“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Yesterday I had the honor of attending a workshop conducted by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, Big Magic, and various other books. Her workshop focused on reconnecting with your creativity, authentic nature, and allowing oneself to permission to live the life you want. The workshop was amazing, including loads of reflective exercises, sharing, and laughter. One point that was definitely highlighted though is to listen to one’s own curious heart.
Think about what attracts you and what repels you. When we were young, this seemed to be instinctual. Over the years, we lose touch with this gut instinct. Elizabeth Gilbert discussed how her French bulldog Chewy automatically knows what dogs he likes and will express his interest with a wagging tail and playful behavior. Chewy also knows from two blocks away who he despises. She discussed looking at her dog with wonder, “How do you know you don’t like that Dalmatian you never met?” He just does. She encouraged us to start to retrain this muscle within ourselves. Listen to what attracts us and what pushes us away. Both pieces of information are vital clues of leading us to our authentic selves.
When we follow our intuitive scent it not only leads us to what we are passionate about, but also helps extract the unnecessary components from our lives. A recent incident of when I took Barre Teacher Training arose in my mind. I had such a strong negative reaction to the training. It wasn’t because it was a poorly designed, had rude people, or was a far distance away. It was because it wasn’t me. It didn’t fit who I am today, despite the expectations I had set in my head. Spending my time and money, and being told I had to take a videotaped exam to get a certificate for the course caused more stress than necessary. I let that go.
I am doing this with people now as well.
The older I get the more this becomes apparent when I interact with previous friends from ancient parts of my life. I saw an old friend recently, who introduced me to her mate with an embarrassing story of mine and how she became the “hero” to this story. Her introduction of me to others, starts with putting me down. Her life fifteen years after our friendship began is still filled with chaos, dissatisfaction, and drugs. Although in some ways she is like family in that I don’t totally want to cut her out, being with her for one evening was plentiful. I set an expiration date of hour time together in my head of three hours max. I couldn’t handle anymore, and the reason it upset me was she is not aligned with who I am. I don’t know if she ever really was. Our friendship had fun and celebratory moments in the past, but if we met today, I’m not sure there would be any connection.
Also, I have a new-ish friend who I realize is only interested in me when my life is full of drama. She oddly is not there for me when I am well, centered, and excited about life. I shared with her my recent pleasant experiences, she glossed over this topic. In the same conversation, she chose to gossip with wide eyes about her friend’s pending divorce from an abusive husband. When our conversation drifted to include chatter of past traumatic boyfriend experiences, her interest was heightened. Mine, on the other hand diminished. I am past that part of my life, I don’t want to live in that. I want to live in the now.
With both of these friendship experiences, I realize they currently repel me. Being around them creates this uncomfortable internal itch that I want to relieve. It’s a strong immediate visceral reaction for not choosing to act in ways that are caring towards this authentic self. As EIizabeth would say if I stayed friends with them I would not be “trustworthy when it comes to stewardship of my own life.” I want to extract these women from my life, as they are not representative with who I am. I want to be true to myself. Comparatively, it further exacerbates the desire for me to be with my closest friends who I rarely get to see anymore. I am vowing they will be more present in my life.
As we were engaging in a writing exercise yesterday, Elizabeth said to the audience of 1,000 “I’m more interested in who you are becoming, than what was done to you.” This is who I want to surround my life around. People who are caring for this current part of their lives, who we are creating and becoming versus the struggles that led us here.
I notice that friends and people may have been attracted to me because I am a psychololgist. They want to share their pain, sorrows, drama, and trauma. But I am more interested in who they are creating now versus their path of woes.
Like Elizabeth’s dog, can I know my gut instinct with who and what I like and who I despise? Can I take action and follow this scent? Extract the extraneous variables, leaving only what brings joy to my life.
This lesson continues to arise in a variety of ways in my life lately. Marie Kondo in the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up encourages us to only keep items in our closet that bring us current joy. She touches each piece of clothing or tangible thing, and if it doesn’t spark joy, she says “thank you” for how it served her and puts it to the side to be disposed of.
Similarly, Derek Sivers has a philosophy of “Heck yes, or no!” when considering what activities he wants to be part of his life. If he is not 100% excited about something, he will negate the invitation. He noticed so much of his life was filled with “meh” decisions, that when an amazing opportunity arose, there was no space.
And now Elizabeth Gilbert’s dog philosophy of following one’s instinctual scent is taking precedent. There is a lesson the universe is encouraging me to learn.
We’ve added all this crap into our lives, and the older we get, it’s time to extract, extract, extract. Leave only the components that bring you joy. If you don’t know what this is, perhaps try to remember what brought joy in your youth or last week. Much of the time, it’s the most simplistic activities…listening to music, dancing, nature, loved ones, and creating.
Maybe it’s time for all of us to engage in a spring cleaning. Take stock in our lives of who and what is in them, and are they representative of our authentic nature? If not, purge! Leave the empty space for what brings you joy. Dance and celebrate in this. You are uncovering the real you! Let your authentic self be revealed.
Originally published at itonlytakesasmile.com