Step One: CLEAN YOUR ROOM
I’m not kidding. Cleaning out the painful reminders of the past and the useless junk of the present is the best way to create space both exteriorly and interiorly for new life to come in. It’s hard to make beauty when all around you is chaos. So if you are serious about changing your life, healing your past and becoming the fully actualized super creative WOWSA person that you know you are MEANT to be, or just somebody that stops complaining “I wish I spent more time being creative instead of (fill in the blank here),” strap on those rubber gloves, get out the trash bags and start vacuuming.
Step Two: GO FOR A WALK
“Oh my gosh,” you are saying, “this is so stupid. This is too obvious! I want a pill, I want TV, I want to get out a hammer and build me an ark, but a walk? No thanks. I walk all the time and it’s not doing me diddly squat.” I hear you. But HOW do you walk? My guess is that you are walking to work, or walking to the grocery store or walking to the car or maybe walking on the treadmill for exercise (which is great but not the kind of walk I am talking about). I am suggesting that you go for a walk JUST TO WALK. Not for any other reason- not to exercise, not to get somewhere- just to WALK. Why? Because when you walk for no reason, you look at the sky and the plants around you, and sometimes even other people! This it starts to open up your thinking and get you connected to your feelings- and it’s from listening to your feelings that you will start to get an idea of what you are missing in your life and make a little space for that sneaky little idea to come creeping in. That missing thing wants to be HEARD but when you are constantly distracting yourself, you are drowning out it’s voice. Watch how you convince yourself that you DIDN’T hear it, or notice how you forget to write it down when you do! It’s CRAZY how we sabotage ourselves, but the fact is, we are really just AFRAID. Frightened people need help to feel SAFE and that is what this is all about.
Step Three: GET A SMALL PRETTY THING
I am talking SMALL. Make a tiny little flower arrangement. Do a tiny little doodle on a piece of paper. Write a three word poem. An itty bitty pretty thing. Now put it somewhere where ONLY YOU you will see it every day. This thing is going to represent the little YOU inside who is trying to get out. And if you can’t bring yourself to MAKE it, I give you permission to BUY it. “CHEATER!” I hear you scream, “THAT’S NOT FAIR, THAT’S CHEATING!” No it’s not. It’s actually being kind to yourself. Some people have a voice that is so mean and so loud that it won’t allow them to even doodle on a page. I know. Been there. Got that. So buying a tiny pretty thing can be a nice way to get around that. It’s still YOUR pretty thing that YOU bought FOR YOU. Just put it on your desk or next to your bed so you can see it EVERY DAY, made or bought. It will help. It’s like a secret between you and yourself.
Step Four: BUY A JOURNAL AND A NICE PEN
“Ah HA!” You say, “MORE SHOPPING!” Yes, it’s true. You can MAKE your own journal if you want, but frankly, I like to buy mine. There are so many beautiful and interesting ones out there that it is fun to browse them. It’s a creative act, trust me, looking at the colors, the textures, the small or large styles. The only rule is to try to choose something that speaks to YOU- not to your mother, or your best friend, or your boy/girlfriend. Believe it or not, that can be hard for some people. The desire to please others, even when you are going on a journey to please yourself, can be loud and proud inside of you. So be gentle on yourself. Hide your journal and pen if you need to, but get the ones YOU LIKE, not the ones your mother does. Love the moms, but she can buy her own darn journal.
Step Five (I promise it’s getting harder): WRITE EVERY DAY
“What? Wait a minute- what am I supposed to write? I’m not a WRITER, I don’t WANT to be a writer, I am an artist that wants to paint, dance, sing, act, twirl a baton, spin on my head (etc) why do I have to WRITE? Argh!!!!” I get it. Totally. The fact is, there is something about putting a PEN or PENCIL on a PAGE with your HAND, not a KEYPAD, that opens up little rooms in your mind. The goal is three pages. That’s what Julia Cameron from “The Artist’s Way” suggests, but I gotta be honest, sometimes I get down half a page and stop and I am lucky to get that out. Just write how you are feeling and about what you feel is MISSING in your life. What do you wish you were spending MORE TIME doing? Write it down. And do this every day. I promise, you will get answers. Big, LOUD answers that might be hard to hear. Don’t worry, no one is going to read it. Just you.
Step Six: BECOME WILLING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT
I know, it sounds harsh but I don’t mean it that way. The fact is, nothing is going to change in your life without your participation. I’m not saying you are lazy, I’m saying there is a reason we don’t do what we know deep down that we need to do to be happy. So becoming willing is a really big deal. Through daily writing and on the walks, you can start to ask yourself “what am I so afraid of? Why don’t I just go take an acting class or take out that beautiful box of watercolors I got for Christmas?” You will be amazed what the answers will start to be. They usually look something like this:
-Because everyone will laugh at how bad I am.
-Because there is no way I will make money at this.
-Because I am not worth it.
When you start to become aware of these beliefs, doesn’t it make you sad? Who made you believe these terrible things about yourself? No matter, the problem is that YOU decided THEY WERE RIGHT. Now you gotta decide that they are WRONG. TO decide they were WRONG is to BECOME WILLING to believe otherwise. This step needs you to begin to have some COMPASSION for YOUR SELF. Compassion for who you used to be, and compassion for who you are now. It make take you a day, it may take you five years, it may take a lifetime. It’s up to you. Trust me, I know it’s hard. But when are you going to take that tiny little LEAP OF FAITH IN YOURSELF? Only YOU can decide.
Step Seven: GRIEVE
It’s sad that we have been so hard on ourselves, not allowing ourselves to be WHO we really are. It truly is. So I think the fair thing is to take a little time and FEEL sad about it. I’m not suggesting that we indulge in self pity, again, I am talking about real compassion for YOURSELF. You got screwed. Or you screwed it up yourself. Either way- that sucks. Grieving is part of the process to let it go. Comfort yourself somehow, if you can, but make it real. Give yourself a big hug, or take yourself out to lunch with a really good friend who you know will be compassionate and listen. It’s okay to say, “I AM SO SAD I DID NOT BELIEVE IN MYSELF MORE. DAMN.” In fact, I think it’s great, because it really opens the door to move forward. If you can feel sad about it, then you can also feel other things that are somewhat unpleasant, like anger. To be angry is sometimes a good thing. It is part of the process of healing and can be a real motivator. Just TRY not to beat yourself up or anyone else. You just didn’t know, or you weren’t strong enough to be able to change it then. NOW you are just a little more aware and a tiny bit stronger. So beat the bed with a tennis racket if you need to, just don’t beat up yourself. If you hang in there, you are going to start to feel soooo much better.
Step Eight: FORGIVE
Sounds like a Christian word, but the idea of forgiveness doesn’t belong to any one religion. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but the idea is to try to look at the person or institution that put the negative belief system in your head and take the power back by seeing that they, too, are flawed. Yes, they really messed up. Yes, they hurt you. Yes, they were stupid and mean and tragically misguided. But what are you gonna do now? If you are still in a relationship with that person or place, you CAN leave (that’s a good idea, don’t have to be a martyr) but on your way out the door you can also FORGIVE THEM. By forgive I mean to allow yourself to stop being mad at them. This doesn’t mean they weren’t wrong, it means you have made a decision to stop hating them for whatever it is that they did. FORGIVENESS IS FOR YOU.
I suggest you do this in order to let go of this part of your life so you can move on. You don’t have to forget, in fact you probably shouldn’t, but you don’t have to HANG ON to your anger like a flag you wave in a war. When you forgive, you decide to STOP DEMANDING THE OTHER PERSON BE PUNISHED FOR THEIR ACTIONS. That’s basically it. You “drop it” or “let go” by believing that somewhere that person was (as misguided or totally screwed up as they may have been) doing what they thought they had to.
Even more important, I suggest that you try to forgive YOURSELF. Life is not simple or easy, and you have no doubt been doing the absolutely best you could every step of the way. If you have been hard on yourself, it is because you felt you HAD to be. If you stayed in the bad relationship too long, it’s probably because you truly believed in the love you shared. That doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a human being, full of flaws and trying to learn just like the rest of us. Now is the time to let yourself off the hook. You were trying, I am sure you were. You just fell asleep and got lost. Now it’s time to let it go into the past and wake up to what’s happening now- IF you want to.
Step Nine: FIND AND INTERACT WITH YOUR GOD
There are a lot of ways to pray, but the fact is, nothing will change your life more than engaging regularly in some kind of spiritual practice. We as frail and foolish human beings really NEED it. Ask anybody who has been through the wringer and you know what they will tell you? “If it wasn’t for this ONE THING I never would have made it,” and that ONE THING to THEM is God. THEIR God, not yours. That’s the hard part. You gotta get out there and find YOUR God and not get hung up on telling other people who theirs SHOULD be.
Maybe it’s sports. Maybe it’s Buddhism. Maybe it’s group hikes in the Sedona Desert. Maybe its singing in a choir. Maybe it’s playing tennis, or walking your dog. Maybe it shows itself in the love you feel from someone, or the good feelings you get when you help a stranger. Maybe it’s getting on your knees every night and praying to the god of your childhood.
There are a lot of ways to pray, a lot of ways to meditate. Just find the one that works for you. It doesn’t have to be church on Sunday- it can be- but it doesn’t HAVE to be. Wisdom is everywhere, if you LOOK for it. What speaks to YOU?
Step Ten (are you ready yet?): TRY TO DO IT EVERY DAY
UUUGGH! Yes, by now, with all the writing and the walking and the praying and the forgiving, you have SOME idea (I guarantee it) of WHAT it is that you are missing in your life creatively. It might be working in the garden, it might be working with art supplies, it might be building a motorcycle or building a house. It might be expressing yourself through song or dance or acting, or it could be sitting in front of the computer and writing a book, but the point is, WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, works for YOU and YOU alone.
How will you ever become that great author, that person with a law degree, that owner of the most glorious garden in the neighborhood if you don’t COMMIT to it? I know I sound like some personal trainer from “The Biggest Loser” but it’s not like I am trying to beat you up with the discipline thing, it’s just a fact. If you do what you LOVE every day, even in the smallest amounts, you will have a much higher chance of achieving your goals. In fact, it will be hard NOT to achieve them HAPPILY.
And isn’t that the point?
Lather, rinse, repeat.