Monthly Archives: August 2013
I’ve been working on a chapter for my book that’s all about fantasy vs. Beauty.
In the chapter, I reference this profound story from Anne Lamott’s Some Assembly Required where she talks about her trip to India and her dream of seeing the sunrise over the Ganges from a river boat. The only snag was when they got to the Ganges pre-dawn, on their very last day in India, the entire river was socked in.
“It was a thick, white pea-soup fog—a vichyssoise fog—and apparently we were not going to see any of the sights I’d assumed we would see, and in fact we had come here to see. But we saw something else: We saw how much better mystery shows up in fog, how much wilder and truer each holy moment is than any fantasy.”
I tend to love the fantasy, the uninterrupted ease and perfection of the fantasy. Beauty, on the other hand, can be hard-won and not often as glamorous as I’d like. “Beauty”–the real deal–can leave us saying, “I’ll take the fantasy, thanks.”
But, life hands us fog more than it hands us clear skies, I think. And we have to find a way to live in the fog, find meaning in it, find ourselves and God in it. Sometimes we have to find our way through it, instead of choosing the myriad of ways we try to escape it.
We have to intrinsically value the fog, even though it’s not as easy-breezy as we might prefer. We have to believe that the fog could offer gifts that the fantasy never could.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Why is it so hard for us to hold out for the Beauty? Why do we want to cut right to the fantasy? What have you learned in the fog that you would have never learned had life been perfect?
Thanks for your input!
Steve and I have just returned from a truly needed and truly magical weekend away in the Monterey/Carmel area. I could go on and on about the details of this weekend and what we ate and where we hiked and all that we talked talked talked about (with no! interruption from our three wide-eyed beauties (who I adore) which was total euphoria), and perhaps I will circle back and give you some of those details.
But what I really want to tell you this morning, what I’m starting to feel somewhat certain of, is this:
I am finally feeling like someone has released the valve and let out some of the air in the blood pressure cuff that has been squeezing my soul for the last four years. Perhaps longer.
For a very long time, some things were hanging together in a precarious way inside me and when we had kids, and the chaos arrived in handfuls, I began to feel uncomfortably intense inside all the time.
I think it’s been a bit of a come apart. A book, three babies, four moves (one to the Middle East and back). Makes sense, I guess. I feel like I’ve held it together on the outside, but on the inside things have felt Hard and Uphill, and I have been so totally Unsure.
The kicker, in my case, is that I was so totally convinced that someone else could be handling my life so much better, so much prettier, then I am ever able to.
What I can see now is the grace of the come apart. The invitation:
The amazing thing about life’s come aparts is that if we’ll keep our eyes open, we just might emerge a truer version of ourselves.
A truer version of myself is a gift I will receive with gratitude.
I believe the emergence from the come apart—the come together, if you will—began with one important step: choosing to be radically on my own team. I decided, in the midst of Hard and Uphill and Unsure, that I would be a companion to myself instead of a critic (no matter what) and that I would come around the table and sit next to myself instead of sending wary looks from the other side.
Being a companion to ourselves happens when we finally become more concerned with how we’re doing on the inside than how we’re doing on the outside.
Yesterday morning I took the three kids to La Jolla to the beach. It was 70 and totally socked in. I love the beach best when it’s moody and brooding like that, water hitting the rocks and spraying. I’m not a go-to-the-beach-and-sweat-in-the-sand-covered-in-sunscreen kind of gal. I like wearing yoga pants to the beach and tidepooling and scrambling down the cliffs.
I loved watching Luke and Lane make a nest for the seagulls out of seaweed. I loved watching Elle lay facedown across the tidepools so she could get a closer look at the tiny crabs scurrying and maybe lap up some sea water when she thought I wasn’t looking.
The internal chaos that I have felt has begun to dissipate. I knew it when Steve and I were in Carmel last weekend, and I knew it as I walked across the slick-with-algae rocks yesterday morning. I felt such a tender gratitude. I felt truer. Yes. And, amen.
Are you running, running, running — trying to stay just ahead of something that’s at your heels. Perhaps the time has come to be still . . . Today, the invitation for us all comes from Jeremiah 2:25, The Message: “Stop wearing out your shoes.”
Yesterday, I put my mom and my niece on a plane, marking the end of three weeks of unparalleled family fun. Today, I turn toward my book and prepare to spend the heart of the fall creating.
I’ve been reading Flora Bowley’s book, Brave Intuitive Painting, and it’s inspired me in so many ways. I love the creative process—learning more about others’ creative process always encourages me and gives me practical help for continuing in my own. I especially love reading commentary from fine artists (as well as devour every episode of Project Runway, of course).
Flora talks about the importance of “spiraling in” and “spiraling out” in painting. You move close up to the canvas and you work a specific area of the painting and then you spiral back out to see the larger composition. She writes, “I approach my paintings from a place of wild and free letting go as well as from a place of contemplation, thoughtful choice making, and commitment to my vision. This is not a linear process. It does not travel from chaos to order or from order to chaos. Instead, this spiraling approach moves fluidly between letting go and making choices, integrating these equally important ways of painting along the way” (93).
The spiraling out is about assessment, an editing eye, a look at the overall vision. The spiraling in is about composing without the inner critic in tow, opening up, allowing. I love how these are both such important parts of the creative process and life in general: intention and abandon.
This interplay of intention and abandon illuminates so much of what we carry inside us: our fear of committing or making a mistake, our fear of being great, the toxic voices of our inner critics, our distrust of our own intuition, our issues with envy and comparison.
Creating always puts us in touch with the deeper waters, which is why I believe it is so healing. Beauty and vulnerability intersecting.
Flora also talks about the power of making commitments in your work: committing to the now as a way to gain momentum and keep the process flowing. I love this because I find myself stuck at times, trying to fix or figure out. It’s helpful—in life and in creating—to make a commitment to what’s in front of you, knowing that more will be revealed. We learn that the process can be trusted. Clarity unfolds.
Flora includes these two quotes on following our intuition and committing:
“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” –Alan Alda
“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating—in work, in play, and in love.” –Anne Morriss
These principles can be applied to so much of life. We spiral in with freedom and abandon and then we must spiral out and assess and make decisions. We commit, knowing that more will be revealed. We trust the process. We allow space for our intuition to be heard.
These are the practices I will be really leaning into this fall. Rolling up my sleeves. Spiraling in and composing, composing, composing. Spiraling out and making sure what I am making aligns with my overall vision. Committing when needed in order to keep momentum. Redirecting when needed. Allowing a wide lane to play, intuit, ideate, assess.
All the while remembering God has offered us a spacious place, a broad grace. We just have to show up, breathe, and keep the pen moving. These are radical, subversive acts. Brazen.
We are all creating something. May we all have the courage to show up to the blank canvas, the blank page, and begin again. God give us the grace to move fluidly between letting go and making choices. May we allow the art to emerge in us and through us.