For those of you who are new to my writing and gushing and observing and sharing... and there are some... "hi" :waves: I'm happy to see you. You can totally take off your shoes and curl up on the couch, I'm cool like that. We're all friends here. Unless you really get out of line; then we're not. For at least a day.
So, one of the central themes in Wild Horses and Mistakes, and the reason I set out on the trigger-worthy quest that resulted in my writing it... was this little thing that happens to me, and to so many, many good and creative people, called anxiety. I meet tons of folks, women mostly, through my work, who have their own ideas about anxiety. They get their Xanax, their therapy sessions, and that's it. That's what works for them, that's what they're sold. But still, still, they aren't living the lives that they want to. They're simply... medicated and less nervous about things, in general. And that stuck in my head; like it needed a solution.
I learned along the journey of this little book, that anxieties or obstacles or roadblocks or challenges or temptations... are actually necessary for our growth and evolution. We cannot achieve anything that we set out to achieve without obstacles and the chance to overcome temptations. I have this weird saying... don't bail before the fail. It's coming, you know it is. Whatever it is. Small or large, minor or major, it's inevitable. Accept it, and focus more on the getting back up part and the continuing on afterward; wiser.
It's like Jesus in the desert, Buddha and Mara, Joseph Campbell and the threshold guardians... just about every culture and religion and school of thought has a name for it... for our Fear, for our inner demons that try to steer us off course and away from that which we truly seek.
I digress... but I mean to say that my anxiety and everything and everyone that has brought me to it, has been a gift. I don't merely forgive my past, but welcome and thank it, wholeheartedly, for bringing me to right now. Which is... wow... pretty unimaginably great in some ways, and still challenging and 'not there yet' in other ways. But without choosing to face and overcome these triggers, I wouldn't have become a writer. Or tried out podcasting. I wouldn't have developed a love affair with travel and all things new and inspired. I wouldn't have fallen in love with renaissance art and art museums in general. I wouldn't have reconnected with my spiritual side in such a deep way. I wouldn't have become such a conscious parent, aware of my son's development and experiences of life. I wouldn't have had those long, cold nights, where the only thing I could do was scramble in the dead of night for a guitar and a scrap of paper and a pen and sing and play myself calm again, my face pressed hard against the cool wooden and humming body. I wouldn't have had music back in my life in such a solid and healthy way. I wouldn't have fallen so deeply in love with the natural world and sworn to protect it, in my barely significant, but heartfelt way. I wouldn't have spent a day on a cool hill surrounded by wild horses, and I wouldn't have been so wholly touched and inspired and healed in their presence.
Being plunged into the world of anxiety has forced me to learn the tools and ways of being to help me live with it. And anything that comes up is that much more manageable, now that I know how my anxiety works. The techniques, the mindset, is all the same. Learning to face your demons and sit with your troubles and gain insight from them... is a powerful thing.
Case in point... I am a single Mom, but I co-parent. This means that my precious little boy is with his other parent, his Dad, on some weekends and nights. And most times, it's great. I get me-time, I get things done, I travel, I create. But some days, some weekends, are harder. For no real reason. Last night was like that. And I saw how one thought led to another and another and another until I was a cowering little teenager under the bed again, afraid of monsters, on the cusp of a panic attack about... I don't even remember what. I slept it off, thankfully, but when I woke up, my head was right back there. Confusion, grasping, reaching. It's that... who am I if I'm not Mom... thing. And I get to remember that I'm also a woman, with goals and dreams of my own. And that's something that I think all Moms, all women, should have: a passion, a purpose, beyond that of your work or family life.
Anyway. I knew I needed an interrupt: and a quick getaway, a simple road trip, did the trick. I didn't "do" much. I didn't check into a spa, I didn't spend buckets of money, I didn't hike a mountain and take a selfie. I just drove; I put myself in a new environment. I listened to music. I sang. I gazed at scenic mountain views, I watched the sun set over the Croton Falls Reservoir and nearly wept at its beauty. And I felt small and grateful and connected again to something so much bigger and more meaningful... than me and my simple heartaches and fears. We all have them, in some way. And this is the gift that natural spaces can always give us, I feel. Perspective. Awe. Connection. Without the WiFi or TV or radio or any of that. Just the elements. Me. Breathing. Inspiration. Sweet clarity.
It's a good thing to keep in mind... a simple change in scenery, a relocation, to jumpstart your mindset, might be all it takes to skip your brain to another track. One that favors openness, creativity, trust, and caring. There's a lot of beauty out there, it's a great way to reset and kick yourself out of an anxious funk or to just experience something new: a new road traveled, a new little town with different shops and an old gas station with funky old pumps. Or a new country, perhaps, with a different language and ages-old architecture. It's a big world out there. I do intend to see as much of it as I can while I'm here. While I get to be here.
I can't wait to share this book with you. One way or another, you'll get a chance to read it. xoxo
This was the short poem that inspired my year of chasing wild horses.
As I sort out agents and publishers, get small and ground into the dirt and do the dirty-work, like any other writer... and try to get over myself enough to actually send out these letters and pieces of what was both: a gnarly mess of the tangled bits of a broken and lost and lonely soul plunged into Dark, and simultaneously a chronicle of adventure, travel, faith, hope, acceptance, connection, self-love, nature-loving, and crazy-beautiful magic and Light.
Despite the burning urge to destroy every page and take up some safe and cozy knitting...
I can only say that it was all worth it. Every moment. I can say, for those artists with anxiety -- trigger-divers, fear-pushers, dream-chasers -- that it never really goes away, does it? That niggling feeling, inside, the trepidation. The initial rumble inside. The part that paints the world in much more colorful and whimsical brush strokes. As artists, we just see the world differently, and that must be understood, accepted, nurtured, and honored for the gift that it is... if we're to live and move in this world, successfully. But we grow stronger and more resilient, more curious and less guarded, as we move forward through Life.
See, the scales begin to level out, if you let them... where Fear was always way too heavy on one side... never giving that Love side a shot... if we pile on enough Love, consciously, heaps and heaps and heaps of it, from within, from without, from wherever... it comes back to center. Love rises up to meet Fear, head-on. To look it in the eye. Love, well, she has her own ferocity and her own strength, doesn't she, though she may present it differently, at times. Love is actually much more powerful than Fear. And dismantling anxiety gives it a chance, that's all. A fair chance. And experience then becomes a bit more neutral, like a blank canvas.
So, rather than seeing the potential of a falling sky at every turn, always ready to flinch and defend, we can learn to lower our shoulders out of our ears and gaze up long enough to know... that it's all still up there. Steady. Safe and sound. We begin to realize that the projection of the outside world echoes the Fear we feel, inside. And that we can tackle the Fear, there, at its root, and re-create the world that we see and live in, out here on the ground. And once we let that Fear lessen, we start to see... waves of birds in flight. Inspired formations of clouds. That Sun, that life-giving, warming, healing Sun. Rainbows. Sunsets. Sunrises. Blue skies and endless horizons and buds and blooms and kind eyes and helping hands.
With an open and healing heart, with the gift of forgiveness, the world, our own little sacred worlds, can become works of Art. Our own living stories. The journey that's worth taking.
I think that journeying brings needed perspective -- both physical travel and spiritual journeying -- we get to see Life from all sides of experience (and this can go very, very deep) as we look into Life's mirror, without flinching. We've got to see the deep, dark bottom and the ugliest and cruelest parts of ourselves, to find Grace and to be lifted into the place that we're meant to be. To see the worst and make peace with it. Forgiving the Self builds empathy, in an outward way. Then, such a sacred perspective brings gratitude and wit. Gratitude lightens the weight of whatever we're carrying, enough to open our arms for more. Wit and presence arm us with a grounded common sense and the knowing that we also need to protect ourselves from those things that don't wish us well, which really, is more rare than we imagine. And in that sweet spot of intelligent boundary setting, and faith and self-love in our open-armed and steady stance, comes Love. That sacred chest of goodies, that's been inside, all along. It's in our own hearts.
I sat with my inner William Blake, this morning. I spoke of my dire need to hide this work, this little inconsequential book of nothings, really, that also, coincidentally, bore my utmost vulnerability and questioning and seeking and healing and serendipity and insight. And he said that I had to let it out. That it was imperative. That those right here, next to and close to me, won't understand it, for sure, but that it's not for them. That it's for the others: the seekers, the wanderers, the feelers, the questioners and dreamers, the lovers and healers, the deep-feeling artists, out there... the kindred, he said, the kindred. That it was for them. Those special and dear ones that are so much like me that they are whispers away. That my little, tiny piece of experience and meaning, this bit of so-called nothing, could be one tiny little puzzle piece along the road in getting to their little bit of oh-my-God everything. Because we -- us seeking, wandering, creating, magical folk, well -- we need each other. He said. We are those wild things... he said.
** And moments after writing this, my inner Stephen King said... "let the reader decide if they get it. Just do your job, do the work. And then leave it alone." **