Sisyphus in a Hot Pink Kimono: What makes the exhaustion worthwhile?

And then there are the days that you sit on the floor in a hand-me-down hot pink silk kimono and wonder why in the hell you are so tired.

sisyphus copy

The cycle continues: working at a bakery and on a few freelance commissions to pay off debt, eating frugally but still gaining back the weight that dwindled off after months of inconsistent eating, reconstituting relationships with friends and family, sleeping.

But with all the hustle and bustle, setting aside time and space to write and draw and “be creative” becomes terrifying.  That is the time and space when all the insecurities boil.

Creative projects, especially long-term ones, don’t feel like a race.  There often isn’t a finish line — even launch dates are often just mile markers — which can make the exhaustion that much more potent.  You can’t stop.  You just… have… to… keep… going… 

This project, when it was conceived in July 2012, was supposed to last a year — all of 2013.  By February, however, spin-off projects ramped it up to a year and half.  Now, in November, the repercussions, the vibrations, the ripples of this project could span well into the next four years.

The supporters in my life keep congratulating me as the December 19th launch of the 13/13/13 Collector’s Edition approaches (more to come on that soon) and the project, for them, “wraps up.”

And as I sit in my little kimono, with visions of the future unfurling and a cacophony of deadlines whirling, my heavy limbs are rebelling against my optimism.  How can I keep up the energy to scrap and scrap and scrap and scrap?  How can I keep digging into my emotional reserves to stay positive and resourceful about making a dollar out of fifteen cents… for… another… four… years…?

Apparently, these Sisyphean boulders — time, energy, supporting the emotional needs of others, physical well-being, financial uncertainty —  that keep rolling back down the hill are only visible to me.

And the only thing that keeps running through my head is: 

Has it been worth it?

Has it been worth the blood, sweat, and tears?

The sacrifices you made to put in all those hours and hours and hours and hours of writing and drawing and talking and loving and sharing?

The toll it took on your relationships?  Your body?  Your perception of your self?

In the moment when the centrifugal force tips over in favor of the boulder, in the moment when its weight overpowers the strength of your arms, in the moment when your elbows buckle, in the moment when your heart acquiesces to the fact that the boulder is gonna roll down that alsdklfgjalfdghf;aklfhgdf hill again…

There is no way to say “Yes.  It has been worth it for me.”

Your shoulders sag.  That rational voice in your brain screams, “What are you trying to prove, anyway?  Just give up!  Nothing is worth this pain, this humiliation!”

But looking behind you, there they are.

He stands back there, day in, day out, and loves you through each and every hike up the hill.

She has taken every teary phone call and cradled your heart until you could work the courage to give it another go.

She prayed for a cloak of protection that you know kept you from getting your ass kicked in Zimbabwe.

In the moment, neither the action nor you own self is worth the pain, the exhaustion. 

But he is worth it.  She is worth it.

The willingness to keep going is a gesture of love and devotion for them.

They are worth it.

As much as my happiness and contentment drive me, the “future” fulfillment is not a good motivator in the middle of the pain.*

However, I will endure any pain, any exhaustion, if it will salve your heart when you receive another rejection in the mail and want to quit painting for good.  If it will bring you a sense of camaraderie when you put yourself in uncomfortable situations.  If it will encourage you to roll your own boulders in pursuit of your passion.

You are worth it.

*To learn more about what factors truly motivate us, check out this TED Talk by Dan Ariely.

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3 responses to “Sisyphus in a Hot Pink Kimono: What makes the exhaustion worthwhile?

  1. Hi Catherine!

    I am so inspired by yout! This blog article is awesome!

    I realize its now the end of NOV and we didn’t find a date for coffee.. sorry.. I have been sooo busy. I feel like I am physically exhausted and emotionally drained at the mo.. but nothing sleep and yoga can’t fix.

    Anyway… I just wanted to let you know how much your travels and blogs inspire me as well.. I know you don’t need another person in the background making you feel guilty about continueing and that is not my intent with telling you.. I just wanted you to know that you make a difference in my life as well 🙂

    THANK YOU for that.

    My family and I are off to explore England for the Thanksgiving break.. will you still be in Durham in December? Would love to see you.

    Sending kind thoughts and vibrations your way. Blessings – helen

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