Living a creative life is hard, y’all.
I experience it in my everyday life as a freelance writer, in the countless rejections I get as an actor, and in the struggles I’ve had this year in pursuing this blog. (Or should I say in not pursuing it. My last post here was 6 months ago, and it promised a monthly feature. Welp. 🤷 )
There’s constantly a fear of losing clients, missing out on jobs, wondering where my next paycheck will come from, and, of course, the unrelenting question, “Will I ever make it?” All of that on top of living with generalized anxiety disorder — you can see my predicament.
I told Mitch once (in reference to my clumsiness, not my anxiety, but I think it holds true in this regard, too) that sometimes I feel like when I was created they must not have finished molding me correctly. That God, or the Universe, or whatever you choose to believe put us here was like, “Wait! No! She’s not finished! Don’t send her out like that — Ah, well. Too late. Guess we’ll use her as a tester and see how things go.”
My anxiety thrives on trying to convince me that I have control over things I can’t control. It exists in the space between what I want or don’t want to happen and what is actually happening. It drives me, yet stifles me, and blames me at all at the same time.
That said, it seems like my life would have been much easier if I dreamt of doing something more mundane and secure. A career where you can google, “How to become a ______” and get thousands of pages listing step-by-step instructions on how to achieve it. Something I could better control because if we’re honest there are enough things about myself — like clumsiness and anxiety just to name a couple — that I can’t.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t molded that way. So, I’m constantly faced with the task of managing a personality that doesn’t exactly fit with the creative dreams I have.
I don’t go with the flow. I don’t handle rejection well — I take every, single one personally. I can’t stand the unknown. And I crave security.
In the last year or so, as I attempt to build a freelancing career (cue anxiety attack over quarterly tax payments, the lack of a 401K, and the crippling fear that I’ll wake up one day at 35 years old still making chump change and hustling for any publication that will have me) I’ve realized I have to find a place of acceptance with the fact that there isn’t much I can control. A place where, within that acceptance, I find the courage and strength to commit to controlling that which I actually do have power over. A place where I have a happy life regardless of what uncontrollable things may come.
Recently, I’ve drawn some valuable inspiration from two beautiful things — trees and tarot cards.
On a drive with Mitch a couple of weeks ago, I noticed how the trees along William Cannon Dr. grow through concrete and stretch far past power lines, becoming what they were meant to be regardless of their unfortunate locations. I felt like it was a great metaphor for life — a “grow where you’re planted” type thing. Trees (and all of nature for that matter) accept their circumstances and learn to grow no matter how humans limit them. They have no control over their situation, and yet they thrive anyway. They soak up water and sun when and where they can and they do what they can. They grow.
So, if my anxiety is the concrete holding me back, then a simple look at trees can remind me that there is still hope that my roots will eventually break through. Inch by inch, I can grow far beyond the seemingly unfair barriers and find a way to bloom past that which I can’t control. I can focus simply on controlling what I do have power over. Things like attending my therapy sessions, setting healthy boundaries for myself, eating well, taking vitamins, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and — much to my dismay — avoiding coffee when I can feel my anxiety is on the brink. If I’m patient and diligent enough, anything is possible.
As for where the tarot comes in, I’ve been listening to the Biddy Tarot podcast, learning more about the cards and how they can be applied to our everyday lives. What I find the most interesting is that when you truly learn about the tarot, you realize that it is more a tool for honing your intuition than telling fortunes.
The host of the podcast talks about clients who hope their tarot readings will give them direct answers to “yes or no” questions and then are disappointed when she tells them that’s not what tarot is all about. People come in wanting the tarot to give them some semblance of control over their futures, which as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, are unknowable.
Instead, what the cards do is connect you to what you know is true in your heart and guide you in a direction that feels authentically true for you. The symbols and stories within the cards can provide insight into the situation, but you must process them and then follow your intuition accordingly. The cards may shed light, but only you can truly affect the outcome by controlling what you can control.
So now when I ask myself, “Will I ever make it?” I try to reword the question in a way that better serves me because as it’s stated there, I don’t have the ability to answer it. Better questions are, “What practices are most effective in manage my anxiety?” or “What steps can I take today to get me closer to my dreams?”
There’s something freeing about letting go of that which you can’t control and really acknowledging the things you can. It feels empowering, too, particularly because anxiety is so rooted in the fear of the unknown and the feeling of absolute powerlessness. There’s so much in this world that I can’t control but there’s also so much that I can.
I can accept anxiety and clumsiness as parts of me. I can accept that I’m someone who craves roots and wings at the same time. And I can accept that I’m driven by the limitless possibility of life while simultaneously being terrified of uncertainty.
By no means do I think I’ve got it all figured out, but leading from a place of acceptance definitely feels like a start.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
― Carl R. Rogers