A few nights ago, I had a breakthrough. I was lying in bed feeling overwhelmed about my finances, my online class, and my compromised living situation. In the hopes of making it to the other side of my anxiety, I let myself get really worked up. I allowed myself to fully believe that the end was near. The end of my creative practice. Of my freedom. Of the possibility of paying off my debts. Of anything and everything good in my life.
Then, amidst my sobs, the tiniest voice piped up inside my head. It said something along the lines of, “Maybe those things will happen. And what do you have control over?” I stopped crying and thought about it. I have control over my thoughts and what I give my attention to. I have control over what I focus on when things get tough. Which is not nothing. And while none of this was new information, this time it felt different.
In that moment, my whole body relaxed, my mind quieted down, and I was filled with a feeling of calm. While I didn’t want to disrupt my sleep schedule, I did want to make use of the sudden clarity I was feeling. So I pulled out my laptop, opened up my budget—which I have been avoiding—and got to work figuring out what I need to feel more financially and emotionally stable. And as it turns out, it’s not an impossible amount of money.
More surprisingly, when those agitated thoughts from before tried to sneak back into my head, I was able to acknowledge them with a firm, “No.” That was quickly followed up with, “I don’t have time for you. Now go away.” And they did. To my complete amazement, they went away. Of course, they kept coming back. And every time, I sent them packing. Even the next morning when they reappeared, I easily dismissed them.
Perhaps this breakthrough is the result of necessity. I really don’t have time to get distracted by the limitless amount of things I don’t have control over. My online class goes live in less than a month and there’s still so much to do. What’s more, I’m not willing to let the final weeks of my first big creative project in years dissolve into the same stress and anxiety that I was feeling last time. It matters to me that I feel good as I cross the finish line.
If not from necessity, then my breakthrough must surely be the result of my ability to be with the pain, anxiety, and darkness that exists inside all of us. As I’ve written before, I’m not here to be good, I’m here to be awake. And part of being awake means sitting—or crying—with the edges of what it means to be a creative human. Which is uncomfortable and probably won’t be the death of you. But that’s for you to discover.
So, what do you need to feel so you can have a breakthrough?