While I was finishing my artist residency at Elsewhere Studios last month, I had the opportunity to do a trade of service with another local artist. The ever amazing Paul came over and taught me how to draw; I gave him headshots in exchange. It was one of those beautiful moments of living in a share economy and it was lovely. Apparently he's also sending me a "jar of Paonia" too because he likes his photos so much (I think that means a jar of home-preserved apricots). Here are a few of my favorites. Which do you like best?
Since being away from my friends, family, and regular routines I've noticed several times how much I depend on control in my life. The first time I noticed it while at Elsewhere was during our Open House, where we invited the neighbors and opened the doors to meet everyone. By the end of the night I realized I was either having a heart or anxiety attack. When I got alone for a few minutes to breathe, I realized the overwhelming emotion underneath. Thankfully it was only anxiety.
Not thinking much of it, I carried on adjusting to my new (temporary) home, housemates, and art time. It took a while, but I felt like I got the hang of it. Until, that is, another glaring scene of my lack of control reared up over something happening at home I could only watch and wait for the outcome from a distance. Miserable. Anxiety again.
Somewhere along the way I saw this TED talk on childhood trauma's impact on physical health and realized I've developed some "interesting" coping mechanisms that, when hindered, manifest in my body, largely through anxiety:
Beginning to connect the dots I gave in to my reality that my coping mechanisms (control) to manage anxiety only serve me so far. They are not sustainable 100% of the time over my lifetime. I need to develop emotional plasticity (flexibility or adaptability). I need to figure out how to be okay when I can't have control. Saint Ignatius called it indifference all the way back in the 16th century.
Indifference, or adaptability, is not the lack of a preference or even a strong desire. It's the ability to hold that desire with open hands. Neither is it the absence of disappointment. It's the ability to say, "This outcome is not my preference, but I will be okay." Indifference is the manifestation of trust.
Yes, I would like to be able to control what happens at home from 1,000 miles away. That can't happen right now. I will be okay. I can breathe. I can journal and talk about my frustrations, anger, or disappointment. Then I can let go and move on.
The thing I forget so often is that I can't move on from something until I acknowledge it. Acknowledgement is a crucial part of the moving forward process. This month has taught me that I often rely on my control (which is an unstable thing to rely on), but that control is not the definition of peace -- indifference is a lot closer.
Jesus, help me to press into your grace when my frailty reveals itself. And help my heart not to jump to resolution, but to flow through the process of becoming indifferent, and trusting your mercy and grace for me and my situation as I process with you.
Emerging isn't an easy process. Caked in the mud of expectations -- from myself and others -- I began to forget who I was. And I cater to meet these expectations because I want to feel productive, accepted, understood. The mud dries. Another month, another layer.
"[L]et’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him."
This residency has been like water on dry earth. I couldn't emerge from inside the layers and layers of crusted bad emotional habits and beliefs. I needed to be freed from the outside first, to get a little wiggle room so I could exit the encasement. And changing my landscape, my routine, my daily rhythms has softened the sand. Although it's also created some mud -- the messiness of unearthing -- the water is still flowing, cleansing, softening.
Jesus, thank you for this month, this water, this refreshment. Thank you for offering your helping hand to me to emerge from these unhelpful, untrue thoughts and walking with me as the water mixes with the earth and creates something new and beautiful out of the mess.