stuck in the muck

stuck in the muck

It took me a long time to get in at the company where I work now. While I was trying to get in, I worked in a different field as a financial broker and hated it. But it was the bread and butter I needed, while trying to break back into the industry I wanted to be in.

Now that I’m back in the industry, I appreciate it. It’s the first time in my life I can fully appreciate my job, while working on my creative ambitions. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to live off my creative endeavors, but until that time, I’m happy to keep paying the bills.

I went after a dream and fell flat on my face, which put me in the desperate position of needing to pursue the opportunity to become a financial broker. And I did that until I could get back into the industry I wanted to be in.

Many times we have to work a job we don’t necessarily want to work, so we can do the creative things we want to do. It provides calm stability and a sameness to the routine that is usually healthy for everyone under the same roof. But figuring out when to stay at a job or when to go is sometimes a tricky question.

Though this was written quite some time ago, at the end of 2020, if I remember correctly, I want to share one of Katherine North’s “missives” because it’s so beautifully written, and it expresses exactly what I was going through with building a foundation, so dreams could transpire.

I can only share the first part of it, however, because I want to be mindful of legalities such as plagiarism. If you enjoy her writing below, you can visit her site and sign up for her Saturday missives. Normally I interject thoughts and comments, along with the resource below, but because I can’t link you directly to this missive (it’s unavailable to me), I will simply let you read the first part of her missive without interruption.

I’m emerging from my cocoon.

To be honest, I’m not ready.

This world, my god, how are we to stand it? I am heartbroken and my heart is in my throat and she pounds wildly.

This clamor in our chests is the sound of our humanity, our capacity for grief and rage but also for hope and courage.

I bet your heart is loud right now too.

Mine is tender, craving more cocoon. Like Wednesday’s new moon, I’m here but I’m still mostly dark– just a tiny silver crescent, a promise of more to come.

But I wanted to take the first tentative step out of my sabbatical and talk to you. I missed you. I missed this. Oh, it was magnificent to let myself wane, to curl up in the dark. I had forgotten the power of those innate cycles. And now it’s time for the waxing, time to coax myself back into fullness.

Being away (not just from this missive, but from all social media) gave me more time to think. It gave me perspective. It let me float a little bit higher above my life and see more of the landscape. I looked at my life like it was a topographical map.

And what I saw was that my world, right now, is made up of two different types of work with two different types of energy.

There’s my creative work. All the books I plan to write, the conversations I have with my clients (their own art form), all the missives I wrote to you in my head, the photos I take trying to find beauty and make alchemy of the daily messes and glories. This realm is made of thoughts and feelings, ideas and glimmers, all ethereal flow. I love it there.

Then there’s my physical world work. The 21 meals a week for seven people that need to be planned, shopped for, prepped, and cleaned up. The kids who need clothes, shoes, forms, immunizations, and 47 rides to appointments and lessons and birthday parties. The house that requires paint, picking up, putty, vacuuming, wiping, washing, folding, over and over and over. The dreaded paperwork.

Often, I resent the physical world. It is harder for me, heavy and sticky and glitchy, unlike the ideas that fly so quicksilver, unhampered by wrenches or clogs or stains or grime. All this physical busywork feels like it takes me away from what I’m meant to be doing.

But I could also see, with a little more breathing room, that this physical world is what supports every bit of the creative work I love so much.

I remember being single and in my twenties, living in a tiny studio apartment in Tokyo, being utterly paralyzed by fear and panic. I’d think to myself, “I should be writing, I should be writing, I should be writing.” I had no kids, no pets, and my weekly laundry would fit in a thimble. But I did not spend my swaths of responsibility-free time pounding out great novels– no, I spent them numbing myself out from the guilt and shame that I wasn’t writing, wasn’t creating anything, wasn’t doing anything worthwhile with my life. I’d look around at the dishes in the sink, the stack of scary mail, and the pretty purse I knew I couldn’t afford to have bought, and feel such terror at the mess I was making of my life that I shamed myself into paralysis. I had believed in the glamorous myth of the tortured artist, drinking and creating in poverty and squalor– and hey, I had the squalor but not the art.

During my sabbatical, I came to a shocking realization:

I have a lot less free time now.

But I make so much more art.

This simple fact surprised me, caught as I was in my “if only my children didn’t need CLEAN clothes and shoes that FIT, I’d probably be writing DOZENS of books!” mindtrap.

Because even with my vastly larger physical workload, I have made more art in the past seven years than I did for the 15 years before that.


The more I thought about it, the more I could see that it works two ways.

On the one hand, learning to manage my physical world (adulting, money, making a home, parenting, paperwork, creating beauty) made me stronger. It gave me muscle. It taught me persistence, resilience, and the unlikely power of tiny actions to compound over time into a great sea change.

On the other hand, my physical world humming along is the very thing that gives me space and time and permission to sit down and make things just for joy. A beautiful and orderly home lets my anxious nervous system calm down enough to even be available to flow and practice. I look around and it appears that a capable adult is running things, and this is vastly reassuring.

This epiphany– that all my creative work rests on the foundation of a beautiful and functioning physical world– brought me to a wild gratitude. And no wee aclick here to visit her websitemount of chagrin.

It was shocking to see that the thing that I resent most had actually given me what I long for: a flourishing creative life.

I’m interjecting here… I ended her missive before it actually ended, for legal reasons, as I stated above, but if you enjoy her like I do, click here to visit her website.