There are women whose dream is to have a shoe closet like the one Mr. Big built for Carry Bradshaw: the shoe displays, the lights, an universe of heels and colors and tons of accessories that are more decorative than functional. Although I would not oppose to a closet like that (as long as shoes are arranged by color), there are other places that provoque my soul to vibrate at a much higher frequency.
A bookstore and its sister, the old-book section at a library; an art supply store with tons of items to play with and create the mountain of work I will never get to actually produce. Lastly, and the strange thing is that this one does not connect with my career choices: a fabric store.
My heart always jumps when I see the rolls of fabric. As a kid in a candy store, the awe accumulates in my stomach and comes out in a sigh. Maybe it is that sense of not knowing where to start, the physical need to rejoice in the different textures that caress the tips of my fingers, or perhaps the sensation of getting drunk on color overload and creative patterns. My soul gets greedy, I want them all! So like in a labyrinth I get lost comparing all the textiles, imagining what I would do with each of them: beautiful gowns that I don’t have an occasion to wear, summer dresses, swimsuits, handbags, upholstery for that piece of junk I found at a tag sale.
Creative juices are squeezed among the fabric rolls. If I have to come up with a statistic, I would say I usually buy about 40% more fabric than what I need because there is usually an indulgence for a project I might get to do that I wasn’t planning to. The leftovers (or should I say “potential materials for future projects”) go on bins that look more like treasure chests rather than a hoarder’s dump.
What is wrong with that? Everyone likes to collect something. Some people go for tattoos, wooden ducks, crystal clowns, tequila bottles, broken hearts....me? I like fabric.
The problem is I am a terrible seamstress. Well, my ideas are terrific, the execution, not so much. When my first daughter was born, I became a compulsive sawer. I would laid her on my lap to nurse while I was at the sewing machine making her dresses. I don’t know if I ever got baby blues, but if I did I cured it with threads and hems. I am glad nobody ever looked at the inside of those dresses. They were so terrible! What a great lesson on how things are not always what they seem.
Shortly after I realized that I could get her something as pretty with better seams at half the cost, so the compulsive sewing weaned out naturally.
Lately, I have been indulging again with the excuse of creating the dresses that my models wear for my paintings. It has been an incredible experience. It escalated my connection to each image and has helped me find a narrative that works for me. The quality is questionable. I have beautiful, soft silks stapled and held with duct tape. I am not attached to the final product just to the ideas they inspire. As long as they are kept together while the model is posing, I am content.
That kept me thinking about the things we do because they get us closer to our North Star vs the things that lay in our true North. What things lift our spirits and what things can only be achieved when our spirits are lifted. I am lucky that I do have tons of distractions that help me find joy: playing music, cooking, sewing, making floral arrangements, exercising, making dirty jokes, among others. The list is ample and varied. I need all of those to have my soul vibrating high, to feel at awe, to find content. None of those, however, fall in the category of my “absolutely-necessary-to-live.” It seems so natural to confuse our pleasurable pastimes with what we want to do with our lives, or rather what we were born to do. Sometimes we confuse our talents or interests with the passions that will not only enlighten our world but help us give back to the world our most elevated self.
Try getting paid by one of your hobbies. Sometimes it works, it gives you temporary joy. But that bliss evaporates quite easy. On the other hand, finding our true North Star, as Martha Beck calls it, feels like arriving home. It makes us feel like we have traveled the world to realize the journey led us to the place where we feel safe and adventurous at the same time, where we have a warm nest to rest and to come back to when the fly gets long.
If you are lucky enough to have found that safe place, continue your journey. But if you haven’t, then give yourself permission to explore every passion that makes your soul vibrate. Go to the fabric store, visit the bookstore, grab that instrument, finish that puzzle, learn how to tango, memorize the pi digits, write, upgrade your wine palate, run. No time spent doing something we enjoy is wasted. When our souls are vibrating it is so much easier to see the things we need to loose and the things we need to gain in order to get closer to our North Star. When our souls are vibrating, every experience accumulated gets sewn in the quilt of our existence, keeping us warm when we need to and serving as a beautiful magic carpet when the call is to fly away. In our obsessed-with-productivity society, we tend to feel guilty of indulging of life’s smallest pleasures. It seems to me that nothing enhances productivity better than being aligned with the true desires of our souls because who would not want to do more of what we truly love?
I do need to warn you that some of the things we enjoy to do might look ugly (e.g. the inside stitches of my dresses or plenty of songs in a karaoke bar) but who cares? Did it make us smile broadly and brightly? That is enough then. That is a good step on the right path. Just make sure to remember that there are things meant to bring joy, there are things meant to bring money, and there are only a very few where we can get both. Learning the difference can save us a lot of time.
Go indulge!!! Nothing is more generous than a satisfied soul! And if you can go open your closet and grab the fancier shoes, delight on the fabric of your jacket while you hum your favorite tune, the better. Feel the sloppy stitches inside your pocket and smile, you are on for a crazy ride.
Career miracles happen when you’re so in love with your life that pushing yourself is actually easier than stopping, when you “do without doing.” Joyful activity adds real value to the world, and adding value is the heart and soul of a successful career.
Martha N. Beck, Finding Your Own North Star: