The Artist’s Way – Week four – Recovering a Sense of Integrity, focused on sorting through “the differences between our real feelings, which are often secret, and our official feelings, those on record for public display.”(pg 79) It was not always easy to distinguish my real feelings from my official feelings. The ‘secrets’ seemed to be eluding my own recognition. The ‘real’ feelings had been locked away for so long it seemed the key had been lost, or at least misplaced. I wrote, and wrote. Slowly, achingly, my real feelings began to seep past the locked door as I gave myself permission to get mad, really mad; or feel sad, really sad. Increased clarity did not arrive with euphoria. Illusions did not leave with a wave and a smile. But as my eyes opened so did pieces of my heart, revealing feelings that had rarely been illuminated by the light of truth.
I was warned that: “Dreams will become stronger and clearer” (pg 84), but I didn’t pay much attention, until… One night I had a vivid dream about being in a very tight spot and needing to be rescued, having to be extracted from a tight tunnel, possibly getting stuck there, having to call upon all my energy and skill to relax and remain flexible enough to make it through the tight twists and turns, needing to ask for divine intervention and accept what came – even death. When I woke I immediately understood that the tunnel was a birth canal of sorts, and I was in the middle of birthing a new way to look at and live my life. But in order to begin I needed to give in to death. Death of who I thought I was. Death of my primary role as mother when my children moved in their own directions. Death to the fantasy of the power of my love to repair parts of Ron’s life that were broken long before we met.
Readings often referred to some form of a greater power. I had not been brought up practicing a religion, and these references unsettled me; unsettled my concepts of why and how I had come to be me. It was not that I did not believe in, or had not witnessed, forces beyond my understanding. But I had never examined what they might be or where they might come from. The stories of guilt, and even repulsion, I heard voiced by others who had childhoods filled with religious images and doctrines, pushed me away from any desire to learn more. I often felt awkward when asked my religion, or when discussions about religious beliefs arose. I used a claim to atheism as a reason to duck participation, knowing that neither belief nor disbelief occupied the nook in my brain labeled ‘God’. I began to explore my concept of something more powerful than us humans at the top of the food chain. The fact that the ‘God’ nook was empty emerged as an unexpected gift – with nothing there to hold me back or color new thoughts and ideas as they entered my awareness. It occurred to me that disagreements between belief systems could be part of the ‘bigger plan’. Maybe by forcing us to acknowledge and explore our differences we could discover answers to difficult questions that made our hearts hum with harmony – not limited by the dictates of a particular doctrine. I explored, but more importantly, I opened to possibilities previously unrecognized.
Perfectionism was an accusation I vehemently denied whenever it was thrown my way – based on the obvious non-perfect state of all areas of my life! But that didn’t mean I hadn’t tried! And obviously failed. But when week seven described perfectionism as “a refusal to let yourself move ahead, a loop, an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details…losing sight of the whole.” I felt more than a twinge of recognition. I often became stuck in tiny details in an effort to control some small piece of my world – like organizing excessive ‘stuff’ in neatly stacked and labeled bins in various corners and closets. Honing in on details blurred the view of the much larger convoluted mess – like what void was I trying to fill with all that stuff in the first place? I needed to break out of obsessive loops to move ahead – even in just one small way. But I didn’t know where to start. Which, of course, led me to week nine – Recovering a Sense of Compassion – and an exploration of procrastination…
To be continued….