Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.
As I was hard at work on a long and (overdue) blogpost that wasn't finding its stride, I was interrupted with an important message for you sent from your Artist/Inner Creative:
KEEP MAKING THE ART THAT IS IN YOUR HEART
Immediately after, I received this from the Statue of the Liberty:
KEEP FIGHTING FOR LOVE
(If you don’t think you are a person who has an Artist/Inner Creative living inside of you, let me assure that YOU DO. Your art = your unique gifts)
(Regardless of where you live and who you are, the Statue of Liberty says SHE LOVES YOU)
(if you’re wondering how I received these messages - that's a story for another day:)
I dropped the other post because sometimes we have to let go of our plans in order to make way for what needs to happen. We are in uncanny times and there is no time to waste. What I want to address today is how we can stay committed to our creative work and path while also staying politically engaged. This issue is coming up for many of you - as it is for me - read on for resources, strategies, and ideas on how to do this.
I refuse to let what's happening in the world prevent us from continuing to do the work on this earth that we are here to do. And I also refuse to be a bystander to inhumane and undemocratic abuses of power.
I sent the first week post inauguration glued to headlines, heartbroken, wired to the internet, unable to focus on my creative work, wracked with shame over not being able to do more, responding erratically to every Facebook post asking me to call any number or sign anything to fight the good fight.
A week in, my nervous system let me know that this would not be sustainable. We needed to find another way.
A core principle around which I organize my life and work is that we must be able to try on new ways of seeing if we want to grow. When we feel stuck in one perspective, we have to step outside and find a new lens through which to see what's going on.
If I let go of the horrified and worried lens, what do I see?
Okay so I wrestled with this at first. It can feel like the lens you're using is the only lens available: letting go of horror and worry for even a moment felt perilous! What would happen if I stopped worrying??? But when I finally took the first deep breath I had taken in over a week and stepped into a new perspective, I saw that another way to see everything right now is as a calling to step up to the plate more fully.
Whatever that means to me, and whatever that means to you. (This part is key.)
When I see my reality through the "step up to the plate" lens, I feel more woke than ever, and I am inspired to make this my most creative and politically engaged year yet.
Will you join me?
Political engagement is new for me, but I've been discovering that stepping up to the plate more fully politically requires similar mindsets and behaviors as doing so creatively; committing to one can strengthen the other.
Here are 13 ways to stay both politically and creatively engaged in the times of right now:
1. Make Space for Grace:
Whether your "grace" is creative practice, meditation, time with children, rest - spending time doing things that spark joy and awe and wonder will restore us to keep going. It is not in our nature to prioritize time for grace, but we gain strength and energy for the other things when we do. Making space for grace also means opening your eyes to the grace out in the world, even if you feel like you're being inundated with the opposite.
2. Become an Artist of Time:
Einstein believes that time is created, and I believe that it is an art; small shifts in how you create your days can have a positive cascade affect on your life. We can start by plugging the energy leaks in your day. I use the Pomodoro Technique - 25 minute work sessions with 5 and 15- minute breaks. On the breaks, I make calls or write to Senators and Reps, have a mini-dance party, or check the news. Then I go back to work (with devices in airplane mode). I also have found The Productivity Planner to be a game-changer for my daily planning. These tools can help you integrate your creative practice, political action, and all other commitments into one day. The world needs too much of us right now to be staying in relationship with things that profoundly suck our energy. Make a list of the top ten things that are depleting your energy. Let go of at least one.
3. Perfectionism is OUT
Like denim leggings. (Wait - they’re out - right? Because I definitely did NOT wear a pair last week) The times are calling on us to act before your ducks are in a row (remember, your ducks are most likely non-linear). Don’t wait until you have the time or know the right people to start what’s in your heart. Don't wait until you have the "perfect" script to call your senators or have a sign to go to a political event. We simply have to begin: small, bumpy, humble. Done is better than good.
4. Start Small to Go Big
When we start with small and manageable shifts - making the task easier to say yes to than to say no to - we have a much higher possibility of staying on track in a longer and more sustainable way. Start with calling ONE elected official (5callsaday is an excellent website for this). Start with just 15 minutes on ONE of the creative projects or goals you’ve been dreaming about.
5. March in Your Heart, Too
If we are committing to doing our own small part to fight against the big bullies outside, we simply don’t have the bandwidth to be at war on the inside, too. Furthermore, if we are opposing oppressive forces out in the world, letting our Tiny Terrorists echo the same oppressors we are fighting and marching and petitioning against means we’re not walking our talk. If we're going to march in the streets, we also need to march inside of our hearts. In other words: if the people in the highest power are not deeming you a worthy person (which applies to so many of us right now), then these perilous times are calling on you to advocate that you ARE. Both standing up for others and standing up to our Tiny Terrorists are political acts. Here is a post I wrote with some practical strategies for dismantling the power of the Tiny Terrorist.
6. Create Boundaries
Between you and the news. Between you and the Facebook feed. Between you and anyone who might not feel like a source of positive light. I write often about how this is a must for catalyzing creative flow, and it is also a must for our nervous system in the times of right now. As Columbia psychologist Dr. Ali Mattu writes in this Mashable article on social media anxiety, "compulsively reading more (news) isn't going to produce new answers, though it probably will work you into a lather, and thus, make you feel worse." Countless studies suggest that constant pings and distractions prohibit creative flow, and also stimulate stress and panic. The resistance needs your nervous system to be strong, and your creativity needs your brain to be unimpeded. We need to stay informed but we need our brains to be clear. Airplane mode. Airplane mode. Airplane mode.
7. Do You
The heroic lawyers showing up to JFK and other airports are a powerful reminder that we can best serve with what we know how and love to do. Coaching colleagues of mine are offering free coaching to refugees. Artists are organizing benefits. Sharing your gifts (whatever they are and however "small" the act my feel) is healing to other people and healing is a part of political action. We can never anticipate how something will land on someone. If you have decades of voice training, help others whose voice waivers a bit when they are trying to speak out about what they believe in. If you have music to share, or comedy to make us laugh, make a video and be a much-needed bright light in our Facebook feeds. Check out the #Fightandwrite movement if you enjoy writing. Doing You also means trusting that if you do not have time to put more on your plate right now - that your daily activism and creativity - in your classroom, in your office, in your rehearsal room - matters and that what you are doing is absolutely enough.
8. Be Held by Community
In both a political and creative context, we need each other - physically, emotionally, digitally - and we have to keep passing the baton. We pick up slack when we have the time and know that others will be there when we need to take a day (or a week) off from fighting the fight. For me, telling other people about what I am committing to politically and creatively is what makes me keep the commitment. If you’re in NYC, The Artist Mastermind is a wonderful way to stay committed to your creative work. I also have heard of several of you taking the #Creative15 principles and starting your own clusters of communities supporting each other with creative practice during this time - wonderful! This is not a time for competing about "who is doing more" or comparing our output and action to others' output and action, whether it be political or creative. Rather, we are each other's lifelines, and we can view our individual actions as part of a collective whole, leaning on each other to renew strength and commitment.
9. Radical Tenderness
What would it be like to be radically tender with the people around you? With yourself? Right now, I’m exploring hugging and making eye contact with as many people as possible throughout the day. Amidst all of the divides, I’m noticing that more people are willing to connect. As a natural introvert, this is uncomfortable for me, but in doing so I have learned that there is more love in my heart than I am normally accessing on a daily basis. It feels good, and it's also opening up new pathways in my creative work. Radical tenderness also applies to your relationship with yourself - stroking your own brow at the end of the day in the same way you would your child’s or another person you love.
10. For Every Worry, Invest In a Possibility
Implement the primitive (and highly effective) 2-jar system. (Here's a photo of this on my Instagram). Get a jar with a lid and label it "worries." Get a jar without a lid and label it "possibilities." Write down your worries (about your own work, about the world) and put them in the worry jar. The worry jar is a place to acknowledge and hold your worries, while also reminding you that you are under no obligation to carry them around with you everywhere you go. Every time you write down a worry, also write down a possibility (for you, for the world) and put it in the possibility jar. Repeat regularly and observe what happens when you train your brain to see possibility.
11. Risk It
Right now is not a time for softball. Build your risk-taking muscle and experiment by doing things that feel bold by your standards. Prioritizing the deep callings - the things you want to smile about when you’re in your rocking chair and wearing old-lady muumuus (well that’s what I’ll be wearing). Make your voice heard in a way you're not used to doing. The words I often repeat to you feel like they have more meaning now than ever: If not now, when?
12. Let Go of...
What’s no longer serving you, what other people think, worrying about being annoying, holding back your power, trying to be the martyr, comparing yourself to what other people are doing on Facebook, needing permission, trying to be the smartest person in the room, the result, your own and others' expectations, being so hard on yourself, trying to impress people, keeping your light inside…
13. Keep Going
The moment you want to give up is the moment you must keep going. In your creative work. In your role as a citizen. I know. I have wanted to give up so many times these last 2 weeks. But your Artist/Inner Creative and Lady Liberty need you.
What one idea here has the most impact you? I'd love to know. I encourage you to focus on bringing one or two into your life this week - not all 13. (Remember: Perfectionism is OUT).
A challenge for you:
This week, find at least ONE way to honor your Artist/Inner Creative, ONE way to honor Lady Liberty, and ONE small way to show support to another person. All three can take 15 minutes or less.
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in US