Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Woodpeckers and Guilt

This woodpecker was an unusual guest on the lawn, a couple of mornings ago. I can't remember ever seeing a woodpecker sitting on the grass, pulling out grubs.

But there it was.

It was "unusual" enough for me to pull out my camera to take a picture or two. Which-- in turn-- required getting fresh batteries for the camera, finding a good angle for the photo, waiting for the right moment and yadda, yadda... followed by offloading the images, choosing the decent ones, cropping and color correcting, formatting for blog use and yadda, yadda.

And so, old familiar feelings of guilt over "wasting time with something useless" when I could be doing "something more productive" with my life arose.

Which, in turn, led me down a rabbit hole of considering why we feel what we feel, and especially why we feel what we feel when we are experiencing negative feelings.

I enjoy nature photography. I enjoy observing the world around me, and then sharing what I see with others. I may not be the world's greatest conversationalist, but I am a passable story teller and illustrator, so I write and add pictures.

Now, I was not raised in an environment where I was made to feel that work-- by definition-- had to be "something you DON'T enjoy doing." Far from it. I was, however, raised in an environment that revolved around "duties (work) first, fun later." And if "duties" took ALL your time? Too bad. If we were to consider Aesop's fable about "The Ant and the Grasshopper," I have pretty much always been closer to the proverbial Ant... in spite of the fact that I am-- to a considerable extent-- a "slacker." These uneasily live side-by-side because my sense of responsibility and conscientiousness (the Ant) does battle with my desire to be "authentically me," which is more about BE-ing than DO-ing.

So I am sitting here, writing these words-- which takes (valuable work) time to do-- feeling like I am not being "suitably Ant-ish" because these words and pictures are (a) primarily for my own enjoyment, and (b) not income producing and (c) will "cost" me $30 because the time is NOT being used to generate income. And there's an attendant feeling of guilt; a sense that I am "wasting time with frivolities, again."

But don't many people photograph and write in their spare time? Or walk on the beach? Or paint? Or collect stamps or belly button lint?

Few things are truly as simple as they look-- especially when it comes to the human psyche.

I don't have any "spare" time. And therein can be found an answer, of sorts: Even though I am-- in many ways-- "an Ant," I have mostly been singularly unsuccessful at "Anting" because for most of my adult life I have made choices leading to a reality that doesn't have any "spare time."

Sure, I have "made my own way," and I "work from home in my sweats" but at what price? Yes, I may be living "authentically" and "on my own terms," but the ostensible "reward" has so often been that there's (metaphorically speaking) only a twenty-dollar bill between me and living on the street. It's not a question of when the electric bill gets paid, but a question of remembering the last time I wasn't worried whether the power would go off next week. A year? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? And sometimes that's to close to "reality" to even consider a true metaphor...

One of the things I have been considering recently is the well-known saying "Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow" (which also happens to be the title of Marsha Sinetar's landmark book from 1989 ◄ highly recommended!) and its deeper implications. I have been doing that for almost two decades, so I have started wondering what (reality?) I am not seeing: I am doing one thing I love (beach combing), but dealing with an ever depleting resource. I am doing a second thing I love (being a rare postage stamp dealer) but am dealing with a hobby that's slowly "graying" and dying. I am doing a third thing I love (writing) which is notoriously hard to make a living at, and focusing on HSPs (who often believe things "should be free") so there has been very little there. I am doing a fourth thing I love (being creative, artistic and painting geometric designs-- Alchemy Stones), but art is a "luxury" which makes it something most people "do without" in hard economic times, such as these.

The question that arises is "How do you MAKE IT, when your passions may be authentic, but just aren't very popular, on a greater scale?"

Anyway, the woodpecker came to me in this unusual context (it's actually called a "Northern Flicker" and is one of the very few woodpeckers that does get some of its food from the ground) and made me pause and think. I'm a student of synchronicity and symbolism, so this surely had to "mean" something. So then I had to go look at the meaning of woodpeckers, as totem animals and animal spirit guides.

Of course, there was a huge amount of information to be had-- suffice it to say that Woodpecker has profound spiritual messages, many centering on returning to, and focusing on, our roots and our original creative ideas. Even Carl Jung observed that the woodpecker symbolizes "a return to the womb of creativity." Woodpeckers are also a symbol of determination-- they will peck away at seemingly impossible obstacles (like an oak tree trunk) till they reach their objective... against all odds. I have surely been doing that... if I had a dime for every time I've been told "Just give up and get a 'real' job-- what you're trying to do can't be done" I wouldn't be alluding to financial hardship here.

And yet? To get back to the "Ant and Grasshopper" analogy... the woodpecker embodies a little of both: the dogged determination and single-mindedness of the ant (hammering through impossible obstacles) and the "slacker"ways of the Grasshopper... it's narrow pointed beak and long tongue allows it to reach its objective with the least possible effort needed.

And the "guilt" bit? It is a fundamental truth of me that I will-- in general-- accomplish exactly what I need, and NO MORE. I feel extremely "driven" to "get by" yet lack any sort of ambition to accomplish much more than that. The guilt arises because-- UNlike the Ant-- I never have a "store room" to draw on, any kind of "reserve" when I just want to take a day to photograph and write about woodpeckers, or when I just want to do something "because I feel like it." Why? Because I feel like I am-- in essence-- endangering my own security when I pay attention to anything other than "the essential," hence a sense of guilt.

Now, if I could only find another passion that's a little more globally popular!

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