How many of us can say that they’ve actually got around to reading Melville’s novel, easily considered a treasure of world literature?
Peninsula Arts with Plymouth University have made the daunting task a little easier with their 21st century-friendly project, the Big Read. Readers such as Tilda Swinton and Stephen Fry embellish a chapter of Moby Dick each with their voice and skill. The project also curated 136 artists to create an accompanying illustration for each of the chapters of the book.
No better way to revisit a classic than by bringing it to the arts-hungry culture in such a digestible format.
Should you need me these next few days, I’ll be diving into these deeper waters.
We’re all guilty of it. Self-sabotage is one of the easiest games in the book. We reprimand ourselves for embarrassments long gone by or tell our instinct to hush up because we “couldn’t possibly be right.” We come upon an idea and as soon as it begins to take shape, we shoot it down because of a fear of reproach, inability to follow through, potential reactions from those around us, the list goes on. But how to escape this recursive cycle of not-so-supportive thoughts? The first step is to recognize that two little voices are competing for stage time in your head: that of a dreamer and that of a downer. The trick is to be able to distinguish which voice has the mic when the self-talk starts up and to learn how to balance this duality.
The Downer Voice
It is important to see that the “downer voice” is not a bad one. Its job is self-preservation. It’s seen every misstep you’ve made in the past and wants to avoid any and all conflict. It would prefer that you stay static if it means that you’re free from the possibility of being hurt. Its voice is one rooted in fear and doubt, but it is a sensitive realist at heart. This sensitivity to pain is key. If your self-talk is filled with anger (e.g. “how could I do such a stupid thing?!”) check in and see if that lil guy is actually sad about the situation (e.g. “I really wanted to do that well. Now they all think I’m foolish”). Sadness is like a slip-n-slide ride down to anger. Be careful you don’t water the slide if you don’t want to wind up at the end of it.
The Dreamer Voice
An eternal optimist, the “dreamer voice” wants the world for you. It would love to see you enjoy every little bit of your life. It does not know fear. It remembers pain but doesn’t harbor on it. Sometimes it stays quiet – it’s obedient, child-like. So if you shush it, it’s liable to stay mute until you allow it to speak again. It’s the part of you that gets excited about ideas and knows how to get back up after a fall. Let it play every once in a while to replenish your energy when reserves are low.
Striking the Balance
Let the dreamer reach out to the downer when it starts to scream for attention. The downer brings up concerns that the dreamer can address. Where one sees problems, the other finds possibilities. Allow the dreamer to work in tandem with the other voice, not against it. Instead of ignoring the murmurs of the sensitive one, accept the fears that it brings up and choose to face them proudly. Invite the idealist out again if its been a while since last you spoke. Let it put a little love in your heart.
Change is hard. But stagnation makes life harder. When the riptide starts to tug at you, give into its pull. Though you may fear the shifting sands beneath you, staying still is no longer an option. You’re not underwater – you can keep your head above the waves. You may get shaken up, but you can find a safe harbor again.
Let go. There’s no use denying that change is happening if that’s exactly what’s going on. You do not have to like it at first, but embrace the transition without giving it a label of good or bad. They are such normative terms and do little but provide a black and white lens through which one can experience this new adjustment. If you approach it objectively – “X is happening in life right now” instead of “X is happening to me, I don’t deserve this, this is terrible” – you’re more likely to adapt with ease.
Come up for air. If you feel like you’re drowning (when there’s no water to be found), rise up out of the situation and breathe. Take an hour to sketch, listen to an old album, go for a run, or just sit in silence. Don’t berate yourself for this break. You’re allowed it. Life isn’t about rushing to the next step, it’s about living through each moment.
Use your voice. Whether its talking to a friend/family member/stranger or simply putting pen to paper, push negative thoughts through and out of your head. Allow old grudges and hangups to loosen their hold on the inner chambers of your mind where you’ve made comfortable homes for them. They have been taking up too much space altogether. Do some spring cleaning by voicing that which grieves you.
Make an accomplishment list . When things are new or different, it can be disorienting. We can get caught up in the thought-cycle of “I don’t have this yet,” “I’m so far behind,” etc. Instead of noting each and every thing that your life lacks, start tallying all that you’ve accomplished thus far and realize that your path is entirely unique. Instead of a to-do list at the top of the day, try a accomplishment-list at the end of the day. It can include everything that day that went right (got a 20 minute nap, no rain, read a fantastic article, spoke with a friend). Sometimes these things are more important than those which we lay out for ourselves on lists that we scurry to check off as quickly as possible.
Mind what you can. If the rest of the world seems to be swirling around you, take authority over that which you do have control. Clean your room, floss, fix those pants you tore a year ago. Even the littlest efforts will help to afford peace of mind. We often think we can control the outcome of a situation by worrying about it. But worrying is like praying for something you don’t want to happen to go ahead and happen. So shift ‘worry’ into ‘action,’ as small as it may be.