Every year on my birthday, I try to set intentions for myself. I do my best to get really clear about what I want to accomplish. And then, I try my darndest to “make it happen.”
This is a good practice if you want to think good and hard about priorities or dreams or wishes, but it can lead to disappointment if you don’t make a careful distinction between intentions and expectations (and-cough-I haven’t been doing that, apparently).
Intentions, as it turns out, CAN NEVER be rooted in expectation. They aren’t built that way. They don’t work like that. You can’t set your mind to something and then demand that the universe conform. The universe is older, bigger and way wiser, and no matter how hard one might wish, it isn’t going to change its course. I know this up, down and sideways, because LAST YEAR.
Do you remember? Here’s a brief summary to get us back up to speed:
I took a job that tried to kill me, so I left, but not before the stress had wreaked havoc on my body, by way of tendinitis in my foot, knee pain, neck pain and bursitis in my shoulder. Also, I lost my mind at home. Juggling a full time job (that wasn’t fulfilling), along with my toddlers, their full time childcare and a shaky time in my marriage all sent my central nervous system into a shame spiral. I left the job, cut back on childcare and allowed the story I had told myself about my marriage to unravel. Then, I had hip surgery. That was 6 months ago. I’m still walking with a crutch. Finally, our newly-elected president (and leader) is a xenophobic misogynist who might also be a closet white supremacist. Anyway-NOT THE BANNER YEAR. And not anywhere near to what I intended (or, mistakingly, EXPECTED).
BUT. There was work to do. And, that was the universe’s plan for me. To put me back to work with myself. To take my laser focus and jigger it around a bit and then swing it around and set the lens ON MYSELF. To whisper: Wait, wait. Slow down. Listen. To send me to the water. In my tears, in my body and in my dreams. To drown out the noise of all the shoulds and musts and I need yous with the rhythmic drumming of my own voice. Telling me to REMEMBER. Telling me to HAVE COURAGE. Telling me to get very close and up front and rather personal with GOD. With FEAR. Also, MYSELF. Because I have learned that I can’t have one without the others.
Also, the voice told me that I have to get back to my words. That I have to write. I have to sit my ass down and share. Not because it’s so earth shattering and life altering, and not because anything I’m saying is brand new or wildly original or so incredibly important. But, because I simply must. Because words bring me to life. And, ladies and gentlemen, if I am on this earth to do any one single thing, I am quite sure it is this:
To be alive.
So, I had big intentions that really smelled a whole stinking lot more like expectations. I wanted to get back to working out, I wanted to work on a daily, spiritual practice, I wanted to travel. I said, now that I want it, I will MAKE IT SO. 2016 said: NOPE.
Now that it’s a new birth year, it’s felt fuzzy to me-this intention setting process. Do I set goals? Do I focus at all? Do I simply pray? Do I do nothing? I have taken time to sit and stand and be distracted while waiting for the right idea to strike me. And, thankfully, it did.
I have to stay creative. Period. The end. Curtain close.
This sounds a little vague, I know. But, in fact, it’s very specific. Because being creative requires a lot of discipline. A lot of willingness. COURAGE, at every pass. It says, BE WHERE YOU ARE, BE WHEN YOU ARE AND, by golly, above all else: BE WHO YOU ARE.
When things go as planned. When they don’t. When things fall apart. When they come back together. When you’ve failed, when you’ve won, when you lose, when you struggle. As Liz Gilbert says, “You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.”
Be there. Be honest. Make something. Out of whatever it is you have to work with.
Staying creative requires me to stay very close and very connected to myself. In a world that constantly reminds me, as a woman and as a mother, to leave myself and my body, to remain selfless at all costs, to change my looks, my thinking and myself in order to “fit in,” to be anywhere but at home in myself, to be small, to carry the load, to ask for nothing, to stand for things that do not include me: I MUST BE VIGILANT and COMMITTED in order to BE CREATIVE. I have to be DEDICATED to my path, and that means choosing courage and adventure over doubt and expectations, more times than not.
Staying creative doesn’t require the world to do what I want it to do, but it does mean that I get to make something of my own out of it. I get to make choices. Conscious ones, even. Now that I know what fills me up, I don’t want to waste my time and energy on other “stuff.” Certainly, I do have a marriage, a husband and two small, wonderful little children that I love deeply and profoundly. I have these people to care for and tend to, but I’m in there, too. I have a job all of my own to do, right here beside them, and it is this:
Now, don’t get your hopes up when you bump into me next. I’m not going to be walking around town with a beret, a portable easel and dark eyeliner, anytime soon. I’m not reworking myself into some master poet or artisanal craftsperson by trade. I’m just working on reorganizing a few of my basic, daily habits to ensure that creativity gets her time, too. So that I can raise my children with more of MYSELF in the room, so that I can walk on this planet with more GRACE and so that I can do another year of what I was born to do:
I am 36. I am so damn dedicated to my path. Feels about right.