Posted by: innerpilgrimage | July 20, 2013

Fighting the Artist Within: Perfectionism and the Unwillingness to Even Color?

      When I was a kid, you couldn’t get me to stop creating art. I drew, painted, wove, sewed, made beads and even knotted macrame; I was just was a little hippie of crafting goodness. Today, I fear so much the imperfection that I am unwilling to create. That is a tragedy, in that I took my mind and locked away possibly the one thing which gave me an outlet from the madness of the materialistic and perfectionistic life that I was raised in.

      A sad irony is that my mother once was the same way, and she abandoned everything but knitting–something I actually can’t do. That said, I can crochet, something she cannot. My mother’s mother sewed, and I learned to sew from her. I created imperfectly, and it was good enough. Living in the moment, evolving as an artist. However, the mental pursuits were important to my family, and art fell by the wayside as an arbitrary and fickle source of material wealth. Art is the center of the stable “Earth”; it is the finishing touch to the emotional “Heart”; it is hidden within inspired “Creation”; it winds through mental “Mastery”. Okay, that is playing with English words, but the concept–to me–is that art has intense value to the world, that art has an emotional beginning, that art is part of the hidden fires of mystery, that art is raised up through committing to learning how. The mind is also made up of ideas which change direction like the breeze; when one simply consumes the sensory input as if it’s air (respiration of thought by inhaling sensory input then exhaling actionless ideas), one misses the wholeness that life has to offer each of us.
      That wholeness, connection to the unencumbered self, is what program is about for me. Clarity of mind leads to stability of purpose, fluidity of emotions, conflagration of spirit. All together, the journey to center leads to what I believe may be the path to the vertical path–as above, so below, as within, so without. Consider those little caltrops used in the game of jacks–ball-ended spikes representing the cardinal directions and their elemental representations, which have two tapered spikes passing vertically through the four ball-ended rods. Another image would be like a flat-disc spinning top. The flat, solid disc is the self of the world; the vertical spike is whatever ineffable experiences would be considered spiritual. Only in weighted balance can the blurring spin begin, where the only thing that seems solid is the spike. If the disc is imbalanced, it cannot spin. Right now, my self-in-the-world is so heavily weighted in the mental that there is no way to reach the vertical journey; it’s unstable and wobbly from the get-go, as my mind is weighted by so many conflicting ideas–that which I once needed for survival, that which I currently need for recovery, that which I will need to thrive and live a spiritually atheistic life: A life of compassion, altruism, self-knowledge, and interdependence. Currently, I live a life of manipulation, barter, self-denial, and isolation–if I am in relapse, it is definitely CoDA relapse. This isn’t a slip. This is a lifeways of fear.
      Thinking about it, I consider things like The Serenity Wish and a modified secular revision of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi from Waiting by Marya Hornbacher.
The Serenity Wish
May I find serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
Francis of Assisi’s Prayer, Secularized (by me)

I surrender to serenity today.
Where there is hatred, I love;
Where there is injury, I pardon;
Where there is doubt, I have faith;
Where there is despair, I embrace hope;
Where there is darkness, I accept light;
Where there is sadness, I invite joy.

I will be mindful not to seek to be consoled, as to console;
not to be understood, as to understand;
not to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in surrender that we find serenity.

      I have written before on the journey to center. This journey to center is fundamental to any spiritual journey, the metaphor for the process of surrendering to life, itself. I live on the edge of the mental, emotional, physical, and inspired self. Even though I am mind-dominated, this isn’t a mental clarity. This is mental conflict, the ideas I have learned over 43 years doing battle for dominance. Recovery just allowed the clear-minded thought to come through, that what worked then to keep me sane was a mental protection to get me here; I have spent decades changing, learning, observing, experiencing. The lessons I have had so far in recovery touch my logical mind, make so much sense to it. The resistance is that I fear losing that which I identify as self at this point–still. Losing my ego constructs is terrifying, because all I trust are the opinions, criticisms, and judgments which I toss about like mental caltrops in order to give myself a false sense of security. This is security theater for one, developing the invisible self even as I scream to be acknowledged. As I long to be accepted into the private club which I perceive is the human race. Set apart in my own mind, I enter black-and-white thinking–I deny that I am part of a greater living and evolving system, therefore in my ego I am all powerful in this mental prison of my own making. This is grandiosity in that I am regent of infinite space within my nutshell. The minute I have any input from the real world, I sense how tiny I am. How tiny I am in the grand scheme of things, smaller than human. This is the inferiority that I am less-than-zero. I don’t exist, and I beg to be seen, like a child.
      I am still hiding in that closet to keep from being found by those whose lives are unmanageable, living in my own darkness, my own unmanageable life. Life, itself, is not mine to manage. It’s not.
      I am considering the list of Non-Addictive Beliefs from Willpower’s Not Enough by Arnold Washton and Donna Boundy. I can see how my mind is privately divided, how I can see the recovery sense and the addict thoughts in conflict.
Recovery Beliefs
I embrace that I am imperfect.
I embrace that I am not all-powerful.
Boundaries give my life structure.
Through pain and loss, I heal and grow.
I embrace that I am enough as I am.
My problems are messages to reach out and practice interdependence.
The journey to self cannot be found in any person, place, thing, or situation outside of me.
I embrace my feelings because denying them is dangerous.
Honesty, not image.
My needs are my responsibility to meet; interdependence on others is one way of meeting them.
      So, back to art. I am trying to avoid doing it, because it bypasses the mind-uber-alles stuff. Yes, I come up with new artistic ideas and creations, still, and the time I have spent learning how to handle a pencil, a paintbrush, fibers, a needle, and even a crochet hook has given me the mental ability to express it. I just decimate myself through harsh judgment until I give up. I demand artistic perfection, which goes utterly and totally against the point of art. It’s not meant to be perfect, it is supposed to be self-expression. My mind is the gatekeeper of all of the things, and this is just not working. My life is uninspired, joyless, completely unstable. My thoughts shift like the changing winds of a thunderstorm, rain driving this way and that, stinging and cold. The fire of inspiration sparks; the rumble is loud and clear. From the sky, the unseen course descends downward with energy milestones. From the ground, the energy is visible as it surges back upward; it zigs and zags, branches. It’s not a perfectly straight bolt of lightning, perpendicular to earth and the cloud. Nature doesn’t work in shoulds; nature just is. Art doesn’t work in shoulds; art, also, just is. Art doesn’t require consumption to be art. It doesn’t need to be seen. Art is meant to touch our spirits, our hearts, show us that we are able to manifest the wordless into the world. Art is being-plus-doing, and it can create a balance which can open us into the spiritual moment, even tame the mind into clarity in the moment and get the judgmental ego out of the way.
      Art reflects nature. It can help us contemplate the wonders of the universe.
      Guided practice of art can bring one into the spiritual here-and-now. Recently, I have collected mandalas to color, because I don’t trust myself to make a mandala “perfect” enough to open the path inward. Trust isn’t a mental process, but I am treating it like one. I live in scarcity with my uncolored mandalas, being paranoid that I will lose it if I color it. Want to photocopy what I have. Fear of losing it. Even worse, I have the ability to make mandalas from yarn, from beads, from cloth. I have paints, embroidery thread, so many means to create.
      I just don’t.
      So, honesty over image. I want to be honest about this. I want to express my art, but I am not willing to express it for me. I want it to have an external approval. Creation. Heart. Earth. Mastery. All come together in Practice, and even if the axiom is that “Practice makes perfect”? There’s no art in the perfect or in perfection. A good lesson, I suppose, though I’m not quite sure there is an axiom. Practice is practice; it makes nothing on its own. But I’ll just let it go and stop trying to make a new clever judgment or turn of phrase to impress upon the world how clever I am.
      My name is Jess; I’m an addict–food, sexual/”love” approval, enmeshment. I chose to miss meeting this morning because I got terrible sleep. Nightmares. That mental clarity I once got from OA abstinence is gone. Everything I am doing is a mark of relapse in at least CoDA: perfectionism, isolation, a pattern of neglect, superficial recovery practices, white-knuckle control of my abstinence, self-pity, grandiosity, fantasizing and romanticizing acting out my time in full-blown addiction, and defeatism. Yes, I borrowed some of the language and definitely the concepts from Willpower’s Not Enough. I have to admit this to myself, and in turn, shine the light on my secrets.


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