Big Magic (In real time) with Elizabeth Gilbert

“You have to be childlike in the pursuit of your life, but you cannot be childish.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert (from this interview with Marie Forleo)

As I mentioned previously, I spent a huge chunk of the summer writing a thing.  I wrote this thing and it did not go how I planned.  I was going to post it here just to… keep it somewhere.  Then I got my copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR and I started reading it after I wrote that last post and when my pal Sus commented about life and creativity informing each other and existing together, it was like this book was talking back to me through her words. (Thanks, Sus!)  So, instead of getting discouraged I combated the nagging idea of failure by going to see Liz Gilbert speak this past Friday in Pasadena.

Confession:  I love Elizabeth Gilbert.  There is no one whose words I love more than hers.  She is truly one of my favorite humans on this planet.  I was reading EAT PRAY LOVE when the first door to my own life opened nearly ten years ago.  That book changed the way I saw the entire world and softened me to the idea of letting the family in that I have now. I just become so empowered when I read her words that I run off a cliff without a parachute with my creativity and the intention to fly. It lights a fire, for sure.  So getting to see her speak? Forget it.  I knew I needed it and it was something else.

I have to say, it was the first time in my life that I sat in a room with a group of strangers and it seemed as though all of our brains were wired the same way.  It was the first time I didn’t feel alone as far as how I live and see the world.  My lovely Kyla calls me a “childlike wonder” because I can exist in a solid reality, but so much of my life is engulfed in magical thinking.  People tend to lose that as they get older, in this room there were the people like me, the ones who hang onto it for dear life, and we embraced the others who wanted to exist there with us.  I just… I went to a completely different place the other night.  For someone who loves words so much, I can’t seem to find the right ones capture what this night was.

I’ve never seen connection happen between people the way it happened on this night.  The whole room stopped for each person.  Not only were they growing in wisdom as their questions were answered, but there was a little morsel that EVERYONE could benefit from as well.  Did I ask a question?  Before I got there, I had planned on it. However, I did not.  Once I was sitting in that room, my brain activated “little sponge” mode and I ended up just soaking up everything going on around me.  It was seriously something powerful just to behold.  (And now Kyla is reading this wondering if I thought of something to ask at all… Yes, Kyla.  in the middle of reading the book last night, there was my question on paper, so I got an answer anyway. Funny how that happens.)

Also, Liz loves karaoke so someone asked if we could end the event in song.  (Because who doesn’t love singing out of sheer joy at the top of their lungs with other people?! I hear those people exist, but I don’t know them.) So we sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” together.  I honestly felt like I could have jumped out of my chair and ran across the world afterwards.  It was SO MUCH FUN. This was Big Magic in real time, and I was so grateful to experience it.  I was so filled with joy and inspiration after this that I finished the last page in my lyric art journal, which sat unfinished on my coffee table for months.  I’m kind of proud of myself.

The one thing Liz said that seems to be lingering with me?  “It’s so weird to be a PERSON. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.”  She’s not wrong.  In these moments I was grateful to be the person that I am, living this life, no matter how hard it is sometimes.  Thank you, Liz.  For everything.

From the Outside Looking In

(When you can’t sleep and you HAVE to write stuff down at 1AM so your finger swipes upwards publishing things prematurely, that’s just obnoxious. I apologize to anyone who got an email with all of  the fragment of a sentence.)

ANYWAY. MOVING ON.

For the last year or two, I’ve been practicing not looking back on the past too much. As it has been pointed out to me from a place of truth over and over again, looking back doesn’t serve me, my future, or the moment I am in right now. So, I’ve been doing the best I can to be more present and to keep looking ahead. Looking and moving forward is like walking into a room filled floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall with sunlight. There’s such a gratitude for life in that room of warmth, but still there are days when the door to that room is locked and it seems as if I’m alone in a never-ending darkened hallway. This is the can of worms that was opened this week.

Remember when I said I was in a creative drought? Well, it seems to have manifested into more of a life drought. Granted, most of it is due to situations out of my control and I sit here and fixate on things I can control… But I think in that case, it just seemed to make things worse.

I created one thing all summer. Just one thing, during my internet hiatus when a project dropped itself in my lap and I spent a whole month devoted to it away from everything. You want to know what happened next? Nothing. It didn’t accomplish what I set out for it to accomplish. (More detail on this specifically another time.) I knew going into it this outcome was an enormous possibility, I was ok with that and did it anyway, then when it came down to it, when it didn’t go how I’d hoped, I got really discouraged. I think as the cloud of failure formed and hovered above me, it started to affect everything else going on around me. But like I said, the rest of it has been completely out of my control.

Around mid-August, B got a second job unexpectedly and we are nearly in October and still trying to work out her schedule with me. The schedule changes every week, and most of the time it changes daily, so the shake up and lack of routine is really getting to me. Every day it’s like someone comes in here and flips my world upside-down. Like I’m living in Wonderland with nothing but a handful of nonsense. The situation is giving me crazy amounts of anxiety and I’m not so sure what to do about it. I know you’re probably thinking, if it’s that stressful, let her go. I can’t do that though, I wish you all could see how good she is for me. I am better because I have her help. I just need to figure out a way for a sense of normalcy and stability to return to me.

Aside from this, it feels like there is not a single human around me with the ability to follow through with their words into actions these days. It’s quite simple, right? If you say you’re going to do something, you should probably do it; or don’t loosely commit to anything at all. When someone doesn’t follow through, it makes me feel like I’m not worth enough or good enough and I’m not doing enough. I beat myself up. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s what happens and then I go back to the fact that I can only depend on myself.

The other night ALL of these things collided together and in a moment of shame, I fell apart. I reached out and told my Kyla that I was struggling and I needed some help navigating a way out from under the pile of pressure and stress I was buried underneath. She told me what it was like watching me carve out a life for myself the last few years. (Using the most epic Wizard of Oz analogy ever to exist…) I told her how I felt like I’d never be enough or doing enough and I felt like I hadn’t done anything at all. I told her how it feels like I can’t ever catch a break. So what was her response? She wished I could see my life right now from the outside looking in, so she gave me an assignment. She said to me, “Write your story five years ago; then write your story now. Read them both.”

Okay then, let’s give this a shot, shall we?

Five years ago: September 2010: I’d grown restless of living with abusive, neglectful chain smokers where I seemed to be sick all the time. I ran away from that situation over that summer. I moved in with old friends in Orange County because we wanted to be able to help each other. I was truly happy there, until one day several months later it caught up to me and I wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with reality. When you run, you don’t take the time to pay attention to the lessons life is trying to teach you. But now I wonder, how could I be of any kind of help to anyone if I couldn’t even help myself? I lost friendships that were family to me then. I will always love them and deeply cherish our time together. At the time I took it incredibly hard so the fact that I ended up back where I started was devastating to me. I lost myself for longer than I care to admit. I’m so grateful to every little thing that kept me afloat.

Now: September 2015: I live alone with my cat in my own apartment. I have a team of people who work with and for me to help me navigate adulthood. I may have had to grow up at a very young age, but it’s true what my pal Cady says — when you aren’t taught the simple things growing up you don’t know how to do them as an adult because no one took the time to show you. Now people show me those things. I may not have nearby friends, but I have a massive encouragement and support system that spans all across the world. I am creating again, even if Creativity and I may be on a break at the moment. I have a huge creative endeavor in the works with my sisters that could really be something special. I am going out and doing things because I want to. I am planning a family reunion with my heart family. I am going back to physical therapy for the first time since I was a toddler. I do my physical therapy every day at home.  I am starting aquatic therapy next week. I am seeing doctors. I am trying to be patient and gentle with my body as it adjusts to everything I’m doing to make it stronger and healthier. I am talking to every social worker who steps into my apartment without a shred of anxiety. I am doing everything I can to help myself be the best I can be in every way possible. Maybe it’s not as broken as I think it is. All that matters is that I give this moment the attention it’s asking for and then I must continue moving forward.

Ah, Kyla, I see what you did there. Once I got into this part of this post, I let go and just let my fingers type whatever they needed to. I am pretty sure you did not mean for me to post those on my blog, but I wanted you to see that I did it. I also felt like posting them publicly holds me more accountable. So, you were right. From the outside looking in, I’ve done more than I ever imagined I could. Nor am I finished changing the landscape of my life and then the world.

Inhale. Exhale. It’s all ok. Take another step, Kimmie.

The Break in the Drought

As I write this on the last day of June, it is dark, humid and raining in my little corner of Southern California.  We desperately need this rain.

I’ve been feeling entirely too overwhelmed by social media as of late.  The idea that you need to be connected on Facebook or Twitter, or whatever social media outlet to stay in the know of your loved ones lives was just something that has been really getting to me. I just feel like I need a break for a little while; it could be a few days, weeks, I don’t know. I will be back, just unplugged for now.  The weird thing is, usually I’d try to get to the root of why I’m feeling this way, but right now I’m just letting it be.  I like it.

I’ve been in a bit of a creative drought. There is one blank page left in my art journal before it’s filled up.  I know what song will fill that last page, I just can’t bring myself to be finished with it.  I’ve been avoiding doing anything with it because I know that means one of two things: buying a new one OR going to the craft store to buy new paint supplies.  It’s not that I can’t decide between the two, my plan when this journal was full was to buy some canvases and recreate a few of the pieces in the journal. The thing is, I started  with the paint when I got the journal and I hated everything I created.  Maybe I’m scared I’ll mess up again, or maybe I should just see what comes of it.  In any case, I haven’t created anything in about a month.  I mean we built a footstool but that doesn’t really count, does it? I was reading something recently which said that creative people go through equal cycles of creative bliss and a kind of depression.  I am not really in a “depression” but I am still finding this to be true.  I need something to reignite my creative fire.  I’m sure I’ll find it.  Meanwhile, I can’t seem to stop reading. Books have always been my thing, going hand-in-hand with words, but I can’t seem to stop.  One right after the other these days and I am okay with that.

On the other hand, I have given myself a project that I cannot really talk about yet.  A writing project dropped itself into the universe and I said to someone, “I think I want to do this.”  So I’m doing it.  A book I have read more times than I can count for inspiration has become more like a textbook for this project.  It’s strange having this project sitting in my lap.  Brainstorming, writing, rewriting, words words words and deadlines.  Maybe this is what my social media break is for, to focus on this, even if nothing comes of it.

Focus on something else and the break in the drought will come.