My husband brought something to my attention the other day.
“Look at your tag cloud on your website,” he said. “You can see what get’s your energy. Renee and McKinley are in huge letters, followed by Nature Reveries, Garden, and then Studio.”
We are talking about stories–how the stories we tell ourselves have a huge impact on our lives. I add to his observation that often when I am writing about my creativity, what I’m really writing about is my difficulty in getting the time for my creativity. Alternate negative stories about my creativity include my difficulties in launching my career, my difficulty with finishing pieces, my difficulty ad nauseam. Obviously these are not the kinds of stories I want to be telling.
Though I am a mostly cheerful person, prone to occassional bouts of spontaneous ridiculousness, this does not accurately reflect my feelings about myself, which are usually critical. All this brings to mind an episode of “This American Life” that told the story of the Harlem Children’s Zone told by Paul Tough (you can listen to it here). He describes the findings of a research project by James Heckman. By age three, children of parents with professional jobs heard about 500,000 encouragements and 80,000 discouragements. Conversely, children of parents on welfare heard about 80,000 encouragments and 200,000 discouragements. Those figures stuck in my head for a long time. Mostly I fretted about how many discouragements had I given my children, and envisioned my negative remarks piling up like rocks in their schoolbags, weighing down their learning.
But now I am wondering about the patterns of stories that we tell ourselves. Surely these begin in childhood, with the stories our parents tell us, and the stories they are telling themselves. Not Cinderella stories, either. Encouragements or discouragments. Maybe this is why I believe in a miraculous world–because of the wonder my mother felt and shared with me. Maybe it also plays a part in my difficult filter concerning my creativity. My mother is, after all, a talented artist who put aside her creativity as her role as a mother grew with each child (My mother had five children. I have five children). Regardless, patterns can shift and morph, like a kaleidoscope. And this is what I’m thinking about.
Old story, new story. How do we go about changing the stories we tell ourselves? This seems like such a tricky thing to me. Hypnosis? Meditation? Following one’s bliss? Tomorrow I want to write out some of my old story plot lines, and the new story plot lines I’m replacing them with. I want to write about how, for me, the word bliss is bound with the word sacred, and about how music plays a role in that.