Why it’s okay to say no sometimes. Maybe a lot of times.
Years ago, an older gentlemen came to my booth at a big show. His visit changed my life.
He was so excited by my work. He was an artist himself, and he had incredibly rich things to say about my art. And about me.
“You’re a shaman!” he exclaimed over and over again. “You’re a shaman!”
I felt uncomfortable with that. Who am I to say I’m a spiritual healer?? I can hardly figure out what MY life should look like. Where would I get the gall to tell someone else how to run theirs?!
He went on to explain. And I’ve never forgotten his words.
All shamans are artists. But not all artists are shamans.
All shamans are teachers. But not all teachers are shamans.
All shamans are healers. But not all healers are shamans.
He went on to say much, much more. And some of it I still work through. (For example, I wondered why I still feel uncomfortable telling people this story, until a new friend told me that “shaman” is never something a true shaman calls herself; it’s what other people call them.)
What do these shamanistic traits–creativity; healing; teaching–have in common?
They are all about seeing ahead to what cannot be seen right now.
They see possibility.
A healer sees a person with has discord, imbalance, pain. They also see the person person could have balance, comfort and peace of mind. (Like hospice, not necessarily curing, but healing.)
A teacher sees a person does not know, and cannot do. They also see the person could learn, and grow, and achieve.
An artist knows something is inside her that needs to come out into the world to be seen, heard, experienced. It is not there until she makes it.
Personally, I think we all have our moments of shaman-hood. A parent, a good friend, a stranger, all have the ability, perhaps for a moment to lift us out of ourselves and help us see our true potential.
But I digress. Because I think sometimes, these things that make us a good parent, or a good friend, or a good artist, or a good healer, also makes us a very bad “good person”…..
In hospice, “fixing” is akin to “curing”. It’s simply not what we’re here for.
But the healing/teaching/creative arts tend to call to fixers. (It has to be trained out of us.) One of my trainers calls herself a recovering fixer. I LOVE that phrase! Another name for it is “Helpful Hannah”.
I hate that tendency. If I’m not careful, I let myself get sucked into someone else’s little life drama. Or I’m soon handing out advice they didn’t ask for, or don’t even want.
Some people don’t really want to be “fixed”. They get something out of being the way they are, or being in the situation they’re in. (I love Dr. Phil’s line, “Is that working for you?”)
Because everyone knows (especially us who had to learn it the hard way)….
You can’t fix other people. You can only fix yourself. (And let me return to that statement, because even that can be a trouble-maker….)
Just so I don’t sound heartless and unsupportive, what does help someone in dire straits is to simply….listen to them. Listen deep. Someone once said, the best gift you can give someone is to listen–really listen–to them. (I tried to Google the quote but came up with really naughty links…) Good docs listen to the stories their patients tell about themselves. Likewise, shrinks, social workers, priests, good friends, parents. This will also help you sort out the people who are really trying to work through something, and the time-suckers. Because the time-suckers just keep telling the same story over and over and over, as often as you’ll listen.
But I digress again.
So….Sometimes the things that make us a good artist–being open, trying to know what is inside us, being sensitive to what our work needs–makes us even more vulnerable to the influences of the outside world and other people. Because we can also be vulnerable, sensitive and open to the needs of others.
Especially situations and people who look like they need fixing.
If your art comes from a deep, healing place in your heart, this is especially true. You will be sensitive to people and situations that need healing. Your impulse to fix, if left unchecked, will pull you off track.
It’s a constant struggle. Hospice is teaching me not to be a fixer.
So why did I say “you can only fix yourself” is trouble-making?
Because sometimes it’s not about fixing yourself (which is linked to trying to be perfect.)
It’s about forgiving yourself for being human.
So don’t beat yourself up when it happens. When you drop everything to help someone. When you volunteer for every good cause. When you say “yes” to every question, to every phone call, to every excuse not to make your art.
Just ask yourself where the impulse comes from. To make that person feel better? Or to make yourself feel better?
Make a good choice. Know what you’re setting aside, what you’re giving up.
Sometimes, it’s the right thing to help someone. Sometimes, it’s you that needs to be the healing heart.
And sometimes, it’s your creativity, your art, that is needed to bring healing to the world.
Congratulate yourself when you make a good decision.
And forgive yourself when you don’t.
For more articles along this line, check out:
The Importance of Solitude
It’s Not My Problem
Oh, gosh, apparently this is a prominent theme in my life! So folks, do what I say, not what I do, okay?