The staff nurse at the Laboratoire d'Analyses called me into one of the patient rooms. I had already started to feel woozy while seated in the waiting area, but when she began picking up five, six, seven, eight empty vials from the tray, my brain went into overload. Why on earth did she need all that blood for some simple tests? I turned my head away from her and stared at the blank wall, counting deep breaths, however, I couldn't stop the tingling sensation washing over me, pushing my body to the edge of fainting. I wanted to disassociate from the nauseous spasms in my stomach, and even though I asked for water, it was no use. My body continued to heat up and sweat until they managed to get me to eat a chewy sweet to get my sugar level up, which it did slowly, so I could feel my limbs and feet and hands again.
Once the blood had been taken and I was back in the waiting area, I finally calmed down. Though the smear test that came directly afterwards was a walk in the park in comparison, I was amazed at how my body created such a dramatic reaction, just at the thought of having a little blood taken. Not html since I had passed out at the blood bank 13 years ago in London (before they had even taken me into the blood room), had I felt such an intense nausea when having a blood test.
It was June. I'd been in Lyon for four months and was suffering an urinary infection and bad back pain. As I often do on occasions when I have some illness I've not experienced before, I consulted my Louise Hay book to gauge if I could see any patterns between my ailments and psyche. It didn't come as a surprise when I recognised the complicated mix of fear and ambivalence I'd been feeling; insecurity about my career/work, powerlessness around my finances, and a sense of disconnection with my femininity and creativity. Following a six-month sabbatical in India, Denis and I had planned to look for a home and retreat place in France, but in the meantime, I had no idea how I was going to earn a living, let alone finish my novel.
Being in France, I was relying wholly on Denis and his mother (who kindly let us live with her while we were house hunting) for everything that was connected to my ‘survival,’ and even though the spirit of their generosity was coming from a good place, in practical terms, I was in exactly the situation I had been fighting against all my life; an Indian woman living under her husband's benevolence, in her mother-in-law's house. From the perspective of an ‘artist,’ this might seem the perfect scenario; a loving husband willing to support me financially so I could write, and a mother-in-law, who did not expect me to cook and do housework constantly. However, everyday necessities, like asking for money to go to the swimming pool, or to buy a birthday card for a friend, felt like I was disrespecting myself.
I realised the demons rattling around in my head were feeding on all the negative beliefs I'd embodied from my childhood, particularly the belief passed down through generations of my family that time spent earning money should be valued above all else. The thought of working part-time in order to pursue a creative endeavour, such as writing a novel, was nowhere on the spectrum. And yet here I was, having battled for years to thwart my ‘slave to money’ mentality, up against the demon once again, who was glaring and shaking her head at me.
While for centuries, most people worked full time at a job in order to provide food and shelter for their families, the world has evolved. We have time and opportunity to contemplate our happiness and our creative nature, yet we squander this ability to choose in favour of what we imagine is the ‘easy’ road, doing whatever we want, whenever we want. In fact, in the modern world, the term ‘creativity’ has become one of the most hip buzzwords for corporate and business economies, so inextricably linked to monetizing every skill, hobby, talent and interest we might have, that we have lost its meaning.
The essence of our creative nature is our ability to ‘create life,’ where creating is a quantum leap beyond the false promises of a consumer marketing advertisement. Crucially, to create necessitates allowing ourselves to engage with and express our relationship with death, because at the crux of any creative endeavour is an acceptance of our mortality. When we embody the truth that death does not care about how much money we have, or how many accolades and prizes we've garnered, or how many achievements we've listed on our Linked-In profile, we can then live creatively! We can be responsible, flexible, joyful, compassionate, aware of (and therefore able to change) our habits, beliefs, and values, and ultimately be confident in our own skin.
In creative practice, facing the demon is the only way forward, and one lesson I keep coming back to is the act of compassion. This is neither mental nor verbal encouragement. It is instead, the conscious effort of my will to DO. Anything that gives me pleasure. And for no other purpose. In the midst of doubt and reluctantly networking for my business, thirty minutes of writing gave me a break from self-criticism. A lesson of flamenco gave me the confidence to express my emotions. Any creative practice —writing, painting, collaging, crafting, learning to yo-yo, knitting— is to express who we are without a context of pressure (i.e. how we look to others). Every time a client tells me they faced the demon of fear and went to a dancing lesson, spent the weekend gardening, attended a drawing class, took a photography course, I celebrate. I know that we are in the work together, as I must continue to gently battle with my own peculiar fears, and I am always humbled by the trust they give me to support their creative unfolding.