Like this dry pond at Bodrifty (which I photographed a couple of weeks ago), when I made the momentous decision to survive by my own artistic endeavours, I was forced to pare my existence down to the bare bones out of economic necessity. I now declare myself in line with the official drought crisis that is currently sweeping the country (though you wouldn’t think it today as the rain lashes down) to desert-conditions level of survival. Although I have been a practicing artist – on and off – all my working life, this time it feels like starting from scratch again. I know it may take a few years before my ‘pool of plenty’ is replenished once more – the mere fact I believe it will happen is a huge leap of faith in itself.
Virginia Woolf said, “a woman author needs only financial independence and a space of her own to prosper”. How right she was but these two vital ingredients for creative survival are mutually dependent on each other. For some people, just finding the right environment that will enable them to thrive creatively can be difficult. This seems particularly true for women. Being natural ‘carers’ for family, friends or business clients over many years, is often at the expense of our own ambitions. There is simply no time to indulge our own aspirations. We all need that space to grow, and often we have to fight our corner to get it, and – more importantly – once claimed, hold on to it.
Gandhi once said “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” In my view there is a real danger that in serving others you can lose yourself into a state of oblivion! Serving others is a tool for learning about humanity in general, as well as understanding your own levels of compassion and desire to help others. And yes, there is a vicarious pleasure to be gained by serving other people’s needs, like helping your children flourish and prosper, or as we did, for instance, serving guest’s needs in our B&B business. But it’s not the whole story and it may be at the detriment of your own personal growth.
When I feel that the scales have tipped into the area where life begins to feel more like a heavy burden, then the time has come to say, enough is enough, it is time I ‘serve’ my own needs. This is particularly true as we feel the clock speeding up and the realisation that there will simply not be enough time left for us to do all the things that we want to do. So what we choose to do needs to really count. For many who have been devoted to the service of others over many years, this can be the hardest thing in the world to do. To feel fulfilled in any way, we need to make our inner world matter, to feed our psychic beings, and to be able to express ourselves through the many facets of our personality is vital to maintain a healthy self-hood. The very best way to do this is to give expression to our innate creative powers. For Sven Berlin, “Although I have written of poetry and the visual arts as I have practised them for over half a century, it always seems to me the things of most importance in this existence – except for light and colour and form – are those things that are invisible.” (from ‘The Other Man’)
As in everything we do in life, there is a balance to be struck, between serving the needs of others as well as ourselves…..lest – heaven forbid – we should ever be accused of being selfish! So I say, create some physical and mental personal space and get on with the business of being “the change you want to see” (Ghandi). This may not be as worthy as serving others but it is much more aspirational. In the long-term, your light will spread its magic far and wide and be an inspiration to others. So – go on – clear your diary and free up some time. Be brave and give yourself permission to take more control of your life . You know you’re worth it!