Do the Long Work

 

Cat Fink 'What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)'
What Gives Me Joy Nov 24 2016 (learning to be me)

I’m sitting in my dining room, on a camp chair, my laptop and papers and pens on our camp table.  My iphone is tuned to Jazz24 for background music.  The bedroom down the hall holds an air mattress and bedding, clock radio on an upturned box.  My son’s bedroom downstairs has identical furnishings.

The dining room window is open to a warm breeze, sun, blue sky.  I can hear the hummingbirds talking.  They are nesting in the white lilac next to the house.  Last year they were in the holly tree at the far corner of the yard.  I won’t see the babies learning to fly this year.  I won’t be here.

This home is pretty much empty.  Everything was moved to storage this past weekend.  I have a week of camping out in my house, and then on to the new house-home-studio.  (Excited?  Yes!!!)

I am finding it interesting how little I need to be comfortable.  And interesting how the floors and walls have become a kind of furniture.

I am thinking, these past few days, about doing long work.  The big projects that take time to come together and mature.  This home project is a big one.

Becoming an artist and writer have been big projects.  More than big.  More like continual.  Can’t help it.  I keep discovering new things to play with.

In all the packing, junking out, giving away, I uncovered a box full of old morning pages journals.  Pages written when I began this I-am-an-artist journey.

Most of these journals I fed to the woodstove.  Letting go of old beliefs, angst (there was lots of that), limits I’d built around my creativity, limits I’d built around me.

I read a few pages here and there, as I fed them to the fire.

What I noticed—the Cat in these pages is no longer me.  Someone else’s story.  The incremental shifts really do add up to change in a good way.

As much as I love creating, it was a battle for me at first.  I had to fight my way past massive fear and anxiety.  Fear of making mistakes or a mess.  Fear of making bad art.  Whatever bad art is, I never did define it.  Anxiety over wasting art supplies (read ‘money’) because I’d screwed up a drawing.  Fear I was fooling myself; I wasn’t really an artist but no one had told me.  All fear.

What saved me was love.  When I fought past the fear, I loved creating.  Loved the ideas that grew.  Loved the surprises that arrived in my drawings.  Loved the inspiration sharing with other artists of all disciplines.  Loved what I discovered about myself through the creative process.  All love.

My love of creating was bigger than my fear of screwing up and making bad art and being a fool.

Inside the front cover of a journal, ten months after graduating from art school, I wrote notes to myself:

“You have to give the drawing everything, all of it, and now.”

“There must be something rattling in the brain and trying to fall out of the pen.”

“Okay Cat, tell me what I’m keeping out of these pages?”

“Imagine what an artist I could be with a heart fully open and aware (this terrifies me).”

“Do the long work, and trust.”

I read these words here, today, and realize despite the daily fear and anxiety, there was wisdom coming through.  I did the long work.  I trusted.  And now here I stand.  Artist and Writer.

I held onto the love in my creating as a life line.  Love gave me a path through the fear.

Love helped me trust there was a way through.

Sometimes, when my love even now is not big enough, I borrow love from other creators.  I play recordings of Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron reading from their books.  I randomly pull books from my studio library and leaf through other artists’ creativity.  I leave books open by my easel and on my writing table.  Courage and determination are contagious.  Others’ images and words hold and inspire me while I walk through my fear and into creation.

During my final year of art school, I borrowed love from poet Pablo Neruda.  His words fueled my graduating body of work.  Imagine writing poems to a tomato, a pair of trousers, a watch.  I borrowed his idea, drawing a pile of carefully folded laundry, a teacup and spoon, a pear and knife, my favourite fuchsia-coloured brocade vest.

On that same front inside cover of the journal, I’d copied some of his poetry.

“The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees

that burned with sweetness or maddened

the sting; the struggle continues,

the journeys go and come between honey and pain.

No, the net of the years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.

They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.

Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,

or action, or silence, or honour;

life is like a stone, a single motion,

a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,

an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal

that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”

______________________________

In this post:

Natalie Goldberg, http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Julia Cameron, http://juliacameronlive.com/

Pablo Neruda, 1904 – 1973.  The quote is from Still Another Day XVIII.  I am not sure who did the translation or from which book of his poetry I copied this.  His words continue to inspire me.  https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/pablo-neruda

 

The Continuing Story of My Second Draft

bryan-jack-building-house
‘Jack Built My House’ by Bryan Fink

I’ve posted several times about doing the second draft of my book.  This is the latest installment in the eighteen-month story of my efforts.

One word describes things at the moment.  Confused.

I’m adding others.  Messy.  I am okay with messy.  Messy happens in all my creating at some point.  It gives me possibilities.  Having been a neat and tidy child, as an adult I enjoy messy.  Also, I know how to go from messy to focused, a useful talent.

Another word.  Procrastinating.  Somehow, and I have said this before, other jobs and delights keep taking precedence over my second draft.  Strange how that happens.

Yesterday I am telling one of my fellow artist-writer friends about this.  We come to the conclusion I need to clear a chunk of time for only the draft.  Yes.  I do this.  Now marked off in my diary is February through May.  My friend will meet with me throughout this time to help me keep accountable to myself in getting the draft done.  Cool.

A third word.  Blind.  This draft feels like I’m doing a jigsaw puzzle without the picture from the box top to tell me how things should look.

I tell this to another artist-writer friend.  She talks about finding the arc of the story, a kind of outline.  Oh.

I know about outlines.  I tried one out at the start and it drove me crazy.  I learned I am a writer who feels her way through the story.  As Nanowrimo fans say, I’m a pantser, not a plotter.

I am very visual in my thinking.  My friend says ‘arc of the story’.  In response, I see the image of an arc drawn on a big sheet of paper, with me writing sticky notes all along it.  This makes sense.  A way of creating an outline that works for me.  Here is my picture of how things will look when I am done.  Yay!  The picture will likely shift as I go.  That’s okay.  I still have a picture to play with.

Continue reading “The Continuing Story of My Second Draft”

Taking Down My Fence (Believing Mirror Part 2)

Cat Fink--'Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones)'
Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones) — Cat Fink

I’ve been reading about vulnerability in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly.  Her words have me feeling and remembering.

Growing up, no one told me that strength included vulnerability.  If they did, I didn’t hear them.  Maybe the people around me did not know this either.

Growing up, I was taught that being strong meant holding back my feelings from public view.  Show a calm, controlled front.  Always pretend everything is okay.  I became so good at this, even I didn’t know what I was feeling sometimes.

I kept pushing my feelings away.  I thought I was getting rid of them.  Truth is I was storing them behind a fence of ‘okay’.

This is not the way to live.  I knew it, but did not know how to be different.

Things changed when I was twenty-one.  I began the relationship with my future husband.  He saw my heart behind the fence, and he loved it, and he wouldn’t let go.

Something in me knew it was time to build a gate.  A skinny gate at first, but enough to let me say out loud for the first time in my life, to someone, I love you.

I was terrified saying it.  This was laying myself open, a direct path to hurt me and reject what I offered.  Despite all of the loving actions and words Lyle had given me, I did not trust I was truly worthy of love.  I didn’t much love myself, so how could someone else love me?

I could not say ‘I love you’ to Lyle as a statement.  I said it like a question needing the right answer.

He said it.  He said I love you.  He answered.  To me.

Love made the gate in my fence.  Love and the courage to love.  I don’t know where the courage came from, and the ability to hear the voice that whispered inside me, ‘do this’.

I knew this was a choice, to stay with fear or to step forward to love.  I knew Lyle saw me differently than I saw myself.  He saw a world that did not require fear, and he saw me in this world braver than I saw myself.  Maybe this is how my courage appeared.  His vision sparked my belief, and my belief sparked courage to arise, be seen, and claim out loud my ability to love.

Lyle showed up for me when I needed someone to help open a way through the fence I had built around myself.

Lyle told me how he felt and what he saw in me.  But louder than the words were his actions.  He treated me as a person of great value, who had gifts to be seen and shared.

He believed in me.

This is what we do for each other.  We see the best in the person standing before us, even and especially when they can’t see it themselves.  We believe in them.  We say ‘let’s do this together’.

We all have the gift and possibility of being a Believing Mirror for the person standing before us.  We just have to choose to see that in ourselves, and be vulnerable enough to offer it to someone else.

‘I believe in you.’  Words as precious and important and life-changing as ‘I love you’.

Lyle and I have been together thirty-seven years.  We have a son to be proud of.  My fence?  It shows up sometimes as a ghost of itself.  Old habits, old patterns of thinking and reacting, reminding me where I was, and showing me where I am now.  I pat it kindly, and thank it for keeping me safe at a time when I thought I needed protection.  Then I walk around it.

Lyle, I love you.  Happy Father’s Day.

_______________________

In this post:

Brene Brown, book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Avery, 2012.  http://brenebrown.com/

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

‘Believing Mirror’, page 47 in It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Julia Cameron, TarcherPerigree, 2016.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

 

Believing Mirror

'7 Crows, A Secret Never To Be Told' detail--Cat Fink
7 Crows, A Secret Never to be Told (detail) — Cat Fink

Thursday I had my last session with my coach.  Yes, I am a creativity coach-artist-writer-blogger who has a coach.  I should say, had a coach.

For this past year we have been talking, every two weeks.  Sometimes emailing in between the talking.

I’ll tell you how I feel right now.  Sad.  I am going to miss our biweekly conversations.  I am also elated, excited, pleased with myself.  I keep hearing ‘I did it!’ popping into my thoughts.  I am grounded and balanced within myself and my life.  I feel like I just graduated from a Master’s Degree program.  I feel like I just ran a whole marathon.

So what did I do that has me celebrating?

Last April I got very honest with myself.  I looked at my nineteen years as a professional artist.  Looked at my writing and my blogging.  At my book with the half-completed second draft.  At the creativity workshops and coaching I was doing.

I loved all I was doing and creating, loved the connections and community I was building.  But I had no focus.  It all felt very random, with no clear path ahead.  My usual way of working was feeling chaotic rather than organic.

This is where I am, I said to myself.  Where do I want to go?  How do these pieces of my creativity fit together?

I am the kid who always says ‘I can do it myself’, and does.  Not this time.  I need help, I said to myself, and Source heard my request.

Enter Linda.

Linda is a Master Coach.  Yes, the capital letters are deliberate and appropriate.  She coaches CEO’s and entrepreneurs.

Linda listened to me with her heart and her head.

I have a bad attitude around business, I said.  Business and art don’t belong in the same sentence.

We can do this, she said.

Over twelve months we shifted me, my life, and my creativity into focus.  We talked about the nuts and bolts of what I was doing, the energy and feel of what I was creating.  About where I was and where I wanted to be.  We used our heads and our hearts.  Feeling and knowing what was right for me, and what was not.

Two (of the thousand) things I learned from Linda:

Feel and think.  My heart carries my dreams and inspiration and path.  My head carries the organizing and details, the process, the nuts and bolts of building.  When I connect all of this, the whole of me, I see clearly the next step in front of me.  I feel the energy of the people I am connecting with, and what they are asking for.  I see how this matches my inspiration, the workshops and coaching, the words and drawings I will create in response.

Use everything.  Instead of pushing away what I don’t like, I get curious about it.  What does this feel like?  What is it telling me?  Why is it showing up?  How can I use it?  I am fascinated at how there is always a way to turn something around and let it inspire me.

Linda has been my Believing Mirror.  She met me exactly where I was, and saw the future me as I wanted to be.  Step by step she walked with me into that place.  Transformation.

What is best?  I am now my own Believing Mirror.  I see where I am, and I see where I am going to be.  That vision of where I will be pulls me forward.  It creates the space for me to walk into, and the steps to get there.

Thank you, Linda, Master Coach, Believing Mirror.

_______________________

In this post:

‘Believing Mirror’, page 47 in It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Julia Cameron, TarcherPerigree, 2016, http://juliacameronlive.com/

Linda Caducoy,  Executive Coach,  https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindacaducoy

Being Here and Wanting There

1.'Containers for the Soul'--Cat Fink
Containers For The Soul

It is Thursday and I am here in my studio, writing.  Through my windows I see pine and fir and aspen forest, all around me.  From my front door, I see rows of round hills moving into the distance.  Greens and smoky blues.  The wood thrush has returned for the summer’s nesting.  I heard him calling yesterday, a song that sings like water over stone.

Beauty is here.  Yet today, it is not enough.  My heart is longing for the ocean.

What is it in me that can move away from peace so easily?

I love my studio here in the trees at the top of the round hill.  I open my window and the air breathes me.  The songbirds and the ravens companion me.  Their calls inspire me to imagine and write and play.  Peace and creation live here with me.  Fall, winter, spring.

When summer comes, I move my studio to Victoria on Vancouver Island.  There, I have ocean close to me.  On three sides of me, when I look on the city map.  I can leave my summer studio, drive four minutes in my car, and I am there with my beloved ocean.

I love my studio there, where the ocean lives close by.  I open my window and the beach rushes in.  I hear the seagulls yelling from their heights in the sky, hear the baby crows demanding their place in the world.  When I sit at the beach and write, the waves move in time with my words.  Peace and creation live there with me.

What is it that moves me so easily into longing?  Time.  I have been away from my ocean for nine months.  The forest and hills have filled me, and now I come close to the time for change, to become washed by my ocean.

Oh, my heart, love here where I am now.  Love here where I am creating these words to the sound of the wind in the trees and the wood thrush song.  Know that I am blessed to move from peace to peace.  From forest and hill to ocean and beach.  From beauty to beauty.

Love what is here before me today, and love what I know will come soon enough.  Love the longing I feel today, that created the words on this page.  Cradle my longing.  Whisper ‘Thank you.’  And whisper ‘Soon, I promise, soon.’

 

Come And Play

 

01.joy.sept26.600ppi
The Joy Diary Sept. 26 2015

It’s grey cloud outside.  We’ve had rain for two days.  A good thing.  We need it.  The land is too dry for mid-May and we have a summer yet to move through, and wells we rely on.

I’ve been busy all week, creating, writing, making plans.  Playing with possibilities.  Daydreaming.  Enjoying all of this.  Everything in full colour.

And now this morning, here I sit noticing how I feel like the colour of the grey clouds outside.  I can blame it on the weather.  I know that sunny days boost my energy and my mood.  Sunny day equals sunny Cat.  This is not a sunny day.

I know what is going on.

It’s not the rainy weather.

The full-on creating has drained my well.  I’m running into a drought.

I have a well of creativity within me that I use.  All week I have been creating, playing with my possibilities, pulling water from my well.  Good.  It is meant to be used.  All good.

What I forgot to do was refill my well after pulling from it.  Yes, too busy being busy.

My creativity is a balance.  I imagine and write and draw, using the ideas, inspiration, words, and images that flow from my well.  Then I need to replace what has been used.

How do I do this?

I play, with no agenda and no goals.  No expectations or rules.  I become the child I was—really, the child I still am.

I bring out my felt pens and colouring books, my Spirograph set, my crossword puzzles.  I wander my way through the million images in one of my art books.  I plug in my iPod, choose my soundtrack of the day, and dance around the living room.

I pull out the deck of cards and crib board, and lose (a regular occurrence) to my husband.  Then I challenge him to Scrabble, and win (also a regular occurrence).

I phone one of my friends and we talk forever.

I drive to town, and wander through the library, the bookstore, and the toy store.  I get a mocha (grande, decaf, to go) from my favourite café, then park by the lake.  Car windows open.  Sip mocha.  Savour that marriage of chocolate and coffee in my mouth, feel the heat as it moves down my throat.  Watch the water and the sky.  Hear the red-wing blackbirds, the ducks, geese, gulls.  See the goslings, fuzzy balls in their baby feathers, following their parents around the edge of the water to where the new grass tastes best.

This.  All of this fills my well again.  Play and pleasure running through my senses, through my body and heart and mind.  Choosing to reach into the things that I love.  Leaving the watch and the clocks behind.  Moving back into balance.

Hearing my own voice calling me.  Come and play.

In Beauty I Write

studiodesk.spring.nemiah.focusd

Before I begin to write, this is what I do.

I ask for help.

I am writing, I say. Come and play and imagine and daydream and write and create in concert with me. I say this to my angels and guides, to Source, to the universe around me and within me. Come and play.

I am always answered.

Two days ago I am doing this, thinking ahead of the blog post I want to write today. Into my mind pop the words ‘in Beauty I walk’. The Beauty Way Chant.

I am not Diné. But I am human and these words show up in my life at various times.

In Beauty before me I walk,

In Beauty behind me I walk,

In Beauty below me I walk,

In Beauty above me I walk,

In Beauty all around me I walk,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty.

 

The words are here now.

This chant, this blessing moves into me as soon as I read or hear the beginning words.

I breathe deeper. My mind slows, my body quiets. I feel my weight on the earth. I am present to this moment in time (time doesn’t exist, I hear as I write this, there is only now). My heart opens and listens.

Here in this place of no-time, I stand in creation. Here is all balance and harmony, all life in concert with all life. Here is holy, sacred, all blessing. Here is love. Joy. Here is breath and being and all connection. Here is Beauty, whole, one.

These words shift me into communication with life. I am not just Cat, the single small me. I am Cat, a creation point among many creation points. I am supported, guided, gifted with inspiration and vision.

This is what asking for help does.

It connects me to all that supports me.

I have had two long conversations this week about releasing old feelings of being alone and unsupported in work and life. I know this is no longer me. I know all I need do is ask for help, and help arrives. Words, resources, and people show up. Ideas and images appear. I have a whole world supporting me. I am never alone, unless I choose it.

This is what the words and energy of the Beauty Way Chant do for me.

They connect me to all that supports me. Instantly. Perfectly. With ease and with grace, they stand me in creation.

Every one of us has something that opens us into grace like this. It may take the form of words or image or sound, an object, a person, a place. We just need to recognize it and then choose it, deliberately and consciously. Choose to ask. Choose to be supported, connected.

Choose to stand in grace in creation.

_____________________________

Happy Birthday, Bryan!  I love you.  Your presence in my life is a gift. xoxo Mom

 

 

 

 

A Gift of Attention

me.carrie.nanas.july65

This is what I remember.

I am three years old. I am standing in the living room. My mom is sitting in the chair in front of me, holding blankets. My dad is crouched beside me, at my level, telling me this is my new baby sister. Her name is Carrie.

See? Say hello. You can touch her. My mom leans forward so I can see inside the blankets. There is a small face. Red. The eyes are closed. There are black eyelashes.

I don’t recall if I said anything or if I touched her. I do know how I felt. I can feel it now as I remember. I feel confused. I don’t know what this means. Why is she here? Is she staying with me and my parents? My parents are doing a lot of holding her. They’re not holding me. Do they love her now? Does this mean they don’t love me anymore? Now I feel sad and somehow smaller. I am starting to feel angry at this baby sister, whatever she is, who is taking my place.

This is what I remember.

I am four years old. I am in my bedroom, standing in the middle of the room. I can see the back yard through my window. It is sunny outside. I feel my feet warm in my pink socks, feel the wood floor solid under me. I am happy, peaceful, connected to everything around me. I feel secure in myself—who I am, what I can do, my place in the world. I know I have a voice and ideas worthy of listening to.

What happens in the year between these two memories?

I remember.

My dad comes home from work. He changes from his work clothes to his home clothes. He comes into the kitchen, talks with my mom, talks to my baby sister in her play pen. Then he and I go into the living room.

We lay on the thick rug, my dad on his stomach and I beside him.

And we talk. Just the two of us. He asks me what did I do today? And then he listens.

I tell him what I did, what I found in the back yard (ants, a slug, and two rocks), the songs I sing as I swing on my yellow and blue swing set (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Somewhere Over the Rainbow). I sing them to him as loud as I can. I know all the words.

This is the immense gift my dad gives me. His focused attention. It may be only fifteen or twenty minutes each day. It feels like always and forever. In this gift, he tells me he loves me, that I am important to him and worthy of his time, that I have ideas and thoughts worth listening to.

My dad’s gift moves me from a confused, sad, angry three-year-old who wonders if she is losing her parents’ love, into a four-year-old secure and sure in herself and her world, happy, loved, and loving.

This gift of a few minutes each day. So small, yet it is everything.

Undivided, loving, interested attention. I learn what this is and how it feels. I take it into me.

I know now the infinite value of this gift. I practise it and pass it to whoever I can. This gift says I love you, and you are worth attention and time. You are important to me. You are interesting.

Thank you, Dad, for the gift of attention. I love you.  And Carrie, I love you too.