When I logged on to write this post on Resilience and share a video that touched me, I saw a notification from wordpress. It congratulated me because I have been writing here for six years. I hadn’t thought about the age of my blog at all. It was a pleasant surprise.
One of the things I like most about my blog is that it changes as I change. I like that it allows me to connect with you on a personal level even though we may not have met in person.
That’s pretty cool.
Connection and expressing an idea that resonates with another person is something I love. I particularly like that about writing, making videos and writing fiction too.
So, today I wanted to share this YouTube video of Marian Keyes (one of my favourite authors) where she talks about resilience. It’s an important topic to me as I I have anxiety and suffer with worry, numbness and disassociation at times too. Sometimes I am lost in a darkness that spirals around so fast I can’t grasp the edge to slow myself down.
I wanted to share this video because when Marian Keyes talks about worrying when she was a child, it resonated so strongly with me. I worried too. A futile practice but I still did it and I still do par-take in the act of worrying without being able to control the outcome.
Worry gnaws at my nerves until they are red-raw. I have to write those worries down and shred them or burn them (in a controlled and safe manner) so I can be mentally free of them.
So, the ability to be resilient in the face of anxiety and depression isn’t easy for me all the time but, I know (from my own experience) it can be done.
Lately, I have been on the roller-coaster ride of anxiety. There are days when I am 100% okay and sailing through things. Life’s good.
Then there are other times when I wake up in the middle of the night with my stomach curling in on itself, tightening into a clenched knot of overwhelming dread and I don’t even know exactly what is triggering it.
I’ve learned to allow these experiences to be a part of the tapestry of my life. I’m not always keen on leaning into my uncomfortable feelings but I am doing it.
Sometimes I get swept away with what the inner voice is saying.
Other times I am able to discern what the worries are and see them for the shifting sands of anxious thought that they are. That’s when I am able to step back and see the pattern playing out.
Anyway, I hope the video with Marian Keyes helps you as much as it helps me.
I’m so grateful for Marian Keyes. She’s a great person and an excellent story teller. I especially love her honesty and raw grit as she shares her own experience with depression and anxious thoughts.
As I read the above quote from Uriel’s Gift, I took a moment to look back on some of my own failures and how they have helped me to course correct, to learn, to grow and to take bold steps toward fulfilling my creative dreams.
When I first allowed myself to dedicate time to being creative, I didn’t feel creative at all. I had many negative voices inside my head telling me that I wasn’t a good enough artist and I’d never would be. They all told me that I was a failure and I’d never amount to more than that.
At first I believed those voices.
I even had an art teacher tell me (early on in my creative development when I was particularly vulnerable) that what I did was craft and not art. She went on to tell me that I shouldn’t even try to become an artist because my work wasn’t good enough.
I was crushed because at that time the act of making art was akin to breathing air. I’d failed at my attempt to get into a course to learn more. I was a failure. This woman had confirmed it.
And in effect she had snuffed out the light of creation inside me.
Or had she?
On reflection … maybe she had honed in on my vulnerability to teach me a lesson on how to stand in my personal power and how not to give away important emotional and mental real-estate space to those who have no right to take up that position in my life. After all, this woman was someone I met once and have never ever seen again.
I remember sitting on my bed after that art interview and sobbing until my throat was raw and my eyeballs were swollen to the size of golf balls. No-one could console me. Her words echoed through my mind and were followed by such vicious follow up comments as: You’re a zero. A nothing. See, you’ll never be good enough-that woman said so! You are a failure!
What a drama-Diva I was!
But, you see, I’ve always had this … resilience lurking deep inside myself. And that day it battered through my self-consumed pain and shone a light on the situation. It opened up another avenue in my brain but I didn’t really understand that at the time.
My resilience has always had a way of showing up in the darkest times of despair and shining a light so I can find my way to an alternate perspective.
I give thanks for my resilience and my inner guidance.
So, after my eyeballs began to itch from dried tears, I realised I had to pick myself up off the floor of despair and keep doing what brought me joy–what I loved–which was art. If no-one else was going to keep my dream alive, then I would have to be my own champion, damn it.
Presto! My silver lining had arrived. I was my own knight in shining armour.
Even though my heart still ached and my ego was bruised black and blue I continued to draw, paint and study art. I was like a sponge, soaking up anything that would help me to achieve my goal of getting into art school and … dare I say it … becoming an artist.
Of course, the woman’s words continued to reverberate in my mind and I did still allow her valuable brain real-estate for a time. But then one day, I thought, why not give art school thing another go? What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll probably say no ’cause I’m really not good enough but what the hey, gotta get out there sometime don’t I?
And so I applied.
I approached the whole thing with a secret hope that this time I’d be accepted and a great deal of nonchalance just in case I was rejected. It was all a ploy to keep my vulnerable creative heart safe.
And to my complete surprise, the art teachers valued the skills I’d worked so hard to develop (on my own) and offered me a place in the course immediately.
I remember saying, “Are you sure you want me to be in the course? Really?” Obviously, I was feeling vulnerable and more than a little freaked out that they’d accidentally said the wrong thing to me. And by God, I’d give them a way out of this.
But they said, “Yes, we’re sure. We only hope the other candidates have the calibre of work that you do.”
My jaw fell open and I stared at them, disbelief the tone of my mind and my body language, no doubt. I realised what I was projecting, pulled myself together, thanked them and floated out of the room.
Take that! I thought as I remembered the stinging words of the art teacher from my first attempt.
My heart swelled and I skipped to my car, art portfolio under my arm, bumping against my hip all the way.
When I got home I sat on the concrete step and watched my dog play in the grass. He delighted in my presence and loved me just the way I was. Art school or not.
I gave him a pat and wondered again if they’d got it all wrong? Did they really want me? Of all people, me? Did they really want the girl who did craft and not real art to be in their course? Could this be a mistake?
No matter how my mind turned their comments over, I had to admit I’d heard them right. And I accepted that I’d finally got what I wanted. I’d got into art school. And it felt bloody fantastic!
The reason I shared this glimpse into my art life is that the experience taught me how to reframe the way I saw myself as an artist, as a creative person and as a human being.
I’d faced my ego, my vulnerability. I faced my fear of failure and I’d found the courage to keep trying even in the face of certain rejection. I loved art and I had a dream, so I kept taking tiny steps toward making it a reality.
This situation also taught me that I am the one who controls how much of my mental and emotional space another person’s words get to take up in my inner world.
Just like an artist, I realised that I get to choose what goes inside the frame of my mind. Just like an artists hones in on the important details and leads the eye of the viewer around the image, I too had the power to choose what would go inside my mind and what I’d turf.
The ability to identify when something or someone is taking up valuable mental or emotional space inside your brain/life is an important transferrable skill. One that I think everyone needs to be aware of and practice as it can help you to take back your personal power.
As I go through life, I meet so many people who give their personal power away to someone or something that does not deserve it.
I think we do this for many reasons, some I understand and most I don’t. But if something or someone has caused you to become miserable then it’s time for a little self-assessment on how important their role inside your life?
I always ask myself these questions to help figure things out:
Why am I giving my power away to this person/thing/belief? Do they deserve my power? Are they that important to me?
Am I seeing/hearing/experiencing the truth in this situation? Or is it a fear masquerading as reality?
Do I want to continue to feel this way? If not, how can I step out of this emotional tangle I’ve got myself knotted into?
Why do I think this other person’s opinion etc is so important that they get to take up valuable brain-space?
Don’t I deserve to be happy? Of course I do! So why am I continuing to give them another moment’s thought?
These questions have helped me to step out of the painful experience and the eternal feedback loops of confusion and get some perspective. It’s how my resilience kicks in and helps me take back my personal power.
In my experience, life is about learning lessons-many lessons. Lessons that are empowering if we only take the time to investigate what is really going on.
I’m not perfect and I still get stuck. I’ve even given my power away to writing teachers and taken their comments as the be-all and end-all of what I was capable of. Which has resulted in being emotionally and egotistically bruised.
But their comments are not a reflection of all that I am capable of. And when I reflect, I realise that I have chosen to give them power. I’ve done that and I’m the only one who can take the power back and turf out the muck that had tried to root itself inside the neural super-highways of my brain.
Reflection, course correction and standing up for myself are all ways that I reclaim my personal power and continue to move forward to my desired goal as an artist, a creative writer and as an ever evolving and self-aware human being.
As the quote from Uriel’s Gift says, “Failure is not failure.”