She was a complete stranger to me. Truth be told she still is — I do not know her name. And we never even spoke to each other. But in our brief, barely-one-minute encounter, she opened me to a whole new way of alleviating my biggest fears around creating art and sharing it with the world.
There is not an artist alive who does not struggle with big fear around exposing themselves to a world that can often feel judgmental and punishing. While as creatives one of our greatest strengths is our vulnerability, that instinct to hold back or try to fit in can be majorly paralyzing.
How to break free? Here is a perfect start, and it’s so simple you’ll be able to draw strength from it many times over, for the rest of your life, no matter your age or endeavor. So I’ve recorded myself telling this story as a little six minute podcast which you can listen to by clicking the recording below (or you can just keep reading):
A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I were taking a walk through Tyler State Park and as we were coming up a hill there was a family coming the other way, and walking behind the dad and his son was the daughter and this tiny girl was singing at the top of her little lungs. Singing and watching the water of the stream rushing along, sunlight all tumbling down upon her hair through the trees. And as she sang – words completely incomprehensible, I literally have no idea what the words to this song were – she moved the lollipop in and out of her mouth.
And I was struck by the bigness of her presence, this tiny kid. This tiny creature booming inside the bigness of the world. And I thought isn’t this the way of things. We come into the world and for a brief time we are children spreading ourselves out into the world., exploring, getting messy, getting curious, being surprised and delighted, exhausting our little selves in all the very best ways. Playing. Then things inevitably happen to us, we are bullied, or we get bad grades or we are hurt deeply by someone we love or a pet dies or a friend moves away. And little by little, we become smaller and smaller. We grow bigger in size but as we do, we retreat farther and farther into ourselves. We protect ourselves from the bigness of the world, hoping that by becoming smaller we won’t hurt as much. If we are lucky we won’t be seen and then we cannot be hurt.
For me, writing is the way I learned to and am still learning – to fill out again. To remember that I am allowed to be here, to experience all the pleasure and all the pain of it. To take up space. In spite of all the ways life has tried to keep me small, I can still dare to expand into all of who I am. Enjoy the joy and use the pain as well. Both are sources of creativity. When I write sometimes I will think – can I say this? Can I reveal this? In so many ways I think creativity is to keep digging deeper and keep asking over and over – am I allowed? Am I allowed? To feel all of this? To feel the way I feel? To share that? Am I allowed to be this wild strange creature that I am? And not only be this creature but can I be her out loud? Can I be her where the world can hear me? See me? Judge me? Be influenced by me?
That little girl in the park – with her over sized sunglasses and cherry taffy stained lips and golden hair curling every which way as she bounced along – she had a song inside of her. that she wasn’t keeping to herself. She was happily and very deliberately singing it out loud. For her to hear. For people to hear. For the trees and the water and the rocks and the dogs and the birds and the flowers to hear. That’s all poetry is really, that’s all art is. Taking the songs you have inside and signing them out loud just to hear the way they sound. Just to remind yourself that you are allowed to be here. To feel all of it. To share all of it. We are allowed to grow big again – big like kids – grow big and take up space.
Not only are we allowed but we were meant to do this. We were designed to create, to sing, to write, to move, to make our art out loud.
So that’s the story of the stranger who opened my eyes, heart, and mind to a new way of creating art that feels the most like me at my most joyous and true.
In closing, I want to wish you an absolutely beautiful two weeks ahead. I am on vacation with my family next week, so it is very possible I will not be sending a note out on Monday the 18th. I’ll be thinking of you though, of course. And looking forward to returning to our Monday dates on the 25th, refreshed and salt-water rejuvenated 🙂
Until then…. as the mysterious stranger in my story would no doubt encourage you to do… go big. Dance like nobody’s watching, and sing like nobody’s listening.
With so much love and gratitude eternal,
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