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

 

Creating Stuff With Friends

kevintheminionandfriends
Making Stuff With Friends

The past two weeks I’ve been experiencing one of the things on my list for living a creative life—Find friends who love to create too, and inspire each other.

Drawing and writing give me great joy.  I mostly create alone, and this works for me.  I hear my heart, mind, and Source clearly.  There is peace in this, and an awareness that holds both energy and ease.

Lately I have been visiting with my artist and writer friends.  Meeting for lunch.  Going for walks.  Sharing what we are each creating.  Asking for and giving advice and points of view.  Laughing a lot.  Appreciating.  Being inspired.  Making notes of books to read and websites to view.  New resources to play with.

We talk about creativity and life.  For us, these are threads that wind round each other.  Impossible to separate.  I know I wouldn’t want to.

Thursday I sat across from a friend, at her round wooden table.  The table was high, and I am short.  I put an extra pillow on the seat of my chair.  We had pens and paper.  We wrote.

There was peace in this space, and the quiet act of creating in the presence of another.  My friend and I know intimately the feel of writing alone.  This day we chose to write together.  There was joy in this.  I feel it again as I tell you.

There is power, too, in creating with a friend.  Familiarity, love, and acceptance of the creative process.  Friendship, love, and acceptance of the person across the table.  This power is ease, and it let my words flow.  I looked up and saw my friend moving her pen across the paper, her words taking the shape of a new story.

Grace was given both of us in this time and place.  Grace, joy, friendship, and writing.  A perfect afternoon.

_______________________

In this post:

July 10th post, List For Living My Creative Life, https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/2016/07/10/list-for-living-my-creative-life/

List for Living My Creative Life

Old Coyote Trick (standing out)pinkdetail2
Old Coyote Trick-standing out (detail)

Begin where I am.

Open my heart and feel all my feelings.  They tell me where I am and where I need to go.

Daydream.

Be a child and do what I love.  Imagine.  Play.  No rules, no expectations, no schedule.

Be curious.  Experiment.  Explore.

Ask questions.  Be okay with not knowing.  It gives me a big space in which to be.

Be okay with the new and different.  Be okay with change and transformation.  That’s what creativity is all about.

Let go of control.  Let go of judging.  Let go of using other’s truths, and find my own.

Be okay with not being perfect.

Use everything, including mistakes (they lead somewhere different).  Allow and accept.  Trust what shows up.

Be in my body.  Notice what my senses notice, right here, right now.

Move between creation and rest.  Do.  Be.  Do.  Be.

Laugh.  Enjoy.  Let happy happen.  Even better, choose happy.

Be with those I love who love me back.

Find friends who love to create too, and inspire each other.

Love my creativity.  Let creativity love me back.

Love my life.  Let life love me back.

Let my life be a playground, a petting zoo, a test kitchen.

What I am saying here in every line—Choose Love.

_______________________

In this post:

‘Do.  Be.  Do.  Be.  Do.’  This comes from Amit Goswami, in his book Quantum Creativity.  http://www.amitgoswami.org/

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/

 

Loving My Neighbour

Everything I Kow About the Human Heart3 detail

This is all I want to say today.  Love your neighbour.

We have one planet to live on.  Everything we do affects all of us.  Our emotions are contagious.  I get angry and afraid, and the person next to me begins to feel angry and afraid too.   And then we make decisions that hurt everyone.

I would rather feel love than anger or fear.  Wouldn’t you?

We all have a choice.

I choose love today.

Surrender

letmemendheart
Let Me Mend Your Broken Heart

I was not planning on writing my blog post today. I feel tired and uninspired. I had a stomach flu two and a half weeks ago, and some of it is still hanging on. Too much of it hanging on today. So the plan is lay on the couch and sleep.

Then I remember Natalie Goldberg saying, start where you are.

Start where I am. I struggle with being sick. I fight it. I force my body to be okay, even if it isn’t. Do things even if I don’t feel like it. Be strong, I think, get things done, whatever ‘things’ happen to be.

Not this time.

This time, when I got sick two and a half weeks ago, I surrendered to how I felt. I listened to my body and what it needed. Sleep mostly. Naps and kindness and going slow. Letting myself drift.

Surrender has never been in my vocabulary. Surrender, to me, meant giving up. Note the past tense there. My understanding of surrender is changing.

Surrender now feels like a kind of trust, of being here right now and listening, sensing what is happening. Paying attention, and then moving with the flow rather than against it. There is relief in this, and ease. Letting go of what I think should be happening and what I think I should be doing.

Letting go. Letting go is not something I have been good at either. Life, for me, has been mostly about control. Being safe. No unwanted surprises. I can feel, even as I write about surrendering to my body and what it needs, a part of me really wants control. Pushing, shoving, struggling, making something happen. Making ‘not sick’ happen.

No. Not doing that today.

Today, it is Let Go. Be exactly where I am in this moment. Feel exactly what I feel. Trust and surrender myself to Source, God, the One Energy, the Universe. Let things be as they are. Let myself be cared for, loved, partnered by this moment.

Let the words come through me and be written slowly on the page, on the laptop. And done.

And now, let myself rest, sleep, let go, trust, surrender.

________________________________

In this post:

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones, Shambhala, 2nd Edition, 2005. Try out pages 110 and 111 ‘Write Anyplace’.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Creating in the key of love

 

Cat Fink--'Blackbird Dance (what is and what could be)'
Blackbird Dance (what is and what could be)

Know.  Trust.  Choose.  Create.  This is what I do every day to consciously create my life.  Small things, like a conveniently placed parking spot or a table in my favourite cafe.  Big things, like an artist residency.

Some of my creations take time, like the artist residency.  I keep watch for the things that support it, and act on them.  I am building my creation, and the path to it.  Each action fitted to the next.

I have a partner in this.  I call my partner Source, or God, or the Great Creator, or the One Energy, or the Universe.  Source loves creating.  Source is creation energy, whole and complete.

What I am doing takes love, lots of it.  It takes attention, wide and inviting, open and allowing.  The more I do this, the more I love, the better I get at creating my life, and the better my life gets.

Here is what Dee Wallace says in her weekly e-blast, January 26, 2015, about what gets in the way of creating my life:

‘Whenever you feel out of sorts or imbalanced, ask yourself these four guiding questions:

-Am I in love with myself in this moment?

-Am I loving others in this moment?

-Am I here, in the present, or worrying about the future or the past?

-Am I remembering I am my own creator? Or have I given my creation away to something or someone else in this moment?’

Dee is talking about paying attention and making conscious choices.  I choose I love myself and others, unconditionally.  I choose I am here always in this present moment.  I choose I create my life.  I don’t just choose these things.  I feel them, all the way through me.

Creation, for me, is like music.  When the singers and the musical instruments are in tune and in time with each other, the music flows through me, clear, sweet, warm to my senses, and the song is created.

When one or more of the singers and instruments sound the wrong note, are off-key or off-timing, the music stutters and sours and jars me.  The song and the flow of the song are marred or stopped.  The song is created differently than it was intended, or stops being created altogether.

Creating my life moves exactly like creating music.  Harmony, timing, flow.  It is intention, attention, and the energy of love I am playing with.  It is Source as my partner, each of us in harmony with the other through love.

Know.  Trust.  Choose.  Create.  This is what I do.

Know.  Feel the earth under my feet and feel the breath in my body.  Let my thoughts slow until the feeling in my body takes the place of the words in my head.  Here.  This quiet place.  Feel the love I have for myself, open, full, unconditional.  Let it fill all the space that I am.  I am only and all Love.

Trust.  Let the love for myself spill beyond me, out into the world, the Universe around me.  Wide.  Accepting and allowing all.  Love.  Unconditional.

Choose.  Let my awareness be here now, chosen and grounded in this love and this moment, focused on the intention of my creation.  Feel my creation with all of my senses here in front of me, created out of love.

Create.  Feel surely and completely I am this unconditional love, I am the creator of my life and all in it.  My love, my attention and intention, my clear choosing, and my loving knowing, here and now.  This energy.  This music.  This song.  Love creates me.  I create love.  I choose this.

I choose love.

Know.  Trust.  Choose.  Create.  I choose this song.

______________________

Mentioned in this post:

Dee Wallace.  https://iamdeewallace.com/.  Dee’s new book Getting Stuff: Everything is Possible is about creating through love.  A clear, detailed, easy read.  Get it, read it, and go create your life!

Thank you, big sister Dee, for inspiring this blog post.

Falling Down, Getting Up

I dreamed for my children.detail

I’m in resistance mode today. Unwilling. Grouchy. I am a two-year-old in tantrum. Don’t wanna.

What don’t I want to do? Anything that my mind decides feels like work, like writing this blog post, paying the bills due today, doing up the grocery list for tomorrow’s shopping. Don’t wanna, my mind keeps saying.

What do I want to do? Lay on the couch and read all afternoon. I am on page 221 of The Peripheral by William Gibson. Bought it during Christmas holidays and started reading it this week. Yes, it’s GOOD, and that’s why I want to read all afternoon. Find out what happens next—the hallmark of a well-written book. Thank you for sharing this, William.

So what am I going to do about all this ‘don’t wanna’?

I am bribing myself. I have a big mug of cocoa at my side, one of my last candy canes melted into it. I have music on, a combination of melody and the sound of ocean waves running against a rocky beach. I have my Minions standing guard atop the unruly pile of papers on my work table. Kevin with his banana and black English bowler hat. Stuart in his blue vampire cape, showing off his spikey teeth. They make me laugh. And they are cheering me on.

Bribery and a cheering section. This works.

So I sit myself at my studio work table. Pick up my purple BIC pen. Lay in front of me a stack of loose leaf paper. I have a blog post to create. What do I write?

I start here, where I am. Unwilling. Crabby. Bad mood. Resisting everything. And I write exactly this. How I feel. Struggling to not struggle.

I learned this from both Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron. Begin where I am. Become present to my life just as it is in this moment, bad mood and all, says Natalie.

Accept it, and write anyways. Place my tantrum on the page, put the drama where it belongs, says Julia.

The page accepts everything. Holds it for me so I don’t have to. Tells me it is alright and I am alright. The mood I am in will shift and change and fade to something else. Let it. I know it fades quicker when I let myself create.

Am I feeling better? Yes. Is the ‘don’t wanna’ still hanging around? Yes, but not as loud. I’ll get through and past this tantrum.

Sitting here writing, I suddenly know why I am grouchy. Yesterday I wrote for four-plus hours, material for a creativity course I am teaching in the Fall. Felt awesome while I was deep in creation. Excited, inspired, energized. Ideas and words flowing. Unstoppable.

And now today, the water level in my creative well is low. Almost drained. I need to refill it. Julia taught me to understand this, too.

I know what to do. Play. Lay on the couch and read William’s book. Do a crossword puzzle or two with my pink BIC pen. Colour in my new colouring book with my set of fifty Crayola felt pens scattered across the table top. Watch one of the animated movies I have collected, and laugh. Marvel at the collective imagination of those who created the movie characters and the story. Laugh more.

And then love myself. Love and celebrate what I created yesterday. Love and celebrate what I create today. Just love myself, resistance and bad mood and writer and artist and all.

I am who I am in each moment. Love this, and allow, and accept. Create from exactly where I am, especially if it requires some bribery to get to the studio and pick up my pen.

Love my unwillingness. It gives me a place to begin today. It gives me a blog post to write and share. It reminds me to love myself, whatever is happening.

Just love myself.

________________________________

In this post:

The Peripheral by William Gibson, Berkley Books, NY, 2015, www.williamgibsonbooks.com/

Natalie Goldberg, http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Julia Cameron, http://juliacameronlive.com/