Last Friday I flew home from two amazing weeks in Turkey, where I made a long-held dream come true.
You’d think that coming home from my Playing Around Istanbul creativity workshop would find me filled with inspiration and rarin’ to go. After all:
- I just had a 2-week break from “regular life, in one of the most inspiring cities in the world.
(I should be refreshed and ready to charge ahead, right?)
- I just had the amazing experience of successfully bringing to life a project that I and my partner and fellow Poobah of Play, Kelly, have been working on for a year.
(I have proof that I/we can do this, and do it well. My enhanced confidence should propel me forward, right?)
- I even had four days of genuine vacation after the workshop was over, in one of the most inspiring cities of the world.
(Sheesh — I had a vacation! I really should be refreshed, right?)
In truth, instead of revved up, I feel like I’m slogging through a vat of tapioca pudding.
The sight of my list of Projects I Really Want To Make Happen exhausts more than inspires me. All I really want to do right now is read Game of Thrones.
I feel pulled in a thousand different directions, unsure of my next steps. I know what my overall mission is (empowering people to follow their creative callings, while also following my own, of course!), but the how and what of it feel like a chaotic black hole.
Meanwhile — ironically enough, after the success of the workshop — my gremlin voices are telling me that I’m a failure, that I’ll never reach the big goals that I have for myself and my business. (Oh, those gremlins are a laugh-riot, aren’t they? [She says in a voice dripping with sarcasm.])
Thankfully, almost 46 years on the planet have taught me a lot of things. [BTW, did you know I’m running a birthday campaign to bring clean water to those who need it? I’m giving up my birthday for charity: water, and I’m giving gifts to everyone who donates! Click here.] At this point in my life, feelings are rarely brand new — whatever the feeling, I’ve almost always experienced something similar before. And I’ve learned that feelings don’t always jibe with reality.
Here’s what I know to be true:
- There’s almost always some period of let-down after reaching a big goal.
(It eventually passes.)
- The slog/stuckness/black hole feeling always precedes a creative flourishing.
(We think that the stuck is a block to creativity, but in fact it’s an essential part. Getting through the stuck IS the creativity!)
- Gremlins get loudest whenever you step outside your comfort zone.
(Anytime you accomplish a big goal, you’ve just expanded your comfort zone, so it makes sense your gremlins would be overexcited, yelling untruths in a desperate attempt to shrink back the borders and keep you in your place.)
Twenty years ago I
might would have been paralyzed by my sloggy, stuck feeling and gremlin chatter. I’d have read these feelings as a stop sign.
Today, I know they’re just part of the process. Not a message to stop, but perhaps to yield. I know I have to allow myself space between projects. I get to take transition time and I don’t get to beat myself up for it. Trying to brute force my way forward doesn’t work. But neither does collapsing in a heap, surrendering to the gremlins and giving myself up as a failure.
The key (as in most things, I keep discovering) is self-awareness and self-compassion.
Self-awareness is: “What do these feelings remind me of? What do I know to be true?” (See the three points directly above.)
Self-compassion is: accepting where I am and treating myself with love and kindness, rather than beating myself up for not being different than I am.
When I understand that the let-down and slog and gremlins are all part of the process, it makes it ever so much easier to keep moving forward.
I know the stuck and sloggy feeling doesn’t herald the end of my creative life, but rather the start of the next chapter.
So while I ease back into life in Silicon Valley, I’m allowing myself time to cozy up with Game of Thrones and giving myself space to be slow and sloggy.
I always say that everything gets done baby step by baby step, and that includes slogging your way through a vat of tapioca pudding.
Might as well bring a spoon and enjoy the ride.
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!