In the last three weeks, I fell into the Virtue Trap (i.e. deprioritized myself), got scared of my own ambitions as laid out in the Goal Search during week 8, and almost made a creative U-turn.
I spent the major part of a week planning and preparing for my mother’s online birthday party. Being new to hosting Zoom meetings with more than 5 participants, I needed to educate myself about the meeting features and practice hosting a few times. I wrote a script, picked music, invited close family members and friends to say a few words for Mom. There were also 10,000 questions from uncles and aunties who were excited about an online party but nervous about using Zoom. Plus, my co-hosts, my sisters, had an additional 10,000 questions and concerns and doubts. It took a lot of time and energy but it was totally worth it. More than 75 people showed up for the Zoom party, and Mom is still reading and responding to all the posts on her Kudoboard. The adrenaline from the party kept me up till 3am. The next day, I went into a state of lethargy.
It took me 4 days, 3 baking projects, one furious game of badminton, and takeout from my favorite middle eastern-inspired restaurant to shake off the lethargy and get back to work.
And it seems that simple task of sitting down at my desk, opening my book and picking up a pen, sent some sort of signal because I received exactly the help and guidance I needed to continue. The Artist’s Way seems enchanted sometimes because it gives me the words I most need to read and understand at that very moment. The exercises are exactly what I need to achieve the next breakthrough. So now I’m energized. I have a set of goals to orient me, and a set of actions to keep me moving towards the goal.
My immediate goal for the next two weeks is to build consistency in my practice. The last few weeks have been a patchwork of sluggish unproductive days and scintillating days of work, exploration, and discovery.
Confronting fears is always uncomfortable and I think I’m in for a significant period of discomfort as I continue this journey. But is there really another option?
I took two weeks to get through week 8, and I’m glad I gave myself extra time for the week 8’s tasks. I felt overwhelmed thinking about goals and setting a 5-year horizon with actions for each year. It felt like I was about to make a major commitment. I was afraid to put my deepest wishes down on paper, because then they would be plans not wishes, and I would be accountable for them. I wrote a few things down and then found myself stalling. So I took a break.
I kept up with the morning pages, affirmations and artist dates. I took care of my plants, and Pandoughra (my fledgling sourdough starter). I cleaned my work space and added to my wall décor. I used Canva to create an invite for my mom’s online birthday party and used Kudoboard to design an online group card. I baked brownies using Katherine Hepburn’s recipe. But the most serendipitous of all, I started reading Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic
I bought this book when it was first published in 2015. For 5 years it sat on my book shelf. I remember reading a few pages of the first chapter and then putting the book down never to pick it up again, until week 8. At the beginning of the lockdown (March 22, to be precise) I went around the house collecting books I had bought but never read. Big Magic was in that stack. I started reading two other books in that stack but not Big Magic. Until last week. Reading Big Magic during week 8 made a huge difference to my goal-setting approach and how I think about my creativity. Instead of feeling stuck and apprehensive about planning my creative future, I started feeling light and joyful. I didn’t plan to read Big Magic during this week or anytime soon, it just happened. Once again, I’m grateful for the gentle hand nudging me forward.
I got back to the tasks on May 19, and by the afternoon of May 20 I was done. Last evening, I celebrated the completion of week 8 with homemade pizza and Chianti. Week 9, here I come!
In Week 4 of the Artist’s Way program, we were supposed to write an Artist’s Prayer which I thought would be really difficult because it felt like writing poetry and I haven’t overcome my hesitation to write poems. I love reading them, always have. Writing them is another matter. Anyway, here I was on the last day of Week 4 with the last task on my list. I took a deep breath, thought of my God and started writing. I don’t know how or from where the words flowed and the prayer took shape. I’m so proud of my prayer – it captures everything I feel and believe, it empowers me every time I read it, and simply makes me so proud that I was able to write THAT.
Week 6 is in the bag! This week I learnt to accept freebies – a pineapple from my neighbor, four online lessons from my yoga studio, a class making Salzburger Nockerl with a lovely woman in Salzburg, Austria, and a class learning about Roman winemaking and spicing up red and white wine with a real Roman. Oh Universe, I am ready and willing to accept your abundance!
Being in a lockdown situation, meant I had to get creative with the postcards. I decided to use Canva to design the card and send it electronically to 3 friends and 2 aunts with whom I haven’t spoken in a few months. It was a rewarding exercise – I felt joy from having created something beautiful, and the responses I received tell me the cards were much appreciated. Most of us exclusively use WhatsApp for communication, I think a little more old-fashioned communication can be good for everyone.
Some of the tasks this week were easy – like throwing out ratty pieces of clothing or clearing my home environment or baking. Some needed creative solutions like the postcards. And some have been nearly impossible – like collecting five pretty or interesting rocks. I was supposed to track of where I spent my money. That is was really easy since it was all spent on groceries! I’ve decided to give myself grace and complete some tasks at a later date but spend some time thinking about why I was supposed to do the task in the first place.
I must admit, I felt like I was losing steam a bit at the beginning of the week. Today is a public holiday, I’ve been sitting in my private, sacred work space, reading and writing for hours while my husband takes care of the kids. It has been rejuvenating. I guess some quiet time to read the Artist’s Way, do my tasks, and write the morning pages without interruptions was essential to get myself going again.
March 20, 2020 was a good day. It was a Friday and the beginning of spring break. Three people whom I have known practically my whole life celebrated their birthdays on that day. If not for COVID-19, we would be a on a plane to Hokkaido, Japan for some skiing. It was a normal Friday like any other. March 20, 2020 is also the day I felt a gentle nudge and I decided to embark on the Artist’s Way program.
I bought Artist’s Way, 25th Anniversary Edition in July 2019, on the recommendation of a friend. I started in earnest, and after a week, life took over and the book was forgotten. Until March 20, 2020. I’m grateful for that gentle nudge.
While I was working on a task during week 4, it occurred to me that I needed to make a new Vision Board. Guess what I spent a lot of time doing during Week 5? Creating what Julia Cameron calls an Image File! I cut out pictures from whatever magazines I had on hand, and then spent a few hours searching for pictures of adventures I’d like to experience, pleasures I had been denying myself, items I’m like to own, lives I would like to lead, and hidden desires. Oh, what a joy it was to dream again!
While the Image File exercise brought some much-appreciated fun to the week, reading about the Virtue Trap was like getting a bucket of cold water thrown in my face. It will take some time to change self-destructive behaviours, but I’m thankful for the awareness and the path that is laid out before me. So, while my family plays it’s 2,589th game of Monopoly this month and my daughter sends me cute emojis asking me to join her, I’ve been enjoying some quiet time in my private space, doing what I love.
Reading deprivation is horrible. This week I was supposed to abstain from reading. I slipped up every single day. I tried to limit myself to updates about COVID-19 once a day, school emails, and Artist’s Way. No newspapers, books, recipes, blogs, magazines, online forums, online courses. Nothing. Bedtime was difficult, because reading is a soothing nightly activity. Because I couldn’t read, I started watching the second season of The Good Fight and landed up staying till 2am two days in a row. It was horrible. Reading deprivation is horrible.
The morning pages are now as necessary as my morning cup of tea. Sometimes they happen later in the day, but happen they do.
This week’s extended Artist’s Date was a patchwork of various creative pursuits – baking, listening to Berlin Philharmonic play Gershwin, listening to Sir Patrick Stewart (@sirpatstew) narrate Shakespeare’s Sonnets 27, 28 and 29 (on Instagram), and making an inspirational gallery wall.
I am having so much fun doing this program. It’s a good amount of work, and it’s hard because it makes you dig deep.
I can feel like I’m getting to know myself again. Like I’m dusting off an old, much-loved book and starting from chapter 1. No, starting from the prologue.
I wrote morning pages every day except one (see picture below).
I can feel becoming more honest on the morning pages, not being scared to articulate what I’m feeling and thinking. I guess that’s a positive step towards regaining my voice. This morning, I had more than three pages to write. I couldn’t stop the flow of thoughts and words. Also, there have been tears. Not tears of sadness or joy or shame or guilt. But tears that flowed as result of feeling free, feeling present.
The Artist’s Date consisted of baking Melissa’s Clark awesome One Bowl Pound Cake (see picture) and a new banana bread recipe recommended by a close friend. I have a tried and tested banana bread recipe but never hurts to try someone else’s tried and tested recipe, does it?
There was lot more of colouring books and listening to music – classical, Bollywood and Blues. Plus, I decided to change the blog’s design theme and play around with CSS.
I forgot to mention previously, that in the past two weeks I’ve posted three blog pieces here. I had drafted two of the pieces a while ago, but I hadn’t posted them because they didn’t seem perfect to me. So posting them now, with minimal edits, was an act of courage.
I can’t remember the first time I read about MFK Fisher. I know it was in NYC in the early 2000s and Ruth Reichl had something to do about it. I subscribed to the now defunct Gourmet magazine and I regularly read Reichl’s editorials, probably the only magazine editorials that I’ve ever read. Her autobiographical books Tender to the Bone and Comfort me with Apples were my first taste of the food writing genre. They inspired me to seek out MFK Fisher’s writing. Enter the Gastronomical Me written by Fisher in 1943.
MFK Fisher’s story resonated with me at a deeply personal level – I too, was a newly wed in a new city with my first kitchen, a very small one at that. I dined all over my new city with my husband, experiencing for the first time sushi, goat cheese, artisanal bread, blueberries and beefsteak tomatoes. Her prose was magical and even after 15 years I still remember her poignant description of her time in Vevey, her recipe for cauliflower casserole, and her technique for scrambled eggs.
But most importantly, her book Gastronomical Me introduced me to these words by George Santayana.
Measure of my powers – what am I capable of? What am I really good at? and do I know my power? Have I accepted it or am I still in humble denial?
Fruits of my passion – one or more achievements in my field where be demonstrated my powers and realized a favorable result
Learned my place in the world – as a direct result of my capabilities and achievements, places where I feel home.
Santayana’s words have become my guide to building a life that is purposeful and rewarding at every level. I have realized that happiness is fleeting and the three “ingredients” change with time and in every life stage. What stays constant is the need to live my best life each day.