“So, what excuses are you working through?”
My husband asked me this yesterday after we listened to a sermon on the excuses we make not to live with purpose and intention.
I was already thinking of all the excuses my husband makes and the ones my children make too. I could list those with ease.
But me? What in the world!
I thought I had let go of excuses in starting a business all about creative freedom and working attentively on my own creative projects.
Do I really need to keep digging? Could there really be more to uncover?
A little conversation and some inner processing revealed that I do still have more work to do. More letting go of the lies that hold me back. More leaning into freedom rather than staying stuck in cycles of victimhood that peg some elusive “other” as the bad guy and me as the if-only-I-could stalemate.
“Call it what it is. Do not call it laziness, call it fear.” This is what Julia Cameron says of procrastination.
As I’ve worked through my own creative blocks, I have found that all blocks are really just elaborate excuses as to why we can’t do the work we feel so pulled toward. That work, when seen as elusive and impossible, becomes a fantasy and we become the princess locked away in the castle. The small glimpses of the reality of what could be–a book we read that reminds us of the story we want to write, the song that stirs us to want to write music again, the live theatre production that sets off our early memories of wanting to act on stage, the friend who starts the business we’ve longed to launch–these stay stuck in the land of not-yet and we keep believing that grown ups don’t follow breadcrumbs to fairyland. We become “good” adults who live responsibly.
But what if all of these constructed goods and shoulds are really an elaborate system to keep us from hearing our true inner voice?
There is a tiny and beautiful book that I try to read at least once a year called “True Self, False Self: Unmasking the Spirit Within. This book, written by a Trappist monk, calls us to untangle those parts of ourselves that have become enmeshed with our identity. The things we own. The labels we carry. The good things we do. All the wrappings and trappings of our identity apart from the essence and identity as a beloved child of God.
When we can tap into this very quiet and transformative place of being fully held and formed by the Spirit of God, we can begin to drop all the shoulds and live with an intention that gets us to the heart of ourselves. From this place of being centered and quiet before God, we find that so much of what we are told about life falls away and we tap into the beautiful creative energy of a God who delights in our making.
We can follow the breadcrumbs of ideas and whimsy into forests and fields knowing that we have been led there by delight. Procrastination and excuses now have a new name: fear. And for those of us who have fallen into the deep love of a good God, that fear has no home in us. “Perfect love casts out fear.” But do we really believe it?
Do we believe that perfect love has space for us to try?
Do we believe that perfect love has space for us to fail?
Do we believe that perfect love has space for us to succeed and fly?
The excuses we make, the blocks we allow to keep us from creating, are really blocks of trust.
Do we trust that this good God really has a place for us in this landscape?
Do we believe that we can show up and show our true selves?
Do we even believe it’s ok for us to delight in the work we are doing?
At the end of every 12-week Artist’s Way group I run, we do a meditation where we envision ourselves in our true and brave creative life moving forward. I did this meditation with my Winter group in 2020 and the picture I got in my mind was so vivid, it shocked me.
I walked into a room full of people who were mostly wearing black; almost like a cocktail party. Dripping in paint, color beading off of my fingers and hands, I began to dance in the middle of the room and as I danced, I splashed color all over the place. I was unafraid and unembarrassed. Fully embodied. The entire thing was so surprising to me because I had spent so much time hiding as a young adult. Trying to do the right things. To say the right things. To belong. But here I was, fully embodied, in living color, not worrying at all if I doused others in who I truly was. It was such a life-giving vision.
Months later, I remembered that vision and began to look up art that might represent it. I found a number of incredible pieces by Ashvin Harrison. It felts like, and still feels like, God was showing me that who I am is seen, loved and even painted by someone on the other side of the world. That these themes of belonging, breakthrough and freedom are universal and I am not alone.
These are all still questions I’m wrestling with. I’m learning to name my blocks for what they are; excuses grounded in fear rather than love and trust.
Can you name one excuse you’ve been holding onto? Write it down. Write it out.
Imagine what it would feel like to let that one excuse go and step out of fear and into faith in your best creative life!