Monday, October 27, 2008

New Beginnings

Once in awhile, something big moves in your life. A partner comes or goes, a job does, or an opportunity...

And when that happens, it's like trigger, that suddenly makes you aware of all the things in your life you thought might be different by now. One thing stops time, and all of the little voices, that were heretofore in the background, resound in a chorus of demands on you to fix whatever is wrong - and there is a LOT to fix.

I thought about some big shifts that occurred in my life recently, bringing questions and feelings of doubt, along with an ungrounded feeling. Sometimes when something moves, and you had, in part, defined yourself by your relationship to it, it is possible to feel detached, as if you had somehow lost a part of yourself in the transition. Or, maybe you glimpse a part of yourself that is bigger and more powerful than you ever imagined - and that is, well, equally terrifying.

Coming from a place like this, as an optimist, I thought, "What can I say about this that would be of any use to people?" In other words, how can I find something inspiring to say about something that makes me (as it would anyone) uncomfortable and confused?

Well, you have to start with the truth. I may be an optimist, but I firmly believe that you cannot just smile and pretend things are okay. You have to be [sometimes brutally] honest with yourself. The only way to look at something optimistically, is to acknowledge what you are really feeling - what you REALLY make of your life. And then, you can access the parts of you that see it differently - that see it all as a magical endeavor for you to grow and learn with.

So, the truth is - something sucks. You feel lonely, disoriented, skeptical of the people you meet, and doubting that you will ever really know another person with good intentions. At the same time, something nags you inside to notice how glorious you are - begging you to step up to the plate. The more you don't, the worse you feel. What does this feel like? I'm not going to describe it for you - just feel what it feels like. I did this tonight after a long hot bath, and it brought tears. There weren't any thoughts, there was no blame. I just felt some obscure sense that there is hurt in the world, and that I (like anyone) touch a lot of lives with my presence, and that there is some significance in that.

And then, I realized that must be what my friend had felt when she thought she might lose her kitten. That must be what my brother feels like when someone lets him down. That must be what that client felt like, when they had a bad day and took it out on me. That must be what that waiter felt like. That must be what that sad man on the subway felt like. And on and on...

Just as soon as I had honestly acknowledged any pain, I felt the opposite - I felt utter compassion. In knowing what life really feels like, I can be a better friend, a better sister, a better vendor, a better customer, a better person to run into on the street. Because we learn compassion from acknowledging our fears, worries, faults and misunderstandings, those things have a strong and powerful purpose.

I won't pretend to really understand what troubles anyone else - the stories people have about their life are deeply personal and they are very attached to them, for better or worse. But I do think we feel the same pain, regardless of the story line. And there is something inspiring in that.

Certainly, artwork is often created in a form that inspires many different individuals to relate their own story lines to it in many different ways. Art is seldom universally liked, but great art does speak to a certain mass of people - those who like Tchaikovsky or David Lynch would not find themselves loners by any measure. So great work, in appealing to the masses, demonstrates that there are some things a great deal of us relate on. I would suggest that one of these things is our pain - that that could be the great work of Universal art that unites us all. If we could be open to the knowing that we are not alone in our suffering, maybe it would soften us. Maybe it would allow us to really connect.

Most of us have felt this when we could see someone we love suffering. But what about our own little sufferings? The little everyday voice that says, when? how? why? That wants to blame and label and categorize. What if we could have compassion for ourselves instead of allowing that little voice to berate us, and thereby realize that everyone we meet has a little voice, too.

In thinking about everyone else's little voices, I decided to post this blog. Previously, I had decided only to post things when I was already feeling totally optimistic. But today, I had a feeling that honestly conveying what seemed like a fairly common thing, might allow me to shift into feeling optimistic. In other words, putting myself out there for others to relate to seemed a greater gift than not sharing at all until I felt more perfectly suited to do so.

On that note, I guess today's lesson is: Do it anyway. Even if you don't feel like making art, do it anyway. Feelings you're afraid of showing might be more shared than you think. It is my hope that we'll find some truth with each other in this way. Wouldn't that just change the world?


Cathleen said...

I think the biggest test anyone will have as an optimist is acknowledging the challenges in life and continuing as an optimist. That's the definition of a true optimist, I guess. Thank you for being such an inspiration to us all, our "fearless" leader!

EmDee said...

What a wonderful, honest post, Sarah. I am going through transition now too where inspiration and motivation are hard to find and you're absolutely right. . . you just have to do it. It's like exercise, in that you hate to start but feel so good when you've finished. I appreciate the sincerity of this post!

jen mcdonald said...

Great post Sarah. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability.

I think the trials and times of sadness we all have to face at times definitely give us compassion for others that suffer in the same or different ways. But for me, even though I don't enjoy those times when they are happening, I always end up appreciating them in the long run. I feel like they give my life depth, and I usually end up getting a proper perspective on life and what really matters. Then I think about the great things in my life, and I usually end up thanking God for all the ways he blesses me. And I think having a spirit of thankfulness can go far.

You're amazing girl! And I love to hear how things are going in your world...even when its the not so great stuff.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Sarah. I can relate.