What Were You Made To Do?

What were you made to do? The answer to that question has the power to alter the arc of history. For good.

art

Photo Credit: balloon tiers via Compfight cc

The alarm sounds at 5am, and my heavy-gritty eyelids creak open. The kids still have two hours of slumber ahead of them, which means I have two hours alone with my thoughts and my keyboard and my craft. The prospect is thrilling.

And terrifying.

Because there’s something else nestled right next to my gleeful anticipation. It doubts and it gnaws. It’s my fear of the blank page. It’s my fear of drying up. It’s my fear of not being enough.

When I sit in front of a blank document, it can feel like my worth is up for grabs. And that kind of fear makes me feel incredibly vulnerable—it’s way easier to feel prolific and invincible. In the past, the fear has driven me back under the covers. Fear and vulnerability like a padlock, trapping my words inside.

But now I know, my vulnerability isn’t the lock on my words—it’s actually the doorway into everything I want to write about.

The Violence of Invincibility

We live in an invulnerable world. Somewhere along the way, we decided vulnerability is weakness, and we’ve banished it from the public square.

Waiters aren’t allowed to confess mistakes for fear of a lawsuit. If a doctor admits doubt, they lose the confidence of everyone they serve. When was the last time a politician admitted they were wrong before they were caught in the act? Pillars of virtue cheat their way to the top rather than embracing limitation and weakness.

We’ve replaced the public square with a winner’s circle.

And our homes aren’t much different—we’ve banished vulnerability from our living rooms and bedrooms and hearts. Marital conflict escalates as spouses litigate their love with cross-examinations and Exhibits A to Z. Our children take their cues, and they compete with each other for worth and value. On playgrounds, tears get stifled and punches get thrown.

Our strength and invincibility are, quite simply, tearing the world apart. In the end, the winner’s circle stands empty, and so do our hearts.

Who will show us the way out of this morass?

The answer might surprise you, because the answer is you.

The Vulnerable Ones

Before sunrise, I’m a writer, but I’m a clinical psychologist when the sun comes up. And this is what my clients have taught me: we aren’t healed by the countless guises of invincibility—better arguments or improved technology or obscene wealth.

We are healed by vulnerability.

We are healed when we reveal our mess to another and put our real self on the line.

When we connect in our brokenness—not in spite of it—we discover what makes us messy is also what makes us beautiful. And we give everyone around us permission to be broken and beautiful, too. When we have the courage to embrace our weakness, we quit competing and we begin loving, we quit fighting and we start sacrificing. A world torn apart by invincibility can only be healed by vulnerability and weakness.

And art is one of the last bastions of vulnerability in this invincible-crumbling world.

Which makes you—the artist—the one we’re all waiting on.

“Wait,” you say, “Me? The artist? Me?”

And I say, “Yes, you the artist.” Because that’s the other thing my clients have taught me:

There’s an artist in all of us.

The Artist in You

When I began to let go of my protective false self, to listen to the voice of grace inside of me, and to settle into my true self, I became aware of a creative impulse within me. I wanted to write. I had no idea where it would lead, no plan, just a creative urge. And I allowed the impulse to lead me. I figured this was my own personal journey, and I enjoyed it.

But as a clinician, I’ve discovered something universal:

In each of us, there’s an artist waiting to be born.

When you ask anyone who has begun to release their shame and trust in their worthiness what they would do if they followed their heart, they say things like:

Dust off my camera and be a photographer again.

Set up a woodshop in my garage.

Refurbish my ’65 Mustang.

Start a business on Etsy.

I’d create a curriculum.

I’d create a community.

Open a craft shop.

I’d play my guitar.

I’d garden.

I’d sculpt.

I’d write.

I’d paint.

I’d sing.

I’d act.

I’d leap.

When we quit investing our time and energy in our invulnerability—our protection and pretending and perfecting and performing—we can become the artists we already are.

As it turns out, we were created to create.

The question is: Do you believe in yourself enough to leap?

We Need You

We need you to leap. We need the artist within you. We need people living from their true selves, people settling into who they are, and then vulnerably coloring the world with what they find there.

We need the artist in you to face the demons.

We need the creative within you to stare them down.

We need anyone willing to bleed on the page or the canvass or the medium of their choice.

We need that kind of vulnerability.

We need to fill up the winner’s circle with creativity and art and beauty and all things redemptive, until there is no room left within it for ego and violence and invincibility.

The future of this splintered planet may depend upon it.

Question: First, have you been living from your creative center? Please fill up this comments section with links to the creative thing you’re doing, whether it be a blog or a book or a painting or a sculpture or a painting or whatever. I will try to find a way to compile them so that everyone can enjoy the awesome creativity of this UnTangled community! Second, if you did begin to live from your creative center, what would you create? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Next Post: Why I Waited a Month to Write About Robin Williams

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Disclaimer: My writings represent a combination of my own personal opinions and my professional experiences, but they do not reflect professional advice. Interaction with me via the blog does not constitute a professional therapeutic relationship. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor who can dedicate the hours necessary to become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. I do not assume liability for any portion or content of material on the blog and accept no liability for damage or injury resulting from your decision to interact with the website.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • nancy

    Thank you for your inspiring words!! I spent yesterday and early this morning as soon as my eyelids opened thinking about pursuing what has been my passion for many, many years…writing. But I have done what you have described about hiding, out of fear, rather than jumping into it. But no more!!
    Thank you for always helping us find our inner selves!!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Oh, Nancy, if it’s the first eyelids-open thought of the day, you know you’re in the right place. I hope you leap tomorrow morning, and if you don’t, you’ll have a chance the next day. Don’t let the itch go away!

  • Hema
    • drkellyflanagan

      The ultimate vulnerable blog name. Thank you for sharing, Hema.

  • ALEJANDR1971

    Well, I do not know where to begin.
    Since childhood home had crayons and blank paper ready to be drawn.Or writing
    There was LP’s and radio music always sounded (maybe more football than music when my father came home from work).Always allowed us to draw, write, and create whatever my brother and me. My mother is a school teacher
    My father worked in an international company.Dad wrote poetry and lyrics of tangos.
    Mom read us stories before falling asleep,I’m a fashion designer.I have studied other things, but that says my passport.I’m a writer and amateur photographer
    I won some literary contests and the two editions of a photographic competition in Austria
    I did not win first prize,but stay in the top 50 when there were more than 3000 pic It was a great achievement(1997)
    And, again, in 2007 with over 25000 photos in the contest,my photo again be among the top 50 was GREAT. But it also gives me to create (this is just to do magic) in the kitchen,knitting or crochet,drawing or less on trying,but my first painting is in Vatican.One of this was a gift to Pope John Paul II in 2002 (more or less)
    Anyway, I’ll find the links to the photo contests in Austria.Well,this is in Facebook http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10203438180287852.1073742031.1013012217&type=1&l=d85487d250
    and this is about one of literary contest(also from my Facebook)

    • drkellyflanagan

      Alejandr, it’s clear you have a gift and a passion. I hope you will continue to live it out, regardless of how other people place you. : )

      • ALEJANDR1971

        Thank you,that’s why I am where I am.I can talk to a select group of my family(my mom and my brother)about my plans but the decisions are solely mine.

  • Lillie

    Thank you for the perfect opportunity to brag about my husband. As a working musician, he is living his creative calling with multiple interesting bands, and composing and playing his own music. His website: http://ethansellers.com has links to listen to his various projects. It is not easy to make a living as an artist, and I am proud of his efforts, accomplishments and goals.

    I appreciate your blog, thanks for getting up early to write.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Lillie, thanks for bragging about your husband. The truth is, I can’t imagine how difficult this writing thing would be if my wife didn’t believe in me. He’s blessed to have your support and thanks for sharing his website!

  • Nancy

    Thank you Dr Flanagan for your insightful thoughts on a sensitive subject.
    Becoming vulnerable is difficult when we spend years building our walls of protection. As I grow in wisdom, knowledge and healing I too have found those walls only serve to keep us from our authentic self. So when life seems to get stressful I carve out time to be creative. My creativity usually consists of writing, research on topics of interest (mostly my Native American heritage), crafting something new, sometimes something I’ve never done before just for fun. My latest project was trying to process deer hides to make regalia. Though I eventually scrapped the idea due to physically not being able to endure the task at hand I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to try. I accepted my limitations and moved onto purchasing a few hides to do what I wanted to do. That was a big step for me personally to admit I had limitations physically but not creative limitations. I am finding that when I allow my creative side to become more of my authentic self I am more content, less stressed and I view life from a different perspective.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Nancy, the way you listen to the Muse is truly inspiring, and I think you capture beautifully the sense of peace that ensues when we aren’t spending all of our energy suppressing our creative instincts.

  • Liz

    I have come a long way with allowing myself to be vulnerable. I can be vulnerable with my words, to loved ones. I can be vulnerable on a page writing from my heart and share it with someone. Art and creativity seem to be one the areas that I find it to be the hardest to be vulnerable. I’m working on it. Having a creative and artistic boyfriend, and being surrounded by creative people who inspire me, helps.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Liz, there is no substitute for surrounding ourselves with creative people. Keep putting yourself in the right place and your creativity will become insuppressible.

  • Carrie

    This topic really resonates so deeply with me, that it is scary to me. I’m going thru a tough time with my husband right now . I have spent years with a rumbling inside me that something isn’t right. I’ve received feedback from my husband that has made me feel as though my cardmaking and my blogging and my letterwriting to pen pals and mail art are a characteristic of someone not “living it up”. I love making cards. I love paper art! I’m trying to become more vulnerable, but it is hard and scary.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Carrie, perhaps the thing that isn’t right is that you’re not doing enough of what you love to do? I hope you can find the freedom within you to give as much of yourself to it as you want to!

  • Guest

    Life is a funny thing. My brain was my favorite toy ever since I can remember. In the last several years, I’ve needed to learn to play with other things because even the best toys can break and while mine still works, it sure doesn’t work like it used to.
    Blissfully, working with our hands is restorative too. I’m learning woodworking and wood burning, restoring old furniture and building new stuff.
    Here’s a recent project that kept only its bones with new side and back panels:

    • drkellyflanagan

      Love it! Yes, the brain has enormous creative capacity, but creativity can be a whole body experience. I think it’s fantastic you have adapted your creative impulse to your capabilities.

  • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

    Life is a funny thing. My brain was my favorite toy ever since I can remember. In the last several years, I’ve needed to learn to play with other things because even the best toys can break and while mine still works, it sure doesn’t work like it used to.
    Blissfully, working with our hands is restorative too. I’m learning woodworking and wood burning, restoring old furniture and building new stuff.
    This project kept only its bones with new side and back panels.
    (I’m not sure I can get the photos to come through. But since Alejandr was brave enough to try using the photo attachment, I can certainly follow a good example and hope for the best.)

    • Jerri

      That is so lovely!! Nice job!

  • Fran

    I always love your comments but today’s covers such a strong chord inside of me. I truly believe what you say here…I believe the strongest people are those who allow themselves to remain vulnerable; not weak, but open. When we close ourselves off we become bitter because we are denying a large part of ourselves.

  • Nambster

    This is just sooooo true!! I am certainly a victim of those walls the block out vulnerability! I know I need to break out but I am not. It’s like I need someone to whisper in my ear every time I get the opportunity that ‘now’s the time do exactly this to be vulnerable’. I used to be that once before but my marriage has modelled me into something different. I feel that my husband needs me to be vulnerable as well but I almost feel like I’ll be ashamed if I do so!!!

    Now that I’ve listened and completely internalised your blog (Dr. Kelly and thank you so much for assisting us find our true selves) I need someone to push over my pedestal. It’s about time I broke through the walls of being hardcore coz I aint and I am fed of the fake person that I am. Funny thing is once you’re comfortable in your own fake self it becomes easier to maintain that than be yourself. I need out. Like today. Completely out! But how do I make that commitment to start?!?!?

    • drkellyflanagan

      I hear you. I always recommend finding a good therapist who can give you the space to be yourself without any suppression. Only in that kind of freedom can we become familiar with ourselves again.

    • David K

      Nambster… wow… I’m so appreciative of your honesty and vulnerability. I’m witnessing this, and painfully so, as I watch my marriage crumble. Vulnerability, or rather the fear of it…the fear of delving into the deepest parts of our dark souls that point to the false belief that we’re not enough…kills the love, and painfully. Those of us who love harder and stronger when our partners are being their fake selves (and perhaps spewing back criticisms to cover their fear of being “found out”) will watch our relationships crumble… here’s hoping more people like you can be vulnerable freely!! Yes, your husband/partner does need you to be vulnerable, which is strength… it will resuscitate you… I know… it will resuscitate your relationship and marriage… I wish it for you!!

  • Lola

    I had a neighbor who was like a grandmother to my four girls. She passed away suddenly a year ago. She never had children of her own, but she left a legacy with mine. She loved my girls, and even left them heirlooms. She was diligent in keeping up a beautiful yard. I was not. She would see me running my girls back and forth to school and all kinds of activities – ballet, soccer, student council, church activities…. It showed in my yard. Where she had beautiful flowers separated by newly strewn mulch, I had weeds choking out mine. One day I apologized for my unkept yard next to hers. She smiled and said, “Your girls are your garden,” and praised me for the beautiful garden I am growing. And they truly are beautiful, intrinsically so. I didn’t make them beautiful. God did. He provided the seed and the blueprint, and they can’t possibly be anything but beautiful. I just nourish them with love and guidance, occasional limits for their physical and spiritual safety, good food, and counsel. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I’m exhausted, raise my voice, or neglect to do things they want or need. Even those provide a backdrop for lessons learned – for them and for me. Mothering is an art. These precious young lives are the canvas. Both the joys and challenges of life overcome make them them a beautiful masterpiece.

    • Nanny

      That is beautiful and it is a truth that if we are mother or grandmother to one, or some, then we are most certainly a mother and grandmother to all Gods little portraits.

    • Jannice

      Amen, sister.

    • drkellyflanagan

      “Your girls are your garden.” Beautiful and true. Is there a more creative endeavor than parenting? Thank you for sharing this, Lola.

      • lady_morgahnna

        That is a lovely story about the neighbor and the gardens, but as a woman who never had children, I am a bit offended by Dr. Flanagan’s question in his reply “Is there a more creative endeavor than parenting?” Some may say I am making a fuss where I should not, or that I am being overly-sensitive. But to me, in this world that still measures a woman by how many children and grandchildren she has, it is a hurtful comment. I am sure Dr. Flanagan wasn’t intending it to hurt those of us who are creative in other ways and feel no less creative than a mother or father. However, I felt the need to bring it up. As a divorced working woman, on my own for 4 decades, and having never birthed or adopted human beings, does that mean I am less creative than those who have? I think not.

  • allana

    Yoga. I loooove yoga. I love the physical aspect of it combined with the meditative and spiritual aspects of the practise. I also love reading. On people, relationships, our mind and yoga philosophy. But, I am a scientist. Toxicologist. A profession I love but got here driven by thinking I am not enough. I am not good enough. I am not lovable. I buried these feelings under my drive and my need to BE something. And now? I have been working on me for the past 10 months. Driven by my observation of negative patterns in my marriage. It has opened up so much for me. Childhood wounds. Negative core beliefs. Etc etc. I have grown so much in the past year….but it has also led me to question my career. I love it. I have been very successful. But I love yoga too. If money where no issue i would take a leave of absence, become a yoga teacher, read and do yoga.

  • Emily

    The thing that jumped out the most to me when I was reading this post was that my answer to what I would do if I followed my heart, which is that I would read and run. Both of those activities seem notably different than the creative activities listed. They’re very much thinking activities and at a streach you could argue that they’re activities in creating a more reflective mind. But maybe that is what I want to create if I were to follow my heart. Or it’s possible that perhaps I’ve answered a different question, such as what activities allow me to tap into the vulnerability of my heart?

    • drkellyflanagan

      I think it might be both, Emily! Running and reading both tap into creative parts of our brains. I imagine giving yourself more to both would allow you to tap into your vulnerable places even more deeply. Especially if you listen for the voice of grace while you run and listen to what moves you in the books you are reading.

  • dmeans

    I have been having a blast doing genealogy!! It has been a way to unleash my love of solving puzzles and doing research. :)I used to paint… Maybe one day I will do that again! 🙂

    • drkellyflanagan

      Yes. And genealogy has a sacred dimension to it as well, as time folds in upon itself and it reconnects us with those who have gone before. Good for you!

  • Chris Fisher

    We never outgrow this message of yours. Thank you!!! http://www.imagemattersphotography.com

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you for sharing, Chris!

  • Peter

    This is inspiring as hell…… Thank you for that.
    ‘Secret Desire’- I wanna write too….shhhh, dont tell. I am terrified. To the point of not trying. I feel I’m too old, not smart or certainly not educated enough. I’ve made too many mistakes, too many failures to write from any place of knowledge. ‘Maybe someday’, has become my credo. Two words that snuff out dreams and produce painful regret….

    • drkellyflanagan

      Peter, I totally understand. The thing I’m learning is that those voices never completely go away. The writing becomes an act of defiance against them. I hope you will defy them!

  • Tommi Foy Jones

    I love to sew and do handwork, so other than my 4 wonderful adult children my creativity is in my fabric, yarn, etc. creations. I had this nurtured in me by my mother and grandmother along with other women along my road. I am grateful they took the time to help me nurture this creative side of me. I just need to remember to do more of this because it definitely makes me a much happier person.

    In reading some of the other posts, there are other things that I want to try (need to make the time for) and the other people who have written about those inspire me to be brave and try! Thank you all for sharing your fears and loves!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Tommi, it is good to hear about your creative history and I’m so glad the comments are inspiring you to expand it!

  • Sarah

    I really enjoyed this, very timely as ive been thinking about moving forward in some areas with design. I’ve been working on this, Fujimoto.co, my design site on the side from my job. Thanks again for the article am feeling a revitalization to continue!!

    • drkellyflanagan

      You’ve laid a great foundation, Sarah; keep building!

  • Cynthia

    Spot on, Kelly…simply living compassionately with our vulnerabilities comes only after living with the messiness of complexity. You can’t jump over the messiness, rather, you have to wade into it. I would add one thing to your list of creative endeavors….Running. Faster. Into new adventures. Like canyons and trails (and being willing to fall now and again, scraped knees and bruised shoulders come with the creative pursuit!).

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Cynthia, and you’re spot on, too. The scrapes don’t hurt as much when the adrenaline is pumping from the run!

  • This post resonates with me so much. I always said that if I were to follow my heart, I would write. For years, I directed that writing toward the support of my profession. When my profession shifted and required less writing, I began to want to write again–but what would I write?

    As I looked back at all the pieces of my life–my experiences, the things that had called to me, the passions I’d found most meaningful, and the transitions I’d undergone–it became clear. So now I write about marriage: http://forgivenwife.com/

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thank you for sharing your work, Chris. It’s deeply personal; I admire your courage!

  • Peggy

    When I spend time on myself, I bake. I love to use old recipes handed down from my grandma and mom or try a few new ones. Sharing the goodies has its own rewards!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Peggy, I had an old friend in grad school who loved to bake creatively. Truly a creative endeavor!

  • It’s lovely to read everyone’s comments in this forum. Thank you, Dr. Kelly and thank you fellow commenters for sharing your vulnerabilities and soft spots. It seems there are a lot of artists, writers, and people here who are striving to be vulnerable and authentic. While reading the comments, I found myself rooting for the commenter, wishing they could own their gifts and live them out lout, without restraint or fear. But then I thought of my own self-talk and how their words echoed my own internal dialogue. Sometimes, it’s easier to be a cheerleader for others than for ourselves; this quieting the negative self-talk and being my own cheerleader is my work in progress.

    Recently, I was listenting to a Soul Series episode from a couple of years ago with Oprah interviewing author Caroline Myss; Ms. Myss said that in our society we don’t have a model that allows people to be strong but vulnerable at the same time. Since that episode aired, Brene Brown has stood on her TED and book platform talking about the strength of vulnerability, and I am relieved the topic has become more mainstream. Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO also talked about vulnerabilitiy and leadership in is recent book, “Onward.”

    Showing up here and commenting is vulnerability, and in life, it’s all about the little things that embolden us to take bigger steps. For me, my first little step was self-publishing a book and striving to blog more, while also working on the next book–the bigger step and book I am afraid to write but know I must. I appreciate this Wednesday contemplation. Thanks, friends. http://www.lettingpeoplein.com

    • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

      Rochelle, you are so right! There are always some wonderful and thoughtful comments to mull over each week, making it a real benefit to see how others are processing and working through the things we’re all thinking about after Kelly’s good prompting. This week is double excellent with all the incredible pursuits being shared and the many ways those are being weighed and given greater space in the purposeful lives being built by this online community.
      I loved getting to peek in on your blog and book.

      • Shel~ Thank you! I agree about this week being doubly good. I so admire people like you who are skilled with their hands. I find that when my hands are busy, usually cleaning, it also helps abate and crystallize the cycling thoughts in my head. =) Your woodworking projects are an inspiration (especially for a girl who loves vintage and thriftiness)! I appreciate you taking a peek and my site. Cheers!

  • chowie

    http://www.thewrittensunrise.tumblr.com (a blog of my poetry / poetic prose)
    http://instagram.com/sunrisechowie (my day-to-day photography)

    • drkellyflanagan

      Beautiful stuff, Chowie. Keep writing!

  • Jerri

    Four years ago, my life changed radically. In 7 1/2 months, my husband of 19 years moved out, Mom was diagnosed with cancer and died, divorce papers were filed, and my husband died of a massive heart attack. In the midst of that, friends chose sides, and family splintered, and when the dust had settled, all that looked familiar in my world were my children and the house we lived in.
    For the first time in nearly 25 years, I was a single Jerri. I had been his wife and the kids’ mom, and now I had to find a new Jerri-ness. So I did a lot of praying, and with God’s guidance and strength, I did a lot of recreating.
    When I graduated high school, I wanted to go into the military, but went in for knee surgery instead. My husband was anti-guns, so I gave up on my desire to become an expert markswoman. Now, in my mid-40s, God is giving that back. I am training to become a long-range, precision rifle competitor. What that means is I can shoot any aggressive paper target 1,000 yards away.
    I’m also writing a book series dealing with faith, PTSD, and healing.
    But the thing I am most excited about, besides raising two amazing teenagers, is finally getting my minister’s license and becoming a chaplain for warriors–military, PD, FD, and medical. These people face levels of hell each day most of us can’t fathom. They need ways to heal, and my faith and experience in the power of God convinces me they truly can. I’m excited to be part of that.
    I am living a wonderful life. In fact, it is so good, if I could pick any life to live, I’d pick mine. 🙂

    • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

      What a great way you have with words! I pity the aggressive paper target that gets in your way.
      The resilience and grace with which you handled the upheaval thrown your way to find your footing in a stronger, more authentic place is remarkable and will undoubtedly be a gift in your ministry and your writing. And I’m sorry for the loss of your mom and your husband at such an already difficult time.
      I love the second act you’re writing into your life.

      • Jerri

        Shel Lee,
        Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I love the second act I’m writing into my life, too. What a beautiful way to say it. Perfectly said. 🙂

    • Katie Rowland

      Jerri – I saw what you said about becoming a chaplain, and I thought of this program. – Operation Heal our Patriots – http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/about-operation-heal-our-patriots/ – by an interdenominational Christian evangelistic organization, serving veterans and their marriages…you should look into it.

      • Jerri

        Katie,
        What a great program! Thank you for sharing that with me!

  • David K

    You’re killing me, Dr. Kelly… I’m reading this one to my wife. It’s been too long… I may even read it to her in our therapy session… truer words have never been written. Why do we find it so easy to criticize and fingerprint, which prevents us from being vulnerable and safe with those we love… years of spiritual practice still has me asking this question of myself. My journey is hardly yet over as you pointed out. Thanks again for being out there and pushing the human envelope!!

    • drkellyflanagan

      You’re welcome, David, and I hope the two of you kind find that vulnerable place together!

  • drkellyflanagan

    I’ve never enjoyed a comments section on any blog ever as much as I’ve enjoyed this one. It’s a flood of hope. You all are beautiful people. This is one of those days I’d like to honor everyone with a comment reply, but it looks like I won’t be able to. Thanks to those of you who are honoring each other with affirmation through your replies. Please continue to share. It’s truly inspiring to us all!

  • Jana Johnson

    I hadn’t realized how vulnerable it is to be an artist, since i’ve been working as an artist for so many years now – but it’s true, we do tackle that blank canvas and hope to not get too many sour comments back. However, as an artist I’ve also learned how to deal with rejection. Anytime we submit a piece to be juried we open ourselves up to being hurt, not chosen, pushed away, but we do it again and again, knowing it’s one of the ways to get our art out into the world. The internet is another way to share artwork and stories, but it takes bravery to push that publish button each time – of which I’m sure you’re totally aware of! I have my art website: http://janajohnsonartwork.com/ and the accompanying blog, plus a more personal blog: http://phinearts.blogspot.com/ which has been a place to share photos and journaling from a 2012 road trip lately. Thank you for writing this post and giving me an awareness of myself I hadn’t realized!

  • Kathryn

    I would bake. I so appreciate your message. Our desire for invulnerability makes us isolated. And in our isolation we do not see things clearly. I know honesty amongst close friends has revealed that we all face challenges-with children, in our marriages, at work, etc. Thank you for the reminder of grace!

  • Carolyn

    What a fun idea.I can’t wait to see and hear about this community’s passions.Here is my Facebook link to the art that I just started making this past year.I love painting, photography, songwriting and singing.I had never picked up a paintbrush before last year, and was intimidated to do so, but now that I have, there is no turning back.It is so much fun, and very fulfilling…

    https://www.facebook.com/carolyn.cowan2/media_set?set=a.10201954797164888.1073741836.1033622527&type=3

  • Carrie

    When life got hard, I started taking training to teach piano. I practiced many hours a day. I thrived on the sheer beauty of the music and my love for my students. I found myself listening to people in my studio, so now I am studying psychology and am learning to listen better.

  • Val Flynn

    verityceramics.etsy.com I started throwing pottery three years ago at the exact time I began to see that it was possible to leave my shame behind me. Thank you Jesus for redeeming me! hisredeemedone.blogspot.com

  • Doug Scott

    Kelly…thanks for being the artist you’ve been created to be and pushing through whatever you had to in order to write these words. I really appreciate being challenged and inspired by you every week.

    As is I’m sure is the case with everyone else and all their comments, it’s tough to cull down into just a few words the journey that’s brought me to where I am now…pursuing a life where I’m living in my “creative center”. But in a nutshell…after getting the expected academic pedigree that led to a career in consulting…I was left anemic on a number of fronts. That, combined with the realization that I was a hypocrite when I prayed that my daughters would discover, embrace, and pursue how they were uniquely, wonderfully, and beautifully made (b/c I wasn’t)…I was forced to take stock of my life and discover what I was created to be.

    After a good deal of confusion, frustration, soul-searching, and prayer I finally realized that I was uniquely gifted to see the potential in people and spaces. I know…sounds a bit out there…still does to me too, but bringing those giftings together with my passion for family, my love of the outdoors, and my knack for design…I took the leap of faith out of the comforts that my career in consulting brought me…to launch my own company – Redeem Your Ground (RYG)…which has 2 parts.

    The first part of RYG is Redeem Your Ground | Exterior Design Studio (www.redeemyourground.com) – where I help clients discover how they want to live outside and then design spaces that bring that to life…effectively extending the walls of their home to the outdoors.

    The second part of RYG is a family, home & garden blog I write with my wife…RYGblog (www.RYGblog.com). Our hope is that the stories and instructional how-to’s we share there will both enable and inspire others to live more fully outside at home…connecting with their families, friends, neighbors, and nature.

    We have a long way to go…but we know we’re right where we’re supposed to be. We’ve found that as you try to bring life to someone else by doing what you were created to do, life is brought to you as well. I guess that’s part of living a redeemed life…right Dr. Kelly! Another confirmation of this is that I’m dreaming again…and I hadn’t in years. And not to mention, my girls…my girls are seeing their daddy pursue his passions, his call, his giftings…and what better way to teach them to do the same than living it yourself.

    Thanks again Dr. Kelly…and I guess this wasn’t much of a nutshell, now was it?! So feel free to edit as you see fit. Take care, Doug

  • Karen

    I created. I knew it was my calling, my duty to beautify and renovate the homes. I allowed myself vulnerability and trusted my husband’s word to respect what’s mine and used my inheritance for funding while my husband just watched. Creative Vulnerability transformed the ugly broken interiors to clever prettiness and new functionality over the course of two years and I got pleasure from the results. Now, my narcissistic, abusive husband is claiming rights to my creations, my inheritance using my vulnerability as a weapon against me. Now the lawyers and he will financiallyl rejoice in my creative efforts while they take me down. They will live better lives because of my ingenious creativity, my hard work, my stupidity, my vulnerability..and I will be homeless and broke.

  • Heather

    I write Sacred Poetry using non-dominant handwriting. It accesses a creative aspect that continues to amaze me! Usually a word or phrase catches my attention, and the words start to flow out. I never know how the poem will end. I know that it is meant to be shared, and hope to have it published one day.
    SACREDNESS
    Sacredness is my call to be in resonance with Beloved in a divine dance. Beloved
    leads and I follow – in those times I forget myself and try to make the moves,
    Beloved gently waits until I grasp the holy harmony and we fall back into
    exquisite rhythm. Our dance begins with breath and remembrance – I being
    inspirited by created energy, and then I rest in a form so familiar that my
    resounding exhale is effortless. What is the look of a thousand mirrors?
    Repeated reflection of the Original, the One who thought me into being.
    Remembering safeguards the sacredness – when I forget, I am moved to recall,
    then to restore the cadence. My partner waits patiently, while I build up my
    eagerness. We meet again, falling into easy embrace, and move toward all I AM
    to be.

    DEEPEST KNOWING
    I send my deepest knowing back to my earliest memory. I reach exponentially farther, before the me I now recognize began.
    In the womb of perfected love, I was willed into being. My soul began relationship with the One who would eventually send me here. Serene, complete, Beloved bathed my primal essence with reverence, and my very being drank in all that was offered.
    Branded, marked with God’s hand, my sole task was to be, content in my creation, full of mirrored adoration.
    Timelines dissolve as these deepest memories reveal themselves, slipping me once more into beloved’s cherished embrace. I rest completely there, my soul’s inhalation not physical, but energetic, Breath and Spirit of God moving in and out, anchoring the memory that has finally broken through my mortal resistance and called me back:
    Back home to my very beginning,
    back home to my Love knowing,
    back home to the why of my life.

  • Phoenix

    I started writing poetry going through a breakup and have kept it up ever since. It really opened me up and I felt like I had someone to confide in: me. I also started a crazy messy book which terrified me and things that were inside of me. Then I fell in love and felt the book was too dark but it calls to me every day to finish it. Then I got distracted by photography and set up an Instagram account. I will finish the book however because driving home from my day job today I got an idea for my next book.

    My poetry blog is here:
    http://www.phoenixmoonstar.com

    My Instagram account is:
    phoenix_ moonstar

    • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

      Your blog is wonderful. Your creative outlets are good companions to be giving you such solid hints about where your energies should flow.

      • Phoenix

        Thank you Shel for your kind words. It was definitely a tiny seed that grows every day.

  • Sara

    Oooo! I love this discussion 🙂 Vulnerabilty is the exact topic my massage therapist and I were discussing yesterday and how my body reflects my fear of it. The idea that we can embrace our vulnerability through our art is a beautiful thought and one I will think more about. For me, writing is my way of being creative. I have a blog: http://www.smellsgoodfeelsgood.com and I am working on a larger writing project which makes me feel very juicy indeed!

  • Karen Kardynal

    Paint, sew and design church banners, crochet, make jewerly and write….can’t settle on just one.

  • Hi Kelly .. it’s been a while since I have commented in here, but I still read. I LOVE what you had to say right here : “We are healed by vulnerability”

    Absolutely this is the truth! I am living proof that healing happens in the pain of vulnerability, even this week I was vulnerable to something that healed me, and even when we feel the pain of it, something inside of us is calling for something different to happen.

    It took me a long time to accept that I am an artist. I am a photographer, I am a writer, I am a graphic designer, but never have I thought of myself as an “artist”.

    I love this blog writing this week… I love seeing that I am not the only one who fears the blank page in front of me before writing.

    thank you for sharing 🙂

    Karen

    Finding The Grace Within
    http://www.findingthegracewithin.com

  • Danielle Stephens

    “When we connect in our brokenness—not in spite of it—we discover what makes us messy is also what makes us beautiful.” Rare truth.

    My art… I write. Sometimes I keep a blog. Recently no; trying to go the way of the ‘ancients’. Pen and paper – how archaic. 😉

  • Jeanye Mercer

    LOVE this post. It, like many others, spoke directly to my heart. I have recently begun to cultivate creativity and have learned to paint art journal faces. I’ve never been artistic, especially when it comes to drawing. But I discovered an artist I love and have taken a couple of her classes… and have fallen in love with the process and the product. It’s been a very healing process; one that helps me feel connected to my Mom who died last Christmas. She was quite artistic and would be very surprised to find that apparently I have an artist within as well. 🙂

    Here are a few of my favorites so far…http://www.pinterest.com/jeanyemercer/my-girls/

    Thank you for asking us to share. What a blessing and honor to connect in this way.

    • Laurelanni

      I love those! That was so encouraging to me to view all of those and inspired me to share those words of life and beauty over others. Thank you for the inspiration!!

  • Catherine

    I enjoy painting and writing songs. I have found that being patient and trusting myself brings the best results. I often think I’m too busy for creative pursuits when actually it gives me more energy. In the future I would love to create a garden.
    Thank you Kelly for putting the work in and stepping out and sharing. Your writing is superb

  • Taiwo • 2 minutes ago
    I love to write. And I just started a blog on ‘living the life I had imagined’ http://www.taiwoilori.com/. I grew up thinking I had no place in the society because I had nothing substantial to offer. Now I know better, but I am often plagued by fear of not being good enough to write or having anything substantial to write about. I started my blog to step out of that ‘fear zone’ and to maybe give others like me the courage and boldness to step out of their fear and live out their dreams whatever it is.

    • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

      Wow, Taiwo! I just came back from your blog. Your writing, your ideas, the cadence you string them together with, and the way you bring your reader along with you for each thing you write about… you write beautifully and powerfully. Your gift is a veritable treasure trove, and it is awesome that you’ve set up a place you can share it.
      And the fact that you are doing this amazing writing while grindstoning it in a Ph.D. program makes it doubly impressive. Does your area of study hold the same kind of passion for you (even as academic writing forces a less empassioned style)?

      • Taiwo

        Thank you so much Shel Llee Flexman-Evans for your comment. I had wanted to stop writing on the blog completely, but I won’t anymore. Yes, my area of study holds the same kind of passion for me, but writing academically really puts me in a corner. The only way I have managed to survive this long is by handling my topic as if I was telling a story . My topic- ‘imagined community and imagined identity of students in secondary schools’ – also affords me the opportunity to ‘get away’ with my story telling technique.
        NB: there is this nagging feeling though that I am running away from writing and doing a PhD because I feel I am not good enough. I have never really explored that side of me except for what I put up on my blog occasionally. Maybe, it’s time I find out what I really am capable of doing with my writing, even though I really don’t know how to go about doing that :).
        Thank you…

      • Thank you so much Shel Llee Flexman-Evans for your comment. I had wanted to stop writing on the blog completely, but I won’t anymore. Yes, my area of study holds the same kind of passion for me, but writing academically really puts me in a corner. The only way I have managed to survive this long is by handling my topic as if I was telling a story . My topic- ‘imagined community and imagined identity of students in secondary schools’ – also affords me the opportunity to ‘get away’ with my story telling technique.

        NB: there is this nagging feeling though that I am running away from writing and doing a PhD because I feel I am not good enough. I have never really explored that side of me except for what I put up on my blog occasionally. Maybe, it’s time I find out what I really am capable of doing with my writing, even though I really don’t know how to go about doing that :).

        Thank you…

        • Shel Llee Flexman-Evans

          Your dissertation topic sounds really engaging. I so admire how in touch you are with how complex your motivations may be and your willingness to evaluate the worth of a Ph.D. to you — I was considerably less circumspect while working on mine and only after passing my defense did I realize that it had been more important to me to prove that I could than to actually move from completing the degree to working in my field and playing by academic rules.
          I feel confident that no matter what you choose to do, the stories you weave will be touching lives. What an exciting journey it will be for you finding the way you want to see that happen.

          • Exciting and a little bit scary… :). Thank you

  • Bridget

    When I read the title of your blog post today ‘What were you made to do?” I noticed a sadness in myself as my teenage only child is modeling his father’s behavior and being very distant as well as drawing into ego ….When I became his mom I thought that is what I was made to do: be the best parent I can be! My focus and priority of the last 15 years has been to model and teach, selfless love, but now i feel so much sadness as that relationship seems to have changed and I need to change with it….. At the same time I feel so silly and yes vulnerable! bc I know every single parent on the planet has to go through this change when their child moves on… I am strong enough to be there in any capacity I can for my son, even though it feels very much in the background. I wear many hats: physical therapist, yoga teacher, public health educator, swimmer, paddler, fitness instructor, hula dancer, baker….have not been able to recapture that joy i had when I was a part of my son’s life…..thank you and other readers for the inspiration to dig down deep….sorry I know this is not answering the questions you posted….guess not answering the questions right is part of being vulnerable!! Oh, yes, I just recently moved and am looking for work, new circles, etc. so am getting a big dose of vulnerable…Thank you- love your thoughts and writing.

  • Piper

    I am a wife and mom to five amazing children, two diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I agree with the comment about “your girls are your garden”. On the same token, I take time to craft, draw, paint and bake- to create- as often as I can. I have found great joy in photography- it started with a class in college, continued as a creative pursuit with my husband, grew even greater with my kids. Others saw my pictures and asked me to capture their families. I am at the point now that I shoot weddings, families, individuals… You name it. I love it. My blog (no words, just pictures) is pmqt.blogspot.com .

  • I am nineteen and live in South-Africa. My mom recently told me about your blog and I happened upon this post (a little late unfortunately – but better late than never right?) I started studying education (I wanted to be an art teacher) in 2013, did it for a year and then realized my passion was rooted in the art rather than the teaching, so I started painting full time in 2014. It has been almost a year of ‘leaping’ now, and I’m starting to get up in the mornings with much more resolve instead of insecurity regarding such a radical decision. This post had me resisting the urge to cheer and affirm out loud all that you were saying as I was reading. Thanks for writing it. If you were interested to see what I’ve been working on, go have a look at http://www.artbymies.com

  • Ichigo

    Since childhood, I used to love all things creative: writing, drawing, singing, dancing, and playing what little I could on instruments. But, one thing I’ve found is that, even within the creative communities, the feelings shame and not-enough-ness are still there. That there are people, my close friends even, that are just leagues ahead of anything I could ever even hope to do and sometimes with that comes a silent judgement that if you’re not good enough, you shouldn’t be doing it. So because of that, I’ve stopped most of these activities. Nowadays, I barely write, my vocal chords are out of shape as are my regular muscles, my sketchbooks are getting dusty, and I’m slowly forgetting how to read music.

    A good chunk of this year was spent coming to terms with being deeply hurt after opening up someone close to me; after which I retreated into my fort, strengthened the walls, and added cannons. When I do step out to try to be outwardly vulnerable, I am criticized, judged, and therefore reaffirmed in thinking that I am not “good enough”. And it’s so ironic (and saddening) that I can feel more at ease opening up to anonymous strangers online than with the people I call my “best friends”.

    The thing that keeps me going through periods of negativity is the knowledge that, in my hurt and shame and feelings of worthlessness and loneliness, Jesus whispers to me, saying that I might be hurting, but He is there to comfort me in His arms; I might feel ashamed, but He has forgiven me and has shown me grace; I might feel unworthy, but, through Him, I have been made worthy and “enough”; and I might feel alone, but He is there right beside me, calling me “friend”.

    I hope that, one day, I’ll finally get the courage to allow myself to create and be vulnerable again.

  • Dith

    Came here to read the post you wrote about marriage, which is spot on. Thanks.

    Loved this one about doing what I was made to do, too. Me, I write. Some of the things I write I put here. http://tellingstoriesblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/without-wings-without-wheels/
    Pay me a visit, if you like.

    Thanks again,

  • There is so much sweetness here. I too am a writer–one who is trying to make a habit of writing before sunrise each day. I find that my fear and my perfectionism keeps my writing at bay. But when I am grateful, attentive and honest, I can write. Writing through my brokeness and with grace. Love your blog. So glad I found it.

    • drkellyflanagan

      I’m glad to be found by another writer, Eden, welcome to UnTangled! Just read a great book that helped me let go of a little more of my writing fear: “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. You might like it, too.

  • AxeL

    I have this Facebook page with drawings I make: https://www.facebook.com/sp.personality

    I also have a band but don’t have anything recorded yet so I can’t really show you anything.

    btw, thank you for this

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