This morning, before I opened my eyes, I was brought back to a moment from my past that was a pivotal way in which I met my life. It was a question my mentor Ruth posed to me: "Are you a technician or an artist, with your life?" At the time, it seemed like a simple or benign question. As the years passed, I realized that it was so much more than that. Ruth's question was an invitation to cultivate mindful intentionality in every aspect of my life. It was a call to actively choose the way I live my values and how I show up for myself and others. As someone who struggled with codependency, this journey toward living as an artist would also become a vital part of my recovery.
At first glance, the term "technician" might sound appealing. It implies skill and expertise in a particular field. However, when applied to the way we live our lives, it takes on a different connotation. Living as a technician means going through life without much thought, simply following the steps laid out before us. It's an existence marked by mindlessness and passivity, where we float from one experience to another, never really engaging with the world or ourselves. In the context of codependency, this approach can manifest as an unhealthy reliance on others for validation, support, and direction. My friend Ari calls this being a kind of "Pack mule," instead of being an "Actual person."
In contrast, the artist's approach to life is characterized by mindful intentionality. Artists create... observe... reflect... and express. For a true artist, life is a kind of lab to explore, instead of being trapped as a lab rat, being poked and prodded until we're dead. Artists actively engage with their experiences and strive to make sense of the world around them. Living as an artist means recognizing the beauty and meaning in every moment and actively choosing how to respond to each situation. For those recovering from codependency like myself, this shift in perspective can be transformative, empowering them to establish healthier relationships and a stronger sense of self.
When Ruth first asked me if I was a technician or an artist, I realized that I had been living my life as the former. I was simply going through the motions, allowing life to happen to me rather than actively shaping my experiences.
My codependency was a symptom of this passive existence, as I relied on others to define my worth and make decisions for me. Ruth's question ignited a spark within me, inspiring me to make a change. From the point I'd met Ruth and had our first discussion in 2013, I fully realized that I was going to have to dig a little deeper to unearth my inward treasure. I had to get honest with myself and admit despite my years of clean time in recovery, there was something that I definitely... and at times defiantly was missing.
I began to apply my practice of mindful awareness and mindful action toward addressing codependency, in a new way. I was in the lab of self-study; experimenting... feeling... exploring... noticing results... updating... revising... toward a deeper sense of authenticity and integrity with my values. I began focusing on being present and aware of thoughts and feelings arising, and how they played through my actions.
I started to view each day as a blank canvas, an opportunity to create something beautiful and meaningful. As I embraced the artist's way of living, I discovered that I was not only more in tune with my values, but I was also better able to show up for myself and others, with a sense of persistent internal calmness, instead of contracting in the face of difficult moments with people. This shift in perspective played a crucial role in my recovery from codependency, as I learned to trust my own instincts and establish boundaries in my relationships; based on my values.
As I've continued on this path, I've found that living as an artist means constantly refining my purpose and aligning my actions with my values. It's about consciously making choices that reflect who I am and who I want to Be, in this moment, not some other moment at a future date and time. This intentional way of living has allowed me to forge deeper connections with others, pursue my passions, and ultimately, create a life that I get to feel as authentic and fulfilling. Moreover, it has played an essential role in my recovery from codependency, providing me with the tools to cultivate healthier relationships and a stronger sense of self-worth.
And so... Ruth's question -- "Are you a technician or an artist, with your life?" -- was the catalyst that transformed my approach to life and played a significant role in my recovery from codependency, influencing the quality of my healing from active addiction. In the places I travel, this is known as a "Double winner." It encouraged me to move from a passive existence to one filled with mindful intentionality. As I continue to embrace the art of living, I am reminded of the importance of being an active participant in my own story, nurturing my own well-being, and fostering healthy connections with others.
So, I invite you to ask yourself the same question: are you a technician or an artist, with your life? The choice is yours, and the possibilities are endless. Whether on a journey of self-discovery, recovery, or simply seeking to live a more intentional life, embracing the artist's way can lead to profound personal growth and a deeper understanding of the world around us.
一Dignity and Grace