What I’ve learned through coaching and teaching The Artist’s Way is that people who come to me are essentially looking for the same thing – to change their state of being from existing to living. It’s a recurring theme in my practice. People have abandoned the writing, the painting, the acting, the photography, the piano. They’ve not made time for museums or ice skating or taking the ferry just for the heck of it. They’re tightly wound, their schedules allow for no time to just breathe or be spontaneous. The holiday trip into New York becomes about throwing an elbow instead of lingering over how delightful and magical the windows are at Bergdorf’s.
Some people get it. They always have. Others have an epiphany and they run with it. Take Virginia Woolf. I recently read A Room of One’s Own and found this gem of a quote: “Or walk in the spring sunshine the stockbroker and the great barrister going indoors to make money and more money and more money when it is a fact that five hundred pounds a year will keep one alive in the sunshine.”
Now I don’t know what that translates into today in American dollars. It was written in the 1920s. And I’m not suggesting everyone quit their jobs and don a tie-dye shirt and just live and let live, baby. What I am saying is that Ms.Woolf has a point. Being alive in the sunshine is something to strive for. For one person that means a country home on a lake. For another it means buying a pair of lavender angora socks.
So here’s what I’m suggesting. Make a resolution to spend more time in 2004 living than existing. That means figuring out what living means to you. For me it’s never taking for granted the stunning view of Manhattan just two blocks from my home. It’s having plenty of good coffee, a great pair of black leather boots and oodles of pretty stationery. It means liking what I do for a living and giving back some of the mentoring and guidance I’ve received along the way.
Sometimes the line between living and existing is blurry. Is living always positive?
Every time I take the recently reopened World Trade Center PATH train, I ponder that. Does living mean letting the sadness of pulling into that station in the middle of Ground Zero wash over me and seep in? I think it does. Isn’t living about being present and feeling? Today’s world presents a special challenge. We’re on high alert right now. Do we change our behavior? Avoid places we want to go because we’re scared? Or do we live our lives and hope for the best?
After all, if we’re truly living, isn’t it a bit like the proverbial roller coaster ride anyway? You have to experience the dips in order to experience the exhilarating journey back up. Sometimes you cling to the safety bar for dear life. Sometimes your arms are raised joyously in the air. What’s most important, though, is that you buy the ticket and get on the ride. You’re there, strapped in, for better or for worse.