Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Getting lost can lead us home.

When I was working on a story about the Gulf War last year, I suddenly realized that I was really writing about my marriage. When I paint, I put down a bunch of colors on paper and then see what images start to emerge for me. This is my creative process. I never know where I’m going to end up, but I do know that the process itself will always be surprising and exhilarating.

Life is much the same way. And even more so during times of transition. You may have an idea of where you want to end up, but if you let yourself open up to any possibility that comes up and stay tuned to how you feel during the process, there’s no telling what unexpected joy will come into your life.

I’ll give you just a few examples that surprised me during the first six and a half months of this year.

  • I had been waiting for a year to start my MFA program but when I went to Boston in January for my residency, I realized pretty immediately that it added little value to my development as a writer. But the program offered a trip to Cuba to visit artists. Going to Cuba and interviewing Cuban artists had been a life-long dream of mine, so of course I went.

    That trip helped bring me closer to my parents than I could have ever imagined—gave me a fuller understanding of their lives as exiles. And as a result, I was able to interview them on camera telling their stories—another life-long dream that I had given up due to my deteriorating relationship with them over the years. My parents and I went from talking on the phone for a few minutes every couple of months to having weekly calls that I now look forward to.

  • I had been working on a collection of non-fiction stories for nearly three years when the inspiration for a new book came so strongly that I decided to create a blog around it. You’re now reading pieces of my new book.

  • Dropping out of the MFA program made me rethink what I was going to do next. I decided to finally launch a writing workshop series and complete a coaching program—both had been on my mind for years. And as I pursue these dreams, I keep meeting people with similar visions and backgrounds who encourage and guide me along the way.

To let your plans go without knowing what will come next can definitely feel a little disorienting, and you may even feel a little (or even a lot) lost as I did. But stick with it. Engaging in a creative life leads to more fulfillment, growth and love than you or I can often imagine. As long as we let go, follow our truest loves and inspirations. And let the process work on us. I’ve learned more about myself and life than I ever could have imagined had I stayed the course: writing about the Gulf War or painting those pretty abstract colors. Taking notice of what came up for me on the way to getting an MFA made me stop and change directions. Honoring the process led me home.

  • Adopt flexibility as a way of life
  • Stay tuned to your body and intuition – especially during transition times
  • Be willing to change directions mid-way – any discomfort you feel will eventually go away
  • Practice patience and trust the process
  • Express gratitude for the unexpected surprises that take you places you never thought you’d be able to go

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Oh kidney beans! My little kidney beans.

Two years ago, in the midst of starting up a new business, I ended up in the hospital with a kidney stone. Two weeks ago, in a different city 2500 miles away, a new doctor tells me he suspects I have another one. A barely-noticeable microscopic dot that appears to be lodged in my bladder. I will spare my readers the details.

It’s no coincidence. I realize this is a pattern. My body reacts to transitions it perceives as scary in this very particular way. (Interestingly enough, not all transitions are scary for me—just the ones where financial income is not completely obvious.) So during these transitions, I tend to put pressure on myself to achieve quick results, produce, create. Because the faster I do, the faster I can start generating money again. It becomes a vicious cycle. Worries about time, money and results become intertwined with my health. My poor body responds my producing a small stone. “Here it is. Did we do good?” I hear my kidneys ask.

This year, I became certified in Reiki so I decided to take a look in one of my chakra books. My second chakra—the one that represents change, emotions, water—appears blocked. Well, that makes sense doesn’t it? My body knows what it’s doing. There’s nothing like a little kidney stone to make you stop and reconsider the turmoil in your mind.

When you’re transitioning, don’t be surprised if your body reacts. If you experience some health issues. Your body is responding to your mental state. Maybe you’re purging old beliefs. Maybe your body wants you to slow down. What is your body trying to tell you? What do your illnesses represent? Pay attention. The messages are important. Our subconscious beliefs, our perceptions of life experiences, are stored in our cells and manifest in the body when we don’t pay attention to them. When they’re not released.

I’m reading a great book called Fruitflesh which is all about writing from the senses. It recommends writing a love letter to your various body parts, maybe ones you’ve neglected in the past or that require extra attention now. And so I write one. Dear Kidney Beans…In the letter I apologize for letting my mind take over. I thank my kidneys for keeping me healthy and sane and for reminding me to take care of them and me.

I also write to my kidney stone and ask it to return to earth. It’s served its purpose. I’ve spent nearly three weeks paying attention to my kidneys. Working slowly. Taking breaks when I need to. Doing energy healing. Drinking water and more water.

I like to think that the fact I didn’t end up in the hospital this time is proof that I’ve made some progress over the last two years. That I’m somewhat more adept at handling this type of transition. But whether I think I am or not doesn’t really matter. My body will always tell the truth. And I am truly humbled. By the great wisdom in a simple stone.

During times of transition, remind yourself to…

  • Budget for good healthcare, including preventative alternate practices
  • Take extra-good care of yourself, taking frequent breaks, eating well, drinking enough water and exercising
  • Believe that the universe is here to provide you with all that you need when you need it
  • Set up a support system of people you can discuss your transition with
  • Release worries and fears through body work, art, meditation, talk—anything that works for you
  • Spend some time acknowledging and appreciating your body parts and organs
  • Be gentle and loving with yourself—make sure you tell yourself at least one thing you like about you every day