Friday, July 17, 2009

Enough of a Challenge

When I'm making art, one of the ways I keep my butt in the chair long enough to create anything is to listen to books on CD, or music. When it's music, quite frequently I choose music that puts me "in the mood"--usually old favorites (sometimes really old). I've found that making art is not the time to try out a new potential muse; if the music doesn't suit or inspire me, it just interrupts my process and takes me out of the "zone" I'm trying to get into.

While my choice of music for making art is very much intentional, my choice of books on CD is not--I simply grab a stack of something that looks interesting to me on the library shelf. If whatever book I'm listening to while making art happens to fit the art that I'm making, it is sheer coincidence.

I don't believe in coincidence. I do, however, believe in the power of the collective unconscious (for you fundamental die-hards out there, translate: "Holy Spirit" if it makes you more comfortable--it's all the same thing to me).

Today I am experiencing just such a coincidence. I'm working on a series called "Patterns of Behavior: Predator and Prey," which centers around patterns from my own childhood and adult family interactions, as well as similar situations in my current work environment. The book that I happen to be listening to made it into the CD drive when I started working on this series, because I was in the middle of it while commuting to and from Goucher College for a class a couple of weeks ago. That's all--I just wanted to finish the book before going on to something else.

The book I'm listening to now is called I Will Not Be Broken: Five Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis , by Jerry White. He is a land mine survivor who started an organization called "Survivor Corps" that originally served to help other land mine survivors in third world countries without the generous means available to most Americans for their recovery. It has grown to broaden its definition of "survivor" to include all manner of physical, emotional and psychological trauma.

I got the book because I love inspiring stories. I was about 3/4 of the way through the book before I realized that I have suffered and survived a whole battery of psychological and emotional traumas throughout my life, and one really big one just recently. His book has been explaining to me why I am a survivor and not a victim, and how it is the choices that I have made that have determined the outcomes and my attitude, and what have tipped the scales from victimhood toward survivorship.

In short, the 5 steps are: 1) Face Facts, 2) Choose Life, 3) Reach Out, 4) Get Moving, and 5) Give Back. (You can read the book if you want to find out what is involved at each step. Click on this link to get the book from I Will Not Be Broken: Five Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis .)

Here is what struck me like a bell today while I was listening to this book and making art:

"It's enough of a challenge to save myself, keeping my own attitudes and life in order. I would just as soon avoid too much contact with whiners and complainers, and give them what they need to move forward. I confess it is much easier to hang out with friends who are already on the survivor path than those on the victim path. If you give of yourself to a victim, you must do so carefully and with clear parameters. If you don't watch out you'll be doing more harm than good...If you aren't vigilant, you are brought into the victim web of rationale and deception...Victims must get what they need. At the end of the day, they are net takers. They draw in more than they give out, and ingratitude is the dominant sin. After all, who has the time to be thankful when we are nursing our own wounds? Beware. Victimhood is insatiable. Feed it and it will grow. Reward it and it will spread like a virus."

Also from the book, the 5 hallmarks of victimhood:
  1. Living in the past.
  2. Self pity.
  3. Resentment.
  4. Blaming.
  5. Taking.
There are many things from this book that helped me to understand that many of the hard choices I've made concerning work and family in the last year and half were good for me, and exactly what I needed to do to be healthy. The ensuing uproar and outcry from those who would "[draw me] into the web of rationale and deception" to feed their own addictions is their problem, not mine. I've been surviving; overcoming; breaking free of the insanity of those patterns and behaviors.

Jerry White is right: that is enough of a challenge. I'm taking it, facing facts, choosing life, reaching out, getting moving, and giving back. It feels good.

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