Artist's Way,  MidLife

The Artist’s Way for Midlife – FAITH

I am currently working my way through Julia Cameron’s newest Artist’s Way series, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – a program specifically targeted to help those in midlife discover creativity and meaning.

This week I focused on chapter twelve: Reigniting a Sense of Faith.

I continue to follow the four cornerstones of the program:

  • Daily hand-written Morning Pages (wrote 6 out of 7 days)
  • Weekly solo Artist Dates (I went clothes shopping and actually bought a new back-to-school outfit!)
  • Two 20-minute solo walks per week (walking the basset… AND averaged over 7,000 steps a day)
  • Ten weekly Memoir prompts (this week focusing on ages 56-58.5)

I can’t believe this is the final chapter of the book.

On the one hand, I feel as though I am saying goodbye to a dear friend. Julia and I have spent over three months together and shared many in-depth conversations. She helped me view my life from a different perspective. She told me to let go of old mental tapes that were holding me back from becoming a better version of myself. Julia taught me the value of taking baby steps, lowering expectations, and allowing myself to fail in the name of fun.

On the other hand, I know Julia is now a part of me. These lessons will continue to guide me through midlife. And when I need a word of encouragement, her wisdom and companionship are as close as my bookshelf.

The final list of memoir questions, which brought us to the present-day, included:

  1. Describe major relationships during this period of life.
  2. Where did you live?
  3. What were the major changes during this time period?
  4. Describe a time when you felt guided during this period.
  5. Looking back at your memoir, do you see the hand of guidance?
  6. Do you have a sense of purpose or calling now?
  7. What one thing did you see in your memoir you can now appreciate about yourself?
  8. What patterns do you now see, related to your creativity, as you look back on life?
  9. What other memories seem significant?
  10. What would you like to do next?

Three months ago, when I first glanced at the weekly titles, I wondered why the final chapter focused on faith. It did not seem a logical follow-up to the previous chapters: Reigniting a Sense of Vitality or Adventure. But now that I have completed the 12-step program, I understand. FAITH is what makes life worth living. FAITH helps us to persevere even when times are tough. FAITH is knowing that taking one baby step will lead to another – and another – and another.

Julia talks a lot about faith in a higher power. My faith rests in Jesus Christ. For others, faith may rest in God, Allah, Buddha or Mother Earth. The most valuable lesson I learned over this summer, however, is that it is faith in this higher power that enables me to have faith in myself.

I shared a few weeks ago the major breakthrough moment I had regarding Baby Steps.

Actually, acknowledging the value of baby steps (vs. giant leaps) was only half the breakthrough.

The other half – the most important half – involved this idea of Faith.

As a Christian, I know Jesus died for my sins. I’ve known that since the day I was born. It was drilled into me throughout my parochial school years: we are all sinners and in need of a savior.

But I am a “good” girl. I strive to follow the rules. I’m constantly accepting responsibility for any infraction of the law – and asking for forgiveness.

At the same time, I am also a perfectionist. Practice makes Perfect was the battle cry in our household. In second grade I learned the motto: Good, Better, Best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better. And until your better is best.

I lived by these axioms. But the harder I worked, the more exhausted I became. I never seemed to get ahead. And all this striving led to low self-esteem and a sense of never being good enough.

Then one day someone told me that self-deprecation is unflattering. That false modesty is pride in disguise. What?! I was working so hard to earn the Lord’s favor only to learn my low self-confidence is a deadly sin? I was damned no matter what.

Where is the Good News in that?!

But here’s what I discovered: Christ not only died for my sins, he died for my insecurities.

Christ does not want me to live with low self-esteem. He wants me to live with confidence that I can do all through Him.

Christ does not want me to be a slave to my inner critic. He wants me to release that stronghold and set me free from her cruel lies.

Christ does not want me to live in fear of failure. He wants me to trust Him. And that requires taking baby steps of faith.

He has gifted me with talents. He has gifted ALL of us with talents. But he doesn’t want us to bury those talents in the sand. He wants us to use them to the limit. He doesn’t want us to play it safe. He wants us to take risks and be vulnerable. He isn’t looking for perfection from us, only a willingness to try and trust.

So while I am sad to complete this Artist’s Way program – and blog series – I am excited to see what is in store for me next. No, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, and in some respects, I feel as though life is just beginning.

21 Comments

  • Pat

    Molly, It was wonderful following your journey through the book. I’ve started and will continue my own. I pulled some pictures today to try and stimulate some early memories. I believe some of this will help me identify some of the deeper beliefs that are holding me back.

    I too am a perfectionist. And I too have always been the “good girl”. I actually asked an old high school friend that I still keep in honor touch with – what did I want to do/be back in high school? I could totally tell her what she wanted! And her response… you wanted to be a good girl. Yup. It was my role in the family, my role in school. I met or exceeded expectations my whole life. I fear new things/change because I might not meet expectations.

    I find it interesting your comment about “He isn’t looking for perfection from us, only a willingness to try and trust.” Not perfection. Not being “good” all the time. Lots to think about!

    • Molly Totoro

      I’m so glad you are also enjoying the book at your own pace, Pat! It is quite interesting what those small prompts help us discover about ourselves: what we want to cultivate and what we need to let go. I also fear change because of unrealized expectations … not others’ expectations but my own. Maybe that should be my Artist Day this week… do something I’ve never done before just because 🙂

  • 1010ParkPlace

    I’ve been a Christian all my life, but it wasn’t until 20 years ago that I started going to church and really understanding grace versus works. Unlike you, it wasn’t drilled into me from a young age, but standing in the light of Christ and all that’s been sacrificed for me is a new awakening, and I’m grateful. Like you and Pat, I was the good girl who wanted to be perfect but not for Him, but for me. Now I’ve lowered my standards… maybe it’s age… I’m not sure, but I know I’ve always been far from perfect, and so I thank Him for His grace. Brenda #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      I wonder if it is particularly difficult for perfectionists to understand Grace? It seems to be a theme here in the comments and I know for me, Grace is SO difficult to accept. I need to earn favor (gold stars). But the satisfaction of a gold star is not long-lasting. And then I am back on the performance treadmill again. There is rest in Grace. And at this stage of life, I am in need of rest 🙂 And we are all are in need of Grace. Thank you for joining the conversation, Brenda!

  • Kathleen - Bloggers Lifestyle

    Molly, this sounds like a motivating book, taking you forward step by step,
    Faith and hope go hand in hand and your hope is in a good place. It just seems that particularly younger people have grown up without knowing hope and purpose. It is so good that the older we get we sometimes discover that creative outlet which seems to be the theme of the book.
    Kathleen

    • Molly Totoro

      That is exactly the theme of the book, Kathleen 🙂
      I’ve done a bit of research on faith, hope, and expectations. I think my issue for most of life has been a focus on expectations (working toward a fixed outcome) rather than hope (trusting that things will work out). And I suppose if I were honest, expectations are more dependent upon me whereas hope is more dependent upon a higher power. It is, in essence, a lack of faith that keeps me focused on unrealistic expectations. A very exhausting way to live. BUT… I’m so glad to learn this valuable lesson at this point in life. Thanks so much for sharing in this conversation!

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

    Molly I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better through your Artist’s Way posts and to see how you think and process the challenges each week. The faith one is big for me too, my DIL asked what book I was studying to deepen my faith and I had to say that I’ve stopped reading “auxillary” stuff lately and I’m more focused on just living my faith authentically (the ‘what would Jesus do?’ approach). I’m going easier on myself these days – less faith by works and more of the grace of God for me – it such a better way to live! #MLSTL 🙂

  • Mary Lou

    This was a wonderful series of blog posts Mollie! I think we’ve all grown along with you week by week. For me during my years 56-58 I really took a look at my faith (both childhood upbringing and my inner faith) and I came to a similar conclusion ~ Amazing Grace. Your quote says it all ~ “Julia talks a lot about faith in a higher power. My faith rests in Jesus Christ. For others, faith may rest in God, Allah, Buddha or Mother Earth. The most valuable lesson I learned over this summer, however, is that it is faith in this higher power that enables me to have faith in myself.” I’m sharing once again on my social media for #MLSTL
    http://www.meinthemiddlewrites.com

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you for joining me on the Artist’s Way journey, Mary Lou! I enjoyed meeting so many new #mlstl people with similar thoughts and experiences 🙂 I’m excited to see where the next blog series will take me.

  • Donna

    Hi, Molly – I too have greatly enjoyed following along with you on your journey through The Artist’s Way. I look forward to seeing where it takes your from here.

  • Trisha Faye

    I loved your thoughts and reflections on this book. I’d gone through one of her earlier books, about 20 years ago. I’m fascinated by what you shared about this book. I’m going to check it out. I think I need to re-ignite some Julia in my life. Thanks for a great post!
    sharing for MLSTL.

    • Molly Totoro

      Thanks for visiting, Trisha! I have also read other Julia Cameron books and while each repeats basic information, I do find they all provide useful information to help me grow as a creative.

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    Molly – I’ve totally appreciated getting to know you through this series – and our ‘accountability’ texts! As I read your childhood experience around ‘practice makes perfect’, I can’t help but get peeved at the many twisted ways God is presented to children through parents, teachers, ministers, etc. I hope that you have found peace through this journey of The Artist’s Way – and remember that you are no more than you are in the eyes of God, but also NO LESS.

    • Molly Totoro

      I am also thrilled that this blog series brought us together as accountability partners, Janet! I appreciate your empathy towards my “practice makes perfect” plight, and I love your wise words: I am no more neither am I no less in the eyes of God.

  • Kay

    Molly, I think this may have been your best post yet in this series. I’ll be sorry to see it end, but I’m so happy that you’ve discovered things about yourself and learning to accept ‘grace’ is so important. I could have put myself in your shoes over and over again. You and I share many tendencies and paths and ways of coping. I’m still learning and have to remind myself over and over about certain lessons, but I guess that’s just life and living it. The part where we are not going to be perfect, no matter what. There was only one perfect person and He shared His perfection with us, right? Jesus covers it all.

    I’ll look forward to whatever you’ll be sharing with us after this point. I do hope to study this book at some point, but I’m giving myself a little ‘grace’ on the starting time. I think you could probably teach a workshop on these topics from what I’ve read of your thoughts. Good for you! Know that you can always reach out to me by email privately if you need to talk to someone. I want you to know that there is a person who cares and who would listen and understand – just a little further south of you. Ha! God bless and keep you. You know, in Hebrews 13:5, God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. We are never alone. Big hugs!

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Kay… thank you SO much for your encouragement and online friendship. How I wish we lived closer. I can see us meeting on a regular basis at our favorite coffee shop. We’d share a beverage and discuss life, books, and thoughtful ramblings. Perhaps someday I will make it to central Texas and we can finally meet in person. Of course, you are always welcome in Kansas anytime 🙂

  • Leslie Clingan

    Oh, I don’t even want to think about getting to the last chapter and finishing this work. But I like how you reflected on completing this book. That in some way your life is just beginning. Will be eager to follow along as you continue to use your talents to enrich your life. I agree, God gave us all talents and He wants us to put them to good use and to be confident in our abilities. I struggle with self confidence but through Cameron’s book, I am stretching and doing more of the things I love to do with less self-doubt.

    • Molly Totoro

      We seem to have a lot in common, Leslie!

      While I finished Julia’s book, I know this will not be the last time I read it. This is the kind of program I can complete every 12-18 months and still learn something new about my life.

  • Miriam

    Hi Molly, so wonderful to meet you here, via your post on Sue’s blog. I can already tell that I’m going to resonate with you and your writing. Really enjoyed this post. I worked through the Artists Way quite a few years ago and it literally changed the course of my life, steering me into a new direction. I wish you well as you complete it and you continue on your journey. We only live once. Warmest wishes to you from Melbourne.

    • Molly Totoro

      Miriam… thank you SO much for stopping by! I look forward to getting to know you better through this vibrant #mlstl community.

      You are right… We only live once, and I look forward to living abundantly in this final third act 🙂

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