This guest post from Jade Herriman is all about embracing a multipassionate, creative life as the key to more wholehearted living.
This is the fifth guest post in our Wholehearted Stories series on Quiet Writing. I invited readers to consider submitting a guest post on their wholehearted story. You can read more here – and I’m still keen for more contributors!
Quiet Writing celebrates self-leadership in wholehearted living and writing, career and creativity. This community of voices, with each of us telling our own story of what wholehearted living means, is a valuable and central part of this space. In this way, we can all feel connected on our various journeys and not feel so alone. Whilst there will always be unique differences, there are commonalities that we can all learn from and share to support each other.
I am honoured to have Jade Herriman as a ‘Wholehearted Stories’ contributor. My sincere thanks to Jade for the contribution of her story and the photographs she shares from her work. Jade combines the creativity of art therapy with coaching to help people see themselves and their situation in new ways. Her wholehearted story tells of how she came to embrace the multiple dimensions of a creative life. It is a really valuable reflection piece as we end a busy year and many consider changes in their life for 2018. Read on to find out more!
Building and leaving a career
This is a story of building and leaving a career. It is the story of tasting burnout, choosing healing and moving toward a softer more creative life. Most importantly this story is not finished, it’s still being written.
These days I love the mystery and watching it unfold, without a firm and clear plan but rather trusting intuition and the accumulation of small choices to lead me somewhere new.
Over 15 years I worked hard in various jobs related to environmental management and sustainability. I had been keen on science and environmental issues since I was a kid and wanted to get in there and make a difference. From starting out after uni with no clue about how to apply for work and very little useful work experience to ending up in a senior role in a research organization managing large projects, I had a steady job with long-term career prospects. On the face of it, I was achieving what I had set out to do – so why was it feeling so hollow?
After a while, I began to feel sick of the professional mask required to work in these roles, the way that people came together to speak about work issues but often not what was in their hearts. I felt like the workshops I was running with professionals from different industries were sitting at a very surface level, all about the mind, but rarely about what mattered most to people. I longed to help facilitate more meaningful connection. I wanted to create spaces where people could be honest and share their hopes and fears as well as their competency and their ideas for work.
Over time I started to have a yearning to do something more creative. Our work was deeply creative in a sense – we were always designing and innovating, but I yearned to do something that involved the visual arts and making things. I started studying art therapy, part-time, on my weekends and days off, just in case one day I might find a way to use it.
Burnout helped me take the leap
I had always been quite competent but not very confident, terrified on the inside of all that was required of me, but reliable and seemingly calm. I liked doing well and getting lots done but at times the burden of what I was carrying felt too much, and I would eventually buckle under the weight of the stress.
Burnout was a hard teacher. Finally, I learnt that my body had limits and that I could not be in stress mode indefinitely without it affecting my ability to continue. Burnout taught me that downtime is important to balance the busy periods. It taught me that constant worry about the future is not helpful. It also taught me that I still exist without work, without a title, without ‘outputs’.
In art therapy, we often talk about the hero’s journey and the descent into the ‘nadir’. This is the challenging place at our lowest where we feel that part of us is dying a symbolic death – before our ascent back into the ordinary world refreshed, wiser and more enriched by the journey. Burnout was this for me – the worst fear realized and endured – the catalyst that helped me leave my job and past career and take baby steps in a new field.
Feeling my way as an art therapist and coach
When I decided to start my own business, I gave myself permission to try things to see what I liked. In some ways work for me had always been doing ‘what was needed’ or ‘what I had been asked to do’. This was a chance to ‘feel’ my way through life – what actually felt satisfying, enjoyable and absorbing. Without stress fuelling my actions, with time and space to do and not do, I was able to observe what tasks I was able to do joyfully without much effort.
I had to adjust my pace through the first year especially, as my body was still quite exhausted and recovering its energy. I dialled back my expectations and allowed myself to have days that weren’t very productive. More and more I listened to the quiet voice of my body and less to the fear-driven voice of my ego. It felt like Persephone, a popular archetype for the wounded healer, spending time periodically in the underworld before returning to the productive harvest of summer aboveground. I embraced yin and yang, light and dark, productivity and rest.
Starting again wasn’t always comfortable. It was a brand new area of work and rather than being an experienced practitioner, I was a beginner all over again. I had to adjust to no longer having big and fancy projects to talk about or other trappings that made my ego feel secure. I had to sit with grief, loss, self-doubt and feelings of failure that came up sometimes. A book that resonated with me especially at this time was Wild Creative by Tami Lynn Kent, a love song to a life lived intuitively and in tune with our physical selves.
Bringing together my passions and loves
What my new work brings me is a chance to sit with people in honesty and create a space where all feelings are welcome. In art therapy groups, we speak about all aspects of life – and there is often a bittersweet tone to the conversations, about loneliness, about challenges, about grief, loss, trauma and mental illness. But there is also joy, sweet playfulness, and heartfelt connection between participants. There are shifts and development for individuals on the most humble of levels that are also quite profound – as they stretch their windows of tolerance, as they develop confidence in themselves as a creative person, as they practice speaking and being listened to with respect. In coaching, clients navigate self-doubt as a step forward towards long-held dreams.
I love that my work involves art now – helping other people make friends with art, playing with art materials, attending client exhibitions, making art myself, facilitating spaces where people make art together and reflect on the insights it has for their lives.
It also involves design and creativity in terms of thinking of new workshops, new programs, new writing that might be helpful for my clients. I love problem-solving and brainstorming with my coaching clients. I love the way that each session draws on all that I have to offer and there is a requirement to be in the moment, fully absorbed and focused with that person, responding to the mood, situation, communication styles, needs and more of each client.
Embracing my scanner self and a meandering path
Another big part of the journey towards a more wholehearted life has been embracing the part of my personality that is enchanted with learning and novelty. After discovering Barbara Sher’s work on scanners (multipotentialites, multipassionates, renaissance folk), and especially her book Refuse to Choose, I have found it easier to be kind to myself about my moving passions. Beyond just kind, I also approach my multiple interests with more respect and curiosity. I look for underlying patterns between the things I am interested in and know that to be happy I must do what I love.
How wonderful when we can give ourselves permission to do what we love, and not be wracked with guilt about being ‘selfish’ because we realize that people doing what they love benefits us all.
I went on to train to become a coach with Barbara Sher. This was face-to-face training over five modules all held in Germany! Geez, that was a lesson in following my instincts to do what I love even if it ‘makes no sense’. Since then I have been honoured to work with amazing multipassionate people around the world as they take steps to bring their dream projects into being.
What this insight into my personality has mostly given me is lightness in holding onto whatever it is I’m working on now. So for example, while my creative life at the moment looks like being an art therapist and coach, I no longer define myself entirely by my roles. Instead, I give myself permission to always be learning about how I can contribute my skills in the world, and what configuration of work feels good to me. I know that this will change over time, and I am less attached to having a CV that ‘makes sense’ to others than I am committed to listening to my inner voice, my curiosity and my fascination to see what might be the next thing for me.
What is wholehearted to me?
Becoming more wholehearted has been about embracing my softer side, my fearful side, the side that needs rest and can’t always ‘produce’, my intuitive and heart connected side.
It has been about living through and beyond perfectionism, overwork and burnout. It has been about creating a more gentle and caring way of working that plays to my gifts not just my skills.
In some ways, it has been about letting go of control and being okay with not knowing how the river of my work and life will meander. As a keen gardener, I like to imagine my life as a creative garden, which might be replanted frequently and feature a different mix in the years to come. In part, being more wholehearted has also been about stepping back from work, and having it take up a smaller part of my life, and unhooking myself from the wheel of achievement as a primary driver.
About Jade Herriman
Jade Herriman (Dip TAT, BSc and MSocSci) is a creative business owner, art therapist, artist and certified Barbara Sher life coach based in the Inner West of Sydney. She loves using art therapy and coaching to help people see themselves and their situations in new ways, and helping others create, connect and work towards their dreams. For more information, go to www.jadeherriman.com
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