I can't know where I am going if I don't know where I am. I can't know where I am if I am not awake, aware, and listening. The journey (again) starts right here, right now.
I can’t say that I’ve exactly misplaced my creativity because I know where it lives. Everyone has their own creative room, not necessarily a physical space, but a place in their soul where their voice resides. I know the room that holds my voice—it was built especially for me but lately I’ve been staying out. My pen feels like an amputated appendage and my keyboard like a frozen pond. I’d like to tell you that the post election storm has gotten in the way but the naked truth is that writing exposes my fear. The last two months I have stood at the door many times and considered pushing it open but there’s a snake that always slithers in the shadows. I’ve never seen this slimy, slippery creature but I can hear his whispers,
“Don’t go in. You won’t find anything. You won’t like what you find. It’s too scary. It’s too hard.”
And so I don’t. I find other ways to hold time even as it slips through my fingers. Sometimes there’s panic—tick, tock, tick, tock, I should be doing more. And sometimes it feels fine. I have a full enough life. I love and am loved enough. I am safe enough. I am warm enough. I am fed enough. I am healthy enough. But is enough . . . enough? What about those who do not have enough? I go back to the door—only to leave again. Rewind. Repeat.
Dizzy from my dance with ambivalence, I decided to send my snake a note.
We know each other but we haven’t actually been formally introduced. Please come out the shadows. I know this must come as a surprise—it surprises me, but I’d like to have coffee and a chat. I promise not to kill you. It occurs to me that as much as you scare me, I must scare you. Do you have a name—a story? You must be more than the serpent of the Garden of Eden fame or Nagini, Lord Voldemort’s pet snake that almost took out Harry Potter. When I think about it, your life kinda sucks. I wouldn’t want to live on my belly—I wouldn’t like the view (or the dust). You must be lonely—I wonder if that’s the price of being feared. Perhaps you don’t really like the shadows. So why are you here, really? Could it be, like all of us, you just want to be seen?
Strange, but this simple exchange caused a glimmer of change. My chest expanded and then air moved out my nose. I realized that my jaw was clenched and my shoulders were tight—I decided to let them soften. The hard edges of my inner life began to feel fluid and cottony—cloudlike. Wow, there was so much light! And then the OMG moment—I was writing.
Here’s a revolutionary idea—rather than berate my stubborn resistance to the things I supposedly want to do or the person I want to be, what if I was curious and kind. What if I held whatever state I find myself, with open arms and a soft gaze? Contrary to the shaming, punishing narrative, I don’t do my best work when I scowl and click my tongue in judgment and disgust.
Christopher Germer, PhD., and Kristin Neff, PhD., self-compassion researchers and founders of Mindful Self Compassion say, “We give ourselves compassion not to feel better but because we feel bad.” Self-compassion is not a self-help technique. It is not a “fix it” strategy. Self-compassion is like the loving kindness that an ideal parent or friend or pet or God would give as they pulled up a chair to see and listen to our tantrums, rage, depression, joys, hopes, and fear. It’s a presence that never runs out of second chances. It has infinite patience and knows how to wait with gentle eyes that say, “As long as you need . . .” And here’s the part that is hard to wrap my head around; this presence is not a perfect parent or friend, or a sweet pet or a loving God (although any of these compassionate beings can help me get there), This compassion comes from me. Like all truly precious gifts, it is a gift that only I can give. In this self-compassionate space, I re-discover my voice—my creativity—a story that is waiting to be told. Self-compassion reveals that I live in rooms that are too small and that there is sacred truth in the shadows—slippery, slimy creatures waiting to be explored.
Daily Bites and Blessings
Welcome to "Daily Bites and Blessings." Pull up a chair. I’ve set a place for you at the table. These edibles are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and often they are both. This is a come as you are party. I invite you to bring your compassion, courage, and curiosity as we dine together on life's bounty. May our time together give us more light and more love.