Sunday, January 26, 2014

The power in "No"

A new year has come since I wrote last.

A lot of snow an ice has melted.
Christmas has come and gone.

Three new baby goats have been born.

Much candy, cookies, and turkey has been consumed.

Merry making, holiday bustle, and creative projects have been completed.

It is a new year. But even more important to remember is the fact that everyday, every sunrise, every moment, not just every year, is a chance to reawaken ourselves to the moment, to live fully and abundantly. 

With the Christmas holiday, and last minute creative Christmas ideas, a lot of my writing goals have been put on the back-burner. I'm behind. Yes I am. 

 But I'll catch up soon. Now that I've got a little bit of time there seems to be more bumps in the road trying to block my way.

 For some reason I've been having a lot of formatting issues with my manuscript---namely margin errors that crawled out of the cracks of cyberspace and decided to spin little webs in my manuscript while I was busy. 

So please be patient with me, my books are coming out, but everything takes longer than I think it will. I sometimes forget that the distance between idea, creation and reality is a road that has a lot of twists and turns. 
But that is good, right? Life is made up of these winding roads, unexpected plans, events, and golden byways. If everything went according to plan, where's the fun in that? Where's the mystery? With all our new year's planning we set ourselves up for disappointment by not being able to figure in the little sunbursts, and rainclouds that drift in and out of our lives. The best things in my life have not been planned, but discovered. And I think that's what life is meant to be, a journey of discovery. We may not know all that we are capable of right at this moment. But that doesn't mean that that version of ourselves does not exist. It is silently waiting for the right moment to become found.

These winding roads filled with bumps, and sometimes full of dragons and shadows, are what defines us. They make us, or break us.
I have been thinking about the frustrations of all artist everywhere. And when I say, "Artist," I mean individual---creative, unique person however you choose to express that part of you. 
What are the challenges that you face? As the main character in your own story, who is your antagonist, the "Dragon?" What is your journey about? What is the part you play? What role do you think you play? What role do others try to make you play? Who is the wise person in your life? Who is there for you when you hit those rocks?
What stands in your way? Who is it, or what is it that brings out or breaks your Character? 
What must you overcome? What don't you have enough of?

What gives you a sense of direction?

It's hard to remember when we're battling those "dragons" that those obstacles is what gives our journey meaning. It is what makes our story worth telling. 
Without the dark, how could we appreciate the light?

I have to remember this while battling a self-made deadline I now know I cannot meet.
I did my best, but sometimes the "Dragons" we can't defeat, only learn from, and tame.
Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of finding time, energy, and willpower to balance all the areas in my life. It seems like where I focus on one area, like exercise, then something else falls out of balance.

 But maybe if everything was always balanced then we'd be dead. Maybe nobody is really ever completely balanced in all areas of life. And maybe that isn't the goal anyway.  

Maybe the challenge is instead of finding perfect balance, is to do one's best, hold on to the moment, and remember that to be balanced is more than just having lots of branches stretching out in every direction, north south, east west. To be balanced is to have deep roots, so that no matter how short, or long, weathered, twiggy, or stubby our branches may seem, we will always be grounded, solid, and have something to build on even when our branches break, and our life seems to crash around us like swirling autumn leaves. 

Sometimes I get frustrated because, with nine siblings, and family's of their own, and more kids on the way all the time, there is usually someone coming or going to and from our house, which means there's always something going on, always a Birthday, a party,  a graduation, or some other event that is sure to greet you next. Always something to call me away from whatever is I start to focus in on.

Big family=every month several holidays for someone.

Sometimes it is hard for me because my work, my writing, is always here, people assume I'm always "here" always available to counsel, to befriend, to drop everything to "fill in the cracks" so to speak. 

Sometimes I welcome the break. It makes me feel special that I can be there for them. 
 Other times it can be especially frustrating because in this day and age, everyone is so busy, so in a hurry, that there's a lot of gaps left by these busy people---gaps that need to be filled, gaps with large lonesome holes, neglected people, kids without one on one time with adults, old people who need a friend, sick people that need visiting, important but not urgent work that gets neglected, books that don't get read, kids that don't get loved, people that get forgotten, words that don't get said...or heard. And the list goes on. 

The problem is when people are so busy being busy, and they never have time to fill these seemingly not so important but still very important cracks. So because of the lack of time to fill these gaping, sometimes ever growing, "cracks," my sister and I get calls all the time to fill in, to fill the cracks that no one seems to have time for. We get pleas to help fill this hole or patch this crack, care for this person here, or hold this person's hand there.

All of which are very good things to do. And many times I feel grateful that I can help---that I can say yes. I like to feel needed, and of help. But other times, I feel a bit...well...tired of filling, "cracks." And sometimes, a bit misused.

Not that I don't mind filling a "crack or two," when I can. It makes me feel very good to be of help. But honestly, there are times when "crack filling," can be a very thankless job, especially when you drop everything to help, fill "cracks" for someone else, and then they proceed to tell you how wonderful everyone in the world is, but you. How much they admire these busy people, or the brilliance of Mr. bright-bottom for his apparent lack of time.

Then is when I feel a bit, well...undervalued. Not that I need appreciation. But who doesn't like to feel important now and again?

Then these kind, but sometimes, oblivious people go on to tell me that because I obviously don't have a real job, that I can "fill their cracks forever," and how good it would be for you. 

Times like that make me reconsider which "cracks" I chose to help fill.
If I help someone I do it because I really wanted to help. Not because I need to, or am obligated to, or because I'm hopelessly bored, or in need of work. 
Then is when I really want to say, "Hey, No. You've got this all wrong. I chose to help you because I care about you. There are lots of kinds of busy, and many people make it their life's work to look busy, so they don't have to face whatever it is they're running from. Don't try to turn the tables to make it look like you're doing me a favor when I'm trying to help you. And don't use me. Appreciate me. Value that I am here. That's it. Don't try to change me, and I'll probably be back to help you next time you need something."

*sigh* Yep, the things I wished I was brave enough to say, but don't. Hence the birth of this Blog. 

If you asked me what I value the most in my life, I'll tell you Freedom. It is something I will fight to keep. Without it, I feel constrained, as if my air has been cut off.  Don't devalue me for valuing something that is mine, and yours too, if you wanted it. And if I choose to help you, it's because I choose to, not because I'm a lowly peasant, who has nothing better to do. If I stop what I'm doing to help you, it is because I want to show you I care."

As an artist, it's especially hard to explain to people that what you do is work, even if you enjoy your work, even if someone isn't holding a whip to your back. As a culture we seem to think that if someone else isn't making you "work"  then it isn't work.

I mean, what is work really?
Is it how you make money?
Is it something you do to show everybody how miserable you are?
Is it something that chose you instead of you choosing it?
Is it something horrible, miserable and something you want to escape from?
It is something you do to keep you alive?

Some people don't seem to realize that my work is something I don't always wish to escape from. Sometimes I can't wait to start. Sometimes I just want to draw away from the noise to go and scribble, and draw, and do nothing. And sometimes, doing nothing for me, is quite a lot. In the nothings I find a lot of somethings. In the spaces I find depth. 
Sometimes I can't sleep because of all the ideas I have rolling around in my head trying to get out. Sometimes I just want to get away from all the people, and just be quiet so I can hear my self think. And it's not because I'm mean or selfish, or want to be a hermit. Nor do I expect everybody to have the same needs as I do. That would be very silly.

I've never really thought of myself as an introvert. But maybe I am. I wouldn't know. I've always liked people, and I've always enjoyed doing things with people. But on the other hand, people can make me very tired. I think it's because a lot of the time I find myself listening a lot more than talking. Not that I'm that great of a listener. No. Sometimes I'm terrible at listening to people, especially when I'm tired, and when I'm having my own loud thoughts bump around in my head.

Another thing that's frustrating is when you're self employed, people don't quite understand that your work doesn't just stop because theirs does. And it's really hard to balance spending time with people you care about, and taking time for yourself. I wonder if anyone can truly find the right balance between the two?

I think part of my problem is that I have a very hard time saying "no," even to strangers. I like to be nice to the point of not being very nice to myself. I like to please people too much. I like the feeling of being "There" for people. It makes me feel important. But the truth is I can't always be there, no one can all the time. It's exhausting. No matter how nice I am, I can't make other people happy. That's impossible. 

I was thinking about the word, "no." And how it sometimes defines a relationship. In my own life the people I feel closest to, I can say "no" to the easiest, because I know that they'll still love me, and respect me for not always meeting their needs. I know that they know I still love them, even when I do say no.

It's a good feeling. This feeling of being okay. This feeling that they respect, the "no" you may sometimes have to say.
On the flip side, I have the hardest time saying "no" to the people who I'm unsure of the most---relationships where I'm not certain where I stand. I know that if I say, "No," they might take that no as meaning, "I don't care."
But I do know that the times where I know I needed to say, "no" even when it hurt, I feel pretty good----free. Standing up for oneself is very nice. Something I wish I did more often.

Also, I've learned that this saying, "No" can also be very useful in dating.
If you want to know if that person really respects you, then try saying, "no," when he wants you to do something you don't want to do. Believe me, "It's a real eye opener." You suddenly see where you stand with a person very quickly, once the word, "No," introduced. It's very interesting. You might try it sometime just to see what happens. Plus, I've learned that saying, "No," helps me to be more me, and honest. With, "No," there isn't any pretending. 

I seriously think, "No." is an awesome tool in relationships. Not that you should just say, "no" every time someone needs help.That's not a good practice either.
 Nor should you act like a spoiled child every time someone wants you to do something you don't want to do.There's always going to be times when you do something you don't want to do because you care about the other person---times when you see the higher good than just your needs.

But, on the other hand, if you're not careful, people will use you because you never say no. And you'll set up an impossible image of yourself you'll struggle your whole life to live up to. I think it's healthy to say that there will always be someone you will probably disappoint, but if that person truly cares about you, they'll eventually understand. 

You need know yourself enough to know when it's appropriate to say yes, or no. You need to know your limits, and when to decline an opportunity that may take you in the wrong direction. 

There are a lot of good people in the world. But everybody is going in different directions, and it's easy to get pulled along with the next person who wants your talents to do this, or needs your help for that, until you've forgotten which direction you were heading in the first place.

Sometimes when I fall into this trap, I sit where the last person has "dropped" me, afraid that if I start doing what I had planned in the first place, someone will pop out of the woodwork, and yank the paintbrush from my hand and tell me to go get busy making bricks. 

I know that when I ignore my own needs, and limitations for too long, and cater to everybody's whim, a subtle resentment builds up inside me. I get angry, and hurt. I feel as if by saying, "yes," to the "never ending needy thems" out there, so many times, that they should somehow see my needs, and help fill my wants and wishes.

But this is TOXIC thinking. Instead of making myself happy, I've somehow made it someone elses responsibility. It's a bad road to be on. But one that I'm sure many people---many frustrated artists take, who have forgotten a very important truth---that no one can really make you happy. Nobody---your kids, your husband, your wife, your job, your friends, your family, can fill your "happiness bucket" except yourself. That's why it's very healthy to be able to say no so you can say yes later on. 

My yes's mean ever so much more when I've filled that well inside me. All the resentment is gone, because I have enough to share. Yes, to fill one's well is good. It's like a beautiful watercolor painting---the deep white glow underneath all the color still shows through even when many colors are applied, through it all that deep white adds a special feeling of depth to the picture. 

When my "bucket is full, there is time to spare, and I have a deep sense of direction even when the world is spinning at all sorts of speeds trying pull me along.

"Yes." I like to say, "No." 

And "Yes," I like to say "Yes." 
But to have the wisdom to know when to say these two words makes all the difference.

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