I crashed for a few days after wrapping up filming last week. I had underestimated the emotional release that would accompany coming full circle. My usual creative anxiety had never felt lighter and my body had never felt heavier. Yet, despite the fog of exhaustion that descended on me almost immediately afterwards, I was thrilled that I had made it this far. The creative wound I am trying to heal is now well on its way to recovery.
With so much to celebrate, I was caught off guard when my delight gave way to sadness. At first I thought it was simply because of recent events. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that I had been thinking of my healing process only in terms of my creative practice. As a result, I had pushed the personal events that took place at the same time as my creative burnout to the side. And now they too needed to be acknowledged.
Burnout is an apt name for that time in my life because I was prone to setting things on fire the moment I thought I smelled smoke. Once I got started, it was difficult for me to stop. My metaphorical acts of arson were fueled by the belief that things would fall apart eventually so there was no harm in hastening the process. Of course, the reason that part of my life came undone so completely was because I undid it.
So while my creative wounds are developing that first layer of fresh skin, my heart is mourning the peripheral damage of that self-inflicted inferno. I am missing the partner who I was with at the time. While we should have never become lovers, we were creative soul twins who lost each other in the blaze. I am also feeling sad about the friendships I abandoned when the heat became so overwhelming that I thought my only option was to flee.
For the longest time, I told myself that I didn’t have time to mourn the peripheral damage of my creative burnout. That I’d be lucky to make a full creative recovery and didn’t need more than that. Now, however, I see that addressing my creative wounds is a way in to working through the other ways I am hurting. It’s a way to include and transcend the personal ways of being that got me this far and that are no longer serving me.
The point of life is not to be perfect, it’s to be present. It’s not to never burn good things to the ground. Avoiding regret doesn’t mean never making mistakes. It’s possible to exist in the “both and” space of feeling joy and sadness simultaneously. You, like me, like everyone else is human and that means being in the mess. So what matters, then, is that we allow the damage we cause to makes us more empathetic.
Where could you exercise more empathy towards yourself?