Staying Safe, Staying Hidden

It’s very late, even for me. 4am.

The clocks have swirled backwards an hour as daylight savings kicks in (saving what, I’ve always wondered…) and I think, what if I’m living an hour of my life forward (or backward), and how does that change my personal infinity timeline? Is the parallel me hanging out there… in the infinite multiverse also switching her clocks?

I’m listening to a duo I never knew existed: Joan Biaz and Jeff Shurtleff from their One Day At A Time album, sending me into a heartfelt place of deep tenderness with harmony so pure it makes the heart overflow without hesitation.

And from this place of overflow maybe I’ll find the words that have been eluding me for weeks and weeks.

It’s the language of vulnerability. Of self-love. Of turning to the best that is within me and standing up for my own best self, without limits or self-consciousness.

Something I have no trouble helping my private art-career coaching clients do. But of course, when it comes to following our own advice suddenly the obvious becomes as illusive as Big Foot.

Tonight, for some equally illusive reason, I’m ready to have a Go At It

Like my fabulous visual artists, who fill my world with creative bliss (to take a chapter from the amazing playbook of my colleague in business and heart, Jennifer Hofmann), I have been struggling about showing my struggles.

I was raised in a very different era. A time when professionalism meant you buttoned up (your real thoughts) and settled down (stepped on your natural, fiery enthusiasm). A time when you “dressed the part” and never aired dirty laundry in public.

It also didn’t hurt to be a very smart girl in a world that told you, as one, very male, high school teacher once did in the halls of South Salem High, that “if you continue to be so smart, no one will ever marry you.” (I’m not kidding… he really did step on my tender 16-year-old heart just like that…)

In short: no reality anything, no flaming news broadcasters or casual sex on every channel imaginable. Certainly no “will the real you please stand up.”

Even back then, the whole gig felt claustrophobic, straight-jacketed, and kind of silly. And I railed in my own mild way. Never enough to shed the good girl mandate, but enough to wear “weird” with a prideful toss of my head.

However, that buttoned-down training got to me at some deep core where inviting transparency felt threatening and vaguely unnatural. Staying partially hidden felt safe, appropriate, right.

So, then, how do you grow your artistic fingerprint?

A signature fingerprint, of course, isn’t just for artists. It’s that recognition, within any of us, that we are here to give our true self, which like our fingerprint is ours and only ours to give.

Our snowflake-unique Gift to Life.

If we are staying safe and partially hidden, then we’ve automatically cut off some or all of that gift. And if staying safe, which begs the question of fear, is the controlling mandate, come on, honestly now, how much of your true self are you going to let slip past the bars?

Chances are you, like me, are going to play it safe and reveal only where you feel competent, confident, strong. Places of struggle, of vulnerability may be hinted at but most likely won’t be where we go skinny dipping.

Even though the payoff can be remarkable…

… the power of herd conditioning can be a very tall fence around our hearts.

The last “vulnerable” post I wrote on this blog, a long time ago, netted me some 50 comments. Clearly, you, my lovely peeps, were there supporting me all the way. Did I take up the torch? Did I follow that momentum and start to roll out more.

Nope. Not at all. I fell right back into my default position of post-hiatus.

Part of my struggle with blogging has been this whole transparency-struggle thing.  It’s also been this fingerprint thing.

I come off like someone who has that all figured out, I know. (It’s been a life-long, cover-up strategy I’ve honed to a very fine point–but that, seriously, could be a whole series of posts where extreme eye-rolling is a pretty safe bet.)

There’s vulnerability and reveal and then there’s vulnerability+ and reveal+, which fall just over the newly minted line between the personal (as in, keep it to yourself, puhlease) and what I call the “Personal Professional,” the new and fabulous intersection of business, relationship, and heart.

Struggle In This House Too

It’s not unusual for each of us to teach what we are also learning, which is a pretty cool system when you think about it – since learning sticks best when we have to prepare, and then share, what we also want to grasp.

So I’m here declaring, for all of you to see, and so hold me accountable in that way only public declarations do… unless, of course, I was a politician) that I’m going to muddle my way through a new era of the “Personal Professional” right here on this blog.

  • And in my upcoming Successful Artist Circle membership training program (still in development), where I struggle with being good enough. I worry late at night that showing up for you every month with something relevant, salient for your life is a tall order. And I’ll absolutely need you to give me feedback on what’s working and what you need.

This membership program is also challenging me to step into my artistic fingerprint, a slippery, messy business that’s making my head hurt (more posts on that, for sure!)

  • And in my open book experiment, 10 Zen Habits of Successful Artists, which I’m going to write here on the blog so you can jump in and let me know if it sings to you clear and open, or if it’s breaking glass all over the house.
  • And in my exploration on BlueStockingsArtSalon (stay tuned, the opening discussion is Nov 16th and I will let you know!) with my good friend and artist Lori Wolfson, where we are opening up our private discussions on art and life for you to not only hear, but to participate with your own thoughts, questions, concerns, and topics you’d like to explore.

We’re going deep here. The big questions about what it means to be an artist. What art does for civilization. How we work through resistance. How we bring our best selves to the studio…

  • And of course, the upcoming 6th annual smARTist Telesummit, where after 6 years my struggles are mostly paper tigers (thank goodness!), because you’ve let me know consistently, year after year, what works and what needs fixing. And because we’ve built such an amazing community together.

So the long/short of all this…

… is that I’m going to be showing up here, sometimes, with my slip showing, my eyes a bit sleepy, shaking my head to clear out the fog, and listening intently to what you have to say about what you want, need, desire, long for – and how I may truly be of service, as opposed to how I think I might be of service.

For I’d so much rather take a lot of tries to hit the bullseye with you watching, than practice in private until I’ve perfected something without you in the picture at all.

Okay, now it’s even later – 5:16 am (or, really, it’s 6:16am) and I’m going to go brush my teeth (that’s the personal part you’ve been waiting for, right?) and fall into my flannel-covered pillow, face first (uh, oh, am I getting close to when my daughter raises her hand up in a “stop” position and says, “Too much information, Mom…”).

So now it’s your turn (that’s the professional part).

What struggle is keeping you up at night? (For your sake, I’m going to assume it’s only one.)

10 Responses to “Staying Safe, Staying Hidden”

  1. Kathy Haydon says:

    Wow, Ariane – lots to think about. My thinking at the moment is “Go girl.”
    I believe most of us hesitate to be vulnerable and transparent (for a variety of reasons) but when we are able to be honest about “who we are” or “what’s going on with us” we allow others the same opportunity and they are then less hesitant to be honest in return. In my thinking it is at this point that meaningful dialogue is possible.
    I can’t say I am staying up at night worrying about anything at this point in my art making – so my comments are only in response to your blog future!! Go, girl.

  2. Ariane, thanks for your brutal honesty. As you know, honesty is not always pretty but often what we most need to confront. As i read your post it echoed similar thoughts of vulnerability and risk that is the domain of dangerous waters of putting one’s self ‘out there’ as a visual artist. My artist statement talks about this very thing~ https://www.facebook.com/GeorgiaMansurArtist?sk=wall
    There will be plenty of people out there ready to knock you or criticise but what i have found is that it is a necessary step in any creative growth process to let go of ‘looking bad’. I have accepted that the payoffs for risking vulnerability and perhaps even failure are worth the struggles to break past that self imposed limitation. Letting go of that is very liberating and also creates new space for fresh growth and discoveries~ I applaud you for taking that courageous leap! Just focus on all the positive that you can contribute with your own authentic fingerprints~ it is worth your time and energy friend : D warm hugs, georgia

  3. Ariane,
    You’ve given a gift of yourself here, and what I love most is that level of honesty where you said ~
    “I come off like someone who has that all figured out, I know.”
    This is something I feel myself swimming up waterfalls with. Sounding good on “paper” and often even when speaking about something I am prepared to speak on.
    The thing I’m discovering, however, is that even if I DO sound polished and complete, there is always another “there” there toward which I am going.
    2011 has been, for me, the year of BEcoming Visible. Of moving out of the safe behind-the-scenes World in which I’ve grown comfortably content. Of emerging as an artist. Of reclaiming pieces of me, some of which I’ve NOT acknowledged as “mine” in nearly 50 years!!!
    As I read you here I was able to hear my own scratchy from lack of use voice. I don’t know that just hearing will make a “change” in actions, yet I DO know that knowing I was coming out of the shadows gave voice to someone in me I barely recognise, even today.
    Thank you for BEing.
    Currie

  4. Way to go, great post!!
    As an artist/wife/mother of young children /gallery owner, the challenges/struggles are many. With the season of personal struggles and public smiles is upon us, this post is quite timely and appreciated. I look forward to learning from what you have to share. Thank you for all you give :)

  5. Ah yes, pushing at those edges. As they say in Permaculture circles, the greatest energy is always at the edges; the tallest trees grow at the edge of the forest.

    My theme this year has concerned being ‘edgy’ and it’s amazing how many cues have come up for me.

    Thank you for making yourself transparent.

  6. You are fabulous! I read every word (and that says a lot coming from an ADD girl!) and am excited to experience what your next personal growth spurt brings! I especially love this line, Ariane:

    “For I’d so much rather take a lot of tries to hit the bullseye with you watching, than practice in private until I’ve perfected something without you in the picture at all.”

    THAT is a life worth living. Brava!

    (and thanks SO much for the mention!)

    HUGS to you!

  7. Ariane says:

    Hey, Jennifer, I like your new avatar! And that you actually read the whole thing (and me, the proponent of short writing chunks-go figure!) – yay!

    What a blast to have such supportive peeps, really makes the odd intimacy of the Internet come to life.

    Kathy, I love remembering our short visit in your Portland coop gallery (still pulling that material together, so it’s not “out” just yet!) and knowing you are producing work that makes your heart sing.

    Carmel, oh, my, I didn’t know about the Permaculture circles, but I’m definitely adopting this image of “the greatest energy is always at the edges; the tallest trees grow at the edge of the forest.”

    That is about as perfect a metaphor for what is going on in my life as you can get. Thank you so much!! And these “cues” you mention. Is there anywhere online you talk about this? You’ve raised my curiosity as another sister on the edge, so of course I want to know more…

    Cheryl, bravo to you, girl. The life you are leading is remarkable – one of those super-women lives that leave me in awe. When I was at that stage, all I could manage was to hack away at poetry at night once everyone else was asleep. P.S. Does your gallery have a website?

    Georgia and Currie, I love how you both zeroed in on the “safety” part of this. I have a lot more to say about that, and it’s definitely feminist centric.

    It comes not just from my own experience, but also from paying attention to my private clients (with the normal ration of 10 women to 2 men) and the effect that playing it safe has at the most unconscious levels.

    hmmm… looks like I might have another post brewing inside. So, hold my feet to the fire here, fellow creatives!

    I’ve got the “authentic fingerprint” discussion and now the “playing it safe” discussion in the cue.

  8. Ariane,

    I hear ya, and I’m so glad you’ve made the decision to head towards transparency. Artists so need to know they are not alone in their struggles. You are still a great leader, and sharing these days does not result in disrespect.

    YOU GO – YOU SMART GIRL!!!
    The world needs leaders like you – especially woman leaders.

  9. Ariane, thanks for your very honest post. I think it reveals you as a warm-hearted person who is very committed to fostering success in others.

  10. Ariane says:

    Ah, Lori, this idea of “respect” intrigues me. When I was young, I balked at respect that was given based on status or authority. For me it always had to be either won or exchanged. These days it’s gone off my radar. So thanks for bringing it back up…will chew on it for a while and see what happens.

    Pia, so cool that “warm” can actually happen within virtual reality, and that it resonated with you. Thank you so much for noticing!

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