Photo by Edgar Valdes (www.edgarvaldesphoto.com)
Since April I’ve been posting interviews with dynamic women who are following their creative desires while serving their greater communities, creating income for their families, and balancing relationships and/or parenthood. Their accomplishments inspire, but they can be intimidating. Who has that kind of energy?
Of course I’m not sharing everyone’s entire story. I’ve left out a good deal of suffering—the usual disappointments and struggles that come with the creative life, but also illness, loss, depression. I didn’t ask about these aspects of women’s lives, because it didn’t feel right at the time. I might change my approach in the future. I can tell you about my own recent struggles with a variety of autoimmune disorders that have left me so fatigued, I often crawl into bed in the afternoons.
Because I have psoriatic disease, my feet are in constant pain and my hands ache. I have inflammation in all my tendons and pain at the points of enthesis, where the tendons attach to the bones, making it feel like my bones ache. I also have spondylitis, creating inflammation around the neck and sacroiliac joints, and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which further saps my energy and fogs the brain. My endocrinologist says I have an angry immune system that attacks without warning and sometimes for no apparent reason. All of this is made worse by summer’s heat and humidity. I have wonderful people helping me and days when I feel tremendous improvement, but I never know when I get up in the morning how it’s going to go.
I tell you this not for pity. It’s up to each one of us to cultivate self-compassion and care for ourselves. But I want you to know that there are no Super Women here. While I’m in the business of helping women achieve their creative dreams, I’m not selling them a myth. There are many, many days when I feel like giving up on the book I’m writing, on teaching, on my website. And I’m guessing everyone I’ve interviewed has days when they feel the same.
Fifteen years ago, in my first workshop with Natalie Goldberg’s, she listed the three most important lessons she learned from her Zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi:
1) Continue Under All Circumstances
2) Do Not Be Tossed Away
3) Make Positive Effort for the Good
I could not have made it through the summer without number three. Most mornings I’ve had to haul myself out of bed and out to Starbuck’s where the industrial strength air conditioning is the only thing that calms my inflammation. While I maintain a weekly list of goals, I don’t get caught up in how many pages I write or edit. My only criteria is to make effort, to get a little bit of work done, even if it takes everything I have. I shared this with Natalie a few weeks ago.
“After all these years,” I told her, “I realize that all I have to do is show up and make effort.”
“That wonderful,” she said. “But it isn’t ‘all I have to do.’ “That kind of effort moves mountains.”
They way I’m progressing, that mountain is moving pebble at a time, but it is moving, and I feel good about it.
In periods of struggle and suffering, what do you do to make effort? What pebble can you move today to make that mountain shift during your lifetime?
Speaking of Natalie Goldberg, she is the subject my next Creative Mix Interview. It will be ready to publish on Sunday, September 7. I’ll let you know when it’s available.