I wrote this post for a friend on her 50th birthday as she is working through the process of breaking free of an old, confining identity, and owning her true work in the world. I think it applies to many of us.
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Dear friend who is struggling,
For many of us, our lives and livings are built around little things. We can measure our existence in coffee spoons, in sequences of tasks and doings. Yes, most human beings arise in the morning with the list in our heads; hair to wash and and style; articles or books or web pages to write or make; cars and airplanes and cupcakes and baby diapers to design or change or build or do something to. We teach classes or drive buses or hold up signs in crosswalks. We fix, we listen, we help, we cross things off the list. We do.
For some of us, life is also made up of tiny doings. But the product, the produce for others to see, is the tiny part, the jewel at the end of a labor-atory of labors, the alchemical distillation of the full work.
There are those among us who cannot escape the itch to be real, to shed skin, to feel and taste every catcheable drop of what it means to be human and alive and of flesh and of spirit, all at once and in the separate layers that our extraordinary mind-bodies afford us.
These are tormented souls who release that torment in torrents and in drops. But release they must. They are both observed and observer, painter and canvas, art and artist.
These persons are the eternal adolescents of humanity, torn between the secret, sacred rush of Divinity that still clings from the not-so-distant entry into this world; and the work of preparing for that next Mystery, of return to that from whence we came — all the while, astonished and amazed and stretched in every sinew by the path between.
Dearest friend, these people are artists. They feel the suffering of humanity as if this indeed their one true work. They are only able to alleviate that suffering in themselves and to be in the authentic “doing” of their lives when they are intentionally creating, pushing themselves and their audiences to commit to greater feeling, thought, authenticity, talent, and skill in their doing and being.
Artists who do not pick up the brush, or the scissors, or the saxophone, or clay, or the pen, and FOCUS their art and their hearts, are merely the mad among us. For there is no point to the openness to the torrent without channels for its expression.
Dear friend, you are in every way the personality and the embodiment of the Artist. Know this, and surrender to your art.
Claim and own your craft. The world needs your channeled focused gift. Just as importantly, so do you.
It is no coincidence that one of the (archaic) forms of the verb “be” is “art”.
How great, how wonderful, how mysterious, thou art.