About five weeks ago, I picked up a copy of The Artist’s Way, a book that has been around since the early ‘90s. This book and the exercises within are designed to help creatively blocked individuals rediscover the joy and passion of Creating. I highly recommend it.
The book was originally written in 1992, and it has been updated and refined many times over. Two assignments remain constant, however: Morning Pages and the Artist’s Date. Morning Pages are three pages of stream-of-consciousness, handwritten journaling that are done daily. The Artist’s Date is a weekly exercise where you do something fun, on your own. It doesn’t have to be expensive (or cost anything at all), but it should be something that inspires you, fills you with positive emotions, and opens you to the possibility of inspiration. Just an hour or two, all for you.
If both of these exercises sound suspiciously like “self care,” you wouldn’t be wrong.
The term “Self Care” as we know it wasn’t really around in 1992, but the idea of taking some time for yourself to do what you want to do was important, even then. After all, the habit of putting oneself on the back burner while going out of your way for others has been around for a long, long, long time.
Putting my needs behind those of others is one of my unfortunate bad habits. In the five weeks that I have been doing this course, only two Artist Dates went as planned. One never happened, and the others had to be salvaged after the fact. Those last two were the ones that hurt the most. That may sound odd, but the fact that I had to settle for something other than the original plan made them less satisfying. Less fun. Less inspirational.
Because I didn’t get what I wanted.
As adults, each of us are keenly aware that the world isn’t fair and we don’t always get what we want. Nor should we. Sometimes we want some strange things, unhealthy things, things that are no good for us. However, when what you want is seemingly small, easy, and fulfilling yet you still end up giving it up for someone else, it stings. It hurts. It makes you angry, sad, and frustrated.
For many of us, putting ourselves last has become so ingrained we don’t realize we do it. There is always something that “needs” to get done first: chores, work, family obligations… the list is endless. Finding time for yourself is difficult on the best of days. So when we are finally able to express what we need, getting told we once again have to put our needs behind someone else’s hurts more than never speaking up at all.
Or so we tell ourselves.
This is where we get to make a choice. This is where we get to learn. At what point do we stand up and say today my needs are being met? When do we look the word “no” in the eye and tell it to take a flying leap off a short pier?*
You get to be angry when things don’t go your way. You get to be angry when told no. However, you also get to choose. You get to turn it around, and make sure the next time you need/want something, it does happen.
You get to prioritize your needs.
Last week, I finally got the Artist’s Date of my dreams. I made a day of it, and I managed to fit in everything I wanted to do. I completely indulged myself and it was FUN. I had a great time. It felt as though I had a mini-vacation. And you know what? I did get inspired. Moreover, I relaxed. I felt calmer, more at ease than I have in a while.
When that happens, the ideas start to flow.
And that’s when magic happens.
*I see the irony here in not accepting no as an answer, when previously I have written that no is a one-word sentence you get to say. Here’s the kicker: if you get to say no to people, other people get to say no to you. Kind of how it works.
Like I said above, you get to set your own priorities. So does everyone else. You saying no to something gives someone else the opportunity to say yes. Maybe that bake sale you dread baking for is just the ticket for a burgeoning chef, who just needs to be asked. So say no to bake sales, and say yes to someone else’s cupcakes.
Similarly, just because someone says no to you, doesn’t mean your request is dead in the water. Rather, you get to decide if it’s still worth pursuing. If it is, if it’s important to you, you’ll find other people who will say yes.
Better yet you’ll say yes to yourself, followed by a fuck ’em, I’m doin’ it anyway.
And doesn’t that feel incredible?