Unconditional

This article called “Maybe You Don’t Know What Love Is” really made me think about the kinds of relationships I currently have in my life, and the kinds of relationships that I want. The author makes a distinction between “conditional” and “unconditional” relationships. Conditional relationships aren’t truly based in love; there’s a give and take that is inherently selfish, scared, and insecure. They’re kind of like the relationships you brag about: my girlfriend has a kickass job, my dad gives me whatever I want, my colleague is always there to help me. And while it’s not exactly wrong to sing the praises of those people in your life, you have to ask yourself: Are they in my life for this one reason, or because we genuinely love each other?

When I first read the article, I was worried because I wasn’t sure which of my relationships (family, friends, romantic, professional) would pass the test. Do I really care about these people? Do they really care about me?

Thankfully, my closest relationships seem to be unconditional rather than conditional. Unconditional relationships are based in truth, empathy, and patience. Basically, love at its core. When you are in an unconditional relationship, you and the other person care about each other. You’ve peeled back the layers of deceit and armour and see each other for who you really are. And you don’t run away. You stay. You help them, you care for them, you talk to them. You love them.

What I found to be interesting, though, is that what I had learned from networking and my professional experiences is that a lot of relationships are conditional, and are the norm. What is up with that? Is that why so many people don’t feel satisfied or happy with their jobs? Is that why there’s a lot of tension, gossiping, drama, and flat out hatred in my current workplace?

I think so. And it’s sad.

While I can’t necessarily change work culture, I can at least make sure that I’m aware of how I’m treating others – conditionally, or unconditionally.

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Courage & Creativity

Something that I’ve only heard a few times recently and have only fully realized and appreciated today is this:

You can’t be creative without being courageous.

Whether it’s sharing a new idea, or starting a painting, or continuing that short story you had left years ago – it takes a certain kind of courage to let your creativity flow. And creativity does flow. But it also comes in crashing waves, then disappears into nothingness. It can be frustrating, but that’s what happens when we don’t let it simply flow. Creativity is like a muscle that you need to exercise regularly, otherwise it won’t work for you.

(Or do you work for creativity? Elizabeth Gilbert seems to think so. But that’s a question to be addressed at another time.)

I honestly think that everybody needs to exercise their creativity on the regular. Whether it’s through music, visual art, writing, storytelling, dance, strategic planning, teaching… anything can be done creatively. Because we were meant to create, to deconstruct, to recreate, to envision, to see the world and ourselves with different and multiple lenses. And I think that’s beautiful… And scary. Being creative is so damn scary, because it’s so damn vulnerable. You’re allowing others to see a side of you that society doesn’t necessarily like or pay attention to. You’re bleeding on a page, canvas, screen, whatever, and allowing others to see and feel it. You don’t know how they’ll react. You have specific expectations of this piece, and whether you find it garbage or consider it to be your baby, you have to deal with whatever is staring back at you.

Not all art is good art. There is bad art. But we have to remember that it is all art. And that’s a brave and beautiful thing.

Still afraid of what will happen if you express yourself and create? Here’s one of the most powerful passages from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a book I urge anybody to pick up. It deals with courage by looking at Resistance and what we need to do in order to look past it and make art. I say “look past” instead of “overcome,” simply because Resistance will always be there. And that’s okay. We just need to be able to be vulnerable with Resistance and do what we were meant to do.

I know it’s difficult, but there are so many wonderful possibilities on the other side of fear.