On Getting Fearless

For a long time, I just hid out. I thought; this is safer. But I was surprised to discover, it was much more dangerous. I floated in and out of depression for several years- in the midst of falling in love, marrying, bearing a child, buying a home, starting a business. 

That's the funny thing about depression. That's the funny thing about ignoring your art... life goes on. 

Life goes on and on, with such velocity. And it's beautiful and fun and delicious and so, so wondrous even at times... and yet, a vast emptiness would take over me. I knew it had to do with my creative life, with the long absence of my writing practice. It was a very real depression. Diagnosed, counseled. 

I am so grateful that I found the right healer, who knows the ways of the Life/Death/Life cycles, who knows about soul retrieval, about untangling sea-women from the netting. Ever so slowly, painful slowly it seems at times, I return to the work. Not returned or returning- but presently and over and over again, I am learning to return to my work. To trace my songline. To run my fingers along the seams and find where they need mending, which scraps to abandon, which patterns to celebrate.

And perhaps now is a good time to express gratitude to my husband, who is the kind of artist who needs no ceremony or big drama about making art. He just picks up the guitar and noodles, or maybe a song arrives, or maybe we sing a well-known ballad, or maybe he just records a few words one of us say - just to get them down on paper, without an agenda, without the need to know what it's for or whether it will ever be of any use to anyone ever again. Thank you my love, my rescuer, animus to that part of myself that needs the strength to be my own sacred howler.

I mention all of this because I was recently asked about competition, and I have been thinking a lot about fear. And I think, I was so afraid of failure for a while, and so afraid to "mess-up" or appear ridiculous or upset someone or not measure up to all the other writers or women or queens or beggars, that I was really kind of jealous for a while. 

Fear often shows up as unhealthy competition for me. I hate to admit it, but I was jealous. And from jealousy grew ways to judge others. But the truth is I was always just judging myself very harshly, very very harshly.  Sometimes I still do. But there's been a bit of a revolution, a little bit of good change. I could almost cry at how hard on myself I learned to be, once upon a time. 

So I have to pause to tell you all this: I LOVE YOU; I am so sorry that I was so hard on myself and you or someone I know that is also you. But I forgive myself, and I believe in you and in the place of souls, I would do anything for you and our work. 

When we aren't doing what we love, when we've lost connection to that beautiful call home that only we can hear-  all of this- it gets us jealous sometimes. We feel so separate from those who are listening, especially those who would otherwise be our closest allies. It's so obvious, I know. But it took me a while to really get that. Such a lonely time, jealousy. Such a lonely time, wandering through the underworld.

But I have to say this too: every moment of that part of my journey was necessary. I keep talking about the underground forest because I just returned from years there not long ago. I still come and go. And most of that journey was absolutely essential to my growth, to being here with you right now. It is humbling to see myself as I am, instead of as I wish to be. A necessary step.

Our (western) culture is "insanely busy," constantly rushed, and therefore so is our growth. Descent into the forest, into the deep water flowing beneath the river, this used to be sacred journeying, deemed not only very normal but indeed crucial to a soulful, healthy life's journey.

It was integral to finding one's place in the world. It was celebrated and revered and support was available. But we lost this song-line long ago. 

We are no longer allowed our own, private winters, our quests and wanderings. Instead, these are some names we now give the descent: depression, lost his way, let herself go, floundering, no direction, insecure, ADD, anxiety, drama queen, bitchy, indecisive, even schizophrenia and delusion. We too easily forget that for all the squandering that occurs when we lose the deer trail, there is also quiet growth and wisdom amassing. And we all lose the trail. We must.

This is not to say that some of these are not very real conditions. They are! They should not be left unattended, or even unmedicated in some cases. What I am saying is this: the most sensitive among us often take on the soul-loss, the journey-loss of the entire culture, and when that load is taken on for too long, we begin to regularly experience the aforementioned anxiety and longing and sadness, et al. It is so profound that it can change the chemistry in the brain, and of course it can be genetic because it is passed from one sensitive person to the next via soul memory - aka DNA. Above all, without tending it can lure us away from our art, from our raison d'être.

Out of my descent comes slowly the coming-to-terms-with my dream, and out of that some really good stuff so far. Like some deep growth, a new business, the idea and realization of an online publication & creative community, confidence to take steps out of the safety of the cave... a beautiful baby boy (all of these things have a long way to grow, but there is a start, a something that wasn't there even two years ago).

I still compare myself too much, and I get jealous and feel tiny. But I'm getting a little more curious, just a little bit more comical. I'm leaning on a sort of radical optimism. Just all this, just little by little. So when I feel that jealousy rising up from my belly, I think, "What is it about this person/writing/project that I am wanting more of in my life? What is it that I am actually admiring so very much? What am I so incredibly afraid of not being?" And for now, I just have to live these questions.  

And then I have to remind myself that I, too, have an exquisite songline, a meandering deer trail laid out for me- real, visceral, everyday, sacred. Fear lingers on. Nothing is ever finished. Nothing is ever perfect. Flaws run deep. But there's this feeling, this feeling of getting a little more fearless, day by day.

photo cred: unknown, found on pinterest

header photo cred: Sarolta Bán

~with thanks and praise to Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, who has helped me understand this journey via her amazing work: Women Who Run with the Wolves.~