open or closed?

Mom and I often talked about passion – while driving cross-country through the southern U.S., while sitting in her tiny living room (decorated in purples and reds) when she lived near me for a while in Vancouver, many times on the phone. She yearned for passion, but it eluded her all her life.

Mom’s activities would fool you into thinking she was passionate. For example, she started a two-year college program at the age of 71, receiving certification as a production weaver, turning out astonishing art pieces combining poetry, marbled paper, and weaving, but what was missing for her was the feeling of being motivated by passion. She tried to reverse-engineer passion by engaging in activities she thought might spark it – to no avail. Why couldn’t she find that feeling that would light her up from inside and keep her lit?

There’s a flip side.

Mom was afraid to confront her fears. She wanted the passion without the pain. She wanted to open to the positive feelings, but not “the other stuff,” the part of living that includes feeling afraid and pushing through.


Passion is a feeling. We can’t open only to the good feelings. Either we’re open to feelings or we’re not. If we close up whenever a challenging or “bad” feeling comes along, our art suffers. Feeling is how we recognize and bring forth what’s true and real when we’re writing and creating.

Our first audience is ourselves. Don’t we deserve the inspiration that arises from stepping into the open and gesturing our fears forward so we can transform them into information and strength?

What do you fear? What’s going to change if you don’t look that fear right in the eye and come to grips with it? What does fear keep you from being? What are you waiting for? Don’t wait too long, okay? Don’t wait for someone else to remember what you could have done.

I offer Mom’s story (or, rather, my view of her story) to you in case it’s helpful, in case you need it as encouragement, to help you connect with a fiery, joyous energy source that warms you and makes you luminous. I offer this story alongside an imaginary memory of my mother lit up from inside, beaming at me, talking fast and waving her hands, eager to tell me all about it.


Related reading: dying words, interview | nan


11 comments to open or closed?

  • I really enjoyed reading this succinct, touching, insightful posting. You have captured and communicated a major concept rarely discussed from this angle. This is one I’m printing out and keeping nearby! Thank you for it.

    • Oh – and I’ll also post it to my Facebook page!

    • I’m glad you found this helpful, Meredith. I see from your website that you’re a kindred spirit when it comes to books and the written word. I love this bit on your About page: “I memorized Chicago Press’s A Manual of Style and took to proofreading like a hippie to dope.”

  • Melissa Frykman-Thieme

    Thanks for bringing up passion, Ms Grace.
    The one message my father sent me over and over as a teenager, was that passion is the center of life. It’s the place from which all creativity flows. Passion and creativity were my family’s values.

    Having survived some life and death heart disease scenarios, I now realize that the feeling of one’s feelings (versus the stifling of ones feelings) allows for passion to develop, for light to break through, for creativity to find wings. I actually bless my heart disease for bringing me to myself. This life is NOT a practice for something else coming up. As the Incredible String Band once sang: “This moment is different from any before it, Each moment is different, it’s NOW. And if I don’t kiss you, that kiss goes untasted, I’ll never, no-never get it back…”
    Noticing that my life lacked passion, at one point, I used to cruise the stacks at my local library and book stores, looking for subjects to jump of the shelf at me. I brought home books about goat husbandry, weaving, autobiographies of Yogis–they were all interesting, but not IT. I felt disabled by my lack of luster.
    My passion arrived in the mail one day, addressed to “Resident.” It was a brochure for children’s art and music classes. The harp class grabbed me. I called– would they let me just sit and observe?? No, but they would give me a free ‘getting to know the harp’ lesson. That’s all she wrote.
    That instrument became my portkey to passion. The passion I feel and am when playing my harp is like none other. Oh, I could go on and on. I wish I could include my music in this note.
    Thanks so much, Grace, for inviting and igniting passion in me, too. You are a wonderful rich source of passion-igniting visions, images, words.
    I remember your Mom very fondly, even from only having met her once at your wedding party weekend. It was so good to find out where and who you came from. I was not disappointed.

    • Melissa, your comment essays are always an educational pleasure. Thanks for offering all these juicy nuggets, like your stories about finding feelings and passion/s (I seem to remember an astonishing sequins phase). Some passions, thank god, never die. I seem to keep trawling through the same five or six passions, which I find comforting and relieving, as I don’t have to start from scratch when I reconnecct with one of them, but just pick up where I left off. I’m grateful you’re still around to regale us with pertinent song quotes, harp music, and general beingness. Love, Grace

  • Liz

    This is really helpful, and so is the comment by Andrea. I like knowing that passion also can be the process of learning or that passions can be serial. And taking the bitter with the sweet in order to keep all the emotional depths open – yes, that rings true.

  • Grace, I love this story. I find many of my clients (and I know I was guilty of this too) thought that their ‘passion’ was something to be discovered- that one thing that would make them go “Ah ha! So THIS is it!” Over time I have learned that my passion is learning…so there will never be one thing. I’ll discover something, learn all about it, and then move on. My passion lies in the discovery and exploratory mode of being – that is where I am my best and most fulfilled. My passion is something I live and create each day, not a golden nugget sitting in a corner waiting to be discovered.

    • Andrea, thanks so much for bringing up this issue of how widely defined “passion” can be. Seems like finding out what one’s passion is (or passions are) has a lot to do with simply tuning in to what’s really sparking that feeling, even when it’s not something which, by definition, is expected. Also, bless your roving topics. It’s been so fun over the years to hear about and watch you delve into things with such zeal. I know your clients (and friends) gain huge benefits from your experiences and abilities as you guide them toward fulfilling work. xoxo P.S. Thanks for being a learner buddy, too!