How you do one thing is how you do everything.
So .. I’ve been writing this post for a LONG time .. almost a year. I’ve written many posts but not finished or published them .. lost in the bubble of confusion that has dominated my whole life.
This is the post where I start to turn my old pattern of overthinking and hesitation around.
This blog started as my ‘vehicle for clarity’ – my space for practicing getting my thoughts clear, and sharing them with the world – two challenges I had struggled with my whole life. It was my space for feeling a sense of my life evolving. But in an attempt to really shift my old ways and turn things around, I spent the past year ’embracing the thrash’, diving deep into the chaos and confusion of my mind and feelings, with the hope and trust that I will come out the other end with more clarity and confidence. Plus life threw me a few curve balls that challenged deep fears around losing myself as I got sucked into other people’s chaos and went into overwhelm and avoidance as a result. But finally I’m showing up here, messily and imperfectly, boldly determined to turn my life around.
One of my huge challenges around writing is that I want to work out what I think and what I want to say before saying something. But it is by saying something, even the ‘wrong’ thing, that I can get clarity on what I think. When I don’t speak up, I get stuck in an oppressive overwhelm of thoughts, which then stops me from speaking up. So I need to let go of the fear of saying something stupid, and just say something.
But before I get too hard on myself around my NOT speaking up, I will acknowledge that my not showing up here this year has felt like an act of self protection and of ‘buying time’ to get my thoughts straight. I’ve spent a lot of the past year reading (especially psychology literature), doing courses (business, writing, enneagram etc), working in a completely new industry (as a carer in an aged care home), and preparing for my ‘new life’. I’ve been making dogged progress on my business (but stuck around the publicity and money aspects) and am more determined than ever to finally make it work.
Life path – clarity and completion ..
I started this year with a ‘space clearing ceremony’ in my house. I had been waiting to do this for YEARS – but never felt ready as there was always something to do first. Finally, after much clearing and despite still having a massive excess of clutter, the house was ‘clear enough’ for this massive milestone to be achieved.
Action is the antidote to despair.
Prior to doing the space clearing I did a feng shui analysis of my house and came up with affirmations for each of the 9 parts of my house / areas of life. I could write a whole blog post on that process and those affirmations, but I will share one area of the house I intend to focus on this year. The ‘lobby’ is a space in my house that is a transition zone between the main part of the house and the bathroom. This space also contains the laundry and stairs leading down a workshop space. South facing (in the southern hemisphere) this space represents career and life path. It has been in a state of incompletion for years, often filled with overflowing clutter, not to mentioned dust, spiders webs and mould. But the space is now clear and a good clean and a few coats of paint will mean this space can be completed without a huge amount of outlay. Given that my career and life path are what need attention in order for me to feel clarity and purpose in my life, this space is on my agenda for this year. The affirmation I have created for this space is
“I move forward with ease and joy, fulfilling my purpose”.
Transforming how I relate to people
A very old pattern that has had a huge impact in terms of hindering progress on my business and life has been my tendency toward extreme self-sufficiency. This has been a strategy for avoiding people which is a pattern I developed as a form of Self protection in early childhood. Taking almost endless solitary time to contemplate and understand things is what I’ve seen as my blissful state, and relating with people has tended to stir up my anxieties and interrupted my sense of peace, and so I have tended to avoid social interactions. But I am finally challenging many of my limiting beliefs and seeing the origin of some of my unhealthy patterns of avoidance. I’ve come to see my avoidance of people has come from the desire to escape the pain of disconnection, as well as from an over-developed sense of obligation which had me feeling trapped, and from feelings of hyper vigilance which are very exhausting. I have also tended to lose my sense of Self, getting caught up in tuning into and trying to understand other people’s feelings and thoughts while losing touch with my own. The feeling of being lost, of desperately trying to understand what is perhaps beyond understanding, of hesitation, wonder, and never-ending exploration has been part of what has driven me into action, but also has had me going round in circles, lost and despairing, taking forever to do anything.
But, as I write, I am moving toward a resting place where I can release this incessant search and settle with exactly what is. I am in the process of changing my experience of being with people to one that invites the joy of connection and the freedom of self expression while being grounded in my own being.
My (first) word for the year took a while to emerge. Immersed in the creation of a book – ‘Your Word Guide’, I was searching for a word that could inspire and support me as I move through this year. I was thinking of the word ‘inspire’ – but it felt like something I had to do and for that reason did not feel right. INSPIRED feels more like a state of being. It reminds me to breathe, be present, and take action without thinking. It brings me into contact with my heart and body, after a lifetime of holding my breath and holding back. INSPIRED can feel as simple and being present, or as lofty as being supported by a divine spirit force.
I come up with too many ideas to execute and get caught in the overwhelm of so many things I need to do to push ahead the projects in my life. These projects, typically, have been so many and varied that they occupy every spare bit of time that I have. Since they have been my primary focus they have also negated the need or desire for any sort of a social life. So perhaps having innumerable projects on the go has been one of my strategies for avoiding people – not to mention endless exploring and never finishing anything.
The creation and setting up of my business, Artistry in Play, is one of my major projects begun about five years ago. I created this business as a way of supporting myself financially while making self directed projects my living, rather than cramming them into the limited free time when I’m not working for other people.
The random idea, which preceded the train of thought which follows, was this: To select random entries from my 29 years of journals and find stories and lessons and patterns and examples of transformation. But the truth is that I already have way too many projects on the go and I need to be eliminating, or putting on ice, many of my current projects in order to FOCUS (my second word for the year).
My lifetime obsession with projects includes an obsession with studying, learning and doing courses. I have tended to not only have multiple projects on the go at any one time, but also multiple courses. There has probably never been a time when I wasn’t studying something. Curiosity is both my strength and my weakness. It makes life interesting, but has lead to a state of mental clutter, lack of focus, and overwhelm. And perhaps this brings me to the WHY of my life – I am on a mission to understand life and the world. The feeling of learning, getting clarity, and evolving is my form of bliss and the thing that drives me forward.
My latest ‘course’ was a 5 day challenge around story writing with a fun and sassy entrepreneur, Jamie Jensen of Your Hot Copy. Jamie runs a course called Story School (which I want to do), and her 5 day ‘Get Your Story Straight’ challenge was an introduction to the story arc which broke stories, or the ‘hero’s journey’, down into five parts:
The DESIRE, The CHALLENGE, The TWIST, The SHIFT, and The TAKEAWAY.
Telling stories, or really expressing myself in any way, has always been a weakness. Instead of helping the listener understand something, I tend to leave them (and myself) more confused by losing track of where I’m going and branching off on random tangents. So the story structure is something that really inspires and fascinates me and feels important for me to study in order for me to find clarity and share whatever I have to say. I have plenty of stories to tell but have always tended to leave storytelling to those who do it better than me. But given that my dream is to be a writer, and one of the things I most love doing is writing, I intend to start developing my storytelling skills through this blog.
My desire has been to experience clarity .. or as stated above, to understand life and the world. My approach zhas been to be constantly learning, studying and researching.
In my process of seeking clarity, through constant study and exploration, and lifetime of courses and projects, I have continued to find more and more that I don’t know. After 47 or so years of this I amassed thousands of books, hundreds of courses, and still found myself in the familiar space of confusion and overwhelm, with books and materials (for and from all my projects) adding to my overwhelm. On top of this, as an extra solution to overwhelm, I had developed a tendency to avoid people (who I felt added to my overwhelm), and ran ideas around in my head in maddening unproductive circles. Trying to do everything on my own was my worn out blueprint that was stopping me from getting the help I needed. I had attempted a complete avoidance and rejection of ‘society’ and of conforming in any way. This included money – which to me represented a hook or a trap of society. I was almost prepared to starve rather than be drawn into the servitude that money represented. Sectioning myself off from the world, keeping as much distance as possible from people, and minimising emotional involvement became my strategy for managing my energy which was overly affected by my experience of people as demanding more of me than I had in me to give. Perhaps I was a ‘highly sensitive person’ – though I actually felt like I was quite tough. In avoiding the impact of people I was able to do lots of ‘tough’ things – like solo adventures of all types all over the world, and martial arts to protect myself, and braving the world on my own. But though I had done all sorts of brave things like backpacking into the wilderness, or motorbiking around Australia, or wandering around cities all over the world late at night, or sleeping in parks and train stations, and on and on – the thing I wasn’t brave enough to do was to risk emotional vulnerability. In fact, I had suppressed my feelings to such an extent I hardly even realised I had any. My solo adventures were like an armour against emotional vulnerability and I was a master at hiding out and disappearing. But I have come to see that my hugest fear has been around self expression. My avoidance meant I did not have to take a stand on anything, or to risk making a fool of myself or being misunderstood. By not showing up I could avoid being captured and trapped. I could feel free .. but at what cost.
My childhood blueprint had me feel like I would drown if I didn’t protect myself from the insatiable needs of others. So I desire to be wild and free and unencumbered by the demands and expectations of society. I wanted to be free to be myself rather than what someone else told me I should be. I would work just enough to survive in order to spend the rest of the time doing what I wanted – which was generally a course or project of my choosing.
After getting trapped in a job for eleven years that started with lots of freedom and ended by becoming almost my full responsibility (after I partnered with the boss and he became too sick to work), and with lots of stress and little reward, I vowed to start my own business, to work from home, for myself, doing work that inspired me.
It has been over five years since I started Artistry in Play – embarked on as a major life project for using my skills, aligned with my values, and part of finding a sense of purpose in my life. At first I was in my element – starting something fresh, on a steep learning curve, journeying to understand myself and my purpose more clearly. I had embarked on another journey of exploring many new ideas, and escaping on yet another solo adventure. But there was a problem .. I didn’t seem to be moving forward productively in terms of this being a business, because I was still in avoidance of the two things that business is centred around – people and money.
The twist was the realisation that my avoidance of people and trying to live inside my head was what was stopping me from moving forward. This realisation came, most particularly, thanks to my discovery of the Enneagram, which shined a light on the patterns holding me back. It showed me that I had to stop thinking and move into action (obvious I know but not so easy to do). It is over three years since that clarity helped me to see another way, and the journey since has been far from straightforward.
My shift, in response to my realisation that I was completely stuck in a rut of overthinking and inaction, was taking action in different ways. Writing this blog has been a huge part in my journey forward .. of practicing expressing my thoughts in a public space and getting more comfortable with the vulnerability of that – and of putting thoughts out that are messy and incomplete, rather than waiting until I have everything figured out before doing or saying anything. Also proposing a large piece for Sculpture by the Sea which I’ve had accepted by two separate panels for the 2017 exhibition – but which I am still yet to create (since it is a massive undertaking). And thirdly in setting up a mastermind group to help me to speak up and share my plans and get support and accountability.
My message, at this moment, to bring this story full circle, is this:
Words can set you free (Words create our world)
The DESIRE – To experience clarity
The CHALLENGE – I felt the only way I could experience clarity was being on my own and trying to work out my thoughts alone
The TWIST – realising that my avoidance of people and running ideas around and around in my head in the search for clarity was in fact the thing that was holding me back.
THE SHIFT – I started to share my thoughts. I completed applications to share my work (and had some accepted). I created a mastermind group. I started to open up more. I started taking action out in the world.
The TAKEAWAY – Words create our world, words can set us free, the journey continues…
Reminders to self
Keep on writing and publishing rather than getting stuck in the thinking process
Stop worrying about what (I think) other people think
Stay in contact with people
Connect to my feelings and allow them to guide me
Ask for feedback
Keep moving forward
This blog post, in which I’ve tried to unravel my year of not writing, to explore my journey with Artistry in Play, and to explain my experience of the world – probably shows pretty well how I over-complicate things and shows the messiness of my mind. It also shows how reluctant I am to throw away / dismiss anything which is a big part of my challenge in my quest for clarity.
I am including these endnotes with the intention that this post can mark the line in the sand between my cluttered thinking and a more clear, ordered and streamlined way of expressing myself (which is the goal of the story structure after all).
The MAGICAL GUIDE
The hero’s journey often refers to a guide or mentor which shows the way. This would have to be the Enneagram. As I learnt about the Enneagram I felt like I had finally discovered the meaning of life. The Enneagram is a model or structure that explains why people react, relate and experience the world as they do. The Enneagram helped me to understand and shift the way I understood and experienced the world in quite a mind-blowing way (a very type 5 response perhaps). It showed me the framework I had been using to understand the world and showed me how what I felt was a very open-minded approach was in fact a cage. It also showed me the keys for getting out of my cage.
Stuck in Point 5
I spent a lot of time in my cage over the past year, retreating to my comfort zone by keeping to myself as much as possible. Reaching out and supporting people is something I have tended to see as my duty and I have been wracked with a lot of guilt over not doing so – although since I started work as a carer in a nursing home I think I felt like this in itself took so much from me that I had little left to give. I have preserved the little time when I wasn’t working or managing the household to dealing with my overwhelm of projects and stuff – and in particularly with preparing the public launch of my Circles of Life rings project which I have seen as the contribution I want to make to both help others AND myself.
Stepping into Point 3
Part of the new framework that I’ve been preparing to step into is of being visible, expressing myself, shining my light and claiming my value. My retreating over the past year has been my fear reaction to this transformation, and my desire for more time and more clarity BEFORE I fully step into this more expressive, open and in action way of being. In a typical stalling tactic, I have been (and still am) in the process of clarifying my purpose, my message, my brand, my product and my vision. My mission is to help people to take responsibility for their lives and experience the freedom that this gives.
My nursing home work has helped me reenter the world, throwing me into the thick of life in many ways. Though it is the opposite to what I have been striving towards for so long – to work from home, for myself, doing work that inspires people to evolve – it is perhaps part of my own evolution, as I am working closely with people, in a very intimate way, doing what I can to help them, and making money in the process.
A closing declaration
I would like to declare, for my own sake, that from here on I will offer up real stories – not just the messy clutter of my mind – as a way of sharing in a more fun and inspirational way. If you have read this to the end, thank you for your time and I will aim to be more respectful of it from now on.