In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein
For several months now, I’ve been working through a wonderful book, The Artist’s Way. It was written more than 10 years ago with the intention to help aspiring creatives work through their blocks. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if I had gotten my hands on this book when I was 20 years old. I suppose I wouldn’t have been really ready for it. I suppose the universe works out as it should. Because here I am now, continually engaged with this read and so honored to be able to share some of it with my readers.
The book is broken up into weeks, with varying themes, tasks, and reflections each week. Some weeks I start out strong and move right through with ease. Others, I find myself working through bit by bit. This week’s topic is “Recovering a Sense of Self-Protection” and I have been chewing on it for quite some time.
In this chapter, Julia Cameron helps us explore the toxic habits we have that disrupt the flow of creative energy. My toxic habit? It’s workaholism. And Cameron exposes every little bit about my habit (the one I am trying to break) in this chapter.
In a way, it was a breath of fresh air. A year ago, when I began trying to restore balance to my life, I sought out books to help me realize that I had an unhealthy relationship with work. I was addicted. But the resources I found tended to be written for men in business suits who should take more time for their golf swing rather than their office. No thank you. I needed something that could fit for women, who felt the need to prove themselves, who didn’t want to fail in the face of patriarchal society. Women who were struggling to balance, who had a list of should-do-for-others that was must longer than the list of needs-to-for-myself. I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. I knew there must be many others, men or women, who wanted to redefine their relationship with work to better their lives.
In time, those ideas lead to the beginning of this blog. I’m so glad to have made the connections with others and gained a supportive readership. Thank YOU!
The challenge with redefining one’s relationship with work is that a work addiction is not the same as a drug addiction. It’s not socially acceptable to avoid work. Even when I took a few months off, I was surrounded by work at home. I certainly didn’t feel like I was getting sober. I wasn’t really having fun. I wasn’t sure I knew how. Cameron highlights the paradox of workaholism so well,
Only recently recognized as an addiction, workaholism still receives a great deal of support in our society. The phrase I’m working has a certain unassailable air of goodness and duty to it. The truth is, we are very often working to avoid ourselves, our spouses, our real feelings. In creative recovery, it is far easier to get people to do the extra work of the morning pages than it is to get them to do the assigned play of an artist date. Play can make a workaholic very nervous. Fun is scary. “If I had more time, I’d have more fun,” we like to tell ourselves, but this is seldom the truth. To test the validity of this assertion, ask yourself how much time you allot each week to fun: pure, unadulterated, nonproductive fun?
Fun? What am I supposed to do with that? How? With who?
I am getting better with this. Seriously, I am. Sharing experiences with others has been the key to learning how to have fun. Building friendships. Exploring opportunities. Laughing. And to the displeasure of my children, singing. In fact, just yesterday, I galloped down the road with my 3 year old. I don’t know if anyone was watching. I don’t really care. Because we had fun. He laughed and so did I. And the best part– I didn’t even get hurt.
For a long time, I had a deep fear of fun. I was terrified that if I let go, just a little too much, that something bad would happen. As if I had that much power in the universe! Ha! But, still the feeling was real. A feeling that if I let responsibility slip just a little bit, that bad, terrible things would happen as a result. The feeling is still there, I realize as I write this. But it is negotiable now. Not all-encompassing or consuming.
The mind is capable of so many things. Our perspective can lead to our ruin or our triumph. It all depends on what we believe. For so long, my work determined my worth and my schedule. It was a viscous cycle. I didn’t do the things that I needed to do for myself when I needed to. I would say, “Just let me finish this up.” or “When I get through this deadline.” or “I just don’t have time.” I believed those statements. I saw my work as a building block to get to the next point in which I could be happier.
Cameron is very clear about this, she says, “Workaholism is a block, not a building block.”
It is amazing for me to share all these bits, to see just how far I have come. Because truly, each step has been a challenge. The path doesn’t always feel easy. In fact, most often I feel like I am not doing anything at all. That’s where this book has been really great. Cameron encourages us to take time each morning to take time to clear our mind and write in what she calls morning pages. Even if it feels useless and silly, those morning pages are the way in which we draw a map for ourselves that includes both where we have been and where we want to go. I love her reminder,
“To write is to right things. Sooner or later— always later than we like— our pages will bring things right. A path will emerge.”
Somehow, I find that a path has emerged.
The pieces are starting to come together.
I admit though, it is still scary. It feels unknown. I have several projects lined up in the next couple months. This is a good thing financially. But its a scary thing psychologically.
It will be up to me to find that balance.
To do my work, without overworking.
To make my needs a priority,
Like eating nourishing meals.
Taking time to meditate, write, read, and create.
Spending time outside, with my family, animals, and plants.
Being spontaneous enough to have fun. Pure, unadulterated, nonproductive fun.
Being content with who I am, where I am, at that moment.
Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things. ~Edgar Degas