At a young age, I learned I was not creative.
Rain poured from the sky, shrinking the tiny upstate New York cabin by the minute.
My younger sister and I finished coloring butterflies. The enticement of the myriad crayon colors had waned, and we now needed a judge. My mom, focused on the baby in her arms, shooed us away, not wanting to judge. But we bugged her and bugged her.
She picked my younger sister’s coloring. She told me purple and green don’t go together.
But what I heard is, “You are not an artist. That is not your role in our family.”
I went on to excel in the exciting, crazy-making world of Wall Street in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s. The highs of Wall Street compensated for a truly miserable lifestyle until I could stand it no longer. In desperation, I walked into a self-help career group that happened to be doing a Vision exercise: free-write, in the present tense, what you truly desire.
What sprung from my pen was a vision of myself sitting in a window seat in a country home studying Jung and Freud. It seemed crazy. I was embarrassed to read it aloud, which we were then asked to do. Yet this group of strangers did not think it bizarre that a successful Wall Street executive would have such a vision.
Within a few years, I had quit Wall Street, moved to a cozy home in Connecticut and gone back to school to be a psychotherapist. It was the first experience I had of consciously creating my own life.
We all create every day. We create the life we are living. Yes, there are constraints, of course. The same as an artist who works within the constraints of canvas and oil paints, we all have to deal with the realities of our environment. But within that, we have enormous room to design and build our lives. And one constraint we do not have to honor is the role prescribed to us by others.
At mid-life, I learned I am very creative.
And I continue to evolve and change.
I am creating online meditation courses to complement my psychotherapy practice, hoping to help greater numbers of people while increasing my geographic flexibility.
I am creating time to write, as the time will not fall from the sky if I do not actively envision it.
Knowing I can’t evolve in a vacuum, I have consciously accessed communities that will support my transitions. Last year, this included online classes to bolster my craft and the wonderful WOW retreat in Morocco to bolster my soul. I walked away from the retreat believing in my identity as a writer, feeling enriched in ways I could not have imagined.
I am adding writer, poet and mindfulness teacher to my conscious identity. Some may say these can’t all go together, or be added to psychotherapist. Yet, we have so many roles. I am also a spouse, a mother, a daughter of aging parents, a sister, a friend. Who gets to decide which roles, and in what proportions?
At this stage of my life, I do.
I invite you to pick up your pen, set your timer for 10 minutes, breathe deeply and manifest the world you truly desire. Write as if that vision is already true. Use “I am” rather than “I will be.” Let go of inhibitions. If there are details you are unsure of, leave them for the universe to fill in. Include the feelings you would like to have at this future date: “I wake feeling peaceful and grounded…I am living the life of my dreams.”
The more spontaneously you write this, the better.
Now, read it to someone.
Barbara Heffernan is a psychotherapist and writer. She is the founder of Mindful Psychotherapy, a private practice in Norwalk, CT, specializing in trauma and anxiety. Barbara has been a feminist since the age of five, and a Buddhist since the age of 31. She has studied meditation in Tibetan Buddhist, Zen Buddhist, Hindu, and Shamanic traditions. She offers mindfulness instruction and is developing a series of classes titled Awaken Joy. Barbara has a BA from Yale University, an MBA from Columbia University and an MSW from Southern Connecticut State University. She has three children, four stepchildren, a husband, an English sheepdog and a rotund orange cat. Barbara’s website is www.mindfulpsychotherapyllc.com.