Social media is a marvelous opportunity to meander through people’s lives and thoughts and find others that share your mindset or have similar priorities or goals in life. Your community and your tribe is built this way with one thoughtful comment offered after another. This is a wonderful concept and living this reality feels even better. This is where my self-care have been bumped up to the golden level.
I had the delightful fortune of crossing paths with Anna Lovind this past year on Instagram and joined her 24 Days of Gratitude project through December until Christmas posting daily gratitudinal thoughts there. She is a gentle creative’s guide devoted to helping people find their own way with their own talents and inner strengths. A native of Sweden, she has spent many passionate years creating an online course called the Creative Doer. Her course is brilliant and as deep and thoughtful as she is. Anna is devoted and kind, gentle and fierce, and the moment I began to read anything she’d written, I knew she was a necessary resource in my life.
In a November newsletter, Anna offered to answer any questions her readers might ask. I boldly asked and she then agreed to answer my questions about creativity and motherhood, those I’d also asked my friend Suzonne Stirling a couple of years back. Because I am curious how other women handle the pull of needing to be both a mother and a creative at the same time. I need to know how others feel on the subject. And Anna gave me some interesting perspective with her answers. Her stories of her own journey are powerful and I was pleasantly surprised by her view on society’s messages to women. (The questions for Anna are in Italics and her answers are in regular text.)
In your last newsletter, you said “We can’t borrow someone else’s earned wisdom and wear it like an adornment, we have to earn our own.” When did you knowingly begin your journey for self-knowledge?
I was fifteen when I started browsing the self-help sections in the public library in my hometown. I found books by Wayne Dyer, Shakti Gawain, Louise Hay and devoured them. My teens were chaotic, a very difficult time in my life, and I was in desperate need of a kind of guidance I could not find in school or at home. In these books, my longing was confirmed. The hunger I felt for meaning and purpose – for something more! – was not just me trying to escape what was difficult, but the beginning of my very own path of discovery. I’ve been on that path ever since.
Has your self-discovery journey been a steady one or has it stopped and started? How do you feel having children changed your journey?
Once this journey has started, I don’t think it can ever stop. It may look like it on the surface. There will be periods in our lives when we don’t have as much time to devote to our spiritual practices, when we have a new baby for instance. But this is not the same as stopping. These are the times when we integrate all the knowledge we’ve actively pursued and accumulated. When what we think we know is put to the test, and we get to see the truth about how far we’ve actually come.
Parenthood is by far the most challenging of spiritual paths. Everything we have not resolved in ourselves is mirrored right back at us by our children. And it’s not always a pretty sight. Stuff we think we’re done with will rise to the surface again to show us all the ways we’re not done. (Not even close!)
This was certainly the case for me. Becoming a mother was a slow and at the same time explosive initiation into a deeper level of humanity and spirituality. With my firstborn, it felt like walking through fire. Everything burned. My life as I knew it was gone, and I was left with zero sleep and the terrifying discovery that being part of a family did not feel like a safe place for me.
This family was in fact a very safe place, but becoming a mother and finding myself “stuck” in that role awoke all the fear and unresolved trauma of growing up in a family that was not safe. It was the greatest challenge of my life to handle this crisis in a conscious way. And I couldn’t always. I separated from my husband, knowing that I had to somehow create space enough around myself to handle this. It was heartbreaking, but we managed to stay firmly committed to our shared parenthood, we went to therapy, and did whatever necessary to make it work. I traveled a lot, alone, and I journeyed deep into myself and my dark places, and slowly, everything changed.
Two years later, we found our way back to each other. I found my way back to a family that I could now embrace and feel safe in. Shortly thereafter I became pregnant with our second baby, who is now two years old, and the journey continues! This family is now my happy place – my holy place – but it has been hard-won for me and I don’t take anything about it for granted.
Finding my way home – in every sense of the word – has been the most important part of my spiritual journey this far. I think it would have taken me lifetimes if I hadn’t become a mother. Parenthood accelerates and magnifies everything, including spiritual growth, if we let it, and if we approach it as the sacred path it is.
What then lead you to knowing what your current purpose was? And how and when did you know you were ready to lead others through their journeys?
It’s been anything but a straight path! I’ve always been considered wise. They called me “the philosopher” as a child, because I was constantly reading and writing, and I spoke like a very old being. From that natural kind of wisdom, I’ve always guided others – friends, family, co-workers. But it took me very long to even consider bringing this capacity into my work.
For years, I worked with the Red Cross, Save the Children Alliance and such NGO:s, and was convinced that would be my path, but
important was missing (and at the time, I couldn’t figure out what). I considered becoming a priest, a psychologist, and so many other things, before I finally allowed pure desire to guide me and got a degree in language and literature.
This led me to the publishing business, which led me to start coaching writers, which eventually led me to dive deeper and deeper into the nature of the creative process, discovering that at its core, it is the same regardless of discipline or art form.
So I started and shaped a business around this knowledge, and around my own love for writing and creative work. I noticed as I went along that even though humans have discussed these issues forever and ever, we still get stuck in all the same places, we face the same challenges, and long for the same connection to a power greater than us. We need guidance as we dive into this work – finding and expressing our creativity – and I discovered that I can provide that guidance. That I can bring all my knowledge, my hard-earned spiritual insights and my different capacities into this work and really be of use. Right now, this is my life’s work.
My online course, The Creative Doer, is in many ways the distillate of all this work. It’s everything I know condensed into six lessons!
Do you feel there’s a societal conflict between creating, success, and mothering?
Not necessarily between being a mother and being creative. We’re expected to be creative – to create beauty, create meals, create homes, etc. – we’re just not expected to let on what it costs us. We’re supposed to do it naturally and effortlessly and with a smile J.
Should our creative aspirations reach beyond the work of creating and maintaining a loving home, I think we get away with it as long as we don’t let it conflict with our other duties as women. But the thing is, it does conflict. We can’t be and do everything at once. So if we’re serious about pursuing a creative life, something’s gotta give.
For me, it’s basically everything except my family and my health. All the rest of me I give to my work. I’m madly in love with it, obsessed some might say, and I allow myself to be obsessed, even though it means I’m not as available to others as I once was, or that I don’t perform all of the “duties” that might be expected of a woman, wife and mother. That’s ok.
I find I care less and less about the different roles assigned to me. I care less and less about the expectations of others. I want to live MY life. I want a loving home with close relationships to my husband and kids, I want to take care of my body in a kind and healthy way, and I want to do my creative work. That’s it. That’s more than enough. That’s what I care about the most in this world, and so I make decisions accordingly.
I say no a lot. More than I’d like. I say no to a lot in order to be able to say yes to what matters the most. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
We don’t speak enough about the many difficult – heartbreaking sometimes! – decisions and priorities that has to be made in order to pursue both of these paths, motherhood and creative work, in a conscious way. So many women feel lonely and despairing in the face of these challenges, and give up for lack of guidance and support. It doesn’t have to be that way. It is doable, totally doable! But we need to learn how – and we need to unlearn a lot of other crap we’ve picked up along the way.
I feel I need to work twice as hard to maintain my separate creative self since motherhood. Do you find this and how have you coped? How did you balance or juggle, allow for and nourish your creative needs and your babies’ needs simultaneously?
Yes, for sure. It’s a whole new level of time management and prioritizing. I have very little time alone, and as long as the kids are in the house, whatever I try to do will get interrupted a million times over. This is not exactly beneficial for the creative process. But still, it’s my reality right now and I want to roll with it as much as possible rather than fight it and wish it were different.
I’ve learned to create structures that hold space for both creative work and children. It comes down to three things:
1. Practical planning – finding the time and space I need to do my work.
2. Devotion – to own that I need and want both, and that I will do what it takes to make it work.
3. Energy work – to use meditation and grounding techniques to help me give my full attention to whatever I’m doing in the moment.
And it’s absolutely crucial for me that I honour these structures. My life doesn’t function very well if I don’t. It sure helps that I have a supportive husband and plenty of other support around me – I live close to my mother and sister, for instance. But in the end it’s up to me if it’s going to happen or not.
That said, I also believe in allowing for different seasons in life. When you’ve just given birth to a baby, it’s probably not the right time to launch your work into the world. Allow for a longterm perspective. One season, your kids take precedence. But soon enough this will shift and you can spend more focused time on creative work again. Go slower. Trust there is time.
Was there a point, after you’d worked so very hard to establish a product and presence, when you could relax a little?
For me, this never happens by itself. The moment I cross the goal line – and this is the case for many creatives – my gaze is already drawn towards a new horizon. But I’ve learned the hard way that if I just keep going like that, I burn out. And I also miss out on those precious moments of quiet in between. Those periods when it doesn’t seem to happen much on the outside, but things are brewing and coming to completion on the inside. I know this now, so I make sure to plan for it.
The nature of creativity is cyclical (the nature of this whole world is cyclical) and we need to honour that, or we’ll lose the connection and become drained and stale. We need periods of growth and expansion, and then periods of rest and introspection. Both are essential.
What do you do to keep balanced your career and family goals? To keep from burning out at both ends? What are your thoughts, mantras, or practices on maintaining the balance of being a good mother and a productive creative?
I go slow and I keep it simple. I say no a lot. I focus on doing what keeps me happy and allows me to be present for my life, and I let go of the rest (to the best of my ability. I allow for a lot of imperfection in this practice).
Before I had kids I could work like a crazy person, sleep very little and just push on through, forever chasing the next goal and then the next. I tried to keep this up after having kids as well, and needless to say it was a disaster. I made myself ill.
I think it had to happen that way. I had to crash and burn and I’m grateful that I did, because I learned so much. I do it – life, love, work – very differently now, I trust the strong pull of joy and desire and vision to carry me forward, rather than pushing my way to where I want to go. It’s magical. Truly, the difference is unbelievable.
I still need to be aware of my own tendencies to push and hurt myself in the process, but I notice that this is changing for good now. The shift is profound and lasting. No more striving. It’s a promise that has grown into a religion that has grown into a life’s work, and I feel blessed each and every day that I get to live it and do it.
I hope you were inspired by this admirable and gentle teacher. I encourage you to sign up for her newsletter for the wildly creative. She has some very interesting perspectives and I always enjoy her newletters. Anna’s style is straightforward and I think an ounce of her belief in you goes a long way. I love her style. Just read the Kind and Efficient Way to Get out of Fear and Stuckness and feel rejuvenated. She’s a great coach.