On paper, I have a pretty lovely life.
I’m a full-time artist, operating a little shoppe which sells my art inside the best bookstore ever.
My daughter is incredible, our cat is fat and happy, and the guest house I rent is just big enough for a little garden and an upright piano of my very own. I have not missed a single daily meditation in over two years, visit the gym nearly every morning, and am surrounded by the kindest, fiercest, most brilliant and loving women around.
So why did I fall into the worst depression of my life recently?
Burnout? Un-fulfillment? Loneliness? Lack of love? All of the above?
I have a lifetime history of depression, as I’ve already mentioned ad nauseum, but this was different. This was bigger. Possibly exacerbated by the intense energy of our world right now (the litany of which I will spare you).
From where I am today, I see now that it had been creeping up on me slowly; stalking me for months. Once panic attacks became the norm, then the tears couldn’t stop. Surrendering to the sadness I let myself fall into despair, which is not a recommended path.
However, I am clearly a survivor, and did emerge, thanks to friends and shamans. I learned something big in the process that wants to be shared.
What we have.
I began this blog with an inventory of the things I “have” in life.
Small accomplishments worked at daily to create a life I like and sometimes, I love. It’s important to look around at all the miracles, gifts, blessings we do have. Mindfulness is helpful for this – it keeps us present. Also helpful to remember is that mindfulness is a practice. Not a perfection. Practice.
What we want.
It’s hard to measure the elusive happiness by what we have. We spend our time chasing something for happiness or fulfillment, and once we get ‘there’ we learn that ‘there’ has moved. We want something more. Something else. I think that perhaps wanting, in its essence, is a good thing that keeps us growing and expanding. In its negative sense, it keeps us from ever feeling the pleasure of where we are.
We want a good relationship. We want money in the bank. We want a certain kind of lifestyle. We want world peace. We want to learn, to travel, to love. Wanting so many things…
What we believe.
This is the kicker. What do we really believe about what we have? What do we really believe about what we want?
Getting into the nitty gritty of what we actually believe isn’t as easy as you’d think. We have a lot of internal defenses protecting our precious beliefs. If you doubt this, just think about the last time you questioned someone else about their beliefs. Pretty hard to change their mind, huh? The same goes for us, on the inside.
One of my teachers once said, “A belief is just a thought you keep thinking”. That stuck with me, and has taken years to unwrap. It spontaneously unwrapped today at the gym. I wasn’t looking for it. In the rhythm of my run when BAM! An internal belief suddenly revealed itself.
That belief was rooted in a desire: I want to be an artist.
Which is good, because I am an artist. Yay. But…
What do I believe about being an artist?
Oh, well, artists paint *this* way with oil paints. And they live in this place (which just happens to be Paris in the 1890’s). And they have lots of painter friends that they get together with and share secrets at the local cafe. They smoke a pack a day and drink exotic booze. They rarely sleep as they’re up all night painting. Oh, and they’re men.
Deep down inside, THIS is what I believe about being an artist?
Is this why no matter how many pieces I create, no matter how many pieces I sell or where I exhibit – I never really feel like a ‘real’ artist?
Because deep down inside I believe real artists are men.
Deep down, I believe they paint exclusively with oils. In Paris. In the 1890’s.
Logically, these beliefs are absurd! I’ll never, ever achieve these things without a time machine – except maybe the oil painting part (which I’m diligently working towards, I might add). But I digress.
I’m a woman who lives in Los Angeles in 2017, who tends to be a bit of an introvert, who is primarily a digital artist that also paints. I quit smoking and don’t drink very much anymore at all. Hm. Not at all like what I ‘believe’ an artist looks like.
It occurs to me that what I believe about being an artist is rooted in a very shallow lifestyle. I don’t really consider myself a shallow person, so this revelation was disturbing – and sharing it in public, even more so. Examining this, the truth about what I want is revealed. I want a life, THE ART LIFE, not a lifestyle. Why is what I want in direct opposition with what I believe?
Where did I get such an idea? How did it become such a deeply held belief? What do I do about it now that I’ve realized it? Well, if it’s true that a ‘belief is just a thought you keep thinking’ then, maybe I could cultivate a new belief. A new picture of what I believe an artist looks like. I don’t know that it’s as easy as all that – but it’s worth the consideration and definitely worth the practice.
Gotta tell ya, now that I’ve seen this so clearly, am looking around in my internal house at all those beliefs which are covered in thick cobwebs and wondering, “what else is in here?”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I’ll tackle one big belief at a time. I mean, it is a really big one…
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Here’s to unearthing our beliefs, one at a time.