Vacation eyes ‘Work’ warily and dreams of Art

I am in California at my dad’s house, which is in the middle of a remodel process. I came here for a night after spending a week with my mom and brothers in Mendocino.

This is a week of ‘vacation’. It’s the first significant holiday I’ve taken from work in the last year. When I look at it one way, it’s a beautiful week of my life with people I love. From another angle, it is one of the only weeks of the year I get to spend with my family, doing ‘what I want’. That thought comes, in part, from the part of me that isn’t on board with this 9-to-5 work model. That part doesn’t like the idea of ‘vacation’ happening a couple weeks out of the year, because ‘vacation’ feels like freedom, and the rest of the year feels like a cage. I know it isn’t a cage, because I choose it… but how do I get over that feeling? Maybe I don’t? Maybe I move on? Or maybe I just keep reminding myself, “I choose to be here. I choose to be here.”

I dream of doing work that lights me up, the work that resonates with my soul. I want to be a problem solver, but I care more about deeper problems. I always enjoyed doing puzzles (like Sudoku, or math problems), but only to a point. Games only entertain me to a point. This job feels like it’s on that level. It’s on the mental level. And that can be entertaining, but only as a small part of my day. It doesn’t feel like real problems to me, it just feels like a game. Like a game that people take way too seriously. I don’t like getting so serious about it.

How do we make the world a better place? I ask myself this often, but a very real answer  that I like came to me this week: put art in it. The difference between a world where people are surviving, and a world where people are thriving, is art. Creation for the sake of beauty. Art is celebration. Art is worship. Art is play. Art is what we need more of.

I was at the glass beach at Fort Bragg with my family a few days ago, and went to go use the public bathroom. On my way out, I remembered to say ‘thank you’. It probably sounds silly to most people to say ‘thank you’ to an inanimate object like a toilet, but that object really serves a beautiful purpose and I am grateful. As I was feeling grateful and saying ‘thank you’, I turned around and took in the full sight of the small building I just exited: it was framed by a cloudy sky and covered in a most beautiful mural. Someone spent time and resources to make this building more beautiful… just because… because… they could! My heart lifted, and I almost cried with deep appreciation. We get so caught in the serious things, distracted by things that seem awful, but it really is this simple… Making beautiful things matters. It’s how we spread love to each other. I think we all need to find our own ways of adding beauty to the world – not to get tunnel-vision on our individual needs for survival, but to give our hearts to the collective need for love. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving. We were all born to thrive.

This part of me that is so lifted by the idea and reality of an art-filled existence is the same part that longs to live a creative life. Creative living doesn’t need to be a rejection of all of our existing structures… to a point, structure supports creativity! As the caretaker of my life, it’s my job to find that balance. I have to care about my own creativity. If my creativity dies, what is the point of the structures of my life? I don’t want to feel like a slave, needing to work to make money to be able to eat and sleep, rinse and repeat. I must be able to contribute something creative to the world. I must thrive.

My creativity is not a huge planner. It is more spontaneous. So it needs to be free to move with the wave of inspiration. This is one of the things I hate about a 9-to-5 job… so much of my schedule is predetermined. The spontaneous impulse only has so much room to move.

But… we learn as we go. We have to dance with the world that we are in. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like a schedule, but there’s another part that benefits from it. There’s a part of me that likes being given tasks to do, that likes working with people, that likes growing in someone else’s container. It’s part of what most of us do in this world, while we are young. We try to put ourselves in containers of someone else’s making, and we do our best to grow.

I am always a living contradiction it seems, holding feelings in direct opposition to each other, and showing up in whatever way I know how. So tonight I’ll fly back to North Carolina. I’ve got the rest of a three-day weekend, and then I’ll go back to work. The creative part groans and despises this. Another part stays open, says ‘don’t make drama, make peace.’ It’s a choice on some level. I can imagine myself having a very peaceful day at work, where I collaborate with people and get work done and make a difference. I can also imagine myself being happy to go back to work after some time away. I can direct my energy into that vision, to a point. For there is more of me than fits in that picture, and I care about all of me finding expression.

I pray a lot, lately. I want to be open to learning and growing. I want to be a positive presence in whatever environment I find myself in. And I also want to move on, in the direction of my soul’s work. I want to bring something positive from here with me, when I go. And I want to leave something positive behind.

The fact is that when I go back to work in a couple days, I will exit free-floating Emma’s existence and enter the existence of Emma at the workplace. It’s just a different configuration of life, a laboratory of sorts. It’s hard for me to even talk about what it’s like in there, because it’s a complex ecosystem. I am learning and benefiting from it, in some ways. It could be better. It could be worse. Sometimes I have apathy, which is not a quality I want to cultivate in my life. If I am to truly grow with this life configuration, I have to make it artistic and creative. If my creative spirit wanes, it will be time to move onto something different. Anything in life that takes me away from my own light must be pruned. I do my best to work with what’s around me, but I also have to have my priorities straight. I started the year with the goal to write a book, and my attempts towards that slowly disintegrated and fell away. What do I need to change in my life to feed my inspiration? How do I make my life a garden in which the best parts of me flourish?

I am so much a better person when I am inspired. My body moves better. I feel lighter. I connect with people more easily. I connect with my heart more easily. I don’t feel like that free version of me when I am at work. It feels like she’s starved by my lifestyle, sometimes. She’s saved, here and there, by music and dancing, or good conversations with family, or long runs on trails. I don’t want to live a life of continuously losing myself and re-excavating myself. All that wasted energy… I just want to be who I am, and live from there. I guess that’s what we all try to do, and maybe it’s just hard. Some people say that’s what your twenties are about, is finding out who you really are.

This is a little rambling, and I don’t know if it has a purpose, except to be an expression of where I am right now. Appreciating my family. Wistful for that feeling of ‘freedom’. Trusting that interesting change is brewing, always. Believing in opportunities yet to come. Believing in the potential inside of me, and in my life. Life is beautiful. The struggle is worth it. I’m getting better at it, I think. My way of doing things is very deep, which means when I am happy it comes from a deep place, and I am happy to bring that to my world. Not taking this day for granted. Not taking my friends for granted. Not taking the miracle of life for granted. Saying ‘yes’ to life. ‘More please.’ 🙂


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