I've been digging in on The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte for the last year or so (click the link if you want to know more) - and she talks a lot about Core Desired Feelings (CDFs from here out in the name of word economy) - that is, figuring out how the things that you want make you want to feel, and chasing the feelings instead of the stuff. I have about five CDFs that I try to tap into regularly, one of them being INFINITE.
I want to feel infinite.
Yep. So if I'm going to die eventually, what the eff does that even mean?
For me, this is about the process. Feeling infinite is about resources. Time, money, energy, love, inspiration. Things I never want to run out of. There are daily choices I make to ensure my wealth in those areas. I need time to create, I need energy to create, I need both of those things to engender a love for my work, I need time, energy, love and money to invest and continue to find inspiration, because that's the last thing I want to run out of. Inspiration is the well that I must know will never run dry in order to work from a place of ease and confidence, but I have to manage all this other stuff to keep it full. I think anyone who puts themselves into their art, their heart work, in any way knows this. Eat. Sleep. Workout. Keep the bullshit to a minimum.
So I'm doing the daily work to keep the goods coming, and I see some direction for my art (finally) and then doubt creeps in. Am I on the right path? Should I have given up x? Should I go back to y? What if I was supposed to be a whatever? Can I quit my job and make art for a living? I've pursued so many different paths since college (and even during college, see: "new major every semester"), and I've loved all of them, but I wonder if I've diversified my interests to a point where my work is incoherent. Doubt. Self-consciousness. Jealousy of my friends who've by all appearances stayed their course begins to leer at me with its ugly green eyes.
What if I know too much? What if I never pick a 'thing'?
Well, I read a little book recently, in which the author proposes that what unifies all of your work is that you made it, and also that you have to do a lot of different things to keep YOUR THING from getting too one-dimensional. And so I began to look at my work and the paths that I've taken.
In 2003, I started the Co-Active Coaching Curriculum through The Coaches Training Institute, long before life coaching was a thing. At the age of 23, I knew that I wanted to help people learn to communicate better - with themselves, in their relationships, at work and in general. I was in it. It was woo-woo as all Hell and I loved it. Authenticity. Transparency. Connection.
I carried those lessons into my graduate work in acupuncture and my private practice - how better to teach people to hold themselves accountable for their choices and their health than by teaching them to communicate with their bodies? (My English degree and coursework in Asian Studies helped out here too.) When I took on yoga teacher training, I got a good look at how I communicate with my own body, and started to listen to it and teach others to do the same. I learned to tell stories through movement that allowed my students to have their own realizations and deeper conversations about the interrelatedness of their choices.
As I've moved out of health care and into the outdoor industry, the themes of self-care and accountability are still there. The conversations I've had with colleagues and customers are straightforward and action-oriented, and most people have appreciated my do-it-now approach and willingness to own up to my mistakes. I've gotten to coach the companies I've worked for around clarity of message and audience, help build the nuance of their stories and direct the nature of their content to create something coherent and comprehensive, and I love it. It's still my art, in a way. But it doesn't feel infinite.
This writing feels infinite. I love digging in to why we do things the way we do and curling up by the fire with my laptop and bullshitting with other writers on Twitter and taking pictures of the crazy ways I capture my ideas. I love the piles of sticky notes and jars of sharpies and hard drives full of photos and weird apps on my phone that help me make stuff.
And so I look at all this...work, all these things that I have done, and I wonder, is it random? Or is the dream alive in all of it?
I see that the dream lives. I've been a communicator from the get go. I've sought out the tools to make life easier, better, more beautiful, and I love sharing that. So what if I do it for someone else to earn a paycheck, I'm still doing it, right? I'm writing. I'm creating. AND my job A) pays the bills B) doesn't make me barf and C) leaves me with enough bandwidth at the end of the day to do the things I really love. To take pictures on the drive home. To read stacks of magazines and countless blogs and fill my kindle with everything I can get my hands on. To keep learning. (If you're wondering whether or not you should quit your day job, put it to this test. You have to pay your damn bills, because no one can create anything worthwhile when they're stressing out about money.).
So while I want to jump ship and live the art, how do I justify it when I'm finally to a point in my career where I have a career and not some loosely spun thread of odd jobs. I have a job that some folks only dream of. I have HEALTH CARE and I've worked hard to get here. How do I walk away from the security of a paycheck without feeling like I've failed? How do I chase a new dream? How big of a risk is this? What if people tell me I'm crazy? People already tell me I'm crazy, but what if there's something more out there for me and I never get to live it?
Well, Danielle came through for me this morning when she posted about not starting her magazine. She wrote about How to Let Go of a Dream - and three main things stuck with me:
1. Don’t denigrate your dream in order to justify letting it go. Nothing thus far has been a waste, it's all been a part of the process and has gotten me to where I am now. I've accomplished a lot. I own it. I earned it. I don't have to hate on the old dreams to feel good about moving on.
2. Juice the dream. I'm looking at everything I've created - in every job, in every state, in every offering I've put out there to see how I can repurpose the brilliance that surrounded those things and fuel the next fire.
3. Remember why you make art. There's always more where that came from . YOU. ARE. INFINITE. You'll get another chance. Shine on you crazy diamond.
And so keep at it - the work that pays the bills and the work that fills the well - knowing that when the time comes, you'll have the confidence to commit to the new, the savvy to repurpose the inspiration that surrounded the old and the strength to let it go.
Learn it. Love it. Leave it.