The Artist’s Way Reflections – Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance

neapartment

Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance

The Great Creator

This section strikes me kinda off. I hate to say that but it’s probably the part of the book I have the biggest problem with, and not in a grumpy, skeptical way as I do with other essays in the book.

A lot of the quotes are obnoxious and somewhat contradictory to things she writes. And I think things she writes contradict each other and the lack of internal consistency bothers me. So does the feeling that this chapter drives home, that yeah this is written for middle class people or above, SES-wise, and that bothers me.

But I also think about how AW came out in 1992, and given book publishing timelines and her own telling of how AW came together, she probably wrote a lot of it in the ’80s, which was a different time in terms of cost of living vs. wages, families being okay on just one salary, and so forth.

It just seems like it’s geared towards people who are depriving themselves of joy out of some idea of martyrdom equals goodness, and I get that, but there’s something glib about it that I don’t like. Like yeah, a lot of people would love to dump a drudgy job, or put art first and money second, but for a lot of people that’s just not possible because the money concerns are survival concerns. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A lot of us would like to prioritize creativity more, but it’s hard to do if your basic needs at the base of that pyramid aren’t met.

The part I got the most out of was the need to re-examine the god concept. Even though I’m somewhere between agnostic and atheist and pagan, it doesn’t matter. Somewhere in me, I still have that punitive god concept where the god is similar to a stern parent or authoritarian figure. I don’t like that I still have this insidious concept and it’s worth examining.

Luxury

I really like the idea of little luxuries, like the raspberries she talks about. That would also be a luxury for me, I love berries, especially raspberries. When I was doing this book in the spring, back when it was so hard to get groceries and all the delivery windows were all taken up, my good friend went shopping for me, and at the last minute, I added raspberries to the list even though it wasn’t a necessity (everything else was) and enjoyed the crap out of eating them.

Ordering from the Farmer’s Market most weeks has been an ongoing luxury these past couple months. So has getting candles. I love little things like that and want to think of more simple things that add a sense of luxury and of listening to my true self.

The story about Alan the drummer resonated a lot with me from the spring. When I started AW this spring, or a bit after, I took my old guitar out of its case. It took a couple more weeks before I ventured into trying it out. It was awful at first and I sounded so bad and couldn’t keep up with even simple videos and got frustrated. A few more weeks later and I started practicing, from the beginning, building callouses, relearning chords. Then Tracy suggested a book to me. Then in Week Five I put a picture of a guitar in my image file. Then, a month or two later, not even remembering that picture in my image file, I bought a new guitar that’s much easier to play than my old one, and it’s the guitar in the image.

So, I saw parallels with that and Alan’s drumming story.

Counting, An Exercise

This is an exercise that I used to do for years. JC has another book, Money Drunk, Money Sober, that she wrote before AW. I used it in my late twenties and early thirties, though I’m not sure I ever went all the way through. Counting is to Money Drunk, Money Sober what the Morning Pages are to AW, the primary tool.

There’s a lot of other good material in MDMS–five different dysfunctional archetypes of how people relate to money, exercises about financial literacy as well as spirituality, a lot more questions like the ones in the Money Madness exercise. It too, is set up in weeks, as many of JC’s books are.

One insight from that book that I think illuminates JC’s approach to money in AW. Of the five money archetypes (and I think the thinking is we all have a little bit of each of them but one is dominant), the one she describes as her own dominant money personality archetype is the Poverty Addict. I feel like she wrote this chapter sort of assuming that everyone reading it would also fit that archetype because she keeps talking about anorectic highs from denying oneself the smallest luxury, and if I had to guess, that focus is in here so much because that’s the money personality she personally relates to. I wish she had made it more broad and encompassed messages for other archetypes as well.

As for the exercise, well, it’s been a lot spendier than usual because of moving costs–boxes, rent at the new place, security deposit, and all of that. I’ve also eaten out a bit more than usual. I had some drive-through on the way to get boxes, and drive through and convenience store food on Tuesday, when I had my first run of moving boxes, and earlier on Tuesday I met a friend and we did outdoor smoothies and lunch.

Eating out and delivery used to be by far my worst categories when I did this exercise long term, and always was an area where I was trying to curb spending. Usually nowadays, I’m decent at doing that.

Money Madness, An Exercise

In this exercise, I often found it hard to go down the paths I felt I was being led down. I answered the questions as best I could but some of them felt awkward, or like they didn’t quite apply but I went with it anyway.

One theme that emerged for me was an abiding practicality. There’s a question where it asks what you’d do if you had money, and my first thoughts were squaring away practical concerns before moving on to the fun things. Another question was “When I have money, I usually…” and my first response was “…budget the shit out of it.” That wasn’t always true, or wasn’t in the way it is now, but yes, I get a lot of joy out of budgeting and it’s absolutely the first thing I’d do with any newfound income, to make sure I’m allocating it to my true priorities and what I value.

Quote

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”

-Leo Tolstoy

This one stood out to me for the way it fit with the raspberries, and thinking about little ways of self-nurturing, little things that don’t cost much but bring a lot of job, little stretches of time that could be used for something fun and nourishing. I may be practical, in some ways to a fault, but I’ve never been great at the slow and steady, do a little bit every day. It’s not my most natural way to approach things, but whenever I do approach things that way anyway, the results are compounding slowly over time.

Tasks

For Task 8, the one that asks about any changes in the home environment, you can read a long story about that below in Synchronicity Lately.

For Task 4, Bake Something, I planned to make pumpkin bread. I put any supplies needed onto my grocery delivery last weekend. The store only had the huge cans of pumpkin and the recipe I use calls for a small one, so I decided to also make pumpkin muffins with the leftover pumpkin.

Yesterday late afternoon, I went on a baking bonanza, doing first the bread and then the muffins. I love pumpkin-flavored anything so this was really fun, and smelled amazing, and may have had me licking the batter off the spoon and the bowl and salmonella risk be damned. It smelled so good in here while baking.

I’m freezing most of it, so I’ll have a nice little snack of either a piece of bread or a muffin for many days to come. I should say I put dark chocolate chips in the muffins too.

So, I finally baked during quarantine.

The recipes I used were the Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread, which I’ve been using for years, and this pumpkin muffin recipe. Both came out great!

As for Task 3, clearing out five ratty pieces of clothing, I put significantly more than that in a pile to get rid of (and also sorted through my books, I don’t know why she said that was dangerous in another chapter, it was good). I haven’t gotten rid of them yet because I decided to use them for another purpose for now: to wrap up breakable items in packing for my move. So once that’s complete, I see some runs to thrift stores in my future (but NOT Goodwill, those fuckers pay disabled workers subminimum wages so fuck them).

Working on Task 7, rereading the Basic Principles and Artist Prayer daily. Those types of tasks are always hard for me so I put them in my Reminders app. I’m going to do Task 5, about sending postcards, later this week or weekend. Same with the first two, on natural abundance, and the last two, on examining changes in flow or prosperity.

Synchronicity Lately

So, the main thing is what was on the verge of happening in the last post, and it also answers Task 8, which asks about changes in home environment, which seems apropos because all of this revolves around moving to a new apartment.

I’ve been looking for awhile. When I decided to leave school, which decision I first made at the end of February then had a while to sort out before actually doing it, I knew it would mean moving when my lease was up because there’s no way I could afford my current apartment without the quarterly influx of living expenses financial aid.

With that thought in mind, I’ve been looking since the summer. Casually at first, just browsing to see what was out there. I really wanted to move to Orcas for awhile, but much as I wanted that to work out, every housing opportunity (and there were few) turned into a dead end. I went back to looking locally, and there wasn’t a lot. It was surprising to me how insanely expensive places were, even with so many people leaving cities now that they don’t have to commute for remote work. But I guess people always want to live in Portland and the demand is still high because the prices were bonkers high.

I was losing hope. I was starting to worry about having to ask my landlord if in fact I could stay after all, knowing full well I couldn’t afford it, or being homeless, or having to move somewhere else in the country to have a place to crash (a thing I’m very grateful that people offered; it was nice to know that if it really came down to it, I could at least find a place to crash in Las Vegas (Malia!) or Kansas (Emily!) but even so I was really worried about the mental toll that that sort of uncertainty would have on me when I’m barely hanging on as is.

So then last week, my friend Sarah and I met up for a walk, and to drive by an apartment complex I was planning on touring–the price was good but there was no access to anything now, and poor access to transit for whenever that resumes. We drove around the place, saw how crappy the transit access was and that there was nothing within walking distance and felt dejected. So then we were about to start our walk but I had to go to the pharmacy first. While we were there, we decided to drive around the area and look for For Rent signs, since Sarah had seen some up there recently.

We drove around this one complex we kept seeing come in and out of Craigslist ads, and so started looking it up on CL as we were driving around. That particular complex had nothing listed but the next street over had two places, both in price range. We drove around the first one and thought, wow, this is really nice, and forest-y, and I’ve been going nuts without access to nature so we found the ad as we were driving around and I called.

The landlord said the apartment was still available and at some point asked where I was and I told her I was there at the complex. She said the door to the unit was unlocked and we could tour it ourselves. She wasn’t onsite to let us look at the laundry room or storage, she said, but we could let ourselves in to the apartment and check it out. That felt like the first major dose of synchronicity, for me and for the landlord, that I could go right in and check it out.

So we parked in the space and went inside, and it was pretty magical. It didn’t have some things I would’ve loved, like a dishwasher, a washer/dryer in-unit, or a patio, but it was kind of awesome. It has big windows that look out on pure trees, not obscured by anything. With the windows open, I could hear the light rain and birds, and could look at green, green, green. It has a fireplace, and lots of big closets, and a free storage unit. The kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher but it has lots and lots of cabinets.

Since we were just there ourselves, we tested out everything. Every faucet and light fixture. I got in the tub with all my clothes and shoes on to assess its depth. One of the letdowns of my current place is that the tub is so shallow (it’s shallower than the ground) that it’s not meant for an adult to take a bath in, so I wanted to compare. Everything checked out. We also started plotting out how to arrange it.

I was kind of in love with the place, especially the green trees and the affordability. We were closing up when someone from another building that’s part of the complex called my name. It was a classmate of mine who was able to fill in all the details of the building, and showed the laundry room and storage area. He mentioned the person who lives in the apartment above the one I was exploring, and it turned out to also be someone I know, my anatomy tutor. Another classmate had also lived in the building, until she got dogs and had to move somewhere for them.

The grounds are also really nice, with picnic tables out by the forest outside, and a little porch in front of my door.

I called the landlord back and told her I wanted it, and filled out an application right there. Sarah and I never got to take our walk with all the excitement but both felt it was worth it. I was really excited about moving into the apartment and I think she was really excited to visit me there. I was pretty sure the approval would go through–I may be in a bad situation but I have great rental history and credit, and it seemed like there were no other applicants–but that’s what I was afraid of jinxing last week, because it wasn’t a done deal yet, and I’d been close other times only to be let down in the end.

But, now it is a done deal. On Monday, Sarah and I were buying moving boxes when I got the call that I was approved. Tuesday I signed the lease and moved my first load of boxes.

Even though it’s less convenient in a lot of ways than my current place, I’m really excited to move there. I’ll be able to walk to a little convenience store (a luxury I don’t have now), and more than anything I’m just so happy that I’ll be living in the trees. I can’t wait to be all moved in. I have my current place through the end of the month but I’d be full-on at the new place now if I could. I can’t wait to get it all set up and make it feel like home, something that never happened with this place because it’s just too industrial feeling. I can’t wait to learn how to use the fireplace.

The whole thing felt synchronous: how quickly it happened, how the apartment was just unlocked and we could go in right then, how I ran into a classmate and then learned about other classmates and students in other classes living there, all people I really like and admire, how it just checked all these boxes of what I deeply want and have been craving.

I also had an appointment to look at another nearby place on Monday, and I kept it (hadn’t gotten the approval call yet so wanted to keep the options open) and it was…kind of a shitshow. It made me appreciate my new place even more.

The way I feel about the new place isn’t the way I felt about any new apartment in a long time, maybe ever. I just love it so much and want to be there already now and stay for a long time.

Looking Ahead

Next week is Week Seven. I remember this as “the jealousy chapter” because she addresses jealousy and also has an exercise about it that I remember well. There are also some fun tasks. This middle third of the book has a lot more fun, lighthearted, and easy tasks.

-April

PD: The picture is of the window in my new apartment’s living room. It takes up most of the wall, and outside it’s just trees, trees, trees and more trees. It is softly raining in the picture, and I took video to capture the sound of the rain but it came out weird so this is just a still photo.

~~~

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 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

One thought on “The Artist’s Way Reflections – Week Six: Recovering a Sense of Abundance

  1. I’m so thrilled for you about your new place!!! Reading more about the context in which you found it — and the experience of visiting there for the first time — really drove home the many layers of synchronicity at work. The view from your window is absolutely stunning! I imagine it will be hard to tear yourself away from that every day to go about other things in your life…I hope one day I can have a similar view in a future home. May your new place bring you some well-deserved and long-overdue joy and an influx of energy and possibility (and a feeling of abundance, too!).

    The baking bonanza sounds great as well. I’m so glad you were finally able to dive into that and enjoy the results! Great idea to save some in the freezer for future treats.

    That’s disturbing about Goodwill…I wasn’t aware they paid disabled workers below minimum wage!

    I’m behind on the AW reading schedule now but look forward to checking out this chapter sometime soon. Thanks for the preview!

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