I often feel like hitting The Wall is a sure sign of failure, like the little buzzer that goes off when you've lost. "Game over!" It can feel like the task was to bust through The Wall and leave as much distance between it and you as you possibly can, riding off into the successful sunset leaving a pile of rubble in the dust behind you.
My therapist recently said something that made me consider how I might consider The Wall differently.
"If your definition of success or progress is to not hit a wall, you're setting yourself up to fail every time. We're human. It's not if we have a wall, it's when."
Damn it. Why could I just figure out the secret to blasting through The Wall and make sure I got so good at avoiding, demolishing, or escaping from The Wall that I never had to feel scared, unmotivated, or unsure ever again? If The Wall was always going to be there, how in the world would I ever feel like I'm making progress or have anything to celebrate?
"What if progress meant not making The Wall disappear, but not giving up on finding ways to get creative with how you choose to face the Wall?"
My therapist is good.
Do we want to hit The Wall? No.
Will we hit The Wall? Yes.
Do we want to feel successful and celebrate our victories? Of course.
It's often news to me, but I'm a human being. So are you. We can make choices each day about our lives AND we must learn to surrender to things outside our control. The Wall will always meet us on the road to creative satisfaction. It's always waiting for us. We're not going to stop that rendezvous from happening, but we can choose to get creative with how we meet and greet The Wall. What if we could redefine and reclaim what it means to experience a victory, breakthrough, and celebrate our hard work and play?
Ok, so we work on accepting that The Wall will show up for us many times in our lives. Progress. Now that we are standing at The Wall, our first instinct might be to blast through it, blowing the bricks to smithereens and leaving us standing like a hero who conquered all.
The Wall rarely responds to sheer blasting force. The Wall continues to stand. Here's where I get angry, rage against The Wall and convince myself I'm never getting past it. It's easy to get stuck in this rage, in this fear, in this despair. It's understandable and even vital that we let ourselves feel all these feelings we have about The Wall. But then we must try something.
if we can't blast through The Wall, what happens if we try to climb it? Dig underneath it? Find a loose brick to glimpse the other side? Can we toss a rope over the top? Stand on a ladder and peek over? Hell, if there's nothing else we can think of to do, how about finding some chalk or paint and making a mural about how it feels to be staring down this damn Wall?
Motivating ourselves to keep looking for ways to face The Wall doesn't guarantee "success" or promise that we won't still feel frustrated. But giving ourselves the permission to make different choices again and again about how we deal with what's in front of us does mean that no matter what happens, we are actively participating in our own creative growth and education. Even if climbing The Wall doesn't work, it will provide us with new information; about The Wall and about ourselves. And more self knowledge is part of this whole crazy creative experiment called life.
If you're struggling with a personal or creative Wall right now, I hear you. I am struggling, too. Feel what you feel and don't feel bad about admitting that it is hard as hell sometimes to keep going. And realize that you aren't alone and that your imagination and creativity are two beautiful gifts that can allow you to imagine an outcome where you allow yourself to make a different choice about how to move forward and ultimately learn what you are made of.
This creative life isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. Life is short. But we have plenty of time to be patient with ourselves as we explore the choices we do have.