If you are not building rooms
Somewhere along the line, I became afraid of openly speaking what was natural to me. Originally, of drawing what I wanted to draw without hearing someone in my head criticising it; without hearing my own (borrowed) voice asking if this drawing was to going to be 'good' in the eyes of the world, and wondering what on earth 'good' might mean. Then, a little later, I became afraid of playing the notes I wanted to hear on the violin, or singing the notes I wanted to sing; because the voices in my head were telling me loud and clear that it was too late; and that it was not good enough.
Later still, due to the discomfort of professional circumstances (which I now know were not well-suited to me, at least in the form that chose me) I learnt to become strategic, or at least to try to be strategic, in terms of literally not speaking what was natural to me. Trying not to speak passionately or in any way emotionally in meetings. Hesitant to say what I could see because I knew from experience that after I spoke, the chances were that I would be met with blank or slightly shocked faces. Or did it just feel that way? But that's the point, it felt that way, year after year. Like a noose, starting off so lightly placed...
A buttoning up, a pushing down, that began in small ways, but then became reinforced, amplified, by my own acceptance of it, my own self-sabotage, my own fear.
And then what? Then there is the business of moving out and somehow claiming the space which is beyond the bars.
David Whyte talks in Crossing the Unknown Sea about the necessity of coming out of hiding if we are to find what he calls good work:
To find good work, no matter what path we have chosen, means coming out of hiding. Good work means visibility. We have all had dreams in which we face large audiences without clothes, without notes, without an inkling of what to say; the faces expectant, waiting, terror in our eyes, the focus entirely on our lone naked figure. Let me tell you that the terror involved in that dream is almost entirely and utterly accurate and most of our intuitions about the dynamics of facing large audiences are horrifyingly exact. 'Just be yourself' people say, as if they have suddenly thought of something entirely original, and as if they have forgotten the terrible, wrenching initiations most religions insist on for arriving at that elusive self. To be yourself is to be no self at all but to be a frontier, the frontier between you and the audience - the large audience of a waiting crowd or the smaller more intimate audience of our immediate co-workers. Their ability to see us and know us in ways which give them a close knowledge of who we are and what we are attempting to do in the world, can seem too much, too intimate, too soon. Vulnerability and intimacy can make a very frightening shoreline. But that is a wave line we must walk in work. Work is exposure, our fancy ideas about ourselves a sandcastle built right on the edge of the incoming sea.