Thursday, July 30, 2009

On the Flip Side

There must be an evil wind blowing through blogland's various creative regions - kind of like a chinook, according to weather guys and my reference books, blows warm and moist out of the southwest over Oregon and Washington. A number of places I've visited lately have been writing of fear - confronting it, what it may be indicating, how it paralyzes. Of course, reading about it I can't help thinking about it, ruminating on from whence it comes and what to do about it, with it, and so on.

Floating on the surface of the pot those thoughts are bubbling in on the stove of my mind, is the distilled phrase from the historical wartime address - there's nothing to fear but fear itself. When out in a boat on the lake with the gals of my book club this past Sunday, I was bound and gagged - paralyzed, by fear. Even though I could manage (with some very appreciated recent improvements in pain level and subsequent increases in freedom of movement) to walk down the dock and get on-board my friends' boat without assistance, once on I was stuck - caged by fear. As invitingly cool and refreshing as a dip in the lake in a spot I'd never before had access to from shore seemed - I couldn't get in like the others because I was afraid once in the water I wouldn't have enough arm strength to swim and would not be able to get myself up the boatside ladder back inside. I feared not being able to rely upon my body, being a nuisance and burden to my friends, and appearing to be a complete fool. One of my friends, trying to encourage me to take a dip, said they'd pull or push me up if need be, but I couldn't make myself take the plunge/trust someone else's presence at the crucial moment/risk needing assistance. And so, while present I wasn't fully participating and I missed the best part of the day's experience, perched right there, observing only. And, oh how my hot, itchy skin longed to be skimmed with the cool, refreshing water! Almost as intensely as my body thrummed with yearning to dance to the music of the live band at a birthday celebration among friends a couple of nights before...

I often wish I had the habit of constantly carrying my camera whenever I go out the door like so many of my photographer friends seem to do. Yesterday I saw an image I'd love to share with you outside that speaks to me of fear so clearly. Here in California dozens of vultures at a time circling overhead in the sky is a common sight. They're HUGE and dark and ugly predators and appear so hypnotically serene and graceful unless you know what they truly are. (I'd never seen them before in the midwest, nor on the opposite coast) They seem to come from nowhere and I often wonder when I see them on air if they're poised over some road-kill or stalking some weak outdoor pet.

Thoughts triggered by other blog writers of late regarding fear and creativity and dreams/desires have been, like prey to vultures, my creative ideas and inspirations will perish like road-kill and be picked apart by vultures of disapproval, lack of understanding/enthusiasm from observers/witnesses and results won't be pleasing. Following those though it has occurred to me that all of those thoughts like my tendency to perfectionism are about control and something I have absolutely no control over. I repeat - I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL! What a freeing concept!

Honestly, some of the things I love best in life and the world around me are things I can't even IMAGINE controlling:
>seeing 'shooting stars' across the dark night sky

>deer and other wildlife that occassionally come wandering close enough to see every detail of their coats

>color and light of remarkable sunrises and sunsets

>just one time each being at the right place and time to witness the short-lived flourescent plumage of a male indigo bunting during the height of its mating period and a bald eagle 'resting' atop a nearby oak

>the glittery sparkle just after first morning light upon the foilage this side of the lake out back

>unexpected and earth moving desire stirred within me for another

>tears that come unbidden upon the reading or hearing of a tale of great sacrifice or generosity for another

Whether I creatively write, quilt, cook, or decorate my home fear can and has been disabling. I am concerned about if I'll be understood and please a reader, diner, visitor, recipient or viewer. Truth is, I have NO CONTROL over any of that. A reader/diner/viewer may have had a disappointing day, be too short on time to consider, have a bad taste in their mouth or a headache - any of which will affect their perception and acceptance of my creative effort in a way unrelated to what I've done.

What we cannot control is as much an opportunity for faith/trust/confidence as it is for fear. A wise older woman once told me that negative characteristics are just the 'flip-side' of good, strong ones. A stubborn child or man, for instance, is just exhibiting the 'flip-side' of determination. It won't ever kill me to not have what I write, quilt, cook or how I decorate loved, admired or appreciated and it's been said what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. There really is nothing to fear but fear itself.


  1. I love how you've recognized a positive side to not having control, something so many (myself included) fear and grapple with. I never thought about it quite like that!

  2. You know, the definition of courage is feeling fear and doing it anyway. You sound like a courageous woman.

    In my art journaling class I talk a lot about fear because it is a big issue for me too. Nearly every day I face fear in my studio. It isn't comfortable but it does lessen over time with ignoring it.

    But you don't need my words, you know it anyway.