The Artist’s Way Reflections – Week Five: Recovering a Sense of Possibility

whitepumpkinThis was another volatile week for me. I think it’s just a volatile time. I had a hard time sticking to things like Morning Pages, after thinking I’d turned a corner on that.

The damn pages just aren’t letting me ignore feelings that I’d much rather ignore and it’s annoying.

In this chapter, she talks about wanting to be left alone, and I’m definitely feel that to some degree, and also in these quarantine times, the need for human connection feels paramount, especially as someone who’s living the quarantine life alone.

It feels somehow that this is out of balance for me, like I’d like to work in more connections in some ways and less in others and I’d like to think and write on that to re-center as it applies to in-person, virtual, phone time and social media.

Week Five: Recovering a Sense of Possibility

Limits

One thing that really spoke to me in this section was the bit about how we’re miserly with ourselves because we’re afraid of overspending any spiritual abundance. For me, it manifests as a fear of jinxing things, a fear of getting my hopes up, a fear of what horrible thing will happen if too many good things happen.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Even now, something awesome may be on the brink of happening, and I think it will, but I’ve been wrong before so I’m afraid to say it in case of jinxing. It’s not logical, which will be a theme of this post, but it feels important to keep it under wraps until it’s for sure for real.

At no surprise to anyone I’m sure, this section of the book and its magic-wand-ness part was difficult for me. It gets into all that belief and faith and trust and god stuff that I feel so ambivalent at best about.

This has been a real hard week for me. I’m at my absolute wits’ end, and, as I’ve said many times on here before, I was at my wits’ end, and complete and utter burnout, in February. Ever since, I’ve just been running on fumes. I’ve been trying to figure a way out of my own mess–some ways I’ve really hoped for, like an apartment I almost got on Orcas and being able to tutor boards and other med school exit strategies that I didn’t like nearly as much but still actively wanted, and some ways I didn’t want at all but would settle for to have any way to survive leaving–for months and months and months now, and I’ve hit so many dead ends with all of it. It’s all been hitting my head against walls over and over and over.

This week I reached the bottomless rage and the complete and utter despair stages of leaving med school. I thought I was already there before, but noooo, there are more levels of hell than I ever imagined. Often, it feels like going to med school ruined my life.

So in this kind of feeling, it’s hard to get behind any of the trust and faith type messaging in this chapter. In the best of days, I’m a skeptic, and this isn’t in the same universe as the best of days. But I also may be turning a corner and maybe needed the depths of rage and despair to get there.

So, I’m still going to try. So many of these posts amount to that sense of I don’t really believe this and my experience doesn’t support belief in this but I’m going to give it another go anyway for the hope of it all, but it feels fresh and true each time.

At the end of this section, she says to ask for answers about something in the evening, and then write about it in the MPs the next morning.

I’ve mostly been avoiding the MPs on account of not wanting to feel my feelings, but I did it last night and this morning. Last night, I thought he thing I wanted answers about is housing and this morning I wrote about that in my MPs, and wouldn’t you know, the first thing that came to mind was to go back to a tarot reading I did when I thought I might get the apartment on Orcas, and digging into that dug into real insight.

So I’m going to do it, give it a try. I’m putting it in my Reminders app right now to make sure I do this for seven days. I’m committing to doing this no matter how rotten I feel or how late I stayed up or how much I may not want to write my MPs on any of those mornings. Give it a real, good try. A lot of stuff comes to me through writing, so this seems like it could be fruitful.

I also like the bit about “pray to catch the bus and then run as fast as you can” because it involves both the spiritual aspect of setting intentions and the practical, in-this-world aspect of doing what you can to make it happen. It has a “practical magic” aspect of it that I love.

What about you? Have you ever experienced anything like the story of Cara and her agent? Do you think you tend towards scarcity thinking and wondering if your luck will run out?

Finding the River

It’s interesting, in some ways I feel the MPs are having the opposite effect on me from what she describes. I feel like I’m trusting less and not more because my MPs are frequently full of rage and despair. And I feel like they’re becoming more rigid, instead of the fluid, in-motion feeling she describes.

It might be because I keep dropping them a few days a week and keep avoiding certain topics that I don’t want to think about, pretty consciously, especially anger. Every time I do that, it’s like the MPs come back stronger and more obstinate like no you really feel this, and this, and this, and you can’t escape it.

But it’s hard not to want to try. No one wants to feel that way. Sometimes it’s so bad that after I write the pages I feel like I can’t really get through the day because I’m so distraught by the pages that I just fuck off on social media or whatever until the feelings are stuffed back down. It’s like a lot of the self-defining coming into focus that she talked about in the last chapter, but I don’t want to feel or be those things because they make my life harder.

Which also goes back to last week and how it’s hard to let go of the old way of being. Probably the thing to do is keep on keeping on and ride it out and listen to what I’m writing in the pages even if it’s hard. Really hard.

What about you? Are you finding yourself more trusting? Feeling more in motion? Or going more rigid like me? Do you have any reliable ways for finding the river and tapping into spirituality? For me it’s always nature and seasons, and I’m craving more access like I crave food and water and oxygen.

The Virtue Trap

The examples of how people gave on their dreams were so poignant, partly for how ordinary and everyday they were, the little things we all do to give up on ourselves and our dreams.

I have no delusions that I’m not self-destructive the way she describes it, as destructive of your true self. It’s something I’ve brought up several times in this column, the need I feel to suppress, hide and cover-up so much of myself in order to be palatable to others.

JC says, “We strive to be good, to be nice, to be helpful, to be unselfish,” and all of this is so very true. And to be seen as these things, maybe as a way to reassure ourselves that we aren’t bad and mean and unhelpful and selfish.

I really related to the part about wanting to be left alone too. And I know that my desire for solitude is not just solitude, otherwise quarantine probably would’ve provided plenty. It’s nature. I need that connection to nature, alone, and it’s been impossible since long before quarantine.

Everything she says about the artist in the death throes hits home for me. I’m trying to rebirth it through working on creative goals, learning music, attending to dreams deferred for decades, and doing this book, but mostly all I feel is the death throes that come from my inner artist dying of starvation for nature connection. But, like the Death card in the tarot, which came up for me a lot in the process of leaving medical school, sometimes that’s what’s needed for the eventual rebirth.

There’s a million things I would straight up say no giving my time away to if I didn’t feel the Virtue Trap closing in on me like a Venus Fly Trap. JC’s exactly right on that a lot of the reason for staying in the Virtue Trap is the fear of what will happen to relationships and appearances if ever we got out of it and started saying no to these things. That and what she says about not being able to approve of the authentic self.

Instinctively, I feel so much of this section with every fiber of my being, but I’d like to do more thinking for myself about specifics. What am I doing, specifically, due to the Virtue Trap, and what authentic self am I squashing down instead? The examples in the book that I talked about at the beginning of this section were so concrete, and I’d like to get concrete with myself too. A few things already spring to mind.

What are your concrete specifics? Are you in the Virtue Trap? Do you recognize any of this in yourself? Are you self-destructive?

The Virtue Trap Quiz

This was a real difficult exercise. It came out that even though I’m doing creative things, and maybe doing them is keeping me from going completely bonkers in the aftermath of all this life upheaval, none of it is bringing me any joy. I accidentally wrote job at first. That either!

Question #2 asks for the greatest joy and I couldn’t come up with anything. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt any joy. Writing answers to these questions made me feel pretty bleak, but what doesn’t these days? It’s not like that was a surprise but still difficult to feel. I also lamented the lack of love and closeness in my life, and yes that was right after completely agreeing with JC on wanting to be left alone. Both things can be true. Feelings are rarely fully internally consistent in their logic.

Someone I spoke to on the phone yesterday reminded that what I went through with med school was a trauma. I know it is. I’ve said it is. I’ve said it here. But still it helped to hear someone else say it. And the trauma is far from over as I struggle to cope with all the fallout (no income, no job, a crippling amount of student loan debt, soon no housing).

So maybe it’s okay that, right now, I can’t find joy (shit, I keep doing it, my hands really want to type “job”) and that I’m coming apart at the edges and can barely get myself to write MPs or to not scream every minute of every day (it’s a minute-by-minute struggle). Maybe it’s okay, even normal, to not be anywhere near okay, given the circumstances.

I don’t know if that makes any sense but somehow remembering the seriousness of what I’ve gone through, and hearing it from someone else, made me feel better about not being okay, and I appreciated that a lot.

How did you do on the Virtue Trap Quiz?

Forbidden Joys, An Exercise

Since I wrote about lack of joy in the last section, why don’t I just put this in here verbatim, now that the next thing is an exercise about joy. I went a little over the amount (as I do on most of these lists, I don’t know if it’s some kind of rebellious thing or what). Most of what makes these joys forbidden is practical concerns–driving, access, cost–and some are more internally forbidden.

Ten things I love and would love to do but am not allowed to do:

  1. Dye my hair fun colors again
  2. Get a haircut (and also get an olaplex treatment) – it’s seriously been years since I got a haircut and, well, it shows
  3. Live in the dispensary at Camp Orkila on Orcas (see this post) or find and buy a house somewhere with my own version of that land and ocean connection
  4. Have a PSL or other seasonal frou frou coffee drink every now and then – I’m going to do this soon, fuck it.
  5. write the real truth, publish the real truth
  6. have downtime, binge TV, read, guilt-free (I did do this recently with some binge-reading, but I guess it came up because I want to do it again or more or more regularly)
  7. go ice skating
  8. go stargazing
  9. take my writing extremely seriously
  10. indulge more in seasons and holidays
  11. go on walks alone

What were your forbidden joys?

Wish List, An Exercise

So, many of these repeat the ones above, or ones in the tasks (and two were outright political wishes that were more on a national instead of personal scale though no less intensely wished for) so it feels a bit repetitive to share but I thought I’d highlight a couple that were well-realized wishes:

  • I wish I could hire a full-time writer’s assistant. I’d have the assistant help with digitizing my old writing writing, and also go through and digitize my old journals as well (it’d make everything so much easier if it were all digital and searchable). I’d have the assistant help me with social media and my website, as well as sometimes take care of personal tasks and tech support, like helping me make several digital copies of my work saved in different places, using Time Machine on my computer and so on. Since we’re in wish land, I’d be able to pay this assistant well.
  • I wish I could get voice lessons for pop and rock music.
  • I wish I had a boyfriend –> fiance –> husband who loved me, respected me, valued me, including for my creative self and my crazy life and my intellect and all of me and that we had a romantic, loving, faithful fun passionate relationship that felt like partnership and home and family. My life could use some freaking romance!
  • I wish that my magical equal partner dude from the last wish would also join in or at least indulge all my seasonal and holiday stuff and love that about me, promise me we’d never move anywhere without seasons, and agree to half (give or take) of our trips being the kind I want to do, going to lodges or winter getaways and nature-y places.
  • I most especially wish to find a way towards a life that encompasses the five core things I value and want in life–love and a sense of home and belonging; creative expression and authenticity and audacity; financial security and stability; nature and seasons as spirituality; and intellectual curiosity.

What’s interesting is how repetitive these lists are, not just within themselves and against each other, but also looking back on previous ones over the years. Some of the specifics change (some don’t) but many of the same things reverberate time and time and again.

What’s on your wish list? Has it changed or stayed consistent over time?

Quote

“Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-groomed and unaggressive.”

-Leslie M. McIntyre

This one stood out to me for its truth, and also for me personally for encompassing both sides of things I want to be, the creative side and the science side, and how being either or both of things is for women. All those pressures to be “good” in ways I have no desire or intention to be good. All the silencing that happens in trying to not be labeled as difficult or aggressive or too emotional. Fuck all that.

In Miss Americana, the Taylor Swift Netflix documentary, she addresses this powerfully when she talks about the pressures she feels to always be nice and gracious, and also to always take everyone’s criticisms and change herself based on them.

I think that is what most of us who were raised as girls were taught to do–always make nice, always make everyone else feel comfortable, never say no to anyone especially not an adult or authority figure (luckily, I think that last one is changing), always put everyone else first, accept all invitations and obligations and follow through with them regardless of your own needs or feelings, always put others at ease, always be gracious, always feel guilty if you disagree with anyone about anything, or can’t put on the ever-gracious act at all times, or have to cancel plans for any reason, or can’t be superwoman doing all the things that you’re supposed to do and also attending to everyone else’s feelings at every moment that you’re awake, or don’t want to take any suggestion offered by anyone (and they are endless–about your bangs or your weight or your outfit or how you’re walking your dog or every little decision in your life–and I know this is so, so, so much worse for moms).

It also reminds me of this song. From the first line the first time I heard it, I knew exactly where she was going with this song and was like I feel you girl. She had at me “I could be complex.”

Also, I don’t know what it means that I’m totally attracted to Taylor as a dude in this video. I was like wow that guy’s a douche but damn he’s hot (and that look is not usually my type, at all). Yeah, the first time I watched it, I had no idea it was Taylor. Love this video, especially the end.

Tasks

Some of this post feels a little heavy, and some of the tasks took me into dark territory, which hopefully was fruitful territory to visit but maybe not pleasant territory to revisit publicly (for me or anyone reading) so I’m going to mostly share some more fun, lighter tasks.

Imaginary Lives Once Again

  • a paranormal investigator, or someone who studied belief all over the world, a mix of the two
  • a podcast host host of multiple podcasts, like the Grey’s Girls and Women Recommend DFW podcasts that came to me in dreams, and the tarot podcast I’m working on (all three of the above described in this post) and a podcast about House, the TV show (How have I not thought of this earlier? It’s the first TV show I ever wrote about in a blog, the TV show I know most by heart, like really disturbingly so, and it connects to my med school life, and would be perfect if I could find a cohost.) I’d love to have a podcast network with these disparate podcasts on it, and to find co-hosts for the three that aren’t the tarot one
  • a mystic
  • a chemist, or a medical scientist who somehow still gets to be a generalist
  • secret agent (but somehow in a good way, for good causes and good people) or high-ranking member of a (again, good) secret society

Payoffs for staying stuck

  • not having to face myself
  • familiarity, the comfort in that
  • not letting anyone see me
  • not facing repeats of the disappointments that came before, allt he writing rejections or bad or mean reactions to my writing or me
  • avoiding the horror that is social media when you get known enough for responses
  • not having confrontations with family or friends over my writing
  • not having to have days where I bomb in front of others
  • not caring so deeply about something, as I deeply do enough to feel like I couldn’t live without it, not having that soft underbelly that could be targeted, not living face-to-face with the abject terror of losing it (not starting, and not continuing are good ways to bury this type of terror), not feeling that vulnerable and unsate
  • not stepping on anyone’s toes
  • being easier to handle
  • being less selfish or self-involved
  • seeming less selfish or self-involved
  • appearing less foolish
  • easier to fit in and be understood and accepted
  • easier to be liked and loved
  • affirmation and validation and belong feelings, even if those feelings are based on being fake and suppressing myself
  • a layer of separation between me, the real me, and the me who anyone else sees, reacts to, judges, rejects, etc.

Ten Items I’d Like to Own but Don’t

  • a comforter I love
  • a cozy, homey home, mostly this
  • the maroon lotus guitar
  • a new insert for my fake fireplace if such things exist
  • an elliptical
  • a telescope
  • a piano
  • a new couch that I love
  • a gorgeous desk
  • a Lunarly subscription – a monthly subscription box based around new moons, with plants or candles, crystals, intention-setting materials and fun moony things – I’m obsessed with this and signed up for the newsletter, so at least that’s something
  • the 2021 Dragontree Dreambook bundle – I love every part of this bundle, except that you can only do it on a white journal, so if I ever got this, I’d get the green or purple (probably purple journal), and then get all the items separately to build my own bundle, and of course with the moon phases cover

Some of these things are not totally outside the realm of possibility. Some are now but not forever.

Image File

Synchronicity Lately

Stay tuned. Something happened yesterday that felt like big synchronicity. But I thought that before, recently, about the same type of thing, and it didn’t pan out even though at the time it felt so synchronous. So, on the theme of not wanting to jinx it, I’ll leave this one on a cliffhanger till next week, at which point I’ll know if it was a real thing or just false hopes again. I think it’s going to be real.

Another cool little thing came up. I’ve written about struggling with Artist Dates (especially now that I can’t really get anywhere solo but also always). While I was digitizing, I found these two envelopes of my handwritten writing that a writer friend on Orcas (Carol) had typed up for me (for pay) back in 2007. I remembered all along that she’d typed up a couple of chapters for me back in the day but couldn’t remember what they were until I came across them. I did them close to last in my digitizing phase one because I knew they were already digital even though I couldn’t remember what chapters they were.

So one of them was a chapter of Moonchild, the book project I’ve worked on most extensively out of any book projects, so everything for that project has been typed up, edited and saved in multiple phases of editing so I already had several versions of that one on my computer, as an individual file and as part of Moonchild.

The second one was something I didn’t remember writing (there’s a lot of that in this project; when you write for hours every day for years, and they were mostly fifteen or more years ago, you forget a lot of what you wrote) and for some reason, I didn’t have it saved anywhere on my computer, even though I knew this friend Carol had typed it up. So, I went into my old email, my hotmail, and found a folder called “my shit” which I knew would be a folder of things related to my writing. And close to the top of the folder was an email from Carol with the typed up version of the chapter. Sweet, I wouldn’t have to redo work I’d already paid someone to do years back.

On top of that, in the piece she’d typed up, which takes place in 2003, I’d written about struggling with Artist Dates even then. Carol had recently taken an AW group class, so in the body of the email she wrote about that, and how her instructor in the course allowed them to count almost anything as an Artist Date and encouraged me to open up my ideas about that, and suggested that it could be anything, even cleaning out your closet.

It made sense to me because that’s still a time with yourself (the doing the thing alone part of the AD seems paramount) and you do get to indulge your inner artist and your unique sense of aesthetics in organizing, in deciding what to keep or not, in arranging. So that’s going to be my AD this week and hopefully will open the door for a more liberal interpretation of what counts as an AD in the future..

Looking Ahead

Sooooooo, the next chapter is the money chapter. I think it’s a volatile one. Money is an interesting topic for artists. I once had a conversation with a fellow writer where we got into a great discussion about budgeting (which I actually LOVE talking about, from the overarching principles to the nitty-gritty down in the dirt details) and she made the comment that a lot of writers, when they get together, end up talking about money.

Years ago, I worked with another of Julia Cameron’s books, Money Drunk, Money Sober, which addresses a lot of the same topics, so I’m hoping to bring in some material from there. And money is an area of my life that I have completely transformed so definitely want to talk about this topic.

There are some fun tasks that focus on abundance in ways other than money, like writing postcards to friends (so, you know, anytime it comes to writing letters or postcards or cards, I’m always going to direct you over to Temporal Treasures), and baking. Probably everyone else baked in quarantine but I didn’t so I’m looking forward to that one.

-April

PD: At the top of this post is a picture is of the White Pumpkin BBW candle. It’s what I’ve been lighting the last couple of weeks, especially while doing the AW work. It doesn’t smell at all how I expected, I’m not even totally sure it smells like pumpkin, but I’m obsessed with the smell. I just finished this candle and sad it’s done. Next I’ll be onto the Leaves candle.

In the tasks section, there is an image composed of several different pictures, the image file. In it there are pictures of guitars, including the maroon-colored Luna Flores guitar, a teal-colored acoustic, and the acoustic guitar I now have that was from the image file I made in the spring; pictures of guitar inlays; pictures of a microphone and a recording studio; a picture of a piano; several photos of Camp Orkila that have been used in other posts as well; pictures of a few different Lunarly boxes; pictures of the components of the Dragontree Dreambook bundle items; a picture of a telescope; a picture of a desk; pictures of seasons; pictures symbolizing romance and love; a picture of the night sky and pictures of the aurora. Oh, and a picture of folklore because of course.

~~~

The Artist’s Way Reflections is a weekly column reflecting on the 1992 book on discovering, recovering and reconnecting with creativity, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. Each week, I reflect on some aspect or tool or exercise or essay from the book.

Here are some previous posts from The Artist’s Way Reflections column:

Schedule for the Rest of 2020

  • October 15 – Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance
  • October 22 – Week Seven: Recovering a Sense of Connection
  • October 29 – Week Eight: Recovering a Sense of Strength
  • November 5 – Goal Search
  • November 12 – Week Nine: Recovering a Sense of Compassion
  • November 19 – Blasting Through Blocks
  • November 26 (Thanksgiving) – Creative Goal Setting (for 2021)
  • December 3 – Week Ten: Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection
  • December 10 – Setting Bottom Lines
  • December 17 – Week Eleven: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy
  • December 24 (Christmas Eve) – Week Twelve: Recovering a Sense of Faith
  • December 31 (New Year’s Eve) – End of Book Wrap-Up

2 thoughts on “The Artist’s Way Reflections – Week Five: Recovering a Sense of Possibility

  1. Pingback: The Artist’s Way Reflections – Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance | April Julia

  2. No doubt another tough week, but at least now (a week later) we know that one of the MAJOR pieces you’ve been desperately needing has fallen into place, which is awesome! I think it will be easier to proceed with some of the rest of your aspirations from there, including building your capacity to trust a little more in things working out.

    The Possibility chapter is an intense one for me too….in fact, I’m still working my way through it and will almost certainly fall behind schedule on the chapters that follow as a result. But there is so much in this chapter that deserves special focus and attention and feels especially relevant for me right now, so I can’t let the opportunity to dig in go by.

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