One of the hardest lessons I have as a creative being is learning to stay. Stay with not knowing how I want to work on something. Stay with the first (and second, and third) mistake I make, sitting with it until I understand it, forgive myself, and solve the problem of how to move on productively.
I don’t want to sit and stay. I want to run. From disappointment, fear, sadness, feeling stupid, feeling helpless. The harder I run, the longer the legs of what I am running from.
Finally, I sit, exhausted, on a rock in the path of my journey. My emotion sits down next to me. I don’t want it to. I want it to go on down the road, disappear. I want to be without that emotion, to replace it with knowing, feeling smart, in control. I also know that doesn’t work. Control doesn’t come from running from, it comes from staying. Controlling myself first.
When I stay with the emotion, when I lean into it, I can feel the shape it takes. I don’t have to know or to solve, or to prove. Just sitting with the emotion is enough. When I have learned what I need to learn, the emotion will drop back down into place, into a size I can recognize. I might not love it, but the urge to run will fade.
Learning to stay is a hard job. Even smart dogs will want to move, to leave, to run. “Sit!” we train them. “Stay!” And the dogs trust us because they will be released and rewarded. And so will we.
—Quinn McDonald is staying, but not loving it.