Every year for Planning Day, I pick an image to represent the energy I hope to create and live for the year ahead. (Well, truth be told, as with my dreamboards, I let the image choose me.)
This year I was shocked when I connected to an image of a woman walking over water along a path of sunshine towards a mountain, away from the camera. I knew in my heart that this was the right image but I was entirely perplexed. Where was all the activity? The sparkle? Where as the city girl? The artist? Where was laughter and enthusiasm? Where was the black hair and the jewellery?
Where was I in this picture?
But the more I looked at it, the more significance I found, the more it felt just right for the year ahead and so, I trusted. When it came time to create my plan and my schedule, I let this image be my guide and that meant big change. This year, I am creating more spaciousness, more ease, more focus on aspects of my life other than work and more extended creative time, including that this year I will dedicate one day a week to “Inspiration” and one day a week to “Expression.” I am putting a priority on immersing myself in and reflecting on creative living in an even deeper way and I am going to devote myself to creating tangible expressions of what I know and what I learn.
In order to do this, I must not only commit but I must also follow through on that commitment. I must show up and say yes, unreservedly, to inspiration and to expression and I must let go of old things and say no to new things that do not support me on this path. I find it hard to let go and to say no. I mean, generally my answer to, “Should we do this or that?” is “Both!”
But what I see in this picture is that the way that I have always done things is not right for the way ahead.
The whole path is as unnerving as the choice of this picture was in the first place but, just as with the picture, it feels right. And I see how the seeds were planted last year when all the choices I made for the studio were led by a principle of simplicity and how, with that in mind, decisions were infinitely easier. Everything could be checked against and led by that core concept.
The road is easier when you are clear on what is important – important to your heart and soul, not to the world, not to anyone else. This is just between you and you.
One of the ways, I stay tuned in to what’s important is by creating yearly Vision Cards, one collaged card for each of the important focus areas of my life. As I created this year’s card for “Studio Work,” “Home,” “Creativity,” etc., I kept in mind that original picture of the woman, the water, the sunshine and the mountains. I held the deep truth that the image stirred inside of me as inspiration for every area of my life and I let that guide me in the creative process. I know that my Vision Cards will serve as powerful touchstones that keep my heart and my mind, as well as my time and my energy, on my vision for this year.
And I have made a start. On the first Tuesday of this year, the day I have dedicated to “Inspiration,” I took myself to the Mystical Landscapes exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. On this particular Tuesday, there were about a million reasons not to go. The kittens woke us up at 3:00 in the morning and I was exhausted. I had headed out to the gym for a 6:30 am class only to discover that the door was locked and that we return to classes next week. When I got home, I tucked into some work that took longer than expected so I’d be leaving far later than I wanted to. Plus, it was cold, grey and raining.
Life gave me reasons to say no to what mattered. I decided not to listen.
So what if I was tired? So what if I was late? So what if it was raining? I bundled myself up, tossed my journal in my bag and headed out the door. All the while an internal monologue played on repeat each disappointing reason that this inspiration outing was not what I had been hoping for. It was only when I stepped out of the subway and into the rain that those words of discouragement gave way to gratitude.
Here I was, on a rainy winter Tuesday in Toronto, going to the art gallery! I could take my time and immerse myself in art, inspiration and thought. I could hang out with Monet and Gaugain and Lauren Harris and Emily Carr.
How many days have I spent dreaming I could have such a day?
That day was here and I wasn’t going to let all these bumps in the road get in the way. I was going to enjoy it. With that thought, all of the tension I had been holding left my body and I embraced the great luxury of the moment. I allowed myself to have an inspiration day and enjoy it just as it was right here and now.
On the heels of that experience, I also followed through on my commitment to an Expression Day. For the past few years, some bigger/longer projects have knocked on my studio door. I generally open the door and say hi and then quickly decide I don’t have that kind of time – not just this week or this month but this life! We only have so much time on this planet and I have so much that I want to do. How could I dedicate a year or five to one project? Plus, I really like working in smaller bites – blog posts, podcasts, short videos. In fact, I love it. And yet, some larger projects have been pushing on my heart for years. Now, with a dedicated day for expression, they have a place to go.
So when I sat down on Thursday, I felt like a pressure valve had opened on my creative heart. An idea that I have had for over a year poured out of me for 6 hours straight. Time flew by. In fact, if I hadn’t had an afternoon appointment, I’m not sure when I would have stopped! This intensive free-flowing creative energy is something I have learned to trust. I know now that I must show up for this, again and again and again. Clearly, the time for this big project is now.
We tend to think that the rotten and regular things in life are the ones that are hard to spend our time, energy and attention on and that the things we love and believe to be important flow with ease and grace and have our souls dancing. If that were the case, then why do we so often find ourselves suffering with our nose to the grindstone instead of following our heart’s desire? Why do we fill our time with “shoulds” instead of what truly matters? Why, when we do have time, do we choose anything other than our paints, our writing, our dance, our dreams? Yes, often it’s to take care of our sustenance needs, whether that’s finances, chores or simply catching our breath, but there’s something else here too.
I feel blessed by every moment of creativity, inspiration and expression – and I see how easy it is to let it slip away, how easy it is to not take the time, how easy it is to say no to what matters and to say yes to anything else, how easy it is to believe that now isn’t the time and that you aren’t the one, how easy it is to stay in what is instead of moving into what might be.
It is easier to dream about the path than it is to walk it.
It takes time, effort, commitment, resources, bravery and discipline (yes, I used the “d” word) to say yes to what is important to you. It’s a practice to choose it over and over again. Your creative life is worthy of it. Your dreams are worthy of it. And so are you.