I have a homeschooling friend that is frustrated. She said recently , “I don’t have enough creative time for me.” She is overwhelmed with responsibility, obligation, and admirable personal goals, but meanwhile, she’s running dry. This is not an unusual thing from what I hear over my spiritual healing practice line. The “shoulds” take over and where is the delight in life?
I think it was Harvey MacKay that I read a long time ago that said, “Don’t should all over yourself.” So what I have to say here is not new “shoulds” to add to your list, but techniques that have freed me from their domineering totalitarian effect. After all, as John Lennon would quip, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” We need to consciously choose how we live, and make sure we do at least something each day that makes us feel alive.
It is probably different for everyone, but for me there are five things that make me feel alive. They are: intentional loving, spiritual connection, communing with nature, learning/discovering/exploring/expressing something, and time creating (usually with color). A great day for me has all these elements. These things are those freeing factors for me — enticing candy — not shoulds. A good day includes several, and I have found all sorts of possible overlap that can occur, that brings equal satisfaction with less effort.
Stephen Covey says for us to “make an appointment” with ourselves and tries to teach us to value ourselves as much as others whom we would not offend. This did not work for me since I am all too willing to not show up for myself. In my friend’s case, while she is trying to show up for herself in one way, which is great, she is not getting daily fed in the process.
For me, the solution has boiled down to making effective routines, like “making time” to brush our teeth, and getting dressed. After initial training, it is in place pretty soon without thinking about it. Covey talked a lot about the benefits of good habits and this definitely has positively influenced my life. “Flylady” preaches about the necessary routines for keeping a house clean, advocating that routine “baby steps” will add up to the desired effect in a household. This is the same principle. A little, regularly, over time (like brushing teeth) can make a big difference. Take just a little time every day, no matter what.
So I developed the habit along the way of praying frequently, reading a little everyday, seizing a beautiful day for a walk or a bike ride or an escape into nature. The habit of writing poetry I’ve had since quite young. These things have rendered me able to do anything else. I have since added in the routine of homeschooling, and then of cooking, which both have art, discovery, loving, and nature aspects.
However, my creative life was always too much on the fringe and my need wasn’t met merely through photography or cooking or knitting while I was homeschooling. There still was that howling unmet need I heard my friend express today. I know all about it! Yet there was always something else I was supposed to be doing, whether it was a big project, pressing needs, or niggling demands. What would ever change that?
That’s why I started my “Box-a-day” art journal. It comes before (almost) everything else, in the same manner teeth brushing does. It was implemented for the simple reason that it is overwhelmingly good for me. I do it everyday. It refreshes me. It is not the major canvas I dream of, nor the creative act I ultimately hope for, but it is a regular start.
It is like a pressure valve in a cooker that allows the real meal to cook at the right temperature. It is a release. And I have found that once the juices are flowing instead of constipated, opportunities for the yearned for more “important” creative work surface, just like the beautiful days eventually occur for a walk. It is about giving yourself permission and occasion.
One does not spend all day brushing one’s teeth. Yes, a bunch of self-nurturing routines do add up to time carved out of your day, but your effectiveness in your work life will more than compensate for the commitment invested in daily retooling. Stephen Covey calls this principle “sharpening your saw” since it is proven that you can work and work and work, and not cut down as many trees as someone who works, then sharpens their saw, works, and then sharpens their saw again.
But more than just working more effectively, you will be happier and better, not only for yourself but for everyone else. This is a real incentive. Besides — better work done by doing less of it and more of what floats your boat? Talk about a win/win proposition!
The big projects will always be there, I’m convinced. They appear one after another in an endless parade. Yes, my office is still a mess with piles everywhere, and the basement is not done. My homeschooling children are not humanly perfect yet. And I have an essential professional life that ideally interrupts at any given moment, while simultaneously feeding and depleting me. And I have not begun to travel…
But I’m alive to every moment and am starting to have my needs met regularly for the first time in my life. Making slow headway across the board is a much better feeling and more staunchly progressive than cycles of starving and binging, and shoulding all over myself.
That’s why schools do a little of each topic a day, and why we eat multiple meals each day, isn’t it? Assimilate in your day in what you need in little, regular increments. And don’t wait for some other day to start. You didn’t need some auspicious day to start brushing your teeth. Weave some creativity into your life today, however small, and it will grow.