The battles within me

The courage to honour our creativity, the child within us, is a deliberate practice.

Most days when I wake up, I have this gnawing feeling in my chest, with a sense of weight stuck there, threatening to pull me down. As I move around my shoulders are tense, and it takes constant practice to direct some awareness to how my body is feeling. I am learning to find respite in some moments, typically during and after a long swim. I find myself unable to stop swimming these days, because it is the only time when I find some sense of equilibrium in my existence.

Other times, I find myself having to battle with myself. Just the mere fact that there is a battle is a positive sign, because in the past I would just succumb to my existential despair. I wouldn’t even realise I was doing it, because it has just become so entrenched in my existence.

I don’t really like myself very much. I went from outright self-hating to not liking myself that much, so I would say it is a step in the right direction. I can look at myself in the mirror a little longer now.

This dislike seeps into everything I do and interact with. Any positive feedback on my work barely registers on me. Quickly, I’m back to a pervasive sense of uselessness. I should feel some sense of pride, but I don’t.

Therefore, when I am not incentivised by typical motivators, it just has to be a deliberate practice. A regular schedule. Rain or shine, every regular interval, I put something out there, whether I want to or not. Everything I am compelled to do, I have to shut myself up in order to do it. Everything I put out there in the world, I put it out there because I made a commitment to, because if I ever waited for myself to want to, I would never do anything.

I put them out there, and I am training myself to shield myself from everything that comes back. Even what is seemingly good I have to shield myself from, in order to truly listen to the voice that lies deep within me. The one that comes from a source of purity, innocence and brimming child-like curiosity. Right now it is overshadowed by all the other voices that get slowly added as I age and interact with the world — the ones that are cynical, jaded, fatigued, critical.

Have you ever observed a young child playing? I had to emphasise “young” because the age where they start to lose their childlike-ness is getting earlier and earlier. A young child doesn’t discern what is meaningful to play with or not. They don’t have metrics. They don’t impose judgment on whether their play is “useful” or not.

With every single thing I put out there, it still feels as vulnerable as ever. I think I am insane, I wonder if people will think my ideas are terrible and yet I’m still sharing them. But instead of pride I am slowly gaining perhaps what is more important — self-respect. I am starting to respect that I am willing to do it even if I’m swimming in all these feelings of self-consciousness and self-criticism. In spite of the fear that I may be seen in a way that may be out of my control. What is control anyway?

The courage to honour our creativity, the child within us, is a deliberate practice. It doesn’t really get easier, because there is always a more difficult barrier to break. It is to be willing to expose what is buried deep inside us, to let it take form and allow light to take its place along with the darkness.

The darkness is, however what that gives presence to the light. Destruction brings creation. It is important to me that this experimental year, I honour the darkness as well as the bright spots, because I think I am reducing myself by not acknowledging the darkness that is very much part of me.

In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
— Albert Camus

And perhaps that is what I am trying to seek, a place within me that I know exists, regardless of what takes place externally.


Postscript
It was another battle, to decide whether I should publish this alongside the actual work I am doing. It is much easier to publish only the bright spots. But ultimately I felt that it wouldn’t be real to leave out the complex feelings, or the actual person I am, the weight and doubt I still feel, that comes along with doing the work. That to me, reduces the work itself.