In early 2018 after reading Rising Strong, one quote from Brené Brown kept nagging at me: "We move what we are learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands." I asked myself, "What am I doing that fits that?" The answer was "Nothing," so I thought about what I could do. The thing I kept coming back to was my card making supplies that had been unused or packed up for years.
I didn't have everything set up, but I pulled out some things and started anyway. As I worked, I was confronted with old tapes I realized played in my mind every time I created cards in years past. For the first time, I held them up to examination and really heard what they were saying. "Don't use all of that; you might need it later. Make it match. Make it symmetrical. What scraps can you use to make the most beautiful card possible? What do people want to buy? Don't glue anything on until you've planned it all out; you might make a mistake and ruin a card!" The fear of having to throw away a card because I'd ruined it was a strong undercurrent; I have a particular horror of waste. These were the mantras that I historically created by, and I now realized they were tapes of scarcity and perfectionism.
I set about to rewrite my internal dialogue and reprogram my brain. I had to repeatedly choose to say no to the old tapes and yes to my heart. This time, I was creating not what I thought others wanted, but what my heart was speaking to me and drawing me towards. It was rather a war, and hearing my heart and following it was sometimes easier than others. There were times I was more frustrated at the end than the beginning. But in the midst, I shed layers and it felt really good.
I wonder if it feels good when a butterfly crawls out of its cocoon?
I had to be intentional in making space for creating in my life. I had to say no or "not yet" to a variety of time takers, and let things go in order to say yes to creativity and the joy that came from it. This was also a challenge, because somewhere I'd learned that I needed to earn the right to create, the right to joy; that it needed to justify its existence first in order to be granted space. I was my own stepmother in my Cinderella story, pushing myself to complete a To Do list in my head before giving myself permission to go to the ball.
As I repeatedly moved through the process of creating, I started to notice a difference in the end product. There was a different feel, a higher quality, to what I was creating. Even though each card was unique, a style was emerging as I repeatedly said no to certain supplies. My heart started telling me that the time would come to greatly narrow down my craft supply stash. I wasn't quite ready to do that, though; I had been gathering things for 15 years. What if I gave away something and then regretted it?! I recognized the scarcity message in that fear, but also gave myself permission to take the time I needed and let go when I was fully ready rather than pushing it to happen.
Last summer, our family went through a time of transition and my creativity station was dismantled and packed in storage for several months. During that season, a dear friend of mine came to visit from overseas and I took her shopping for craft supplies, which are much more affordable here. In my mind, I was just the chauffeur and sure, it would be fun to go along and look at things, right? As we stood in one of the stores, I suddenly realized I had not gone craft supply shopping in at least 10 YEARS. Not once! I was floored. It was another layer of scarcity and refusal to waste: "You have tons of supplies at home. There are more important things to spend money on; don't waste it on getting more craft supplies. Use what you have first."
I realized this was another area where I had shut my heart down. A perspective of lack had caused me to self-protect by refusing to even look at craft supplies, so I didn't have to feel the pain of desiring something unattainable. I sent my husband a Voxer message processing what I was realizing, and he promptly assigned me a craft supply budget and told me not to come home without spending it. With the help of my visiting friend, I rocked that assignment. We purchased supplies that made my heart leap, and I was able to create things in a season when the roof over our heads changed frequently.
Last fall, we moved into a home of our own again, and my card making desk was set up but my supplies were still in boxes. I continued to use what I'd purchased in the summer, occasionally diving into the boxes for something. My desk became a collection spot for everything under the sun, as purposeless flat spaces tend to do. It was the most cluttered spot in the house, and just the sight of it was an energy suck. I knew I needed to be creating, but the thought of going through everything on and under the desk felt overwhelming. I prayed and waited for grace to take the project on, knowing that if I tried to white-knuckle through it, I would be overwhelmed, frustrated, angry and it would take roughly 3 million times longer than if I waited.
On March 1, the grace and inspiration finally came as I watched one of the ladies in my W&C group engage with her own home space and create order. I cleared off the top of the desk almost completely in roughly 1 hour flat. That weekend, I went through all my craft supplies and organizational containers, keeping only the ones that felt right and inspired me. It was a radical overhaul that left a shockingly small amount compared to what I'd started with! My card making area now gives me such a feeling of space, rather than clutter and overwhelm.
This time when I sat down and began creating, there wasn't a war like the previous year. I didn't have to constantly fight through old tapes of perfectionism and performance. Instead, there was peace, freedom and permission to create what my heart saw. There was so much space for her to speak! My heart was no longer pinned to the wall of expectations; she was free to roam around, explore and try new things. For the first time, what is coming from my heart through my hands is speaking back to my heart in deep ways, sometimes for days. The things I created from perfectionism and performance never did that.
I used to regard engaging in creativity as a wish, a disposable extra that was nice if it happened, like dessert. But it has become quite clear that for me, this is actually a top need. When I ignore that need, push it down and away and silence it, the fruit is an angry and miserable person, wife and mom. In order to be my best self, creativity must be a daily practice for me in some form.
What does your heart need to be fed regularly to thrive? What one daily practice, however small, can you put in place that will further integrate you, bring you alive, move you forward? I would love to hear about it and your journey!