Work in Progress

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

A couple of years ago, at the peak of my personal and professional struggles, I sat down with pen and paper to write my vision for what I wanted. I probably got the idea from the internet: You must be able to describe your desired future state before you can work toward it. I sat and sat. I could think of only one word. Finally, in massive letters that covered the whole page, I wrote: “FREEDOM.”

But I had no idea what it meant. “Freedom” was an amorphous feeling, not something I could make a plan for. Confused and frustrated, I hid the page behind some books and closed the door of the cabinet.

I used to think I needed to have everything “figured out”, so I approached everything as if I did have it all figured out. I committed to everything I chose to do and every person I chose to have in my life. I made plans and forged ahead; I was unstoppable.

Commitment is commendable, but over-commitment has a serious downside.
I committed fully to many things and many people that weren’t right for me, locking myself into dark rooms.

For some people, change is thrust upon them. For me, it happened in small, unremarkable moments. A bunch of little holes poked into walls, letting light through here and there. Ever so slowly, the idea occurred to me that I had exactly nothing figured out. That having it all figured out was, in fact, dangerous when I considered the volume of energy and years I’d lost to the wrong things. Wherever the sense of obligation to be “right”, to be certain, to have everything figured out had come from, it was not serving me.

Slowly, I started to give myself permission to be an eternal work-in-progress.

This has meant reconnecting with my right brain and welcoming the messiness of creation. This blog is one manifestation of that, a public acknowledgement that I’m in constant flux. It’s a celebration of being O.K. with not knowing what’s coming next or how things will unfold. The “old Maria” would never have shared these vulnerabilities and uncertainties. She’d have judged them failures if she’d been able to recognize them at all.

I’m thinking of everything in my life as a “work in progress” now, and not long ago I had an incredible moment. I realized, suddenly, that I feel FREE.

What are you working on?

  1. Think of something you’ve been trying to “figure out”. It could be whether or how to go back to school, quit a job, get in or out of a relationship. Whatever it is, write down one or two words to describe it.
  2. Choose a creative activity that you enjoy (or used to enjoy), like painting, drawing, writing, knitting, sewing, or another.
  3. Use the word you wrote in #1 above as a prompt or inspiration to create something unstructured and unplanned in your creative act of choice. For example, you could:
    • Make an abstract painting
    • Write a found poem
    • Make music without a score
    • Improvise a solo dance routine
    • Knit or sew without a pattern
    • Do a free-write
    • Create a brand-new dish in the kitchen with no recipe
  4. Be aware of what comes out of you, and of how it feels.

Progressive Tense Cards

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