Among people who get spiritual readings, there is always a really “great” reader that you really “must” see if you go to some particular town. So when my mother came to New York six years ago to fulfill her grandmotherly duties, she was told she had to see Reggie Arthur, a really amazing energy healer. When she went to get a reading, my name came up a few times and after a lot of arm twisting, she finally convinced me to go get a reading.
That reading was an invaluable pressure reliever. At a time when I was consumed with parenting, he widened my vision and reminded me that my new reality—motherhood—was just one point in my life journey. Reggie became my reader and I became the person who would refer him to friends. A few years ago, he began giving out a flyer with his readings. The flyer is called The Freedom Puzzle.
When he gave it to me, I scanned it, not really wanting to read it or consider it. I stuck it on my door and let my eyes slide over the words, refusing to read it outright. The bits of text I deciphered from those sidelong glances reminded me of a favorite Cassandra Wilson lyric:
The choices are simple, living them ain’t easy.
There are very few circumstances in life in which we don’t know what to do. The problem is it can be difficult to figure out how to do what we know we need to do. And once we figure out how to do it, we may find it difficult to continue doing what we need to do to get where we want to go. The choices: simple; living them, ain’t easy.
Living those choices becomes harder and harder as more and more responsibilities mount in an artist’s life. If you have children, if you have a mortgage, student loans, or any other responsibility. Besides that, you may get to the point where you are interested in sustainability. Yes, you can put your all into making art, but what can you actually sustain?
In the push and pull of how I’m going to continue being an artist while mothering, I had an epiphany last year. The epiphany is nothing new. It’s something that everyone knows: writers write… artists make art. I need to clear off space for writing every day. (The choices: simple; living them ain’t easy.) Somehow, after many years of angst about how I would continue writing, the mojo came back. The interest rose up and I started writing new fiction. Great. But… no matter how excited about the new writing I was, I would get home and crash. My body was programmed to parent, then crash, whenever I crossed the threshold into my house. Things had changed. All this time I’d been blaming my lack of artistic output on the writing muse abandoning me, but I realized the problem was much, much simpler. I can no longer write at home.
Rather than lament this turn of events (lamenting has been my reaction of choice to life issues that challenge my attempts to write), I took a leap from the realization that I can no longer write at home and did some problem solving. I found a real, sustainable way to fit daily writing into my life. I got a babysitter to pick my daughter up from school, started bringing my laptop to work and went straight from work to a café or a library, and spent an hour writing.
The solution was frightfully simple. So is the Freedom Puzzle. The Freedom Puzzle is simply this:
Comfort is the enemy of progress, … therefore “agitation” is good!
(Ask yourself the following questions patiently and constantly until the answers link up and speak to your inner-being.)
How do “I” get to where “I” want to be?
(Then ask yourself the question directly below)
What is it that “I” don’t do that keeps what “I” want most from me?
How did “I” get to where “I” am?
(Then ask yourself the question directly below)
What is it that “I” do continually (all of the time) that always “attracts” to me exactly what “I” don’t want ?
(DO THE ABOVE WITH PATIENCE AND DETERMINATION, AND DISCOVER THE KEY TO SETTING YOURSELF FREE!)
There are no secrets here. Just questions and answers. What do I want? How do I get there? And when you get that answer, you put one foot in front the other and do it—do what you need to do to get there. It’s simple, but by no means easy. It means we have to face our limitations. We have to face our blockages. We have to face our history. We have to face our complacency. We have to face ourselves.
I’m currently inspired by an artist friend of mine who decided to take a Success Covenant for 2009. She was inspired by teachings at the New Year’s Day service at Unity Temple in New Orleans. The pastor defined a covenant as a solemn agreement, usually between two people, to do a specific thing to achieve definite results. My friend’s success covenant is to take one step every day toward achieving all the success she wants, obtaining all the wealth she wants, and securing all the love she wants.
I think the covenant is brilliant because it takes those big desires that are fraught with fear and confusion and worry and breaks them down into doable actions. One small action a day.
I hope each of you is inspired to make covenant with yourselves to achieve whatever it is you may be desiring in 2009. Not to do it all at once frantically. But to do it simply, confidently, with ease and consistency. To do it in a way that gets it done.
Be well. Be love(d).
Kiini Ibura Salaam
P.S. My hour-a-day covenant with myself yielded a story called “Bio-Anger” which is part of a NetArt project called Tumbarumba (www.tumbarumba.org).
Tumbarumba is a frolic of intrusions—a conceptual artwork in the form of a Firefox extension. Tumbarumba hides stories—twelve new stories by outstanding authors—where you least expect to find them, turning your everyday web browsing into a strange journey.