Its 5am, I lay awake in bed, for the muse has arrived. I hope I’ll be able to communicate this delicate idea. Let me know if you can relate:
I’ve always had this notion that to do awesome work, I had to also feel awesome. What that’s led me to is a pursuit of “feelings”, which can quickly turn into addiction, like a caterpillar into a moth. Ask any junkie. TV, crack, or cookies, it’s all the same. They are feeling chasers, regardless of the drug of choice.
During my radio years, for instance:
Live radio is unforgiving. The clock, nor the audience, care how your day has gone. At 14:06, the second the pre roll commercials are done, it’s on, ready or not. There were days I’d prepare well, show up early and have a good solid show. Sometimes I’d think I had an awesome show prepared and it would fall flat. While that was confusing and frustrating, even legendary teams lose on their home field sometimes. Though these losses were mystifying, an even deeper mystery lurks:
There were days when I felt completely uninspired. Tired. Empty. Nothing “to say”. I wasn’t physically ill and couldn’t justify calling in sick. I would go through the motions of packing up my laptop, walking out the door, and going to the studio. A mild, low level terror would begin to set in as the clock ticked into the upper reaches of the 13:00 hour.
Sure, I had a show plan, I did the work, but I just wasn’t “feeling it”. Looking over my show notes and the impending 120 minutes, I wonder if sherpas ever feel this way when looking at the nearly impossible peak as they begin their 578th ascent. I wonder if anyone is ever exempt from that deflating feeling of “Oh shit. This is going to be really, really hard, why do I do this to myself?”
(This, by the way, is but one of the reasons I adore the band RUSH). Want to see what eternal youth looks like? Go see these men in their 60’s pushing themselves as hard as they can, doing 3 hour long shows, of ever increasing intensity at an age when most dudes are happy to just cash checks and play golf).
So many times on these “oh shit” days, A caller, a current event, an idea in my head would combine in the cauldron of the present moment to yield a moment of pure brilliance. I would walk out of the studio in complete awe at the unsuspected unfolding of inspiration.
These moments of unsuspected brilliance are not limited to the radio days. It’s happened in the Photo studio, in writing, and I once met a great love in similar circumstances. I didn’t feel like being there but showed up anyway, magic ensued.
This has me thinking a lot about feelings: of preparedness, of interest, of ability. Have you ever had the experience of doing your finest work on a day when you initially were sorely tempted to shirk?
I think it’s sensible to expect that under stress we rise to the level of our worst preparation. Good practice and preparation cannot be undervalued.
When I peel back the layers of my own experience, I realize that a certain level of my own feelings are just the weather of my own human condition. Rain or shine, they do not change the facts of that which is being built on the ground. The work – the practice, the preparation, always adds up. It creates something inside you that can be pretty easy to overlook.
What’s the point of this all? I want you to know that the little things you do every day to build yourself – the journaling. The meditation. The exercise. The rehearsals – they all matter, even if they feel mundane. ESPECIALLY when they feel mundane –
Because one day, you will find yourself in a place you don’t necessarily want to be in. You won’t feel your “best” but you’ll be there anyway. You will unceremoniously do the thing. You will go home, and soon realize that you just participated in a life changing moment. You will realize the value of showing up regardless of the weather of your silly little soul, and life will never be the same after that.
Ultimately, you will come to understand that the basic act of showing up is a self fulfilling prophecy of your (sometimes hidden) knowledge that you are worthy of that which you desire.