By the second week of January, is discussion of new plans already passe? I mean, how many resolutions have been pushed aside as impractical already, right? I wouldn’t know; in past years I’ve scoffed at the making of New Year’s resolutions. Then, for some reason, the “figure out what I’m doing–really, what am I doing?” bug hit me with a vengeance, along with a case of a post-holiday emotional funk.
“Am I hitting my mid-life crisis a decade or two early?” I asked Jason. He, good husband that he is, listened, tolerated a growing pile of moist, balled-up tissues, and asked me why I was comparing myself to other people and why I needed a plan. That was a turning point. One from which to travel forward with more attention to other road signs.
One such road sign was this essay by Lanier Ivester, “Creativity: Spiritual Battle and Spiritual Discipline,” which helped me to realize some truths about myself as not only important, but also not weird. In describing the battle and discipline of living a Christian and creative life, she relates some of the disciplines of her own life. Disciplines that help keep her heart “calibrated to its true North.” One of these is cultivating solitude, of not filling her days with things that she says “yes” to, because she fills she ought. She writes:
It’s taken me a long time to make peace with this facet of my personality; to admit without shame—even to a roomful of like-minded rabbits!—that I seem to forget everything I know about myself and about God without relatively enormous amounts of solitude. I say relatively—I think previous generations didn’t feel quite so hagridden to justify “wide spaces” in their own hearts the way we do in this efficiency-enamored era of ours. But all I know is that for as long as I can remember I have been haunted by something I have only recently begun to refer to as the Monastic Ideal—a phrase I lifted from an Elizabeth Goudge book—the sense of stepping back from the world in order to make something beautiful by which to love the world.
Upon reading the first few lines in this section, I realized that I was seeing myself in Ivester’s experience. I, too, find myself disoriented, forgetful of God’s love and of how He has created me, without “relatively enormous amounts of solitude.” To hear someone else describe a need for solitude as both a legitimate need and a starting point for seeing beauty and sharing it with others filled my heart with gratitude where restless doubt had been gnawing. I am grateful for the way God has formed me–and that He’s provided me with opportunities for the very solitude that I desire. I’m thankful that it can be a vehicle for conveying the beauty He shows me to others–that it’s not a selfish desire to be guilty over. And I’m thankful for others, like Lanier Ivester, whose discipline of solitude has reminded me of these truths.
All this is to say that in this, the start of my second year without a full-time job, I’m evaluating my focus, my perspective on the time that I have. Throughout this past year, I struggled with the need to validate my “free time” through trying to get more traffic to my blog, through seeing if I could have some sort of monetary success with my photography. Often, it turned into unhealthy “like” counting on this blog and facebook, which in turn affected my mindset toward creative endeavors (would others like it? would it get their attention?). This year, among a few other goals, I want to allow a bit more margin between my creative endeavors and a public display of them. To that end, I’m still planning on posting a couple times a week, but more as a sort of reflection on thoughts and pictures from previous weeks, rather than photographing or writing with an aim of instant publication. It’s a small start, but one I’m hoping has its intended effect: worrying less about others’ reception of a piece and enjoying the pursuit of beauty.
What are you seeking this year?