Sunday, October 16, 2016

Moving Through Doubt

Painting by St. Catherine of Bologna
Lately I've been into saints, iconography, and all forms of liturgy. And today I realized that I hadn't yet looked up the patron saint of artists! So I did. Her name is St. Catherine of Bologna, and she was a nun as well as a violist, dancer, writer, and painter, but her passion was painting. She also happened to struggle with doubt.
From the distance of so many centuries she is still very modern and speaks to our lives. She, like us, suffered temptations, she suffered the temptations of disbelief, of sensuality, of a difficult spiritual struggle. She felt forsaken by God, she found herself in the darkness of faith. Yet in all these situations she was always holding the Lord’s hand, she did not leave him, she did not abandon him. And walking hand in hand with the Lord, she walked on the right path and found the way of light. - Pope Benedict
It is no wonder to me that the arts and doubt once again are found hand-in-hand. Anyone inclined to share their work with an audience knows that gnawing fear that accompanies each performance or piece. It is relentless.

Normally at this point on this journey I would have turned back, resigned myself once again to just be content as a hobbyist. In the past, when I was successful for any length of time, it was because I had a specific project, or a brand, to hide behind. This time, it's just me and the things I want to make because I like to make them. And I have a daily inward battle with my doubt and my hope that this is enough.

I know now the difference between a fear that warns and a fear that merely cripples. Both are meant to protect you, but one results in timely escape and one leads to a deeper misery. Brené Brown, Liz Gilbert, and Danielle Krysa all have excellent things to say about this crippling fear, and they have been my guiding lights as I learn to lean into doubt instead of letting myself get pushed back into my seat.

I used to think this feeling of uncomfortable vulnerability meant that I was going in the wrong direction. I would take it as a sign to quit. I hate asking people for money, or asking folks to buy things. I'm not good enough. Who would pay anything for this? I don't have any value as an artist. These are the things that run through my head on a daily basis. And before, that would have been enough to make me turn red and sit right back down instead of standing tall in my place. But not this time.

I often say to myself that part of the "Going on a Bear Hunt" song that kids sing. The one that goes, "you can't go over it, you can't go under it, you can't go around it, you gotta go through it." I've been told enough times by everyone I admire that this thing will never leave me... but that it gets easier to move through.

And so, as I wake up every morning feeling defeated that I didn't become an overnight success yet again, I remember "you gotta go through it." Keep showing up. Go slow. Every day I do something, I put pen to physical paper, and I know that the sooner I start, the sooner I'll be through the doubt on this day. And tomorrow, I'll have to do the same. But I won't give up, because I know that I'm not the only one, and I know in my heart of hearts that what I'm doing every day is building something, and I hope will all my heart that thing is good.

This self-doubt is really doubt in the goodness, in the abundance, that is God. So I will wake up, I will take His hand, and I will keep going.

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