This Messy Business

photo credit: image3 via photopin (license)
photo credit: image3 via photopin (license)
The awake/asleep moments, those where the magic of imagination still pushes through, the storied, soon-to-be forgotten dreams a flickering light, memory awakens, the sense of joy or dread or mundanity or excitement become the template for the day.

This morning I rose, feeling undone, feeling un-good enough, less than. The tendrils of shame tickling my consciousness before my head lifted from the pillow. The hour on the clock, ungodly.

Pushing feet to the floor, hunting and pecking for pants, sweatshirt, buried socks in the sheet-folds, I shuffled to the kitchen. My tender, tight Achilles reminding me of a recent run and advancing age. Coffeemaker whirring and grinding to life, first signs of hope.

Far corner of the couch, the best perch to view the morning’s unfolding, chickens and sheep, lone lamp lighted above my shoulder. After checking email and Facebook, I opened my notebook recording the previous day’s events, the highs and lows, gratitude. A foreboding sense, the day before me, voices still mocking of my inadequacy.

Many days, my native tongue is shame. I return to this default setting, the language learned young from never believing I earned the mark, never meeting the demands, the comparisons, falling short of the moving line of excellence, rarely winning. The early morning whisperings will torment my day, reaching fever pitch, shrieking of my inabilities and shortcoming, lying to my tender soul. A brazen highlighting of my lack, my inability to be perfect.

Perfection has never been the design, the ideal for which we are to aim. Perfect is frightened, boring, predictable. Perfect demands a straight-line existence, no room for error, walking the precipice – joy absent, creativity stifled, grace rendered impotent, individuality muted. Striving for perfect is hiding behind the mask where the outside, the appearances are collected, cool, envied. Yet, inside is crying out to be found, to be seen, heard, loved.

Living a perfect life is living small….and scared.

Our imperfections makes us human. Imperfect allows the creative spirit to flourish. My life, my home, my relationships, my work as a parent, my writing…all fueled by this truth.

The mess, the risk, wrestled and overcome tells me a new story about myself, my unique voice and beauty, my distinct offerings. It is in this distillation where I gain the eyes to recognize who I am and what fills and drives, feeding this soul and body of mine.

I long to be fully human as I’ve been designed, which in turn requires that I create. Humility and vulnerability, with a healthy dose of defiance working together in tandem keep me returning over and over, fighting for the work, the expression, moving through the fear and shame. Perfect can not be an option, or else my creative breath suffocates, authentic life snuffed.

Slipping backwards into my shame speak, into my expectation of perfect, creativity is rendered void. The fear, the tightrope existence straitjackets me into a mold, a predictable identity. Yet when I let go, trusting in the grace, the centered surrender, the generosity, I can long for more, for messy, my expression, my creation.

Clinging to control is my fear response, the drive toward perfect. Talons gripping, unyielding. Grace and permission absent. Yet, fear is an important co-traveler on this journey. Accomplishing my essential, creative work, work only I can do, only you can do means we must accept this truth. 

Here’s how Elizabeth Gilbert handles her fear with creativity from her latest book Big Magic:

I decided that I would need to build an expansive enough interior life that my fear and my creativity could peacefully coexist, since it appeared that they would always be together. In fact, it seems to me that my fear and my creativity are basically conjoined twins – as evidenced by the fact that creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it. Fear and creativity shared a womb, they were born at the same time, and they still share some vital organs. This is why we have to be careful of how we handle our fear – because I’ve noticed that when people try to kill off their fear, they often end up inadvertently murdering their creativity in the process.

So I don’t try to kill off my fear. I don’t go to war against it. Instead, I make all that space for it. Heaps of space. Every single day. I’m making space for fear right this moment. I allow my fear to live and breathe and stretch out its legs comfortably. It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.

When I am terrified, as my voice lodges in my throat, breath raspy and labored, I pay attention. I know I have skin in the game. Transcending all sense, I move forward perfectly in my imperfect humanness humbled and beautiful, as I was created.

We make room for fear, recognizing our innate language of shame and issues of worth, fighting forward, surrendering and welcoming her to the party. The party of becoming.

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