(A post for The Next Chapter’s current book blogging of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin)
For this chapter, I just want to comment on the section, “Reading about Inspiring Lives.” This one is big for me right now. I am devouring blogs and books and magazines, all as I chase ideas as to what/who/why I want to be. I’m an only child, and had an interesting childhood, and didn’t really have anyone to “look up to” as a role model. Throughout life I’ve tended to look to various public personalities to fill that void, as kids often do. I’d say that only recently have the choices for role models been “real.” For so long they tended more toward candy-coated, carefully constructed public images, but thanks to the proliferation of the internet, TV channels competing, “reality” TV, etc, the dirty underbelly of many public personalities eventually became more widely known. I feel that this gave us more of a willingness to accept that there is no such thing as a perfect life (which we might know instinctively, but it can be hard to really believe when all you see is your favorite public figure always doing things well, looking nice, winning, etc; for all the good that we see them do, we need to equally see them screw up).
McMeekin recounts Leslie Neal’s frustration with dancer role models when she grew up, because all of the information available about them was that perfect image that would be hard for anyone to live up to. As Neal says, “[After reading about women dancers and choreographers] I’d think, well, I must be doing something wrong, because they seem to just wake up in the morning, go to the studio, and get hit by divine inspiration every time.” But years later, these women would publish memoirs that revealed the truth about the hardships they went through, and Neal says that was a comfort—knowing that we’re all human, and that we all struggle.
I relate to this since I had my share of struggles growing up, and at some point I started to think it was “just me.” I thought everyone else had it good, and for some reason I had to deal with lots of shit. As years went by, this internalized message took the form of, “You must be a bad person because of all this shit” and “All that shit must have been because of you, your fault. No one else had/has that shit to deal with.” Yeah, fun times, right? By my early 30s, that internal war had reached critical levels, and I realized I had to sort the mess out. Since then, in various ways, I’ve been on a healing path. Over the past few years, reading blogs and books and such has started to really open my eyes to the fact that it’s not my fault, it’s not about me, and lots of people go through shit—actually, I might go so far as to say that everyone goes through shit as part of the human experience. There is no such thing as the perfect life or perfect experience…or rather, the shit is an intrinsic part of a “perfect” experience. I’d never have seen this personal “truth” if it weren’t for all the other people opening up out there, revealing their imperfections, speaking their truths. They have inspired me to open up more, to know that it’s ok to show vulnerability. This in turn is letting me create more, which leads to more unveiling, which leads to more creating…and the ball is rolling.