At its deepest heart, creativity is meant to serve and evoke beauty. When this desire and capacity come alive, new wells spring up in parched ground; difficulty becomes invitation and rather than striving against the grain of our nature, we fall into rhythm with its deepest urgency and passion
John O’Donohue, Beauty
When was a time that you allowed difficulty to become invitation? What did you create?
As an artist, the most meaningful and satisfying activities in my life revolve around creating beautiful things. But like many, for years I stayed in a situation that sucked my soul dry because I owed money on a mortgage and had bills to pay. There were expectations to be met regarding what was respectable and acceptable. I was never very comfortable with those expectations, but for many years I didn’t feel like I had a choice.
My definition of freedom has been with me since I was a teenager: To live my life uniquely and simply, seeking wisdom and adventure in my own way.
Last autumn, I decided it was high time I turn that into reality. It was time to stop running away from the impossibly high wall of resistance that kept my thoughts, emotions, and actions from being victories. It was time to stop saying “it’s too hard” and start saying “yes, I can!” All winter (with kind help from my coach, Lach) I worked hard on the fears, worries, and old thought patterns that had held me back for decades. And as spring approached, I took a leap of faith. I set a date to leave my old job, and delved more deeply than ever before into my art.
I’ve been a jewelry artist most of my life. As a teenager I taught myself wire-wrapping, and spent many happy hours taking apart old costume jewelry and re-making it into cool new stuff to wear with my punk jeans and U2 t-shirts. Around age 20 I started making beach glass necklaces, selling them in a local gallery run by friends, and at Art Fairs. I loved it, but never thought I could do it full-time, because it didn’t seem practical and I thought I had no head for business.
Water’s Edge Jewelry was a beloved side project for the next 20 years. But when I decided to leave my old job, Water’s Edge took on a whole new dimension. Instead of looking at my jewelry from an income standpoint, I looked at it as one of my greatest passions. I love creating beautiful things and making them available to those who love them, too. Combine that with the never-ending possibilities of the internet, and I found myself in a position to begin supporting myself through my art. Major, colossal dream come true! By facing my fears, I discovered an invitation: “Take the leap! What if everything goes right?”
And to my amazement, everything is going right so far. My thoughts and emotions no longer feel like the enemy. As an artist, I’m creating new designs, expanding my circle of availability, and coming up with new ideas every day. One of my dearest dreams now is to inspire others to think about their own definition of freedom, and start taking steps to make it a reality. If I can do it after twenty-plus years of thinking it was impossible, you can do it, too!
Welcome to Water’s Edge Creative, online home of my new path. Along with being a showcase for my Lake Michigan beach glass jewelry, it’s also a forum for sharing all my adventures and connecting with you and yours, as well. The paths we walk as artists, writers, travellers and freedom-seekers intersect in brilliant ways throughout the blogosphere, and I’m so excited and happy to be here. As a way to celebrate, I asked some of my favorite creative folks to share their own stories of difficulty and invitation…
Chris Guillebeau The Art of Non-Conformity
While living in West Africa in 2005, I hoped to attend a graduate program in the U.K. I dutifully applied and awaited the results with certitude—surely they'd choose me, right? Alas, instead of receiving a nice welcome packet, I received a polite letter thanking me for my application and wishing me success elsewhere.
I was initially saddened... OK, crushed... but then I chose to spend the next year serving on the leadership team for a medical charity in Liberia. That next year was highly challenging and highly creative. I learned more during that time than in the previous three years I had been working overseas, and I have no doubt that the experience prepared me well for my next adventures as a writer and traveler.
In short, I'm extremely grateful for that polite letter wishing me well elsewhere.
(Chris Guillebeau writes, travels, and helps people take over the world. Join the revolution at The Art of Non-Conformity.)
Tyler Tervooren Advanced Riskology
With every difficulty comes an invitation, but only if you look at it through the right frame. I used to complain and sulk when I ran into difficulty in life, but when I was finally fired from my comfortable, well-paying job in 2010, it shocked me into the realization of just how far that way of looking at the world had gotten me: nowhere. Or, more precisely: nowhere I wanted to be.
Since then, I've started a website that I love to work on, built a small community of people that are exciting to talk to, and taken on a few personal challenges that aren't just difficult, but frightening as well. Every day of my life is now "harder" than it used to be, but I've never been so satisfied.
Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention, and necessity, in most cases, is synonymous with some type of difficulty. You can ignore it and get by, but probably not without losing a little piece of yourself. Why not face the challenge instead?
(Tyler Tervooren, Professor of Riskology, is a writer, adventurer, and risk taker on a quest to join the top 1% of the world. He helps people do scary things that improve their lives.)
Lachlan Cotter The Art of Audacity
Life constantly invites you to grow and become more than you were. Sometimes those invitations tantalize and excite. Other times they’re deeply challenging. Usually our difficulties are self-inflicted. They’re the expression of our resistance to what life is offering up. They betray a mentality that tries to hold back—to cling to the old. To what feels safe and familiar.
But life’s really on your side all the time. It’s like a caring coach that knows when you need some tough-love to provoke you to fulfill more of your potential. In my life, so many of the things that were initially the most frustrating, adverse or distressing revealed themselves to be incredible opportunities for growth.
- The difficulty of a parent passing away is an invitation to become an adult.
- The difficulty of a long distance relationship is an invitation to live overseas.
- The difficulty of an expiring visa is an invitation to visit other countries.
- The difficulty of a dead-end job is an invitation to value yourself better and start asking more from life.
- The difficulty of feeling stuck and dissatisfied is an invitation to find out who you really are.
Every one of those difficulties challenged me at first. And every one was the beginning of an adventure that forced me to shake things up and took me to places that I never would have gone without the friendly cajolery.
Good problems to have.
(Lachlan Cotter is a location independent Life Coach who eats fear for breakfast and thinks Mediocrity was a Greek philosopher. He writes at The Art of Audacity about bold self expression and his epic motorcycle tour of Asia. You should totally follow him on Twitter.)
Tanja Hoagland Minimalist Packrat
We made the difficult decision last year to move in with my honey's mother because of her financial situation. Two grown minimalists sharing a house with a packrat and a brood of animals was very difficult for us. We took the difficult situation and created a perfect situation for everyone. We decided to think outside the box and convert a run-down backyard shed into a 200 square foot tiny home for ourselves. The shed invited us to reconsider the nature of home and we realized we were up for the challenge! It is a tiny jewel of a home and we love the peace and simplicity it provides for us. Best of all, we are able to help Patrick's mother and still live our own lives in the little backyard wonderland.
(Tanja Hoagland is a packrat turned minimalist. She writes about how “less stuff” can mean “more life” at Minimalist Packrat.)
Elle Dougherty Expedition Minimalism (And Future Endeavors!)
Turning 30 didn't bother me. The prospect of reaching what, in my mind, was an age of being respected and having more freedom was exciting. 30 came and went, then 31. At 32 I realized age is just a number and it doesn't mean you have accomplished anything aside from getting older. I was stressed out, cranky and frustrated most of the time. Exhausting myself running in circles never making real progress. Busy being busy.
My husband and I often talked about our "5 Year Plan." It was idle chit chat that spanned at least 10 years. Sure we reached some small goals here and there but nothing really changed. My life wasn't exactly difficult, yet I was miserable. Waiting for an indefinite point in the future for X, Y & Z in order to be satisfied. We were going through the motions of life and never really feeling alive. I didn't even know what I enjoyed doing any more.
So I took a step back to look in from the outside to see where I lost my way. I had to give up many things with no apologies, no regrets, in order to move forward. Now I have created contentment in my life. Contentment accepting the consequences of past choices. Contentment knowing that I am doing what I really want to be doing. There is focus on priorities, MY priorities. No more saying, "I should do this" or even "I will do this." Instead I say, "I am doing this" and "I did this!"
(Elle Dougherty is currently working on a new project, and says she’s “Nicheless but happy.”)
Karol Gajda Ridiculously Extraordinary
A few years ago I was depressed, angry, and generally unhappy. It was, by far, the most difficult time in my life. After years of being down I started to pick myself back up. I didn't really want to die so I could either choose to continue on the path towards unhappiness, or I could do something about it. At first it started slow. I pared down all the possessions I'd accumulated over the years. I've been living out of a backpack and a computer bag for 2 years. That was a huge weight off my shoulders. I started going out with people even though I felt uncomfortable in social situations. I started doing stuff on my own when I couldn't find other people to do them with. I call these Solo Social Activities. Activities like going to the movies, or a sports game, that are usually social. It all culminated in my creating my blog and the lifestyle I currently live. These days I love life and I'm generally happy. :)
Niall Doherty Disrupting the Rabblement
Earlier this year I started a group on Meetup.com for anyone aiming to make a positive difference in the world. Several people in my area joined immediately and I was all excited for our first get-together. Unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding and one person couldn't find where we were meeting. He was pretty upset about it, and said some not-so-nice things about me online later. The next day he called me on the phone, still fuming. It was clear he wanted an argument, but I refused to argue with him. I apologized for what had happened, owned up to my part in the misunderstanding, and vowed to do better in future. I also politely suggested a few ways he could have handled the situation better, then began inquiring enthusiastically about his business. Five minutes later we were chatting like best buds on the phone, and he was inviting me along to a great event the next evening.
I felt empowered after that call. I'd turned a difficult situation into a win-win, something I hadn't always been able to do. A couple of years earlier and a phone call like that would have left me reeling. But over the years I've grown to see the opportunities hidden in whatever difficulties come my way. I know to take the high road when someone bad-mouths me or accuses me of a wrong-doing. Kill 'em with kindness, as the saying goes.
(Niall Doherty is on a mission to become a self-employed vagabond, pursuing his passions and helping other people escape mediocrity. He writes at Disrupting the Rabblement.)
John T. Unger John T. Unger Studios
(John was kind enough to allow me to quote from his post “It’s Only Life or Death. It’s Always Only Life or Death.”)
The best thing that ever happened to me was the night an angry, messed up cab driver pulled me into the back room of a 24 hour diner and held a huge handgun to my head for over ten minutes, all the while describing in intricately fetishistic detail exactly what would happen when he pulled the trigger.
Why? Because it changes you, staring down a nutjob holding a gun. After that, the small stuff just doesn't get sweated. You either break, or break through to a mandatory satori of keeping things in proportion that most people never get to walk away from. It's an ice calm I wouldn't trade for anything.
(John T. Unger is a “Creative Re-Use” firebowl artist, writer, and creator of the Art Heroes podcast.)
Lauren Rains The Mad To Live
Negative Nancies: These kinds of people are extremely difficult to travel with. I once had to spend a few weeks traveling with someone who did nothing but complain. It got to the point where their negative attitude impacted everything and the worst possible outcome was always just around the corner.
For a moment I let it get the best of me. I let his attitude annoy me, get me down, and even inspire me to join in the action and complain myself.
And then I realized that I could either let his negative attitude turn what was 99% a positive experience into a 9% positive experience, or I could embrace their negative attitude by observing the habits and outlook of someone with one of the most unattractive personalities I’ve ever seen.
Spending those two weeks with him taught me that complaining gets you nowhere. Happiness is 90% our own decision if not more, and a lot of that is rooted in our attitude. I would have never thought spending two weeks with such a Carl Complainer would be one of the best problems I’d ever have.
(Lauren Rains is a world-traveling, Spanish-speaking, web-designing chick who is on a mission to live a life of adventure, substance, and growth. Join her at The Mad to Live.)
Jamie Ridler Jamie Ridler Studios
The major crisis moments of my life ripped away from me all that was familiar – moving from my beloved home in Montreal at 12, dealing with the divorce of my parents and the break-up of my family when I was at university and later, leaving my long-term relationship with no money, no job and nowhere to go. These moments wiped the slate clean, tearing my heart out as they ruthlessly cleared away my world.
And somehow in these empty spaces, I discovered a blank canvas. In this void, I could now move anywhere, be anything.
What I created was my self. What I created was my life.
(Jamie Ridler is a creative living coach and the founder of Jamie Ridler Studios. From coaching to workshops, from podcasting to blogging, Jamie’s work helps women find the confidence and courage to discover and express their creative selves so they can be the star they are. www.openthedoor.ca)
A million thank-you’s and blessings to each of these extraordinary people for taking the time to share in my new beginning. Check out their work, and be inspired. Together, we can all help make the world a better place. :)
Now over to you: When was a time that you allowed difficulty to become invitation, and what did you create? I would invite you to think about this question and write out your answer in your journal, on your blog, or best of all, in the comments below. I love everything about blog comments and can’t wait to connect with you...
Alrighty then! I love a good, deep quote that makes me think…but I also love to have fun. Subscribe to Water’s Edge Creative within the next two weeks, and you’ll be eligible to win one of three items of jewelry! I’ve created a special Gallery page so you can take a look at the goodies…fourteen unique items from which to choose. I love how Chris Guillebeau lets his cat, Libby, pick the winners in his contests, so I’m going to do the same. Brigadoon here will do her best for you…good luck! (Winners will be informed via email)