The Start of a New Journey

“The only journey is the one within.” 

– Rainer Maria Rilke

The lovely people who signed up to my blog will be surprised to suddenly find a new post landing in their inbox. Yes, it’s been a while. Yes, a disjointed life has happened and not just thanks to COVID. 

It’s surprising how chaos can refocus our attention. There is nothing like a global pandemic to take your carefully laid out plans and toss them to the wind, without a care where they land.

To say we’ve all been destabilised is an understatement, and while it has had a devastating effect on many people, it has also forced us to wake up from our sleepy mind-numbing lives and see if there are any roses left to smell. How often do we follow the same routine every day without a thought about what other roads we could take, even if it’s just a temporary detour?

These thoughts have percolated in my mind for months now. As another year progresses, I ask if I’m progressing. Like anyone who engages in the hard work of self-awareness, the changes can seem slow in coming ,but eventually our long arduous walk surprises us, as we discover we’ve reached the peak of yet another mountain.

As regular readers of this blog will know I’ve struggled to walk the steep incline towards wellness. While I’m grateful for some progress, what I found at the top of my mountain was that while I may not have perfect health, I have improved a little. Surprisingly it was my state of mind that improved the most. It’s because I’ve finally accepted where I am on the journey and am working towards integrating the lessons.

If you’re on a similar journey, be it issues with health, work or relationships, have you found peace where you are right now? This isn’t an easy journey, especially in the midst of a pandemic, but is truly worth pursuing. If you’d like to explore this idea further, you can read my small offering on acceptance and surrender.

Many of us have been waiting for a post-covid normal. It will never happen, because pandemics like all big life events, can never return to their starting point, or what we call ‘normal’. Big shake ups never leave us unchanged. While change can be harrowing, we must allow change for our own growth and to do that we must keep moving forward, even if the unknown is a little frightening.

For years, I’ve been waiting for my health to return to normal, hoping that the virus that invaded my body and caused mayhem, may have left, and taken its damaged cells with it. After a decade and little change, I have to accept that this is my ‘new normal’ body. In other words, a body now controlled by Irritable Bowel Syndrome and its cousin, Generalised Anxiety is the new me now.

Living with covid and different physical body, sets new limitations but it doesn’t stop us living altogether. I realise that I have to accept what I can’t do, but also what I can and to focus only on the latter. This means ending excuses that stop me doing things that have scared me. The covid pandemic taught me that ‘having time to do things’ is an illusion. Regardless of whether we have a pandemic or not, we never know how long we have to live and so, each day is PRECIOUS!

I began asking what I’d been putting off because of fear. What do I always fill my spare time with so that I don’t do the things I really love? Where do I procrastinate and why? For me, the answer is always around creativity. Creativity is something I love but I’m afraid I’ll have no talent for. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Since childhood, I’ve adored colour and textures. Like most children, I created because I just had to. There was no agenda, no deadline (unless it was a birthday card), no outcome to achieve. Nothing. It was simply the act of being! 

Fears that were hiding in my mind sabotaged me and stopped me from following my heart. In fact, I’d been shut down for so long, that I no longer remembered what filled me with joy. I decided to explore the mental viruses that had lived in my head since childhood. I took lockdown as an opportunity to open up my mind and see where I’d cut myself off from my true nature.

As a counsellor, I often heard about children’s dreams and ambitions being quashed by well-meaning but often unaware parents. If our passions fell outside the normal set of rules to study and get a job, then fearful parents couldn’t understand how a child’s love to create fantastic stick sculptors might lead to anything. But that child might one day, in their own time, become an architect, or civil engineer, or even a sculptor. The latter is often the less desirable one because a parent might be concerned about their child’s ability to earn a living from something beautiful, but useful?

We’ll leave the usefulness of art for another post, suffice to say that what a child or young person chooses to spend their time on may not match the ideals of the parent. So, parents often unwittingly allow their fears around what jobs are worthy or prestigious, crush a child’s hopes. It’s not just parents who burst a child’s passions. I’d heard an artist say that they were told by their high school art teacher that they had no talent, so the young student gave up art. Two decades later this man discovered that his teacher was wrong and his own heart was right. He is now a successful artist.

If parents didn’t dismiss creativity altogether, then they could be highly critical of the outcome. Unlike solving a problem where there is a right and wrong answer, art is very subjective. Parents who don’t understand their children, may not understand the messages they are trying to convey in their creative work. Unkind comments from a parent can shut down a child’s creativity immediately. Comments like, ‘That’s not what a house looks like’, or ‘Perhaps you might try some other activity. I don’t think this is for you.’ Both these comments imply that the child doesn’t have the capacity and permission to: 

a) be a beginner

b) to improve

c) express their vision of the world their way

While I didn’t have anyone criticise my artwork directly, I did develop an agonising fear around making mistakes. My parents tried their best to help us kids develop a desire to succeed where they had not, but this put undue pressure to always do well, do things right and by extension, not make mistakes. This thinking permeated my life. As a natural creative, this meant an inability to create art of any form and perfectionism became my unrelenting bedfellow. The demands of perfectionism were also matched by a need to do it right the first time and now! So, the combination of creating something amazing, the first time and quickly resulted in a creative shutdown. 

It’s taken me years to understand this, and now that I do, I can work on creating change. Knowing is one thing, acting on it is another. I’ve wasted enough precious time so in this, the crazy year of the pandemic, I’m having a go. 

I feel prepared to take the first step into creativity. I’m not sure what it will look like and for once, I don’t care. I’m going to throw my well-intentioned plans out with the pandemic winds. Spontaneity is my new mantra. I’m reaching my hand out to the past, hoping that my feisty and imaginative little self isn’t too deeply hidden so that we can join hands and finally let her creative voice be heard.

What song remains unsung in your heart? If you’ve lost touch with your creative self, then I hope you’ll join me on this journey of discovery.

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