In my last post I noted my fundamental resistance towards this blog, and wondered aloud about what insights might come now that I have turned my attention to it. The answer came that night, although I am not going to tell you what that was yet. Instead I am going to tell you about my Saturday morning.
In my inbox I had been receiving invites to Café e Chiacchiere (Coffee and Chat), organised by a small group of people interested in Italian life and culture. It was set for 10.30 at a café I’d never heard of in a part of my town I rarely need to visit, except to take my cat to the holistic vet that is down there. I’d joined this group in January and as yet had not gotten to any events for reasons of clashes with other pre-existing engagements. So, having just come back from my first trip to Italy, I thought this was the perfect moment. I’d tried to RSVP earlier but with my usual technological aplomb, it didn’t work. What the hell?, I thought. I’ll go anyway. I found the right street, and just as I was going to pull into the carpark I wrenched the steering wheel back and kept on driving.
Hello resistance. There you are again. Popular new age or self help literature likes to put forward the notion that we each have a guide who accompanies us. This may be true. I’d like to think that it is. But what’s more likely is that we are trailed around, stalked even, by far less helpful beings. More than that, powerful beings capable of making mostly sane people do really quite ridiculous things.
To resist is to push away from an opposing force. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. For example, it can build muscles and lengthen them as you stretch. I’m currently resisting the imprecations of the Iron Paw to take the place of my laptop. But it’s not always so innocent. And, when it could actually be useful, it disappears. Where is it when you’re about to pour your nth glass of vino or light up or eat the entire tub of icecream?
It’s at its least helpful when it gets in the way of attempts to expand your life. This can mean many things to many people, but for me this morning, expanding my life meant expanding my social life. So what went wrong? I was about to pull into the carpark. I saw the tables and chairs outside, and the clear plastic awnings stretching to the pavement. I saw a long benchful of people, all sitting facing the carpark. It was roughly the right number for the group, and I saw instantly that there was no more room. With no actual evidence to justify my assumption, I (or my resistance) decided that this was the group and that they would be irritated with me, someone who was late and who hadn’t RSVP’ed. If I’d been able to resist my resistance and think clearly, I’d have said to myself ‘That might not be them, and you’re only a few minutes late and besides some of them might be late too’. Instead I kept driving, compounding my resistance with a new reason ‘oh everyone saw your erratic driving and you can’t go back now’.
Resistance is the flag bearer for your fears, but in a strange perverted kind of way, resistance is trying to protect you. It’s a little like a helicopter parent, always hovering around, ready to swoop in and protect you. Well intentioned, over bearing and largely unhelpful. And here’s where the answer I alluded to earlier comes in. It’s a lengthy quote from the wonderful author and poet David Whyte, but stick with it.
The stakes in good work are necessarily high. Our competence might be at stake in ordinary, unthinking work but in good work that is a heartfelt expression of ourselves, we necessarily put our very identities at hazard….Failure in truly creative work is not some mechanical breakdown but the prospect of a failure in our very essence, a kind of living death. Little wonder we often choose the less vulnerable, more familiar approach, that places work mostly in terms of provision. If I can reduce my image of work to just a job I have to do, then I keep myself safely away from the losses to be endured in putting my heart’s desires at stake.
If I don’t write this blog, I can’t be open to criticism or hostility. I can’t be found wanting, by anyone except myself that is. What is worse?
Like I said, resistance is like a helicopter parent. Taking over and steering you away from something deemed unsafe or risky. But this whole blog is about the promotion of creativity, and that requires taking risks and making mistakes. Some of which, I am wryly forced to acknowledge, could even be fun! If I don’t keep at writing this blog I’ll have achieved nothing, except disappoint myself. I might disappoint others, but that is probably the lesser risk.
 David Whyte, Crossing the unknown sea: Work as a pilgrimage of identity, Riverhead Books, New York, 2002, p13.