Falling With Style: Don’t think about pink elephants (or doubt)

Last time, Helen admitted that she still loves theatre, she’s just not *in love* with theatre. So while she waits around to see if the loving feeling comes back, she tries to connect with the underlying creativity that led her to the form in the first place.

I’ve spent the last two weeks moving from Palo Alto to San Francisco. Honestly, ever since I dubbed myself the family project manager for the move, I’ve gotten a little obsessive. The move and its hundreds of to-do’s have consumed most of my waking thoughts. But now here we are, newly carless, about 1/3 of our previous stuff tossed, sold or Goodwill’d, and almost all unpacked.

The other day, in the middle of all this commotion, I was unexpectedly forced to chill out. On Tuesday after dinner, I locked myself and my leash-less dog out on the back porch of the new place. I had no phone, no keys, and short sleeves. I knew my husband would be home late, and I don’t know the area well yet — so I just decided to wait.

I sat and stared into space, with no time-telling mechanism, no other means of distraction except for my imagination and my dog. For the better part of 3 hours, I hardly moved from my spot, huddled against the side of the apartment as the sun set.

It was the first time in ages that I’d spent so long with so little to distract me. I felt the twinge of an old, atrophied muscle as it tried to respond to a stimulus it hadn’t felt in decades.

As a child, I was a wildly creative daydreamer. I’d dream up a story and realize, upon re-focusing in the real world, that the dragon I thought I’d seen was actually the backpack sitting in front of me. I remember writing fables, plays, picture books — all by hand in loopy cursive. But it’s been many years since my last great picture book, entitled “Socks: The White House Cat.”

The type of mind-wandering I engaged in on Tuesday goes by many names, but whatever you call it — meditation, flow, imagination, sweat lodge-induced hallucination — it is the breeding ground for creative inspiration.

Where I’m at now feels like a Catch-22: I’ve been shying away from creating space for flow because it feels like it takes so long to get anywhere “useful.” Or, to say it another way: because my muscle is so out of shape, I need a lot of time to get plugged in to a place where the creativity is flowing. As I sit there waiting for flow to hit, I get anxious and doubtful about how my time is being used. (“Ugh! I could be crossing so many other things off my list right now!”) And of course, every time the doubt creeps in, my chances of finding flow in that sitting are all but nil.

I’d laugh if I weren’t so frustrated, because the lesson I’m learning from this quest to regain creative flow is one that’s already made itself known in my relationship, my personal spiritual practice, and my career search. The lesson, which I keep trying to get a second opinion on, is that I can’t control a thing, and furthermore, life is going to unfold however it damn well pleases.

Helen Laroche is a writer and artist living in San Francisco. You can learn more about her upcoming projects atwww.helenlaroche.com.

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