I’m not the creative type. This is what I told myself, this is what I believed for at least forty years. What “type” I thought I was was a loser, as I elaborated on in such a riveting (!) manner in Part 1 of this two-part essay. I can’t force myself to say “blog entry” today; sounds like something I ate that didn’t agree with me.
You can’t be both a loser and a creative type, apparently; at least that’s the maxim my compartmentalizing mind fed me incessantly, no matter the evidence to the contrary, and there was evidence. Here’s the thing: I can now say without a doubt that what I believe absolutely shapes my every experience; it’s just the way our reality works. I believed I wasn’t creative, therefore I didn’t see it anywhere.
The part of me who was afraid of humiliation just couldn’t risk expressing it. Somebody might laugh; they might disapprove; they might reject me. Being the sensitive type doesn’t help matters any. I can recount for you in detail at least ten humiliating experiences from my childhood through adolescence that convinced me to tamp down any renegade urges to blurt something imaginative. Who needs the pain?
Now I’m different; I know that imagination is my natural home. I allow my intuitive self the freedom to take me where it will, more and more.
Once in a while the old fear of being too vulnerable crops up, and I pull in my turtle head for safety.
I ended Part 1 by welcoming back to my heart the “Loser” Diane, comforting her and listening to her needs. But the question still remains, “How do you find out who you really are once you discover who you’re not?” It’s one thing to say, “Well, I’ve finally let go of that old, destructive and untrue self-image.” (To be accurate, there are so many aspects to our self-image that letting go of any one of them is part of a process) Then what? To quote the title of an old Ray Bradbury story, “Who Am I This Time?” It seems to me that many people on this planet are consciously moving through this process, rejecting old beliefs about themselves, about what they value, but being uncertain as to what or who is left.
In my case, allowing what I feared most, to express myself creatively in a big way, was how I began to discover my identity as an artist. I use the term “artist” to denote an orientation to the world, not any specific category such as dancer or writer, although I seem to have been born doing both. In other words, you don’t have to be employable as an artist to be one. It’s just the lens through which you see everything; it’s your nature.
At 43, I experienced a major turning point on the road from Loser to Artist.
That winter I began to spontaneously channel higher guidance in written form. This changed my life immediately. (You can read about that on the “My Story” page on Soul Caper.) At the same time, my divorce from my first husband was finalized. I had just met a woman who quickly became a close friend and supporter of All Things Diane; and to top it off, I accidentally fell in love with someone who was not only engaged, but much younger than me; yeah, totally inappropriate. All of this within 6 months. I now interpret such a confluence of events as guidance.
So just as The Loser was going out the door, in rushed all the above. A heady time! I could write a memoir about just that year (1992), it was so over the top in its high highs and low lows. For the purposes of my topic, though, I’ll just focus on one aspect, and that is the fact that I created an over-the-top character that year, for the yearly Halloween party at my office.
One morning that September I woke up with a character fully formed in my mind: Madonna’s cousin Ethel. She would look like Madonna, dress like Madonna, (Madonna circa 1988) even down to the black bustier and the cross. She would go up to each person she saw at the party and say, in her New York accent: “Hi. I’m Ethel Ciccone, Madonna’s cousin, from the Bronx. She’s got all the attention, but I’m the more talented one. I’m currently working as a part-time dental hygienist, but I’m auditioning for off-off-Broadway shows, if I could just get a break. I’m named after my mother’s idol, Ethel Merman.” At that point, I open the little black lace jacket I’m wearing to expose the scanty bustier, and start belting out loudly, a la Ethel Merman, “Get into the groove, boy, you’ve got to prove your love…” and then “Like a virgin, …”
This idea seemed to spring to life of its own volition, and in a way, it did. It came to me, and I agreed to manifest it.
Sometimes in life our true, creative voice breaks through all the jammed frequencies and announces, “Move over. I’ve got this.”
If we’re open enough to go along for the ride, it can be a life-changer. And so it was with Ethel. I was, without a doubt, the life of that party, along with my beloved Mr. Wrong, who came as Ross Perot, and was working the room with me (it wasn’t planned that way, but I heard someone say, “Aren’t Diane and Steve (not his real name) hilarious?”). This would have been reward enough, but there was so much more. So much, much more from that one little second chakra burst of sexually powered creativity, that it resonates down the years and still feeds my creative process today.
It’s not as though I became an actor overnight, leaving social work behind forever. But it was a peak experience, bringing home the truth of who Diane always had been: A performer who knows how to entertain a crowd, even if in this lifetime she’s too introverted to make it her vocation. I had loved being in children’s theater, after all, and always grabbed the entertainment section of the newspaper first, even at the age of twelve. I had always been fascinated by actors, singers, and dancers, in a way that my parents interpreted as unhealthy. The truth, which I didn’t comprehend until The Ethel Episode, was much deeper: Performers are my tribe. Of course I’m drawn to them.
You’re looking for clues about who you really are? Look at what brings you to life!
What most turns you on, excites you, no matter how impractical or “unlike you” it may seem. There is guidance there for you. I didn’t spend much time paying attention to such things until that transformative year, 1992; I have paid close attention ever since. Ethel became a touchstone for me. She was a part of Diane who had been crying out to be expressed, not necessarily as an entertainer, but as the part of me who says what she thinks without pulling her punches; who isn’t afraid of being humiliated because she takes nothing personally and accepts herself just as she is. We each have an inner Ethel, along with a whole repertory company of voices that we’ve repressed out of fear, for whatever reason.
For me, being in the heightened state of having my heart wide open not to mention being sexual aroused allowed Ethel to walk out on stage. I would not otherwise have had the nerve!
Your opportunities will come to you just as they did for me; Ethel was only one example, if the most dramatic.
When I was creating Soul Caper I began to realize that I was somehow tapping into creativity that was literally coming to me, as opposed to my former experience of making it up in my own mind. This was another important opening in discovering my true self; the awareness that I can choose to co-create with a higher dimension of awareness than my personality self. Every such discovery is like finding a sparkling diamond where you expected glass.
So I do my best to stay open, allow everything and everyone to be just as they are with trying to change or fix or manipulate them to fit my comfort level, which, as a recovering control freak is no easy task, for sure. I spend time every day turning inward in meditation, prayer, and other practices designed to purify my thoughts and lift my vibration above the horrible level of everyday discourse we’re wallowing in right now on this planet.
You could say that each of us who chooses to wake up to who they really are is heroic in a sense, because we are absolutely swimming against the tide. I’ve discovered it’s just no good to try to emulate the way some “successful” person swims. Finding out what works for you is the journey.
No one can know what you need but your own inner wisdom, so seek it there.
You want to lift yourself above the chaos and dissonance? Follow your inner guidance; honor what you’re drawn to every day, and notice what and who brings you down.
Our true self is always with us, trying to get our attention every day, just waiting for us to plow through all the layers of crap we’ve wrapped ourselves in to be acceptable to a superficial world that can’t possibly see our greatness.
As for Mr. Wrong, he got married a year later, never having gotten it through his head that it wasn’t just an office flirtation for me. Was I a fool for love? Yes, but for all the pain, I came to understand that what I gained was the realization that I was actually capable of real love, something I had until then thought wasn’t possible. Also, I had never for a minute believed that you could fall in love with someone you hardly knew, and who wasn’t the one for you. That whole thing of “love at first sight.” I’ve had to accept that it can happen, completely unwittingly, almost against your will. So much for what we know about our nature!