Finding new values for the life you lead, and defining your own success.
In my last post, I shared what brought me to consult with artist/writer/life coach Quinn McDonald. I wrote about my conflicting desires for my art, and why I feel so lost about my next steps.
At the very beginning of our conversation, I mentioned to Quinn almost apologetically that there was something that had grabbed my heart recently. It made no sense to me, but it did to her. More on this later.
After talking for awhile, I noted that there were some things that still made sense to me.
I love public speaking. I ask the event organizer, “What is it you want your audience to come away with?” Then I focus on addressing that, from my own experiences, from my heart. For example, for the World Batik Conference, it was how to encourage artists to promote themselves in a way that’s sensitive to their cultural heritage. (In some cultures, it is not considered respectable to “brag” about your accomplishments.) The result was this essay about sharing your gift with the world.
I love inspiring and encouraging new artists (actually, all creative people)as a group. I loved my experience as a guest lecturer with the Arts Business Institute. I didn’t so much help people to sell their work, or focus on wholesaling (which is probably why I didn’t become a permanent faculty member!) I loved getting them to think about what they wanted from their art, and helping them establish goals to get there. My workshops on self-promotion resulted in this article: The Ultimate Story
I love writing this blog (though it’s nowhere close to being a hugely popular blog!) because it does both. And it helps me work though issues I have with my art and my life.
I was adamant about not wanting to teach per se.
We explored the teaching thing. I like the one-to-hundreds model, such as speaking and writing. One-on-one is exhausting to me. I would make an awful coach or therapist. After three visits, I’d fire my clients.) Even classes, which start out fun, end up with me wishing halfway through I could get back to my own work. And I have no interest in teaching people “how to make the little horses”, a common request from (some) other artists.
Quinn agreed that the world probably didn’t need more people making my little horses. But she pointed out that most people who take classes from artists simply want to share a day in the life of that artist. Hmmmmmm……
We decided if someday I could go out and speak to a large audience and get paid, that would be great.
But people only want to hear from artists with credentials, I protested. If I dropped everything I’m doing now, or didn’t get busy achieving something else, who would want to listen to me? (Here I credit my good friend Kerin Rose with this insight: She exclaimed, “Luann, you already have those credentials! No one can take them away from you, and you don’t have to keep proving yourself.”
Well, then, how will I know how successful I am in creating an audience for my work, or my words, or my thoughts? How can I measure that?
Here is where Quinn brought in my odd little admission at the very beginning of our talk.
Since fame and fortune are not doing it for me right now, what will?
Where is money and fame NOT the coin of the realm?
At the end of life.
Before we’d started, I’d told Quinn I was drawn to hospice, and had signed up for volunteer training.
There have been three times in my life I felt this strong a pull. One was the compelling desire to take up my art. The second (very odd) was to volunteer for an intense women’s self-defense program I’ve taken twice. (I didn’t pursue that, it was too far away, and I still regret not doing it.)
The third was this. Hospice.
“I’m not surprised,” Quinn said.
“You’re drawn to the end of life, to see what happens. You will be a witness to what is there, to what is valued at the end. It’s not money, it’s not fame. It’s something else. You want to learn what life is all about.”
But I’d told the volunteer coordinator that I was simply called to do this. It isn’t about my art. Artists like Diedre Scherer have already explored this realm in their art, with sensitivity and grace. I had no intention of copying her or “mining” this experience for myself, for new inspiration. I just had to follow where my heart was leading.
However, the coordinator said all my reasons sounded spot-on. She had no qualms about admitting me to the training program.
Which sounds perfect, by the way. The program is long and involved, well-rounded and grounded, covering all aspects of the experience. At the end, volunteers are carefully screened and interviewed to find out where, if any place, they would fit best. Most people drop out, or end up volunteering in a totally different capacity from what they initially intended. As scary as it sounds to me, I know I won’t get in over my head.
And I have no idea why I’m going there, or where I’ll end up. I just know I must.
“You’re searching for the values that will define this next era of your life,” Quinn said. And then she gave me my question for homework:
What are the values that are calling to me, the values to be fulfilled in my life?”
And my mantra…(and this is important):
I don’t know yet….and it’s okay.
Because I have become so very full of knowing. Knowing has gotten in my way for the last few years. Knowing how hard it will be to recreate new work, a new audience, new goals. Knowing what will work, what won’t. Even knowing what isn’t satisfying anymore.
Perfectionism is all about being full of knowing. This is the opposite, and that’s why it makes me feel so uncomfortable.
There is a gift in not knowing. You can’t know until you realize you don’t know.
So that’s my homework. As I work, as I do yoga, and martial arts, and I sit quietly and simply observe, I say to myself, “I don’t know yet….and it’s okay.” I am to pay close attention to what comes up, as I begin to truly accept the fact that I don’t know.
She says she can see me standing in a doorway, waiting…for what?
For what’s next.
Not knowing, and listening to your heart, and patiently waiting….
Isn’t that the very definition of faith?
ps. I won’t be writing much about this aspect of my journey for a bit. I’ve found there’s a danger in talking too much a new venture. Talking about it and “writing about it” begins to feel like “doing something about it”, and I don’t want that to happen. I’ll share what I can as I go, but no more speculation, okay?
Tomorrow: Another fear overcome. Stay tuned!