Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Week 11: Uncovering a Sense of Discipline

Hello Everyone!

Well, we are hereby half-way through Week 11 of Finding Water. Can you believe it?!

Last night I finally got a chance to sit down and read. I usually like to read the whole chapter at the beginning of the FW week, but I must admit that even though I was late in getting around to the reading, my timing couldn't have been better. Last night I had to unplug my computer because of a thunder storm. I had been sitting at my desk all day long trying to write an essay and, well, my levels of frustrated exhaustion were getting dangerously high. I think I needed the storm. Since all of my work is on the computer, I was forced to call it quits for the night.

With my long night of work thwarted, I instead headed upstairs to the bedroom with a cup of chamomile tea and my book. I lit candles and then nestled into our freshly laundered bed. Several windows were open--just enough to let the sound of the rain and a sweet, soft breeze fill the room. If there is one thing I love, it is rain. And even more? Spring rain.

Maybe it was the perfect reading conditions or the tea or the fact that I was just so relieved to be giving my project a short break for the night--but I really enjoyed this chapter. It felt good to read. And that is one of the things that I am going to miss at the end of this Finding Water journey: the time I spend each week to simply be. I don't know about you, but there are just too many facets of my life that are attached to a goal or an end result. But I don't feel that way with Finding Water. Sure, there is a goal and hopefully there will be an end result--but, I've been approaching this book (and our group) with a different attitude. Bettering ourselves is ongoing. There is no finish line. Like many of you, I think that some chapters of the book have been better than others--but each time I sit down to read, Cameron's words remind me that whatever the state of our mind, our schedule, our situation: we must persevere.

This week's chapter, "Uncovering a Sense of Discipline," spoke with special clarity to me. I'm sure that we all have our "favorite" chapters. I think it's pretty safe to say that the chapters that speak to us the most are the ones that best reflect the issues we are facing in our lives. In this chapter, there are several places that I've underlined, not once, but twice.

These days I am attempting to piece the dangling threads of my thesis together. It has been an extremely long road, but finally I think I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have questioned and re-questioned myself a hundred-thousand times. Julia writes:

The courage to create is a courage to make something out of what we are feeling. Out of of the swirl of emotions comes some cogent form of expression. It may be a daub of paint. It may be a poem. It may be a few measures of music. Whatever it is, it is the distillate of our humane personality. We seek to express what it is that wants to be expressed through us. (232)
Whatever your art, creating from the heart takes great courage. You become vulnerable and this, at times, causes fear to rear its ugly head. I don't know about you, but fear makes me doubt myself. It makes me want to run for the hills. Starting over begins to sound like an easy solution--but, as Julia points out, even though starting over can be an option, sometimes it is more important that we try to trust. That is, after all, what perseverance is.

I think that the most important lesson that I am taking away from this week's reading is learning to trust. This is scary to me. I mean, what if everything that I am doing is crap? What if I'm just wasting my time? But better: What if everything I am doing is good? What if I just asked my ego to stand aside for a minute? What if I simply believed in myself and my project?

Of course, keeping up a constant stream of belief can be difficult (if not impossible)--and that is where discipline steps in. If I ask myself to sit down for just twenty minutes a day or an hour or whatever I can give myself--then I will move forward. It is inevitable. With forward movement comes belief and with belief comes trust. The more I trust, the more I accomplish. This is the positive cycle that I am trying to learn. And, through this book, I think it is the positive cycle that we are all trying to learn.

These days I feel like I am like the butterfly museum employee that Julia writes about in "Cycles" (240-243). I work in a quaint little garden shop and a truly magical children's bookstore. I don't make much money, but I am surrounded by beauty on a daily basis. I don't feel like I will stay at either of these jobs forever--but what these jobs offer me right now is a gentle cocoon in which to let the beauty of my own wings take shape.

We are all butterflies. And, as Julia reminds us: "Art is transformational."

On page 243 there is a Divining Rod that I invite all of you to spend some time with. Julia asks that you simply witness your own transformation. She's included a handful of questions to get you started, but don't hesitate to take it in your own direction. In sitting down to write this, I am beginning to realize just how transformative these past several months of blogging The Art of Perseverance have been. Many of the changes have been so subtle that I haven't noticed them at first. If you decide to do this divining rod on your blog, please leave a link in the comments. I think that this is an important exercise. It asks us to take a step back and acknowledge the progress we've made, even the little growth spurts and subtle changes that weren't obvious at first.

At the moment, I am looking out a window into the woods across the street. In just a matter of days my whole world has changed from brown to green. It is a welcome site. And after last night's rain my world has turned even more vibrant. As I write these words, there is a small white butterfly flitting around in the small clearing that acts as a doorway into miles of forest and trails. The sun dances on her pure white wings.

I want to be that butterfly. And, in a way, I am. I believe that we all are.

"Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark." ~Agnes de Mille



Leah said...

what a beautiful, beautiful post, jessie. you are a wonder!

i've felt similarly abou this process. the calmness about it and feeling open to whatever it brings.

i also wanted to encourage people to try to do the divining (haha, I just wrote diving) rod about doing 20 minutes a day of working on something this week. seeing how those seemingly small steps move us forward. that has been one of the most important lessons i've taken from this book.

Anonymous said...

(((Jessie)))) I LOVE this post!!!
I haven't yet started chapter 11 so thanks for writing this. Your words are filled with encouragement and motivation to keep reading.
Your writing is so fabulous but this is my favourite part of all--

You wrote..."but what these jobs offer me right now is a gentle cocoon in which to let the beauty of my own wings take shape.

YAY!!! Thank you so much for putting this into words! I get so discouraged with my dull job because it's not "creative" or "literary" enough. Now I feel that it doesn't HAVE to be those things. It can be just what it is, and my job doesn't define me or my life!
And I'm glad there was a storm so you could get some down time.

Elizabeth said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto. Not done chapter 11 yet, a bit behind, but this lovely post is right on the money Jessie. So glad you wrote it.

Bleesings to you, Lizzi

lila said...

I'm going to sit and read that chapter now!

paintergirl said...

As an artist how do you feel about this book and do you suggest it to others? You have a lovely way of writing.

tammy vitale said...

okay, I'll admit I'm not reading. I suspect I will at some point, perhaps when I take off to Portland in a few weekends for a workshop - along with my journal.

But I am creating - and in the end I think that's what this is all about. And right now that spigot is turned on very full!

And reading Anne Lamott, who I will share for writing purposes. Keep a small frame close at hand for when having problems with your creative energy. Look at the frame and tell yourself you only need to write/paint/collage/whatever enough to fill that one small frame.

And if all else fails, write about or paint or draw your school lunch.

Anne Lamott makes me laugh!

And Jessie, this post is wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

The Designers of Boutique InVogue said...

I just discovered you and would like to participate in this project when you start another book. Will that be soon? Thanks, Nina


Marie said...

I love this post too...It seems everywhere I go these days, the theme of butterflies is coming through, and I even wrote it about it to one of my lovely friends...What does this symbol mean? My favorite is when the butterfly is just about to emerge into the world and is pushing hard against the cocoon to strengthen her wings (tough times); and finally, emerges in glory and beauty to share with the world...hmmm.seems with the week I've had, I should take my own advice huh? I shall emerge from this beautifully! By the way, like Tammy, Anne Lamott makes me laugh and think...she gives you permission to write the worst crap ever...you know when I do, I find some nuggets of pure golden truth. I shall take on the challenge of 20 minutes creating everyday!

lila said...

It's a week later now, and I am half way through chapter 12...and laughing at the syncronicity...as I sit reading on this rainy morning...we hav e skylight begin leaking and the water is almost "pouring" in...what is the universe telling me?
(I have had a very good week connecting with my art and starting a blog with my paintings posted!)