I want to write about passion. What is it? Where, inside of us, does it live? Is it necessary? I write these questions because I need to give myself a running start. Asking questions, for me, is the best way to build momentum. A question for me is the elastic that prompts the bounce. Without it, I just get shin splints by trying to jump off a ground too dense with reality.
Last December I worked through Danielle LaPorte’s fantastic book The Desire Map. I loved this book. I spent somewhere around 15 hours working through her questions, and through this work arrived at my five core-desired feelings. I taped these words onto my wall next to mirror and, for the last twelve months, have looked at them every day.
These words were/are: safe, engaged, powerful, playful and passionate.
I’d like to share why I chose these words with you, and how my relationship to them has changed.
I wrote safe because just three and a half months before working through the book I’d ended and walked away from a six and a half year relationship. My experience of life was chaotic. I desired stability, and a feeling of security in both my materialized life and in my imagination-based dreams.
It’s now a full twelve months later, and that sense of stability and safety is starting to become real for me. That shift started with the voice intensive I attended in Toronto, and really took off after speaking a poem I’d written at Limelight After Dark in September. The decision to do this open mic was one that was incredibly unsafe. I didn’t even invite any friends to come with me for moral support. I just did it, and what was funny: this giant risk gave me a feeling of security which unparalleled anything that I had ever experienced before.
In an interview I did with my mentor Beverley Elliott, she said:
“The big surprise is that people like my authentic self more than all those other selves I presented. Isn’t that a kicker!”
My writing voice has always seemed to appear (to those who know me) as substantially different from the self I appear as in real life. At this open mic though, I gave myself the opportunity to speak the words I’d written. In many ways it felt like my voice had finally been given permission to speak the language of my soul. The result: an almost supernatural experience of liberation. After getting home that night, I stood outside my door on the grass and stared up at the stars, whispering gratitudes like I never had before.
My next core-desired feeling was engaged. I wrote this word because I felt that I’d spent too large a portion of my life as an observer. I was consumed by depression as a teenager. During that time I felt (and I’ve used this imagery more than once on this blog) as though I was trapped inside of a box made of translucent glass. The world felt very separate from me, and although I enjoyed watching life happen, I felt that I didn’t have the ability to participate. So I sat on the inside of my prison, and I watched. That’s where I felt I belonged.
I chose the word ‘engaged’ as a challenge to this belief. This year I learned how to maintain eye contact with people (It’s now a necessity for me in conversation. I can almost immediately tell whether I trust someone or not just by gently exploring their eyes with my own – a strength I didn’t know I had until I found myself in a place of security behind my own) and I learned how to use my voice in a more honest and empowered way. I learned how my voice could, and always been, an extension of me — not a weakness, as the tremor which sometimes shook the fluidity of my sound, made it seem.
About one month ago, I woke up inside of my room with a startling realization: I was looking at my room as myself for the first time. I was becoming apart of my life.
I wrote powerful, because I wanted to feel as though I was in control. I wanted to feel like a deliberate creator of my reality and not as someone who was merely being thrown around by life, here and there – which had been my experience in many previous years.
The restaurant I had gotten a job at after first arriving in Vancouver was demolished, forcing me to move on. The gym I’d become employed at later (and I fought for this job) turned out to have a highly toxic atmosphere which included theft, bullying and overwhelming lethargy. The 4:45am start times I was eventually given (paired with the rehearsals happening in concert which lasted until 11pm) necessitated a move. This brought me to a yoga website. It was a job I actually really enjoyed, but only four months after getting hired I learned that this job too would end in less than a year, as they had sold the company and would be moving to the States. So then I started working for a magazine, but only six months later that job too would end in an explosion of debt and a failure too painful to write about.
Which is how I started writing for CRAVE. It was a job I sought out myself, two months after writing the word ‘powerful’ on my wall. I finally felt like I was taking deliberate control of my life. For the first time it didn’t feel like I was being forced unwillingly along. “I made this happen,” I’d whispered to myself with pride.
I now receive incredible opportunities all the time. I think this is because I have learned not only to be a powerful creator, but also (more importantly, perhaps) a powerful receiver.
I wrote playful because I wanted to break away from the structure and the workaholism that had consumed my life. I still work a lot, but I’ve ceased to schedule joy in as a necessity. Instead, I’m finding the courage to make it an organic and frequent part of my life. This has made a huge difference.
My life had previously felt more like a list that had to be crossed off daily. On this list I even wrote things like exercise, meditate and journal. I’ve stopped writing everything I want to do down, because there are certain things that I believe are best done without a reminder of commitment. There are many things that I do willingly, without a prompt or push. In fact, in those cases, the prompt often makes me want to do them less.
I didn’t need another thing to do. What I needed was to ‘be.’ Play gives me the opportunity to just ‘be.’
I specifically enjoy the play that exists inside of space – not time. A life lived inside of space instead of hours feels very different – reminding me more of how I approached life as a child.
Dreams and anticipation, laughter and curiosity, exist inside of space in a way that is very different from the way they appear underneath the unforgiving forward motion of a second hand. Time feeds the belief of a life to be raced against. Time, as we’ve created it (through our own desire for imprisonment) brings us reliably to the end. There’s something so comforting about a nine in time, isn’t there?
For me, the word ‘playful’ exists in response to time. This word embodies my desire for presence, and reminds me of how I want to feel ‘in the moment’ and in relationship to my dreams.
The last word that I wrote was passion. The real topic of this post in a fairly round about way.
What is passion, and why did I desire it?
When I first wrote this word, I wrote it because I wanted to approach all of my life with an unbiased sense of passion. I wanted my passion to be independent of my circumstances. I think that this is good, but I also think that I may have made a wrong turn somewhere. There are certain things that make me feel passionate in a way that is easeful, but I’d stayed clear of those things because the word ease made me feel uncomfortable. I was afraid to ask for what I wanted because then life might cease to feel like a struggle, and I loved that feeling of exertion that came from pushing against my life.
This pushing gave me the illusion of passion, because my fear of the things that made passion occur most naturally for me were too great for me to look at with any acknowledgement. Like an embarrassing moment, I pretended that they weren’t there and that my eight year old self had never found them to begin with.
“We have a strange conceit in our culture that simply because we have said something, we understand what it means! But often we do not – especially when we speak from a deeper place than intellect or ego, speak the kind of words that arise when the inner teacher feels safe enough to tell its truth. At those moments, we need to listen to what our lives are saying and take notes on it, lest we forget our own truth or deny that we ever heard it. ”
– Parker J. Palmer, Let your Life Speak
Living my life of passion in this avoidant way, I arrived, two months ago, at a place of complete exhaustion.
I couldn’t move. For a month I walked away from Creative Life. For several weeks I left this blog abandoned. For two months I even walked away from acting. I experienced a desire I couldn’t leave unsatiated for complete and all-consuming laziness (my version, at least).
I wanted to walk around the sea wall in the middle of the afternoon. I wanted to spend hours every morning reading books that had nothing to do with improving who I was, but were only fantastic stories. I wanted to abandon all sense of responsibility, and I wanted to write poetry in the company of a big glass of beer, mouthing words to myself alone at a table in the corner of Cafe du Soleil.
I didn’t want to pursue any new opportunities. I didn’t want to succeed. I just wanted to bask in space and greedily suck up the air that was around me. I wanted to experience myself in a different way, and I started saying no to everyone. I wanted it, and I did it all.
Fuck (and if my mom reads this post, she will hate that I swore), did that ever feel good.
Then, piece after piece I started picking things up again, but only in the amount that felt good.
With the help of these words — one year later — I arrived at one of the biggest revelations I’ve had yet in my life.
I realized that my work could stand on top of purpose instead of striving.
I realized that work could lead somewhere, instead of just existing as a means of survival – an obvious statement, but it wasn’t an obvious one to me until recently. I think this topic probably deserves a blog post of its own.
I’ve also realized that it is perfectly acceptable to not move forward once and awhile. There is a lot of value to be found in experiencing the joy waiting to be played with in the space that exists around all of us right now. It’s okay to be joyful as who we are.
So, moving into 2016 I’m trading my five words in for only two.
Those words are joy and ease. Two words which, when combined, I believe can only lead to a place that is nothing short of magical – another word that I really love, and potentially might add now that I think about it.