How to Move a Mountain

Every time I start a new project, I am terrified I will not be able to do it.

Every. Single. Time.

This terror is not my initial response. My first response is elation. Excitement. Passion. Thrill.

This is a delightful and short-lived phase of my process. Much sooner than I would like, the excitement and celebration morphs into abject doubt and fear.

Suddenly, I am overwhelmed by the work ahead of me. My mind makes it all seem like an enormous mountain that I am at the base of, seemingly without any equipment or wherewithal of how to surmount it. It is like some weird fog of “forgetting” comes over me and seduces me into believing that:

  1. I do not have any business embarking on this endeavor, and
  2. I do not have a clue as to how to do anything.

I am grateful to have a partner in life, my husband, who very fortunately has borne witness to my process over and over again. (He was actually the first person to point it out to me.)

While his reminder to me that this is “just a part of my process” does not in any way change my process, it does allow me to find somewhere within the knowing that “this too shall pass.” The knowing that this is not the end of my process. That this is actually letting me know, in a way, that I am on my way. As in, the fear and doubt kick in because I am entering into my creative process. It is a sign I am doing what I love.

That knowing makes moving through that phase a bit easier. Then I can recall, if need be, that I have felt this doubt and fear every time in the past. I can reference back and remember that every time in the past, I not only survived, but that I even succeeded in accomplishing what I took on in the end.

Awareness is everything, they say. That I have found to be true. If only awareness erased the anxiety! But I have found that only action alleviates the anxiety (to some degree.) I am lucky to have learned that as well.

My antidote to the fear and doubt is this: when it sets in, as it always will, I make sure to start the work right away. I begin the work NO MATTER WHAT, and as soon as possible, and I continue to work at it daily. I do it in chunks, and in this way, I navigate the treacherous waters of the part of me that wants to interfere with my creative endeavors.

The part of me that Steven Pressfield writes about valiantly fighting. If you are not familiar with his work, do yourself a favor and check him out. His books have been invaluable to me in my learning how to work with myself and my resistance.

And so I prevail. Not in spite of the resistance, but alongside it, through it, with it.

I am writing this as a reminder to myself as I have just begun a new project and after being very excited about it for a day or two, just about an hour ago, I got really scared and filled with doubt.

What the hell was I thinking? I cannot do THAT! I am not equipped. I cannot handle it. Reasons flood my mind as to why it was a bad idea. Dread filled my gut.

So what did I do? I took two actions in support of the project before I could fall into paralysis or start dreaming up ways to get myself out of the commitment. And I am writing this. And I am feeling somewhat better.

The jitters and the fear are still there, just waiting to take over. But for today, I have held them at bay and given more attention to my work. And somewhere in the mix I feel inside, there is a knowing.

After all, this is all just a part of my process. I am right where I supposed be.

The man who moved a mountain was the one who began carrying away small stones.

Ancient Chinese Proverb

Inspired by The Daily Post Word Prompt June 10, 2016: mountain

Morning Glories

As I wrote the other day, I am currently in a five week-long physical theatre intensive, including clown and commedia.

One week in, and I am joyfully astonished (and exhausted.) My face and sides ache from laughing. My mind has been blown repeatedly by the beauty of the other souls that daily become more and more alive as the class progresses. My heart has expanded and feels raw and tender and open in new ways. Many tears have fallen, from joy and wonder, from deep wells of sadness that come as old rusty parts of my soul are freed from their societal binds.

You see, clown is about exploring the four year-old inside. The little one you were before socialization caused you to “grow up” and be serious.

Before the body forgets to play and becomes blocked by The Block of Cool (as in, gotta be cool, man — gotta suppress this or that to be one of the cool kids.) The Block of Nice (Gotta be a good girl/boy if you want anyone to like you.) The Block of Polite (Gotta be polite to fit in and be a part of society.) The Block of Being Appropriate (Gotta do what everyone else is doing no matter what or you’ll stand out and the bullies will see you or you will be humiliated.)

So as we’ve been playing this week, we’ve been getting up underneath our adult skin suits and back into the wonder, the joy, the big, messy fun of acting with enthusiasm, leading with our hope, and the desire to have fun and make others laugh with us, at us.

It is an honor – a gift – to see someone’s unadulterated humanness. To really see who each person is underneath all the tricks we’ve learned to protect ourselves.

I am blown away by the exquisite beauty and brilliance of each person in the class.

Down the street, one of the buildings has some flowers blooming on part of it’s front wall. There’s a beautiful cascade of what looks like lilac that I was drawn to the first day during lunch break. What I did not notice then is that alongside the lilac are morning glories. (They were not blooming that first day.)

But the second day of class, I walked by the storefront again, and there they were, in all their, well, glory!

I was floored and just stopped and stared in wonder.

Then the next day, they were gone! (Upon closer inspection, they were there, but had withdrawn back into their tightly wrapped buds.)

The next day, half were out again, the others were in different states of the bloom process.

The flowers’ journey seems to mirror our class. We are all at our own different states of “bloom” in our work of rediscovering our unsocialized selves. We all have started the class in different places, and we will end in different places. But along the way, we are all blooming at different times. And sometimes, we are each beginning to show ourselves out in full bloom. It is astonishing to witness.

I cannot wait to see what will bloom next week.

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Urban Twilight

Neon lights taser early evening shadows of the day

and dance off windows ever-reaching for the sky

Blazing, burnt orange sun makes its slow slide into the Hudson

Pours her liquid sunlight across the city spaces

between buildings, and down crowded streets, across the trafficked avenues

Something electric runs through the veins of life in the streets

The city, she feels more alive, more alight than before

On Enthusiasm

If you want to break open your heart (and your world) in the best of ways, go to clown school.

I just finished day two of a five week journey into the craft of the comedic world – the world of physical theatre, clown and Commedia del Arte.

I went to clown school once before, in 2014. It changed me and the way I live and act in countless, invaluable ways.

And I have taken a few clown weekend intensives between then and now.

But the thing is, you have to keep using the muscles that clown requires, or they atrophy. The wonderful clown you have freed from inside you descends further and further back into the recesses of your heart. Back into the darkness.

One of those clown muscles is enthusiasm. That excitement and wonder for people and things that give you pleasure, that make you laugh. That thing that males your eyes sparkle and your body happy.

That thing that gets bullied out of you around junior high (maybe earlier these days.)

That thing you learn to flatten to seem cool to the other kids.

The thing you learn not to show to protect yourself from ridicule.

The thing you betray in yourself out of fear of becoming an outcast.

The thing that gets beaten down into adult cynicism and suspicion.

(That thing you forget how to feel after while.)

It is a delicious sensation!

Day two of clown class, and I feel that muscle pinking up again. When enthusiasm is allowed its space to inhabit your body, all kinds of good begin to happen. And fun!

I double-dog dare you to find yours. Shake off the cobwebs and try it on for size. Take it for a walk.

It may feel a bit scary to let it be seen again by others. A part of you may be afraid and want to keep it under wraps.

I say: Go ahead. Be subversive. Be a part of the revolution.

Be enthusiastic!