Get Out Of Your Own Way

Ahh, the beginning of a new year and we face the pressure of the New Year’s resolutions that are quickly discarded by January 5th. This year I gave in by 10:00 am on January 1st, by making pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast. I could hear the Little Debbie brownie whispering in my head, “You’re mine now”. The stress, grief, and even joy from the last few months have affected my life by adding 10 pounds and taking the joy out of creating artwork. I could be the resistance that Steven Pressfield writes about in his book, Do the Work, but the thing causing the resistance is me. I need to practice getting out of the way.

“You may think that you’ve lost your passion, or that you can’t identify it, or that you have so much of it, it threatens to overwhelm you. None of these is true. Fear saps passion. When we conquer our fears, we discover a boundless, bottomless, inexhaustible well of passion.”

― Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

This past month I have been working at my sister’s house, packing her life in boxes, making piles of things to donate or to throw away, and finding missing pieces to the puzzle of understanding the relationship that we had as sisters. The pieces that made little sense at the time complete the picture. Letters and emails that were saved and placed where they would become constant reminders of past hurts. A lifetime of birthday cards filed away in a box under the stairs. The list of names of children that would never be and a detailed drawing of a future dog apartment for the furry children filled the void of not being able to have children. My artwork I gave her and she then stashed it away in a closet in the basement to decorate the dust bunny den. Encountering these puzzle pieces made me frozen in time, not sure what to do with all these pieces that helped define a sibling relationship.

Often we get caught up looking at the past that we cannot see the future. We become the barrier in the road to moving on. We have firmly encased our feet in concrete to prevent any mobility and make us stop doing what brings us joy, and only concentrate on what gave us sorrow. This barrier that we become will manifest itself in creating art. It will muddy the paint, crack the glass, drop a huge inkblot on the paper, and make proportions a bit off-kilter. The thing is, we can’t erase the past, no matter how hard we try. Erasers even leave a residue that smears the work in progress and makes things go awry. We have become the obstacle in the way of progress.

The question then is, how do we break free of the concrete block holding us down? Let it go is a simplistic answer. Not so easy to do when we embed the past in our hearts. We are giving up a piece of ourselves by letting go. I have found that Paul McCartney had it right years ago, simply Let It Be. The ultimate words of wisdom.

We can’t change the past and sometimes we can’t heal people from their past hurts, but we can acknowledge it. This creates a crack in the concrete block holding us in place and allows for a structural weakness to occur. With the tears that are shed or the wine that is drunk (not advocating drinking alcohol, I am simply using poetic license); the crack expands a bit more to allow the toes to wiggle. Now the hard part begins. Producing a spider web of fissures in the block created by the self-examination and acknowledgment of the part we played in the past. It is easy to blame others for the pain that we feel. It is much harder to accept the fact that our pain may have been self-inflicted. Once we realize we overworked the colors on the canvas and muddied them ourselves, that we applied heat to the glass too fast and caused the glass to crack, or the inkblot occurred because the artist didn’t clean the nib on the pen properly, and the body proportions are wacky because our mind is elsewhere; only then will the block fall to pieces at our feet.

Once we are free from the block that encased us, we must not pick up the remains and start throwing them. No amount of maple syrup is going to turn those rocks into a beautiful sculpture of David. It’s just going to become extremely sticky and attract ants.

It took a trip to The Metropolitan Museum in New York City to make me see the concrete block on my feet. For me, stepping out of a situation and discovering something new makes me recognize what is holding me back. I came back full of inspiration and ready to tackle the obstacles that lay before me. Who knows, maybe I’ll create a sculpture of David and then smother him in maple syrup. After all, ants have to eat too.

As 2022 begins, instead of making resolutions to stop a habit, why not resolve to getting out of the way?


Coming soon a New York-inspired story.




Melissa Whitaker

Artist | Illustrator | Photographer Currently Looking for her lost shaker of salt. 🍈

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