Monthly Archives: May 2011
I’ve been meaning to read “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” by Sylvia Plath for years and last night, I finally did and I loved it. I love Sylvia Plath because something about her life and work draws me in. She’s one of those writers I feel like I know somehow because I relate to her so well.
I have no intention of offing myself, but the connection between creativity and depression fascinates me. The thing I think I relate to the most though, is her struggle to own her writing. To trust it.
You see, Sylvia wanted to be a highly-paid travel journalist and to publish short stories in popular journals. Poetry was just a release for her and sadly, she didn’ t become famous until after her death. She agonized over every word, she doubted herself even though she was a fabulous writer of prose and poetry. She married a successful poet and felt that she lived in his shadow because her career never took off in her lifetime. She waited for that validation from other people-the publicity, the paycheck- to be happy and acknowledge her gifts. She didn’t trust herself at all, and I think it was that turmoil that finally killed her.
I know what it’s like to be depressed, to agonize every every word and feel like I’m dragging the prose out of myself because I can’t reach that place where it flows naturally, to fear and yearn and strive but feel like I always fall short.
Sylvia, why didn’t you see how amazing you were?
After reading Johnny Panic, I realized how important it is to trust our gifts. We need to trust our creativity, recognize our talents and put them to work. Enjoy them whether we’re making money from them of if we’re not quite there yet.
I know I’ve doubted myself. All my life I’ve wanted to be an artist and writer, but after a few years of a near creative paralysis, I actually considered that maybe that wasn’t my calling. Maybe I should give it up, go back to school and get a real job. Now, I realize what a heinous thought that was.
You have gifts. We all do. They’re meant to take care of us and to make the world better. Hiding them is irresponsible. Here’s a few tips for trusting your gifts and bringing them out into the world.
- Develop self-love- In order to trust yourself and recognize your gifts, you have to love yourself. When you love someone, you see their strengths. When you don’t like someone, you only see their weaknesses. Make friends with yourself.
- Take care of yourself- if your emotional, physical or spiritual channels are plugged up, your creativity won’t flow. Take care of your body, express your emotions, give yourself the emotional space you need to have stillness so you can really think and ponder about things. Keep everything open; the flow of emotions, your bodily systems, and your mind.
- Find a safe place to play- if you don’t feel safe to experiment, express and even fail, you’ll always be stuck in some serious creative muck. Find a safe place, whether it’s a physical place or a mental state that allows you to open up and let things pour out. Don’t worry about making money yet. Don’t worry about anyone seeing what you’re doing. Let go of the urgency. Once you’re comfortable doing this in your safe place, practice moving it out into the world.
- Be like a child- Do children doubt themselves? Do children worry about what other’s think? Do children ever worry about failure, or that their scribbles aren’t good enough to adorn Mommy’s fridge? Play. Make a mess. Paint with your fingers if you want.
- Keep your mind open and be optimistic- Don’t be afraid to try new things if you discover one thing doesn’t work for you. Instead of putting a price tag on your satisfaction, invent your own definition of success. Enjoy doing what you’re doing just because you love doing it. Find the good in struggle, because struggle is all about learning.
- Be grateful for your gifts-You say “thank you” when someone gives a gift, so be grateful for your talents. They’re there for a reason; to make you happy, just like a gift that comes wrapped up with a bow.
- Know your purpose- Know what these gifts can do for you, your loved ones and the world. Even if you’re not sure, just understand their value. If this is hard, make a list of all the things you can do with your gifts and your life, then go back and read it and see which ones hit home with you. Keep refining this list and pondering it until you get it.
Do you ever feel like you’re getting in over your head? Or that you’re finally coming into a dream you’ve always had but you’re scared stupid because the journey is a little treacherous?
I feel like that right now. And I believe it’s a good thing.
I found an incredible piece of wisdom last week:
“Fear is just excitement with the brakes on.”– Maria Forleo
How perfect is that? I think we can all tell the difference between fear of danger and fear of the unknown. It’s the different between the fear you experience when someone almost hits you in traffic and the nervous excitement before boarding a plane to somewhere you’ve never been.
I’ve experienced creative fear before, but this is entirely new because I’m moving into the unknown. It’s not a fear of not getting what I want, it’s the fear of getting what I want and not being able to handle it, or not being worthy of it. I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m figuring it out as I go.
Everyone goes through a time like this I hope, because it’s a sign of growth. I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned about getting through:
- Have a guide. Find a mentor or a coach to point you in the right direction and provide support. I can’t tell you how valuable it is, because it’s like having someone to hold your hand as you walk through a dark maze.
- Take baby steps. Stepping out of your comfort zone is part of the game, but if you get too overwhelmed you’ll freeze. Grow in little bits at a time.
- Take care of yourself, love yourself, be your own best friend. Believing in yourself is the most important thing you can do.
- Remember, you deserve it. Everyone deserves to be happy, and whatever is coming is meant to make you happy. Receive it with grace.
So something happened yesterday that hasn’t happened for a few months: I ate compulsively. It wasn’t an obvious binge, but over the course of the day I noticed that I never felt hungry once, but I never felt satisfied and I kept eating. I didn’t get upset or anything, I didn’t think those awful thoughts that usually come with a binge. “Why are you doing this?! You’re so weak. You must not care about your body. All the hard work you’ve done, and you throw it away just to keep tasting.”
Nope, none of that. I just let it happen, knowing that something wasn’t quite right with me and that I didn’t quite have the strength to deal with it in the moment, which is fine. So I ate, and it all tasted delicious.
Later in my journal, I realized that I might just need to go back to the basics.
I believe that all compulsive eating behaviors come from a mixture of emotional and physical roots. I know my physical and chemical roots well, and the way I ate yesterday-lots of sugar and simple carbohydrates, no protein, healthy fat or veggies-could only set me up for more binging. I’m sure my blood sugar was going nuts.
After the emotional work I did last week, I know that I’m still struggling with the feeling of urgency, of feeling rushed and trying to relieve that tension by eating. Though I worked out the feeling last week, I haven’t let it go yet.
So what did I decide to do?
This week, I’m hitting my reset button and returning to the basics, to what I know works for my body and mind.
- Eating foods that make me feel good (lots of veggies with some fruits, nuts, eggs, fish and sprouted grains) and avoiding the foods that mess up my body signals (sugars, dairy, white flour)
- Eating consciously-chewing thoroughly, eating at the table without a book or my computer, and blowing off mealtimes and eating when I feel like it.
- Joyful movement, my way. This usually means a good walk or run in the morning, a few shorter walks throughout the day and my yoga practice.
- Taking my time, removing all the pressure. Taking time to do yoga and study my scriptures, taking time to lock myself in my studio to play or just think if I want, and taking time to be slow.
- This comes from a place of self-love and a desire to heal.
- Unlike a diet, this is all about removing pressure on the body and spirit
- This is non-obsessive and feels like a relief. It’s not exciting the same way dieting. It just feels good, like falling asleep after a long day.
I’ve struggled to eat intuitively this week and my body started feeling awful. Stomach cramps, heaviness, headaches and very stiff. I came home for my lunch break last night and sat down to figure out what underlying feelings were messing with my body and driving me to eat when I wasn’t hungry.
My go-to method of emotional exploration is to simply sit quietly and list whatever pops up in a notebook, and yesterday I came up with several things.
- We haven’t had sunshine in a few days; I feel a little gloomy.
- Feeling rushed, overwhelmed with balancing my full-time day job and my creative work. Feeling insecure about getting my career started.
- I can’t relax.
- Keep preparing for the future and creating my career, but enjoy creating now. Enjoy where I am in my life now, which is working a day job while I create to embody my purpose while learning to market myself.
- Cultivate a mindset of abundance with time, and then slow down a little. I have the time to write, study, paint, and perform self-care. Get back into my yoga practice and meditation to keep my body limber and to release tension. Before and after work is a probably a good time to do this.
- Dissolve the feeling of urgency that causes me to feel rushed. I can take all the time I need to accomplish what I need to.
- Are you taking time for self-care and your creative work, whatever that may be?
- Are you allowing your “work thoughts” to follow you home and keep you running on high even when you’re not on the clock?
- Are you operating on an imagined sense of urgency?
- Are your expectations too high?
Ok, let’s back up for a second. I participated in last month’s Self-Discovery Word-by-Word, and I loved it so much I wanted to contribute to this month’s too. When I realized that this month’s word is “Anger”, I almost decided to skip it. “What do I know about anger?” I thought. “I hardly ever get angry.”
That was two weeks ago, and since then I’ve realized that there are two kinds of people in this world that don’t get angry: People like my Uncle Rhett, who never take crap from people but deal with it in a low-key way, and people who get walked all over and pushed around until they finally explode.
How did I never see it?
I’ve never been good at standing up for myself. My mom often says that when I was little, I never got candy when the pinata broke because I wouldn’t dive in and fight for it like the other kids. I cry when people get mad at me. I avoid conflict of any sort and when someone pisses me off, I keep my mouth shut.
I’ve lived this way all my life, afraid to express any emotion I considered negative or inconvenient for other people and those corked-up feelings manifested in my body though weight gain, adrenal fatigue, compulsive and restrictive eating, depression and anxiety.
When I discovered Intuitive Eating a few years ago, I realized that I had a whole underground chamber of emotions to sort through before I could ever be free of eating problems, and I’ve only recently reached the point where I can deal with these emotions without gorging myself on chocolate chip cookies. I’ve slowly let my suppressed anger bubble to the surface so I can experience it and then let it go.
I’ve learned that emotions aren’t good or bad, they’re just emotions, and I’ve finally…finally…given myself permission to experience them. I’m not a bad person for feeling angry or sad or competitive. With this kind of emotional freedom comes a greater ability to experience feelings and understand their roots, to go deeper and deeper and fully understand why I hurt in the first place. With this understanding comes freedom of choice: “Should I really let this bother me?” or “Is this really a big deal?”. It’s like a ladder to greater mindfulness, and embracing my anger was the first step.
Now, emotions allow me to gauge how I’m doing and how I need to take care of myself. They’re like pressure gauges and thermometers. Pissed off? Time to get some space. Overwhelmed? Time for self-care. Resentful? There’s a misunderstanding somewhere and we’d better work it out.
In this sense, anger is a gift for self-awareness. When used properly, it’s a tool for self-improvement. Learn from it, experience it, use it. It’s a beautiful thing.
This post was written as part of the Self -Discovery Word-by-Word series. The May series is hosted by Jules at Big Girl Bomshell. Get details here to participate!
I’m honestly not sure how to start this post.
21 years ago today, we lost one of the greatest creators of all time.
I was almost two years old and already a dedicated Fraggle Rock fan and Sesame Street devotee. I grew up watching VHS recordings of The Muppet Show with my dad and I’m sure this influenced the development of my off-beat humor.
I could launch into a bio of Jim and explain why he was so important to the world, but I’ll leave that to Wikipedia and instead explain why he’s so important to me.
I racked my brains to come up with a term to accurately describe what Jim is to me. Exemplar. Paragon. Shining example of what I hope to accomplish with my own gifts and talents. “Role model” seems like the most obvious word, but I already have lots of role models, like my parents religious figures.
“Creative role model” seems to be as close as I can get to describing Jim’s influence on me, because that’s what I admire about him the most: the quirky, childlike imagination and creativity that he maintained throughout his life. It’s a rare person who hangs onto that beyond childhood, and it’s an even rarer person who trusts that imagination and uses it to bring so much joy and wisdom to the world.
I’m not currently a filmmaker or puppeteer (though if Jim were still around, I probably would be.) I’m primarily an artist and writer, but I find that when I’m connected to my creativity, my childhood imagination is still strong, but with the added wisdom and experience of adulthood. I love silliness and quirky humor. I hope to use my talents and abilities to create joy and bring people together, and I hope that I can see potential in everything and everyone the way Jim did. Who else could give such life to pieces of felt and feathers?
Everyone needs a creative role model, someone whom we admire and who embodies what we hope to accomplish. Whether living or dead, having this person in your mind is almost like having a mentor to guide you through creative decisions and career choices. The trick to this is first knowing what your gifts are and how you’d like to use them, so if you aren’t sure of that start there first. Then, that creative role model should be obvious to you. I’m not saying you should try to copy anyone else, but we learn best by example.
To end this post, here’s a few facts about Jim and how he used his talent:
- Children’s television used to be dry and purely instructional like a classroom on a screen. With Sesame Street, children learned with songs, colorful characters, and fun stories.
- Jim took children’s television a step further when he created Fraggle Rock, a children’s show meant to increase international understanding, because Jim believed a lot of problems occur because people don’t understand each other. In Fraggle Rock, several different races must cooperate and though the show is tons of fun (I own the entire series on DVD) it deals with serious issues like prejudice, spirituality and environment while teaching good values like friendship and sharing.
- Jim brought puppetry and film together by using new camera techniques such as using the frame of the camera as the stage so the puppeteer could work out of sight. He also created new puppets that combined the marionette and the hand puppet and were made of felt and foam rubber. These new soft puppets could express a wider range of emotion than clunky wooden dummies or primitive hand puppets.
- Until the Muppets, puppets were only considered entertainment for children. The Muppets were entertainment everyone could enjoy.
- According to those who worked with him, Jim was a joy to be around. He saw potential in everything, loved to laugh and never said anything negative about anything others created. If he didn’t like something, he’d simply say “Let’s try something else” or “I really appreciate what you were doing, can we look at it another way?”.
It’s basically the same list. I added somethings, removed some, and got a lot more specific about some. The travel section got a lot bigger and more specific. Also, if you haven’t made your Handprint List yet, why not?! I’m giving you a homework assignment. Make one. Today. Then send it to me, or submit a link. I’d love to see it! I’m also thinking of creating a special page for everyone’s Handprint Lists, so if you’d like to be a part of that, let me know!
My list will continue to evolve, so check it every once in awhile and you’ll probably see something different.
Aaaaand, you may have noticed that I finally got my own domain name so welcome to handprintsoul.com! Aw, my little bloggie’s growing up!
Thanks so much to all my readers for your great comments and support!