As Autumn approaches, I find myself musing the same open question. How do I envision the close of this year? What do I want it to look like? How many times has this image altered itself and perhaps most notably, what has remained a constant image? Earlier this year, this question conjured up images of hope, renewal, ambitious restructuring and lofty aspirations; but these days, anxiety is obnoxiously bullying its way into the mix to steal the spotlight.
If we are to be true to ourselves, we recognize and welcome all of our feelings, acknowledge all of what our senses are sending our way, even if they are not so attractive. It would be inauthentic to pretend that this year has not awakened impatience, fear, confusion, anger, and loss to our lives in varying degrees. And with 2020's incessant question playing on a loop in my mind, it can become aggravating as the months progress and this year of instability delivers yet another unsettling surprise after another.
There is so much commotion in this world right now, from the pandemic to its infinite tentacles. It reaches far and wide, affecting everything from global to every day issues, but it has also exposed how much in our world has been horribly broken. On the brighter side, this delivers much needed opportunity for improvement, but even so, what comes first? How do we honestly and effectively address one issue without being accused of foresaking another? There are so many hyper-charged opinions, so many stubborn stances, so many voices...and unfortunately, as we as a society tend to do, we close our ears. We dismiss what unites us and seek out what (allegedly) divides us. And because of this, we become stuck. I do sincerely believe that we are capable to make ourselves "unstuck" and will be able to move forward again. I often wonder what it will be that finally gets the wheels of progress and compassion turning once more. I have come to learn that answer is always the same, no matter what the circumstance, no matter the context. That person is me. That image is my own. I am responsible for being the best representative of how I wish the world to be. I am responsible for moving myself forward. I am responsible for how I respond to the world. All of it. This is what I can control, 100% of the time. And it is the same for you.
I am turning 46 in the Fall. Another chapter of "Big Things" to pen, which includes one very big, Big Thing; one that I have been camouflaging myself from most of my adult life. To give you a clue, I purchased, with intent, what I considered a larger-than-life canvas and one that I had to construct myself. I hadn't built a canvas in over 30 years. I had certainly never built a canvas that towered five feet tall and five feet wide. Yet here I am, staring at this giant, formidable box and all of its contents, with equal parts excitement and nausea. For some time following its arrival...I completely avoided it. I was fearful to face a former version of me that I was once so intimate with and now so unfamiliar, and the "baggage" that was surely to surface from of it. I was so preoccupied with whether I was going to be able to handle the emotional aspect of it all, that I was missing the elephant in the room. What laid before me was a literal blank canvas. Similar to this year.
I harnessed the proper headspace to embark on this ambitious undertaking, admiring the unifying parts of the frame, hypnotized by this pristine canvas, donning the patience and focus required to construct properly. Each step had a vague familiarity to it, as I enthusiastically persevered to punch my final, triumphant staple; only to realize that my canvas was undeniably too loose. Disappointment and anxiety washed over me like a tidal wave, drowning my composure. I had to walk away. The drama of it all is not lost on me. I had identified this canvas as a metaphor for this year; full of hope, new beginnings and victory, only to be mockingly slapped backwards with the hands of failure. I could not possibly build on a foundation as loose as this.
Which, is true. None of us can build anything of value on an unstable foundation. I did not, however, have any intent to do so either. I took a moment away to regroup, humbly entertained alternative means other than my own, and essentially made myself, "unstuck". I then proceeded to gingerly pull a hundred menacing staples away from its frame to come at it once again, from another direction. And if I had to begin several times more, just a little bit differently than the last, until I got it right, then so be it. This is how we fix problems, this is how we get unstuck. Sometimes we have to come at our challenges a few times and approach it from a variety of angles, consider alternative perspectives, as our convictions alone aren't always enough. As long as we remain open-minded, malleable, receptive, while remaining committed to our vision, that foundation will emerge as a rock solid construction. And when we are all collectively able to share these solid structures with our communities, good things ensue.
Fall is coming. Tagging along right behind it will certainly be another round of unanticipated surprises, all of which, by the way, we are all capable of handling. Set your mind now, that you will prevail. You will. It is up to us as individuals to define and represent what we wish to see, regardless of the distractions placed before us. It will likely not go as planned and require a few clumsy, awkward and frustrating attempts. You may likely face criticism and protest. Keep at it. Pay close attention to what your senses are presenting to you. Do not allow a discouraging mindset, whether it is yours or those of others, to hijack your vision. Keep at it and before long, it will come easier and more fluid, allowing progress to flow freely once again. This highest version of you is not only a gift to yourself, but to those around you.
Most importantly, just start. This new season is your official blank canvas.