In planning our church’s holiday bazaar, when we talked about drawing artisans from our community, a friend said, “There are so many accomplished artists in our church—I think some creative people are too intimidated to bring their creations to a place like the bazaar.” My resonance with those words were an indictment of my own fear. “And, I am one of those people,” I laughed as I raised my hand indicating guilt. In that instant, I made the decision to host a table and bring some creations that I had been working on to showcase and sell. True to form, this touched off a furious expenditure of energy in making more creations, trying all sorts of new prototypes, capturing ideas flooding into my head.
The process of coming up with an idea, acquiring tools or supplies, creating—this electrified my mind. I set aside extra minutes and hours to labor—this colonized my life for the better part of a month. That surge of adrenaline would subside, an experiment would fall flat or I’d wake up the next morning feeling critical of what I’d created and a wave of wanting to scrap the whole endeavor would wash over me. Behind all of this were two realities: first, the act of presenting what I’d been creating for my friends and strangers to see; second, hosting a booth and de fact saying, “I like these and I think you might like them, too … even enough to buy them.” I had never done either of these.
“Firsts” are so difficult—I much prefer to be the wise, wily veteran who has been here before, knows what to expect and is unfazed. But, “firsts” are fraught with not knowing, feeling caught off guard, subject to whims of excitement and shame. There were moments I could not bring myself to sit by the table full of my creations at the bazaar. I preferred to be out tending to the fire, joining the impromptu caroling, talking to other artisans—anything but owning what I had created and feeling the “first”-ness.
After several hours, I was able to settle in and interact with the curiosity and delight others expressed at my wares. When, the day was done, though, exhaustion overtook me. The effort of the last month had taken its toll, and the proverbial bill had come due. The day had held more fascination than financial reward and I said to my wife, “I don’t know if I want to do this again. It was so much work” The next day I was drained and irritable, the following, the same. This state did not match either the success of the bazaar in general or the relief I felt at finally being able to rest in the wake of it. Finally, the third day this whale of despair spat me upon the beach and my heart began to be at rest. Gone was the electricity in my mind and the second-guessing, replaced by rest and other inspirations that now presented themselves. The furious energy required to break inertia had been expended and I was in motion. The best question was not “Will you do this again?” but “What will you do with what is stirring?”
I rarely, if ever, choose “firsts.” I must be cornered into them by my own desire. I am, then, borne through them by those close to me who stand fast through the inspiration, thrill, disillusionment and despair, pallbearers as I walk through the fear and die to it.