Friday, 21 July 2017

Still Trying S o f t e r...

This is the year I discovered hope. 

© Maggie Sawkins 2017 My word art on Etsy.
Seems very simplistic to say, but I honestly didn't truly know that there was a point to hope, ‘hoping against hope’ and so on. I thought that it was somewhat futile, empty of purpose: ‘you can hope but it will not make it so’. Yes, I’ve had a glass-half-empty lack of optimism more of the time than not, bless me. I'm so grateful to have tuned in to Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey who together offered 'Hope in Uncertain Times' over three weeks earlier this year

It opened my eyes, my thinking and my heart. What if hope, really was a thing? ‘My hope is my rock’, maybe. So amazing how life throws up stuff - how new pennies can suddenly drop. And in such uncertain times or in personal times of struggle or change, and on a daily basis, it is a necessity to live in hope. I very much appreciate these meditations given freely to us all - bringing me such encouragement.

And yet, paradoxically, I did think that there is a point to having faith, learning to trust, to take steps towards a desired outcome. I have a tentative belief that there must be some point to it all. Faith without hope: how so?

Faith has been built very slowly as life’s trials and tests have come and gone and I have found even in the darkest of moments, something does carry me along. A footsteps-in-the-sand experience. People often, being there when needed. But hope, I gave up very early on I think. Being an obedient child, (except when I wasn't), I didn't feel there was much point to yearn for things. I was a more often a passive participant; I learnt to go along with expectations and adapt to manage the situations I found myself in. I could do a good job of trying my best (later to become a good teacher for instance, even when unhappy, because I didn't know what I really wanted to do), and trudging and accepting that this was my lot. 

I did do lots of good stuff, but I was full of resignation and struggle. In my early twenties at art school (and on leaving), this led to feeling utterly desolate and without hope. I was in a catch twenty-two of my own making. I had studied something I chose (not because it made my heart sing but more, ‘I should do this, it will lead to a job’) and also found myself unable to complete the assignments. This was at a point where my emotional state was very bleak. I broke down once a week when I saw the college counsellor… I did though, take the advice to keep going, not to walk away. I passed the course by tutors giving me personal projects that I could go and do alone. I've repeated this pattern several times: 'this will be a good idea' - then - 'this is not what I want!' I guess I put a ladder up against the wrong wall early on and have been trying to find the right one ever since.

By falling into a habit of meeting external expectations, the loss of self that started so early on continues to confuse choices, decisions and preferences thereafter. It is only by trial and error and making wrong choices, over and again, does the path become gradually revealed. Like the proverbial ship, being off course a lot of the time is the route to being on course and 'arriving' at a destination.

I guess this is true for many - but for the adult child, it’s all the more confusing. Putting so much effort in (often our workaholic coping strategy) can be very perplexing when things don't work out. I’ve shared here before how I was teased (shamed) by someone saying, ’I’ve never seen you work hard for anything, Maggie!’ Being so suggestible, (another default setting), I took the words to be true. Only twenty-plus years later did I discover my truth; that he was absolutely wrong.

I’ve worked really hard for lots of things. Too hard, over and over, and on oh so many things, too many maybe. A couple of fellow creatives met with me weekly for a while. It was they who suggested I stop taking so many actions. I can slog, try, try another thing, do more on one, forget about the other, try with a business coach, try a meetup, a webinar, a new workshop, another course, another coach; you get the drift. Constantly looking outside myself and pushing myself to achieve…figure it out, get 'the answer'. My job is to enjoy my life.

I do know but I forget daily, it is not about taking action; it is about taking the right action. It is not about pushing or driving myself, it is about simplifying the path. As Deepak says this month, "The most empowering step we can take is to discover the truth within: who am I?" 

Sit still and listen. Let ideas float up by doing less not more. Walking in nature. Talk to people. Take fewer distracting actions, read less social media posts. My work is to live: to be here now, in this moment, remembering to trust. Can I be guided by my heart’s desire: to create a world where people can be real? That starts with being real myself. And trying softer, even softer.