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Ten things, part four
Notes on creating & learning & listening & being
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A song I’m loving:
“Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real.” I’ve been thinking about these words from Donald Winnicott, a big name in the (traditional) field of developmental psychology, for weeks. Only the true self can be creative. Only the true self can feel real. Do I agree? I’m not sure. I suppose it depends on what I believe “being creative” means; what I will say, though, is this: In a world that makes it hard, often terrifying, often unsafe to be our truest selves… it’s no wonder so many feel stuck creatively, feel unsure of who they are, feel unsteady in moving toward the next stroke or word or act. When I think about the times where creative expression flows most naturally, it is the times in which I feel most myself, most alive, most real, where I feel my hands and feet and heart in motion. When I think about the times my creativity feels most stifled, it is when I am putting on some kind of performance, or thinking of an audience first, or wondering how it will be received — essentially disconnected from my truest self. Where am I mistaking performance for creativity? Where can I infuse creativity back into the places where performance is taking up undesired space? I am exploring how to stay tethered to the truest version of me when I sit down to write, or take my camera out, or cook a meal, or tend to my child. I am exploring what creativity feels like from my most vital, most honest, most alive self.
There is heartache and anger from all that has unfolded in the news over the last week (the last lifetime, really); there is speckled light strewn across the surface of the trees above my head as I write this outside, a warm morning, birds singing their songs and clouds slowly dissipating. So many things can be true at once.
A reminder for those who need it: Not everything you create/make/put out there is going to be your “best work”, or even “good” by your own measurement. But for some of us, sharing imperfect work is part of the practice. Not waiting until we've one-upped ourselves before sharing is part of the practice. Finding a rhythm is part of the practice. Getting more comfortable being seen as a flawed and complicated human & creative is part of the practice — of creating, of sharing, of doing the work we're here to do. And sometimes, removing the pressure to make your “best work” every time you sit down to create gives you the space needed to keep going.
Last week, after over a year of deciding I must be exhausted all the time because of motherhood/the world/being a somehow-insufficient person, I finally decided to get some bloodwork done as a ruling out of potential physical issues. Turns out my exhaustion is, at least in part, because my iron levels are incredibly low. So, I’m looking at how to add more iron into my diet and starting supplementation. It taught me, yet again, that not everything is just in our heads, and not all discomfort must simply be endured, and not all our struggles are things we can fix on our own through hard work or willpower. And, perhaps most importantly, what a gift it is to ourselves to listen to our bodies and trust what we hear.
It sometimes feels easier to say and do the same things over and over and over again than it does to try something new, say something different, do something in a fresh way. I’m working on getting more comfortable doing things that aren’t necessarily easy but that have an energetic buoyancy to them, an in-road to feeling more aligned and exciting and right and true.
I shared this on Instagram recently and am still thinking about it — I sometimes feel like a complete fool for slowly choosing to pivot away from the kind of writing I did as a public therapist toward the kind I’ve been doing privately, which has also meant pivoting away from appeasing a large internet following and toward appeasing my own longings. Avoiding the compulsion to create a simple, shareable, quotable post knowing that’s what's popular in order to quietly do the writing no one will see for a long time doesn’t always feel fun for the parts of me who want to please, impress, stay relevant. Knowing I could have kept going in the direction of Instagram Therapist fame and instead choosing to turn another way toward the unknown has taken a lot of built-up-over-time courage.
But holy wow, there is an entire well of freedom found in finally listening to what it is we really want to do and, inch by inch, maybe with feet dragging, moving in that direction. There is an endless heap of solid ground found even amongst the least known path when we enter it from a place of integrity. There is a wide-open field of possibility when we choose to leap toward what we most desire, whether or not we ever even reach it — the leap itself is the honoring of self.
There has been a story, a handful of questions, swirling within me for years that I told myself I couldn’t spend the time or energy writing about because it doesn’t fit the self-help narrative, the “How I’ve Healed” story we all want to gobble up, the Next Obvious Thing I could do. But when I sit down to write what's calling, practically begging, my entire being lights up with a “Yes. This. Now.” And finally listening to that feels bigger than any Instagram following or outward success ever will. Our longings matter. And we don’t have endless time here. And perhaps waiting to move toward them is at times necessary — and, sometimes we can use the perceived safety of waiting as a way of avoiding the discomfort of going for it. Discerning between these feels important. It feels like the path, like the way toward remembering ourselves. And I'm working remembering myself, over and over again.
Learning to hear ourselves — really hear our selves — might be an ongoing practice, rather than something to master. Kind of like everything. It might not happen in the ways we want it to every time. We might prioritize the voices and wishes and needs of others first before we realize we must pivot back toward ourselves, our own bodies, our own feelings. This willingness to pivot, to try again, to start over, might be more crucial than ever getting to a place where pivoting is no longer necessary. This willingness to be in the practice might be more potent than never needing to practice again.
It is painful to not be liked. It is more painful to not like the version of yourself you’re meticulously shaping in order to try to be liked. From my experience, at least. May we learn to know which pain is worth tending to.
Do not underestimate the power of going for a long drive by yourself while listening to a good playlist. Do not underestimate a slow trip to the library, perusing unlikely shelves. Do not underestimate laughing at things you perhaps don’t want to admit you think are funny. Do not underestimate asking someone to do something you could do yourself but don’t really have the capacity to. Do not underestimate saying the thing you want to say, no matter how uncomfortable. Do not underestimate quality pastries. Do not underestimate natural light. Do not underestimate possibility as a practice of caring for ourselves right now.
A question I’ve been asking myself more lately: “what might bring more ease right now?” A practice I’ve been doing lately: the answer to that question.
Thank you, as always, for being here.by is a recent favorite newsletter
△ These words I come back to again and again, from Danna Faulds:
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