The Paradox of Busyness

Creativity and inspiration are tricky things.

I go through spurts. I picture my levels of creativity like an erratic EEG monitor. I’m all over the place. As some of you may have deduced, I’m back to an *interesting* work schedule (which, mainly, is me sitting in my pajamas, looking for jobs and doing some freelance writing/private practice stuff). I’m busy, but not steadily busy. I’ll have a couple hours of work, an errand to run, more work, a doctor’s appointment, etc. My schedule is flexible and leisurely. I don’t really like it. I’m a gal who yearns for structure.

I’ve noticed during these times, I don’t really feel like writing in this blog (sorry, just bein’ real and shiz). I feel like I have nothing profound to say or nothing I really feel like sharing. I don’t feel inspired and frankly, I’d rather sit and draw or paint than write in the ol’ blog. Maybe it’s because drawing and painting don’t have to have a point. Writing in here has to have a point. I’m not going to mindlessly ramble at you 5 days a week. I don’t want to waste your eyeballs or my time. I like writing when I have something to say or a thought to express.

It’s frustrating though because if there was ever a time in my life where I had the time to write a million things on here, now is that time. When I have less time, when I’m out working my booty off, traveling all over, talking to a bunch of people, then I’m sitting there tapping my foot, scrawling notes on paper or typing them into my phone, itching to write a post the moment I have some time to myself. It’s weird. When I’m busy, I want to be more busy. When I’m not as busy, I have nothing to say. It’s a weird paradox of busyness. I guess it’s kind of like the law of attraction.

busy

I keep thinking of that TED Talk from Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) who speaks to the beast of creativity. She basically gives a short history lesson of how creativity has been viewed in the past and how we look at it now. In the past, we viewed it as an external influence, something that would just pop into our minds, maybe inspired by a god or some nymph bestowing a genius idea upon us. Now, there’s an internal view of creativity, that we are responsible for how creative we feel and choose to be… to some extent I agree with that. I need to do things to nurture my creativity (like get busy!), but I also feel like sometimes stuff just pops into my head with little perceived control over the process. I suppose I believe you can influence creativity, but you can’t spontaneously create it. Some of it is kind of divine or cosmic.

So, that’s where I’m at right now. I’m trying to find ways to be busy, while also wrestling with this desire to just not do anything. Life.

Thought Reset

cat3  I’ve always been a bit of a schemer.

Not in a bad way, but I can’t help but just watch people and determine their motivations, what’s driving them, and in my personal life, I decide if they’ll be my friends.

At work, I watch how people work. I see what I admire, what I don’t, where I want to go at a job, and how to get there.

I picture how I interpret the world like a pinball machine. Input goes into my brain, it clangs around for a while, connecting with other related things, and then it spits back out some sort of understanding of said input. I have a hard time not finding these patterns and drawing conclusions about how things will turn out. It works great a lot of the time. It helps me make really reliable hypotheses about how things will go, where to invest my time, how to plan for the future.

Sometimes, because I’m also quite emotional (and human), these hypotheses turn into expectations. I have very clear ideas in my head of how things should go or how they should be. I get attached to my desired outcome, making assumptions to further inflate my hope for X outcome. When I start getting to said outcome, I start to realize – holy moly… this is not what I wanted at all. I went too far down the imaginary line of expectations and I end up being surprised.

I got some news on Friday that I expected to feel wrecked from. I expected myself to feel shaken, disappointed, or frustrated over. All I felt was complete relief. I had built up this belief that it was something I wanted, and yes, the imaginary version I created in my head was something I wanted. So, now I’m wrestling with some discoveries about myself and how I see the world, and what I truly want.

cat2

I’m also trying to temper that wanting with some reality. I’m thankful for my imagination – it lets me write here, draw, create, and scheme – but it also leads me to a place filled with lots of expectations, both for myself and for my future, that I’m not even sure is something I truly want. I know how I want to feel about my destination when I get there, but the question now is, “What will make me feel that way?”

Answer: I’m not always quite sure.

For those of you frustrated about my ambiguity (as I am trying to write through it), I’m talking about my career.

When I entered grad school, I did it because the economy had tanked (2009) and I had gotten a degree in something I was interested in as a study, but I quickly realized toward the end of my degree (Journalism) that I didn’t have any driving desire to go into journalism. I wanted to write long feature stories and little else, and even that passion wasn’t strong enough to make me slog through years of writing stories about cat fashion shows.

So, I pursued something I was currently very passionate about and very interested in. I wanted to sit down and talk with people as a therapist. I got a feeling of flow unlike I had ever experienced. However, much like journalism, I studied something I was interested in, but no one ever sat me down and said, “Do you know the reality of the career you’ve chosen?” I have the opportunity to do things I love to do now – counsel people, but at this point it feels like it could be at an extreme personal cost (both literally and figuratively). Perhaps if I had known the reality, I would have never pursued this degree, this blog wouldn’t exist, I wouldn’t know Jesse, and life would probably be a lot different and I’m not confident it would be better. Who knows, right? That’s life.

Now, I’m faced with the task of building a living for myself from scratch. It’s felt crushing at times. I’ve felt a whole slew of emotions from fear to pride since moving to Seattle and leaving my bubble of being a student. I miss my bubble and I want to return, but it’s time to move forward and join the real world again. Funny enough, the real world doesn’t come with a syllabus, so sometimes, I have no clue what the heck I’m supposed to be learning.

cat1

All this culminates with my point – sometimes you worry yourself so much over something that never did or never will exist. On Friday when I got my news, it was like someone just pressed a giant reset button on the way I’ve looked and felt about everything I’ve done in relation to my career up to this point. I just don’t have the energy to worry about it anymore, because if the things I want most, actually aren’t what I want at all… then I should really just work on being present and having a positive outlook, while serving myself and my needs as they come. It was like all the little puzzle pieces in my mind stopped trying to fit together and just rested. The big picture will come in due time.

So yes, I’m still a counselor today and I will be one tomorrow. Will I be one in 20 years? Who knows. I’m really done worrying about it.

Flow

When the career you’ve chosen in life is one that makes you happy, but isn’t necessarily valued by society, much less some of your friends (*cough* counseling *cough*), you being to really ponder why you chose the career you did. In my case, I have really been thinking hard about it. Not only was finding the right job a struggle for me here, but I’m in a city dominated by left-brained thinkers who (I find) to value the softer sciences less. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist in the world of most people I walk by on the streets in Seattle.

I thought back to why I became a counselor in the first place; why I was so certain this was the career for me. I’ve come up with all my reasons and then some, but I’ve had this internal struggle because life isn’t just about doing what you love, is it? You have to put food on the table, you have to put clothes on your back, and in the future, I’d like to put clothes on my child’s back and food in his/or her mouth. Will doing what I love allow me those things? Things I love secondary to counseling? Traveling and eating well. Do I want to give those up to facilitate my day job? Can you just ‘do what you love’ and get away with it? How important is it to do what you love?

Well, that’s subjective. The more time that goes on in my life, the more I realize that plenty of people on the earth were not raised with this notion of ‘do what you love’ and now have jobs that facilitate lots of other things, like traveling, but at a cost. They give up 40+ hours of happiness and job satisfaction a week for a good vacation and luxury goods. Some are OK with it. Most are not. Some people are lucky enough that they love doing things that pay a lot of money. Those people suck. Just kidding… I hate you. No, I’m just jealous. Pssshhh.

Either way, this has pushed me to think about the idea of even knowing that you are happy. Plenty of people struggle with finding a satisfying job, relationship, and lifestyle. There’s a whole area of counseling for people who just don’t know what jobs will make them happy. I found something I love to do, but why do I love to do it?

Because when I counsel, I flow.

No, not that flow, although I am a fantastic rapper. Do not doubt.

When I counsel someone, I am so immersed in what I’m doing, I achieve flow. Flow is a somewhat meditative-like state where the whole world evaporates until it’s you + the task you are involved in. With counseling, I feel alive speaking to others, solving their problems, and providing empathy. It’s been that way since I can remember. From the point of self-awareness I can remember, I’ve always felt so alive having deep conversations with people, feeling trusted, providing support, and everything else a counselor does. My brain is wired this way.

I got an e-mail from a reader (hi!), who commended me for being a therapist because the work can be so difficult and really just wear a person down, listening to so much heartache, tragedy, and sometimes knowing nothing will ever be the way it should be for a client. That is tough, I won’t lie to you about that one. But, as Jesse tells me when I feel doubt about this career choice, I have never acted more alive, more satisfied, and more content than the times I’m counseling. It fills me up inside. I picture my mind like staticky radio, all garbled and fuzzy, but when I’m counseling (and/or writing), that radio is the most perfect frequency you’ve ever heard. The sound is crisp, the message is clear, and everything else falls to the side.

So, should you do what you love? Do you even know what you love? Start with flow. Then go from there. I’m lucky that I have a wonderfully supportive partner who reminds me it’s not what you do, it’s how hard you work at it and believe in yourself (for the most part). It’s all about values. How much do you value your own contentment, your feeling of happiness, and how you measure your impact on the world? Those things, as much as I want to admit money matters, matter more to me. I need flow in my life because it makes me so happy to be alive. It creates this effervescent feeling that makes my heart feel lighter and makes me proud to walk this earth. I wouldn’t trade my flow for anything. Now, could I get it doing something else? Sure, but right now, I’m happy in this current.

Do you achieve flow? How?

A common example I’ve heard is when you drive somewhere, get there, and then don’t remember how you got there because you were so immersed in the process.