Possibilities and Setbacks Clanging Around

pinball machineI shared a meal with someone recently who is proud of her spiritual life. A nice person, a kind person, one who is smart and principled.

However, throughout the meal I kept marveling at her bleak outlook. I don’t think she realizes she sees the world through a lens of victimhood. It’s not a fleeting way of being for her; it’s her norm. Her reaction to another person’s triumph over adversity is seen as “good for her” quickly followed by a disclaimer that luck really smiled on that person and she doesn’t know what real hardship is.

You get the drift.

I bring this up not to disparage another human being so much as to hold it up as a mirror to myself. My own years-long spiritual and emotional exploration has yielded one of the most significant insights of my life – I can reverse my thinking that life happens to me and instead realize it happens for me. I need to hold on to that.

This way of perceiving life events is pivotal for me right now as I navigate a period of … what to call it … uncertainty? Transition? Transformation?

I feel like one of those little silver balls in a pinball machine. On a seemingly certain path, only to be batted away and thrown onto another. Then, wait, the flipper on the other side slams me in the other direction and sends me reeling into some unknown space.  How long will I be here? Why do the damn flippers have all the power? Stop hitting me so hard. Be gentle.

But wait. If it’s not happening to me and it’s actually happening for me, then the flippers are guiding me through experiences and possibilities that will provide insight. There is value in the exploration, even if I feel slammed or batted around. Actually, that force is part of it. I am supposed to pay attention to velocity and tension. After all, is it not me working the flippers in the first place?

There are days where that is tiring and days where it is exhilarating. I’m overwhelmed. Show me more! I’ve hit saturation point. Look, another possibility!

The noises coming from the pinball machine keep getting louder until finally the little silver ball exits stage right. It needs a rest before clanging around in the possibility place again.

As any freelance writer or independent contractor knows, work can change on a dime. There are times when things hum along and other times when re-evaluation is called for. It’s a time to try new things or to shift gears, maybe allow yourself to go completely off course. Or, perhaps it’s about going back to your source, your history, and being open to what emerges.

“The stringent requirement of a sustained creative life is the humility to start again, to begin anew,” Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way.

It’s noteworthy that this line appears in chapter 11 (of 12) and that it was part of my preparation this week for one of The Artist’s Way groups I’m currently facilitating. The chapter is themed around autonomy, the very thing that taunts independent contractors on a regular basis and, frankly, what is taunting me right now. Consider some of these bits from the chapter:

“I may find that a nine-to-five job steadies me and leaves me freer to create. Or I may find that a nine-to-five drains me of energy and leaves me unable to create. I must experiment with what works for me.”

“I kill myself when I fail to nurture my artist child because I am acting like somebody else’s idea of an adult.”

“We insist on a straight and narrow when the Artist’s Way is a spiral path.”

Again, it is the seeing of challenges and setbacks as happening for me. It is being clear on the myriad of ways the Universe has supported my creative endeavors for as long as I’ve been on Earth. It is, at times, going back and finding a prayer I wrote on light pink stationery as an exercise from my first experience with The Artist’s Way back in 1999:

Dear Creator – Please watch over me as I negotiate the waters of my life, as I make creative decisions and try to tap into my goals and dreams. Help me to see clearly what you put before me and seize upon opportunities that will foster my growth as a person. Help me to be my best creative, artistic self.  Amen.

There’s still so much I want to give birth to, places I long to visit, books I want to read, experiences I long to have. Recently I nourished my soul with a book that I knew would remind me about the headiness of risk and bold decisions. It’s called No Baggage and it’s about a woman who goes from a mental meltdown to traveling to Europe with a man she just met on a dating site. Author Clara Bensen takes us with her in a forthcoming, engaging style.

“I signed my soul over to OKCupid, hoping, not for a soul mate so much as a decent reason to put on lipstick,” she writes.

As her adventure unfolds, she provides context with looks back at how she got there and often weaves in irresistible philosophical observations like this one:

“Wasn’t it a little bizarre to be stuck in one of eleven billion meat bodies rushing around a 4.5-billion-year-old-exploded-star planet, furiously hunting for whatever it happened to be: hot sex, fairy-tale love, the next meal, enlightenment, the down payment on a Range Rover, world peace, cell phone minutes, a house with a white picket fence, ripped abs, sanity, whatever! Wasn’t it a marvel to be sentient? To be capable of love, terror, and over-the-moon joy?”

It was. It is.

Another human that, ultimately, sees life happening for her once she comes out of the darkness.

Another mirror, another reflection.

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