Succulent Serendipity in the Midst of the Ocean

Photograph: Trish Jean

Living in process is being open to insight and encounter. Creativity is becoming intensively absorbed in the process and giving it form. -Susan Smith

When we choose to live our lives in a process way, we choose to be open to all that life has to offer. Our illusion of control has often filtered out new insights and encounters. We have been so focused upon our goals and the way things have to happen, that we have missed the succulent serendipity of chance awareness. We have been so afraid of losing our illusion of control that we have missed some of the richest of encounters that life was offering us. When we participate fully in the process of our lives, we discover new forms of our creative self. Creativity has many avenues. Just living our lives can cultivate our conscious creativity.

– excerpt from Meditations for women who do too much by Anne Wilson Schaef.

I’m in the midst of the ocean. The swell raises me and drops me. It is like a roller coaster ride, and I’ve been on it for a while. The best thing is that I chose to dive in. The hardest thing is that it’s not a matter of just swimming like hell for the shore. And the ocean isn’t too fussed if I’m a huffing wind of frustration as I try to manifest change. It’s just as happy when I’m the clouds reflecting on the water as when I’ve been diving deep and kick hard to surface and breathe.

In process. This is the state. The ocean is always in process. It is always the ocean no matter what the fish are doing, how many boats are cutting away, whether it’s still or doing a tango with a storm. It is what it is in its ever-changing way, and I would do well to recognise that essentially, so am I.

Here’s a little aside…a friend said to me once that she wondered how many kids had peed in the ocean pool that we were running in. I told her that whales pee in the ocean, so what should we care, there was bound to be pee in the water. Maybe that shouldn’t be an aside, I think that’s a good metaphor for life too!

I learned a lot about process last year when I was working on an artwork for my second exhibition. I treated it like I treat work and study. I can hammer it out and it’s always about the next output then the next one and then the one after that. I spent a lot of time thinking about my concepts, until I was sure about what I wanted to do, then started work. I tried to pull it all together the night before I had to deliver it. Only to discover I couldn’t make it how I had pictured it and I hated it.

Truly, hate is a strong word for me, I don’t hate. I don’t hate that my parents died when I was young, I don’t hate the men who have inappropriately helped themselves to my body, I don’t hate the employer who didn’t come through and left me without a secure income, I don’t hate the taxman who is chasing me for too many years of missing tax returns. I did hate this artwork! It looked like something I would have made as a kid with my lack of art-related skills…which is probably because I still lack a lot of art-related skills and I hadn’t factored that in! Fortunately the artwork was accidentally broken on the way to deliver it and I got a reprieve. And some valuable learning.

I understand now that creating art is as much about the experience of creating, the being in process, as the final product. And that I have to allow for the time, make the commitments, have a go, be uncomfortable with what I can’t do, enjoy and use what I can and what I learn to do, accept my level of ability, be compassionate and self forgiving when it’s not working out and remember to be grateful for what goes well and the moments of joy. Makes sense doesn’t it? So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I eventually made the leap to understanding that as a recovering workaholic this need to be in process applies to my life.

As a workaholic I was utterly focused on everyone and everything but me. So now I am striving for a different way of being, but striving is a bit tainted, you know that whole being in the midst of the ocean thing…striving isn’t the most helpful way to be in process.

And what I want is to be normal. To be more physically, emotionally, practically normal. To do the normal everyday things people do. I’ve come to equate my lack of normality with my inability to find love. Which is pretty silly if you think about it, because firstly, what is normal, and secondly, normality has never been the reason why my friends and family love me! And I don’t judge them by these crazy ideas of “normalness”!

Some years ago one of my gorgeous sisters gave me a daily devotional for women who do too much. It took some time for me to accept what I was reading and believe that for me, doing too much was an issue. The readings in the book helped me to get it and also to challenge the principles and assumptions that underpinned my way of being. It was a raft in the ocean. Recently when I was looking in my studio for a particular book I found the daily devotional again and started reading it. I take my recovery from workaholism seriously and I think I have to be mindful of what I’m doing in my life and why if I start getting too busy – busyness can easily take over where workaholism left off.

Anyway, my point is that on the day I opened the book again it had a passage about being in process and there was my life on the page, there was me floating in the ocean! And I thought about the art project, the broken windmill, the hopeless attempt to tell a story in ways I wasn’t really able to. And I realised that I need to be in process in my life. That’s much closer to a useful definition of normal.

So as I splash about in the ocean, trying to manifest change I have to remind myself about how far I’ve come, that some days are just treading water, that patience and persistence and self forgiveness are required. The journey manifests itself physically, I’ve lost a lot of weight but have more to lose, for some reason my hands have broken out in the worse case of stress related dermatitis I’ve had, my hair is very short and gladly grey. Spiritually I’ve been strengthened over the past year and I continue to commune with my God about my purpose and pathway. And emotionally and intellectually I can be very frustrated and perplexed with myself and at other times, thankfully, I have radical acceptance.

Tomorrow is another day in the ocean.

P.S. Okay another aside…I’ve just been back on fb and either I’m paranoid, it’s some kind of weird serendipity I’m not looking for, or it’s the wonders of modern behind the scenes social media sharing business…there are adverts on my page for elite singles…much, much older men with grey hair…is it because I mentioned in this post my inability to find love and that my hair is grey?! Good grief! Made me chuckle 🙂

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