Discomfort · Doing the Work · Resistance

Chop Wood, Carry Water

In the recent film, Bohemian Rhapsody, singer Freddy Mercury muses aloud that in the moments he is onstage performing, he feels most fully himself. Onstage is bliss, communion with his audience. It is when he is most inspired. And then, he says, indicating his quiet, posh home, the rest is this.

Freddy Mercury didn’t lack for assistants and servants. He could hire as many people as he needed to take care of those tedious, everyday tasks we all need to deal with. Yet we all have our version of chopping wood and carrying water. Those times in life when we feel anything but inspired. When we feel lonely, scared, and very, very human.

I used to want my life to be a continual stream of inspired actions. When I’m inspired, I believe I can do just about anything.

But I’ve learned that oftentimes, I have to take small, uninspired actions to tap into inspiration. For example, it took me years to start drawing again. It happened in fits and starts. I’d take a class or buy a book and draw consistently for several months. Then I’d put it down and not take it up again.

As of late, I want to start painting with acrylics. I have some ideas I’d like to work on. I really like this ideas. I clearly imagine the finished products i want to create. But I’m scared to get started! I don’t want to have to paint a bunch of crap until I master techniques enough to finally have what I want. I’m afraid I’ll be so frustrated I’ll give up before I even get going.

In this case, chopping wood and carrying water means doing small, scary things like making a list of supplies to buy, buying those supplies, setting up a workspace, taking out my supplies, and painting a not-so-great first picture And it’s entirely possible that somewhere in those steps, I’ll feel some joy and magic. Enough to paint another canvas.

Inspiration Stash refers to all those delicious things in life that are inspiring. Things to which I can return to draw inspiration. But there is space between those bursts of inspiration where I have to slog through my resistance. One step at a time. One day at a time. I chop wood. I carry water. I remember to appreciate the simplicity and peace in these moments because life is happening here as well.

And I remember that every person on earth has to chop wood and carry water. What makes up these activities may be very different for them. But what they have in common is they are necessary though not inspired. I take comfort in knowing even Freddy Mercury, whose performances inspired so many of us, struggled with these moments. Just like the rest of us.

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