“Why haven’t I been doing more?”
So I was reading this blog post by Emma called Havi, hope, and an unexpected hero.
Yes, I will read your blog post if it has my name in the title but it has to be really, really fascinating (yes, even beyond that) for me to mention it here. 🙂
And it totally was. It’s brilliant and you should read it, and I had an especially thought-provoking experience from the conversation that emerged from the initial comments.
Emma writes beautifully about the patterns of struggle, pain and resistance that so often accompany — or even define — our relationship with the creative process.
And then there was a sweet comment from Diana Maus that kind of summed it all up for me.
She asked a powerful question — and I realized instantly how almost all the people I know have been dancing around this question. For a long time. Maybe forever.
The answer to this question is at the very core of the thing I’ve spent the past few years trying to teach.
“And if this is really everything to me, then why the hell haven’t I been doing more?”
Oh, sweetie. Oh, my love.
I’m about to say something very important that might, at first reading, come across as simplistic or just confusing. I’m not trying to go all Zen koan on you or anything, I promise.
It’s just that the answer to the question is right there in the question.
There is a perfectly good reason to avoid the thing that means everything to you — whether it is your art, your writing, your secret mission, your own heart, or whatever.
In fact, avoidance of the thing which has meaning and power for you is the most understandable and normal thing I can think of.
Here is this thing — ohmygod the thing! — that has incalculable symbolic weight for you.
You’re avoiding the thing that’s holding all your dreams? Good grief! Of course you are! That symbolic weight? It’s that much potential for hurt and disappointment.
If you weren’t avoiding it on some level, I’d be worried about you. If you could do the thing easily and painlessly, without having to spend years and years working on your stuff to get there… I’d probably assume that it didn’t mean everything to you.
It’s not this: “Even though I thought this meant everything to me, I’m still avoiding it so clearly I don’t really care about it.”
It’s this: “Wow, this means everything to me… so of course I’m avoiding it.”
Where things get complicated and tangled.
Where it hurts.
Where it gets tangled up is exactly here. The stuck happens inside of the resistance that you place around the question.
Instead of recognizing your pain, you start to question yourself and your commitment.
Instead of treating your avoidance as a natural sign that this thing is so powerful and so important for you that of course you’re going to run away from it, you give this avoidance the power of truth.
You start to think that if you cared about your dream you’d invest in it, when the truth is that when we really care about our dreams we run away from them in panic and terror.
Until we recognize just how legitimate our fear really is.
Because avoidance is fear’s favorite thing to wear.
Back to talking about fear again.
We want so badly for our fear to become unnecessary and irrelevant. We want it gone — to retire, or at least to take an extended vacation.
And maybe one day it will be gone for good. But the only way to get fear to agree to give you some breathing room is to acknowledge its legitimacy and its purpose.
To say to yourself:
“Of course I’m afraid. It makes sense that I’m afraid. This fear is a temporary part of where I’m at right now. And even though I’d really like to not need to have it around anymore, this is where I am right now.
I am allowed to have this fear.
This is me noticing how much space my fear takes up. This is me reminding myself that my fear is only one part of who I am. It is not all of me. It is of me, but it is not me.”
Because so much space opens up right after you’ve softened the resistance and the fighting with yourself.
Every time I interrogate myself (“Why am I so tired? Why can’t I write this blog post? How come I don’t feel like doing yoga?”), my reaction is resistance.
Every time I notice what I’m feeling and give myself permission to feel it (“Wow, I guess I need some rest. I’m allowed not to always be in the zone”), I feel safe. Safe and comforted.
Invariably, I remember what it’s like to not be fighting with myself.
And then it all gets easier.
Well, one of two things happen.
Sometimes what happens is that all the answers start showing up. All of a sudden I know why I’m tired. I remember the thing, whatever it is, that’s been tugging at my subconscious and fogging up my writing process.
Perspective. Reassurance. And then it gets easier to — as my friend Michael says — “catch the next wave”.
I get back into flow.
Other times what happens is that I no longer care — but in a good way. I still don’t know why I’m tired or why I can’t write, but those questions no longer seem to be that relevant, or to bear the same accusatory weight.
It’s just where I am and it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my way or anything horrendous like that. So I cheer up.
I step out of the blame-guilt-loathing cycle. I remember that only something as significant and important to me as my work could bring up so much stuckified gunk.
Which at least makes me laugh ruefully. Hey, it’s better than banging my head on the wall.
It’s the question that’s half of the problem.
Every time I wonder why things aren’t the way I want them to be, it creates friction.
And every time I recognize that it’s legitimate for me to feel whatever it is I’m feeling about the way things happened to be, I get room to breathe.
So the big thing I’ve been working on is moving from the crappy questions (“Why like this?!?!)* to the useful questions.
* Direct translation from Hebrew, if that sentence made no sense to you!
Some of the “useful questions” that I’ve been working with:
- What if I’m allowed to be scared of the things that are meaningful and important to me?
- What if there’s an easier way of doing things?
- What do I need?
- What will help me feel safe and supported?
That’s where I’m at right now.
I won’t say that it’s easy or anything. But it beats the hell out of drawing the conclusion that stuckification and avoidance mean that my dreams aren’t important to me.
Because they are. They must be. Because they still scare me.
p.s. Speaking of stucknesses and working through them, Naomi and I are teaching our absolute best tricks for Not Being Impressed by the recession — tomorrow. You should at least get the recording if you can.
Oh, I needed to hear this today! Thank you, Havi. I’ve been struggling to rewrite my website pages, and feeling lost. Your questions remind me that there’s a kinder way to approach this. That it’s okay that it’s taking as long as it’s taking.
What do I need? What will help me feel safe and supported?
I’ll sit with these questions (like a broody hen on a precious egg), and wait for what emerges . . . 🙂
Much love to you,
Hiro Bogas last blog post..Creative Connection: Where’s Your Muse When the Baby’s Spitting Up at 3 am?
This is excellent and true. Considering I’m writing a guest post on this for the weekend, perfectly timed, too.
Joely Blacks last blog post..The incredible power of the used envelope
You are so cooking on gas this week, Havi dahling! Right on the spot again today. Jeez, for the last ten days I’ve been in a pickle (a pickle, I tell you!) about whether the pattern was me giving up on a project ’cause I’m bored (already! yes!) or the pattern was me starting with the project in the first place to Avoid Being an Artist. Projects are easy to start. Being an Artist, not so much. So guess I know which is the real pattern here, huh?
(And poop, ‘third!’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.)
Fi Bowman (@fibowman)s last blog post..Technical tinkering in progress!
You should probably stop being a weirdo and addressing my problems hours after I’ve had some kind of epiphany on the topic. Geez. Ya freak. 🙂
Totally just kidding.
Realized this morning, as I sit here deaf, not really able to move and leaking all sorts of crazy stuff from my ears due to a morbidly painful ear infection, that maybe my body and the Universe at large are trying to tell me something. Maybe they’re trying to get me to *notice* something, a something that I often avoid – my dreams. And I was trying to figure out why, and starting to go into guilt mode and “you can’t do that!” mode and now there’s some space around all that, thanks to this.
Bless you, you wonderful person 🙂
Sarah Marie Lacys last blog post..I’ll be back in a few days.
I love what you say about allowing the fear, that it is valid, but that it is not US. I recently wrote a post on fear that had me questioning when something was a valid fear, or a fear from the small place. Now I’m wondering if they are all valid fears… not that we should let them run us.
rowenas last blog post..Flying Girl Makes a Margarita, or Drink Life
Seriously Havi, you really know exactly how to express the one thing we all need to hear. The questions we ask ourselves really cause much of the discomfort we experience.
Thank you so much! I’m off to allow myself to get into the groove of writing. No questions about why I’ve been putting it off, only allowing. 🙂
Nathalie Lussiers last blog post..Making Excuses and Taking The Payoff
@Sarah: oh no! Ear infections are the worst. I’ve only written once about the one I had but it was one of the most traumatic experiences of my entire life. So yuck yuck yuck and sorry sorry sorry and sending love.
Good for you getting out of guilt mode… and take it easy while you’re healing up.
@Joely: good to know we’re on the same wavelength, working on the same themes!
@Fi: a pickle! Wow. Sounds like you’ve been processing a lot of interesting stuff… especially with the whole artist thing. Impressive. Can’t wait to find out where it takes you!
@Hiro: love to you, my dear. And yes, take your time. it’s big stuff. and completely overwhelming too. 🙂
Wow, perspective is an amazing thing isn’t it?!
I’ve been battling this demon myself for quite a while and suddenly it makes sense. I should go with the current instead of fighting against it. How can it be so simple in theory and so difficult in practice? Maybe because I’m used to the fight and don’t know how to let go. That in itself then becomes a whole other aggravation 🙂 Ack! This is why stuckification likes me.
Thank you Havi, I bow to your wisdom.
bens last blog post..heavy petting
Yup…. you got it! As usual. This is something that I see in myself and in my students ALL THE TIME. Oftentimes when people are in one of my painting classes and they start to hit a motherlode of creative energy they will get so very TIRED. It’s all they can do to not just lie down on the paint splattered floor that very minute!
And yes it’s always about the fear. The fear that we won’t get what we want or that we will get what we want…. and then lose it, or that we will get what we want and be disappointed, or that we will get what we want and it will be more amazing than we could have ever imagined and then what does that mean about who we are NOW!!!
ARGGHHH…. no wonder we don’t want to go anywhere near it! And of course, the more important it is to you, the worse the slogging through cement can be!
And yes… always compassion, always kindness, always meeting the fear with love. Can never hear that one enough!
Love ya darling.
You are the bees knees!
chris zydels last blog post..SECRET # 8: CREATIVE COLLABORATION
An image I have from a book (Illusions by Richard Bach) is of me as a crab clinging on to the seaweed for fear of being dashed against the rocks, but therefore never getting to see the wonders of floating down the river.
Anyway, it’s posts like these that make me think of you as a gardener, trimming back the seaweed that I’m clinging to and pop, off I go free and light with a grin on my face.
The realisation that avoidance can be from resistance to such power rather than boredom or lack of passion is a big one, and one I shall keep an eye out for. Thank you.
James | Dancing Geeks last blog post..What about my path do I need to know?
I’m having one of those “It’s so cool when posts magically appear that are talking about the very thing I need to hear….TODAY” moments.
You’re just too awesome for words.
All the best!
Deb Owens last blog post..POD: picture of the day
There’s something here about holding our sacred preciousness? The ecstasy and the agony of protecting and nurturing. Holding close that which is our mission?
Its hard to write in words, but I see an image of being curled around a white hot ball of energy. With the energy of dancing with releasing it to the world, and protecting it from harm.
christys last blog post..Communication Strategy – Personal Edition
“Here is this thing — ohmygod the thing! — that has incalculable symbolic weight for you.”
Ah. That’ll be the tango, then.
Kates last blog post..A personal letter to my dream J-O-B
Okay so I’m reading “Yes, I will read your blog post if it has my name in the title but it has to be really, really fascinating (yes, even beyond that) for me to mention it here. :)” and I’m thinking Great, now I’ll never get mentioned in Havi’s blog because…
1) I don’t comment here because it would always say “great post Havi!” or “I like that,” reducing me to a groupie instead of a lurker (which I prefer) and,
2) In competing with all the writers here, I’d never have a (beyond) fascinating enough title that mentions Havi.
So, imagine my surprise when you mentioned me BY NAME, IN COLOR, and LINKED to my new blog!
Fan post coming… You rock Havi! (But then I knew that already.)”Not Being Impressed by the recession” tomorrow. I’m there. You and Naomi have no idea how the last class helped me redefine my goals. And Emma… I’m so glad you mentioned Emma, because she is the real deal.
Dianas last blog post..My precioussssssss…
This is one of the best pieces I’ve read on why we avoid doing what matters to us. You’ve summed it up beautifully and clearly.
Amazing how much easier things are when you stop resisting *what is.*
Today, I think I’ll try to not fight the universe. Yeah, maybe that would be smart.
Thank you Havi. I really needed this. This is exactly what is happening to me, and I am going to stop being so hard on myself.
Shawna R. B. Atteberrys last blog post..You Gotta Love Serendipity
The questions of meaning and the value of art have been up for me lately. Your piece is one more tool to have in my pocket on those days when it’s hard to remember why I make music or write, even though I know they’re vital.
The value of suffering is WAY overrated — particularly for artists — and too often, we inflict it on ourselves. The shame and judgment around what we “should” be doing is far more destructive than the avoidance itself.
Before I learned to follow where my creativity wanted to go, it felt like I had an open spigot somewhere, draining all my energy into a big waste bin labeled “I Suck for Not Doing Music.” And tellingly, once I accepted I had more energy for writing and pursued that, the music came back around in an even deeper way. The process has become a self-strengthening feedback loop for me: the more I “ride the wave,” the more positive the results (both creatively and emotionally).
Lindasusans last blog post..More or Less
I’ve been reading the blog and following on Twitter for a while, but this is the first post I’ve felt compelled to comment on, probably because it really resonates.
This is especially important for those of us (particularly artistic types) who have been bombarded with messages from well-meaning people – parents, teachers, other authority figures – saying things like, “If you really wanted to, you’d be a famous musician/writer/whatever already.”
I understand the misguided motivational intent behind it, but what better way to make someone doubt the sincerity of their passion than to tell them, basically, “you don’t want it enough, so you won’t have it.”
Not that I’ve heard this at all…
andrews last blog post..The Fear of Falling: Why it Matters
Wow, this helped me so much today. Just the act of reading took me on this releasing-journey wherein I was able to step out of that familiar “blame-guilt-loathing cycle.”
It’s amazing how *activating* your words are. Not sure if that makes any sense…
So cool. Thank you!
Eileens last blog post..Why I think Everyone Needs Therapy*
thanks for the reminder about “why” being kind of a forever-loopy question… So, I’m wondering how to reframe the question: why am I not making more money doing what I love? OK. I’m getting there. How about: What is standing in the way of my making enough/more money doing what I love? Hmmmm. Still stuck-ish. Will keep playing. Just thinking out loud here. Thxoxo.
Heidi Fischbachs last blog post..Bring your box full of darkness on an adventure!
I can’t string together anything vaguely intelligible right now – not sure I can even spell! Thank you for uncovering the root of this fear – it helps so much…
As I was reading the post I found myself wanting to snip bits out to quote and comment on, then I realised it would be most of the post! Such a help. Such a comfort, ah I am weeping, so overwhelmed am I at how lucky I am to be connected in a network of such amazing people.
Sorry to gabble. Thank you Havi, thank you.
Emma Newmans last blog post..The queerness of query letters
“Would you like a side of synchronicity with your blog meal, sir?”
“Yes, please. Biggie size it.”
This is perfectly timed. And a lifeline. And you rock.
Thank you. (Hugs to Selma!)
Fear of actually succeeding at something you really, really want can be truly paralyzing.
I know not what such success would feel like. I am the Queen of Avoidance.
What an amazing post. I’m gonna have to read it a few more times, at least.
You’ve caught me! I was happy telling a close friend yesterday that the reason Im not doing any work is that perhaps being a textile artist isnt for me and what I might really like to do is still out there on another career path.
After reading your insightful writings I realise that Inside Im feeling scared, anxious and fearful because Ive now got no real excuses not to be doing art.
Ive worked hard to get to this place (career, financial, family support, a room to work) and now its here – there is silence. You’ve helped me to understand why.
So, Ive decided I will just go and sit in my studio and wait for the fear to go then I will take up my backpack of artist tools and start on the road again.
I am finally, finally!! at a point in my life where I can pursue my dreams. Wouldn’t it just be so easy to listen to the insecurities that have now arisen to let me know that maybe this isn’t what I’m cut out to do. Maybe my lack of immediate success is a sign that I need to go back to what I previously did (and hated). Fear has now appeared and I had mistook him for failure. It’s easier to believe myself a failure than to believe that I am afraid of my own success. I have asked fear to go now since I no longer can hide behind him. Avoidance and procrastination are no longer needed either.
Sues last blog post..Step 1 – Better Business Decisions aka Fixing My Mistakes
Havi this was awesome and exactly what I needed right now (and yes, I did just tweet the hell out of this post as I was reading it…months after you wrote it). I’m so glad I followed the link in your post over to this one.
I just spent so much time last week telling two friends that it’s important to give themselves permission (in this case to be angry), but it never seemed to occur to me to give myself permission to be afraid of success.
Katy Tafoyas last blog post..Lisa Nichols FREE Event: 4/22
Wow, this may very well be my favorite thing of yours that I’ve ever read.
This has been a stuck of mine for a long time, but this year has seen progress and your post encourages me to continue. Thank you for that.
.-= claire´s last post … Dance Dance Revolution: The Philosophy =-.
Havi, I heart this post so so much that you’ve made me come out of the lurker closet. I’m a new lurker so I just found the link to it in your blog today.
Stuckness has been my most loathed enemy for the past few years, along with all the beastly self-hate it drags behind it. Epiphanies indeed, thank you. I have thoroughly cleaned my ‘perspecticals’ and will try very hard to remember that it’s actually more of a frenemy affirming I’m on the right path. Keep your friends close and your frenemies closer- or something like that.
Love love love this post. Yay!
Thank you so much for this. You understand!
“Instead of recognizing your pain, you start to question yourself and your commitment.”
brought tears to my eyes because that was my life for far, far too long.