Being cut off from your creativity can feel like you’re an outsider in your own body.
“If you’ve ever had that feeling of loneliness, of being an outsider, it never quite leaves you. You can be happy or successful or whatever, but that thing still stays within you.” ~ Tim Burton
I grew up in Highlands, a small town in the mountains of western North Carolina. A gorgeous town, perched on a plateau, at an elevation of 4,118 feet. A community that boasted three traffic lights (we would later add one more) and a year-round population of 2,500 people.
At the time, the vast majority of the inhabitants were considered local—direct descendants of original settlers to the area or those having family ties going back multiple generations.
My mom and dad were from Dayton, Ohio and Miami, Florida, respectively, and moved to Highlands in 1959. While I was born at the hospital a short drive from Highlands and lived there exclusively the first 17 years of my life, I was never really considered “local” given my parents were not from the town.
I skipped the second grade and entered into a new culture at age 7 with classmates nearly two years older than I. It took me a few weeks to acclimate to the school work, and while I really loved my new classmates, I did not feel at home in the wooden desk in the middle of the third row.
Although I wouldn’t come to identify the feeling until many years later, the combination of not being “local” and being a younger, newcomer to the class placed me on the outside like an electron, ever-orbiting the nucleus of the unreachable, inner circle.
Combined with my painful shyness, being an outsider served as a filter that kept me from joining in with cliques and established insiders. By high school, I was most definitely part of the “in” crowd, yet, as Tim Burton attests in the quote above, I never lost that destabilizing sense of not quite being in step with the music of others.
A State of Being
Decades later when my marriage fell apart and we lost our home, the feelings of exile returned like a winter season that didn’t thaw or relent to spring. I began to wonder where I did feel at home, as well as what my definition of home was.
Was home a static place, comprised of wood, glass, and walls with a front door and a driveway? Was home the community in which you lived? Or was it where you grew up? Or the place with which you most identified?
I intentionally chose a definition of home as a state of being.
Home, to me, is creating. The feeling I get when writing, making something. It is the connection to myself, to what I’m thinking, to what I didn’t even know I thought or felt before moving my hands to write, create.
It is a lightness of being that burbles and floats upward inside my veins and organs, taking my spirit along with it. It is being seated inside of myself and inside of my own voice, knowing what is my truth, and having the courage to give it form and release it into the wild.
Exiled From Your Creativity
When I am cut off from my creativity, anxiety builds and builds and builds. The distance between the homeland of my true self and the self I present to the world grows. The pressure mounts within me. Like a newly-arrived immigrant, I stand on the shore of myself and look across the water, back toward my homeland, feeling the depths of exile.
We often incorrectly expect the world of creativity to be closed. Closed to us. We, though, are often closed to us. Sealed off from our purpose.
When we are cut off from our creativity, the pain we experience is the loss of connection to ourselves. We are exiled, unmoored, and lost.
The world of creativity, though, is open, as open as we’ll let ourselves be. And it is filled with surprises, connections, purpose, light, guidance, fulfillment, joy.
When we get going and finally return to creating, something else joins in with us…helps us keep going and cross the finish line. That something is comprised of our intuition and willingness to follow its tiny threads. It is powered by divinity, grace, and alignment.
The Way Home
Our brain wants to control how things unfold. There’s nothing but dead air there. The way home is mapped by detaching from outcomes and filling our lungs with playfulness. Turning away from expectations.
“The moment you’ve uttered the exact dimensionality of your exile,
you’re already turning towards home.” ~ David Whyte
Let’s get clear on all the ways we are in exile. What does not fit for us right now? What are we doing that alienates us from our true selves? Take 20 minutes right now and write down all the ways you are not at home within yourself. Set a timer.
When the time is up, review what you have written with a profoundly compassionate heart. Breathe in deeply what has felt like an odd disconnection from the world, from whom you truly are.
Turn now, gently, toward what is home for you. The place of resonance, balance, and freedom that unifies your disparate fragments and seats you back into your cells, skin, bones, and unique energy.
We are in good company in our loneliness, in our exile. Each of us is aware of the sting of being an outsider and each of us is desperate to find belonging.
When we connect our unique truth, vision, and voice to our hands and create with courage, we simultaneously build and inhabit a space and time that is hearth and home.