3.04.2013

Changing the Race

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the race

Once I had a boss who wanted all of our work done by the end of the day so in the morning we started with a clean slate. I found this habit puzzling. The analogy for me was no matter if we had fed 50 people or 500, by the end the day all the dishes needed to be washed and put away. It didn't matter how long it took, you stayed extra until the place was completely cleaned up -- empty of work.

I use to wonder what drove her obsession. I sensed that she needed a definite beginning and endpoint in the emotional and mental turmoil of her life. She needed some kind of concrete symbol that gave her the illusion of meeting a goal. She needed to finish the race and beat the clock. She needed to know she had won that day. She needed to prove she was good enough every day by overcoming the struggle of work, chaos, and mental clutter. She needed to win the gold star that day to keep that fact that she was losing at life at bay.

So every day my boss drove us in a race to the finish line to win -- of what, I didn't know.

The Creative Process

When you create something through writing, painting, growing, etc., it's very difficult to see a beginning or end. More importantly, winning doesn't factor into the experience at all. New growth and learning motivate all my creativity.

Many times when I've made art, I've gotten lost and the end is on pause for several years until a question is answered and the work is completed. Other times I've messed things up and had to go back to the beginning to start from scratch. I've also struggled with the repetitiveness and boredom that can be a byproduct of making of things. Nevertheless, I usually find some sort of ending.

However, even after the work is finished, it takes on a spiraling life of its own, changing me from within and altering my perceptions. Then of course there is the work that remains incomplete, and I eventually let that stuff go.

My belief is that when you engage in the creative process, you don't focus on the endpoint but the stuff in-between. The end exists, and you know you're eventually going to reach it, but there's an attitude of "What's the rush? It will happen on its own." People may think this creative process is just for artists; however, I believe everyone is engaged in the act of creating the canvas of their life so relishing the in-between moments are valuable to all.

This means staying with the discomfort, vulnerability, and boredom of not knowing where the endpoint is and when it will come. You learn to embrace setbacks and the feeling of getting lost as a meaningful part of the process. More importantly, you don't rush through the experience to relish the emotional high of reaching the end and "winning." Instead you see the creative struggle as an opportunity to stick with your feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and uncertainty so as to grow stronger and more compassionate, while awakening to the reality of life.

Changing the Race

Last week I had a dream that I've dubbed The Race. In this dream, I participated in a very long triathlon with lots of competitive-minded friends. Throughout the race, I stopped and chatted with people I knew along the way -- a teacher or friend. We might have a drink together and leisurely mull over personal philosophies. Afterwards I'd casually begin running again. Next I would be laughing, enjoying a chocolate ice cream cone with a friend or stopping to hang out in the sun and get a facial. Towards the end of my dream I saw a friend's bike fall apart, and I stopped to help him put it back together, reassuring him not to worry for I knew we would eventually finish the race.

Time didn't matter to me in this dream. I sensed our endpoint -- our destination -- but there was no rush. Instead I knew the most important parts of the race were these moments of stopping to learn, connecting with friends, helping people in need, and delighting in small pleasures. It was the most relaxing dream I've had in a long time because I didn't need to be something, do anything, or get anywhere fast. Each intimate moment arose and created itself afresh, and being in The Race didn't seem bad at all.

I never ran the race like my boss wanted me to. I don't know why I wouldn't subscribe to her belief system, but intuitively I felt like it wasn't a genuine expression of life for me. Creating meaningful moments along the way felt like the thing to do because there is no winning the day or winning at life. Eventually we are all going to meet at the same endpoint, and when you get there you can't carry anything across the finish line -- what you became or what you supposedly won is irrelevant.

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