Yesterday we held an art show with clients from the shelter where I work. I started the program a year ago and it has had some success helping clients find their creative spirit and to recognize that they can change their lives if they express themselves in a different way.
One of the clients, M., has turned up regularly -- he's incredibly talented but alcohol has taken a toll on his life. He has been working steadily for the past few months getting his art ready for the show. On Saturday when I saw him in the art space busily finishing off one piece, he was excited about the show. Yesterday, he didn't turn up. "I've got the flu," he said, momentarily lifting his head from the table where he rested it. "I'm not coming."
One of his friends, R., who also had works in the show was angry. "I love the guy," he said. "But right now I'm really angry with him. He's not sick. He's drunk."
The show was held in a church that supports the art program . We had about fifty pieces of art to transport to the church and to set up. We needed all the help we could get, but M was not having anything to do with it. The other two artists and myself scurried about getting the job done. We did sell a few of M's pieces, but given the difference in the amount R sold, it would have been much more successful had M been there.
M's not turning up is a pattern. He's done it before. As the pressure for accountability mounts, the fear rises. Sometimes, the fear overwhelms the need to turn up and swamps it with self-defeating behaviours.
Yesterday, M's fear won.
Today is a new day.
I know that fear of turning up. I know the reality of self-sabotage. It hurts the saboteur the most.
As I was speaking with the Minister yesterday about M not being there, she said, "It is what we do to ourselves when we fear our greatness that causes the most pain."
M feared his success and stayed away. He may have told himself, why bother. He may have said, I'll just have one drink to ease my fear. He may have said, No one will miss me.
I don't know what he told himself but his actions told me a lot.
In the moment, I too shared R's anger. But mostly, I was disappointed. I know how much the show meant to M. I kn0w how hard he'd worked. I know how important his paintings are to him. And I know the incredible vitality of one moment's success and its ability to shift the paradigm of a life lived in defeat to one of hope for a new tomorrow.
And he let himself down. Let himself off the hook of responsibility.
That hurts him.
All I can do is continue to treat him with respect. He is a man who has fallen hard on the road of life. He is a man who has forgotten his greatness.
The show yesterday was a success. For those who attended, their perceptions of homelessness and the people who suffer from it were shifted. For the artists -- their belief in themselves was shifted too. They gained a new perspective of their capabilities, a new appreciation for their ability to make a difference in their own lives.
The question is: Where do you let yourself off the hook of responsibility with the excuse not doing 'it' is the only option? Where do you refuse to fly for fear you'll fall?