Give to Receive, 2

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After receiving a few emails on yesterday’s blog Give to Receive, I’ve decided to further explore the issue of support.

First, why do we find it hard to congratulate success in others? We absolutely know in our souls that the more open and loving we are, the more that energy comes back to us. But still we close down. We see another artist/writer needs a few words of encouragement and we don’t give it. We close down the other person, further shrinking any chance of a creative dynamic.

Such small behavior almost always goes back to an unhealed place in ourselves when we were not supported as children. Why should I congratulate her when no one ever gave me any artistic support? I can give you about a hundred examples from my own life, but I’ll just try to stay with one.

When I was a young girl, I was a spontaneous visual artist. Even as young as six, I was winning awards. I’d do these insanely intricate doodles and win a first prize ribbon. Once I made a doll by hand — it looked like something a voodoo doctor would use — and won a major prize — at a science fair! It was as if my art could be anywhere and it got attention. That is, until my sister and mother decided to nip my budding talent.

For some reason my mother didn’t like me being an artist. She hid any artwork I did in the bottom of her sock drawer. She told me it was too messy to display. I was 6. My siblings’ artwork was hung on the walls.

I supposed she was extremely busy with the farm, and I was a particularly good helper. If I did art, I wouldn’t be such a good helper. My older sister was also an artist, but she was allowed because she wasn’t particularly good at doing the chores.

Don’t get me wrong. My sister is a really good artist. The mulch of her profound creativity enters the room before she does; it’s so thick you could cut it with a knife. But she demands all the attention, all the air in the room, until you cannot breathe.

The resentment in me over this is as large as a barn, as raging as a bull in heat. I’ve had much much worse happen, oh the stories I could tell, but this really sticks in my craw. OK, I’ll carry the bucket of animal entrails and slop it over the fence to the dogs, while SHE sits and paints. F#($#&(@P)!!!

Phew. OK, coming down here. So, last year, at age 44, when I moved into a studio with 185 other artists, what should happen? My nextdoor neighbor is just like my older sister, as gifted and as used to having the spotlight on her.

How in the heck am I going to say: “Congratulations! You’re so awesome!” to another artist when for so long I’ve been craving support for my own art? I screamed at the universe: What about me? What about my art? Am I going to have to spend the rest of my life fighting for a crumb of attention and support?”

Because of my childhood, at the studios I immediately assumed the position of bucket slopper to the stars. I heard this voice yell: “Caroline, ASSUME the POSITION!”

I believe it is this sort of background gunk that goes through all of our minds when another artist/writer succeeds. And I know there are a lot of women out there who were not supported in their creativity — good girls becomes wives and mothers. Doing art is selfish. Blah, blah, blah, blah naseum.

I know these women are out there because I’ve taught and coached hundreds of them. In doing so, I’ve seen that the support we all need is so very basic, so deeply fundamental and has been so missing for so long. For years, for centuries…and it turns some of us voraciously needy and others of us small and mean.

So, what I did at the studios was this. I immediately pulled in my energy. I asked the universe for help. I got clear on what was happening. I journaled about my sister. I meditated. I shamanic journeyed. I taroted.

I believe the universe gave me this nextdoor neighbor to help me heal this childhood wound. As I’ve worked on the issue I’ve started to put down the slop bucket. Picked it up again. Put it down. Down. Put it down!

I moved my studio down the hall so I’d have more breathing room. I turned inward, toward my own light. I made myself less available. I asked: How can I focus more clearly on my own art?

And lately I am able to go into my neighbor’s studio and congratulate her. I never say a negative word to her about her art.

I keep the balance, though. If I feel myself reaching for the slop, I pull back again.

I have had to learn to congratulate myself first, then I have the real soulful energy to come from an authentic place when I congratulate someone else.

What I ask of other writers is this — even if you feel the resentment over lack of support, try to convey goodwill to other women writers. Truly, I’ve made the greatest leaps forward when I let go of all the anger. Spirit moves through us all, transforms into color, shape and form. If we hold onto resentment, at the very least, we miss out on the magic, in others, in ourselves, in the world. We also aid in shutting down our sisters, and by extension ourselves.

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One thought on “Give to Receive, 2

  1. Hi Carrie, Both yesterday’s and today’s blogs stirred things inside me. In my early experience as a writer, giving to receive was pretty much a dead end road. For years I treated others like I would like to be treated, with the expectation that they would treat me the same way. More often than not, I got that pail of slop on my head.

    So I developed the fine art of giving just to give, which required a huge reduction in the expectation of getting anything back. I don’t claim this was easy–or even rational, but it did free up the generous side of my nature and that in itself was a gift–to me.

    I loved what you said: “I have had to learn to congratulate myself first.” That is so true for me as well. When I fill up my own well with the happiness of just being me–whatever I’ve done becomes a chance to express another aspect of myself. That most often finds expression in doing the ‘happy dance’ when I finish a chapter–or write a great line–or think of a plot twist that gives me chills.

    One of the things I abhor about our culture is that we as women have been taught at an early age to hate what is unique about ourselves–especially when it comes to body image, but also creativity. In striving for perfection, we miss the point–that we are already perfect as we are.

    It physically hurts me to be around women–of any age–who talk about themselves negatively. Sometimes I have to leave the room or ask them to stop talking about themselves in that way. Usually when I look at someone, all I can see is how wonderful they are–how beautiful, how unique, how hard they try everyday to be the best person they can be. And yet these very same people (mostly women, but men too) can only see where they have failed–whether it’s being too fat, too poor, too unaccomplished, most people are on a constant diet of self-criticism and self-loathing.

    Until we really learn to see how beautiful we are as individuals, how talented, how unique, and praise those things in ourselves, praising others can be a hollow gesture that only makes us feel bad instead of truly reveling in the success of others.

    Ironically, one of the things that has happened over the long span of my creative life is that now I find myself in a position where I’m getting back a lot of love from my writer friends. Ironically, in learning to give just to give, I am now too receiving–not just from myself but from my wonderful, wonderful friends. When I run low on enthusiasum for this novel that I’ve been working on for a–well–a long, LONG time, I will suddenly get a phone call or email from a friend asking me how my work is going and sharing with me a concern for how a particular character is faring. My work has touched my friends–and that touches me in such a deep and wonderful way, that I am motivated to get back to work. Isn’t that grand?

    Thanks for stirring the pot, Carrie. As you know I think you are absolutely marvelous. By being honest with yourself, and sharing that honesty with us, we are led to that kind of bravery for ourselves.

    Much love, Luanne

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