There are times in life where anxiety pens us in. Where our mind keeps us in a safe place because of the threats we have endured or perceive to be at our door. These pens become walls to imprison us. In art, we can call these creative ruts. We might not want to venture outside our chosen media or style or even the tempo we normally keep. We pen ourselves in to familiar ground and fear of the unknown begins to grow. So, what is to be done?
Push through. It's so easy to say. So easy to imagine we can and yet so difficult a thing to fulfill. We try and we fail and we make the pen smaller. Safer. Easier. And fear is on the other side telling us it will all be ok, piling stone after stone on walls to keep us in. Sometimes,
many times, maybe nearly always, it takes an outside force to spur us, to reach out and say "You'll be ok." In my case it was a dear friend who called me to lecture me about why Ireland was important and how I was going and why I wasn't allowed to walk away from myself or my dreams. Logistics of child and pet care met obstacles, but I pushed through with an emergency back up in place. I arrived at the airport having only ever been overseas once in my life-- nearly two decades ago-- with a school group I just followed around, blindly. Never had I set foot in Ireland. Never had I driven on the left side of the road. I carried my friend's lecture and my boss's assurance I could handle the driving with me, repeating them like a mantra. I walked up to the airport terminal in the tiny local airport and asked what to do. I was anxious about the trip but I wasn't afraid to ask for direction. I got on the plane, crossed an ocean, and landed. There was no turning back now.
After a few days, things settled. I missed my kids, everything was different, the driving was an exercise in panic. But it was me alone. And I had to hold myself accountable for everything I did and more importantly, everything I might fail to do. Where do I go? What do I need to see? How do I get there? How many things can I squeeze in without overloading myself? I couldn't just sit in my cabin and hide from my dream. It was there for me to take or leave. It was up to me and no one else. The dream wasn't going to make me participate.
I came back with a different perspective. A better understanding that both the fear and the triumph were ultimately mine to control. I could be the person who didn't take healthy risks and doom scrolled through social media, or I could make time to be the person I wanted to be. Even if it was scary. Even if I might fail. I could open the pen and walk out into a wider world.
Pushing through my fears gave me not just the freedom to be more of what I wanted to be, but to stop trying to impress people. I didn't need to perform for anyone. So many times in our lives, we try to be the thing that people want us to be or what WE THINK people want us to be. We try and validate ourselves by the praise we receive from others. All that gives us is imposter syndrome-- we are not being the self we want. We are creating what we think other people think we should create. In the end, what we do, what we leave for the world, is only what we have decided to do. We are responsible for what we have done and what we have failed to do.
Start small, do something a little risky. Push your boundaries. Create something entirely different. Do that thing you always wanted to do, even if you fail, you'll have tried and that is such a better feeling than never having tried at all.