I could make a very long list of people who inspire me. I am sure that you can to. Some daily, some from afar, and some all my life. If I did make an actual list, it would include of course parents, and siblings, my own children, friends, extended family, colleagues, writers, artists, people still with us, and people already gone, who have graced this world with a presence that will live on in our hearts and minds forever.
The thing is, we never truly feel that we have thanked them properly for this inspiration, and that’s okay. I said “that’s okay!” because it is in the receiving where all the magic happens. It is in the “aha” moment, or the warm and fuzzy feeling, or in the “nuzzling of one’s cheek into beauty” as my artist friend Susie Webber Risho wrote in her poem “Sometimes” from her book, The Enthusiasm of Waxwings. That inexplicable place where we feel special; one with another human being. A circle of understanding, symbiotic somehow.
I have spent most of my life in the presence of other artists of all sorts; sculptors, painters, photographers, printmakers, textile artists, harmonica players, and single string guitarists, poets, singers, actors and even a mime. Again, a list would be tiresome to read, but you get the idea.
I am an artist too. There was a time when I couldn’t say that, didn’t believe it, couldn’t own it. My husband used to tell our children to “own the midfield” in soccer. There was a time when I couldn’t do that – own the midfield. It felt scary and lonely there, like I didn’t belong, wasn’t good enough, hadn’t passed the test. What test? You all know what i mean.
You all know the feeling of not being sure if you are good enough for the team. Easier to sit on the bench and watch than try and fail. It is human nature. But while the human part is thinking you aren’t good enough, and is overriding the “nature” part where it is okay just to be who we are and do what we love, we lose out.
I believe times are changing. We are changing. Society is changing. It is not without its grow pains however. Growth being the key word. Realizing that we have more to learn, or relearn, or recalculate, or regurgitate is hard work. But realizing that we only have to answer to our own drummer and will never be like someone else is the gift. “Never-ever” is a gift, an inspiration, an “aha” moment. As long as we live, we do not need to be like anyone else. We only need to be willing to open ourselves to the inspiration around us to be our best selves, our new selves, the ones who have learned and grown and been willing to let inspiration take hold, lift us up and help us fly.
My people do that for me. My family, my friends, my icons. The ones that surround me but also the ones from my past that have helped me to embrace my imperfections, my me-ness, all that supports my creativity and my understanding of myself. My people are everyone and everywhere. No one color, or age or point of view. My people are those who advance my me-ness by inspiring me to be more of who I am and what I am becoming. Everchanging me. The one who is unique. The one who is enough.
Being inspired to be ourselves is probably meant to come intrinsically; that tiny ember inside of us is supposed to glow with “me-ness”. But often it doesn’t burn brightly enough, and we need a little boost from a friend or a lover, a role model or a muse. We need someone else to say “you are enough” period so that we can begin to believe the truth in that phrase. Own it. We need to hear it, feel it, know it inside. When that ember burns stronger; we shine brighter and our light becomes evident in a new way to ourselves and others. That is inspiration. That is love. That is support. That is hope. It is all the things humans need to thrive, to be ourselves, to live our best lives as our best selves.
The best medicine
But how do we find and nurture ourselves when the world is spinning, pandemics are raging, unrest and conflict are bearing down on us daily in the news and in our world? How do we protect ourselves from all of it, but not become sad and depressed and even ill because it is overwhelming our psyche? I suggest that the answer resides in those inspirational people around us who inspire us. They are our tonic, our medicine that sustains us. They support us when we need to go on, to fight, to lead, or just be enough. Not head down, mindlessly pushing through. Quite the opposite. Instead informed, inspired, confident and wise.
Understood in the way that Susie referred to in her poem. (read an overview of her work here) We find that moment, sometimes within ourselves, and sometimes as others have inspired us to find and nurture it. We find it in friends, those that love us and those that challenge us. We find that place in us as it is reflected back to us from others. It is tangible in a surreal sort of way. Something we can grasp sometimes, hold close and be grateful. Something we can depend on within ourselves.
The list of inspirational folks goes on. Outside of family, we should all have people we admire, whose inspiration has come to our attention via a song, poem, speech or public action that has made us stop and take note. Maybe someone you align with and follow on social media. Maybe a famous writer, public figure, philanthropist, or scholar. Mine are mostly women. Many are artists of the visual, performance, philanthropic, or poetic alliance. Their work inspires me. But also their views. Through them, I am enlightened, informed and reassured that humanity might still be salvageable. That these icons of mine might just spark something special in the rest of us also worthy of note. That we might be inspired to be better humans. I know they inspire me to be more of what I know to be the best of myself. That is all i ask.
If you can’t easily make a list of these kinds of people, make a list of your own values, and see who aligns with those. Spend some time identifying those people out there whose words or actions inspire you. Make them part of your list. This search for those people will help to solidify your own understanding of yourself – your me-ness, your identity and ultimately clarify your own inspiration. I suggest this be an intention of yours. It will be mine this week in the RAD Fresh Creative Journey and the RAD Fresh Yoga Journey. Two places where I hope to inspire others weekly to explore more of themselves.
The big picture
In the end, inspiration isn’t meant to be a one-and-done kind of thing. It isn’t meant to last forever or be something you must lug around with you and be forever grateful. Instead it is a moment, a glance, a feeling, a rush of emotion, a tingling, a nuzzling, a breath, a whisper. Inspiration, in the big picture sense is that idea of being “open to grace” that I have written about before.
We often go looking for more. We think we will find it on the open road, and we might. We expect it to be in the greener grass on the other side of the fence. It might grow there. We search and plan and hope and dream. all in the name of more. All of this searching is admirable, normal human behavior. But the “more” we really need to identify isn’t out there somewhere on the other side of the street or the rainbow. It is inside each of us. The key is to be open to what inspires, to connect with it, identify it, discover it and embrace the possibilities.
Inspiration is born where the door opens and we invite that person or idea, or thought or prayer inside with welcoming arms. It lies in the place of open minds and swelling hearts where our thoughts go beyond the daily grind and into that special place of me-ness. That place where inspiration dwells and life lives a little sweeter because we remain vulnerable and open and yes – inspired.