Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Greatest Accomplishment: Create This Life

I sat down to write tonight to reflect on some things, things I've been thinking about more and more as I realize what changes and curve balls life throws at us. 

It's really hard to embark on new journeys. It's not quite as hard to think about them, dream about them, or wish for them- but it is hard to take them. Especially to take the first step. 

It's a funny thing that the first step is the hardest one: of all the millions of proverbial steps that journeys consist of, it says a lot about how timid we are as human beings- how reluctant to inevitable change- that we so hesitate to begin even the journey we know we'd probably love to embark on. 

Out here in Colorado, for those who don't know what I was up to before I got here (or those who don't know what I'm doing here now), I do work 40 hours a week: at a job that's fun. It's low stress, it involves making art, I commit while I'm there but have no managerial responsibilities to take home with me. 

The environment is relaxed, workplace drama is non-existent, and- largely because it's a seasonal job that I'll only have until the end of this summer- most of the people I work with are in transition: here 'in between' other things, or 'after' the end of something, or 'before' they head into something more permanent. 

The sense of transience actually excites me. I- at this point in my life- love change, love the idea of growing, of not defining myself by a job alone; love the possibility that comes with almost having to entrepreneurially re-adapt to whatever comes next. It's fundamentally the way the creative brain works, I guess: you have to be present to create, very aware of what's happening now, and very flexible and in-tune to where it may go or flow from there.

It's the only way to make art and, I think, a great way to do life as well.
So of course I'm here because this season, for me too, is a break not only from but away from the routine that I was in. It is the move from 'doing what was comfortable' (comfortable- by no means bad, toxic, or completely unlikable) to 'doing something closer to my truth.'

It was a first step.

My boss here once jokingly mentioned that she thought I would probably decline my current position because I was already an 'established artist'- and I had a comfortable day job in a management position. And there was probably (okay, definitely) a time in my life where the allure of a really low-paying job in a really magnificent area of the country would not have been able to compete with my human timidity (and post-collegiate notion of 'success,' coupled with that horrible and useless thought, 'what will other people think?') in the face of the comfortable and familiar existence I already had. 

But, hey- people change. And what a good thing that is. When your heart finds something it really loves- the way mine has found art, or nature, or working creatively with my hands- it's not that other things just aren't any good anymore, it's that priorities really change. Not just in theory, but change so much that our true journey- no matter how frighteningly- must begin.

There comes a time when our hearts really do feel pulled to more, where the safe notions of security- be they in the form of money, relationships, or material wealth- just can't surpass the promise of adventuring forward into something new, because that something new seems to hold a brighter promise. And the result is usually that then money, relationships, and material wealth can actually serve a greater purpose- or one more pure and enhancing to life. 
I'm seeing that myself now. The idea that life can actually be an adventure is a very real thing to me: I don't have as much right now as I 'had' before, but I also don't miss it at all. You're not really rich until you have something money can't buy, and you know it.

Yesterday I hiked all day in a National Park by myself with sunshine and a sketchbook as my companions. The night before I drove with a dear friend to an alpine lake and we stargazed and laughed under a full moon for an hour, the only two people within what seemed like a million miles. Two weekends ago I hosted a friend from back home in Illinois and we hiked miles worth of trails, watched a sunrise over the mountains with hot coffee, and walked and talked along rushing river trails for hours with no one else in sight. 

Moments like these, when we learn to savor them, are the best parts of life. As I get older I become aware to ask myself, when it's all over, what will I regret? And I know it won't be taking the chance, leaping into the unknown, and sharing authentically with the people I've been blessed to know. I certainly won't regret rebuilding, or starting from scratch when my life no longer reflects the joy of God in me; I certainly won't regret making the attempt to truly live when I know I'm not.

I'm unbelievably lucky to have the life I have now, and it only becomes more beautiful when I feel a sense of ownership over what I am doing, a sense of passionate investment in a good cause, and- I know for myself- a physical connection to the natural world that eclipses the occasional 'vacation' or jaunt into nature only occasionally. This isn't a vacation from life- this is life. And that blows my mind sometimes, in the best way possible. 
We don't know where the journey will go, but I'm learning that the only thing that you can really fight for anyway is the moment: where you are and what you have in front of you right now. So much has changed in my life- and in my heart- in a year, in two years; it's exciting to move forward knowing not exactly where I'm going, but who I am. When the inner life is the thing you are being led by, you can't lose anyway. I love it; it's the promise of the truth of Proverbs 27:19: "One's life reflects the heart." 

Our life, character, and demeanor are a direct reflection of what's going on in our hearts. When we're living from a peaceful heart, the outer life takes care of itself peacefully too. I don't know what other 'next first steps' are ahead, but I'm sure there will be plenty, and I my prayer and meditation is that I continue to keep my eyes and heart wide open.


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