I have spent some time this week poring over a questionnaire that’s purpose is to help me determine my values, my priorities. However, my responses are pointing to the exact opposite. Honestly, I found myself becoming agitated as I thought through my answers to questions. “How do you spend your time? How do you spend your money? Your answers should be reflective of your values.” Examples were given like writing, travel, and researching. I would love to be doing these things! That fire in my belly grows stronger as I read more. Who gets to live a life where their time, money and energy are allowed to be put into the things they value most? Not me! I thought whilst angerly gnawing on the end of my pen. It feels like a privilege that is out of my hands, but is it?
What it all boils down to is that I am not living a life that is in alignment with what is truly important to me. I think the more productive questions to be asked are: What are my values, and how do I see they ways in which I live my life now fit into those areas. What energizes me and adds balance to those areas of life that are inevitably draining? Admittedly, there are times when I feel so absolutely drained that there is nothing that can revive me, or at least this is what I think.
In our most exhausted states, doing anything is struggle, yet we still manage to trudge through the necessary chores. Work, home and family life maintenance, paying bills. These things, understandably, take precedence over what is deemed “unnecessary.” Writing, travel, communing with nature, art. . . living! When and how has the art of living life, my life included, ceased to be important? I can pinpoint a few times in my life that I could blame, a few other people, too. But, fundamentally this is about me and claiming the life that I want to live, and then empowering myself to seek it, work for it, bring it to fruition.
It is not about being stuck in my job or getting tied up into the mundane trappings of home. At its core, I love my job. I, a lover of books and words, seemingly have a dream job in a library. I also have the privilege of being a writing teacher. Helping others find their voice in their writing is incredibly rewarding. But, cast under the spell of being “work,” I find that my job can be uninspiring when it should be anything but. Is that the work’s fault or is it my perspective? Do I rebel against work in general because of how I have classified it in my mind—as the anthesis of art and passion, and not for what it truly can be?
Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us that “Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.” We are trained to believe that art is a frivolous indulgence; therefore, priority is automatically given to what has been deemed important (by whomever that might be: your family, your religion, society in general. . .). Those stolen moments, if you even found them to begin with, often become less frequent until they are nonexistent. Our passions, representative of our true values, get pushed aside, and those fires dampen until, if you’re lucky, only a tiny spark remains. It is true that our art should live in the daylight (or moonlight, if it is your preference), and exist in our daily lives just as much as any other life sustaining task. It is necessary to our souls to create and experience beauty whether through our own hands or simply by looking to the wonder of the magical world we live in. Wonder, beauty, and creation—those are my true values, and I will be determined from here on out to never starve those senses again and live these values in all aspects of my life—the magical and the mundane.