Have you been unable to mesh doing what you love with your real-world responsibilities? Have you wasted valuable chi fundamentally torn between what you think your life should be and what it actually is? Cycling through what if’s? “What if I had insisted on always putting my passions first? Would I have ended up destitute on the streets of LA?” “What if I had studied medicine or law instead of literature and theater? Would the art bug have ever stung?” “What if I had focused my energy on money? Would I have been satisfied with my life? Would I have been content? Why couldn’t I have focused even just minimally on material wealth? Idiot.” “What if I had been more self-confident? Why couldn’t I have approached my desires without so much fear?”…
Wait. I’ve lost focus from you, lovely reader! These are the hardened hemorrhoid-inducing turds of my own constipated mind! Well, you get the gist of the inner debate that I’m talking about. I have a sneaky feeling that this sort of infuriating inner conflict plagues all but a very evolved or fortunate few, and sadly, has fueled the ongoing malaise and apathy that has weakened and continues to debilitate the spiritual core of our society.
At cafes and various meeting points, during gatherings with colleagues and friends, I often hear a din of incessant whining, the blaming of employers, teachers, parents, siblings, husbands, wives, lovers, etc. for lives that are less than satisfactory. And it angers me, perhaps because this propensity to whine still exists just a little bit within myself, and I despise it. When times were tough, my own personal style of managing the inner chatter was to squelch it, to refuse to allow those feelings in my head to materialize into words that might possibly exit my mouth. That would make them real. Immediate family members had no idea how miserable I was. I became silent. I retreated. Don’t do it the way I did, folks. You’ll make yourself physically ill.
Truth is, I’m not quite sure how one should manage that inner malcontent. But left unchecked, he can become insatiable, consuming all your mental real estate and literally make you crazy. At this point, I’m tempted to get all pedagogical and generalize about the crazies I know, what they do and what you shouldn’t do. But I won’t go there. I mean, what do I know?
I’ll stick to my own experiences and tell you about some ideas and practices I found along the way that have worked. Instead of prefacing each statement with an “I think” or the like, I’ll assume you know that I’m speaking only for myself.
1) I try to stay present as much as possible. When necessary, I remind myself that the past exists nowhere except in my own mind. Giving love keeps me present. Getting my hands into the dirt helps me get there. Playing with my dogs or watching them play with each other totally works. Savoring the food that my chefly man prepares for me. Art and craft.
2) What has also begun to work for me is the regular practice of gratitude. This has not been difficult as of late, because truly, thank God, life has never been better. All that I love about life exists in abundance. I’d like to think that when life was full of those “character building” challenges, the good I took time to acknowledge to myself and to my higher power bred more good, culminating in this wonderfully sweet time of life. We all know the saying that everything happens for a reason. Yet how true it is! Ultimately, had there been no financial, professional, nor spiritual struggle, I don’t think I could appreciate all the love that surrounds me now. And I’m sure that my own heart would now be sad, atrophied, and flabby. I’d probably be a Republican. No, I’m just joshin’ about that last part. I’ve actually become a lot more politically conservative in recent years.
3) Another thing that seems to have worked for me was to do what I love, at first not for anyone’s benefit but my own, and making a commitment to do it every day, even when it felt like there was no space in my life to do these cockamamie things!
Lately, I have been spending most of my time contemplating color, texture, the many organic patterns to be found in nature. So much so that I’m dreaming in images. No stories. Just hurtling waves of wild color tethered to reality by a thread. It’s thrilling. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my unconscious mind will continue to be so generous with me. And I’m forcing myself to make rough sketches of what I dreamed before my capricious memory decides to throw out this good stuff.
I’m writing, mostly journaling with a bit of dramatic stuff thrown in. In writing, there is a catharsis. A way of retaining the details of our deepest, most painful experiences as well as those precious, life-affirming ones. But for any of you who write, you know it is also a way of letting go.
I played around with paper this weekend. I made this weird flower.
Making this bloom got me thinking about memory. I was interested in creating a vascular effect on the petals. As I experimented with my stash, I realized that despite some diligent and enthusiastic study in botany several years ago, all my knowledge on how a plant sustains itself was GONE. In entirety. I’m wondering if decades of teaching grammar basics pushed the stuff I treasure out my ears. But I’m also thinking it could have just been the passage of time. How difficult it sometimes proves to coax my obstinate memory into letting go of experiences I’d rather not keep. And yet how carelessly she’ll toss the wisdom I so deeply treasure.
Anyway, I was able to create a vid of the card on which this bloom sits here:
Check it out on the tube! Comment and subscribe here and there. Thanks for following, and Happy Valentine’s Day, all! A toast to love, a many-splendoured thing!!!