In the last few months, I have learned some lessons. The learning process has not been easy. In fact, it's been a painful process of self discovery. But, a necessary one.
First lesson, I no longer have to stay on high alert. Remember the movie War Games (the original with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy only please)? In it, Dabney Coleman describes what the Defcon countdown symbolizes. Defcon Two is high alert and Defcon One is war. For most of my life, I've lived in a state of Defcon Two. Why? Maybe I am hard wired that way or maybe my somewhat chaotic childhood (it's all relative, however, isn't it?) ingrained it in me or maybe my scrappy twenties, when I was struggling financially to get to the life I wanted, created my predilection for panic mode. In the end, who knows? But whatever the reason, the result is that I cannot relax. Ever. Seriously. I can't relax at work. I can't relax at a restaurant or on the weekend or on vacation. And I certainly can't relax at nighttime to sleep. I must ask myself, what am I so terrified of?
The root of all anxiety, I have learned, is fear. This fear may have served me well earlier in my life as a motivating, propelling force, but now, not so much. Excuse me please if this seems like self absorbed neurosis, but I am writing this to see if anyone else can learn from my struggles, or at the very least, relate. And ultimately, I have learned that I can't live my life on Defcon Two anymore. It's not a happy life for me or my loved ones. If happiness is my goal, I gotta let this go.
Second lesson, I need to learn to say no. We humans get asked to do a number of things any given week. New job opportunities arise, creative pursuits are posed and then there's also the social engagements. But, when you can't say no, you become overextended and stressed out and life is not fun anymore. I have learned a new technique. Instead of saying yes, I have learned to say, "let me think about it." Then I think about it, really think about it, and craft my response. Not to say the technique is perfect or natural for those of us "yes" people (I actually had to stall so I could run my "no thank you" response to a recent job opportunity by my therapist first), but it works. People often just want their offers to be considered and a gracious response, regardless of the answer, is appreciated more than one thinks.
Third lesson, live in the moment. This is the hardest for me. It may be because I write memoir that I am always documenting and observing rather than living in it, but I pledge, right here, right now, that I will live and breathe in the moment. There are quests I want to set out on, magical rings I need to fling into the fire and all that, but I need to live in the now. This moment and moments with my mom who is getting older and my husband who is getting older and my sisters who are getting older and my friends who are getting older, are all I have. I want to recall my forties as a time when my epiphanies created a beautiful life for myself.
Lesson four, my creative endeavors will happen in direct relation to the effort I put into them. This blog happened because I made it happen. Years ago, I sat on my ass for three days straight at a Starbucks, for ten hours each day, and made this site. I did everything myself, the pictures, the layout, the text, and when I finished it, I marveled at what I had done. The same is true with almost every story I have written. It's the focus that matters and letting go of the conscious mind to let the subconscious artist in me free. Writing a story can put me in a trance. But, if I don't take the time or the energy to feed the process, it fizzles out.
Lesson five, the final one (as a young child I was always obsessed with the number five probably because there were five of us in my immediate family), I like me. I like myself dammit. I am a good person and strive to be an empathetic and nice person. I have claws yes, but I try to bring them out only when necessary. I am certainly not without my faults (ask my husband for examples or see above). But all in all, I like myself and I want to be a better person and artist and damn, I would make a fucking fantastic mother. And if you don't like me, or my tendency to ramble or cuss, then I don't care anymore.
This is me and I've said it before, but shoot I'll say it again, this is JEM's world baby, you're all just along for the ride.