Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip #57:

“Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher’s salary.”

Patrick F. McManus

We all have ideas of what it means to be a success. Some have it totally backwards; upside down. Quote the old adage “do what you love and love what you do” as much as you want but so many folks still hold that success is making lots of money. They equate being successful with financial wealth.

We need money, perhaps not quite as much as we may think. Needing and wanting are different. I may need transportation; whereas I may want a Ferrari. Lots of people with financial problems make plenty of money. Their problem comes down to spending more than they bring in. It’s called: spending above one’s means.

Doing with less as one enjoys doing what one loves is by far a better way to live. Others might not consider this success, but rest assured, you really are successful if you believe you are. It turns out that doing what you have real passion for – the kind of passion that means you would even do it without being paid brings ample rewards. Not always, but often. Also often true is what we really like doing we are very good at doing.

Sometimes we have a preoccupation about looking good or wanting to impress others instead of going after what we feel compelled to do. Well, who really cares what others think? It is not really important, although we might make it to be. Whenever we get around to sorting out the bigger life questions: Why we are here? What is our purpose for living? You guessed it. Other people’s opinions very quickly fall by the wayside. Other people’s approval, or praise, or us trying to do things in order to fulfill someone else’s dreams are foolhardy notions and unfulfilling.

When one is happy doing what one loves doing we discover benefits roll in and make us feel fulfilled and satisfied. Satisfaction is right up there with living in alignment with our life’s purpose. Utilizing our gifts and talents to make this world better than it was before we got here brings satisfaction beyond our self-interests. Self-interest is involved and has a place, and it is consistent with our making a difference in the world. The folks who are living this way are artists.

Their Art isn’t necessarily painting or writing or singing or creating what we might define as art. These people are aware that creativity is the natural order and that life is energy itself. They know, too, that our creative dreams and yearnings are from the divine source, may I say God? Creativity is God’s gift to us; when we use our creativity we are giving back to God.

The word Will comes from both the Hebrew and Greek words which means yearning. It is the kind of yearning which lovers have for one another. If you want to know the Will of God it can be found in anything that is required of us to be united with one another in love. So when we are using our gifts and talents for our neighbors and doing so with love we are being God’s instruments.

Whatever is demanded by truth, by justice, by mercy, or by love must surely be willed by God. To consent to God’s will is to consent to be true, or to speak truth, or at least seek it out.

It matters not if one is a painter or a poet or a lawyer or a plumber; it all counts. We are all artists. Each one of us has an art that if it also happens to pay our bills, is called a job. Smart people or lucky people sometimes figure out a way to do their art AND get the bills paid.

Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Some people have some narrow ideas about who is or is not an artist. Also some people carry negative notions regarding artists and these negative notions propel them away from pursuing their own particular art. So we need some recovery requiring certain steps. By the time we grow up many pick up negative beliefs regarding what it costs to become an artist. Here are a few of such beliefs:

  • Everyone will hate me.
  • I will be abandoned by family and friends.
  • I cannot spell.
  • I will find out I do bad work.
  • I will look like a fool.
  • I don’t deserve to be successful.
  • I will get self-destructive and drink, do drugs or do other abusive behaviors.
  • It’s too late for me.

These and other beliefs don’t need to be true. Negative beliefs are only beliefs; they are not facts. To recover we need to heal our identity. To do our art we must show up and claim the artist within.  I love writing and I have been writing for a long time. Originally I had difficulty thinking of myself as a writer. I wrote for my college newspaper. I’ve written some poems, short stories, and essays, but I still told myself “I’m not a real writer. Real writers get published and I haven’t been published.”

Then I had an essay published in a magazine and they sent me $400. “Well,” I told myself, “it’s only a magazine and it’s a very small one.” This went on each time I got something else published. I would simply raise the bar as though none of my achievements counted.

Finally, I just decided that I am a writer. Good one, bad one, a so-so one; It didn’t matter. I decided to accept myself as a writer. I have been journaling daily for a long time – 30 years or more. I currently write this weekly blog. I have had and continue to write short stories. Occasionally I write a poem. It doesn’t matter if any of these pieces are published or not. Some have been; some not. I write primarily for me. I decided that I am a writer because that’s who I say I am. I love to write and so I write, and that is enough for me.

Recently, with all this time at home, I cleaned out my small home office and I came across a file listing all the various things I have written and published over the years. I had made a chronology of my work up to that point. It was a file I had completely forgotten about and it blew my mind. I was shocked to see how many things I had published. Up to that point I had over thirty published articles, essays, or short stories, plus a chapter or two in books. No poems yet. There have been more published pieces since I made this file. Also I have boxes of old journal notebooks stored in our basement from years of my daily journaling.

The point: Claim your Identity as an artist. I write because I am compelled to do so. It is one of the ways I express my creativity. I like to think on paper; a true introvert. I write because I am too stubborn to give up my own delight, which often goes against a world that, if allowed, would surely talk me out of my art.

Years ago a friend said to me, “you don’t care what others think of you.” He meant this as a compliment, meaning that I must be free from the constraints of what other people might think about me. The truth is I do care, only not enough to keep me from doing many of the things I feel compelled to do, especially writing. I don’t spell very well. Who knows where I’d be if spelling and grammar checking programs had come along when I was in high school. I am a writer who is committed to continue to keep learning to write better because I have something to say.

I have a writer friend who didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. His large family still flairs up regularly and gives him all sorts of things to handle. When these life situations come along he’ll often get philosophical and say, “Well, at least I can always write about this. It’ll make for a great story.” Usually he’ll then add that he’ll have to write it as fiction because “Nobody would believe it.” My friend knows how to utilize his art.

Up until his retirement my dentist worked three days a week doing dentistry, and three days a week as a metal sculptor. He taught sculpture as well as doing his own works. He is one of the happiest people I know. He’s good at both pursuits – his two art forms. I suspect both feed off each other and make him better at both.   

“The life which is not examined is not worth living.” Plato

If you are plumber or an attorney find the artistry within this vocation. If you love working on automobiles go for it. See the service you are to your neighbors. Again: do this in the knowledge that we are all artists. You are no exception.

There are other things we must recover to live as full-fledged artists. There’s the need to recover our sense of power, our sense of integrity, and our sense of possibility. There are others, too. I’ve touched before on the sense of possibility and will come back to some of these others at another time.

It’s enough to realize that change requires a surrendering and a letting go of old habits and practices that keep us stuck in our currently unsatisfactory ways. Declare yourself to be who you really are. It doesn’t matter how buried or blocked the real person you are happens to be.

Getting back to success and being an artist, I see these two are intimately connected. A way of defining success is: knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.  

Those fisherpersons who become philosophers are people who know they have a specific purpose and unique task to do while we are here. This, of course means that each of us is unique. We cannot be replaced, nor can our life be repeated. It is our responsibility to carry out our assignment – and it is also our greatest joy.