One of the most debilitating things I see happen to my coaching clients and students is temporarily losing the connection with their most sacred inner, creative selves.
That inner self is the very source of creativity, love, sense of place and unbending motivation. To lose connection with that sublime, powerful self is to waver and wobble upon your rightful and fulfilling path through life. The longer the connection remains lost or dormant, the more pain and suffering you experience.
In 1986, I was living in a beautiful house about 2 blocks from the beach in Hawaii. My kids and I got along great. I had a nice car, clothes, food in my belly–and I even had the ‘job’ of my dreams–doing my paintings and sculpture, and showing in exhibitions in Hawaii and internationally.
Yet I was miserable.
I couldn’t figure it out. I had everything everyone asks for, but I still had intense fits of depression that left me feeling broken, weak and sick. I spent hours crying and feeling sorry for myself. My thoughts were utterly black. I kept asking myself, ‘why???’
So I did a radical thing. I put my favorite things in boxes and shipped them to a friend who agreed to hold them for me. I sold all of my books–a huge collection–and all but a few of the very best pieces of my collection of my artwork I had made over the years. My kids went to stay with their dad. I sold my Volvo and gave up the lease on my house, and flew to California.
I really had no idea what I was going to do when I got there. All I knew was that some major thing was ‘off’, and I needed to find out what it was. I knew it wasn’t a material get-something-and-I’d-be-fine thing. There was a piece missing, some invisible inside-answer, and I needed to find the question.
When I got to California, I bought a Toyota Forerunner and fitted it out so I could both travel and sleep in it. My tent, a tarp, a sleeping bag and 3″ foam mattress, a box of clothes, a box of tools &cooking stuff, one box of papers and writing materials, and a large cooler were all I gathered. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing fancy.
By the time I felt ready to go on the road, I had found what the question was: my dear friend Scott, who was holding the things I had saved, asked me the night before I left, “Will you be carving or painting on the road?”
My first thought was, “Don’t be silly! Of course!” But I stopped my mouth from actually saying that because the question arose in my mind that had been bugging me all along. At last, I identified it!
Ever since I can remember, I’ve had an intense, intimate relationship with paper, pencils, crayons, pens and paints, clay and fire, stone, wood, tools–you name it.
The question that arose was when Scott asked me that was: “Is it really ME who wants to make art, create things, build stuff? Or was it that I became an artist because it was simply a habit after being told to ‘go sit down and draw’ so many times as a kid when someone wanted me out of the way? Is it really mine?”
So right then and there I decided not to make one more thing until I could know–KNOW–unquestionably, irrefutably–that it was mine, and that it came from a place so deep that I’d never doubt it.
I left the next day. Over the next two years, I drove through all 12 western states and part of Canada, visiting friends, camping, going into retreat, processing feelings, doing vision quests, swearing across endless deserts and climbing to amazing, almost unreachable forests, lakes and mountains hardly anyone ever gets to see, walking for miles, washing in, camping by and fishing in wild streams and lakes–all to see if what I used to do and what felt so natural to me was really mine.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that my resolve to abstain from making things felt like it was going to kill me. There were times when I wanted to make something–anything! Just make it! It felt like insanity. If you’re any kind of artist or creator, you understand that.
But then a doubt would hit me and I’d stop. The urge didn’t feel deep, only habitual. Survival-based, not gut-based, not soul-based. I committed more deeply that if it came from that need or that insane feeling, I wouldn’t give in.
Come late December 1988, I was staying in my little tent by a crashing stream in a campground way up on Mt. Sopris in northern Colorado. On a morning when I awoke to find myself buried in snow three feet deep, I finally relented and sought ‘real’ housing somewhere locally–I was almost out of money and couldn’t get back to Hawaii yet.
I found a place nearby where I could rent a tiny vacant summer cabin for a couple hundred a month. I got a job as a receptionist at a gym in Carbondale, anearby town. Can you see it? Standing at a podium-like thing in a smelly gym all day greeting customers after two years of living outside with no restrictions? Unbearable.
I lasted 2 weeks before I was fired. Good! Yay! Somehow I managed to get by in that cabin for 3 months more, even with scant supply and how much I detested the weather and freezing my butt off.
On one particular day at the end of January, it snowed enough to completely cover my vehicle. Cover it. Completely. If I had had to get out, the only way to do it would have been snowshoes–AFTER digging a tunnel UP to the surface of the snow.
I asked myself (again) what the heck I was doing there in a climate that was 100 degrees less than what I was used to and loved–was I out of my mind? Well, yes, I was. I still had not connected with that elusive inner whatever-it-was yet. My determination rose up in me like an iron fist. I resolved, ‘I’m going to find this even if I freeze to death here.’
I put on more layers of clothes and plopped down in my rocking chair by the woodstove to try to warm up. I had the woodstove, the oven and wall-heaters all going full blast, but because it was a summer cabin, it wasn’t insulated and lost heat as fast as I pumped the heat up.
So now I had on every piece of clothing I could add. I covered up even more with a down quilt, and was still cold. At that moment, I hated the cold, Colorado, the snow, myself and my life. I felt so sorry for myself–I was a pitiful mess.
I slumped into that chair and rehashed how stupid I felt for coming over to the mainland, driving over 50,000 miles in 2 years through forests, towns, desert and no-man’s-lands, on highways, back roads, and no roads. I berated myself for the millionth time about doing all this ‘stupid camping and questing’ when I could have been back in Hawaii warm and tan and healthy.
After all that time of not knowing who the heck I was or what I was doing, looking for connections and only finding snippets now and then, I had gotten snared by a habit of thinking a generally continuous stream of ugly, self-deprecating thoughts. I allowed myself to wallow heavily in those feelings practically 24/7.
As I sat there that day in my cloudy half-daze, half-doze, complaining bitterly to myself and blackly enjoying my self-hatred, part of my mind was absolutely detached from this sordid drama, and was playing with fleeting glimpses of what I would do with that piece of wood in the wood pile near the stove.
In a kind of dream-like trance as my surface mind bitched and complained, I watched as my energetic hands held tools that took out that little mark there, carved off the protruding piece there, made that crack a bit deeper…and I suddenly realized that, despite the cr*p I was experiencing and creating with my conscious mind, there was, indeed, a part of me that was deeply creative and absolutely non-stop original and unique.
I saw very plainly that even if I was dying, I would still have the most basic urge to create.
I suddenly felt shunted from one universe to the next, faster than a flash!
One minute I was deeply depressed and immersed in self-hatred and despair, the next I was laughing so hard and feeling such joy I could barely hold myself in my body. I’d found it! It really was mine! It really wasn’t that my parents gave me materials and sent me to a corner! It was that creating was what was natural for me; they saw it and fed it!
I had spent years blaming them for ‘not seeing’ me or ‘who I was’–like I was this gleaming star they were blind to! I had complained and raged to my friends that my family ‘didn’t support’ my artistic journey, that they ‘didn’t help me’. Oh, man.
How blind. How self-obessed and arrogant. What a disgusting, unfair, self-righteous lie. Hello? Let’s see:
Who had paid for and sent me to art school?
Who had complimented me on my art projects?
Who gave me feedback to help improve my work
(my mother was a landscape and portrait artist, my
father a talented woodworker)?
Who had given me art supplies my entire life?
Who turned a closet into a darkroom and bought a
camera and expensive supplies for me when I chose
to take a photography class?
Who stayed up with me when I needed help the
night before something was due?
Who encouraged me to do new and different things
with my materials?
All those years I had been living a complete illusion, a full-blown fantasy about my parents, who they were, what their values were, and what our relationship was based upon.
And my own identity, my self-image!?! Nothing but an old, worn-out, exceedingly, excruciatingly, boring story. I was playing the same lousy, grating song over and over, relentlessly.
Now here I was, simultaneously almost beside myself with joy about finding this inner connection with my own creativity, but also feeling deeply ashamed and embarrassed about how I had seen and treated my parents and myself.
It took a while to realize that this is called growing up, maturity, sanity. It slowly became OK with me to have been such a mess. Because I asked myself what would it have been like if I had never gone on my quest? I’d still be hanging out in shame, blame and resentment.
Then I even allowed myself to feel grateful to have seen and appreciate the contrast. I realized that I held so much power, so much potential, so much possibility! If I slid into guilt, shame and blame again, I’d lose it. It’s been my joy to never again have lost it. It’s been elusive at times, I won’t lie to you, but it’s never again been buried like it was.
So my question to you is this: have you found that unrelenting, delightful, impeccable, life-giving self that you really are underneath everything else yet?
Do you know that it is there for you whether you know it or not, and will patiently wait for you every time you throw a disconnect?
And that it will return as if nothing had ever interrupted the connection, like a dear friend who continues with “…and…” when you get back together again?
And if you have found and are aware of it, do you nurture and grow that precious gift of you?
What do you do when you find yourself ‘off’ or disconnected? How long does it take to reconnect? Have you ever wondered what to do to spark that reconnect, and how to do it faster each time? Have you developed new, supporting habits to get yourself back through both the obvious horrors and the more subtle pulls backward?
I use tapping. It works.
If you don’t know about tapping, which is one of the most powerful tools that I personally use to keep my sanity and joy, I invite you to get some FREEbies on how to get sane again, how to release pain, hurt, and the rest of the stuff you don’t want in your life.
Get it all right here: EFTinEveryHome.com.
You don’t have to travel for mile upon dusty, dry, backwoods mile for 2 years to find your answers. You don’t have to hang out in confusion, hurt and depression. It really can be a journey of brilliant joy and immediacy.
I request and invite you to take really good care of yourself, that you nurture that delicate yet steel-strong part of you that loves to create and contribute to life itself.
You and your unique set of knowledge, skills and talents are needed–now–and the longer you hold back, the longer the rest of us have to go on living without knowing how wonderful you are. We want the gift of you!
I love you –
p.s. Get the audio fromthe Conquer the 3 Most Crucial Marketing Mistakes teleclass here (FREEbie): IDareYouRadio.com/conquer-these-three-crucial-marketing-mistakes, and use Mellow Marketing™ to get your products and services out there!
p.s.s. I love you, even if you don’t!
Comments are open….
Angela Treat Lyon • The Gateway to Angela: AngelaTreatLyon.com. You’re welcome to use this in your own newsletter or blog as long as you would please include the whole article and resource box with the live link. Thanks! © Angela Treat Lyon 2009 • All Rights Reserved