Do you ever feel weighed down by the pressure you put on yourself to achieve, to live your purpose, to be successful, to be Legendary, to change the world for the better, to help stop global warming and to do your part towards creating world peace? There are times when I get tired just thinking about it all, let alone trying to do it all.
I have held a life time dream of being a writer. I was one of those students that actually enjoyed writing research papers. I could get lost in the racks at the library for hours and hours. In high school and college I had opportunities to share my writing. Once I left college though all of my writing took place in private journals. My dreams of pursuing a career in writing were set aside and I the reality is that I let fear hold my dreams at bay for too many years.
I am now in a place where after gathering up my courage to pursue my writing dreams I have a blog, I write a column for the Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine and I write Mojo posts for the Cosmic Cowgirl member site. My brave steps also led me to dust off a manuscript I began over a decade ago. I now know that my life experiences in the past decade will make it possible for me to write an even better book. I have had a couple of strategizing sessions with a successful writer and I joined a small writing group for six months that is also being facilitated by the same writer. I am attempting to stick to a writing schedule three nights a week.
It isn’t always easy though. Last October was a busy month, and I often let my schedule slip through the cracks and fall to the bottom of my priorities. Then in December as the holidays came upon us my writing again dwindled. In the beginning of January my husband and I decided to tackle a home improvement project. More of my time went to removing wallpaper and painting than to my writing. Honestly I was thrilled to be working on this project. I love decorating and freshening up our living space is making me one happy camper.
What I have struggled with is reaching moments where I am not enjoying my life because I am feeling so pressured to get things done. In the back of my mind the guilt is building because I haven’t done enough work on my book. Yet there is also the reality that I am a mom to two young children and I work full time. It is important to me that I connect with my children, connect with my husband, stay in touch with friends and family, work and keep up the house. It is also important to me that I write. I want to fulfill my dream of completing this book. However, if I don’t get to the writing because I am tired from all the other demands it weighs on me, sometimes in an unhealthy way because I my inaction transforms into guilt and anxiety. Occasionally I even wonder what it would be like if I just lived my life and didn’t put all this pressure on myself.
Then I recently read a passage by Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have that touched upon this very conflict so perfectly.
It is called An Invitation and begins this way:
“Yours is to live it, not to reveal it.” – Helen Luke
“Helen Luke was a very wise woman, deeply grounded in the life of the spirit. I knew Helen during the last two years of her life. During that time she was a mentor to me. These words are from our last conversation. They troubled me, for I have spent my life becoming a writer, thinking that my job has been just that – to reveal what is essential and hidden.
In the time since Helen died, I’ve come to understand her last instruction as an invitation to shed any grand purpose, no matter how devoted we may be to what we are doing. She wasn’t telling me to stop writing, but to stop striving to be important. She was inviting me to stop recording the poetry of life and to enter the poetry of life.
This lesson applies to us all. If we devote ourselves to the life at hand, the rest will follow. For life, it seems, reveals itself through those willing to live. Anything else, no matter how beautiful, is just advertising.
This took me many years to learn and accept. Having begun innocently enough, there arose separations, and now I know that health resides in restoring direct experience. Thus, having struggled to do what has never been done, I discovered that living is the original art.”
- Center yourself and think of your life as a story not yet written.
- Breathe slowly, and relieve yourself of the responsibility to record your own story.
- Breathe deeply, and imagine your path as the patch of sky a bird flies through.
- Now just breathe and fly. Enter your day, and breathe and live.
Did this essay speak to you? What did you get out of it?
I took from it a message to relax and live life first and allow my very life to be my original work of art. I don’t want to just give up on my dream. I am staying steadfast in the desire to finish my book, as that is a project dear to my heart. Yet I know that the writing process will be better if I relax and enjoy the process, instead of piling on the pressure and guilt when I don’t live up to the expectations I set for myself.
Is there anything you would do differently if you took the approach that living is the original work of art?