• One Minnesota Writer

Artist’s Way Check In #9 – Compassion and Toys in the Office

This week’s work was supposed to focus on recovering a sense of compassion. I felt inexplicably silly about being reminded to stop yelling at myself and wondered how this really applies to where I am in my life right now.

Then something happened that reminded me that, yes, compassion towards self really does matter.

This week, I took a leap, spread-eagle through the air without a net. Without a solid plan, for that matter. It happened over wine with my friend Patricia, with whom I share a long history of launching big things over wine. One summer, we hatched a Julia Child cook-off with our respective families. The cook-off resulted in a ton of great food that loaded down Patricia’s dining room table on a hot August night and a chance to trade my usual jeans for a little black dress. Another time, we decided a September road trip to the Badlands was exactly what we needed to help us combat a simmering sense of invisibility. We thundered across South Dakota, stayed in a cabin situated along the Badlands loop, and hiked our hearts out while we reclaimed ourselves as strong women. This past week, the leap was a brainstorm for a poetry reading with a Tucson-based poet Patricia knows (haven’t heard his answer yet, so he shall be unnamed for now), a friend of mine who is planning on visiting from England this fall, and myself.

This is the scariest leap I’ve made in a while. Me and stage fright…..ranks right up there with war, famine, and bees. And what will the other poets think of me? Oh, yeah, my confidence shakes. Then add that the three people I’ve told about this idea so far haven’t exactly responded with, “Great! I’ll be there!” but a response more like, “oh, that’s nice”. I have to remind myself that poetry readings don’t get the same sort of enthusiasm from the general population that a Madonna tour does. Or a great dinner that involves wine.

So, what was that about compassion? I need to remember that offering art to the world requires that we be kind to ourselves and that not everyone has the same desire to be around the type of art that engages me. That’s okay. It isn’t personal.

Where, then, do the toys come in? Ah. There was a sentence in Chapter 9 of The Artist’s Way that stuck with me as much as the part about compassion. This is it: “In order to work well, many artists find that their work spaces are best dealt with as play spaces.” As I’m bumbling through any given day, be it reading other people’s work or making my own, there are all kinds of things in my office that I can reach for to give my mind a playground recess. I have a squishy skull on which the eyes bulge if I squeeze it hard enough, a stuffed Kokopeli my husband brought back from the Southwest (Where, exactly? Can’t remember.), a deck of Goddess Knowledge Cards with the best spacy artwork ever, a gargoyle that holds pencils, a crystal ball, an Indian brass bell, crayons, a Buddha Machine, and a set of binoculars. I love that I have all these odd little things in my office.

The toys remind me to laugh. And I am highly amused that what I felt silly about was the reminder to be kind to myself rather than that I have toys in the office.

Go figure.

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