The events of the world, and our country, have been on my mind and heart lately. Yours too? Yes, I’m not surprised. We artists and creative people often feel the pain in the world deeply.
It can feel wrong to continue on with our creative pursuits, as if ignoring the world around us. Perhaps feeling guilt and grief that we have the privilege to immerse ourselves in art, while other people are just trying to survive.
I don’t have the solution for this, other than to talk about it and acknowledge it. Words are my friend, and processing always helps me. Perhaps you too.
At the same time that I get weighed down by the world, I feel like my mission in life is to help people with the inner blocks to being an artist, and if I ignore that calling for too long, that hurts too. Not doing my work, and perhaps getting stuck in depression, doesn’t actually help anyone.
The hurts in the world are very, very big. They have always been so. The difference now is we have technology and social media to make these hurts more widely known.
I have loved-hurt hearing the stories of real people and their experiences. Not the news casting it in their way. Not politicians spinning. Not the memes of social media. But real people talking about living life in brown and black skin. About getting pulled over, arrested, car towed, food spoiled, cell phone removed, lack of contact with family, threats, violence, murder, fear so ingrained that the hair-trigger is pulled. It’s painful to know the truth of these experiences.
These stories from all corners are powerful. But if we don’t have the capacity to really hear the stories, what happens? Vitriol. Blame. Accusations. Assumptions.
Hurts need airing and hearing. South Africa's leaders knew this and put it in action through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. If you cannot hold space for your own griefs and pains in your life, then either you will get stuck indepression, overwhelm, avoidance (this is my tendency), or the path of blame, disbelief, shame, when hearing stories of systemic racism, sexism, violence and unrest around the world.
So this is my suggestion for you – practice making space for the griefs and hurts you experience. Rejected from something you auditioned for and really wanted? Hold space for your hurt, without pushing it away, logicking it to death, rationalizing, or blaming. Had a bad performance experience? Hold space for your pain. No one signing up for your studio lessons? Be with the sadness. No one is buying art from your Etsy shop? Sit with the sorrow.
(Simply sitting with our sorrow can be a massive undertaking. Here's one way I like to do this - Get Curious. As a way to remove the judgment from my feelings, I ask as many questions as I can of the particular feeling. For example - Sadness. Where are you located in my body? What do you feel like? Where is the center of the sadness? Is intensely focused, or spread thickly, or ribboned in waves? Does it move? Are there secondary locations? What words come to mind with this feeling? What does it want me to know? Can I touch it and sit still with it for 5 seconds? 30 seconds? A minute?)
(And some griefs and feelings are so powerful that it is helpful to find an ally and support for touching them. A trusted and wise friend, a professional therapist, a pastor. You get the idea.)
Two things will happen when you do this – the intensity of the pain you experience will lessen when you can truly sit with it as it is. And then, as you develop your capacity over time to hold your own grief, you will develop more capacity to be with others in their grief. Just be with them. Simply and deeply hear the truth of their experience.
(A third benefit is that healing your griefs will help you be more resilient in your creative endeavors. Releasing energy from the hurt frees up energy to devote to your work.)
This doesn't solve the worlds problems. I recognize that I am writing from the vantage point of white privilege. But saying something and doing something is better than sticking your head in the sand.
The capacity to listen and really hear the stories, even from people we strongly disagree with, can bring healing on a personal level.
Along these lines, I want your story and reactions. Taking about race can be challenging, but I'm committed to trying, even if I say something wrong. So please let me know how I can do it better.
Now please excuse me while I sip some wine while sitting with my sorrow.