Furloughed by the Pandemic
My boss’s words, ‘your hours will be cut in half’, were not a surprise to me but it seemed that I had been caught in a flurry of bad news lately. I quickly processed her words without showing any emotion. With my income no longer guaranteed, I headed home to the new struggle of transferring my work to strictly online. I brought a chair downstairs and placed it in front of a blank wall, taped up my social work license, and stacked some still unpacked moving boxes in front of the chair to house my laptop. As I stared out the window, I wondered what had happened. I thought 2020 was going to be better. ‘What is my purpose in life?’ I asked myself for the hundredth time. There was no answer.
I thought back over the past eleven years and the all too familiar feeling of failure enveloped me. My beautiful dance studio now shut down. Two major failed relationships. An attempt to return to school. And an incredibly empty bank account. While others my age engaged in discussions about travel and retirement, I valiantly stuffed my feelings of panic and anxiety, while I wondered how I would even pay my bills. I cursed my creative mind and once more wished that I could just focus on income.
Struggling to Find Purpose
I traveled back in my mind to eleven years ago when I had felt the same repeating defeat. That spring I had curled up in my hammock, stared up at the sky and asked the universe what my purpose was. I recall listening to the hum of a hummingbird and the wind blowing through the trees. ‘Write’ the wind whispered to me. The same message has been repeated to me for years. Teachers, professors, even my mother all made this suggestion over and over again. But I don’t like to write. And for some reason I harbored the belief that if it was my passion and purpose, I should wake up every morning and just magically be able to do it. Writing is, well, hard.
Still, I decided to give it a try and for two months I got up and wrote every morning. A book on mindfulness slowly emerged. The book had not been difficult to write, in fact, it was quite easy. I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment. Then the unthinkable happened. My laptop crashed making it impossible for me to retrieve anything. In a panic, I hired a company to try and salvage my work. When I received the bits and pieces one month later, I convinced myself that writing was most definitely not in the cards. I put the pieces away and went back to work as a therapist.
Assuming It Would Be Easy
About a year later I found myself staring out a window at a magnificent desert landscape again asking about purpose. I’m a good therapist, but there is always a feeling that I should be doing more. A crow flew by overhead and seemed to whisper to me ‘write’. ‘But the book is gone,’ I thought. Rather than try and put the pieces together, I decided to rewrite the book. The words just flowed onto the paper which surprised me. I didn’t think I could recreate it but now the book was rewritten. And in my mind, it was even better. Without anymore thought, I zealously hired an editor, self-published the work and eagerly waited for it to sell. The book did not sell a million copies. In fact it never even sold 100.
During this time, I lost my therapy job due to the program being shut down, and I again considered pursuing writing. So I attended a workshop for creative types and fielded questions about my passion and my purpose. Doubt started creeping in and by the end of the workshop I had a plan to start a business designing healing gardens. Curse the creative mind! It never seems to focus on one thing. I paid a large sum of money and hired a creative business coach. This time the business would be a success. I absolutely refused to believe that having no design experience would be an issue. For a little while anyway. When it became evident that having some design experience might be helpful I decided to return to school to study landscape architecture.
Searching for the Answers
I can happily admit that this was not a quick decision, and I even consulted with a former professor. He advised me to go for it saying that it might be good for me to move to a new location. I chose to ignore the fact that he also suggested I continue writing. I packed myself up and moved across country, and even managed to stick with school for a year. My classmates impressed me with their abilities to create beautiful spaces. I criticized my own designs, my drawings, and my lack of technical ability. I received praise for my sense of place, my ability to see the big picture and my ideas for an outdoor healing space. ‘Is this my purpose?’ I asked myself. To which I replied ‘No, it is too difficult.’
I again turned to writing and joined a group of writers. They asked me to provide a part of my book for them to critique. The comments seemed overwhelmingly negative as they pointed out a lack of ability to use an active voice, questioned the mundane topic, and expressed their concern about my target audience and ability to market the book. ‘This cannot be my purpose.’ ‘It is too difficult.’
A few years later, when I returned home to the desert, I possessed high hopes of finally finding my way. But now here I sat on an uncomfortable chair, staring at a pile of moving boxes and a laptop. I reviewed the past eleven years and melted into a puddle of tears. ‘I am a failure,’ I thought. All these years and I still have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing. For the next few months I provided Telehealth therapy, encouraging others to pursue their passions, while I frequently cried myself to sleep.
That’s when it happened. In the despair of a pandemic. I sat listening to a client of mine tell me that he could not find his purpose. He had spent years engaged in a hobby but had recently run into several difficulties with it. My client expressed concern saying that if this was his purpose, it would be easier. ‘Oh!’ I thought. ‘No, that’s not right’. Clearly this client had potential. And the client had passion in his voice when he spoke about his hobby. I believed he could be a great at it. I encouraged him to keep trying. ‘It’s not supposed to be easy’, I thought, ‘that’s the beauty of it.’ The light clicked on in my mind.
The Key to Finding Purpose
Perhaps the key to creative work is the drive to remain disciplined even when it’s difficult, the willingness to learn from others and the ability to maintain focus. Even during a pandemic. And maybe, just maybe, all the pieces can fit together with a little time, patience and persistence. I knew it was not going to be easy. Not easy at all. But it was finally clear to me. I am a therapist, a healer, a designer and yes, a writer. Healingscapes was born. Right in the middle of a pandemic. And I began the process of learning more about how to help other heal, how to design healing spaces and how to write about it all. In the middle of 2020, I found my purpose.
“To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don’t worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest” Napolean Hill
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