The legacy of striving

The state of striving is a curious one to be in. For, while many of us lean on the definition of the term meaning ‘try’, it actually means to argue, to contend; ultimately, to ‘resist‘.

Indeed, the word ‘try‘ itself means to attempt to do, it doesn’t mean do. This is likely why the word contains failure. If you hypnotise someone to try to do something, they will never achieve it. (I believe I learned that from hypnotist Miriam Castilla.)

I learned recently that I’ve been striving my entire life. That striving is a legacy from my parents, and that this has affected my ability to achieve my dreams. Tellingly, it’s affected my willingness to work on my dreams. It’s been a deep, long-seated blocker against creativity. Since unearthing this taproot, I’ve experienced an outpouring of creative activity and a willingness to treat myself nicely.

The stillness that has emerged has been refreshing. No longer do I feel the immense weight of stuff hanging over my shoulders. More often am I able to experience the fullness of standing. To feel the expansion of this body that I inhabit. To be in the world in a way that allows me to experience the world rather than the emotions and thoughts arising as a result of it.

Today I realised that it’s been forever since I’ve written anything for myself that hasn’t been part of The Artist’s Way, which I’m re-doing with a group of fellow creatives. There is a lot of writing, reflection, activity, thinking, talking, discussing built into that recovery program. Working alongside creatives to do it is powerful, too. Together, we discover similarities, probe our sore spots, experience other people’s torches shining on limitations that we refuse to see. Because the group is built on mutual trust, respect, and love for who we truly are, there is no ill-will about seeing these wounds or being called out on our bullshit. You can do The Artist’s Way alone, and I have. But in a group it is communal in way that I’ve previously only experienced in communities centred on spirituality or God; communities that baffled me with their genuine ‘all-in’ on belief. Now I get it.

Then when I experienced a little serendipity, by way of an email pointing to this article in The Marginalia, I took a breath. I felt urged to write, so here I am.

That article is part of a series titled The Unphotographable. This focus on nature is deeply at the heart of what I’m being called to write. It’s at the heart of where I’ve been blocked. Desiring to write a thing, I have been having creative tantrums about the thing and thus not writing.

It’s because I preferred striving.

I preferred striving, I realise now. I preferred the feeling of striving to the feeling of doing, because my parents believe that achieving dreams (or investing, or being a successful landlord, or being an artist, or doing the thing your soul calls you to do) is something that other people do. I grew up seeded with this belief. I’ve lived my entire life subconsciously playing out this belief. The result has been that the feeling of striving meets my parents’ standards for hard work without the end result that might make them envious, and thus, damage our relationship.

Fucked up, isn’t it.

It’s so fucked up how we damage ourselves and our families without even realising. It’s so fucked up that I have no problem letting it go and coming back to a worshipful engagement of myself as creator. As soon as I began this process, the gates unlocked and poetry–beautiful, flowing poetry–flowed again.

With it, serendipitous reading showing me that there are multitudes of others, all equally steeped in the natural world. All called to write their experiences of phenomena like rain.

This recognition of me as creator, of writer of nature, is at odds with how I’ve described myself for my entire life. When asked what I write, I describe myself as a character writer: Someone for whom character is at the heart and soul of everything. It’s not story. It’s not place. It’s not life. It’s crafting a character in the fullness of their every dimension. It’s also untrue.

At heart, I am patterned on weather and the weather patterns me. When I read tarot, the wind gets stronger when I get to difficult topics, difficult news. When I am in the world, I teach others about how to read the weather without realising–and without being asked. I’m that person who knows how far away the winds are, and how strong they are. I can tell you when earthquakes will strike because of the character of the sea.

I’m that person, too, who has been shut down about it for my entire life. People sigh, get irritated, get sarcastic, as if my knowing is unwelcome or, worse, untrue. It’s questioned. I’m not the BoM, you see. I’m not the Weather Lady who programs you via television. I’m just a random woman who watches the clouds and notices when the swallows fly into the wind.

Talking about it is not a problem. But writing it has been.

Writing, as an act of creation is not mine, though. It never has been.

This act of creation is God’s. Or Source’s. Or The Universe’s. Or an Energy. Or whatever you want to call it. Currently I’m playing with my deep-seated thoughts about God, pondering whether God precedes energy, whether energy actually is matter but in another form. I’m awash in the wonder of it, open to possibility, and not tied to materialist beliefs in any sense. There are many realities and the three-dimensional is but one of them.

As someone who is easily influenced by others, relying on myself and my own knowing is extraordinary. I listen to people whom I trust, from authors and mentors to friends and children. I discover my own way a long time after taking their ideas on board and road-testing them. And I’m always disappointed to discover that their beliefs and perspectives aren’t compatible with mine. They’re not invalid, but they are sometimes very limited.

So as I sit here rambling about this state of my creative world, I know in my heart that at some point I’m going to be ok with talking about God. It’s not a churchy God. It’s not a God with rules and limitations, discriminations and punishments. It’s a God who is ever expansive, enthusiastic, incapable of finding fault with the act of creating.

As Julia Cameron writes (and here I paraphrase from memory), God is an exuberant creator who couldn’t stop at one or 50 or even 100 pink flowers.

If that trips your inner child, who splashed colours with glee over fifty thousand pieces of paper just because you could, good. That’s God at work and that’s the type of God who exists before energy exists.

Realising that I’m a channel for this most excellent, love-filled outpouring of creation is opening me to creation. Holding onto patterns of dreams for which I have to work and stress and strive is what shuts off the tap.

Striving got me nowhere fast.

My life hasn’t been a shitshow of nothing, don’t get me wrong. But in terms of my deepest and most heartfelt dreams, the condition of striving has served only to create unrest.

Right now I’m halfway through the Artist’s Way recovery program with my creative cluster. Standing on the precipice of Week 6, which is all about God and money (and other material things that we often put in the way of our art), I’m breathing different air. It wafts to me over the headland, washed in from the sea, cleansed and untouched by materialist humans. This time I’m breathing it the way it comes to me. Unfiltered. Fresh. Full of life.

As I breathe, I realise that the writing I’m drawn to is what I’m destined to do.

And if you don’t like it, that’s ok.

I’m not writing it for you.

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