This week I learned about becoming. I was going to call this week “creativity/creation” but as I reread the Kurt Vonnegut quote for this week, I realized that “becoming” is really what it’s all about. On the heels of listening to Michelle Obama’s book and watching her show, I’m deeply considering the idea of becoming.
The word reminds me of Anias Nin’s famously unfurling blossom and that helps me remember that becoming feels risky sometimes. I was also reminded of the need for constraints for creativity. This took me to the metaphor I often think to when I am transitioning: the wet wings of the newly transformed butterfly — it’s past cliche now, I know, but I still think it’s apt. There’s a weighted blanket feel to that butterfly’s wings at that point. The weighted down wet wings let the butterfly know it’s not ready yet; it’s still becoming. It’s okay — necessary — to stay still.
In that stillness is where little big bangs of creativity can become, can be a catalyst for transitioning, transforming.
“What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.
Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.” — Kurt Vonnegut
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
— Anias Nin
“Most of us lived in a state of constant calibration, tweaking one area of life in hopes of bringing more steadiness to another.” — Michelle Obama, Becoming
I was influenced by Becoming this week — here are three more quotes that inspired me to journal on the ridiculous question “Who do I think I am?”
“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”
“Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”
“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”
Who are you? Really, Who are you? There’s a writing exercise where you keep answering that question several (10?) times until you have exhausted your answers. It can be revealing…and might help you become.
“Inspiration on its own was shallow; you had to back it up with hard work.”
“It was possible, I knew, to live on two planes at once—to have one’s feet planted in reality but pointed in the direction of progress.” — Michelle Obama, Becoming
Can you make one small tweak to your life today that would set you on a course more closely aligned with who you are?
Without disrupting your entire life — moving to Timbuktu, setting the house on fire and escaping into the night with your favourite book, selling everything to buy a boat and set sail to Fiji — what one, small thing can you begin this week that brings you more closely in line with who you define yourself as?
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” — Michelle Obama, Becoming (Seriously, buy the book!)
Try practicing soft belly meditation this week to clue in a bit better to when you are feeling anxious and less “yourself” — it’s simple and you can do it anywhere. Place your hands on your belly and begin to breathe deeply. It helps to close your eyes and, as you breathe, imagine breathing into your belly until your belly relaxes completely.
6. POD Poem of the day (Anias Nin: Risk)
7. Podcast (How to Fail — Elizabeth Day)
8. Video (The Danger of a Single Story: Chimamanda Adichie)
9. Hero: Chimamanda Adichie, Writer
Why? When I think about people who have influenced me to become, to really challenge the idea of “constant calibration” Chimamanda Adiche stands out as the more confident, compelling voice beckoning me to be more me. Listen to her words — fiction and non-fiction. She’s a hero.
10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.
The Underbelly Podcast available everywhere you download podcasts. Becoming episode Thursday.
I’m excited for this episode. I will speak with another old friend, John de Graaf, about his running for Vice President under the Bread and Roses party. John’s life is full of creative projects that shed light on the essential things we humans need to become our more human selves. Also, his wife is an excellent radio broadcaster…so, many audio issues have been solved! Leveling up :) and onward. Stay tuned.