Keep going, keep going come what may. But what is your final goal, you may ask. That goal will become clearer, will emerge slowly but surely, much as the draft turns into the sketch and the sketch into the painting through the serious work done on it, through the elaboration of the original vague idea and through the consolidation of the first fleeting and passing thought.
~Vincent van Gogh
This morning at the gym a woman was wearing a T-shirt that said “Marriage is so gay.” I smiled and thought about how things change.
A couple of my friends are flamboyantly gay men in their 60’s who grew up in the most conservative parts of rural America. I know that their youth was far from easy. And their adulthood hasn’t been a breeze either.
And yet it now seems that the tide has turned and the majority of Americans support gay rights and many simply see nothing to support continued bigotry. Thirty years ago this situation seemed like a pipe dream and that supporting it was a futile and dangerous effort to swim against the tide.
Seeing the t-shirt this morning reminded me that sometimes the things that seem so far away often aren’t. I was stunned by the swift demise of two fixtures of my childhood - the Soviet Union and war in Northern Ireland. Sometimes those things that seem intractable or etched in concrete can alter in the blink of an eye.
I’ve been championing the concept of gifting and creating a gift culture and even the most liberal of my friends have no idea what I’m talking about until I explain it. Sometimes it’s disheartening. But it’s what lives in my heart and wants expression through me and maybe one day in my lifetime it will be old news.
What do you dream of creating? What is the yearning for expression through you? What is the beautiful world that you envision through your heart’s eye?
I often pose this question with consulting clients or in grants training. Answering it is much harder than it first appears.Why is it so hard to really tell the truth about what we yearn to create?
We’ve had our hopes dashed many, many times before – both personally and professionally. And, we’ve been well-conditioned since childhood not to ask too much and to be realistic. Professionally, we’ve been told to play the game, make do with what we have, and abide by ridiculous soul-destroying regulations in the name of winning the overall game.
So, when someone asks you to be honest about what it is that your heart yearns to create we stifle the response before it can even leave our mouths.I invite you to ponder what it is that your heart truly yearns for over the next week…tenderly.
And let the answer emerge and get clearer. Just as Van Gogh’s sketch turns into a painting, let your dream emerge and gain clarity as you form it with collaborators and start putting it down on paper.
To be able to do this, you’ll need to make space for the part of you that is cynical, that believes that issues like poverty and hunger are pervasive and intractable.
I just saw an article in Positive News that cited a study by Harvard researchers in which 1,000 people were asked to play a game that required them to make a decision about how much to contribute to a common pool. Those who made the decision within 10 seconds contributed 15% more than those who deliberated for longer. The study shows that our initial impulse is towards generosity and with more reasoning becomes more selfish.
So, your initial thoughts will probably be generous and beautiful and then you’ll start discounting them. I encourage you to make space for those thoughts that say you’re crazy, you don’t have time, it’s not feasible, who do you think you are, you’re not up to it etc etc. You’ll start a tally of all the reasons why something won’t work…usually because it hasn’t in the past.
Those thoughts and feelings are natural and normal. We’ve grown up in a culture that values logic more than emotion and money more than nature. Since we are emotive beings who are a part of nature we’ve had a lifetime of denying a precious core part of ourselves and we are allleft wounded and bruised by the experience. It’s just part of the experience of growing up.
We don’t need to deepen the wound or worsen the bruising by further punishing ourselves for our feelings or thoughts – whether they are of joy, hope, cynicism or grief.
Let yourself feel what you feel and notice the thoughts. They are valid because you are having them. Make space for them to exist and appreciate the role that they play in your life.
Andnotice that there is a part of you that isn’t feeling and thinking – the part that is making space and being tender.
With that as the context, keep asking what it is that you truly, in your heart of hearts, want to create and bring into the world.