I'm going to go out on a limb here. If you know me at all or have been reading this blog for a while, you know I am rather guarded when it comes to my personal life. I'll share bits of myself but I've never really been all-the-way comfortable with doing so. I've dropped hints here this past year but never fully opened up about what was really happening in my life. I follow and thoroughly enjoy other bloggers who just put it all out there but have always just sort of shrugged and thought, well, that's not really the person I am, and that's ok.
Sometimes the concept of "the person we are" comes into question, and I suppose that's what this post is about. I've been encouraged this past year by close friends to speak my truth and share my journey, but haven't really known where or how to start . . . or if it's even really what I should be doing. "My journey" is intertwined with and affected by the journey of someone else whose privacy it's important for me to respect even more than my own. I hope that I'm able to do that in a respectful manner, because in the spirit of "I'll try anything once" and finding my long-lost self, here I go, diving off the cliff into the clear blue pool below:
We had always believed we were so different and special. Fail-proof. It was written in the stars; previous lifetimes had led us here. For nearly 23 years we were so smug in this belief. But the truth is that we were only human, and humans break stuff.
When we're in a committed long-term relationship we constantly give up little pieces of ourselves. All along we believe it's ok to deplete ourselves this way because it's all about the greater good: we are adding these pieces to the Shared Dream we are building together, the result of which is a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
But when we're not careful, the fog rolls in and obscures our view of the Dream we've worked so hard to build. We know it's still there somewhere, so out of habit we keep tossing the bits of ourselves into the general vicinity of the Dream but they are lost in the foggy void that surrounds it.
Over and over in the course of a relationship we find our way back to it and scoop up whatever pieces we can find and rebuild. When we do this together, the Dream has the potential to become even greater. Those times only one of us is doing the scooping and rebuilding, the result is a little more fragile and precarious.
Sometimes the fog becomes too thick and we never find our way back to it. We lose track of years, even decades. Somewhere hidden in that fog the Dream crumbles from neglect as we continue to lose ourselves, piece by tiny piece tossed into oblivion, until the person we had been: the one that the other had been drawn to and had fallen in love with so long ago, the reason we had started building that Dream in the first place, becomes nonexistent. There's simply nothing left, of the individuals or the Dream.
The beautiful and fortunate thing resulting from this is that left with nothing we have the opportunity to completely rebuild. Start fresh. Reinvent from the foundation up. What an amazing gift this is.
And in that process we discover that this is how it was supposed to be, that we are better off this way. And that those aren't just feelgood words of comfort, but our own deep, extremely happy, grateful truth.
By the end of last year, I came to the edge of the foggy muck from where I'd been only semi-afloat for months, ready for the Big Rebuild. I felt the bright sun on my face and realized it wasn't just those few months, but years that I hadn't been in it. It had taken the sky completely falling for me to realize I'd already been in the dark for so long.
But once again that old smugness set in: I'm different. I'm strong, I'm talented, I could do this on my own time and no one would even notice. I'd just quietly and privately find and rebuild myself without affecting others around me, my lifestyle or my livelihood. My business could keep running at the same pace it had previously. Yes it would be a challenge, but I could do it. Of course. I had to.
In my enthusiasm to do so I dug down and found just enough creative and practical motivation to push myself across the country to the Atlanta Gift Mart in January where I re-energized in the whirl of meetings and get-togethers with awesome licensing partners and artist friends. As I opened up and shared what I was going through I found support and kinship in unexpected places. I realized I wasn't alone and I was inspired by those who had already come out from the other side stronger, better, and happier. I felt awake and alive, creative and strong; I made plans, promises, and commitments. That trip was the drug that ultimately spun me up out of the mire.
But that's the thing about drugs, you come down from them. Sometimes really fast.
In some ways 2015 has been a big year. Giant and overwhelmingly intense. In others, it has been nearly nonexistent: the passing of which has gone undetected, strangely incognito as something that has nothing to do with a year or even time itself. Some accomplishments have been monumental and satisfying, while other perfectly good intentions gather cobwebs in the corners, waiting patiently for Time and Energy to arrive on the scene and save them from obscurity.
Rebuilding. Rediscovering. Growing. Learning. A blur of inspirational teachings and soundbites. Deep, meaningful wisdom, incomprehensible drivel, empty silence. Wild extremes of anger, sadness, loss and ridiculous all-encompassing happiness I could have never imagined before. Old, stale pain and new, fresh giddy silliness.
And it's not over yet.
Some of the most difficult emotional and practical details are still looming on the horizon. Things I had hoped to be long past by now. It could potentially get much worse before it gets better. As a matter of fact, it's probably guaranteed to do so. But things happen the way they are supposed to. I truly believe that. I have a different kind of strength and gratitude to deal with that moving forward than I did even just a few months ago. I can only believe that those things will grow in me as I live in each moment. Each. Separate. Moment. One. At. A. Time. Being here now.
I'm still really overwhelmed and often really close to freaking out. Broken bits of my emotional self have been replaced by this fresh new feeling of being ridiculously happy. No, seriously. Ridiculously. I'm not making that up, it's for real. Parts of me are focused, fierce, inspired, clear. Parts of my life are abundant and peaceful. But others, not so much . . . yet.
The deepest, darkest secret I carry from this past year is that there were many times I was afraid I'd completely lost the ability to create. All imagination, talent, muscle memory, every molecule that comes together resulting in a piece of art: gone. I'd pick up a pencil or a paintbrush and nothing would happen. I would just sit and stare at an empty piece of paper. Or even worse: complete shit would appear. Embarrassingly horrible stuff. This was terrifying. My art has defined me as a human being since I could first hold a crayon in my tiny stubby little fingers. Not to mention my ability to survive with an actual roof over my head the rest of my life depends on it more than ever before.
It seems this would be obvious, but I had to learn that creativity cannot be motivated from fear. It was a tough lesson to be faced with: that for much longer than I'd realized, much of my creative energy had been based on fear of loss, disappointment, not living up to standards and expectations I had set for myself or that others had set for me.
We all do this to some extent, it's impossible not to. You know, "you're only as good as your last ____" defines not just those of us in creative fields, but all professions. Nearly as soon as I realized I needed a more positive source from which to draw creative motivation, there it was, like a little cute little wrapped gift dropped into my lap. New, positive inspiration: a constant reminder of why I create, what I can do, and the motivation to do so. This discovery is still pretty new as I write this, and I'm just starting to dive back in here in the studio; little by little I'm finding and catching up with it all. Slowly but surely the rest of you will start seeing the results of that. After several false starts this past year that have only resulted in further retreat back into my shell, I believe this may finally be it. Overwhelming distractions still hang over this place like a big black rain cloud, but I live in the Pacific Northwest: we can do anything in a rainstorm, it's no big deal . . . right?
Still, this is all really new and weird and I guess that's why I think I'm supposed to be sharing it with you now.
A lot of you have been here; more of you, probably, than I'd ever imagined. Some of you might be here (or somewhere nearby) right now. And for those who may end up here in the future: I can only wish that you will find comfort in knowing about my experience. In January a kind colleague looked me dead in the eye and said only, "It gets better." He spoke firmly and with conviction, and I knew it was from experience. Although I had already sort of believed eventually it would, it's his words, his voice, and the look in his eyes when he said it that have stuck with me. Nothing is more true.
It really does. As long as we keep believing that, facing forward and feeling grateful, this will remain true . . . I believe that from the deepest dark depths of my weird little patched up heart. I am overwhelmingly grateful for the support I've gotten from people close to me: those from my long and distant past, and those who are recent additions to this new and weird happy life of mine, those who are part of my daily life and those who are far away. That weird little patched up heart is pretty darn full these days, and that's a cool place to be.
And I'm always grateful for you folks out there who stumble across this silly old blog now and then - especially those of you who have endured this epic novel of a post all the way to the end. There should be some sort of prize for you . . . hmmm, we'll have to work on that.
And finally, to those who had no idea I was going through this (that would be most of you, I suppose) all I can say is please, before you even think the words "I'm so sorry..." don't! Yeah, it's been difficult and challenging. I realize it may sound strange (unless you've been here yourself) but I can honestly say I don't believe I'd change a thing, even the parts that totally suck. In many ways I am in a better place than I've been in years. It's true that once you've been in total darkness everything else just becomes that much more beautiful, and that's an awesome thing to experience. So as kind of you as it was to start thinking that thought: there's just really nothing to be sorry about.
In the meantime, thanks for being here, all of you. I'll really try to come out from under my rock and be back here soon: let's make a habit of this again.