So for the last several months, I’ve been in quiet panic mode. I went from wanting to create, to not wanting to. From forcing myself. To frustration. To having something to say and yet not knowing what it was.
And one day…guidance came to me on my Twitter feed when artist Steve Puttrich posted:
Steve Puttrich @StevePuttrich
"In fear...how does one remember how to paint? How does one remember how to breathe? Anxiety can wear many masks. And yet... there is wonder."
Bam. There it was. My dilemma summed up in Twitter’s 140 character count. Thank you, Steve. So…what was this fear rising in me. How to get it gone?
What started as a mix of emotions around my mother’s December passing—settled in as anxiety. And the anxiety went from houseguest to tenant. This anxiety—this blocked energy has not wanted to go despite my best efforts:
I tried to be more mindful in yoga. I tried to be more mindless at yoga. I put away my art supplies to take the pressure off. I pulled out my mom’s paint brushes and had frenetic painting sessions with French lounge music and magenta paint . I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
The fear in me grew. What if that light-hearted spirit that guided my art was lost to me? Like an unwanted boyfriend, the more I pushed away, the more this fear wanted to sit on my shoulder and hang out.
And then came Pema.
So what did Pema Chodron bring to this pity party? She says to embrace fear. Look to it as a friend. SMILE at your fear. Dive in and in the embrace --in the acceptance of this fear,--you will find courage. Don’t play it safe--don’t run from it-- be in it, full fledged and you will be fully alive.
I love her message, that we can “spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters of our minds.” So this “fear” that I felt moved into my home—was it a bad thing? Was the anxiety perhaps more about a process of taking chances? Of propelling my work to a new level? Of creating work that might not resonate with others, and may be not even with me? But isn’t that the allure of art and creation? To take a chance? Make a leap? Do what scares you? Do what others might not be doing, at least not in quite the same way? And if no one joins you in celebrating this journey, this new challenge, this new expression, is it any less worthy?
So Pema says to “Place your fearful mind in the cradle of loving kindness.” To allow your self to be without judgments and in that openness to your self, you are more open to others. You have more compassion. You are a better you.
So I did that today. I invited the fear into my studio and we painted. Along side of my fear, I felt excitement and spontaneity. I felt my creative juices flowing. The fear is still here and maybe that works for me. Maybe that is my sign that I am on my edge—pushing myself in some scary, but important way.
So maybe this houseguest will move in permanently and we can not only happily co-exist, but maybe this fear is a brilliant teacher for me.
Actors talk about stage fright being an important part of their performance—that sense of energy and aliveness that it brings. So I don’t expect this journey to be linear—I expect to trip and fumble, but it looks like if I am committed to it being a journey of newness and creativity, I have to invite this new found “friend” along.
My respect for artists and innovators is immense. Whether you are a Picasso or singing at an open mike, the unveiling of new works to the world—the ultimate public nudity—takes ultimate courage.
May you be willing to risk it. To do what makes you fearful. To try a challenging yoga pose. To post your a poetry on Facebook. To write a blog that tells the world how anxious you’ve been (!). To try something that takes you to the edge and get a little giddy when you feel that underlying anxiety and the exhilaration that quickly joins the party.