The summer solstice has passed here in the southern hemisphere and we are now solidly in harvest time. Everything that we’ve planted is coming to whatever fruit it will.
This feels strange for me. It’s not because I come from the other side of the equator. It’s because I’ve toured significantly through two summers, and now a third coming, with a mere sprinkling of autumn and spring, and that means that I never took a full season of rest.
I love warm weather. I also love snow. There is little natural beauty on this planet I cannot enjoy. I’ve had more dark long winters in my life than summers, where the darkness becomes oppressive and inescapable in a way no amount of false light will liberate. Seasonal effective disorder is common among fellow Cascadians. My energy comes through my eyes. When it’s dark, so am I, and spring is my salvation.
I’ve never had to find its opposite challenge until this year. Light, and light, and light. It seems like it would be nice, but I don’t know how to pace myself. I’m accustomed to my geography forcing the pacing onto me, forcing me to slow down. More and more I realize, I don’t take intentional down-time. “Laziness” or any activity without a productive byproduct is ingrained in me as immoral. Rest is immoral. People who rest don’t make it. People who rest miss their chances. People who don’t rest, catch all the luck. People who don’t give up, and don’t rest, and catch all their luck may have to take lots of drugs to maintain it. Some die young. These are risks taken willingly.
But I want to live to be 100.
So, there are lessons I will have to learn this year about rest. It’s more complicated without winters or off-seasons, and an almost invisible line between work and play when work is play. Not all work is boring, and not all play is restful. Balance returns as a major theme for my 2017.
Ironically, the more I actually DO rest, the more productive I can be when I’m busy, but only if the rest has looked like actively doing nothing on purpose. Intentional rest is followed by intentional productivity. I might just throw the word “work” out the window and exchange it for something like “practice.” Practice develops mastery. Work pays the bills, but quite as well as mastery can…eventually. These are the things this emerging–“but no longer new to the thrill of being an artist”—artist, grapples with.
It hits me how fast things have changed for me in the last few years. 2016 was not a BAD year for me. It changed everything in some really beautiful ways. I’m living my dream, and “living the dream” is occasionally dreamlike, but it is also very eye-opening, and requires alertness like nothing I’ve ever experienced or wanted to hold onto quite so much.
This website started out as a cute travel blog. Now the traffic is so much more career related I am in need of a website overhaul. We should add to that, a change in names and pronouns, and the beginning of the dreaded “brand” aka what the world finds commercially viable about you, regardless of what you think you have to offer. I’m in a middle place again…transitioning in all the ways. I still need a bit of charity to stand, but am less likely to ask for, or get it. I’m beginning to see new sides of the cult of youth, and how “emerging” will always be more romantic as an idea than as an experience.
I’ve grown tremendously. My last post proved to me how much I have done in such a relatively short amount of time. I deserve to be tired. I’ve gone from the couch to running marathons, and I didn’t have the slow build-up of training. Life if short. I still don’t feel I have enough time.
When I think of how this past year could have gone even better, I compare myself to seasoned touring artists. Comparison is the fastest route to misery. I’m instantly confronted with what I perceive as failure, incompetence, and hypocrisy. These are some of the most difficult vulnerabilities for me to share. I feel as if everyone somehow knew the gap between my expectation and experience.
I presume everyone knows of my self-sabotage and how I can ruin a perfectly wonderful, playful, and fun experience for myself. I’m doing it now by holding up my success to a point of comparison I haven’t even earned yet.
I only know one cure for this. Gratitude.
Not mere thanks, but a deep feeling of connection with all I have and all that has been given to me, including what I have given to myself.
I am one of the luckiest people on the earth. I have everything I want out of life with the exception of some financial stability, which by some standards could never happen, by others I think it’s fair to say that I’m on my way. All joy comes from skill, and practice makes a person a master of a skill. Mastery, can catch a decent fee. So I keep on. I’m paying for my education in the here and now. I am sometimes blinded by how wonderful my life is and how much more full and meaningful it is now than the majority of it up to this point. Gratitude is a wealth anyone can accumulate.
I think rest must include gratitude. I know many artists who are always chasing numbers and dollars and whatever else. I have drive. I need to learn rest.
Part of the practice of rest AND work (which is play, and hopefully playful) is the introduction of more stability in some ways I can control. There are already so many ways I cannot. I share these things because being authentic about this process is difficult for me, and growth always follows challenge.
I want to incorporate more honesty, more process, more play…into my work in structured, stable, reliable ways. The irony is that the only thing left to be stable is showing up, on time, with something.
I have a musician friend who recently blogged about a project to write a song once a week based on prompts. She was pretty sure she would hate it. How can you make your muse into your slave? But the result was that she was the slave, and the sheer amount of time she showed up and let go of the final product made her muse stronger than ever. I cannot think of a better way to un-teach my perfectionism but by exposing how imperfect I am. Nothing does that for me like being on time.
So here I am, writing a blog post that probably sucks, but I will have it finished in about 10 minutes because that’s my deadline. My goal is once a week.
Somehow that feels like the hardest thing. But if I believe what I say I believe, and look at the impact of occasional genius compared to regular practice…there’s a clear winner for final output. (It the latter.) And there’s a lot that is not perfect, because no one is, but it’s worth wading through for the gems. And so maybe it isn’t the productivity that makes me so tired, but the perfectionism….the deluded idea of the static success, which isn’t really success at all. Success has peaks and drafts. I have to let go.
Everything has seasons. Even me. I must be jaded to rediscover gratitude. I must be down to be uplifted. I must be in the dark to be enlightened. I must forget to remember. I must sleep to wake up.
This year will require me to listen more, because if I don’t make space for being, some part of me wil make sure I do.