Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest post: Life's work

Christine Mason Miller has been an inspiration in my journey through storytelling, creativity, and service. A few months ago, I wrote about books well-loved and the impact Christine and her writing have had on my life. Today, on the eve of her launching her new book Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the Worldit is my pleasure to host Christine on Stories of Conflict and Love.
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That's me on the far left in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1976, during one of my extended visits with my grandparents. Remember Slip & Slide? Well, instead of buying one, my grandparents let me create one with a few of their vinyl table cloths and a hose. Can't find what we want? No problem -- let's just make it ourselves.
When I asked Roxanne if she would do me the honor of sharing a guest blog post on Stories of Conflict and Love as part of my virtual book tour for Desire to Inspire, she not only gave me an enthusiastic “Yes!”, she also asked if I could discuss a specific topic related to the subject of creating a meaningful life. This is what she shared with me:
There is a question I think you'd be best poised to answer:  How did you know that being an artist was it? How did you know that the creative life was your life, your work, that it was YOU?  A lot of the strength I have found in your book and writing has been in the way you OWN yourself, your art, your creativity, and your place in the world. I'd love to post your thoughts on how you came to claim this role, how you came to be comfortable in it. How did your 25-year-old self know? How did she choose this? What has the creative life come to mean to you?
I wish I had a neatly wrapped anecdote of an experience when the clouds parted and the knowledge of what I was supposed to do with my life came shimmering down into my soul, but there was never a “magic moment” when I discovered my true calling. Instead, it has revealed itself to me in large and small ways for as in alone-ness - to the notion of being a solitary warrior on the quest to make my life what I wanted. However one might judge its potency, it was a philosophy that came to me, stayed with me, and has played a role in my life ever since. And it has always been an empowering thought – if there is something I want, if there is a way I want to live my life, then I need to do the work to make it happen. That is nobody’s job but mine. It then follows that if it is up to me to create the life I want, then there isn’t much use in doubting my dreams, my passions, my self. (Not that I don’t have my moments of panic and fear and “Who do I think I am?”-ness, but for the most part, self-doubt is a fairly weak link in my DNA chain.)

The idea behind Desire to Inspire is that the world is best served, lifted, and – that helped that strong, adventurous side of me flourish. And somewhere in the midst of climbing trees, crossing creeks, digging up worms, and making mud pies a thought struck me:  “Whatever it is that you want in life, you’re going to have to create it yourself.”

I realize that on the surface, this seems a bit intense for a girl whose age hadn’t yet hit the double digits. It speaks to a certa talking about creativity – which is a fundamental element of our very humanity - and about all the ways our innate creative passions, energies, and ideas shape our day-to-day lives and, in turn, impact the world around us.

I happen to be an artist, but this particular job title rests on a deeper foundation, which has to do with inspiration. It has to do with making those around me feel good about themselves; it has to do with recognizing the incredible light in someone’s eyes when they laugh, when they are treated kindly, when they are acknowledged, included, applauded, adored, and encouraged. My life’s work began when I started to recognize the impact of kindness, respect, and creative passion – towards others and ourselves - and the positive waves of inspiration that are manifested when we do transformed when we follow our creative passions and build a meaningful life for ourselves. I use the phrase “creative passion” because I believe we are all – every single one of us – creative beings, and we use our creative muscles every single day. I know there are plenty of you out there who would disagree with me, but these disagreements are usually thrust at me on the premise that creativity must = artistic talent. But I’m not talking about anything as specific as that. I amessons and examples that came to me from that day forward, which is what makes it, in a very literal way, my life’s work. In doing the work I’ve done to create a life I am passionate about, I understand on a visceral level the power of such an existence – power as in light, as in energy, as in a shiny example of all that is possible. My work is to be of service to the world, and that work starts within. This is what my younger self taught me. This is the work that she chose.

Christine Mason Miller is a Santaboth.

Perhaps the work I have been doing all these years has been in honor of my younger self, who discovered at a very young age a source of strength that was impossible to turn away from, deny, or doubt, and maybe my sense of alone-ness as a little girl is what sparked my desire to inspire in the first place. Once the spark was lit, it was simply a matter of learning how to do that, and being open to all the lessons and examples that came to me from that day forward, which is what makes it, in a very literal way, my life’s work. In doing the work I’ve done to create a life I am passionate about, I understand on a visceral level the power of such an existence – power as in light, as in energy, as in a shiny example of all that is possible. My work is to be of service to the world, and that work starts within. This is what my younger self taught me. This is the work that she chose.

Christine Mason Miller is a Santa Monica-based artist, writer, and explorer. Her next book Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World – is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com. Follow her adventures at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

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