Energy has been cumulating inside me. It hasn’t had a proper outlet because it has been boiling under the tight lid of somewhat limiting circumstances. For about a week it has made me feel like an old stuffy attic or a stagnant pool where the water is not moving.
I’m talking, of course, about my need to write, about creative energy.
I turned on the tap of words last September, after years in the world of images and visual art, and now it seems I can no longer close the tap.
Why did I start to feel like a boiling water under a tight lid?
March was a very sociable month for me. First of all, our lovely, funny and wise daughter was staying with us, and she brought a lot of fresh, young energy to our home during her visit.
At the beginning of March I spent a fantastic long weekend in Austria, visiting an old friend who is presently working in Vienna. This friend of mine is a lively person with a great sense of humor, and of course we spent those three days laughing a lot together. On the other hand we also wept tears of sorrow when we shared some sad stories of our lives.
A big social event was my trip to Sweden at the end of March. I stayed a week at Ängsbacka course centre near Karlstad, studying Zen coaching. A very intense week passed quickly in the company of inspiring people and with an intriguing topic, in a relaxed atmosphere. (Zen coaching is an approach developed by Norwegian Kåre Landfald, and it aims, among other things, at recognizing our own nature as awareness. This realization helps us to be less identified with our mental positions and judgmental attitudes toward ourselves and others. You can read more about Zen coaching here.)
After a stimulating trip to Sweden I came home at the end of March full of ideas and inspiration. My deep desire was to withdraw into my own world and mull over everything that had happened during the past month.
More than anything, I simply wanted to sit down in some quiet corner and process my experiences through writing.
But of course I could not do that.
The social life continued at home. It was Easter holidays in Finland, the usual several days’ break of springtime.
Blessed haven of privacy
Now, if I have to define myself on a binary scale of introvert versus extrovert, I am definitely more on the introvert side of the scale. Not to the point of being a misanthropist though – I do love the company of people and the exchange of views with friends and acquaintances. But I also need a lot of privacy and time in solitude, and just as I like to travel and meet people I also enjoy exploring the horizons of my inner landscapes.
From the fact that I’m now writing here – in a public library – you can conclude that I’ve finally succeeded in conquering for myself that blessed and longed-for haven of privacy and creativity. My internal and external worlds are in harmony, and I can take a deep breath.
Boiling under the lid
But let us not quite finish the story yet.
You see, my suppressed energy of creativity forced me to make an inquiry into the essence of frustration. Why did I get so frustrated? Why was it so difficult to postpone my writing?
Sure, I have set myself deadlines, but my personal deadlines are very relative, and in the big picture of life there is actually only one real deadline, and it is The Deathline – which, by the way, is getting closer and closer as I age.
I was frustrated because during the past week I have felt like I had been prevented from fulfilling my need to write. That then created another kind of need – a compelling urge to kick hard against the circumstances.
I understand that the more expectations we have in life, the more we can expect to be disappointed, too. The harder we try to control life, the harder it often hits back.
“Panta rei”, said already Heraclitus. Everything flows. Life moves, changes, surprises us. It gets out of our control. – All this I tried to say to myself.
Why then didn’t these philosophical viewpoints help me when I was on the peak of my frustration?
From resistance to relaxation
I finally discovered the answer. My problem did not resolve, because I was not having an intellectual problem. My feelings were very much involved. I had become irritable and crotchety toward my closest people. And isn’t it that having an emotional state like that is not quite acceptable, is it?
So I condemned my “bad” feelings – and that made me feel even worse. On top of my crotchety frustratedness now settled another unpleasant feeling – a heavy weight of moral disapproval.
I soon realized that by means of thinking and judging myself I was not getting anywhere.
I gave up.
It was exactly then that something interesting happened. The very moment I gave up trying to understand intellectually my feelings I remembered my fresh discovery: I can allow myself to feel my feelings as they are! Accept them.
– “Let it be”, like the Beatles used to sing.
I took another look at my frustration. I wished it welcome, stayed with it, spent time with it. I allowed myself to feel its every single sharp edge in my whole being. (But please note that I no longer put that feeling into action!)
What a relief!
I have been studying this lesson with other feelings, but this time it came in the form of frustration. Again I had to remind myself of the fact that it is the resistance to my own feelings that creates my misery. It is the judgemental words of my inner talk that create the tension, whether as acceptance of feelings opens the door to relaxation, and relaxation allows solutions to come to me through intuition, without hard thinking.
My solution was right in front of my eyes. I remembered the public library, the fragrance of old books, the rustling of paper when someone turns a page, the muffled voices of people speaking to each other in the reading room. Could there be a better place for writing!
It was so simple – I just had to look at my feelings with compassion.
But that is often the most tricky part. I’ll come back to that in another post.