My Waking Up Pages

In The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she suggests writing every morning upon awakening. She calls them morning pages because they are to be done in the morning. I call them my Waking Up Pages because it will be waking up through my writing, which has meaning on more than one level.

In the Basic Tools chapter, Julia lists 10 Basic Principles that followers of the 12-week program are to read every morning. Item #6 reads:

The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.

I made two copies of the Basic Principles list. I put one inside my daily writing journal and one inside Julia’s book. I wanted to ensure that I would read the list before doing whatever writing I was doing. Number 6 in the list has been particularly poignant for me because I have refused to be creative for my entire life.

One of my first memories is playing with Barbie dolls with my friend, Kendall. She loved dolls, dressing them up, and pretending that Barbie and Ken were going on dates. I remember begrudgingly playing with the dolls because that is what my best friend loved to do, and I wanted to play with my best friend. I remember admonishing myself about not having anything to add, that I didn’t know what I was doing, and that I did not what to make the dolls do, either.

In a recovery inspired manner, the twelve chapters of The Artist’s Way help the reader address various blocks. Week 1 is about Recovering a Sense of Safety, an important base from which creative work springs. My morning pages writings have centered much on recreating that sense of safety and exploring ways in which I have refused my creative drive. Even if you do not believe that creativity is core to the nature of human beings, my refusal to follow a creative path has been counter to my own nature.

This morning, I did not write upon rising. I had some food and got ready to go to an aqua fit class. I arrived in the locker room only to realize I had no towel to dry myself off. I wanted to pout and go to Starbucks for a consoling snack, but I left my wallet at home. I came home, answered emails, and felt a rising panic in my stomach. I was conscious that I was putting off my writing. But why?

My husband and I came to work at the Bellerose Starbucks, and I began to write my daily writing. Although I had interesting dreams to write about, I ignored them to go to aqua fit class. When I sat to write, I could no longer remember them. I vaguely remember exploring themes of companionship and self-care, but the interesting details were gone.

Why did I not write them and go to a later class? My unconscious mind was feeding me back the issues of creating my own safety net and truly taking care of myself. I refused to let myself learn. I refused to grow because an external, logical reason told me that I had something more important to do. Despite knowing there was an afternoon class, my decision to go to the morning class meant that my left brain refused to relinquish any control to satisfy the right. Half of my brain is the prison guard convinced anything not like itself is to be crushed to dust.

This has been the crux of my lifelong creative self-denial: Creativity cannot be defended as logical and practical enough to be respected. Why does my left brain contain such a self-effacing critic that seeks to deny and to destroy anything within my life that is not the same as itself, especially feelings, desires, and urges? As a recent observer, the realization is shocking.

I acknowledged today that I have not wanted to write upon waking because I am too fuzzy headed to think clearly. But maybe that is exactly what I need. I need to act before my rational brain is awake enough to interfere with the expression of my creativity. Using the I’m not awake enough excuse is similar to the I’m not feeling well excuse, the I don’t know what to write about excuse, the the cats won’t leave me alone to write excuse, and the I’m in pain today excuse. Because I have fibromylagia, I chronically experience pain despite taking pain meds.

I need to wake up through writing as my head gains clarity I open my eyes. I need to wake up to my discoveries of self, to my own ability to protect and nurture my self, and to wake up to my own life as it is and can be through creative endeavors.

I am waking up to my conscious and unconscious mind, to my creativity and spirituality, and to my excuses. By surrendering my refusal to create and my negative self-will, I wake up to my life as if sunshine were waking me up from a long, cloudy existence.

The Only Way Through It is To Do It

My motto in the last couple of years has become, “The only way through it is to do it.” buddha2

I often get sidetracked by anxiety and guilt. And once I have procrastinated for either of these reasons, I create a domino effect of failing to get things done and feeling increasingly anxious and guilty about it. Whether it is addressing a problem with a family member or facing my financial future, the results are the same. 

Last May, I met a financial advisor. He was calm and plainly told me I could manage my meager funds (and meager they are). I spoke to him in July when he called to follow up. As I was in my final semester of graduate school while packing to move, I had not done any of the tasks I said I would do. The reality is the I refused to do it. He followed up with me in November, in December, and at the beginning of January. Here it is past the first week of February, and I was still putting it off.

As I wrote yesterday, today was my deadline. I thought I would have had enough time to pick a stock or two before calling him. First, I logged into Vanguard and spent an hour reading articles on investing. I felt mostly clear headed about what I needed to do and things to consider. As I read, I made myself a list of important things to remind myself when thinking about investing. Then I called Vanguard and spoke to a rep, who made me realize that it was going to take a while. I took out materials the advisor sent me but I never read, and I reviewed notes I took with him in May. At the end of three hours, I still had not read my IRA Brokerage Account Agreement, which I wanted to read. The small printing made me want to have a fresh mind, so I put it in my bag for tomorrow. I left the advisor a voice mail apologizing for the lack of response and asked him to call me back.

I still have a lot of educating to do, and I am reconsidering whether I want to do a brokerage account. I have to compare the cost ratio of mutual funds to cost ratios of funds I want to pick and see what the difference is. I am not going to decide tomorrow, either. Taking the time I need is fine as long as I take the time, no matter what it is. More importantly, I have freed up mental space otherwise taken up by an increasingly anxious and guilt-ridden mind.

2014 is all about the breathing through and moving on.

Beating Yourself Up is a Contact Sport

ImageYou face the enemy from opposite sides of the ring. Bright lights fill the square space underneath you and reflect off the scuffed sheen of the floor. Screams from all around fill your ears and shut down any thoughts that arise in your mind. The ref raises her right hand into the air, raises the whistle to her lips with her left, and blows hard. The crowd stands on its feet and the roars deafen you.

You step and dodge forward. Hands are up to protect your face. Right upper cut! Left hook! The enemy deals you a one-two blow that cracks the skin under your chin in a wide slash. Blood pours down your white tank in lines and dots. Sweat races down your temples and into your eyes and chin. Stinging and burning and noise and pain are all that you know.

A third blow knocks you on your knees; a fourth knocks you on the floor. Fans scream and boo. You lay on the floor. Inside your head, you are shouting “Get up! Get up!” while the referee counts the last moments of the round. The pressure is on. You hear angry chanting, ‘Stay down! Stay down!’

As the ref yells ‘Eight!’, you are up and on your knees. If you are going down, you will stare the Devil down first. You wipe your brow with the back of your right forearm. You open your eyes and see the walls of your room. No ring. Nor a ref. Nor an enemy. Just you standing in front of your bedroom bureau mirror, sweating, and unable to move.

You sit down on your memory foam mattress. The box spring creaks underneath. Birds chirp outside. A TV show mumbles in the background. You lay back down on your bed. The vanquisher and the vanquished. It’s 8:10am. Muhammed Ali ain’t got nuthin’ on me, you think. You pull the sheets over your head. Today’s an inside day. Definitely an inside day.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ganessas/421980502/ via http://photopin.com
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