June 28, 2012

Insights & Ice Cream


GRAPHIC BY UNCLE BEEFY


Last week I almost bought a ticket to go to India. I thought, "What the hell! I've always wanted to go, so why not?!" Essentially, I had a brief but emotionally-charged surge of inspiration probably similar to those had by people who think they can go live safely among grizzly bears or keep rattlesnakes as house pets. We can pretty much guess how those situations turn out. Fortunately, there are things to consider in an impromptu Indian escape like severe seasonal weather conditions, vaccinations, and bank balances. Whew! Thanks, Universe.

I think I just wanted to indulge in the idea of doing something that might make me feel a bit less "stuck" or at the very least distracted from those feelings that seem so prevalent lately. There's no question that feeling stuck can be defeating and debilitating. But mulling over this situation brought me back to a moment in art school when an exceptionally attractive professor shared a couple of thoughts with the class.

First, he asked us who in the class wanted to be a great artist. Did any of us raise our hands? Duh. Then he told us that none of us would ever be great artists. Jerk? Yeah, we thought so, too, until he continued. He then went on to share that all of us have a preconceived idea of what being "great" is and that by the time we would reach that far-off imagined point we would already have raised the bar on ourselves to yet another level of "greatness." So, in point of fact, we'd never really be great artists... in our own eyes. Maybe that's something of a blanket statement, but it makes sense and also points out how futile comparison is in the end. Sure, there can be glimmers of inspiration in creating that point on our horizon based upon another person's accomplishments, talents, etc. But most of us are probably well aware of the excessive pitfalls that lie in wait for the first moment that we don't manage to measure up to our assumptive ideals. Bartenders, bakers, and Ben & Jerry's have certainly benefited from those moments. Of that, I'm most certain.

Secondly, he shared this quote, "Work doesn't come from inspiration, inspiration comes from work." Wow. I don't remember if it was his quote or from someone else but that baby really strikes a chord. Well, remembering it did anyway. I don't know about you, but I'll admit that I tend to wait for "the moment" to strike. Sure they come around on occasion, but only occasionally. And not only does that waiting waste an inordinate amount of time, it puts the onus of responsibility on something or someone outside of ourselves. Talk about powerless and self-defeating! Ben & Jerry's are probably working on a flavor for that right now. "Excuses, Excuses Crunch?" "...with Pity Party Swirl?" In any case, it essentially boils down to just showing up, don'tcha think? And not to your grocer's freezer section. How's that for some cold, hard truth? (Brrr! I'd suggest a hot cuppa cocoa right now but I think that could distract us. I'd have cuddled up to some hot cocoa with that professor, I can tell you that much. See what I mean? Distracted.)

You still with me? Good. My final thought on all of this, and where I really struggle, is about control - which is where that quote up there comes into play. Flashback some 15 years ago and you would see a young man sitting in his apartment, lights dimmed, candles flickering, and a CD of Hildegard of Bingen chanting away as he attempted his first foray into meditation. (Yeah. In case you didn't know, I had/have a flair for a bit of the mystical and a lot of the dramatic. Go figure.) I thought I'd tap into the cosmic flow and take a moment to ask God, the Universe, or whomever was kindly listening, just what in the hell I was supposed to be doing with my life?!! The answer I got back? "Surrender." Yep. That's all! "I'm sorry God/Universal Intelligence, but do you see what all I've got going on here? The candles? The music? I kinda went to a lot of trouble to just get an off-the-cuff, "surrender," y'know?"

Two hours later and I sat dumbfounded and frustrated. But y'know what else? I kinda figure that little message must've come from a real place because if it had been my own internal voice it probably would have offered up, "How about a cocktail," or "Just practice your 'Voguing' and leave me alone." But 'surrender' sounded suppressing and depressing to me at the time and for years to come, frankly. I took it to mean "give up" or "let someone else take the wheel." I figured I'd already tried that before with unfulfilling or disastrous results so, thanks but no thanks - I'll take things from here. Or, so I thought. 15 years later... and I think I may be starting to finally get it. (How's that for a learning curve?)

 All the while I thought I was driving the bus, I was just determining my route based upon what 'the passengers' were telling me or where I thought they might like to see me go. I actually had surrendered but in an unconscious and altogether different way than what that little voice had tried to tell me. I basically just handed everything over to anyone, anyone, that thought they knew better than I did - good intentions or otherwise. The subtext of that little meditative quip, I now believe, was telling me, "just relax, let go of perfection, don't worry about controlling the final outcome, don't worry about the outcome at all, don't worry about the opinions of others - good or bad, stop looking for the answers "out there," listen to yourself, have fun, do what you love." If it's true what they say, "Man makes plans, and God laughs," then God has been yucking it up at my expense for a good long while. And, honestly, who could blame Him?

So that's where I am now, kids. My own little "Aha!" moment. I mean, I'm still processing this information but from a much lighter place. A new outlook, a fresh approach. So, we'll see where all of that takes me from here on out. The concept of surrendering still feels scary to me but, for the first time, also rather liberating. Like that quote up there would indicate, when your hands finally let go, they'll finally be open to receiving something new. Maybe what I've been waiting for all along? I think I'll let someone else worry about that now. (First time for everything.)



42 comments:

  1. This was such a good read. It makes me think, laugh, think, laugh, and think over again. And weirdly, it makes me covet Ben & Jerrys. Seriously: great post, Bradford. And lots to think about. For everyone out there.

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    1. Thanks so much, Igor! Glad you enjoyed it. Can you get Ben & Jerry's in Germany? Well, hopefully you satisfied your ice cream craving. ;)

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  2. Love this, and dear God, I needed to to read this. Thank you, you beautiful man, you.

    K.

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    1. Wowza, Karen! Now THAT is a comment! So lovely to see you here and thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Glad it came at just the right time.

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  3. This is exactly what I needed to read right now. I seem to be the best at making mountains out of molehills and for what? This was the perfect reminder to surrender (and get this! I totally had the same word come to me in a meditation once and was equally perplexed). xoxo! Kathleen

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    1. Ah, Miss Kathleen! Loving the little bit of kismet coming with this post! Hopefully, this post helped you avoid the 15 year learning curve. ;) xoxo UB

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  4. So very true, my friend. Change your mind and you change everything.

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    1. Without a doubt, ZDub. Without. A. Doubt! The problem for me is letting it change back. ;)

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  5. Love this piece! Such a good reminder to let go of expectations so life can happen. And for those moments we forget and get stuck...Pity Party Swirl!!!Please tell me you have submitted that idea to B&J. Love you Beefy! xoxo

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read through the post and so glad you enjoyed it! :)

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  6. Powerful post...a real thinker! I'll be mulling this all over for a few days I think! Maybe while indulging in some Pity Party Swirl. ;)

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    1. This reply is long overdue, Susan, but thanks so much for taking the time to read through my rather long post. So glad you got something out of it... beyond an idea for an ice cream flavor. ;)

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  7. Bradford! I love this post. Thank you for sharing it. I was in a place several years ago where I was constantly analyzing everything about my life. I had just split up with my husband of 10 years and I couldn't decide where I wanted to live, what I wanted to be doing for work, or what I wanted my life to be like. My thoughts were totally consuming me. At some point I realized that I was spending so much time thinking about stuff that I wasn't actually DOING anything. I was just trying to figure out the perfect plan. I finally made just one decision about one aspect of my life (which I waffled on a gazillion times before finally putting it into action), and somehow made myself just live in that for a bit rather than thinking about the rest. Sometimes it's better just to stop thinking. Love love love you and hope to see you again soon!

    P.S. Still want to see a photo of the art teacher. :)

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    1. Melanie, thanks so much for your [always] thoughtful comment. I am definitely working to follow your lead. I do get easily overwhelmed which can get me caught up in 'analysis paralysis' but just gotta keep moving, huh? xoxo

      p.s. - I'll see if I can't find a pic of that prof. ;)

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  8. You, I love, and we only met once.

    I can relate on so many levels and have finally gotten there too! So, YEA for you, because I know how good that can feel (and scary!)

    Can you give me your e-mail? I have something I want to send to you and ask.

    xoxo
    Jill

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Jill. Sorry for the delayed response but you can email me at unclebeefy@gmail.com ~ send and ask away! Hope we get to see each other again and for a bit longer next time! xoxo

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  9. Bradford, this is so beautifully, beauuuuuutifully written. I was hooked at every word. As one of the passengers on your bus, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

    ps. on a personal note, thank you. I needed this reminder. Today especially. xo

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    1. Hi again, Jen! Just wanted to thank you for taking the time to not only read my wordy ruminations but then take the time to comment. Hope you enjoy the ride! ;) xo

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  10. Love, love, love this and I needed it today, right now.

    I've thought about a similar and I've heard it this way: I take care of God's business (being nice to others, taking care of my family, friends, whatever) and He'll take care of my business.

    In any case, thank you so much for your beautiful post.

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    1. So nice to see you here, Patricia! And thanks for taking the time to read and comment! Glad you enjoyed it. Hope that all is well with you! :)

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Karolina! Much appreciated! :)

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  12. I love listening to you on your journey, my friend. Everything you mull over and discuss here is so honest and so often what everyone else is dealing with, thinking about, worrying over. I am so amazed by you and I too had such a hard time surrendering.....and then, Post partum depression kicked my ever loving ass and I had no choice. :) But, thank god it did....my life is so much the better for it all. You are THE best darlin, wish I could take you out for fun, food and ice cream! :)
    xoxo
    Melis

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  13. Great postt!
    I've been weirding myself out because I've finally started to actually believe in the following statement. "just relax, let go of perfection, don't worry about controlling the final outcome, don't worry about the outcome at all, don't worry about the opinions of others - good or bad, stop looking for the answers "out there," listen to yourself, have fun, do what you love."

    It's taken five years, so far, for me. I imagine in another ten, I'll be able to articulate it as well as you. Cheers to finally letting go! I call that freedom.

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  14. Such lovely beautiful words and so needed by me this week. And obviously others. The ruminating and thinking and analyzing and fretting - so much energy and time that could be spent doing and living and just showing up. Feeling stuck but realizing that so much of that comes from looking outside for the approval of others.

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  15. Whether it was his own quote or somebody else's, what your professor said about inspiration coming from work really resonates with me. I've been feeling stuck lately, like I'm meant to do something bigger but am not sure what that is. I've been waiting for inspiration or that one big idea to hit me, but maybe that isn't what I should be doing... Anyway, lots of food for thought. Welcome back and good luck!

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  16. I've been doing so much reading lately on letting go. Mainly, how to do it. I read books so I can figure out how to let go like a champion, like it's a competition. (That makes me pathetic.)

    Thanks for this. I needed it. And if you should ever figure out how to do it, let me know.

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  17. I'm speechless right now. I want to hug you. I think "surrender" is a good thing -- and this coming from a woman who also struggles with being in control. A few weeks ago, I was meditating and was told during it that I didn't have to pretend to be anything because I'm already everything. And I just cried. In a way, that was what I needed to know to surrender. I'm still working on it though.

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  18. Astounding and brilliant, as always. You always have such a beautiful way with words while still making me laugh. I agree with Melanie, sometimes we over analyze things to death...like my obsession with to do lists...I have had a recurring dream since I was little. That I was going on a trip and I had to pack everything I needed. Sometimes it is as silly as a dream about where the tweezers are, just in case, and I am in a panic of forgetting something. I don't know where I am going, but I sure as hell want to be prepared when I get there. Truth is, inside us we already have everything we will ever need for whatever life throws at us, won't it feel wonderful to let go of all that other stuff and just live? As much as I believe that, I have the hardest time letting go. This post resonates. You rock. xo

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  19. Hey Unc - I can call you Unc can't I?

    I read a lot (stacks and stacks).

    I have noticed that your posts are always the best read of the week.
    It is a rare being indeed who can be such an inspired/inspiring artist
    as well as a warm/witty/honest writer -
    and that you are.
    Thank you so much.

    Smart man - that prof of yours.

    Reminds me of a quote I have on my board:
    "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
    - Picasso

    It seems the minute you actually start peddling,
    all these great ideas will come a flyin'.
    I love that life works like that.

    Thank you, as always, for sharing your talent(s) with us all.
    You are wonderful.

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  20. the older we get, the wiser we get, or well, at least the wise amongst us (too few of them saldy). that surrender-bit, 15 years ago i don't think one/we/people at the today wise age get that. amazing feeling when one does get it! finally. although, every day, a struggle it is still, to surrender, let go of all the preconceptions and silliness. lovely post!

    ps i can't stand ben & jerry's, but Häagen-Dazs, yes please ds

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  21. Awesome post Uncle B! Everything you say here is so relevant, so inspiring, so honest and pretty scary, I mean surrendering is scary. Thank you for sharing your lessons with us. I too will be trying harder to surrender ;)

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  22. great post, I can totally relate, surrender.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Jayne! :)

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  23. Hey, I just discovered your blog, and I like it very much!
    A note on that quote by your professor: It seems very similar to this quote by Picasso: "La inspiración existe, pero tiene que encontrarte trabajando."
    Have a nice, inspired weekend,
    Nike

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    1. Welcome to 'The Bedlam,' Nike! Glad you found my blog and appreciate your reading and commenting. Hope to see you 'round this way again! :)

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  24. I really love the part about greatness. And to further add to your comparison bit... "Comparison is the thief of joy" Theodore Roosevelt

    God I love coming to your blog!

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    1. Great quote and SO true, Peter! Thanks for stopping by! Always great to see you, Mister! :)

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  25. As I was reading this post, the first thing that popped in my head was "Unstuck". There is a book by Arnie Cole called Unstuck (Your Life. God's Design. Real Change.) and I think you may benefit from it. Pack it in your travel bag and read on your way to India. It won't disappoint.

    Also, maybe "surrender" meant surrender your life to God. Give it all to him. He has way better plans that we could ever imagine!!!! HE>i.

    You rock,
    Brandi

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  26. Love the insights as planted by your professor of years past. I recall that seed being fertilized in my own art school experience. I'll skip the ice cream due to lactose intolerance. Got sorbet?

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  27. How are you doing now? Where are you on your path?....I can't help but wonder what brought you to this place of deep contemplation Beefy, but I wish you happiness, love and answers......Surrender is hard, but necessary to grow. Thinking of you. Imen xx

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