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Are you feeling slightly stuck and wondering how you can get yourself motivated again? Or maybe you’re worried about that interaction you just had with a collaborator or friend and you’re thinking, where is that magic wand to make it go away?
What would it be like if you had the ability to put your finger on the pulse and grab what you needed every moment of everyday? Think about how amazing your life would be.
Many years ago, I worked as an artist-in-residence teaching theatre in schools. Students at most of the schools I worked in had never met an artist let alone had an artist of any kind in their classroom. It was an exhilarating and challenging experience for an actor with little teaching experience but things were going well. The kids liked what I was doing; teachers and parents were impressed with what we did in just one week. And then I went to teach at a school in rural Idaho.
The first week was wonderful. Students wrote and performed with teachers joining in. Everyone was happy. I started the second week thinking,
“Wow this is going great! I can do this!”
It was my final class of the first day with a group of fifth graders. As a closing exercise, I divided them into two lines facing each other on opposite sides of the room for a final activity I’d used before to generate some laughs and leave them energized for the next day. I instructed the students in each line to run toward the person across from them and give each other a high five, and then run back to their places. Then I asked them to run toward each other and touch elbows. The students were having a blast with my silly game and burning off some energy.
Then, after many rounds of touching knees, and toes, I yelled out “Run up to your partner, kiss them and run back!” Usually kids this age rebel, no one kisses anyone and everyone says “yuck” or something along those lines and I quickly yell, “Just kidding! Great work, thank you and see you tomorrow!” This time, two girls had run up to each other (while covering their mouths with their hands) and pretended to kiss while the other students rebelled. It turned out I was in a very conservative community where this kind of kidding was not considered funny.
The next morning, I saw a group of parents huddled outside the principal’s office. I gave them all a cheery wave only to be met with a full-on group stink eye. I soon found out why. It seemed they had called for a meeting with the principal to complain about me. Some of the kids had gone home and told their parents the story about the kissing incident. I was accused of attempting to bring homosexuality into the classrooms; they wanted me out. I met with the principal to try to straighten things out.
This was some years ago and the AIDS epidemic was in full swing. Hate crimes were common, especially in rural areas, and many of the social and legal changes that have made this kind of bigotry accepted as normal were years away. As an outsider who looked, talked and dressed differently, I was suspect and absolutely no one in the community, including the principal, had my back. The principal told me to continue with the classes while they decided what to do. All of the confidence I had started with was long gone.
I wanted to go home.
After school I couldn’t wait to get back to the place I was calling home while in Idaho; a dreary rental house furnished with a mattress (on the floor), one chair, a small table and a kitchen equipped with a few battered pots and pans. I always wondered who decided this would be a great place for the artist in residence.
While dining on some instant ramen, I sank into a deep state of shame and despair. As a lesbian, I knew I was potentially in real danger. My attempt at a joke had ignited a huge community controversy with me at the center. Even though the parents and teachers really knew nothing about my personal life, they knew that I was different from them and they weren’t sure I was going to play by their rules.
I called the coordinator of the Artist in Residence program, and while she was supportive, she told me I had two options:
I could leave the program and go home, or I could stay and help the town (and myself) learn and grow.
Even with her support, I was faced with two choices, neither of which I liked. I felt very alone.
I remember going outside to stare at the night sky. I needed some kind of sign to help me decide what to do. I had recently started meditating, as a way of exploring my own spirituality. In my despair, I decided to meditate, hoping this might give me some insight into what to do next. At the very least, I hoped I could calm down and think clearly.
Sitting on the bare floor of my so-called bedroom, I closed my eyes and began to move into a meditative state. After a few minutes of breathing deeply, I decided to try a visualization I’d read about. In this visualization you imagine yourself outside of your body looking back at yourself. I’d tried this visualization before without any profound results, but on this day, with my heart torn wide open, an amazing thing happened. My whole body started to shake uncontrollably.
I heard a loud whooshing sound and felt a brilliant white light fill my whole being until I burst into a million pieces.
Then I merged with the universe and felt an ecstatic connection with everything and everybody. At that moment I realized that we are all connected, and we are all love. Then, as quickly as it began, it was over. I sat there on that ratty floor for a long time filled with awe at the joy at the profound awareness that filled me and left me at peace.
Clearly there were many things I knew nothing about, including how such a dramatic shift in awareness would have the power to change everything about how I saw myself, and the world around me. I wasn’t sure who I could talk to about what I’d experienced, but it gave me the strength to go back to that classroom the next day knowing that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and that I had what it took to carry on.
Now, looking back at that time in my life, I can see that what happened is I got in touch with my essential creative genius, the source that guides me and knows just what I need to do. I went back the next day, and every day afterwards, fueled by this experience. It gave me the strength to know I needed to stay and face the community of that small Idaho town. Inwardly I knew that everything would be okay, and that I would be okay too.
In Saul Bellow’s spectacular Nobel Prize acceptance speech he said
“Only art penetrates … the seeming realities of this world. There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. This other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive.”
When I headed to the school the next day, I was ready to own my place in their community as an artist. I accepted that it was my job to shake things up a bit and show them how to trust their instincts, tell their stories, and honor their choices. As the artist in residence, I would show them that when you access and express your creativity, you connect with your own Creative Genius, learning more about yourself and the world around you than you could ever imagine.
I continued my work at the school with renewed commitment and determination. In the end, the student’s performances were magnificent, and their parents were proud, and a bit surprised! I was even invited to extend my stay to run a 5k race along with the students, parents and teachers to raise funds for their arts program. When I crossed the finish line, I not only placed first in my age category, but the principal gave me my medal and then made a short speech expressing the school’s gratitude for my work with the students.
This experience was a turning point for me, it built both my desire to connect more often with my creative genius, and my confidence that when I came up against what seemed tough challenges, I had a resource to pull from that would help guide me through the rough waters. I just needed to develop and grow my capacity to use that innate skill, figure out how to turn the volume up on tapping into this deeper place inside and I was determined to do just that.
I imagine that some of you reading this have felt from the moment you were born a desire to be more, to grow, to learn and to explore all that is unknown. When we look back at the trajectory of our lives, there are key turning points where one takes the next step to learn a skill or love someone more deeply, to lead your team or practice a sport until you have mastered it.
But until you commit to it, life won’t move in to help you.
This week your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to think of one area of your life that you have longed to make a change, but have been afraid to.
Capture it in your Creative Genius You journal in the center of a circle. Around the outside of that circle, to acknowledge what has gotten in your way, capture some barriers that are real or imagined that you have let hold you back.
Then, write a commitment statement to yourself, to use this process to help yourself make change in that area of your life. Sign your name, and date it.
Then go on with your day…and every time you think about it, recommit to that change, even if you don’t know how It will happen, recommit.
Share that with someone you know and love, or take a picture with your commitment and post it in my FB group, Creative Genius You.
See you next week, Creative Genius!