I normally don’t think or talk much about “life purpose”. I believe our purpose is unveiled moment by moment, and is ever-changing, not something we sit down and try to figure out before taking action.
But there are moments when I really experience everything in my life having a purpose. Friday was one of them. An opportunity to give a day-long workshop to a group of open-minded adults interested in issues related to organizational learning. Coaches, consultants, psychologists, engineers, startup founders, and other professionals who were up for a day entitled, “Play the Wrong Note: Daring Adventures in Learning, Failure, and Creativity.”
The entire day was an improvisation. I told my story. We made sounds together. We created some music together. We even made ten-minute collages together.
In the room, someone who reads my newsletter and followed a link to find the workshop. And another woman who had seen my Bad Asian Daughter blog and self-identified as one herself, wanting to learn more.
I told my story. And it was the first time I’ve told it where I could end with the current adventure of being an artist. It felt like the “Aha!” moment for me…why I have gone through everything I’ve gone through. To discover that I am here to know that it is possible for me to make art. To know that I am free.
Sounds ridiculous or obvious. But reconnecting with all the mental maps that kept me locked in to certain beliefs, and hearing the stories from the participants, reminded me that it is not ridiculous or obvious. Unblocking creativity is real and relevant. It can be life-saving. It is medicine.
Just not the kind that comes in a bottle or is delivered in a hospital setting.
The Bad Asian Daughter in the group asked me, “What do you do when you’re about to do something for yourself, something you know is important but risky, and yet your entire spinal cord is “zinging” with fear triggered by your parents’ message of “You’re going to be homeless if you do that” coursing through your veins?”.
Yeah. Exactly. You know that feeling of, “I’m going to be homeless if I do this”?
I live with a version of that one almost every day. But I practice diligently on cultivating new ways of thinking. New patterns. And I train my body to breathe into the reality that in this particular moment, I am not, in fact, homeless. I have a home. I always have a home.
People ask me why my band is called, “Chinese Melodrama.” Partly, it’s because of that kind of melodrama. The “You’re going to be homeless if you try that” scare tactics that were standard mantras in our household. Even as I practiced two instruments for several hours a day, on top of being number one in every single academic subject in school, I held the fear that if I didn’t choose correctly at every juncture, I would become homeless. It seemed somehow only one mistake away at all times.
I can’t even call it fear, because I didn’t know what I was afraid of. I just channeled everything into the work.
Which is the part of that kind of childhood that translates well into learning anything new. Do the work. I know that my ability to make some kind of art on a daily basis comes from the habit of doing the work.
The hurdle was getting to the point where my brain would allow me to define my art as my work, and then do it.
I am thankful for my ability to do the work.
Here are some moments and ten-minute collages created by the participants in my workshop on Friday. The process was 30 seconds of image collecting from a magazine picked at random from my collection. Then 10 minutes to rip or cut out the images and arrange them on a 6″x6″ square.
This one, entitled “Ode to Lisa” was gifted to me by its creator after the workshop:
He explained that the image captures what he learned from the day and from my story. The classical columns represent tradition. The glass above them represents modernity. Their juxtaposition is what he experienced from my story. The jester represents the removal of masks and revealing of the real, playful self hiding underneath. The violin image literally showed up for him without searching. And the colorful carpet unfolded represents the beauty that is revealed through this process of juxtaposition and unmasking.
I love it.