Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Tyranny of the To-Do List

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I've been making lists. 

There's a sad and funny page in Sabrina Ward Harrison's art journal "Messy Thrilling Life" that I've had open for a few days now, face up by the sofa, illustrating what I don't want to feel but have seen creeping into my thinking anyway:
"The first thirty-four things on my mind today:
Keep up
Keep up

Instead of enjoying the excitement of the unknown, I've been drowning in the need to "make the most of everything" and "get things straight" and "work out what I'm doing". Which is a pretty massive task for a weekend to-do list.

Thankfully, I've been reminded in conversation with an old friend that everything is already right. This stumbling around is good. These growing pains are good. There is something special in the vulnerability that comes from not knowing what we're doing.

So I'm trying to reclaim the list as a tool to point me towards adventure and new ways to fill my time with things that energise and inspire me. And more importantly, I'm reclaiming the truth that I don't really have to do anything. I am already enough. My foundations are solid. Forgiveness, hope, assurance - all the important things that make life meaningful are already taken care of: it is finished.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

"Ode to the Dreamer" (Joshua Luke Smith)

Part of the 'Lyrical Lifelines' Series.


I'm making some life-changes and, from a few of the reactions so far, I'm worried that I've accidentally made it look easy.

I get it. It's tempting to look at other people's lives and think that their struggles aren't as difficult as our own. Or that they have some innate ability to handle life with fewer hiccups along the way. But it's bollocks. Most people find parts of their lives really, really hard - even if they don't say so.

I don't tend to share "my insecurities" with many people; I need to be sure of a constructive response. I don't even like to claim them as my own. There are things that make me feel small and afraid, but I don't choose to wrap them into the way I define myself. That doesn't mean they're not there, or that I won't need or ask for help.

But as much as we all need support in our weakness, I actually think our greater need is support to be strong. 

We need to be surrounded by people who let us be brilliant and vulnerably glorious. When I start daring to dream and begin to follow through, when I'm doing the hard work of putting my money where my mouth is and I'm persevering in the face of uncertainty and personal cost - that's when I need encouragement the most.

I crave an audience of yes-sayers. I want an army of people who believe in impossibilities and, better still, live out that belief in their everyday lives. I want inspiration, iron sharpening iron.

That's when I put on "Ode to the Dreamer" by Joshua Luke Smith. I put it on repeat, I sing along with an inevitable head-bop and I remember this beautiful collective of artists who are continually putting themselves out on a limb, doing incredible work to remind us of who we really are and what we're really capable of.

"I believe you have a hope and a future, a hope and a future - darlin' I believe."

This is how it should be. Instead of feeling intimidated and buying into lies that other people are more "sorted" than us, let's borrow each other's bravery. If they can do it, I can do it. If I can do it, you can definitely do it.

Let's all go on to better things, together.

'Lyrical lifelines' - songs that save my world

Monday, 6 April 2015

Wardrobe Stories (the Resurrection edition)

It's Easter weekend, and this year that feels more significant than it has in a while.

A few weeks ago I bought a ring - gold coloured, if not actually gold. It caught my eye in one of my go-to secondhand shops near Goodge Street, and - magpie like - I had to have it. Not because it's a pretty ring, although I think we can agree that it is. I had to have it because I was feeling utterly miserable, burnt out and jaded. An unfortunate sequence of events had just led to me being signed off work for a week on stress related sick-leave and I was starting to do the hard work of putting myself back together. The ring was a symbol for me - a reminder of something I read a while back. It reminded me of a beautiful letter of complaint someone authored and 'sent' to God a long time ago, and the hopeful conclusion that person managed to come to in spite of their pain:

But if I go to the east, [God] is not there;
    if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
    when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
 Job 23v9-11 (the Bible)

The whole of Job chapter 23 is a poetic masterclass in being honest about struggling in life and faith, but I especially love the verses above. I love being reminded that when I look for God in my circumstances and come up empty, I can still choose to trust that the place I'm in is okay and will mould me into someone I can be proud to be: "I will come forth as gold".

I wore this ring on the index figure of my right hand for days straight (despite the fact that it is ever so slightly too small). I wore it with my pyjamas, duvets piled on top of me, reading Made for Goodness by Desmond and Mpho Tutu, learning how to let go. I wore it when I felt strong enough to leave the house, strong enough to go back to work, strong enough to be better not bitter.

And now?

Truth be told, I haven't worn it in a little while. I've noticed that the "gold" is rubbing off and the ring is morphing into just another grey accessory in my stockpile of silver and white-gold jewelry. Sad times. But it makes me aware of how much I don't want that to be the case for my character. I don't want it to be said that when the pressure is on and I'm in the grind, the good things fall away and I'm revealed to be a lesser person: less kind, less gracious, less grateful, less passionate.

So I'm making some changes. I'm taking some leaps of faith to try and keep my life and my values aligned. I feel ready to share some of those things again - it feels good to "be back", to be doing more of the things I love - writing included - and drawing inspiration from the goodness that surrounds us.

Easter, to me, encapsulates the miracle of empowerment and second chances. Beginning over, bravery winning out over fear and discouragement, building on a foundation of love and security that Someone Else laid for us.

It's time for resurrection. And it feels so, so good.

'Wardrobe Stories' are a string of posts helping me to appreciate the clothes and accessories I own in an atmosphere where it's easy to end up taking things for granted.
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