that’s a picture of failure, folks. on 10.03.16, i signed that contract and was supposed to be embarking upon 12 weeks of creative recovery care of julia cameron and the artist’s way.
the first step was morning pages, a practice of writing 3 full, handwritten pages of brain dump first thing in the morning–every morning. and honestly, i began failing from the beginning because within 2 weeks, my morning pages were happening…well, various times of the day. sometimes they were ‘first thing in the morning’ pages. sometimes they were ‘first thing after kids had breakfast and i had coffee’ pages. frequently they became ‘school’s over for the day and now i can sit and write’ pages. and more than a couple of times they were ‘omg the day is over i’m in my bed all is quiet and now i’ll brain dump for a half-hour before passing out’ pages. if you’re familiar with the artist’s way, you’ll know that’s, uh, not how the pages are supposed to work.
but i kept writing, and i considered it a victory even if it was approximate in nature.
but i failed in other ways, because creative recovery is more than just a journaling exercise. i never, not ever, took myself on an artist’s date. and after keeping up the daily (nightly?) pages for 5 entire weeks…i kinda stopped reading the accompanying chapters, or doing any of the other exercises designed to facilitate my recovery after week 2. and then election day happened and i lost all motivation to do much of anything but be angry about what’s been happening in this country politically.
but every single day, because of where i keep them, i see my book and my journal and i feel a sense of wistfulness and shame at just…quitting. and it felt like failure. but then may happened and quite by accident i found a group of people going through the artist way together, with weekly phone calls facilitated by a lovely woman who’s both a creativity coach and, in a twist that made it very personal for me, a voice coach.
these 12 weeks were lovely–especially the weekly sharing. and i uncovered quite a few things i’d long buried, while also recovering some parts of myself long hidden.
but i missed the last phone call, and in the ensuing weeks, i stopped.
stopped my morning pages, stopped my artist dates. stopped actively working to heal and restore my inner artist. and worst of all, i started sinking back into old, destructive habits. unrest in the outer world started to weigh as heavy as my inner unrest and i felt, emotionally and mentally, like i was caught in a vice of sorts. i moved from a vague state of ennui, to a deeper one of despair, and hopelessness, and just general darkness.
i sound like a super fun person, right?
i jokingly tell people that i experience an existential crisis of sorts almost quarterly, but all jokes aside, it’s almost pathetically true. and i also decided that i needed to figure out what the hell is wrong that i keep cycling back to this same unhealthy place. (and not just because i’m an enneagram type 4.)
so i decided to do some de-cluttering and i thought about some of the things i foolishly waste time on. (facebook was the first thing to go–which may come up in a later post.)
and this morning i woke up just a little bit earlier than normal, and i wrote 3 full pages. morning pages. 3. full. morning. pages. in the actual morning. it felt pretty good. especially considering i ignored the voice in my head telling me that i should wait to start until october 1st just because starting at the beginning of the month makes way more sense than starting on some arbitrary date near the end of one.
honestly, i let that obnoxious bastard voice in my head dictate way too much and i’m fighting to actively ignore it.
and yesterday, i had my first artist date in a couple months! (exclamations marks are supremely necessary because i’m supremely excited!!!) i got this bedroom set when i was a teenager (13? 16? i literally don’t remember, which would probably make my mom not-so-low-key-annoyed because it was a Really Nice Bedroom Set™ and only an ungrateful heathen child wouldn’t remember the specifics) and it’s served me well in whole and in parts for years. i haven’t used the dresser/mirror combo in some time, but i still use the nightstand. but i’ve had a plan for the last, i dunno, decade? to maybe paint it or something. and yesterday on a whim* i went to lowe’s and asked some questions about painting wood furniture, and came out with a small can of heirloom red paint for my nightstand! (also, that small can was $30 and who knew paint was so effing expensive?!)
so i’ve currently got 2 drawers with the first coat of red paint on them, and as soon as my wildboys are done with karate (which is where they are currently, as i watch them through the glass door, from the car. because that’s just who i am as a parent.), i’m going to do another coat on each drawer, and get the main piece painted as well.
i just typed a sentence about how silly it is that i’m excited about my painted nightstand, but i deleted it, because there’s nothing silly about it. it’s symbolic, for me, of letting go of some of my inhibitions. because why would i be inhibited about painting a piece of furniture, right? why, indeed.
mostly because, as was made painfully (and blessedly!) clear to me during my first go ’round of the artist way, i’m a recovering perfectionist. the kind who gets so caught up in her head about the potential for missteps, and mistakes, and out and out failures, that she stops herself before she starts. and i really, really gotta quit that.
which brings me full circle: i’m dispensing with the use of the word failure and the use of the word should–as in, “i know i should have done this thing and i didn’t, therefore i am a failure.”
my first incomplete journey through the artist way wasn’t a failure; i just wasn’t ready. and the fact that i stopped journaling when my 2nd journey was complete was also not a fail. i’ve been dealing with a lot of other things in the mean time.
and i’m excited to begin again. so there’s that, and it’s the most important thing.
*ok, it wasn’t totally on a whim. i’m listening to the audiobook version of jen hatmaker‘s of mess and moxie and the chapter on decorating and creating our spaces just spoke to a very particular (and long neglected!) corner of my heart.