Living creatively. What does that mean to you?
When I think of the word “creativity,” I inevitably think of people running around covered in paint, drinking wayyyy too much alcohol, engaging in self-destructive behaviors and running wild and free in a field. When I think of creativity, I think of being simultaneously freed from the expectations of others, yet trapped by the expectations of the self.
Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks this.
Liz Gilbert explains it pretty amazingly in her book, Big Magic, when she says,
“If you choose to enter into a contract of creative suffering, you should try to identify yourself as much as possible with the stereotype of the Tormeneted Artist. You will find no shortage of role models. To honor their example, follow these fundamental rules: Drink as much as you possibly can; sabotage all your relationships; …express constant dissatisfaction with your work; …begrudge anybody else’s victories; …honor darkness above light; die young; blame creativity for having killed you.”
This is exactly what I’ve always thought it meant to live a creative life. Kurt Cobain, David Foster Wallace, Picasso – all some of my favorites, who all followed the spirit of the Tormented Artist.
Also, have I ever mentioned that Liz Gilbert is my spirit animal?
This past weekend we traveled to my hometown to celebrate the wedding of my childhood best friend. Of course, along the way, we downloaded many a podcast to keep ourselves engaged, and we listened to an episode of This American Life called, “Tell me I’m Fat.” (Download it within the next few days, before it disappears!)
This podcast had me in tears. Quite literally – after one of the stories, I had to stop the podcast to cry. The stories were about people who are overweight, obese, or otherwise – and how some individuals are embracing their bodies and proudly calling themselves fat, while others are still engaged in a struggle.
But the one that got me was a woman who lost 110 pounds, who found that life was so much easier after she lost weight, who threw away all her photos from age 12 to 22, who became more insecure after losing weight rather than less, who admitted to relying on speed she has to get from Mexico to help suppress her appetite, who mentioned how much easier it was to get a job, to get a boyfriend, to get free groceries when she was short the cash.
She talks about how she had to go through surgery to remove extra skin, and how she went on a date once with a man who told her, “I think fat people are disgusting”.
It was horrible. And so so so sad.
It was sad because I remember. I remember that that was my version of the Tormented Artist. I remember being thirteen years old and average weight and not cool and not noticed, just a nerdy kid who was trying to both fit in and be myself. And then losing forty pounds on a frame that did not need to lose forty pounds and all of a sudden people noticed me. People wanted to be friends with me. People wanted to date me. I was invited to parties I would have never been invited to before, and I became a worse person. I judged other people for their size. In my head then, it was so easy – stop eating and everything is easy. Stop eating and you win prom queen and get invited to the cool kids’ houses.
It was my superpower.
But I wasn’t happy. I was less happy than I was before I declared my body as my enemy.
And now, that I’m a regular, normal person size, that I don’t give a shit about how I look, and I just do my thing, I’m happy. I’m married. I eat whatever I want and exercise when I feel like it and I am not constantly walking around judging people simply for how they look. I think that’s the part I’m most embarrassed about – how much of a judgmental bitch I was in my own head.
But hearing that podcast, hearing that woman talk about how she’s stuck in it and it’s easier and she’s less happy but this is how the world works – I got so sad.
Because, the truth is – it WOULD be easier for me if I was thirty pounds lighter.
If I wore makeup or in general, gave a shit about my appearance.
If I had six pack abs.
It would be easier to get people into my yoga classes. Because people follow beauty. Because people think if they do what you do when you are that thin, then maybe they will be, too.
Or even if I was more heavy. I see women I admire embracing their curves, like Jessamyn or Dana Falsetti. And they have a built-in demographic who is celebrating their courageousness, to be in the spotlight embracing their bodies (and I think it’s pretty fucking awesome, too).
But for me?
I’m not either.
I’m not the skinny, super bendy bitch on instagram who everyone wants to look like.
I’m not the bold, courageous yogini who is celebrated for embracing a body that’s different than the yoga stereotype.
I’m just me. I’m just Amy. I’m just a normal, regular, average human, who happens to teach yoga.
No one will follow my instagram trying to look like me, because I look like everyone else.
Practically speaking, I am a nobody. I am just another person, just another yoga teacher, and in this market of crazy ass competition I don’t fit into this dynamic.
And I don’t want to fit into this dynamic.
I refuse to play the role of the Tormented Artist.
Quite honestly, I hate posting pictures of myself in yoga postures. I do it because I think I “have” to, because that’s what people expect when you’re a yoga teacher. And because before I did it, people didn’t even know I taught yoga.
But I don’t want to do that.
I want to be celebrated for something different.
I want to be celebrated because I am actually good at what I do.
(Not that these people are not good yoga teachers – I’m sure they are! I just want my recognition to be for me, not my body.)
I have never been the person that stands out in a crowd. I am kind of shy. And kind of awkward. And I don’t talk a lot at parties. And I think a little differently.
But I’m always the person that “wows” when I get up to talk.
In her book, Elizabeth Gilbert mentions an author that she watches speak, Ann Patchett. She hardly noticed Ann at all in the crowd – she blended in, wasn’t remarkable by any way – but then she got up to speak and everyone was blown away.
This is me. I blend in, until I’m in front. It’s easy not to notice me – there’s nothing remarkable about my appearance or my personality – but when I get in front, I am good.
And this is how it is, always. I am never thought to be good until I am. And when I’m not asked to be leading, I will be quiet, in the back, not drawing any extra attention to myself most of the time.
Certainly it would be easier if I lost thirty pounds. But that is not who I am.
I am me. I am Amy. I am human. And I am good, just for being me. And that’s enough.
This week, ask yourself:
- How are you enough?
- In what ways are you doing things, just because you think you should do them?
- What is authentic to your person?
Do that. Be that. The world has enough of everyone else.
Just be you.
I will be, too.