A few years ago I was at a major crossroads with my work.
I had been in private practice as a psychotherapist for a long time, which I had loved with an unholy passion. But I was starting to get itchy and restless. It was time for a change. The private practice route was no longer as satisfying as it had been and I was losing my enthusiasm for it.
But my next step wasn't completely clear. Well, to be truthful it wasn't clear AT ALL. I just knew what I needed to let go of. I didn't know what, if anything, was coming to take it's place.
And the first thing I felt was fear. Stomach clenching, whimpering, pacing, frantic and hand wringing fear. As well as incredible grief. The private practice was a secure source of income... yes... and that was part of the anxiety. But it was also something I was emotionally attached to.
I was no longer as passionate about it, but there was still a sense of love. And need. And duty and obligation. It was part of my customary day-to-day world. It was familiar and secure. It was also a part of me, and connected to a very deeply embedded core of my identity and my sense of myself.
And that was what I was really afraid of losing.
Every time I have gone through I major transition in my life I have had to face this anxiety. Because it's not simply the outer circumstances of life that change. Every external change also brings my sense of who-I-think-I-am along for the ride.
Each transition, consciously chosen or not , means that I am changing too.
And there's some aspect of me that never, ever wants anything to ever be any different. Even though a life that never changed would bore me senseless.
But of course, I am more than that.
On the deepest level we are all artists ... and every last one of us is a creator. Embracing yourself as a creative being means embracing that place inside of you that IS hungry for change. Being creative means indulging the desire to continually alter and transform your life at regular intervals.
The creative impulse is connected to that sense of divine discontent that is endlessly restless and driven to see what's around the next bend in the road. That is continuously curious about what will happen if I do things differently or try something I've never tried before.
Which means risking BEING someone that you've never been before.
One of my many absolutely fabulous students found herself at my Ghost Ranch retreat a few years ago and was completely horrified by the rustic, basic, earthiness of the place. I think she said something along the lines of "I am NOT a nature girl!!" and didn't know exactly what to do with the howling coyotes and camp style bathrooms.
And even though she told me a couple of days into that first workshop that she wasn't sure if she was going to make it for a whole week, she ended up staying. And loved it so much that she came back to the Ghost Ranch retreat twice more. She still continued to complain but it was done in the spirit of laughing at herself and her attachment to what she was now perceiving as unnecessary and cumbersome limitations on her freedom to be all of who she was capable of being.
Now the really funny thing is that I got an email from her recently saying that she and her partner were seriously considering buying and moving to a FARM!! Which has at least the same level of critters, bugs, dirt and various and sundry natural elements as Ghost Ranch. Although I'm not sure about the coyotes.
Which I applauded with great joy! Not that I care whether or not she becomes a farmer girl. But what thrills me is her willingness to let go of old ideas about who she thought she was and to open herself to the idea of becoming someone she could never have imagined not so long ago.
Leading a fully engaged creative life means throwing your sense of who you THINK you are off of the metaphorical cliff every once in a while.
It means being willing to ask yourself questions like "Who am I without this job, this stainless steel attitude, this unshakeable preference, this all encompassing role in my life? What part of myself am I afraid of losing if I change my external circumstances or my internal beliefs?"
And even more importantly... without this ( fill in the blank) in my life, who do I have the chance to become? What does this change or loss make space for?
Sometimes the urge to change comes from within and at other times we feel like we are victims of outer events and have change foisted upon us without our request or consent.
Either way it can shake us up and leave us trembling as we face the fear that maybe, truly, this time all IS lost and there is no hope of anything new coming to fill the empty space left by whatever has disappeared from our lives.
But no matter what else happens we can never lose our ability to create.
When we are faced once again with that sense of terrifying nothingness, with the vast unknown that follows the ending of a relationship, a situation, or a way of life, it can be helpful to remember that life is just another blank canvas where we get to exercise our power as creative beings.
These times of loss are always an invitation to reinvention and to claiming the possibility of becoming more than you ever thought you could be. It's an opportunity to draw on your endless reserves of love and genius and courage to become more whole, more healed and more of who you were meant to become.
And a chance to exercise your abilities as a creator where you and your life become your greatest work of art.