A summer in New York. What a dream, a blessing even. Not a lot of people get the chance to step out of their lives and into New York for anything more than a weekend, if they're lucky. I get a week short of two whole months. What could I possibly be doing here for so long?
It began as an almost unbelievable opportunity to cat sit for a friend of a friend in Manhattan. The Upper West Side. On the border of Harlem. Of course, I couldn't say no. Not when I was already in the midst of a great transition in life. It seemed the timing was perfect. It is perfect! I took the few weeks I had in my new home, my new city, to settle in as best as I could before packing up and heading out. The primary purpose to keep an old cat happy, alive and in good company. The secondary purpose is a creative deployment.
My husband coined the term, creative deployment, when I felt unsure about what it might look like for me to be leaving for almost two months when we've barely settled into our new home. I hadn't had even a breath of time to get business settled and my dear boy was about to embark on his own new and challenging life path. What the fuck was I thinking to leave at such a time and for so much time? I was thinking about harnessing a new perspective on my own creative life.
In the months leading up to our move I was taking an online writing class. I registered on a whim and found myself completely enamoured with the whole process. It's nothing I've ever done before but I was looking for an alternative outlet for my creativity that wasn't about business or turning it into a profitable product. It worked. I was flushed with joy. Completely committed. This led to the idea to find a writing class in NYC for my time there, which I obviously didn't have a hard time doing. I wanted to give my days some structure and open up a new outlet for what I held in my heart. That led to a writing conference that lead to a few panel discussions that ultimately lead to a plan I had in mind since the beginning of the year, which was to walk a trade show that I hope to attend as a vendor next year.
I turned my summer in New York into a creative deployment.
A deployment is not meant to be particularly enjoyable or comfortable. It unfolds by way of duty to a greater plan. A strategy to achieve set goals is put in place with the intent to arrange pieces of the plan to assure readiness for any and all challenges that could alter the ability to reach these goals. Its purpose is to work towards a greater good, moving all relevant pieces forward, discarding the pieces that don't work or are simply unnecessary.
Friends and family keep asking me how things are going with excited tones in their voices or emoticons and exclamation points to emphasize their excitement for me. Even the odd 'I'm so jealous' gets tossed into the mix. And I tell them the truth: that this city is like no other. That it's the best date a girl could ask for as it's never a bore and always engaging. That my feet ache from all the walking, exploring, discovering. That there is so much to see and do I couldn't hope to bite a fair chunk out of it even with all the time I have here. That it's a blessing to have some time alone with my own thoughts and dreams and insecurities and assurances. That the experience has simply been wonderful.
What I haven't told them is that it has also been an exceptional challenge.
I promised myself I would dig deep while in this great city. That I would take this precious time to reflect on the past year and make a concerted effort to discover the cracks, repair the seams, and take out the trash. I promised myself I would do the work, push through the challenges and the struggles, and write it all down. I've been desperately seeking a new perspective on Love Like Red, which means I've been trying to find a new path to fuel my creativity while remaining wholly committed to my company — my wee little company that I started less than a year ago and have grown to love more than I ever thought possible. Before I left I knew it needed more love than I was giving it. There had been too much going on in my life for me to give it the attention it deserved. Or, if I'm being totally honest, I was unsure about what I wanted to do with it so I turned my attention to the immediate, the unrelated. This is not new information. I've written about this for a while now.
What is new is that my time in New York has been deeply challenging. The writing class has put me in an uncomfortable position, which I know can only be a good thing. Didn't someone once say that life happens outside of your comfort zone? It's made me realize just how outside of the game I am and how hard I will have to work if I want to find any kind of ease in it. Waking up and going to bed alone has also been a surprising challenge. I have never been one to turn down a chance at solitude and travel but now I've got a someone who makes me feel safe and loved and who I simply prefer to have around. That is very new. Or at least it's not something I have been made to feel until now. It's lovely and hard all at once.
I've spent each day drawing and painting for the sake of relearning and loving the process. The digging is tiresome. My body is exhausted by the search but my heart can't let go. I keep all my creative tools on the kitchen table so that if I'm not out exploring this fair city, I am at the table working. Working, working, working. There have been days since arriving that I haven't moved from this table except to get a coffee or use the bathroom. A certain thread of guilt then weaves its way through me, pulling at me to go out and find adventure, to see the sights, smell the smells and taste a true city but I can't. I've committed to my work, my creative deployment.
When people ask me what I'm doing here I simply say that I'm cat sitting and trail off with an awkward laugh. The truth is I'm here to rediscover something I feel I've lost. To push myself through the challenge of discomfort, to find my way to the other side of difficult. I am here to work even if I don't know what the end result is going to look like. The opportunity to stay in New York has been a doorway to a deeper, more introspective look at my own work — how I can serve my goals better, commit to my craft in a more meaningful way and where I feel compelled to take my business. I'm tapping in to all avenues of my own creativity with the sincere hope I will find a deeper well to draw from when I get back to my life at home.
It's still new but I think it's working. Or perhaps it's working because I am.
If you're reading this, have you ever been on your own version of a creative deployment? Have you felt disconnected from your work? What did you do to light the fire again? What are the lessons? The struggles and the joys? I would, of course, love to hear your stories of creative deployments, even if it was an afternoon you spent driving in your car with the windows down, the music loud and your spirit flying.
I write about my own experience because it's the only one I can be sure of but I hope that my stories find their way to yours and we find connection and community through them.
With all my heart and all my love,