“I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever. To be alive is to be in a perpetual state of revolution. Whether I like it or not, pain is the fuel of revolution. Everything I need to become the woman I’m meant to be next is inside my feelings of now. Life is alchemy, and emotions are the fire that turns me to gold. I will continue to become only if I resist extinguishing myself a million times a day. If I can sit in the fire of my own feelings, I will keep becoming.”
Have you ever dutifully followed a path believing it was ‘meant to be’, only to suddenly find yourself at the top of a cliff-face? That was me, right up to the age of 24. Hindsight is 2020, as they say…
I have been revisiting my 20s a lot recently, in my mind, heart and dreams. It feels like there are messages coming through from that parallel world into the liminality I (we) now find ourselves in. So much uncertainty. So much upheaval and chaos, and constant re-evaluation of what feels true, moment to moment.
July 2004. Another liminal space, between postgrad and – what? The “real” world? A PhD? Understandably – and for the 3rd time within a few years, I found myself in therapy. Another course of CBT, another psychotherapist. Equally desperate for help and skeptical that anyone could possibly help me.
But Alan Fraser was different.
Over the years, my heart has been repeatedly tugged back to his energy and profound integrity. In our very first session, he asked me who I admired; who I felt inspired by. Personal Development was an alien concept back then – certainly in forthright, no-nonsense Scotland! I felt both stunned and ridiculous, so he shared his. I was left in gobsmacked awe.
From that moment on, I looked forward to our sessions, whilst also battling with the intense fragility I felt, inside and out. In our 3rd and last meeting – and instead of cancelling – I brought a chaperone with me: my giant, white, fluffy, collie-cross, Morgan.
I recall feeling a small sense of defiance mixed with pride as I trotted Morgan up the flights of stairs and into the University health centre.
Did I think Alan would be able to see more of my identity, perhaps?
Why did I feel he’d be impressed?
Was it just bravado, or my inherent need to rebel, even politely?
Or was it simply that Morgan was genuinely my soul partner in that era of my becoming, and I felt whole only when he was with me?
Crushingly, Alan was not impressed. In fact, he made it very clear the health centre was no place for a dog. To his credit – and just as I was sinking into a pit of angry shame – he improvised and invited both parts of me out for a walk.
How many therapists would have done that?
In the University gardens, we talked. Most of it is now a blur of course, but the intense feeling of being truly seen and heard has never left me. Knowing I was at a major crossroads (cliff-face), he probed further into my core identity. Who was I? What lit me up? What would I do in life if there were no other restrictions or complications?
Nobody had ever asked me those questions. I had only ever followed my academically-defined strengths. Yet within his safe space, with my soul-partner at my side, the answer immediately fell out of me:
“I’d be an artist and a writer”.
As my brain and mouth synchronised to form the words, my body threw up another answer: “But that’s not possible!”. Everything within me contracted in nausea, shame and waves of worthlessness.
“Why not?” he asked simply.
Automatically, I focus my attention on Morgan, fussing him intently. My whole body wants to implode and dissipate into the Summer air.
“I can’t,” I respond miserably.
At this time, my world view included successful artists and writers who had somehow been born into the role, and the world unquestioningly accepted them for it. These people were surrounded by other successful and mutually supportive creatives. Publishers, galleries and magazines fought for the rights to promote their work. They were an untouchable elite. I was not one of them.
I’ve spent the last 16 years unravelling, coaxing out and questioning these embodied beliefs. And I’m proud to say I’ve won.
So at 40, I’m finally – wholeheartedly and without excuses – honouring, acknowledging and expanding into my role on this earth as a creative:
- Even though it’s hard logistically, emotionally and energetically every single day
- Even though the world values productivity over ideas and inspiration
- Even though it’s financially pointless*
- Even though I have family and friends who will never understand why I don’t do something more useful/ viable
Can you relate? Does any of this stir something within you?
We finished our session, Alan and I, discussing my imminent move to Bath, and the reason for this being our final meeting. I was torn between staying and continuing my emotional education with him, and running away to a brand new life to see what it could offer me.
Of course, I chose Bath. And I’m so glad I did, for everything which flooded into my life from that one switch.
But I have never forgotten that conversation and what it sparked in me. The day I took my dog to therapy was the day I learned I was allowed to be myself. How’s that for crazy?
Productivity is useful, but creativity is fundamental. Don’t let anyone – ever – teach you otherwise.
In embodied integrity,
*Until I enter that unicorn elite who have publishers and huge followings who buy everything I create 😂