3- or 4-day weekends. But, I can’t dream that. That would not be realistic, and it would definitely be greedy.

Why would I dumb down my dreams? It’s realistic to dumb down my expectations. We don’t necessarily get what we dream. But, a dream is just a path, right? It’s a goal that excites us and keeps us working in a certain direction. I know that I felt like my spirit was expanding just typing the above paragraph about work. Just knowing that there are no boundaries on dreaming – or even on work – made me feel really light and happy. And what if dreaming about the biggest dreams in the world all of a sudden made my small dreams – which seem hugely unattainable now – seem small in comparison. What if, all of a sudden, I would say to myself that I’m not being greedy to want to have a flexible work environment and really work to achieve it. What if by dreaming big, I made my dreams seem totally realistic and attainable? How would that make me feel?

Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way, says we hurt ourselves when we discount the abundance available in the Universe. We stay in work situations that are abusive or not compatible with our natures because we believe that good work situations are scarce. She says, “God has lots of money. God has lots of movie ideas, novel ideas, poems, songs, paintings, acting jobs. God has a supply of loves, friends, houses that are all available to us.” But we often insist on relying on a human source of supply. We don’t ask God for things or let Him guide us. We focus on people to meet our needs, and they don’t have all of those things. A friend of mine realized she was making Uncle Sam her Higher Power when she was totally focused on solving her retirement dilemma by obsessing on social security. Once she let go of her relentless hold on realistic Plan A, God immediately showed up with amazing speed with a better Plan B.

I remember when I moved to a new job in Michigan back in 2000. I got myself in a financial bind because of a bad relationship, and I started doing the things I needed to do to cut back financially. I cut my budget way back. I started trying to find a new job and exploring schools to start a new career. I was killing myself to try to find a new way to support my life. Nothing worked. I finally gave up, and I started working on my spiritual life and accepting where I was. Once I got into the flow with God and became grateful for being where I was, I was asked to participate on a team that was exploring new business ideas for the company. I was asked to permanently lead a project, and I was told that, because of the responsibilities involved, they would have to pay me a lot more money. They usually couldn’t make those kinds of salary jumps, but they were going to have to in this case. My salary almost doubled without me having to lift a finger. I would have never even considered asking for something like that to happen. That would have been greedy.

The payoff for dreaming small is that I get to keep my free time. I get to avoid the work of changing. I get to sit back and think of all the things I could do if I was given the opportunity. But, I don’t have to step into fear and see if I actually CAN do them. What if I step out to try and I fail? It would no longer be in the realm of possibility. Our facilitator last night talked to us about the human tendency to favor loss aversion to gain. A book she is reading says there is scientific proof that loss is registered much more intently in our brains and in our psyche than gain. If I think about my own experience, it is true for me. My divorces are much more powerful motivators than the fact that I had two relationships that actually provided love and companionship for a period of time. My actions and desires are more motivated by avoiding failure in a relationship than motivated by the fact that one might work out. I’ve known so many people who were grateful that their spouse finally left them or they got laid off because it forced change on them. What if I tried and failed? It’s better to stay with what we’ve got.

I don’t have a resolution with this week’s lesson. I’m still exploring it. But, I think I’m going to write about some more expansive dreams in my Morning Pages tomorrow. I’ll ask myself what I would dream about if I really had all of the money and faith in the world. I’ll tell that little girl that is afraid to be greedy to be quiet while I dream. And the interesting thing is that if I had all of the money in the world, I don’t think I would be greedy. I think I would give a lot of it away. So, it would benefit lots of people. It’s only when I’m dreaming small that I continue to lack resources to make a big difference. We all win when we dream big.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

Sunday Night Check-In: A New Rhythm

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The new East Baton Rouge Parish Library

My weekends are taking on new rhythms in the last month or so, and I quite like it. Friday evening and Saturday I was dealing with moving the bed out of my guest bedroom. I brought it to my parents’  house in Pierre Part, and, early Saturday morning, Momma and I made the drive over to my sister’s house in Cottonport to bring Momma’s bunk beds to her. We ended up spending the day shopping, fighting traffic and eating lunch in Lafayette. It was a fun, impromptu excursion that netted me a thrift store shirt and a great long visit with Momma. I was beat when I got home, but I was energized enough to create my writing space and cook myself a nice dinner of sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas and roasted beets.

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My haul from Luckett Farms

Last week I got my first week’s haul from Luckett Farms’ CSA subscription. I netted oranges and grapefruit, spinach, cabbage, sweet potatoes, green onions, broccoli and sugar snap peas. I decided I was going to have a weekend full of fresh veggies to help fight off the infection from my tooth issues and just because … well … I deserve it. I made a short trip to Trader Joe’s for some fish, ground beef and dairy, but the rest of the week’s fare will be primarily fresh vegetables. If the veggies are always like this, I’ll have eight weeks of yummy, good-for-me plant food. At $25 per week, it’s a steal to get this locally grown, in-season and mostly organic produce. My inner vegetarian is going to be a happy herbivore.

The New Library

This morning I woke up and got a 40-minute run out of the way early. The forecast called for heavy rain all day, so I figured I’d best get it while the gettin’s good. It ended up not raining all day, but I was glad I got the run in early. I got productive and did some spring cleaning right after I did my Morning Pages. Normally, my Sundays are pretty lazy, but I’m trying to start writing for money, and I’ve got a new little business venture percolating with an out-of-town business partner. So, my Sundays for the last couple of weeks have been part work and part trying to get things done that need to be done around my house. No more procrastinating for me on weekends anymore. I have to move it or lose it.

I quit working about 4 PM, and I wanted to get my Artist’s Date in today. My children’s book about Ashok’s adventures is still on my mind, but, since I didn’t have children I’m not a children’s book expert. So, I took off to the East Baton Rouge Parish Library to check out their children’s book section. I read about a little African-American boy who learned how to see the positive in his neighborhood amid the ‘bad news’ as he named it. It made me sad that some children have to play in areas that are unsafe and not very sparkly and clean. I thought the book was precious, and it opened my eyes to some experiences that I’d never had as a white child growing up in the country. I also read about a kitten who was chasing the moon and Clifford the giant dog. It was an entertaining afternoon, and I think I have some ideas for my book … or maybe a series. We’ll see what happens. 🙂

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The Children’s Area at the Library

If you are in Baton Rouge and have not visited the new East Baton Rouge Parish Library on Goodwood, you should definitely go. Most nights it’s open until 10 PM. They have a Career Center with Career Services, job boards and all kinds of books. Of course they have computers, digital media and plenty of books and magazines. The children’s section is colorful and bright  and a special teen section features books for young adults. BREC is building a coffeehouse right outside the library, and I can’t wait to check out some books and head over to the coffeehouse for the afternoon. Today, people were sitting outside in the courtyard area, and there was lots of activity going on inside. The library’s Career Counselor is hosting the Artist’s Way workshop that I’m taking, and the library’s calendar is jam-packed with great workshops. I registered for one that teaches you how to get involved in the film industry down here in Louisiana. I can’t wait to see what they say. After all, I can edit video!

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Tonight’s dinner was edamame and spinach sauteed in olive oil with whole garlic cloves and buttered sweet potatoes. It was delicious, and I’ve got plenty left over for lunch tomorrow. The animals are all resting while I finish up my blog. They seem to love this new office as much as I do. Bella has a perch in the bookcase amid the yoga blankets. Ashok has a bed right beside me, and Buster always chooses my lap whenever he can. I got a phenomenal amount of work done this weekend. I feel really satisfied. I was worried I might not feel rested, but doing work that I really enjoy doesn’t seem to tire me. It seems to give me energy. So, even though I was much busier than usual, I love the new rhythm.

I had a thought today that having some ‘inside’ work that invigorates me might help me get through the summer here. I have to say that as the calendar flies by, I’m getting increasingly anxious about the summer months ahead. How will I handle the heat this year? I can’t take another year like last year. My plan is taking shape, though. I’m keeping my running to shorter distances, I’ve signed up for the Live Streaming Fitness workouts which I can do inside, and now I might have some interesting work to do inside in the AC. I plan to take a summer vacation to somewhere cooler around July or August. Things are definitely looking up. I hope y’all have a good week. I’ve got another busy one ahead of me, but it’s a good busy!

Living in Every Room of My House

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One of the things on my ‘to do’ list for a very long time is to set up a writing space where I can actually write on my desktop computer. I know that if I ever want to write a book or do freelance writing, I need a space that is conducive to real work. Although it might seem I could pound out a few hours squeezed between my dog and two cats on my chaise lounge, it’s not really realistic. So …. drum roll, please .. I set up my writing space today. Yes!!! Yes!!! Yessssssssss!!!

For many, many years I had a recurring dream that haunted me even when I was awake. It was one of those dreams that was so vivid and real that I often woke up and wondered what part of it was real and what part was just fantasy. There was something in it – and in its effect on me – that sparked an inner knowing that it had a message for my soul. It’s been many years since I’ve had the dream, but I thought about it today, and I thought about in reference to creating a new space in my bungalow here in Baton Rouge.

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This particular dream was always the same. I owned a that had one story with a basement. The first floor was the floor where I lived. Sometimes I was married, and my husband lived there with me. I had it decorated, and I felt very comfortable among my things. But there was always an entrance to the basement that was rather dark and dirty. It was often unfinished and sometimes covered in mud and very thin boards that looked unnavigable. In the dream, I’d go down the dark stairway with some trepidation and was stunned and amazed at what I found.

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It was like a movie set from the Titanic or something. Cobwebs hung on fabulous chandeliers. It was massive. Room after room stretched at least 3 times the size of the upper floor. There was always a ballroom furnished with beautiful and opulent furnishings and fabulous floors. Oriental rugs, beautiful artwork and functional and comfortable furnishings were completely untouched except for the dust of neglect. I always felt that the basement was the more beautiful space, but I felt so overwhelmed by all of the work that would need to be done to revive it.

As I walked through the basement, I felt was guilt and a huge sense of loss. My heart hung heavy because I could not imagine using all of that space, and it sat there in all its grandeur, dead to my world. And I owned it!!! It was mine.  As I progressed through my personal work after my second marriage ended, I realized that this basement symbolized the part of me that I had neglected. It was the part of my soul that felt too big and too overwhelming to touch. And, maybe, in some sense I didn’t think I deserved anything that beautiful. So, I buried it in the basement of my soul. My procrastination and fear at looking at that historical stuff was signified by that decaying and filthy pathway that led to those riches. It was unattractive and literally quite scary. But once I started to explore my own interior design, I could see that it could be beautiful with a lot of work. I haven’t had that dream in many years. I like to think that I began to live in all of the rooms of my house.

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After I completed my project today, I was reflecting on the journey to living in all of the rooms of my house today. I’ve wanted to do this, but I think in some way, I didn’t want to make the commitment. Maybe I was afraid if I really made the space, I’d have to ‘be a writer’, and I would fail. Or maybe it wouldn’t make me happy. It was somehow easier to make excuses and leave this front room of my house as a guest room for guests that rarely ever came. Almost as soon as I started the Artist’s Way, I committed to moving that bed out of the guest room and creating my space. And, last week, my massage therapist sent out an email that she had a desk for sale. I knew it was mine, and I knew it was time.

My brother Sammy and his wife helped me move the bed to my parents’ house. Momma has wanted a nice grown-up bed in their guest bedroom since my nieces and nephews have started to outgrow the bunk beds. She and I took the bunk beds to my sister Susan’s house in Cottonport for her grandkids. The bed my parents now have originally belonged to my Aunt Willie who gave it to my paternal Grandfather. It’s been making the rounds in our family for at least 3 generations. I hated to let it go, but I knew I needed to make the space and create some movement. And, let’s face it, it created a domino effect that helped fill a need for all of us.

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So, this is my first blog in my new space. My cats aren’t frustrating me by laying on my laptop. Buster is in my lap, and Bella is purring contentedly in the bookcase on top of the yoga blankets. Ashok is still in the living room although I have a bed here for her. The energy feels different in here. I feel more focused. I hear different noises, and it’s definitely easier to write on a large screen. I need a lamp with softer lighting, and I need to get a futon or some solution for guests. I’m in the market for something used and in good condition. I feel sure it will show up just when I need it.

I wonder what will happen in this room. I wonder if doors will open, and air will move. Even though it’s dark now, I know the sunlight will be warm and cozy. I need some Kleenex for the inevitable tears. I hope to fill this room with things that I love, and I most definitely want it to love me. For the last year and a half, the door to this room has been closed, and I’ve used it as a storage room. It’s been dead in the sense that I didn’t enter here except when I had to. Just like in my dream, I want to live in all of the rooms of my house. And I hope that this room … this new space that I’ve opened up … will be the grandest part of my house. I hope it is the place where I expand and grow beyond my wildest dreams. My heart is filled with gratitude for the Artist’s Way, my family, my massage therapist’s timely gift and all of the tiny gifts that made this happen. Throw back the curtains, Dahlin’…. I’m home.

Synchronicities and Unexpected Gifts: The Artist’s Way

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When I started The Artist’s Way program at the library about a month ago, I expected I would be in for an adventure. I needed an adventure. I needed something that would dilute the anxiety-filled rut I’d dug myself into with some positive energy and challenge. The Artist’s Way is a program that is designed to be a spiritual path in creativity. The philosophy, and one which I wholeheartedly believe from personal experience, is that we are all creative, and creativity is born through God. We are merely a channel that opens into the creative flow of the Universe. I have felt it when I’ve written my best stuff. Some days I just write. I’m more of a ditch than a channel. Other days, I’m not writing. There is something bigger and more expansive than me that takes control of the keyboard and literally blows me away. I’m left breathless when it is over.

One of the key tools of the journey is The Morning Pages. The Pages are three hand-written pages of composition book-sized paper each and every morning. There have been a few times I’ve done Afternoon or Evening Pages, but, for the most part, I’ve done Morning Pages. Our facilitator says it doesn’t matter when you do them, just do them. The theory is that the free-form writing will clean out your head of the garbage rolling around in there so you can clear the channel. I know how powerful journaling is. I’ve experienced it before. But, I love the fact that I have to do 3 pages every day. Many times I find myself writing “I don’t have anything else to write. This is frustrating.” Other times, I can hardly believe I’ve filled up 3 pages so quickly. Mostly I write about what’s happening in my life until I’ve exhausted the external stimuli. It is only then that I get to how I really feel. I imagine this is a small micro-cosm of my reality. I let the events of my life overshadow what I bring to the table. The exercise has been empowering.

Everything that I’ve been procrastinating for the last year has been marked off the list in the last month. I finish my pages, and I’m energized. My house is cleaner than it’s been in a long time, and my bathroom literally sparkles. In my writing, I realized that I WANTED my bathroom to be clean. It wasn’t something that I should do; it was something that I wanted to do for myself. And, I got up one day and did it. I met a guy I like, and I’m dating. I took my vacuum cleaner apart and cleaned out the whole thing. I planned a trip to Tulsa to see Jessica. I signed up for a workshop at The Red Shoes. I’ve been meditating every day. My running program is on track. I’m sleeping like a dead person. I’m dreaming. And I’ve begun to tolerate the negative events in my life with a lot more acceptance. I’m even finding a few writing topics that interest me again.

Synchronicities increase when I’m getting seated as the channel. What others may say are coincidence I see as confirmations that the Universe is blessing my path. When I met a new guy for lunch the first time, there was a lot of laughter. I drove up, and the restaurant was on fire. He was standing in front of the fire truck talking to me on his cell phone. He jumped in my car which, of course, was a mess. I normally would have been horrified, but we were laughing, and it was fun. We went to a Mexican restaurant where the waiter promptly tripped and threw chips all over us. I felt like God was kidding around with me getting me to lighten up and pay attention. I have no idea if this will ever turn into anything serious, but it was fun, and it gave me hope that God does care about those little things that matter to me. And He’s willing to show up with His uncanny sense of humor and play.

I’ve been percolating a business idea for a long time but have been stalled because I just couldn’t see how to make the time or get the energy to launch it. I contacted an old friend to say hi, and he’s been percolating the same idea and was needing a partner in crime as well. We are already moving ahead with some ideas to tip our toes in the water to see if this might be a fit. I was stunned when I realized that this was falling into my lap. In this morning’s reading in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron described my feelings exactly, “It’s my experience that we’re much more afraid that there might be a God than we are that there might not be.” My first reaction was one of fear that this might actually be supported and happening. Be careful what you ask for … you just might get it.

This program is asking me questions about what I enjoy, what sounds interesting and what things might interest me but I know I will never do. A picture is emerging of an adventurous gal with a thirst for learning new things. At the same time, I’m watching my nephews hit growth spurts where they are rapidly becoming young men. Tall and lanky physiques are replacing little boy builds. Every time I see them I am stunned by how much they have grown. I feel like I’m growing like that inside. I’m changing internally rapidly. I feel like I’m holding on for dear life with an emotional helmet secured on my head. I keep looking down to make sure my seat-belt is fastened and listening intently for engine trouble. I can’t see where I’m going, but I know I’m getting there. Thankfully, I’m in a place of trusting the operator to guide me where I’m supposed to be if I just keep my legs in the car and my arms up over my head. “Enjoy the ride,” He seems to be saying. “I’ve got this.” Cameron gives the analogy of seeing your blocked self as a car wreck. I am up walking away looking at the crashed vehicle I’ve been riding in for awhile. Right now, there is no new ‘ride’, and I may be without one for awhile. But I’m alive. That alone signifies potential for growth.

The Limiting Power of Fear

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Tonight was the first night’s study of The Artist’s Way. We explored the ways our creativity has been blocked through our lives. I never really thought I was creative until I started writing this blog. I thought of myself as sort of dry creatively. And I think I was. But, when I started writing, I began to shuck many of the fears that I had about showing up as who I am. It wasn’t intentional, and I honestly didn’t know that I wasn’t. But in looking back, I realize how much I’ve grown. I never would have gotten the courage to start writing if I hadn’t been courageous in my personal growth. It was a process that started slowly and continues to build.

I shared some of my early feelings about being creative. My Dad was a long-time celebrity sportswriter here in Baton Rouge. I saw writing as a career. I knew I could write. In fact, my first job out of college was as a beat reporter at the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen TX. I wrote free-lance off and on but finally gave it up because it was not lucrative at all. I remember my writer husband editing my writing. I got really frustrated because it seemed like my writing must have been horrible with the number of changes he recommended. I finally quit, thinking I’d never be able to do it at the professional level. I never thought about writing for fun.

The beauty of blogging is that nobody is going to critique it. I can write whatever I want. Sure people can make some nasty comments, but, for the most part, they don’t. In fact, most of the time there are no comments at all. I’m left with my own inner critic. It is the freedom of not being right or wrong that allows me the freedom to write creatively. Now, I’m wanting to learn a little more about the skill of writing, but it’s taken me awhile to get there. I’ve even had people recommend that I find a way to make money off my blog. I don’t want to because I don’t want to start censoring what I write by what I think would make money. That’s not the point for me. Maybe one day I might write a blog that would make money, but it would be a business blog. Midlife Moments is about me… and for me. It’s my little space in the world where I can show up when and where and how I want to with no rules. Isn’t that what creativity is all about?

One of the things I realized tonight is I have self-censored myself more than anyone else ever has. My Dad came to me one night after I first moved here and apologized that he had sort of steered me away from writing as a career. He had always wanted me to have a high-paying career so that I could have financial freedom, and journalism is a notoriously low-paying gig. I thanked him for saying that, but, really, I was never that obedient of a child anyway. My choice not to go into journalism was much more about my fear of being able to perform up to the standards necessary in chasing a story and putting it down on the page. I was a chicken, and I had little self-confidence. I had to grow into myself before I could step out into such a public arena. I envy people who did that early in life.

I have always had this fear of not being able to perform to expectations. I know that I’ve held myself back. I know that I’ve not developed my talents the way I could have. I also have a fear of success. What if I was successful and then people would have these expectations of me that I couldn’t meet? What if I landed a great job… started my own business … married a great guy … or wrote a best-selling novel? What would that mean? I’m comfortable shrinking. I’m not so comfortable expanding. I told this coach one time that I was afraid to look for a new job even though I needed to because I was afraid. I feared they would expect too much at the new company, and I would be found out as the fraud that I am. She told me that every executive she ever coached said the same thing. Apparently, many people have this fear that we’re really not as good as we’re supposed to be .. that who people think we are is so much better than we really are. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve shared this story with because they’ve mentioned the same fear to me. It is really common.

What if I could step into the power of who I am? I have a meditation tape that urges me to think about a belief that I have about myself. “What would happen if you let go of that belief?” she implores. I always feel such a relief when I think of that belief of my not being good enough vaporizing into thin air. I can feel the rush of power moving up through my chakras and exploding into my heart. I feel the joy of being free and acting without the shackles of unmet expectations holding me down. I want that so badly. I know it’s as easy as letting go of it, but it’s also as hard as lifting a 5000 pound boulder.

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The only way I’ve found to change beliefs about myself is through the power of other people. That’s what is drawing me to this workshop. I know that I can’t shift this on my own, and I probably won’t shift it in the next 12 weeks. But what if I could budge it? What if I could let go of it just a little? Could that help me open up a little more? Then I may be able to open a little more after that? Change comes really slowly to me. Tonight when I got home, I drew a Medicine Card. I got the Horse card. Horse medicine is about power. Man walked slowly upon the earth until he learned to fly with Horse. It was a game-changer for man.

Horse urges man to realize that wisdom is power, and there is wisdom in our ENTIRE life journey. Looking back over our entire lives will tell us many things we need to know. I learned a lot tonight in looking back on my early experiences with creativity. I learned that there were people that encouraged my creativity, and there were people who didn’t. But, the biggest blocks I had were self-imposed by limiting fear.  Could that knowledge be the ‘horse’ that changes the game for my creativity. What if one day I could fly across the sky? The journey continues…

Life as a Creation: The Artist’s Way

“Art is a spiritual transaction.”

-Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way

About 20 years ago, a book came on the market called The Artist’s Way. Many of my friends over the years told me I really needed to read it and submit myself to Julia Cameron’s ‘course in discovering and recovering your creative self’. That bold claim is made on the cover of the book. I bought it once, intending to work through it. Like many books I’ve purchased, I started it but quickly dropped it aside when life got in the way. Every time I hear someone mention it, I always wish I had gone through it at least once but never enough to actually submit myself to it. But I happened to hear  on January 2 that the East Baton Rouge Parish Library was starting the 12-week workshop in late January.

I mentioned last week that I see myself in a new life right now. The old one is gone. The new one has yet to begin. I want to create something special. One of my friends reassured me that I’ve re-invented myself many times, and I can do it again. I rather like re-inventing myself. I’m sure there is comfort in consistency and stability, but I’ve never been able to get there. Many of my friends here are retiring in the next few years from the jobs that they began right after high school. They’ve put in enough time, and they get to reap the benefits. I have to say I’m jealous because I still have another 10-12 year career ahead of me. In fact, I was shocked when so many people I knew were talking about retirement.

FullSizeRenderIn other places, people move around more and don’t retire so young. I’ve asked myself if I wish I’d stayed and had this long retirement phase ahead of me. Absolutely I wish that I could do what I want to in the 4 or 5 years and stop with the working girls’ grind. But then I think of what I did with my life. Could I see myself staying in one place for all of that time? Would I be the person that I am now? And would I like her? I’ll never know the answers to those questions, but I know that I would not like to lose the adventure of moving to Seattle without knowing a soul. I’d hate to know that I never walked on icebergs in Lake Michigan in the early spring. I’d be very sad to have missed all of those early morning bike rides in Cades Cove. No, I lived the life that I wanted. As a young teenage girl here in South Louisiana, I dreamed of living in many different places. I always had wanderlust, and, like the powerful woman that I am, I created that for myself. Sometimes it feels like it just happened to me, but I know that I created it. My spirit felt free enough to fly and land lightly on many different shores. And I’m the better for it.

So I stand here on the precipice of another grand adventure. I could see it as the end of my travels and coming home, but I don’t know if I could tolerate that vision. I’m not ready to close it down. I don’t yet know what I’m ready to create here. And I’m not all that anxious to find out. I know that creation is a process, and, if I try to rush it or control it, it will be less than it could be. So, I’ll be patient to see the outcome. But, I cannot be patient for the process. I love the process of creation. There are times when I write when I am cognizant that I am not writing anything. The words are flowing through me. There is something beneath the blood and bone that is so much more powerful than what I see on the outside. I never really saw myself as creative until I started writing this blog, but now I see that I was creative all along. Creating a life … creating relationships … creating love … creating adventure … creating a portfolio of work … creating my own brand of spirituality …. all of these come from an internal source. And I love the process of letting it surface.

I knew I had to do The Artist’s Way. I think I knew all along that when the time was right, it would command I do it. And I believe that time is here. I went to the introductory session last night, and the room was packed. We were briefed on the premise of the workshop. It is an exploration of our own spirituality and our relationship with our soul. It is not about art… in the sense of a finished product. Our leader Ann told us that about 1/3 of our group would not return next week because that journey inward was not what they had in mind. And that’s okay, too. Just like me in times past, the timing is not right. The session lasted about 45 minutes, and when I turned around to leave, four women with familiar faces were looking at me from different spots in the room. It is the first time I’ve run into anyone I know here in Baton Rouge. One woman I had met in yoga, another I met at a Meetup Group, and the other one is a dear friend who brought her daughter. It felt surreal to me to be surrounded by so many familiar faces unexpectedly.

After exchanging names again, we sat down to chat excitedly about what we were all trying to create in our lives and what brought us there to that conference room on a Thursday night. We ended up talking for over an hour and a half. We are all embarking on this journey of introspection to discover who we are so that we bring focused energy to our careers and in our relationships. I left feeling supported and very blessed. That moment when I turned around and saw those faces is burned into my heart. The spark of hope was like a promise from God that there is life here for me. And now I feel patient. For I know that the process has begun. Whatever I will create here will become a part of my grand adventure. Spirit is waiting to blow life into it. And I am – gratefully – an empty vessel once again. I can’t wait to write it.

“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.”

– Piet Mondrian