Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is the first I’ve read this year. I found the book when — happy accident! — I stumbled upon Liz’s podcast with one of my favorite thinkers and writers, Brené Brown.
As often happens, I’m reading a couple of books at the same time. Next to Big Magic is an older text I began reading last year: Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith by Henri Nouwen. Gilbert and Nouwen — who probably never met in life, often speak with lively, generative voices from different perspectives. Along with Brown, the three created a delightful and challenging conversation in my head.
The timing was right. In the midst of a season that includes editing a book and using art to participate in my own healing and recovery, I found encouragement in Nouwen’s repeated reminder of identity, yours and mine, in the eyes the Divine: I am the beloved. In other words, a loving Creator put me here; I belong. Brown says, “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” Gilbert’s says the same thing in a different way: we are each here with a divine entitlement — an arrogance of belonging — to be, breathe, and co-create.
Beloved and Belonging
The arrogance of belonging is not about egotism or self-absorption. In a strange way, it’s the opposite; it is a divine force that will actually take you out of yourself and allow you to engage more fully with life. Because often what keeps you from creative living is your self-absorption (your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgment, your crushing sense of self-protection). The arrogance of belonging pulls you out of the darkest depths of self-hatred — not by saying “I am the greatest!” but merely by saying “I am here!”” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
I am here! Do you say that? Aloud and also in the way you move through your life? Without hesitation, apology, or guilt? Have you embraced your belonging? Saying “I am here!” has nothing to do with merit. It cannot be earned. It cannot be lost. It is a birthright. You are a member of the human family. You belong.
I love how Henri, Liz and Brené frame it. You belong, you are the beloved, no matter what. Even if you fail!
Knowing that you are the beloved and that you belong, what would you do — no matter what? What do you love SO much that you’d do it even if you failed? Think about that. How would your life look if you did what you love because you love it? Love it so much that you’d make the art, sing the song, write the story, raise the child, fund the project, dance the dance even if there is no recognition, no payoff, no notice of your efforts. You do it all for love. And that is enough.
Do it now
Whatever your darkest depths, step out and embrace your calling. Now. Be warned: There is no certainty or even remote suggestion of success. In fact success, whatever success is and however it is measured, is beside the point. Stop complaining, finding excuses, comparing. Save all that energy for better things!
I write these words for myself as well as to you. I’ve complained about my limited resources, sheltered upbringing, and late arrival to art. Found a loop of excuses for why I cannot make creativity my devotion. Compared myself to others who have more time, talent, training, and connections. Because I thought success proved the value, meaning, and validity of my calling, I poured energy into justifying my lack of creative success.
Gilbert, Brown, and Nouwen give calling a stunning new definition. It’s not about success at all. It’s all about devotion & love. Receiving love: You are the beloved. Giving love: Saying “I am here!” by showing up for your calling with devotion.
These are the few things that make any life worth living: Kindness. Connection. Doing what you love, what you were created to do, even if you fail!
Over to you
- What would happen if you threw out success as a measure of meaning and found satisfaction in the creative process?
- How will you live knowing that you are the beloved, that you have a divine right to be here?
- What will your life look when you lean into your calling with the arrogance of belonging?
I realize the answers for these questions are not simple. They will not be posted in the comments below. Instead, I hold you in the light as you think and act on just one of them.