When I chose my word(s) for this year, I pictured a kind of presence paired with peace, a centered and calm approach to life that would call me to listen and learn from the here and now as opposed to my tendency to spend so much time looking both ahead of and behind me. I chose Here/Hear with some fuzzy waft of Enya playing through my ears, and imagined, though I would have argued against this then, a meditative and mundane year filled with being so captured by the now that I'd come to some beautiful and transfixing realization about my life, and where I am in the midst of it all. It's nearing six months into 2017, and almost a year from when I changed my life to begin this career as an artist, so it seems only fitting to do this thing that's been tugging at me, which is to sit and write about where I am, and how I am feeling, and to be as honest as I can about this season.
Here is the sentence I wanted to write next: Being fully present in life as it is, in my life as I am, right now, is the most beautiful and important gift I could have offered myself this year, and it makes all of the ebb and flow of the days even more rewarding. Here is a truer version of that sentence: Being present in life as it is, in my life as I am, right now, is uncomfortable.
It's less poetic, this season of discomfort, and what it offers, though rewarding, is hard won, and often almost missed in the blur of figuring it out. Here's the thing about this season of discomfort - it's not without joy, unabashed heart pounding joy, or laughing, creating, hope, and love. This season, while it feels as if I'm a raw potato, peeled of all my protections, has been brimming with goodness, and that's where it gets a little tricky.
I am learning, sometimes the hard way, that following your heart means you have listen to it, all of it, and no matter how graceful you think you may be, or how good and true you believe yourself to be, our hearts are still human, still beating with the flawed and flummoxed truth of people who real, contradictory, beautiful, and bruised. This season is uncomfortable because I am choosing, through gritted teeth most days, to sit with myself in the midst of all the things my heart and head tell me, and to figure out what to learn from, what to trust, what to toss, what to keep, what to allow to sink in, really sink in, and slowly, so slowly, where to go next.
You already know what I'm about to say, but indulge the naive me from months ago, thick in the fog of grief, who imagined that what I'd hear and feel when paying such close attention would be inspiring and motivational, when I tell you that I thought being "here" would be full of the best emotion, carved out from a life that is long and short all at the same time. And now of course I admit that instead what I found mingled with the good stuff was a lot jealousy, shaky, stumbling confidence, or lack thereof, complications in the boundaries between self-worth, creation, and business, so, so much doubt, fear, mistrust, a healthy dose of excuse for why anyone might have expressed love for what I do or who I am, and though it used to seem impossible, an even more fragile and sensitive feeling heart than the one beating in me a year ago. I tell you these things, though it make me itchy to be so forthright about such unloveliness, because none of these feelings are new, and I know, though I'm not always clear hearted enough to believe it, that I am not alone in any of these. I tell you these things because I am very good at finding a solution that will make life more comfortable, fantastic at finding an easier way out, and I am choosing in this season of discomfort not to do that. I tell you these things because I've realized it's so easy for me to imagine that everyone else has it all together, all figured out, and they never grow jealous of anyone else, never feel that little tug in their chest when they want nothing more to support those around them, but kind of wish they'd thought of that first, or garnered as much response, who really, wholeheartedly support others, but still kind of wish they had half their talent, they never feel the pang of doubt and confusion when they're unfollowed on social media, or when someone says an unkind word about them about them in a public space, and never question their talent or their path when their work doesn't sell as well as they'd hoped. I tell you these things because while it's easy for me to imagine all of this when times feel tough and confusing, I know it cannot be true, and if you feel this way at times, too, I want you to know, without a doubt, that you are not alone. I tell you these things because part of making my way through this process is believing that for myself, and just letting myself be uncomfortable within those emotions, making sense of them without searching for a quick fix out of, or around them.
It's been interesting to live in these months of so much goodness, of birds and gardens, reading and painting, and sun that punctuated a very long stretch of grey, while also living my way through such uncomfortable feelings and questions, but I know I need to be in it, here. I remember the first time I read Rilke's line, which I am sure I've shared a thousand times since then, but here it is once more:
I remember it because I was very young, and searching as hard as I could for the what/where/how/when, and why's of life, and at the time, the words gave me hope that all I needed to do to get there was just be alive. I am still young by many counts, though not nearly as young as I was then, which in hindsight feels impossibly young, and though I am still working my way through the questions, still living my way to the answers, the thing I've learned in this season is that the questions won't always be ones we want to answer, and the answers won't always be ones we want to hear, but that doesn't make them matter any less, heck they might matter even more, because in the middle of the mess are some of the most beautiful and truthful things I've ever stumbled upon in this life.
I had lunch with a dear friend recently who told me that some of life's best comes after being uncomfortable, and I hope she's right, because while I might be embracing it, I am not always enjoying it. The only thing I know for sure right now is that I need to be here, that I need to sit with the ugliness and doubt as much as I do with the hope, and that I need to be okay with needing help, and with asking others for guidance and grace when I have trouble finding it on my own. I need to know deep down that it's okay to feel all of these things, but it's what I do with what I learn from them that really matters in the end, and there's really no way to learn from something without taking the time to get to know it.
For the month of July I am carving out the time to write each day, and because I know myself, and how I work best, I am doing that in the form of these posts. They won't all be this long, thank goodness, right? And they won't all be full of the tough stuff, though some of them will, because they'll all be firmly rooted in where I am now, this beautiful, uncomfortable place that I've yet to figure out, and the very best thing I can ever offer you, and myself, is to be honest about where I am. I told someone last week that that this summer for me is like being outside and enjoying the warm sun, but with only an itchy wool sweater to wear, and rough as it may be, I have to keep it on, live in it, work with it, and be ever so grateful for the cool breezes that give rest to the hotter times.
So, here's to a month of good work and good words, of being real and rough, of writing my way to more answers, and likely more questions, of drawing and painting, reading and dreaming, of showing up and being here, and of hearing what I might have otherwise tuned out when it didn't come in a form I was ready to listen to.