This is Going to Hurt

This is how I know my brain is functioning optimally – I might be inspired but find that I lack that the motivation to do anything other than shopping, browsing, and surviving another day. However, today, I’m doing more than just survive – my laptop is open, and my words are blowing free as the ocean’s salty breeze into the world. The prospects of a new beginning and its uncertain end is daunting. Sometimes, when I have a great idea and maybe even a daring one, instinctively, like most of us do…I hesitate. Mistake. Big mistake.

Here is why you have to be figuratively crazy to walk out of that cushy job or even the crappy one that barely pays the rent – we dread failure and the often shameful and public consequences of making a mistake. In psychology, it is referred to as the “Spotlight Effect,” where we perceive that we are continually being judged by others. This triggers paranoia and self-doubt and sets off an alarm in the brain which then goes into overdrive to protect us from danger or hurting ourselves.

The brain is doing its job when it magnifies all the risk implications, the certain pitfalls ahead, the strain on the body, mind, and resources that executing a grand adventure would entail. It knows we have three basic human needs – food, clothing, and shelter. Anything beyond these is asking for pain, and when the brain senses an overreach, it acts as an exceptionally effective lever. It will respond to your hesitation and uncertainty with a resounding, “No, we are not doing that !”  Our brains would also love this excerpt from The One Song* poem by Mark Strand (1990 U.S. Poet Laureate & 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry):

I prefer to sit all day

like a sack in a chair

and to lie all night

like a stone in my bed.

 

When food comes

I open my mouth.

When sleep comes

I close my eyes.

But we are not sacks or stones, and yes, we do need to eat and sleep but manifesting our ideas makes us thriving human-beings and is an ongoing and painful growing process that requires planning, strategy, and taking chances. Let’s not analyze our plans to the point of paralysis or death. Per the Spotlight Effect, the perception of being under constant scrutiny is unrealistic. People pay less attention to other’s mistakes and failures than we think. Another reason we have halls of fame and awards, the focus goes to those who tried and failed till they eventually had success.

That’s why Mel Robbins, author, and speaker, said, “Motivation is garbage.” This might come off as extreme, but I think people confuse the need to survive with motivation because she explains that we are never going to feel like doing the things that are tough, difficult, scary, or new. And so we can right now, stop waiting for motivation and just make decisions that we will follow through on.

We are one risky decision away from a totally different life. Our futures are determined by micro-moments of insanity and boldness, slight shifts in perspective, and crucial decisions to be kinder and bigger. And when you are at a crossroad, tell your conscientious brain before it stops you that, “Yep, this is going to hurt.” As the Good Book says, “Write the vision, make it plain, run with it…and at the end, it will speak.”** Till we get to that end, let’s embrace the pain that helps us evolve.

 

Sources:

* Poulin, A. 2006. Contemporary American poetry. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. p.586

**Habakkuk 2:3 (para.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

In Search for Passion and Meaning

Action Lady! Credit: Pixabay

Lady Action.  Images Credit: Pixabay

When did pelvic thrusts become the measure of excitement and passion? Emoji’s are facing stiff (puny, I know) competition from our need to express our approval with virtual grunts.

For most of us who work, our weekend schedule can reveal the road map to our passion – a football game, a writing workshop, a crafts hang-out, hanging out with the kids, volunteering at the food bank…you name it.  Spending our free time mindfully ignites a creative spark. If you do it once and feel the buzz, you’ll do it again.

I’m one of those with short bursts of artistic passion because come Monday, the mechanics and daily grind of life takes over, so I’m in awe of professional artists, creative geniuses and single parents. How do they do it? How do they sustain their imagination, excitement, energy and enthusiasm? Because they are eternally curious and never stop learning.

I want to be curious again, to look forward to something other than bills in my mailbox. I am working on being more consistent. Everyday, we have to give ourselves permission to be more spontaneous, follow the intuitions and hunches, break the habits that drag us away from our extraordinary core.

Image credit: Pixabay

The key is doing it daily, create new challenges and as Brené Brown advises, in her book Daring Greatly, quoting Theodore Roosevelt’s, Man in the Arena speech – “Don’t be the critic… be the one whose strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again…there is no effort without error and shortcoming (for) the one who spends himself in a worthy cause.”

We cultivate passion and meaning by scheduling time to be creative, showing up daily at the roll call. Success may result in fist pumps, pelvic thrusts or whatever rocks your halo, but even more important, is rising up after a failure, choosing to not retreat but live wholeheartedly.

I’ve done some passion-seeking work from the list below. You are welcome to share your ideas.

  • Take that course you’ve put off in art, music, writing, cooking, pottery, poetry, dancing etc. ( I’m taking one – Poetry in America : 1700-1850 )
  • Keep a journal – the wise number their days.
  • Ask your parents about an old photo, a family secret, the family history.
  • Introduce yourself to your community. Visit that trail, fishing camp, Japanese garden etc.
  • Run with an idea and ask for help.
  • Rediscover the wonder of your local library.
  • Sleep in with your kids on the weekend.
  • Apologize sincerely to someone you’ve hurt. ( I’m still working on this.)
  • Explore what your soul really needs.

There’s so much more, but here’s a good start in our search for passion and meaning. We are either dying slowly or living brilliantly. Chose life.

The Making of a Craftsman or Artisan

http://pixabay.com/en/paint-art-image-artists-painting-198735/

Credit: Pixabay Images – An Artist

Whoever said creativity was easy, a buzz from the subconscious, has not been through the dark night of the soul. I have. I wept with my protagonist wondering, why…why am I doing this to myself?  So lately I’ve been spent. Drained by the sheer grit of finishing the first draft of my novel and now with trepidation, I’m commencing the rewrite process.

Erwin McManus of  MOSAIC said, “the person who steals is terrified of creating.” Now you know the reason for our overcrowded county jails. Creativity is soul-breaking hard work, demanding diligence, responsibility and a thick-skin to withstand inevitable criticism. Yes, Criticism. My retainers are proof that I can look at my reflection (cute as I am *-*) and still find fault. Nobody wears halos, visors maybe. 

Wikipedia Commons -  A Craftsman at work

Wikipedia Commons – A Craftsman at work

The craftsman shows up and plugs away, like someone possessed by the need to show themselves worthy of another sunrise. I must admit these last few weeks has been hard for me. I’m like a brow-beaten Lebron James, after losing 2014 NBA finals to the Spurs, soaking his weary muscles in a bathtub of epsom salts and reprimanding his kids, “I don’t want to hear anything about basketball.”

Here’s what I did today to avoid writing:

  1. Washed my hair and deep conditioned it twice.
  2. Created a head full of twists ( that accounted for 55 mins.)
  3. Browsed used car websites – Craigslist, CarGuru, KBB, Recycler , then Mercedes-Benz of Beverly Hills for a good deal on a Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class CLS 550 Coupe, steel-gray body and ash-black leather interior.
  4. Searched online for a white gown (Service of songs; dress code – white) and  in the process, I was sorely tempted to buy ten pounds of  Kansas City steak from QVC and from HSN, Twiggy London’ s flag-inspired tee-shirts.
  5. Served myself two large scoops of vanilla bean ice-cream.
  6. Teared up as I went through three trunks of my native African clothes, reminiscing about each occasion that called for another gele* (African headgear)
  7. Read and deleted spam comments (Yep… Akismet obviously needs help)

Then something good happened. I decided I’d better write or feel guilty when I step on my scale tomorrow on account my creamy indulgence. Motivation can come from anywhere, as far as it works. As artists when we stay away from our craft, we experience an unsettling, a foreboding that time is slipping away and with it the miracle of chances.

If we wait too long, it’s so easy to slip into a dissatisfied and depressed state. Off-track we get moody and our words become wind – destructive, unkind – blowing restless in all direction of our lives. Now I’m learning to pray – Lord, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, can you please create through me today?

 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Eph. 4:28 (NKJV)

Art is everywhere. This  video shows Segun Gele, a Nigerian *gele artist profiled on CNN, reveling in the work of his hands.
If you haven’t…you’ve got to read  The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

Fight the resistance. Be encouraged. Create something that makes you smile today 🙂

Unsightly Edges – A Poem

Unsightly Edges – A Poem
By Ama Danesi

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There’s a knock, a hesitant rap on my nape
from pain that’s testing, peering over
my delicate collar-bone for a crack
in my steely resolve.
My need for more is a palmed heat.
I’m done with squatters. He can still smell me
in his nostrils. He lingers, a familiar high –

Every pain has a home, a coach, an itch
my arteries make poor hallways – C’est le vie
Inside me there’s a chisel, a hammer
and a chipping away.
Sandpaper the hurting, unclog the
bleeding, I pretend he feels the same – till I can’t
He’ll remain a lump, holding on to unsightly edges.

About That Parable of Talents

Parable about talentAbout that Parable of Talents – People are Depending on Us!

I got a message from a family in desperate need and I was so sad that I couldn’t just write out a check for the exact amount to help them out. It got me thinking…how long have I been dancing around the bonfire instead of igniting my potential and letting the sparks fly? How long have I chosen job security and ended up with no ‘time’ to write? Did I say sad? I meant pathetic!

People are depending me, on us, generations are depending on what we do today. With our gifts and talents, we can change the fortunes of our families first, then cities and nations…and why not? I am preaching to myself and the choir because every “what ifs” can be replaced with “here’s what”. These are the two main excuses we give ourselves:

FEAR

cartoon-44575_150Fear is as natural as scratching an itch, it’s there to trigger a response either to flee from legitimate danger or to recognize an opportunity to stretch ourselves.
Fearful thoughts or a twisted mindset makes people abdicate the responsibility of developing their talents. Many ‘babies’ have been starved to death or buried alive. Like the lazy servant did in the Bible parable – he hid his one talent and incurred his master’s wrath.

His defense was:
“I was AFRAID so I went and buried the talent in the ground.”

FEAR. Enough said.

Or not… the master called him wicked. He called the lack of his growth, wicked as in – capable of harming someone or something or allowing an extremely unpleasant situation to exist.We are created for good works that inspire, evoke emotions, expose injustice,  or use our resources to feed an extra striving child etc. and our gift is the vehicle that takes us to unbelievable destinations.

Fear strolls in with its posse  or an extended family of uncles, aunts and cousins who insist on coming to the party, you might recognize them as procrastination, anxiety, worry, agitation, apprehension, timidity, cowardice and grandpa funk!

“You do not need to shrink difficulties and act as if they do not exist. Just don’t magnify them.” Dr. Eric R. Maisel, Ph.D.

Pursing goals and dreams can be scary and gut-wrenching hard work. Fear uses lies like – Nobody cares, Who do you think you are, You are wasting your time, and on and on…to defeat our purpose and keep us small.
Instead of bolting or perpetuating the lies, we can reign in our thinking, meditate, be still for a moment then keep moving – be the peace within the chaos. Like Steven Pressfield advises, recognize the resistance for what it is, but go ahead and  do it anyway.

DEVALUATION

We esteem the gifts and positions of other people and devalue ours thinking that they are mundane and not as special. I can’t win a singing contest to save my life, but I can write. But I’ll revere a voice like Celine Dion’s and not think much of my innate ability to structure, plot, and craft a story.
Just like Esau, when he despised his birthright trading it to Jacob for a bowl of stew when he came home famished. He said, “Look I am about to die (of hunger), what good is the birthright to me?” That’s how people reason: this —- (fill in your blanks) cannot possibly sustain me!

“…All who make wages will be troubled of soul” Isaiah 19:10 ; “…And he who earns wages, earns wages to put in a bag with holes.” Haggai 1:6

There is nothing wrong with wages, It has its place. It should be for seasons and transitions, not for life because it is never enough! I know God wants better for us than a dead-end job with fixed income, so we’ve got to define our “works” and not just work to pay bills and barely survive. And I think that’s why creative people with regular jobs have “hobbies”. Our hands and minds are wired to be creative and our imagination is always reaching for what we are too scared to say out loud.

My parable about talentI mentioned my love for writing to a senior manager in my former office and the response was, “Good for you, but how will that put food on the table?” What is it with food? The norm is full tummies but malnourished souls.
Until success comes, everybody else puts on blinders but we have to doggedly believe in ourselves.

The acorn doesn’t worry if there will be enough room for its humongous trunk and wide-spread branches, it just shoots up without a care, catching a breeze here and there. So should we…day by day,word by word, page by page.We have to believe that the talent was given for a purpose and that there are people waiting and depending on us to show up.