Big Magic Changed My Life

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This week I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and it changed my life.

I think I say that a lot, that something changed my life, but that’s how we grow. We experience something and we let it change us. We read, for example, My Notorious Life by Kate Manning and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on abortion and birth control. We see a picture of a child, a child that could’ve been any one of our children, washed up dead on a beach and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on the refugee situation in our world today. We hear about the pipeline that a big oil company wants to put through the Dakotas and we let it change (or at least broaden) our thinking on oil and the economy and our resources and what is right.

So I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and I let it change my thinking on creativity, specifically my own creativity. The whole book is about creative living, but as I was reflecting this morning on my life as a whole I realized Elizabeth Gilbert had taught me a thing or two about living in general.

Today was supposed to be my day off. Once a week I get one day completely off when I don’t have to come to the hostel or answer emails about the hostel or even think about the hostel! Of course, as how in the first month or so of each school year all of my dreams are about school, most of my dreams are still about the hostel, so we’re working on that last one.

So that was today, my day off! But then yesterday a few new reservations came in. And then this morning my boss’s mother wanted to take her out to lunch before going back to her home a couple hours away. So I am currently sitting in the hostel, for the seventh day in a row since my last day off (last Thursday), not having a day off. Not a complete day off, anyway.

This morning as I was preparing to come to work I started to cry. I started to pout about poor me and how my life isn’t fair and I work harder than anyone and all I wanted was one measly day off amidst seven 9 hour days at work and my boss just doesn’t appreciate me and she thinks her life is more important than mine.

I know. Pretty dramatic stuff.

But then the gentle Holy Spirit reminded me of what’s true, of what’s truer than my feelings. About how the other day my boss surprised me with an entire giant pizza all for myself for no reason other than that she appreciates me. About how every single day about five times a day my boss thanks me for doing my job. About how not once since I started has my boss paid me my salary, but is always giving me giant and generous tips. About how the one who was making my boss’s life (and consequently the hostel) more important than my life was not my boss, but me.

I’m going to type up that last point again because it changed my life. The one who was making my job the most important thing in my life was me.

So here’s what I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert: I learned that done and bad is better than perfect and unfinished. I learned that WHEN I finish my novel, if it’s not very good, it won’t actually matter very much. I learned that the important part is the doing, the creating. I learned that the songs I make up throughout the day about my dogs or my pizza or my broom are the building blocks of a creative life. And above all I learned (again) that I am in charge of my life. I’m the boss of my life!

Which means if my job is the most important thing in my life, that’s all on me. If I’m letting work and Netflix squeeze their way into all of my creating time then that’s on me, baby. Every time I would joke, “Oh, I can stay late, I don’t have anything better to do,” or say, “It’s not like I have a life,” I was making work the most important thing. I was belitting my own life! And if I’m not going to stand up for my own life, who is?

Here’s the thing. I do have things to do and I do have a life. I might not have a lot of local friends or appointments or lunch dates (with people other than myself) but I have work to do, dammit! I have a book to finish and yoga to practice and songs to make up and books to read. And all of that is important, but only if I say it is.

The whole point of me moving to Jarabacoa was to build my own life from the ground up. To listen carefully to what God is asking me to do and to do it. To decide what is most important. And guess what? It’s not my job. At least not anymore.

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