Monday, May 18, 2015

Return to Who You Are

My friend Bunny Oliver shared a quote on facebook today. It said, "If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.”
Masaru Emoto - Secret Life of Water

Bunny is an artist. She paints gorgeous pictures of places she has been, flowers that have caught her artist's eye, changing seasons, and much more. She paints with vivid colors. She also paints with love, and her spirit comes through her work.

Her share on facebook this morning spoke to me. I know in my heart that we are given inspiration when we need it, when we are ready to see and hear it. I also know it is easy to block that direction and listen only to the white noise of stagnation. Ennui has its own sound. And it isn't one you would dance to.

Lately I've felt a definite lack of motivation to pursue the writing projects. For the past six years I worked very hard to create them, collaborate on them, and encourage them to leave the nest and fly. So, my recent months of energy loss has been puzzling and troubling. I wanted to blame someone else, blame the time of my life or something out there conspiring against me. I questioned whether or not I wanted to just let them go, to stop working on them and let them die a natural death. After all, they are not really something that will change the world, right? They are just books, stories and plays. Not literature of import. Why keep working so hard on things that don't really matter?

My perspective began to shift last night when our daughter Katie challenged some of my give-up mentality. I could hear the plates of my resolve-born-of-negativity grate against each other. That almost always signals an earthquake. But this time it is more of a breaking loose, a release like the small click when a door blows open that was not quite shut.

There is a big difference between white knuckling it, gutting it out, forcing yourself to say things you know are true but don't believe at the moment, and letting the truth sink in. Self doubt builds up calluses. We want to be the ones to say it doesn't matter, so that no one's "no" or lack of respect for our work can beat us to the punch.

Return to yourself. Who am I? Who is my best self? I must admit that I am happier, more fulfilled and more positive when I am writing, when I am excited about possibilities for sharing my work with the world. Honestly, if it matters to me and gives me joy, then it matters. If happiness is a choice, if it is born of gratitude and not bestowed on some lucky ones, why would I not choose it?

Disappointments can pile on thick in the writer's world. The prolific novelist James Patterson said he was turned down by 31 publishers for his first book. By the time it was published, he had six others waiting in the wings. He could so easily have given up, blaming others for his lack of success.

Another writer I admire, Anne Lamott, wrote about the character devastation that great success can cause. She told of writers she knew who became so full of themselves after making the best seller list that she no longer called them friends. For a little while, I toyed with the idea that I should stop working because that could happen to me. Seriously, that is worth a giggle. Not because it is impossible or merely highly unlikely. But that I should give up because I might succeed! Ha! Ha ha! Fear of failure/fear of success is exactly the same thing. Being ruled by fear.

Return to yourself. I was not born afraid. I was born to find joy, to believe in good, and to be of service. Hiding behind the excuses that seem sound and true is still hiding. I wasn't born to hide. I was born to bloom, muddy water be damned.

Creating something requires me to suspend my disbelief in myself. To overcome the notion that I have nothing to say. Thanks to Katie and Bunny,  I feel the tiny breeze from the crack in the door. I am allowing myself to stand in the breeze and let it blow my hair, let it blow the cobwebs from my imagination. All I need is a little fresh air. Just a bit. That's all I need to return to myself.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Little Feathers: Finding Joy

Little Feathers: Finding Joy: Last night I sat through a dance recital. I didn't have a child onstage, though I did have a fabulous choreographer/teacher/director bac...

Finding Joy

Last night I sat through a dance recital. I didn't have a child onstage, though I did have a fabulous choreographer/teacher/director backstage. I sat next to a man about my age who wiggled and squirmed and sighed his way through the program. Not sure who his dancer was, but he clearly wasn't enjoying himself. But I was.

Every spring for 15 years we watched Katie grow up onstage with Dancer's Workshop, so these recitals are part of wildflower time for me. The babies who scamper onstage and are thrilled just to find the tape marker that tells them where to stand. They watch the teacher in the wings for cues, or just make up something on their own. Adorable in their tulle and sequins with their hair glued into a ballerina bun, they hardly have to move to entertain. But entertain they do. Some boss their neighbors, some lose their shoes, some wave to Mom and Dad. Some are stage struck and don't remember a thing, a deer-in-the-headlights look on their tiny faces. Some actually have a musical sensitivity at age three. And some exude a joy that makes me smile and makes sitting through a two hour recital of other people's kids really fun. I hope their families recognized it too, and have the time and means to let those natural dancers fill up with the good things that come from studying an art you were born to learn.

All these years of watching dancers and I am still surprised by the unexpected dancer. The one who doesn't look like they would have stuck it out all these years. The one I end up watching more than the perfect bodies and flawless faces. The ones who dance outside themselves and give away their hearts. Like a singer who reaches through the radio and tells a story that can make you weep or laugh out loud, a dancer can forge a bond with the audience because they are authentically invested in the dance. The same ones who won't be picked for the pom squad. Like that voice that doesn't fit with the other pop stars, but you can't quit listening to because you hear your own emotions in their singing. The dancers who leave you in a different place when you walk out of the theater.

I am grateful for the teachers who open their minds and hearts to instruct in a way that leaves room in art for the individual to find themselves. Dance can be a very narrow, judgmental world, full of angst and anorexia. I doesn't have to be. People like Dawn Weiss, the owner of Dancer's Workshop, give a breadth to dance that lets young people find their way to the best end result of art. They are taught to dance. And to hold each other in esteem. And in that secure place, they can find their joy.

Between the little imp who stole my heart in the pink tutu number and the strong, heart pumping hip hop number by the almost-pros, were scores of dancers who had worked for months perfecting their recital pieces.  All those tuition payments, miles driven to the studio, lives arranged around the rehearsal schedules, all that effort by dancers and their families was about more than the time spent under the lights. It was about learning to dance, yes. But also about learning to respect teachers and fellow dancers. For some, it was about pure joy. The lucky ones who were born in a time and place that allows them to pursue their passion. And to share it with the audience. And lucky ones like me, who soak it up and go home lightened.