every now and then and you’ll find yourself in the dark
whether it’s a flicker or a long-term night
and you’ll wonder
how moments ago you tended the sea’s beacon
and today you’re fumbling for a switch
and you’ll think
that you ought to try to keep lighting the sea
even when your fuel is gone
and you’ll hide it and pretend
that it’s all okay
because if it weren’t for you
the sea would sink into inky black
but harsh and true
you’re not the only one with kerosene
or a spark
and someone else can ignite the way
and it’s a hard lesson sometimes
that to best help you need to accept it too
and worse yet
that light won’t always come
from the source you expected
by the hands you expected
at the time you expected
but darling it’s still light
despite the size
despite the carrier
despite the timing
and if you ignore the candle to wait for the lamp
it may not come
for some things start small
but the faintest flicker is enough
to glimpse the foot of the stairs
leading up to the beacon
and you’ll find your way
through the smallest of sparks
if you take the time to notice
and when you reach the top
because i know you will
and light the sea once more
and remember the tiny candle at the bottom
of the long staircase
the ships many miles away
you’ve been trying your life to reach
will no longer seem
quite so far off
inspired by a trip to Split Rock Lighthouse, MN.
Please take the time to read this amazing piece of writing by my husband, Stephen. Living deliberately and authentically is a mission we set out on while backpacking Europe a year and a half ago, and I hope these words will inspire and encourage you in your own life journey. ❤
Yes, I mean you, and I want you to just think about you. It’s an uncomfortable topic, I know. We aren’t supposed to think about ourselves. There are so many other people and other problems in the world to think about. Wouldn’t it be selfish to focus on the topic of: you?
Let me back up a bit. I was sitting on a picnic table by the boat docks of Grand Marais, taking a break from volunteer painting at a folk craft school. It was sunny, and warm for a Lake Superior April day, and very beautiful. I could see why some young people come up here for a summer or even 10 months at a time as interns, for the chance to live and work with so many amazing people and ancient crafts. Interesting life choice.
And then it hit me: Why are the lives of many…
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To have a creative soul is to be a boundary between two worlds. It is to glimpse the radiance of eternity, the food of inspiration, and bring it back to heal this existence.
It is a baffling life.
I am an artist. Some element in the fabric of my being constantly searches and hopes for glimpses of the world of inspiration and wonder. It pulls me to beauty and mystery with a never-ending tug, and through the medium of writing I try to put what I discover there into words that might make sense to someone else. Being an artist looks like different things to different people, but to me it is more than the production of work; it is a way of thinking that is driven by the need for inspiration and creation.
It is being unable to peel myself from the frosty ground when a million stars and galaxies shine above me.
It is hearing a piece of music so complex and evocative I forget about existing in the present world and must be a part of something else.
It is becoming so encapsulated in a fantasy story that it shakes the core of who I am with an inspiration, joy, and yearning more powerful than anything else I’ve felt.
It is trying to gather all of these sights, sounds, and feelings into words, music, or art that will touch our world with a dash of the wild, colorful mind.
As an artist, it is not that inspiration and creativity are small pieces of your life; they are your life. You crave them like water. It is in a life of artistry that you are the most alive. The most you.
I have been lucky to find a home where I can thrive as an artist. My community is not only surrounded by natural beauty but full of people who encourage and inspire the creative life. It is a real joy, but if you are an artist, you know that feeling at home in your creative self can be hard.
You know that to much of the world, your creative passion and connection with beauty is considered frivolous, even vain. You get asked about your hobbies and then your “real” job, as if where you make the most money is where you most exist.
You see people dividing the world into thinkers and feelers, as if everyone has either a knack for reason and rationality or connectivity and nurturing. And while you want to be both intelligent and caring, you’re more likely to be found in your favorite spot of the house writing, composing, painting than studying logic or handing out hugs. The way you process the world is more a third category, which is to say, without a category.
You know that some people question imagination, even artistry. Perhaps you’re like me and have been exposed to religious groups that see nonreligious music, works of writing, or art as a waste of time. Sometimes such a fear of the material exists that it can be hard to admit feeling more spiritually connected in an art museum than in a church with stark walls and bland music. But for the creative soul, beauty is not a distractor. Beauty is a healer.
And the world needs it.
The world needs you.
You see, when you’re feeling doubtful, or out of place in an information-filled, academic world, know that the creative works you spend your time on are worth it.
It’s worth it to bring beauty into a world torn apart by ugliness.
It’s worth it to write that song or that poem that will bring someone comfort in a hard time.
It’s worth it to know that your real job as an artist is a job of healing.
There’s a reason we have art therapy and music therapy: works of creativity change lives.
So we the writers, the composers, the musicians, the designers, the actors, the potters, the painters, the dancers, the photographers, the poets, the filmmakers, the sculptors, the gardeners, the craftsmen…let’s light up this world with all we’ve got. Let’s fill it with beauty, with enchantment, with wonder.
Artist, your life has an amazing purpose. And you are who you are with the talents you have to fulfill that purpose.
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
The Golden Way
Come and walk with me, I said
I’ll show you a new road
A path of clear and glittering thread
To take you where you’ll go
The Golden Way it’s called, and I’m sure you’ll love it too
On it you can walk your life
So come and join the
This path is one the many take
And its ways are proven true
With safety, caution signs and maps
There is no better view
These airbags are for breathing
This seatbelt for the dance
So come and join us straightaway
Without a backward
On the Golden Way you never ask
You just walk and don’t look down
We mapped it out before your time
No need to look around
The road this way is smooth and bright
Wide and straight on through
No need to watch the steps you take
Just the ones ahead of
No more winding trails of wood
Too dark and grim to bear
You can’t see past the thick of trees
What if you never get there?
Or trip while stepping on a rock
Or fall and scrape your knee
Too many risks that you could take
What’s life without
That’s why the Golden Way is here
To save you from that stress
If you walk the path that many take
It’s bound to be the best
So enjoy the road of silver and place your feet on gold
And never think again about the former dreams you’ve
There’s just one risk upon this path,
I’ll tell you it in full
That leaving it will bring all hell
And wreck your very soul
I’ve seen people who have left
They’ve gone and scraped their knees
They say the woods are prettier
But they’re blinded by them, please
For who would want to venture out
And make their own new path?
If they’re smart they’ll stay right where they are
And never again
This path is one the many take
And its ways are proven true
That if you whittle yourself down enough
There’s nothing left of you
Who wants to stand out from the crowd
A target for our knives
Or follow dreams you once possessed
Away from prying
Yes, the Golden Way is cold
The metal makes it frigid
But in time your feet will numb
And you’ll be glad that it existed
For cold feet cannot bear
The twists and turns of life
The forest is our greatest fear
With all its unknown strife
So walk this path a while, and soon enough you’ll stay
It becomes your only option when you know no other
This last year has been rough for me in many ways. A lot of long-term aches have bubbled up and festered in sickening ways. Nothing that you let fester can do you any good. But I’m going to talk about one particular infection that I believe to be a top killer of growth and happiness: making comparisons.
Not going to lie, this has been really bad for me lately. To give you a story as an example, here’s something that resurfaced in my life this last week. I had a talk with my husband about a strange fact about myself that I hadn’t really admitted before:
I have a fear of sleepovers.
If that made you laugh a little, that’s fine. The sentence makes me smile, too. It sounds weird, but after doing some googling I learned that this is a pretty common fear. While I may not have been able to realize or articulate it before, ever since I was a child the mention of a sleepover would suddenly cause sweaty palms, a tight chest, a knot in my stomach, and, occasionally, nausea.
I remember being six or seven and sitting on our swingset outside, anticipating going to my friend’s house to sleep over that night. The longer I sat the more ill I felt, until eventually I was certain that I had suddenly caught the flu.
I remember being so excited about finally going to summer camp, until the day finally came and I became so anxious that I threw up.
I remember the feeling of relief that friends would want to come over to my house so I wouldn’t have to go to theirs.
In and of itself, this anxiety isn’t the worst. It’s limited to specific events, usually subsides greatly once I’m at a friend’s house (and realize it’s not actually that bad), and disappears completely once said event is over. But it wasn’t ever the fear alone that was the real problem; it was the nasty thoughts that came along with it.
Why can’t you just let loose like those other girls?
Why do you have to be so childish when none of your friends are?
When will you just grow up and learn to cope with this? Everyone else has.
Your anxiety will be such a drag when everyone else is having fun.
Seriously, do everyone else a favor and don’t even go.
And they festered.
As I got older I learned to enjoy sleepovers more, but usually only with close, trusted friends or family. For all other slumber parties, I became skilled at coming up with other plans and conflicts and reasons I couldn’t go. But even as I stopped caring about missing out on a party, my nasty thoughts remained the same.
Why can’t you just have fun like your other friends?
Seriously, you’re 23. Why should this still be a thing when it is for no one else?
Nobody really wants you there anyway. You won’t contribute to the fun like other people will.
I bet people wish I could just be normal like all our other friends.
You still suck.
While these kinds of thoughts come and go like lightning, dwelling on them can seriously be one of the worst things that you can do for yourself. I know it is for me. These thoughts that have long accompanied my anxiety have outlasted any fear I ever felt, and still affect how I see myself today.
We all have things about ourselves that we don’t particularly like. We look at the seeming success of people around us and berate ourselves for falling short of that. Especially in the world of social media, where we put our most beautiful, successful, and insightful selves forward, it can be so easy to look through a page of fabulous photos, stories, and thoughts and then look back at yourself and think What am I doing wrong?
Why can’t I get as good of a time as that runner?
Why can’t I look as good as that friend?
Why don’t I have as brilliant of thoughts like that person always shares?
Why don’t I have a fairy-tale story like that couple?
Why is my life just not as good as it was in the past?
You guys, these comparisons are worthless and are stopping you from growing as the one-of-a-kind character that you are.
Like me, these thoughts and feelings might go back years. But they don’t have to continue for years to come. Our thoughts affect our reality. But what we perceive as real can be quite different from what is actually real.
First off, all those friends you so admire probably aren’t as fabulous as you make them out to be. Sure, our lives are full of truly wonderful people, but nobody’s life is perfect, and everyone has battles to fight that you aren’t seeing. Wishing to be like someone else isn’t ridding you of your flaws; it’s only wishing you had different ones. We need to be careful to not idealize the real, complex people in our lives and assume that always being in their shoes would be better.
Second, you have a unique story and direction that your life is headed in. Your shortcomings are part of that, but so are your strengths and talents. Ignoring them and wishing you were on a different journey is only stunting your progress. Focus on where you are now to cultivate the things that are going right for you and tend to the things that aren’t.
Thirdly, to be happy, it’s more important to be you than it is to be perfect. Imperfections aren’t the enemy. But dwelling on them and refusing to accept these parts of yourself is. We can thrive as we are without having to pretend to be someone else or hiding the less flattering aspects of our personalities. It’s when we learn to accept that we are unique, and lovable in our uniqueness, that we will find contentment.
St. Paul wrote that those who engage in “comparing themselves among themselves are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12). I write this post so that we may grow in eradicating these thoughts of comparison that hold us back.
Likewise, I hope that we as people can learn to be more comfortable with ourselves and sharing not just the airbrushed, edited versions of us but the truth of who we really are. In fact, being open with sharing your imperfections can be one of the best ways of learning to cope with them, and learning to accept our friends for who they are. I write about less-than-happy things like anxiety and bad thoughts because I don’t want to be just another blogger who looks like she has it all together. I want my writing to speak honesty, to show that I’m someone who’s learning and growing through these things just like anyone else.
Reader, whatever it is you’re struggling with, whatever there is about yourself that you wish would change, I pray you won’t let it hold you back. Don’t fall into the trap of wishing yourself away. Instead, I hope you continue confidently on your unique journey while I continue on mine.