Are you dodging fake bullets?

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“Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Dumbledore

Being an electrical activity, a light bulb moment has the ability to make your body feel the zapping, surging force of a lightning strike, and yet, all that  has taken place is  a couple of microscopic neurons suddenly exploding! In a good way.

It’s like a tiny little tendril waiting patiently, knowing which direction it wants to head in, but it remains stagnant until we turn on the light of understanding. Then a literal explosion of forward momentum occurs and a whole new thought, idea, belief can be born.

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Image: pbs.org

I experience these explosions often, as there is still so much growing up to do. Several light bulb moments occurred recently. Last year I employed the services of a writing mentor  because while I felt my writing was good enough for my blog, I wanted it to be better. I hated the thought of making mistakes. (Yes, perfectionism is an ongoing theme in this blog). Unfortunately my mentor has become super busy and is no longer able to assist me. When I read her email ending our working relationship, I was shocked, sad, and then immediately thought, I’d better find someone else quickly. While I appreciated her writing prowess, I also realised that I enjoyed her company and the excuse to visit a quirky writer’s cafe on the other side of town. The frist lightbulb illuminated my need to get out more, and that I, personally had to make this happen and not rely on others to create the opportunity. The second lightbulb shone brightly on an important issue that needed addressing. The idea of releasing work that hadn’t been “scrutinised.” Scrutinised is such a harsh word. It means to examine closely, carefully, with critical attention, the latter being the anxiety provoking action that I like to avoid. Scrutiny might result in being told I’m not as good as I hoped. Such insecurities definitely need a coach, a mentor, a backstop, or is it a crutch? The silly thing is, I’ve got a dozen drafts sitting, waiting release, but without being scrutinised, they sit, stacked up, blocking my faucet of creativity.

Advice is under your nose

I shared this situation with my partner, who is a very down to earth type, and who I sometimes think is too black and white to understand the complexities of an anxious mind. But his was the advice I needed. He pointed out that I always looked to others for support, back up, to rubber stamp me before I took action. He asked me, “What would happen if your blog was successful, and you became popular?” I told him I didn’t know. “You’re afraid of success,” he said.  I’ve heard this said before and it never made sense to me. Something about being successful means having to then take responsibility for yourself. I told him I didn’t see why I would be afraid of ‘fame and fortune’. His simple reply was, “If you are successful, then you’ll be out there, on your own.” Many successful people will tell you that it’s lonely at the top, but what my partner meant, was that I would have to stand on my own two feet, I’d be responsible for my own success or downfall. As I was journalling my way through these new ideas, these words popped in my head.

“If you keep a low profile, you won’t get hit by a critic’s bullets”

–  Wisdom Elements

Perfectionists hate criticism and obviously the more successful you are, the more likely you are to be noticed, leaving the field wide open for supporters and detractors to enter in and spray you with bullets of what they really think!

To remain buried at ground level, to become familiar only with the roots and stems of our growing potential, means we never actually see the beautiful blooms that grow above the ‘safety zone’. How sad to never see the unique shape and colour that comes from our own blossoming. It takes courage, resilience and perseverance and the mind of a self-actualising warrior to pop our heads above the field. And courage to know that any criticisms are just fake bullets and reflect more about the critic than their target.

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As someone who is learning to tune in to her own intuition and universal signs, I was able to see things differently. Whereas I thought that losing my writing mentor was a sign that perhaps I wasn’t to continue writing, when I tapped in to my body, I realised that this idea didn’t feel right because I love communicating both in written and verbal form. Instead, I saw that losing my mentor, was yet another opportunity for me to overcome my fears of imperfection and to learn to be independent, to stand on my own two feet. I may not have learnt this as a young person, but regardless of age, I can learn it now.

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Can you take a single step forward?

Stepping forward into new territory is often anxiety provoking, but remaining still, stuck in fear stagnates our growth. The question then becomes can we find the courage to yell, “Jump!” and follow through, or will we remain in the undergrowth like fungi, amongst old, outdated beliefs that do nothing but decompose our life potential? Remember, above the undergrowth is sunlight and your own blossoming self.

Is there an area of your life where you can take the first step towards sunlight?

 

Don’t ignore that tap on the shoulder

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Image: canyon-news.com

There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. – Rumi

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had something tugging at my sleeve for many years now. It feels like a pestering tug that won’t let up, that keeps stubbornly trying to get my attention and just won’t go away. I knew that I had to acknowledge that ‘unseen’ part of me, that deep presence, the place of knowing that can only be felt and not reasoned. I didn’t want to acknowledge it because I knew that it was coaxing me into action. It would push me into that super uncomfortable zone, the place where all shields are down and you go out, fully exposed. But the time had come. I had to listen.

That “thing” that was desperately trying to get my attention was my soul’s yearning, it was calling, begging me to follow a hunch, with no details, instructions or landing sight. And I’m not talking about “purpose” here, I’m talking about something that needs to be  undertaken, for it’s own purpose. I was being called to open myself up to a mystery, to tune in to a desire, a yearning buried so deep, that I was no longer completely sure what IT was. What did it look like, feel like, taste like? Is it something that excited me? We are so good at cutting ourselves off from our deepest passions that a mere spider’s thread connects us to our golden orb, our soul. That orb is like the light that shines from our heart when we are totally immersed in our pleasure, in the “thing” that makes us unique, in the thing that takes us out of time and space, and drops us into the timeless dimension.

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But why, oh why, do we allow the very thing that excites us, that sustains our souls to perish, little by little, like a neglected toy, gathering dust and mould in a darkened corner? We neglect our “joy generators” at our peril because in today’s detached world, we need something to anchor us, to help us connect to our authentic selves and to the infinite and creative source of all existence.

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Image: Highheelrunner.wordpress.com

Tofu-man takes control

I was one such person. Many years ago my love of music saw me performing in very small venues with a band of wannabes and even after a long day at the office, performing had me on such a high that I thought I would burst. Every cell in my body began to shimmer with joy and satisfaction, with no agenda other than being in love with the act of creation, but then, my mind took control. It told me that I could never make it to the top because of a lack of talent, looks, connections, the X factor, you name it, the excuses came thick and fast. And so, because of a bunch of dialogue made up by a lump of tofu like mass inside my skull, I gave it away. Years later, my creative soul tried tapping me on the shoulder again, but this time enticing me with art, then ceramics, but each time, tofu-man stood like judge and jury and began to pronounce my ideas as being guilty of a crime against my ego, that following such silly creative pursuits was wasteful of time and money, contributed nothing to the world economy, would not keep the insatiable machine of industry fed and was about as useful as concrete wings on a bird. So again, I gave up. Not realising that I had just replaced my own wings with concrete ones.

Fast forward many years and I learnt to ignore my creativity, and instead adopted a “normal life”, pursuing the nice house, car, balancing career, family, friends, pets etc., leaving me no time for anything else. Phew! It meant tofu-man would be happy, at least for a while, but then slowly but surely, my body began to crumble. You see egos don’t have the brains to understand that suppressing one’s ‘soul-vocation’ in favour of following social dictators would eventually hurt my body, my soul, and ultimately, all of me.

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Hundreds of hours of self-analysis made me realise that Tofu-man was not me, he is just a bunch of programs that were passed on from other tofu brains whose initial intention was to keep us safe, but sadly, this kind of thinking is based on fear.  Over time, this fear was used to keep us all under control, to make us conform so that we remain on the economic treadmill, earn money, spend money and keep a few individuals in the monetarily rich life they had become accustomed to. To control the masses, there is absolutely no room for individuation, for soul expression or living a passionate life. We are told that creativity doesn’t pay the bills. No, it doesn’t always produce monetary results, but it does nourish our hearts and souls and helps pave the way to better health and a more satisfied life. Creativity calls for chaos, for challenging the social norms, for expressing beauty for the sake of it, for shaking people out of their stupor and saying, “Hey you? Look at this amazing photo of the soon to be extinct white tiger.” It triggers us into creating music that soothes our frazzled nerves one minute and then propels us into social action the next. Creativity provides solutions to problems, it is meditative and healing. I’m guessing if creativity was at the top of our priority lists, that we’d reduce our hospital admissions by 80%.

For me, a sick body forced me to see for the first time that tofu-man had been running my life. He’s not just my judge and jury, but also my jailer. He’d kept me from the things I truly loved but was afraid to follow. So, despite being around the “middle” age of my life, I say to my tofu-man, no more. I’m taking back control. Last week I took my first guitar lesson in years and wow did it feel good!  The next day I purchased some watercolour paints and coloured pencils. Just looking at the beautiful colours sets my heart a racing.

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And to my tofu-man I say thanks for trying to protect me, but your kind of protection is like spraying weed killer on a plant that’s about to blossom. We often do this to our children too. Just as they’re about to open their buds and burst into the world in a blaze of colour, we pass on tofu-man’s fears and shut them down. Well, it’s never too late to make scrambled tofu with your ego, instead of letting it run your life. If you can relate to this but don’t know how to move forward, then here’s a suggestion.

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Find your silly happy

Find a quiet place and put on some music that calms and soothes you. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and time travel to happy childhood moments when you were doing something that made you silly happy. If like me, you buried your silly happy moments deep in your memory banks, don’t worry, be patient and just sit with it. You may have to try this a few times.

If that doesn’t work, then you get to play, to experiment and try a whole host of creative things to see if you can reconnect with that deep joyful love that you once had for a particular activity. Take photos, join a choir, learn an instrument, take up sewing, restore furniture, gardening and so on.  Counselling, Hypnotherapy or Art therapy might help too. Whatever you do, don’t give up, keep looking. Your health, wellbeing and full expression of your life depend on it.

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When pain means gain

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Life is very interesting… in the end, some of your greatest pains, become your greatest strengths. Drew Barrymore

I’ve not posted for the past few weeks, due to a strained back muscle which made it hard to sit at my desk but that wasn’t the only reason. My usually overflowing pool of inspiration was empty, barren, devoid of a single drop of inspiration. Very unusual for me but there was a reason. It was the calm before the storm. This often happens just before “The big reveal”, a valuable lesson often hidden in a maelstrom.

This week’s lesson came courtesy of a couple of catch ups with wonderful friends whose company I enjoy and whom I greatly admire. I love listening to their stories of travel, of achievements at work and of their children and how they ride the ups and downs of life. Sounds pretty good you say, so where’s the problem? The problem was that once again, I felt awful because I felt I had little to share. Years of ongoing health issues disrupt careers, travel plans, adversely affect family life and as an unwanted bonus, can increase anxiety. Compared to most of my friends, I felt like a loser, especially when I allow my unconscious mind take hold of the reigns.

Those of you familiar with my posts are aware that I’m constantly doing an archeological dig in my mind. I hate feeling awful, inferior, shame, incompetent and it’s why I am constantly searching for hidden land mines and hoping I can disarm them before they blow up in my face. The little suckers are formed in childhood and so they are buried under tonnes of history and therefore hard to find.

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So I wondered why I couldn’t allow myself to accept myself just as I am right now? And was my idea of who I am even accurate? Anyone who has suffered with long term physical health issues knows that it can turn your life upside down and yet, I continued to blame myself for getting sick in the first place. Ridiculous I know. I grew up with an anxious and constantly worried mother which deeply influenced my own thought processes. I know I got sick because of being overly worried and anxious and so I blamed myself, but I was unable to think any other way. So why couldn’t I just forgive my mother and myself, accept and just move on? Why couldn’t I find some compassion for us both?

Digging and delving into pain

Even though I’ve written about self-esteem before, like most sticky, messy beliefs, this one in particular, comes with many layers that need uncovering and healing. As long as there is pain and discomfort associated with a belief, there is still more digging to do.

With back pain as a great access point into a bit of self-pity and then into the self, I began to peel away the layers. I took a deep breath and said, “Ok, let’s go in boots and all. No holding back. Let’s feel the depth of this pain and see how far it goes. Let’s just wallow in it, completely cover ourselves in the muck and explore.

Here’s what I found. Firstly, I know that I feel inadequate around people who I believe are more intelligent than me and who seem to have their lives together. Despite hardships, which everyone faces, they seem to come out the other end wiser and just get on with their lives. I on the other hand, unknowingly suffered with anxiety since childhood and years of stress took their toll on my physical health which has never fully recovered.

So a) I felt like a loser because everyone else “seems” to cope with great difficulties but it doesn’t affect their health and then b) anxiety affected my memory and so because I struggle to remember a lot of information, I felt stupid. So as a result of getting sick I felt like a stupid loser. Great. Now that we’ve hit the cesspool at the bottom of this pit, where to now?

Well, I could either wallow in the muck and eventually drown, or find a way back up to the light. Not always easy, as my favourite Star Wars character, Yoda says, “Beware of the dark side. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will…” Luke asks if the dark side is stronger. Yoda replies: “No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.” Despite the hurt, despite the pain, self-pity can be seductive. It gives us all the reasons in the universe to explain our failings, our lack of achievement. Easier to blame than heal.

Well, I’d had enough of pain, of self-pity and of seeing things from this distorted angle. The digging helped me realise that I’d created a ridiculous story based on false ideas. Firstly, I have completed post graduate study at university and before children, held a job that helped a great many people. My memory worked perfectly fine. Secondly, anyone who suffers with anxiety will know how debilitating it is both in mind and body. No one asks to be anxious. We sufferers will have inherited a genetic tendency from our parents, but importantly, many a happy child can become a hive of nerves if they are not raised with confident parents. Genetic tendencies will be amplified and once we are in fight or flight mode for long enough, we rewire our brains to be on red alert all the time.

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Image: memegenerator.net

Unearthing the truth

So, what my dig revealed was that I’d completely distorted my own perceptions of my life. What I thought was real, were warped truths.  I’d turned a series of isolated events into the entire meaning of my existence. I blamed myself for something I lacked which could only come from my parents, a sense of self-worth and self-love. No blame here. My parents could not give me something they themselves didn’t have. And finally, anxiety can be running just under our radars, influencing all our decisions and behaviours, leaving us unaware until our lives start to derail and pain steps in. So when friends share their stories of adventures and good fortune, I’ll no longer feel sadness, envy or inadequate. Instead, I’ll share the joy in their achievements and also give thanks for mine. No matter how small they may seem, just getting through the day with the anxiety ball and chain around your ankle is sometimes the greatest accomplishment.

The skill in living a “good life” is in being able to identify the derailments as unconscious beliefs and that we have a blind train driver behind our locomotive. Rather than blame others, the weather or bad luck, if we can be brave enough to look closely, pain, sadness, depression are often signals alerting us that we may have to look within and only then, will we be able to steer our own lives down the right track.

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If you know something isn’t working in your life, but you cannot see what is influencing your decisions, then seek out a counsellor or psychotherapist because we all need a little help sometimes. A fresh set of eyes can often help us see things differently and there is no greater gift than clarity, because it means that each insight brings us closer to our authentic selves.

Have you been able to use emotionally challenging events to grow in wisdom and understanding?

 

Forgiving Unconscious Living

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There is no love without Forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love – Bryant H. McGill

Let’s face it, there wouldn’t be too many people who would willingly do an archeological dig inside their own brains, looking for sticky, messy, or even painful emotions. Why would we? It’s unpleasant and at times distressing work and if we’ve not tended house for a while, we’re afraid of being swamped by the build up. But clean we must for our own wellbeing, our relationships and our world.

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I was recently forced into one of those dark corners by an old email that somehow re-emerged in my most recent emails folder. The email consisted of two messages between myself and someone close to me whom I’ll call Jenny. In this open and honest email exchange, Jenny and I expressed our sadness at the difficulties our relationship endured over the years. In my email, I asked for Jenny to forgive me for not being the kind of support person she needed in our earlier years . As I read this old exchange, I was pleased that I was able to be empathetic and understand life from her perspective and also glad that I was able to be humble enough to explore the world of forgiveness. However, something in that exchange, really jarred me. There was a sharp stab in this act of seeking forgiveness. It was unpleasant and I tried to escape it but I knew enough about emotions that I had to face it head on. What I realised was that for most of my life, I’ve been blindly accepting blame for anything and everything that goes wrong in my personal and professional relationships. I’d developed a distorted view around faults and problems and made them my own.  Even world problems. Somehow, I “should” have been a stronger, louder, better, activist, or a better friend, or been more compassionate etc. etc. In this particular relationship with Jenny, there was a third person who really was responsible for providing the support that she needed, and that was mother. Being still quite young and naive myself at the time, I did not have the capacity to provide any emotional support for others, let alone myself. So can I ask forgiveness for something that was not within my conscious mind, and was not my responsibility?

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After much digging, scratching and processing, I realised that the answer was yes. As I read these emails again, I realised that forgiveness has two sides. We offer the hand of forgiveness to those we’ve hurt because whether we were aware of what we were doing or not, the bottom line is that someone ended up experiencing pain, be it emotional or physical as a result of our words and/or actions.

And that’s where the other equally critical side of forgiveness comes in. We must also forgive ourselves.  More often than we realise, most of the time we operate from our unconscious mind, that is, our thoughts are generated by automatic programs, or beliefs that we formed as children. Those beliefs and thoughts that cause pain and conflict, are often associated with past hurts, often from our childhood.

The jarring feeling I experienced from this old email was telling me that I had to look at why I was always accepting blame and unable to forgive myself. What distorted thoughts and programs were operating here? Well, those of you familiar with my work will know that I have a little monster, whom today I’ll name the “Mental Monster” because he messes with my mental state. He’s the beast who is always attempting to undermine my sense of self-worth. If someone feels an inner sense of worthiness and value, they’ll know that they are still worthy and loveable, even if they make mistakes. Where there is a lack of self-love, any mistakes we make are not seen as just poor choices, as in, “Oh, I made a poor choice there”, instead low self-worth says, “Oh, I’m just a bad and useless person”. If we need to correct the behaviour of a child, we don’t say, “You are stupid for speaking badly to me”, we say, “I don’t like your behaviour and the way you spoke to me”. There is a huge difference.

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So what did I learn from this email from the past? That it’s never too late to correct past mistakes. Even if others don’t forgive us, we know that we are now conscious enough to know that we would never repeat our old behaviours. We can be thankful that the difficult situation offered us a chance to grow and learn valuable lessons.

You may ask about the role other people play in challenging relationships and about their responsibility in the situation. Well, when we truly value ourselves, think from an aware mind, and open heart, and can honestly see that the other person also played a part in a failed relationship or situation, then through self-love, we acknowledge that it was not all our doing and again, bring in compassion for all concerned. From this position, we are then able to wish for the other person that they too may grow in awareness, forgive us for our part, and themselves for what has transpired, and wish for them true personal growth, for this should truly be our greatest achievement.

So what happened to my relationship with Jenny? After spending years gathering knowledge and insights and sharing them with Jenny, she found the process of looking at  old wounds too painful and preferred to let things be as they are. I guess I had an incentive to look at my thoughts because mine had made me physically sick. We never truly regained what we’d lost. While I was able to apologise for my part and bring forgiveness into my side of the relationship, sadly, Jenny felt too much pain when she tried to delve into her own beliefs, but at least I knew I’d done what I could to bring some healing to the relationship. Today, we are civil and friendly enough when we meet, but the closeness we once had has disappeared. Being an optimist, I still believe that one day, Jenny may have enough insights to realise that she is more than her thoughts, heal old wounds, befriend me again and be free of the chains that bind her. We can change our thoughts and therefore our lives, and while it’s not always easy, the will to do a little digging and repair work can restore some of our most precious relationships, and that is truly worth the effort.

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When indecision chooses for you

Image courtesy: Wayne Hastings.com
Image courtesy: Wayne Hastings.com

This morning, as I prepared to go to my usually joy filled sewing class, I felt something was amiss. For two days I’d been brooding over a sense of loss that comes with missed opportunities, particularly those that result from years of mysteriously undiagnosed chronic poor health. But I’d been feeling better and looking for the next shinny signal that would herald the start of a new path, career and life. But, sadly, I’d found myself going in circles again about which shinny path to take. What I didn’t realise was that this, like all difficulties may actually be conspiring to create a clearer lens through which to look through. No matter, a few hours of sewing usually cleared the head, but not today. Even my favourite hobby had turned into an agonising challenge.  My usually patient teacher lost her calm as I brought another challenging project to her table. The class was unusually full and I had no other project to go on with. I felt tears well up with little purpose other than to make me feel even worse. I apologised to the class, saying that my brain had been hijacked by some mysterious and capricious force and I hightailed it out of my favourite place.

Image courtesy: mnwallpaper.com
Image courtesy: mnwallpaper.com

I drove through tear stained eyes, feeling the depths of my self pity, knowing that my middle class suburban life did not justify the tears, and yet I felt lost and alone. My desperate texts to the two friends who I rely on for wise counsel were mysteriously ‘Not Delivered’ adding to my isolation.  The all knowing, all seeing, wise mentor and teacher that I desperately sought, was still missing, despite numerous prayers asking for her to magically appear.  I realised, reluctantly, that I had to figure this out alone.  Not easy for someone who has never trusted herself and always relied on other people to make the “right” decision and choose the “perfect” direction.

Image courtesy: danverspublicschool.org
Image courtesy: danverspublicschool.org

Of course we are never alone, and guidance can appear magically via a spontaneous comment from a friend, a song on the radio, or an email as it was for me today.  My brooding was caused by confusion about where to direct my attention. My usual ‘scarcity mind’ told me I had to choose a path accurately, this time, as time always seemed to be running out. I’ve always loved writing but felt inadequate. I’m also a counsellor but again, felt that my toolbox never seemed full enough. Sewing and design light me up, but again, there are always courses that need to be attended. What to do? Well I swung a pendulum.  Yep, to some of you it sounds loopy but for me, it works like a charm. Mine happens to be an amethyst and as I asked about various possibilities, it directed me towards writing and to leave the rest for now. I ignored it (yes I have a trust issue too) and went to sewing instead and well, I’ve already mentioned how well that went. Not!

Image courtesy: flowwithjoy.com
Image courtesy: flowwithjoy.com

When my texts for help failed, I checked my emails, only because I had no idea what else I should be doing, and just like magic, there was my guidance. First there was the eerily accurate astrological reading that was telling me it was time to bury those outdated feelings that made me feel like I was worth even less than I imagined. Then another blog appeared, from a brilliant wordsmith name Jess, with the heading: “Can’t decide which idea to pursue? Here’s how to choose.”  I’m not kidding, that was the title. But it gets even better. I’d not written for months because of my “inadequacy disease” that continually strangled any attempts at producing work. I’d no idea how to move forward, but Jess’ blog offered ideas on how to unblock creativity, and other brilliant tips to help me move from less than, to, just do it!  I felt a mountain shift and not just because I realised I didn’t have to choose between a rock and a hard place, I just had to choose one, and then, if I didn’t like it, I could choose the other. Who would have thought it could be as simple as that? As Jess says, it’s better to have some less than perfect material to work with and learn how to improve it, than to have nothing at all, which so far, was all I was producing. Nothing.

Image courtesy: quotes gram.com
Image courtesy: quotes gram.com

So Mr Inadequacy Disease, you bum, get out of my way, because today’s post is not about end results, is not about being the best, the most pretty or witty tale, it’s all about the art of creating, creating “some thing”, which is better than “no thing”.

(P.S. In case I needed further proof, the first image on this blog of the child and telescope was found on another blog titled, “Having trouble getting creative?”. Not anymore, I say, and thanks Universe for the additional thumbs up! 🙂 )