NEW JOURNEY: One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

Spiritual progress is not always linear, and definitely not always forward.

As I said in a previous article, in the interest of full disclosure, what you read in these articles isn’t always what’s happening in real time.

It may look like a steady, measured path to grace and enlightenment. But actually, these are only a few moments of grace I experience as I walk a path that often seems dark and unclear–and not a little scary.

Not because my life is so rotten–it isn’t. I have so much to be grateful for. One old friend said, “Any day you wake up, that’s a good day. Any day you wake up and can actually get out of bed, that’s a great day!”

It’s my brain, my soul, my heart. I do this to myself, by seeing the world through a filter of “lack”, a filter of despair and fear. I behave so badly when I am afraid. I know I’m capable of so much more. But for some reason, I’m wired to believe I have less. That I am less.

I’m just trying to rewire my circuits. Some days with more success, sometimes with less.

I am not always the wise, thoughtful, evolved soul I’d like to be. In fact, sometimes when I wonder what I’d like to be when I grow up, the answer is, “Well….a grown-up.”

I have my moments of wisdom and insight, kindness and clarity. But more often I have my hours…no, days…of self-doubt, self-pity, self-absorption and self-delusion.

There’s a story in my family about one of my grandfathers. He was a difficult man–not violent, just incredibly difficult to live with. Pessimistic. Sad. I think he may have had some kind of manic-depression.

For some reason, he finally visited a psychologist, who found him so charming and upbeat, he declared my grandfather “a delightful gentleman”. He recommended the rest of the family come in for counseling, since they were clearly unable to appreciate my grandfather’s wonderful qualities.

But after a few more visits, the psychologist threw my grandfather out, declaring him impossible to deal with–ornery, opinionated, unrelenting–and told him to never darken the doors of his office again.

Sometimes, I feel like the 21st century version of my grandfather.

My friends think so, too. Years ago, after meeting the man of my dreams, I wistfully said to a friend, “What did I do before I met Jon?” and she answered through gritted teeth, “You slowly drove your best friends crazy….”

I got whiny and weak this week. I gave in to impatience. I gave in to second-guessing myself.

My Bobo brain started down those well-worn paths of chasing money, losing sight of the dream, grabbing at fate instead of letting go, comparing myself to other people, thinking the world owes me something, being afraid, being judgmental.

And I whined about it to a good friend, who gave me a long and passionate (and painfully accurate) smack-down.

For the record, in case there is any doubt in your mind, there’s no doubt in my mind , she wins the more-evolved-soul contest. She spoke the truth, and she held me to my own words of what I say I want to achieve in next stage of my life: Letting go, and being still so that something new can come in.

So what to do?

What there always is to do.

Try to get centered. Again.

Try to let go. Again.

Try not to panic. Ignore that giant unpaid business Visa bill that lurks in the corner!

Remember my blessings (and there are so, so many to remember.) Including friends who keep me honest.

Go back in and try again.

Oh, and remember the next time I need to whine, to go see Carol.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

9 thoughts on “NEW JOURNEY: One Step Forward, Three Steps Back”

  1. Luann,
    I laughed at your last line (and I hope that through all the little dark corners you may find yourself in recently, you may smile a little too, maybe even snort a laugh).
    In trying to go down the correct path, I’ve been reading all the books I can so that I can learn how to map out the correct path. I’m sure you are familiar with these types of books – suddenly, after reading them, everything should be fixed: you should be charming, happy, full of energy, and have enough money to pay the Visa bill and get yourself a manicure.
    Yet it never really happens that way, does it? I’ve always felt bad about how I can’t instantly change and become what I should be. What I forget is that SHOULD is a dangerous word. It is defined by others and it almost always is never the perfect definition for you.
    I have been doing the art thing, full-time, for a year, and I suddenly find myself back at square one, knowing less about where I want to head with my creativity than I did 365 days ago. I have my hours when I mentally punish myself for not moving fast enough so that I can make cash and pay all the necessities.
    Yet lately I have begun to slow down and just look at each hour, instead of trying to see a full year down the road. From this vantage point, I can look out and see that I have failed to move forward OR I can see that I am moving forward, even if it is at a half-a-step a month pace. I may be no more secure than I was a year ago, but I do know what I don’t want to do, who I don’t want to do it with, and some new directions that I want to head in that weren’t even on my radar last May.
    I salute you for doing it all over again and I thank you for sharing this with the world!


  2. Pia, thank you for your words of encouragement and wisdom. I love what you said about the word “should”, as being defined by others and not ourselves. One of my greatest downfalls is caring about “other people’s eyes”, getting lost in what other people think. (Or rather, what I THINK they’re thinking. Now we’re REALLY going down the rabbit hole…!!) It gets you nowhere. NOWHERE. And yet I fall victim to that, over and over again.
    That’s the biggest thing I want to work on in the days ahead–letting go of that. I’m beginning to think it will take medication!! :^)


  3. Luann,
    Although it seems selfish to admit, it helps to know that someone whom I admire so much also lives in the “real”world of being an artist. One day I’m flying in the clouds – the next, I’m depressed and feeling like throwing in the towel. I sometimes think there must be a magic button to push. Who are these artists, really, who always seem to have perfect lives? Who create beautiful work, seem to appear everywhere I turn, and are always happy (not to mention thin, pretty, and nice)? The pictures they take show that they could also be professional photographers. They travel to Italy, France, and … well, all over the world, teaching classes. They show photos of their organized, color coordinated studios, complete with a table for two, set up for tea, in front of a sunny window (with a cat sleeping in the chair on top of a stack of “motivating” books) – and I think, why can’t my life be like that?
    And here’s the rub – I don’t really want my life to be like that. I don’t want all sweetness and light. Lace and roses on my tabletop. I want adventure. Awakening. I want to “become” someone I do not yet know. I want to be “sure.”
    Something needs to give. Something needs to go. I want to be sure that what I “let go” is the right thing. I want to be sure that I should go in this direction, and not that one. I want to be sure that I am listening with my heart – but I also want to be sure that I’m not swimming in circles while listening, and never really getting anywhere.
    OK – reading over this thing, I’ll bet you are thinking, what the HECK is she talking about?
    Let’s just say your post “gets me,” and I “get you.”
    Thanks, Luann.



  4. Gosh LuAnn, I think you are reading my mind! (And my heart)! Geez, maybe you’re living my life too! (For your sake, I hope not)! Carry on, sister!



  5. Oh, no, I have codependents!!! :^D
    Gosh, Deb & Sheila, I’m ready to call the psychologist & get some nice meds. Shall we all go together? Grab coffee after??

    Thank you both so much for your thoughts, and Deb, I know what you mean about swimming in circles. I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing. Hence the jump into hospice, just to do SOMETHING different. And see what’s next.

    If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that wishing we had someone else’s “perfect” life never gets us anywhere. For one thing, no such thing. For another, we never really know what that object of our envy is carrying. Every time I find myself envious of someone, I realize I know nothing of their own trials and burdens. And at least I’ve become comfortable with mine.

    I realized this morning that what makes “letting go” so hard, especially anything related to my art, is this: The art is what helped me be stronger, braver, more whole, more happy, more ME than I’d ever been before in my life. It healed me. But it only took me so far…

    Letting go without knowing what comes next is harder than letting go of a trapeze bar to catch the next acrobat’s hands.

    Because I don’t know if there’s another pair of hands to catch me.

    I’m hoping what I learn from hospice will tell me that.


  6. Saved my financial life: “Debt-Proof Living,” by Mary Hunt, 1999. Get cheap from abebooks. com

    If only I’d read it before middle age.

    You’ve got plenty of spiritual reserves. Time to get down to brass tacks. Practice dealing with numbers is good for developing patience.


  7. “I realized this morning that what makes “letting go” so hard, especially anything related to my art, is this: The art is what helped me be stronger, braver, more whole, more happy, more ME than I’d ever been before in my life. It healed me. But it only took me so far…”
    Luann, I find this very globalized statement of yours curious…if you define yourself as an artist, which you are, then “letting go” does not mean letting go of this entire part of your being…it simply means letting go of the current FORMAT of your creative expression. Perhaps you need a new medium (large scale horse sculptures, made of ceramics, raku fired or carved from wood?), or a new plan( part time job, focusing on fine art, rather than craft?) or…(teaching some of what you know about polymer and moving on to painting?) these are only examples, but take this time to explore some other mediums, learn some new aspects of ‘making’ …what might not be ‘working’ is your old style in your old medium…..but making these kinds of changes is not “letting go” of who you became through your creative expression…it is simply GROWING as an artist, and that is what I believe the universe is asking you to do…..


  8. If it helps at all, I think you are a great person, your artwork is lovely and gives me great pleasure to own and wear, and your blog has helped me in many many ways on my own path.

    So 3 cheers for you!


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