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When Things Get Good, Why Do Bad Things Happen?

A little while back, I wrote a Sunday article on grief. I’d written about my experience with grief before but this was the first time I really, truly felt on the other side of it.

The writing came out of me with a strong current of energy. When I feel that kind of power, I know I’m connected to an open, present Self.

The piece stood to out to me because of what it invoked inside of me.

Our creative process isn’t always easy, but when we feel on point, it’s a relief.

I knew I had a new inner-bar to uphold for the next week’s article. And I feared I couldn’t reach it. Not only did I fear it, I knew I wouldn’t. And it was mostly because of the expectations I was putting on myself.

Also, I made the article on grief too precious. I judged it as “my favorite”, “good”, and “my best.”

GOOD judgment can be as much of a block to our creative expression as bad judgment.

I remember Elizabeth Gilbert talking about how after the success of Eat, Pray, Love, she felt incredible pressure to make her next book as much of a success.

This reminds me of my painting process, how I’ll really be in the zone, but all the while knowing I’ll eventually hit a roadblock.

Creativity brings resistance so that we can discover how to go deeper. Once you’ve hit one layer, there’s always more to go.

As we know, that’s just like life.

We can have some good days where everything is great and then WHOA — something steps in that challenges us to grow.

After years of painting, I’ve come to accept I will eventually lose momentum after being in flow.

Sometimes, I get stuck when I’ve had a lot of time to paint, then life stuff happens, and I have to shift my attention.

Sometimes, an emotional trigger arises, and the painting process makes me deal with it.

If I feel drab, I may do “a fast painting”, still mindful — but moving fast enough to avoid over thinking it.

Sometimes, when I’m overwhelmed, I throw a “conscious” temper tantrum. I’ll take a different piece of paper and with a gigantic brush, hit and stroke as hard as I can to release energy. Then I return back to the painting I was working on.

At other times, I let the crazy lady come into the room and paint for me. Sometimes, she gives me more permission to go wild, take risks, and do the unexpected, moving me into new unexplored territory.

(These aren’t tricks necessarily. They’re just different ways I may intuitively meet what’s necessary in the moment.)

If you look at my paintings in consecutive order over the years (see an example here), some paintings pop out. Some do not. And then another may pop again.

The point I’m getting at is that after good experiences, “bad” things WILL happen. After expansion, we always contract. That’s how life rolls.

And that means NOTHING about us.

The good news about feeling bad is that when we get thrown off course, there’s an opportunity for us. With each let down, our spirit strengthens by discovering the way out.

“Down times” are our ally. Without “bad”, “good” wouldn’t exist.

Creativity is like water rushing through a calcified pipe. It takes with it whatever is in our way. And lucky for us, releasing the bad makes room for goodness to come our way.

Here’s to embracing ALL of life’s gifts!

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Lynn Newman