I am a creative. I didn’t know it, or even the term, until recently. I did know the word artist, and I never would have pegged myself for one of those because I had judged artists as free spirits who had talents like painting, drawing, writing music…and I’m not particularly good at any of those things nor would I necessarily consider myself a free spirit. Not to mention, if one of my kids suggests a trip to Michael’s or Joann’s craft stores I literally break out in hives. I confused crafty with creative too. What I have discovered though, is that my mind is creative, it is constantly inventing stories out of my experiences and being moved to tears when I encounter people who have discovered their unique way of telling their story with their God given talents. I have had these encounters at concerts, Tim McGraw was born to be on stage. I have had them listening to speakers talk about the truth they have discovered in the world as they live lives of charity and mission or watching athletes rise to the highest levels of their game. I have even encountered this feeling being waited on at a restaurant by the owner who was so clearly delighted to be serving customers in the space he created it was actually moving. Most of all, I have discovered that I am a creative because I am constantly seeking the greater why of my life and trying to put it into words. I love it when a great universal truth intersects with a specific experience in my life, it's discovering the sweet spot that God intended for me to find.
Because this is my lens on life, I am so grateful to have a friend who is a creative like me, a philosopher of sorts if I had to put another word on it, that gives me the opportunity to travel and learn and dialogue about what we encounter (and play a little volleyball too). This weekend, for the second year in a row, we came to New York City to the New York Encounter, put on by Communion and Liberation, an Italian movement started by a Catholic priest, Fr. Giussani, who understood mans deep desire to belong, not in the fast paced, social hierarchy of this world but to truly belong in our most vulnerable state. He believed that in the joining of reason and faith, a lifelong presence of Christ could be encountered in anyone’s life that can fill the void of human pain and nothingness and give true and sustainable energy to a life that could then be well lived. There were speakers from the Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist faiths, not just Christians, bridging the gaps of common humanity in the greater question of how religion can encounter the human soul and make the world a more beautiful place. The encounter is filled with people seeking knowledge and living full lives because they understand true love and acceptance. In a world that can feel so full of judgement, it is a beautiful thing. We heard a humble woman named Rose, a registered nurse and the founder of Meeting Point International who experiences joy in the midst of suffering as she works alongside women in Africa afflicted with AIDS as they collected rocks and made necklaces to sell, and sold so many that the proceeds built a school to educate and empower African youth. She is quiet, humble and at the same time a force because she knows why she is here and to whom she belongs. In understanding that, it all becomes simple and the joy and energy are so effortlessly produced. These are not stories you hear on the news but I am so inspired by the people who are out there doing the work that we rarely get to hear about in the normal channels of daily life. It struck me how far removed these stories and actions are from the traditional seats of power in this country and all around the world. That thought is going to take me a little time to digest…
In the same day, (and this is what I love about NYC) we jumped on the subway and went to see Jason Mraz in his broadway debut in Waitress. There was so much talent on that stage and universal truth in the story and lyrics that I was in my element again. The writing and realness of this play gives everyone something they can relate to while being awestruck by great music and live talent. We figured out that we happened to be sitting right in front of the mother of the actress playing the lead, who was the understudy last night, and knocked her performance out of the park. I can only imagine how proud she was as her daughter filled up that stage with her talent.
Without giving away any of the plot, which I also knew nothing about going into the show, the theme of opening up and recognizing the path to your true self and the story your life is meant to tell, not governed by ego, fear or scarcity, was so beautifully translated through the music and lyrics of Sara Bareilles and the talent of the actors onstage it brought tears again. I will go back and reread the lyrics to the songs again and again, I was meant to see this play this trip for sure, but here is just a taste of what anyone who can should go and experience.
Sang by Joe, an old man with more than a little life experience under his hat:
“Take it from an old man, my mistakes have made me what I am, and although I don’t believe in silver linings, I believe there is something in you. Something good is trying to break through. You might have to fight the good fight, and when you think you can’t, you can. Take it from an old man.”
There is that universal truth again, captured in art, talked about over dinner and helping us find a place in this world to be moved. And finding that place is the greatest gift and fulfillment of being a creative.
“Our society often follows the wrong stars. We track celebrities as if it’s breaking news. It’s as if we’re using someone else’s map to find our way, someone else’s measurements to determine our worth, some fickled criteria like numbers on a scale, or in our banks accounts to determine our value. This is where wisdom is paramount because it will guide you back again and again to your true course if you are willing to trust the map of your heart.” -Elizabeth Lindsey
So much of my life I have felt lost. I think that is why this podcast
with Elizabeth Lindsey on Michael Gervais’s Finding Mastery podcast has resonated with me so deeply since I listened to it for the first time over a year ago. No one would ever know I was lost, over the first 40 years of my life I became a master conformist and have been blessed in the ways of the stars that our society follows. I have experienced material success, have enough talent and intelligence to fit in, can turn a head if I want to. I have worked hard within those navigational beacons, raising 4 beautiful kids, imparting wisdom where I can. I try to leave spaces better off than I found them and these habits created a good life except for the part that ignored the stirrings of my heart. I allowed myself to ignore those stirrings while striving to do the "right" thing. I am so good at following rules set out by others that most of my life I never questioned them. Instead, I showed those around me how good I was at following and supporting. I think I believed that is where my deepest in a way that it was worth lied. Those who know me best know that I stop at stop signs on my bike even when there is no traffic around and have massive trouble sneaking a sandwich into the movies (“no outside food”), like I am trying to smuggle drugs across the border.
Today I know that so much of this lost feeling came from quietly trying to fit in rather than sit quietly with myself and figure out the story that my life was really meant to tell. I love words, deep thinking and solitude. I am an introvert and an empath and the world can quickly deplete my energy. I used to feel like I needed to sprint through things, because I wasn't sure when my energy would wane. I have had to learn not to be afraid of the attention that comes from speaking my mind or seeking my purpose. I have the courage now to let my thoughts wander deep and not just to a point where I can ponder, but then come back around and fit them into the same conforming story that I needed the outside world to see to feel safe and accepted. It doesn't always please everyone I am finding. In learning to listen to my heart and not just my head, the journey I am on becomes a little lonelier in many ways, not everyone understands and thats ok. What I find though, is the place where my head and heart intersect and I don’t feel lost. I am not there all the time, it is a continual challenge each day to change my habits and seek out this place, but when I am there, I am amazed at the real connection and energy the world provides.