The Potent Power of Unkindness
I stood in the hardware store with tears streaming down my face and blood trickling down my finger.
I had been loading huge, heavy sheets of fibreboard onto a trolley with great difficulty and one of them had slipped and landed on its edge, cutting my finger on it’s way down.
I’m not proud of my response. I burst into tears.
Why hadn’t I just asked for help? Actually, I had. Just like I’ve done a hundred times before over the past 10 years, I had walked into the store, told the Guy-at-the-Desk that I was about to purchase some large, heavy sheets of medium density fibreboard, and could I please have someone help load them into the trolley for me?
“Certainly madam,” has always been some version of the response. Then, an announcement is made over the PA, and a strong young man appears, effortlessly loading the sheets of wood onto the trolley and into my vehicle.
But this time, the Guy-at-the-Desk flatly refused to send anyone to help me. Surprised, I asked if the store policy had changed, he said no, abruptly asserting it was “cost-cutting and more cost cutting”.
Trying not to dwell on the tendonitis in my elbows and my less-than-impressive biceps, I thought, “Well, I’m a big girl, maybe I can do this myself.”
And that’s where things started to go pear-shaped.
Minutes later, with blood trickling down my fingers and tears streaming down my face, I went back to Guy-at-the-Desk and asked AGAIN for help. Unmoved by the sight of various fluids streaming from me, despite my obvious distress, Guy-at-the-Desk merely handed me a Band-Aid and maintained there were “no staff available to help me.”
It was becoming patently obvious that Guy-at-the-Desk’s full name was Unkind-Guy-at-the-Desk.
Brusque and curt and unyielding, he left me with only one option. Stem the embarrassing stream of tears, go back and continue loading the sheets myself, with my nine remaining non-bleeding fingers and my very bruised spirit.
I am unaccustomed to unkindness. So, when I encounter it, it surprises me and knocks me off balance.
After I left the store, I rang the manager and told him what happened. He was horrified and promised to follow it up. I felt a little better. Then I told the story to my sister and felt a little better still.
By the third re-telling, I suddenly remembered that my encounter with Unkind-Guy-at-the-Desk was actually a rather unique event in an otherwise lovely day. A day that even before I met him, was replete with several kind acts from others: my housemate offering to wash my car, my brother-in-law not only lending me his vehicle to pick up the wood, but also making me delicious coffee and toast. I counted five other kindnesses that had preceded my encounter with Unkind-Guy-at-the-Desk, marvelling at my (natural) tendency to not even notice them.
In choosing to highlight the one horrid event, I had been unkind to myself. To be fair, I was just being human. As a species, we’ve need to pay attention when things go wrong, so that we don’t repeat mistakes. Paying attention to pain saves lives. So it takes a conscious choice to act differently.
The Creative process is just like that.
Our personal unkindness to ourselves is the most powerful Creativity-Blocker there is. It manifests as a critical voice that stops us from finishing our creations, or stops us from ever starting in the first place.
How can we overcome this?
Often we can’t do it alone. Connection and Creativity are natural partners. When I was just discovering my creativity (at the ripe old age of 40, with three degrees in Science under my belt), I needed to create in the company of other people. And I needed my teachers to help direct me – to highlight the strengths in my work, to draw on their experience so I could learn to channel those strengths.
And we can’t do it unconsciously. It has to be a conscious choice to CHOOSE other thoughts. To pay attention to THEM, even though the unkind thoughts are still there. Just like I had to CHOOSE to notice seven kindnesses in the face of one unkindness at the hardware store.
We can use our creativity in so many ways – I have 4 main ways – Painting, Writing, Walking and Growing Things.
When my heart is aching, I reach for my favourite pen and journal. Writing words on a page invariably untangles the knots in my spirit. Walking is also a creative activity for me, because immersing myself in the colours and textures of nature creates countless new images in my mind or in my photographs. And growing things – taking pleasure in each bloom – in the gentle cycles of life that effortlessly happen under my hands, is an act of creative mindfulness.
When I’m reaching for internal change and growth, I paint. The evolution of a painting as the layers of colour and texture merge and change on a canvas is the most potent teacher for my spirit. It’s an endless symbol of the processes of life. We build our life’s journeys in layers. Some look amazing. Some don’t. But each layer informs the next, regardless.
And in each of these creative activities, we have to take a risk and in doing so, risk failure. We make something when before that there was nothing, the very definition of using our Creativity. Every time that happens, it is a gesture of Hope. An affirmation of Life.
I’ve had many powerful teachers in my life: my parents, my husband, my daughter, my friends. But the thing about external teachers is that they move on, move away, die, get busy.
The One Teacher that has stayed with me is the Creative Force within. My creativity has been a portal to my spirit, it has taught me to access the Divine within.
Perhaps you’ve felt it too, the last time you dug into the earth and felt its potential, or when you knitted that scarf, baked that cake or composed that letter to your love.
Creativity within all of us is an Unchanging Energy. Perhaps that is because the whole Universe is constantly being created and re-created, just like the cells in our body, just like the seasons of nature.
Every time I create, I’m reminded again of this beautiful Force – a reflection of the magnificence of Creation itself, and we can access it at any time, in a myriad of ways.
It is Kind. It is Powerful. It is Infinite.
What an amazing gift.
“Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form,
when within thee the universe is folded?”
– from the sayings of Ali, (601-661 AD)
I’m feeling the call to create something different inside, and in answering this call, my external teaching work is going on sabbatical for a period.
If you’d like to work with me to tap into your creativity, this weekend’s Start with Art Workshop by the Swan River in Perth, April 6-7 will be your last chance for awhile. The full details of this unique workshop (that is SO much more than an art class) are HERE. I’d love to share it with you if you feel that whisper in your heart 🙂