Now is the time to know that all you do is sacred. ~Hafiz
I turned 50 a few months back and maybe it's because I've got two feet firmly planted in midlife (and menopause but that's another story!), but I've felt compelled to slow down, to renew my commitment to weeding out what is no longer serving me and to seek as much wonder and beauty as possible, to create a beautiful, artful, meaningful life.
But what does that really mean?
I think we all say we want to slow down and "live life to the fullest" but in practice we all have dental appointments and carpools and zumba classes. We may look at creativity as something other people are gifted at, not me.
------- I'm using a lot of words here- beauty, wonder, meaning, creativity- and they are all connected. Adopting a slower pace, seeing things in a new way, being open to new ways of doing things. This is what living a creative life means to me.-------
And of course, living a creative life can also mean learning to draw or play guitar or write poetry too but I think the easiest way to begin is by paying attention in a new way.
This poem has become my mantra. I printed it out and put it in a few different rooms in my house, as a constant reminder.
When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn; when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox; when death comes like an iceberg between the shoulder blades, I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness? And therefore I look upon everything as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, and I look upon time as no more than an idea, and I consider eternity as another possibility, and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular, and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending, as all music does, toward silence, and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth. When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it's over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
I'm specifically drawn to this part:
When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
This speaks to me as someone at midlife who is thinking much more about her mortality, someone who is at a unique point in her life: looking back and looking forward. The alchemy of midlife, the potential for change and transformation is palpable: new ways of seeing and creating and existing are right at the surface.
I should back up a bit. You may think, well you're an artist, it's easy for you to live a creative, artful life. Duh.
But I wasn't always a painter. I was a creative child who grew up and thought I needed to get a "real job" (not a creative one) so I got a degree in Sociology and did all sorts of work with kids and older folks and liked it well enough until my 30s.... when something started bubbling up and I didn't know what it was but I knew I was changing. I was not satisfied with my beige life, my boring life. There were significant periods of time- years- that I spent on autopilot. I was not, as Mary Oliver says, taking the world in my arms.
At that point in my life I don't think I had any hobbies. I was afraid to start any kind of creative practice because I didn't want to be bad at it. And it turns out I am pretty bad at sewing and making pie crust. But I really enjoy things like sewing and making pie crust. And listening to music, growing things, taking pictures, cooking, singing in the shower. Gradually the fabric of my life became richer and more interesting after giving my permission to play. Even though I'm not an excellent baker or musician (or even painter) I enjoy being able to play.
So how about you?
- Do you make time for play in your life? In what ways?
- Do you consider yourself creative? What does living a creative life mean to you?
- Considering Mary Oliver's poem, what would it look like for you to be "married to amazement" and "take the world into your arms"?
This post kicks off a series of posts devoted to exploring midlife and what it means to live a creative life. If you have ideas for this series I'd love to hear from you either by email or in the comments below!
And if you're interested in exploring midlife more in-depth, I made a printable PDF workbook called The Unfolding. As we speak I'm expanding the course to include videos on each chapter. This workbook is very personal to my life experience and love to consider myself an evangelist for midlife alchemy and magic.