Part Three in a Series of Small Steps for Sanely Dealing With Big Changes
By Jennifer Hathaway
In part two of this series of writings, “Dream”, I talked about map-making: creating a map to our future. The logical follow-up to that step is that we have to start actually walking the road we’ve laid out. While the map is not the territory, it is the foundation for the new habits of thought that we’ll need to develop for the journey, and it’s the guidance system for the actions that we take.
When I was 32 years old, I lost an ovary [I still don’t know where I put it!] I had two weeks to wait for the tests to come back that would tell me if I was going to live or die. During that time, I thought about my life, and how much of it wasn’t what I wanted. I thought about what it would be like to lay on my deathbed and look back on my life, realizing that I hadn’t done what I wanted to.
I decided that I would stop putting off my dream of being an artist. I’d always made art, but I never really took it seriously. I decided I wanted to try.
So, once a week, every Thursday morning, I’d dress in office clothing, take my kids to the babysitter’s for three hours, and then run home and work on various little graphics projects that I’d sell for just enough money for babysitters, art supplies, and books. Slowly I built my resume and my portfolio, making a little more money. Over years I built my reputation.
Credentials come one at a time. All of mine were earned in the field, not bestowed by a school- although two acknowledged master painters trained me and gave their approval along the way. I worked and worked, and eventually I got somewhere with it.
It was scary as hell at first, but it was worth it.
One of the first things we must give to ourselves in this process is courage. Courage comes from the French word “Coeur”, which means “heart”. When we “take heart”, allow ourselves to feel solid inside, and act from our center, we are displaying courage. When we act according to our true will in life, we are being courageous: heart-filled.
Courage is in many regards one of the highest forms of love. It is not so much a matter of muscling past a difficulty like a superhero or putting ourselves into denial about our fears like some martyr. It’s more about orienting ourselves so strongly to our inner compass, that “heartfelt” plan for the future, that there’s no more room for fear. Difficulties arise, problems persist, unforeseen events will happen- as they’ll do whether or not we are pursuing our dreams- but when we have that heart-centered drive, we just deal with what comes at us and keep going forward, fearless- and joyful.
Another gift we have to give ourselves is commitment. Creating profound change requires a commitment to new habits- habits of thought and of action. Establishing a new habit of behavior takes a minimum of about two weeks, a new habit of thought somewhat longer. The commitment to thought is important.
In my case, I had to decide that I “am” an artist. That was my new habit of thought. There were days where I was scrubbing toilets, chasing toddlers, and cleaning out the catbox that I had to literally repeat that small idea over and over again.
Along with the thought came the work- drawdrawdraw, paintpaintpaint, chuck the mistakes, start again. Baby steps. Inch by inch, row by row. And then back to the rest of life as well, discarding what no longer fits as you go. But you get there, you grow the thing, and it becomes real just by taking those first small steps.
So that’s the personal sphere, the simple-but-not-easy way to change your life. Do it.
There’s much more at stake now, however. We must also step into our role as a member of a community, wherever we are, right now. Nothing whatsoever is going to be worth bringing into manifestation in a world in meltdown, so just buck up and take up your part. The happy news is that usually our personal goals are helped along by the work we do as part of a community, so it’s all good.
Our habits of thought about the world at large need to change. It’s no longer remotely acceptable to consider “status quo” to be adequate. The paradigm that is passing, the corporatist, self-centered, greed-blind dynamic we’ve been operating under has brought us to the brink- if not past it- of global destruction, and we are currently in a state of emergency. If we don’t hit the brakes, hard, this civilization is going into the abyss, with all hands aboard.