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Envy, Success, and Creativity

I envy other people’s success. Not in a mean or spiteful way – I don’t begrudge people their accolades, I think they deserve them – rather a part of me burns with yearning to have what they have. I’ve tried all the things I can think of to deal with envy – feeling it fully, using it as fuel for my own work, seeing it as an example of what’s possible, etc., but nothing has made a lasting difference.

This week the green-eyed monster struck again and I sincerely asked the universe for help. I don’t like feeling envious, it’s not something I enjoy, or how I’d like to respond to the success of others. The universe stepped in, as it always does, and I contemplated a prayer I say every morning. Specifically, that I act as an instrument for my higher power, that I may be of service to others, and that I’d like to be used as my higher power sees fit. This week it occurred to me my creative endeavors also apply.

We are all creative. Photo by david clode on Unsplash.

On some level I already know this and it’s the main reason I have this blog, to use my words in service of others. I already believe my role as an artist is to establish a link between the finite and infinite, the mundane and the transcendental. In terms of creativity, it means I’m working with something more than me. Talk to any artist and they’ll tell you at some time or another it felt like they were channeling something, that something moved through them. Indeed, Elizabeth Gilbert has a mega-popular video on creativity saying exactly that. If that’s true, and I believe it is, it means I’m an instrument for my higher power. I’m the violin, not the violinist.

When I look at envy from this perspective, it means I’m not to blame for any success or failure. I’m the violin, I’m not in control of the music the violinist plays, nor am I in control of how well the music is received. I don’t know why certain things are popular and others languish in obscurity, but also I don’t know the mind of God. However, I’ve experienced enough synchronicity in my life to know I am a piece on God’s chessboard, that there is a greater intelligence at work. That means art too. It means perhaps certain things I write are supposed to reach a small number of people, and that’s it. I want to write a wildly popular book that lands me on the New York Times bestseller list, a segment with Oprah, and a prestigious award, but maybe every book has its own purpose and trajectory, and sometimes that means only six people will read it.

Envy pops up when my ego has gotten the best of me and I start thinking about my plans instead of the universe’s plans. Envy pops up when I think of myself as the violinist, not the violin. I have to take certain actions, I have to keep my instrument clean and my strings taut, so to speak, but the rest? It’s not up to me. Almost every successful person talks about a “lucky break,” being in the right place at the right time. I don’t think it’s luck, I think it’s grace, and that’s something I can’t manufacture no matter how hard I try. Nor am I supposed to. I’m the violin, allowing myself to be played, not the violinist.

I dream of a world where we realize we are not solely responsible for our creative successes or failures. A world where we recognize we are instruments for something greater than ourselves. A world where we take our egos out of the equation and merely allow ourselves to be played.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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The Biggest Thrill

When my co-worker died unexpectedly about two months ago, it rocked me. It shook my sense of stability and security, and I’ve been working hard to get back to feeling safe and secure ever since. Unfortunately, all of my usual methods haven’t worked. I still feel insecure and life still doesn’t feel stable.

I spoke with a friend about this and she reminded me life isn’t certain. We pretend it is, but it’s not. We think we know what will happen next, but we don’t. Usually that notion fills me with anxiety because when the outcome is uncertain, I err on the side of negativity. I know, that’s funny considering this blog is called “Another World is Probable” and I spend so much time talking about a bright future, but it’s true. For myself, I assume the worst – rejection, scarcity, death. On a visceral level, gazing into my future I foresee death, destruction, and despair. It makes sense then why I want to keep uncertainty at bay. The way I’ve done so is to plan. I plan for joy, for connection, for the future. That way I know I’ll engage in something pleasant. Or at least, that’s what I told myself. And it mostly worked, except also not really because I’m sure you’ve heard that saying, “When we make plans, God laughs.” Most often my plans went awry, but I made them anyway and I quelled my anxiety for the most part. I could be certain of most things and that was fine by me.

We’re on the biggest thrill ride of them all. Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash.

When my co-worker died, my notion of certainty shattered. I couldn’t keep pretending life could be certain, no matter how much I planned. His death was not something I anticipated. Nobody gave me advanced warning. He was here one day and gone the next, and that hurts.

In this moment I’m grieving him, and I’m grieving the loss of certainty. What my friend reminded me though is that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Good things are uncertain too. A new relationship, a new job, a new life are also things we cannot predict. We pretend we can by applying for new jobs, scouring dating websites, and having unprotected sex, but we don’t control what the company is, who we’ll fall in love with, or when we’ll get pregnant. We make an effort, we do the footwork, but when any of those things manifest is ultimately a surprise.

In December, friend and Soul Couch Jayantii Lawless told me she wished I felt thrilled. Not about anything in particular, not like she wished I felt thrilled about dinner that night, rather that I had the experience of “thrill” in general. I laughed and said, “Yeah, me too.” I envisioned “thrill” in the form of falling in love, but instead, the universe is illustrating life itself is thrilling. We are on a roller coaster replete with peaks and valleys. The roller coaster will go up and it will come down. The future is just as likely to be awesome as it is awful. It’s important for me to remember that because anticipating the future will be terrible isn’t working for me. I’d rather anticipate the future will be terrific because that’s just as likely.

I dream of a world where we recognize uncertainty can be exciting. A world where we remember it’s just as likely pleasant things will happen to us as unpleasant ones. A world where we realize life is the biggest thrill ride of them all.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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More than We Know

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.” – A.A. Milne

It seems to me right now we’re all being called to become our best selves. We’re being asked to stretch and grow in ways that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Milne’s quote reminds me so often I sell myself short and there is more courage, strength, intelligence, and love within me than I acknowledge.

There is some not-fun stuff going on in the world, as per usual, and the challenge for us is to rise to the occasion. For me personally, that means getting in touch with my inner power. Often I want other people to do the heavy lifting in my life. I want them to “fix me,” to “make me better,” to “have all of the answers,” or in some way allow me to play the damsel in distress. The place this shows up the most is with my health.

There’s more beneath the surface. Photo by Muhammad Shahzad on Unsplash.

I’m writing a long facebook note about everything my chronic illness has taught me, but for the purposes of this post I want to focus on empowerment. The dynamic that has shown up with my health is I approach doctors and healers not as partners in my path to wellness, not as people who help me to heal myself, but rather as wizards who will magically cure me without any effort on my part. I realize awe-inspiring stories of magical healing happen every day, and I so wish I could be one of those people, but thus far the universe has said to me, “Nah gurl, you gotta be your own hero and rescue yourself.”

I came to this conclusion after literally trying all the things Western and Eastern to heal my physical body and not seeing much in the way of results. A friend of mine posted about a book called Energy Medicine on Instagram and even seeing the title sparked curiosity within me to explore deeper. After the eclipse, an intense and passionate desire bubbled up within me to start reading the book. It’s a synthesis of all the modalities I have familiarity with – acupressure, energy meridians, chakras – and describes them in a practical way. The book explains why certain spots on my body are tender, or why I instinctively cradle my stomach. More importantly though, it’s empowering me to heal myself.

It’s early days, but even if I don’t see the results I’d like, it seems like a valuable lesson to remember I have power and magic within me. That I am capable of more than I think I am. That I don’t have to outsource everything to other people. This post is all about me, but the principle applies to the broader society as well. How many of us think what’s happening is “someone else’s” problem? Or that “someone else” will take charge? And how much of that is based on insecurity or inferiority?

My spiritual teacher says over and over again, “You should behave with every created being, every human being, in such a way that neither a superiority complex nor an inferiority complex develops in you, or in those with whom you interact. … A person must not suffer from an inferiority complex, because that person and his or her friends and siblings are all the progeny of the same Progenitor. They come from the same origin.”

That means I’m just as capable as anyone else. That means the same power within others is also within me. And vice versa.

I dream of a world where we recognize we all have inner power and strength. A world where we remember no one is superior or inferior to us. A world where we realize we are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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