Listening to Your Gut & Acting on Your Instinct

Quick summary:

  • A little first person story about following your gut and making instinctive decisions- regardless of rational thought.
  • Fighting with the inner-gnomes- really- I’m not insane.
  • The moral of the story- follow your gut.  But it’s worth the read!
  • A video from TED at the end- totally worth the 20 minutes!

At times, our body reacts to our reality in ways that our mind can not.  Our mind rationalizes our actions and decisions, it weighs the cost/benefit analysis of our actions and the future implications of our decisions on our current path in life. Our mind shoots in to the future 5 years and tries to predict our place in life based on the outcome of the decision we are making. Our mind takes our actions and rationalizes the positive effects- even if the rationalization is based on pure mythical results or best case scenarios that are not a reflection of reality.

But our body knows better.  Our body reacts.  Our gut knows when something is right or wrong- it just knows.

A shot from Kathmandu while I wandered the streets looking for chai.

Here’s a little story from my life last month- there’s a point amongst the words- keep reading.

Rewind to last month.  Mid-June, as my 35th birthday was rapidly approaching, I was driving down the road at 55 miles an hour, wallowing in my present Saturday evening spent at Barnes and Noble working on my writing while the rest of the world was engaging in a social life, thinking, “Damn, it’s a Saturday night, and I’m caressing my MacBook Pro with a cup of espresso.  Tragic.” As I’m lost in my self-reproach and self-pity, my truck makes a strange, slight noise that is almost undetectable.  Then, as I’m flying down an overpass- the engine just stops.  The dashboard lights up, my steering wheel feels like its drowning in cement and I’m coasting down the highway approaching an on-ramp with merging traffic.  SHIT!!

My poor Little Red limps off to the side of the road- miraculously missing the merging cars- and I just sit staring at the steering wheel trying to wrap my brain around what just happened.  I turned the key over- sputter, cough, ahhhhhh! Nothing.  She’s not gonna give me anymore juice.  She’s done.  Shit, so am I, I thought.  As the tow truck driver put her up on the flat-bed and she looked all lonely and broken, I couldn’t help but think- damn it, I should be in Egypt or Italy like I planned.  I wouldn’t need a car and I wouldn’t be wallowing in self-pity on a Saturday night.  What am I doing?  And then, the sheer fear of being stranded in Myrtle Beach with no vehicle sunk in. According to the “Walkability Score” from Rowdy Kittens (a fabulous blog that I spent my vehicle-less week indulging in), my current squatting location while I work on my Empire (i.e. my mother’s house) has a walk-ability rating of 14- with 99 being Portland- one of the most walkable cities in the US.  Sigh.

That night, after my tow truck driver said, “yea, that’s your engine” after turning the key over while I begged him to tell me the problem was just a fuel pump, I had a long conversation with Captain Morgan.

I went there.  I wallowed.  I watched Quentin Tarantino just to make me feel like, “damn, at least I’m not that guy getting gutted on screen”.

I emailed a friend who I knew was hiring a waitress at her work and figured I’d better prepare for the $3K dollar engine I’d be buying in a few short days.  There goes my plane ticket to Italy, my travel money to Ireland to find my McDreamy and my month’s worth of Turkish coffee in Cairo.  Damn, Damn, Damn.  And me and the Captain kept talking.

I began working in restaurants 20 years ago.  Throughout my freelance career, bartending has always been my fall back.  I am an excellent bartender, I love the act of bartending- the conversations, the mix-ology and the industry’s drama and stories!  But, for all the things I love about the bar, working there sucks the life out of my creative inner gnomes faster than a Hoover vacuum on steroids. It just does.  And this summer, I’m working hard to build my blog, grow my readership and finish my commercial projects so I can go overseas and really take my blog for a spin- using all the creative juju I can muster.  I’m sacrificing the normal luxuries of a 35 year old, single woman to chase my dreams down. I tasted my life as I envisioned it this winter- and the flavor was delicious.  And I’ve gone too far to go backwards.

But, with $3K looming over my head for a vehicle repair, I retreated to my safety zone.  The restaurant. Now, you might be thinking, $3K for a 15 year old pickup truck is a little crazy- and you’d be right.  But I, for reasons that are personal and not to be discussed in this article, am emotionally attached to this vehicle.  Again, not rational, I get that.  Also, when you can not walk anywhere, ANYWHERE, you need a vehicle.  Moving is not an option at this point because I have two clients that are in the midst of projects- and I can’t leave.

So, I trained at my friend’s workplace.  An adorable little restaurant in a small coastal tourist town.   I’d make bank, work part time and replenish my travel kitty.  The training went well and I enjoyed working with my friend.  She’s very sweet and flamboyant and believes that her waitress shift is really just a cabaret and she is the star.  Interesting.

That night, instead of sleeping, I tossed and turned like nobody’s business.  It was the night before my birthday and I was about to work my second waitress shift on the day I was supposed to celebrate my special day on the beach.  But that wasn’t the problem.  I dreamt, repeatedly, that I forgot to show up for work.  I normally dream about forgetting drink orders or getting double sat when I start at a new restaurant, but in the 20 years I’ve been doing this, I never dreamt that I just forgot to show up for a shift.  Oh no.  This is not good.

Each time I woke up, my inner gnomes were engaged in a heated debate.  They were pissed and they were arguing. The practical gnome was arguing about money and the fact that I would be making money at the restaurant like normal 35 year old people do when they work.  The artistic gnome was crying because she really was looking forward to a summer of freedom to wander into the creative cave at a moment’s notice- a luxury that makes freelancing worth the effort.  The entrepreneurial gnome was throwing things because working at a restaurant would detract from the progress being made towards complete location independence and passive income generation and the nomadic gnome was curled up in the corner, rocking back and forth and muttering about the chai wallah in India that he needs to see, the espresso in Fiorenze that he needs to drink and the hookah in Cairo that he needs to smoke. And all this arguing gave me a huge stomach ache.  My gut was rebelling against the restaurant.  When the gnomes start to arguing, I hear them out.  But when the gut reacts- I have to take action.

Around 4 am, they all agreed that I had to quit the job I worked at all of one day and began the conversation I would have with the owner the very next morning.  And I laid there in bed, rationalizing the action and having the conversation.  I created elaborate excuses and reasons  for why I couldn’t work anymore.  I had it all planned out.  But when I went to the restaurant, I just looked at the owner, apologized profusely and told her “it’s not you, it’s me”.  Like I was in high school breaking up with a pimply boy from the basketball team.

I was that person.  I flaked on a job after one day.  Shit.

Good lord, what am I doing?  I went to the beach, thought about what I was doing and said, well, I’m opening this up to the Universe at this point.

If my gut reacted to my rational action of taking an outside job in such a strong way, there must be powers at work here a little stronger than my rational mind.

But, my inner gnomes all agreed, if you’re going to go this route, there had better be some serious progress being made towards your goals.  I began pulling 10-15 hour days, working on my branding, social media and blogging.  My E-Book is ready to launch next week, I’m publishing guest posts and finally tying it all together.

And as I sit here today and look at the small baby steps that I’m taking towards my goals, I thank my gut and my inner gnomes for that long, sleepless night.  Had they not taken over, I might still be serving sandwiches and kicking myself for not moving forward- again.

By taking this risk and tossing myself at the mercy of the Universe, I have no one to blame but myself for my missteps and shortcomings.  If I don’t make this happen now, I have no excuses.

Here’s a little video from TED talking about our brains and leadership and the Why?  Excellent!

Your Next Bold Move and Engaging with the News

“you want to track each trickle
back to its source
and then scream up the faucet
’til your face is hoarse
cuz you’re surrounded by a world’s worth
of things you just can’t excuse”  A. Difranco

I start off most days by reading the news.  Yes, I’m a news junkie.

In an attempt to reign in my digital ADD habits of jumping from one news site to the next and then following a thread of research or dialogue that leaves me in the depths of NOAA or WhiteHouse.gov, searching desperately for a way out of the cyber-blackhole I’ve crawled into, I started using Netvibe. I set up the uber-news aggregator site with my top 10 news site feeds all fed into one delicious tab.  At first, my reasoning had a sprinkling of logic- I can come to this one page, scan the headlines, read one or two relevant articles and move onto my work for the day.

This experiment has been going on for two days and well, I think it is actually like heroin for a news junkie. Wow!  I laid out my page so that on the left side of the screen I get my major news outlets- the NY Times, Washington Post, Al-Jazeera English, The Economist, The Guardian and the BBC.  On the right hand side are my alternative news sites, The Nation, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, Slate and Dawn (a Pakistani New site).  Then, I laid out different tabs based on topics, so at any time in the day I can go to a page with RSS feeds from news outlets and magazines based on either, Foreign Affairs, The Oil Spill, Economics, or Business.

Yes, its insane, I get that, but I’m leading up to a couple points here. In the past two days, I’ve been drawn to some excellent articles from the Nation and Mother Jones (both of which fully fund investigative journalism- hard to find that in the mainstream media these days) ranging from the wars, the oil spill, the economy and the administration. I find it refreshing that they counter the mainstream media’s headlines with more investigative articles to counter the glossed over version presented to most of the country.

For example, The NYT ran with a lead story at the beginning of the week regarding the “$1 Trillion” in mineral deposits in Afghanistan- conveniently run after last weeks press coverage of the war surpassing Vietnam in length.  The Nation ran an article about how Washington is “drunk on war” and provided a direct counter to the NYT placating to keep the country at war. (They’ve caught quite a bit of grief about the NYT article, its timing, its sources and it serving as propaganda for a long and possibly un-winnable war).

So, this morning, after reading my NYT Op-Eds (a girls got needs) about the pansy-esque presidential address regarding the spewing reminder of our oil consumption society in the Gulf, I scanned the right side of my news screen and saw a headline that had to be read, “Is the BP Gusher Unstoppable?” Couldn’t resist, had to go there.

Wow.

Sometimes I wish I just didn’t feel compelled to engage with current events. Granted, I studied journalism at one of the best schools in the country, so I guess its ingrained.  But, the reason I returned to school to study journalism is because I became a news-junkie many years ago, but had no framework to understand the headlines and the world at large. I would get so angry at the headlines, but had no true understanding of the larger picture, of how the players, the politicians and the State fit into these headlines.

Who owns this media? Whose agenda am I engaging with and why?  Why does this same talking point spin through the news cycle and end up in the mouths of the people I’m serving at the bar where I work? These are all questions that I needed to answer.  I returned to school for professional, practical and selfish reasons, but I also returned so I could understand the news and put my opinion into the mix of things.  So I could understand my world and the f***** up shit that happens in “my name”, for the “sake of my country” and “my patriotism” and yada-yada.

And I find that I rarely get to engage in the discussion of the happenings in the world because so many people choose not to be informed.  I understand the reasoning behind it, “not enough time, its too depressing, its too overwhelming, the “what can I do about it, so I’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist” train of thought. I get that, and I try to respect it.

But, I don’t believe we can ignore the events around us any longer.  We have to engage in current events and we have to create our own framework to understand and process this news and the spins media outlets place on the news and for what reasons. That takes time and effort- but its an imperative in a world run by corporate interests- in a world we need to return to the people, not sacrifice for the corporation.  If we don’t engage and create our frameworks- things like the Tea Party and Sarah Palin happen- or worse- in the vacuum of disengagement, economic breakdown and proper leadership, things like Stalin, Hitler and Milosevic happen.

And its mornings like this, when I read an article sourcing a scientists blog from the oil industry about how its likely that the spewing oil in the Gulf might not stop, it is very close to getting much worse and yet the president said it will be stopped by July, that i think- I need to do more.

Reading and stoking a dialogue are something.  Taking action is another.

A Palestinian man holds OS gas canisters that were just released on everyone at a weekly protest of the Israeli occupation of the town's farm land.

A Palestinian man holds OS gas canisters that were just released on everyone at a weekly protest of the Israeli occupation of the town's farm land.

While shaking my head in disbelief and wondering why I engage in this act of masochism every morning, an old favorite song came on the Pandora and I was immediately taken back to 2004, where I sat reading the headlines of our war in Iraq and shook my head at the direction of our country and listened to this song at the end of every evening to soothe the swelling anger and disbelief. “Your Next Bold Move,” by Ani Difranco.  I’ve posted the lyrics below, read them.  There’s a live version from YouTube posted below.  Listen to it.  Sit with it for a bit.  Then go buy the album.  I did.

There was a time when I listened to this song, and album, regularly.  A time when I discovered the truth that had been hidden from me for many years, through history books written by the victors, media stories edited by their corporate ownership and dialogue guarded by the fear of the consequences of dissent. I find it fascinating that the song resurfaced this morning after years of hiding in my CD collection, while reading about the unstoppable oil gusher, and I’m wondering the meaning behind it.

And I’m wondering what my next “Bold Move” will be.

your next bold move
by ani difranco

coming of age during the plague
of reagan and bush
watching capitalism gun down democracy
it had this funny effect on me
i guess

i am cancer
i am HIV
and i’m down at the blue jesus
blue cross hospital
just lookin’ up from my pillow
feeling blessed

and the mighty multinationals
have monopolized the oxygen
so it’s as easy as breathing
for us all to participate

yes they’re buying and selling
off shares of air
and you know it’s all around you
but it’s hard to point and say “there”
so you just sit on your hands
and quietly contemplate

your next bold move
the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

what a waste of thumbs that are opposable
to make machines that are disposable
and sell them to seagulls flying in circles
around one big right wing

yes, the left wing was broken long ago
by the slingshot of cointelpro
and now it’s so hard to have faith in
anything

especially your next bold move
or the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

you want to track each trickle
back to its source
and then scream up the faucet
’til your face is hoarse
cuz you’re surrounded by a world’s worth
of things you just can’t excuse

but you’ve got the hard cough of a chain smoker
and you’re at the arctic circle playing strip poker
and it’s getting colder and colder
everytime you lose

so go ahead
make your next bold move
tell us
what’s the next thing you’re gonna need to prove
to yourself

Crooked Trails and Having the Courage to Walk Down Them

I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.  ~ Anais Nin

What makes a person choose the easy route in life?  Are we so conditioned to except the fates dictated to us by society that we can’t break out of the traditional molds of life and choose the extraordinary path when we’re faced with the choice?

A man stands before two paths. One path is safe, well lit, with little flowers and trees and bunny rabbits and he can see all the way down the path, to its point of infinity.  He sees a path with no speed bumps, no twists, no hills leading to spectacular views, no hidden treasures, no scary downhills where you hold onto your ass and pray for the best outcome.  A path devoid of diversity.  A path devoid of challenge.  A path that leads simply and easily to a quiet comfortable life where he grows old and never has to reach outside of his comfort zone. He never embraces those intense emotions of fear, uncertainty, passion and exhilaration.  He simply accepts the easy emotions, the emotions that lie on the surface, that look good in a family album and make for simple small talk over Sunday morning coffee.

I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.  ~ Anais Nin

And then there’s the other path.  This path has twists.  It has turns, hills, cliffs, bumps and the occasional tree root buried underneath the path that might trip him up if he doesn’t keep his eyes open.  This path has large trees hanging over that obscure the view in the distance.  The path has dark pockets of fog and sections of brilliant light. There are flowers and trees he’s never seen before, there’s foliage that he can’t name but is curious to see what lies beneath it.  There’s amazing overhangs with views that he can only imagine- views that only a handful of people have ever witnessed.  This path is filled with emotions so intense that just taking the first step down that path can cause panic attacks and anxiety that makes the safe, predictable path seem almost rational.  But there’s nothing rational about this other path.  This path is random and its sprinkled with emotions that are so intense that they add challenges larger than any tree root.  This path harbors passion, intensity, adrenaline, joy, fear, pain and the unknown. To experience these emotions takes a strength he’s not sure he possesses, so he looks back at the easy path and thinks, “damn, that doesn’t require any of these emotions.”

But a voice inside him, from somewhere deep inside that he rarely dares to go, says, “Shit, I can’t walk away from this path.  This path is life- this is how we’re meant to live our lives- alive, embracing all the intensity and pain that brings the sheer joy and passion of a life well led. I can see the safe path and its predictable outcome and a lesser man might choose that direction. But I can’t choose that path- I know how that ends and I don’t want to be that man, looking at the end of my life thinking, wow- wish I had taken the unknown path.  I squandered this amazing life and the chance at something extraordinary because I was too scared to try the unknown. And I will never know what the view is like from up there.  I won’t be that man.”

Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.  ~ Anais Nin

The view from the overnight ferry deck at sunrise whose engine blew in the middle of the night and left us adrift at sea for a bit.  Manado, Indonesia.

The view from the overnight ferry deck at sunrise whose engine blew in the middle of the night and left us adrift at sea for a bit. Manado, Indonesia.

You can see where I’m going with this.  We all have choices to make.  We all, at some point, stand in front of those two paths.  And our choices, while never easy, will dictate the life that we look back on in our “Encore Years” and contemplate the choice we did and didn’t make. The people we chose to spend that life with and the people we chose to walk away from- because we were too scared to embrace the unknown path with all its intense emotions and unknown outcomes.  I know my path, I chose it a long time ago.  And I can never see what it looks like- but I know what it feels like.  And when I look down the predictable path, the safe path, it sends fear into my soul.  I can see myself sitting in a rocking chair at the end of that easy path looking back on all those regrets, all those moments where I was faced with a challenge and a dark path and took the easy way out.  I can sleep at night knowing that’s not going to be my path.

People living deeply have no fear of death.  ~ Anais Nin

I wonder what this world would look like if more people chose the unknown path. If more people took the risk and more people said, “F*** It!” And walked down the unknown path, just to see what lies around the next corner.

I found the following quote in my early twenties and it become a mantra for my life.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you …— beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”
Edward Abbey

Restless Feet Syndrome- Diagnose and Treat this Ailment

Overview

Restless feet syndrome is a prevalent ailment among single adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and manifests itself in a multitude of outward symptoms to those afflicted.  RFS can emerge at an early age and is noticeable in children who doodle, daydream and play extensively with matchbox cars, plastic airplanes and spaceships and are constantly running in circles or have creative eccentricities that are unexplainable.  As an adult, RFS can emerge at the most inopportune moments and is enhanced by environmental influences, such as Mercury in Retrograde, full moons, unruly roommates, unsatisfying jobs, disgruntled spouses and the spiteful Monthly Curse from Mother Nature.

While RFS has no true cure, other than extended travel and periodic chaos, RFS can be controlled or at least the symptoms can be managed once you are aware that a problem exists.

Symptoms

  • Clammy palms occur during the following situations; signing a long-term lease, signing your W-2 forms, sending your passport off for renewal, paying for car repairs, home repairs and health care bills with your travel kitty fund.
  • You have heart-wrenching longings when your favorite airline’s commercials appear on your Pandora account, your Gmail account or when their weekly specials are sent to your inbox.
  • You drive to a neighboring city in the hopes that a change of scenery will stop your RFS, only to find as you approach the city limits, you have the overwhelming urge to either, keep driving, flee to the beach or return to where you just left.
  • You never truly unpack your suitcase, it becomes part of your furniture.
  • You keep all of your cosmetics in your travel case, and put them back in the case every time you use them, for months, or even years at a time.
  • You keep your travel gear essentials within arms reach of your bed, just in case.
  • Your wardrobe can be balled up and tossed in a bag, one bag, at anytime. And it all fits.
  • Your wardrobe is compiled of clothes that are functional, can be washed in a sink and air-dry in 30 minutes, are wrinkle free and breathe well.
  • Your favorite clothes have numbers written on the tags in magic marker from the laundry service you used in a third world country that cost you .50 cents a load.  And you smile every time you put them on and see that number.
  • When you get bored or the restless urge overwhelms you, usually the day before a full moon or right before mother nature’s monthly visit arrives, you spend hours checking Craigslist in multiple cities you think it might be cool to live in for rentals.  If your RFS has been present for years, your Craigslist obsession might evolve into hours spent searching for travel trailers and sail boats. You check job listings in your profession in far away cities and countries and think, “maybe it won’t be like a real job and I’ll only stay for a year or so.”
  • Your passport stays in your purse/glove box at all times.  No matter what.
  • When you see an Airstream caravan or a biker gang heading down the highway, you pause, drool and lust after the sheer freedom that exudes from their presence on the highway and the possibilities of their unknown destination.
Hanging on top of a Himalayn ridge with a local sheep herder in Himachal Pradesh, India.  2006.

Hanging on top of a Himalayn ridge with a local sheep herder in Himachal Pradesh, India. 2006.

Treatments

  • Schedule small trips to previously unseen destinations periodically throughout the year until your next major trip takes place.
  • Always have your favorite movies on-hand that depict a previous travel destination that holds a special place in your heart.  Sometimes, a Friday night is best spent with a bottle (yes, RFS requires a bottle, not a glass) of divine red wine, your favorite travel movie and the some outright lusting over distant lands. Embrace these emotions and that wine. Recommended movies; Slumdog Millionaire, Thelma and Louise and anything with George Clooney in a distant land.
  • Be careful when choosing your recreational reading. The occasional travel novel is appropriate and will ease symptoms, but try to choose a classic novel that takes place in a time period of historical reference- preferably some Steinbeck, Keourac, Twain and Thoreau.  Modern travel memiors and novels might be too realistic and thus amplify the RFS to a degree of unbearable longing.
  • When symptoms are truly unbearable, choose a book whose protagonist is struggling with the same inner conflict as yourself- revolving around travel, life commitments and social conformity- and wallow in the fact that this person represents part of you and you are reading this to gain an outsiders perspective- without paying hundreds of dollars to visit a shrink.
  • Talk with your friends who are also travelers- long-term vagabonds and gypsies are preferable.  We’re not talking about your garden variety “I need a vacation” conversation.  We are talking serious, life-altering, “I need to throw myself into the unknown chaos of another culture/community or I will jump off a tall building and poke my eye-balls out due to the sheer inability to handle the mundane, routine engagements of typical social norms.” That’s deep- and only a fellow vagabond or independent traveler will understand the magnitude of your RFS.  And can empathize.  Others will merely tell you to suck it up and get a job.  Which, really, can be the worse thing for those suffering from RFS.
  • Start planning your next journey.  When all else fails, start to plan your next trip. Talk about it, dream about it, start making your gear plans and strategizing about what equipment to take, what shoes to wear and begin shopping for that perfect travel skirt/pants that can be worn every day for 3 months and still make you feel hot and sexy when necessary.
  • Limit your time on Craigslist, Emirates, Orbitz and Amtrak until its truly time to buy your tickets. Yes, it is wonderful to daydream about purchasing that ticket- and when your RFS is overwhelming, by all means, take an hour or two, go to your favorite airline’s website and start looking at all those wonderful, distant destinations.  But tread carefully, there’s a fine line to walk before you launch your RFS into a state of total despair which may not rebound until you jump the big pond.
A view from a billboard in the heart of Ramallah, West Bank. 2007.

A view from a billboard in the heart of Ramallah, West Bank. 2007.

Living with RFS

When all else fails, simply buy your ticket- one way- and go.  Just go.  Throw your shit in a bag, put your mail on hold, kiss your doggie goodbye and say I’ll be back in a couple months. Once my brain is filled with new stories, exposed to uncertain situations, once I’ve navigated a few challenges and some chaos, I’ll be back.

In an effort to deal with long term RFS, begin planning a nomadic lifestyle, using “land yachts” or sailboats and be sure your choices in life- where to live and what to do to earn a living- account for your affliction and incorporate the necessary treatments when the RFS is too much to handle.  Those who love you will understand, your true friends will find your RFS and its treatments fascinating, intriguing and may just follow you and those who don’t understand and judge you for your idiosyncrasies aren’t truly worth the effort to keep them in your life anyway.

Embrace your RFS and understand its needs and living with this affliction will take you to destinations you never thought possible.  When you approach the end of your long and interesting life with your RFS by your side, you’ll never look back and think, damn, I should’ve done this or seen that.  You’ll kick your feet back on the hitch to your Airstream or the bow of your boat and think, Damn, that was one hell of a ride.

Touching the Fire and Fueling our Inner-Diva

How often do artists actually analyze the fuel for their creativity?  We artists all have our muses, our inspiration, our motivations that push us to create art.  But how often do we really have the opportunity to truly sit with our emotions and see what underlying feelings fuel the drive that pushes us to create?

Passion.  Chaos.  Fear.  Intensity.  Vulnerability.  Strength.  Love.  Loss.  Rejection.

These are all intense emotions that boil up within us.  They manifest themselves in ways we can only imagine for each individual.  Such intensity drives some people to insanity, others to acts of intense violence.  It forces some people to retreat from the world, afraid of ever feeling those emotions ever again, afraid of the sheer vulnerability that these emotions can produce.  And others create.

I realized several years ago that I love chaos.  Not in the “Desperate Housewives/Bridezilla” sort of personal drama bullshit chaos, but in the “holy shit, that just happened” sort of chaos that happens when you place all the predictable and familiar aspects of your life aside and toss yourself into the unknown.  For the past 5 years, those unknowns have been found in travel- in visiting an unknown place and culture and surviving.  And thriving.

Late night a Shakori Hills music festival in 2006.

Late night a Shakori Hills music festival in 2006.

But in that time, I’ve put those personal emotions that accompany relationships on hold.  I’ve placed them in a box and saved them for later.  I’ve ventured into the dating world once or twice, been burned and retreated.  At that time, several years ago, I didn’t truly understand my creativity nor did I understand or recognize the by-product of these emotions. Its easier to wallow in them, to roll around like a pig in some shitty emotional mud, than it is to take those emotions and channel them into something amazing.

An Inner-Diva to Control My Inner Child

And here I am, a single, fabulous woman, approaching 35 and I think I finally figured out the balance of being an artist.  That’s a bold statement- and I will probably eat those words when I decide love and risk losing again- assuming that happens.  No, I haven’t fallen in love and been dejected recently.  I still wear my single-girl jeans that make my ass look hot and, when coupled with my Miracle Bra, make me feel like Samantha on Sex in the City. But I have dabbled in the realm of personal emotion recently- with all its excitement, thrill, adrenaline, pain and turmoil.  And its distraction.  And while the situation is still slightly unresolved and may still have a happy ending or not- and really its irrelevant for this article- its the emotions and their residual effects that are fascinating.

I’ve stayed put here in the South East for a couple months and am starting to land some commercial multimedia projects that are promising and have the potential to fund more travel in the fall.  And it has me thinking of pursuing more of this type of work as its interesting, profitable and I’m very good at it.  Yet, in doing so, I feel the creativity that I cherish so much going slowly dormant.  Not in a bad way- my multimedia projects tap into that creativity- even when they are for commercial outlets- and I love producing them.  But the raw, unhindered, unaltered creativity that is all mine takes a step back when I become a multimedia producer.  It just happens. But with the last couple weeks and the whirlwind I threw myself into, and the subsequent emotions it generated, I feel that my brain- almost instantly- has righted itself and found the equilibrium between the chaos of intense emotions and the creative channels that emotion manifests itself into.

This morning, I received a little closure to a personal situation (in a good way) and after swallowing the inner-child who wanted things to go her way, this inner diva emerged and said, “well, why this personal situation isn’t resolved- but makes more sense in this moment- let’s take all the emotional intensity it created and place it into your creativity and your multimedia and lets just be fabulous.”

Seriously, I now have an inner-Diva to control my inner-child and I feel at ease for the first time in several weeks. This inner-Diva is going to be the master of these emotions- and she’s going to place them in the proper places at the right moments, so that I don’t turn my back on the paths in life that I see myself walking down.

So, I guess this article is part emotional release and part call to action.  We artists possess this ability to live life at levels of intensity not normally experienced by most people.  We can’t really expect others to understand this, or know how to deal with a person who lives this way. Really, everyone possess this ability, but few are strong enough or prepared enough to handle the by-product of embracing such intensity.  Most of us, and sometimes even the artists, choose the easier path because not being able to channel the ill effects of these emotions is not a good place to be.  That doesn’t end well.

But those of us with the fortune (or misfortune- depending on your perspective) to understand these emotions- or at least where they came from and why, and then channel them into the beauty we create are blessed.  And cursed.  Because the fuel we need, the muse we crave sits at the edge of a fire. Its the intensity of those flames that gives us the fuel.  We know this, and we walk to the edge of that fire anyway.  We have to, we need it.  And sometimes, we get burned.  And sometimes, we create a beauty that is unparalleled.  And sometimes, we find the balance to pursue the path we are meant to travel down.

A shoe tree in Quartzsite, AZ. 2003

A shoe tree in Quartzsite, AZ. 2003