“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ~ Rumi
I sat on the sofa, with my MacBook Air propped on my lap and a collapsed tower of notebooks, scraps of paper, research articles, and sticky notes to my right. I kept jumping ahead in my mind, trying to wriggle out of Now like a child trying to escape itchy, winter clothes.
I wanted to get up—physically separate myself from the work. Go…anywhere…as long as it was somewhere else. Laundry maybe? There had to be clothes to wash or fold. Kitchen? How about a salad? Hot tea? Another hike?
Earlier that morning, I had had one of those prized, juicy downloads in my final lap at the deep end of the pool. I raced back to the edge where my yellow, Rite in the Rain notebook sat, open and wet. Grabbing my Blackwing pencil, I could feel the idea draining out of my body and begin to lose its color and vibrancy.
It was a race to get it all down before I lost it.
I scribbled and scribbled, laying down line upon line of black, creamy graphite as drops fell from my goggles onto the page. When I paused and took a moment to process what I had written, I knew I had something.
A pretty sizable connecting thread that knitted together several concepts I had been working on was now literally right under my nose. My stomach flipped over.
“Damn, that’s pretty good,” I said quietly out loud. I knew I now had dry kindling and matches for the day’s Creative Fire.
When Creative Fire Becomes Creative Anxiety
Back home and ready to dive into doing the work, I hit the wall. Creative anxiety burned from the center of my chest upward to my temples. I recognized the outline of the dark dog approaching like a tentative coyote from the desert’s edge and wanted to shake loose from the apparition as quickly as I could.
I let all the escape fantasies rage inside my head. I let them pop up and sink down like robotic Whack-a-moles. I observed each as they came and then watched them go. I let the creative anxiety flow. I knew from experience that my job was to let each emotion come and then feel each all the way through. I could quiet my racing heart, and bring it into coherence with my mind. One breath, two…in, out.
Within minutes, I could peel off the film of edginess, drop it at my feet, and refocus. I put my hands on the keyboard and began typing notes, stretching the idea globs like taffy. Slowly, with each pull, the chapter started to take shape.
This is my experience 3 out of 4 times I sit to write.
What I’ve come to notice is how much the work of creating mirrors the work of creating change—especially change within ourselves. Whether it is dropping a habit that no longer serves, starting and staying consistent with a new habit that does serve you, or plodding along toward any desired goal, we routinely, predictably, run into that same dark dog who wants us to stay the same.
Our work, then, when creating and/or creating change is this: settling ourselves right back down. Over and over and over. Doing the daily practices each day. Over and over and over, remembering that as we get closer and closer to our Ideal Life, the ego/black dog is going to do its level best to make us really freaking jumpy.
We can win anyway.
We can plan ahead for our desire to jump right out of the rescue plane—the very one taking us to our best life. We’ll inexplicably want out—like now! In these moments of creative anxiety, we need some kind of rip cord we can pull as we flail our bodies forward, toward to the wind buffeting our faces at the open plane door.
Pack that chute right now.
It will need to be super easy to release from its pack…unfurl rapidly. We’ll want to take extra care in rolling it and packing it.
What does your parachute look like?
Championing Resistance & Self-Sabotage
Decide right now exactly what your parachute protocol is going to be when you run smack dab into resistance and its charming first cousin, self sabotage. Write your protocol down on a note card that you keep handy and in full view.
Scan for distractions and numbing agents. What are those things for you? Take all the sugar out of the house. Delete the Netflix app. Put your sneakers next to your bed. Stock the fridge with all the healthy foods your body craves. Keep the phone number of your accountability buddy in your pocket. Develop a meditating routine that works for you. Journal your jumpy thoughts. Treat your bone-tired body to great sleep. Move in fresh air. Take a vacation from alcohol. Be ruthless with triaging your time and attention.
If we know going in that our Ego of Now will freak out as we begin to create and create change, we can do the equivalent of pouring water on the witch. Even though the more progress we make, the more we will tend to fight against ourselves, we can still front load the battle in our favor.
Pack accordingly and ready your rip cord. I’ll see you in the bright blue expanse of change.