Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Letter to a frustrated artist

You recently asked me why it is that you should do what you love if it didn’t pay the bills.
Logic is very important. So follow my logic here if you will.
You want to make money from your creativity. Thus you wish to be paid for doing the work that you love (your work). To be paid for one's work is to be employed
If you are an employee, then you have to show up for work in order to get paid.
If the spirits are your employer, then you have to show up for the spirits in order to get paid by the spirits.
Are you a good employee?
If you were your own employer- how would you rate your job performance and character?
Would you hire yourself to do your work for you?
Do you show up for your work every day no matter what? Do you know what your job requirements are? What your work is? Are you consistent, reliable and professional especially when times are bad and it seems there is no point? Are you a cheerful, grateful, pro-active team player? Do you finish what you start and put in your best at all times?
And most importantly, do you love what you do and the company for whom you work so much that you would be willing to do the work for a delayed reward just to see it work out?
Or do you complain and feel you deserve more; are you inconsistent and unreliable; do you blame others for failures; do you bag it when there is no paycheck; do you grumble when it is boring and difficult; do you leave work early and say you did the work?
You get my drift.
 I have flaked, bailed, whined and basically been a bad worker for most of my life. I have been a prima donna, a rebel, a flake, a saboteur. I have intentionally undermined and manipulated so as to not be challenged. I have been a terrible employee.  I worried that until I knew why, there was no point in doing anything. 
I don't know why I am farming, but by farming, I am learning why. I have discovered that why isn't a pre-requisite for doing;  it is a consequence of action. Doing my work is becoming its own reward and so I am becoming a partner with my spirits rather than their employee.
Luckily, just showing up no matter what is very important to the spirits.
Sometimes I think they throw us a tough one to test us for promotion. Will Renee show up for her work the way she shows up to do the chores even when she thinks it is going nowhere?
One thing I am learning is that my view on life is better when I think about being rewarded for my efforts rather than getting paid for work done.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if I continue to show up- regardless but most especially when it is hard- that I will be doing my work and being substantially rewarded for it.
One of my rewards is our relationship. Hence, my showing up in my life has made us better over the past year. The farm itself is my other reward. Every time the wind caresses my skin and dries my tears, I am being rewarded for feeling.  The food I eat, the animals I love, the horses I ride, my friends…
In exchange for loving life and doing my work, I will be given the life I need to have to continue to love life and to do my work. You, them, the land, financial and social recognition, etc.- it will happen- but only if I just show up no matter what.
In other words, doing something with your life is your work.
Your work requirements are to live well and to do magnificent things with your skills. Learning, teaching, sharing, doing and being there for others as well as for yourself are part of your job description.
It is not the spirits job to provide you with the perfect workplace, all the time in the world etc. You have been given more than most in fact. It is your job to make your work space productive- they are not office maids.
I think there are only three doors to choose from- no matter the situation. No, Maybe, Yes. I have lived in Maybe for way too long. I am trying Yes and it is pretty nice. The bosses seem to agree with me.
I have to get back to work because I have a long way to go before I get that corner office...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

responsibility free living

A year ago I gave up something and it was amazing...

I gave up being responsible for everything in my life.

In so doing I ended up taking the responsibility for knowing when something was
a) not my fault.
b) completely out of my control.
c) and it helped me to know when I was being victimized thereby enabling me to take appropriate action rather than just taking it.

A) For example, when I go up to feed my cows and see they look thin. I am upset. I feel responsible and like a failure. I want to make it better and resolve to do so. My day goes grey and I feel angry and frustrated.

However, upon closer examination I see that they are standing on piles of hay which they have decided is simply not good enough since it is not from the good bale they remember having the day before, it has been slept on and so is now to be considered bedding not feed, and while they thought it was exciting when it came from the new bale they now suspect that they were much happier with the familiar bale. Very bovine behavior.

Their not eating the hay I provide is not my fault.

B) It is my grandmother's 95th birthday. It has been planned for months. It is a BIG deal. A half-hour before I am supposed to be at the dinner, the pig decides that it is the right time to go into labor. A pig in labor is a thing to be held in awe, but I will save that for another time. I miss the dinner, but save 3 piglets from being squished and am a great comfort to the almighty Aurora Borealis. We both have a shot of cherry brandy and fall into a deep sleep.

Totally out of my control.

C) I walk into the horse pen to put their blankets on and in the process I get a swift kick on my knee. The 2 year old filly thought I was another horse sticking its nose where it had no right to go. She was reprimanded and reminded that she has to be careful when I am around her. It had nothing to do with me, other than my being there, and so in this situation I felt I was the victim and she the perpetrator.

Naturally every one of these situations could be turned around to show that I could feed the cows differently, could have walked away from the pig, and should have known better than to be around horses in the first place. But what would doing so benefit? I would become a slave to bovine temperament, have felt incredible guilt and sorrow about the piglets, and I can't imagine life without my horses.

The benefit of letting go of responsibility in these situations is as follows:
The cows now eat everything they are given and have put weight on, my family has come to understand that real life has its own agenda, I have one of those little piglets 5 years later, and Lila (said filly) has better manners and awareness, I have the freedom to chose my actions instead of the feeling that every choice leads to some negative consequence.

I think it is important to honor the power and value of blame as part of the process to empowerment. It is important to go through the anger of blame as I think it helps lead us to action. It needs to be honored and then transformed. By placing appropriate "blame" on a situation we can facilitate change of the situation. Simultaneously taking responsibility for our PARTICIPATION in the situation enables us to change our behavior as well as the circumstances surrounding the event.

Letting go of responsibility has freed me to have many more options as to how I want to react in any given situation.

I highly recommend it.

the meaning of life with no purpose

A key component of this module has to do with clarifying your purpose. Frankly, the question "what is your life purpose" totally confuses me. I have spent so many years and dollars trying to come up with a good answer and have never managed to peg it down.

So today I decided to give up on it. I don't think it is necessary to have a "purpose" and I wonder if it is even up to us to determine our life purpose. Isn't that something that other people either tell us or confirm? That's been my experience. How can I say what I am to another person? All I can do is express my intention and hope that we find some degree of agreement and understanding. Who I am is what I do.

Purpose? I have no idea.

What I do have is a deep sense of DIRECTION determined by a visceral sense of my values. This I KNOW.

I can feel this mysterious purpose but any attempt to verbalize, visualize or verify it leads to mental static, depression and frustration. It makes me feel like I should and am lacking because I can't. Anyone else out there experience this?

It turns out that the three people to whom I brought this up knew exactly what I meant. All three are artists, tend to think out of the box and are much more philosophical than pragmatic about life.

We all agreed that we "knew" the answer, could feel it ache in our bones, feel the heat of it in our hearts and were basically incapable of behaving in any way that went contrary to that deep feeling. How could this be then that we could not answer the question?

What I discovered is that when you ask a creative person "why are you making this painting" (as in- what is it's purpose?) they shut down, lose their vision, their motivation and in fact go totally negative.

On the other hand, when I asked them why they want to paint (as in what motivates you to paint) they were suddenly able to expresses powerfully what painting meant to them, how it made them feel, what it was about the image that captured them, and where they wanted to go with it. They came alive. They felt connected and purpose-full.

I followed this with "what is your life purpose?" thinking that the previous excitement would guide them. They went numb again.

So I then rephrased it by stating- "what direction would you like your art to take and how does it fit in with your life purpose?"

All three were able to say basically the same thing which I have been saying my whole life about horses and philosophy (my form of coaching). "I don't know how it fits, but I love it and it is all I want to do and I don't care why or where it takes me. But I do know that I want to be really invested, or true to my vision, or connected etc."

Fascinating and liberating!

So for those of you who are unable to answer the question "what is your purpose", take heart- because it is in your heart and it doesn't need to be verbalized. If you can't say it, it is probably because you live it so completely that you can't separate it from who you are. We have the answer, we just aren't being asked the right question.

For those of you with people like this as clients or members of your inner circle- here are some ways to support people like me:

*Be interested in the what and how more than the why for paint?

*When we get down, plug us back into the "why to paint" because we are probably trying to justify our actions by coming up with a good reason for our self-expression.

*When we are done, help us to recognize and to remember the deeper reasons why we do what we love to do. Show us how it fits, or expresses the greatness of us and most of all, be moved. Tell us how our bravery makes a difference to you, that who we are is there in what we do and it is good, valuable, important. We will want to know "why?" or "how exactly?" so you had better be prepared to have a real answer.

We want to share in a deep, true and honest way. We want to be recognized in the product of our labors.

*Then help us to connect the dots backwards. Help us to see how what came before led to now, and then plug us into wonder and curiosity about what might be around the corner. Get us moving before we start thinking about $, fame,etc. We live in our work.

*See us and what we do as brilliant, bold, intentional, amazing, unique and worthy of existence for no other reason than the pleasure it gives for simply existing. This lets us know it matters. It has purpose, even though we can't say what that purpose is.

By giving up needing to know the purpose/the why, I have discovered that purpose isn't a pre-requisite for doing, rather it is a consequence of action taken. I'll know why when I'm done.

Just do it has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

where ya bin?

Well, I am back and I am writing to myself. But this time I have decided that I am a fairly good audience and why not? Besides, you never know. Someone might actually check this blog out and what good is it if it is almost a year out of date. And what a great year!!!

So back to wisdom and witticism...
for my first post I am plugging in my current discussion board responses from ICA/Lobii.