It took me a long time to make any sense at all of what happens when something is inspired in me. It may be that this is blindingly obvious to everyone else, but having never seen anyone else talking about it, I suspect not.
For me, there’s not much difference between falling in love and being inspired – each tends to cause the other anyway. When I’m not knotted up with fear, I love fairly easily and with an open heart. I’ve learned not to show this, having discovered, and tested the discovery repeatedly, that this is not something most people want to have to deal with. Just occasionally I find someone for whom my open hearted inspired response does not seem threatening or troublesome. I’m exceeding blessed in a husband who delights in how I am – and does not require that to be entirely focused on him.
The experience of love/inspiration for me is one of intense emotion and richness. I feel at my most whole, my most present and alive when really caught up in this. As a creative person, I depend on that rush of inspiration, and am lost without it. For a long time, I saw all of that emotional response as belonging to the person who caused it. They were the muse, and quite often the unobtainable beloved so popular with angsty poets… I experienced it as being because of the other person, which meant that without their blessing, permission, response… that vital flow of inspiration could be lost.
Half a dozen years ago or so, it finally dawned on me that what I feel is fundamentally mine. It usually is inspired by something or someone external to me, but the flow, the capacity, the intensity and everything I can do with all of that, is mine. It’s not conditional on what the object of my love, the source of my inspiration does in response to me. Obviously it’s nice to find my intensity is acceptable, but in some ways it doesn’t matter at all if it isn’t.
From this recognition I was able to make some big changes in my relationship with reality. In the past three or so years, I’ve become more able to love landscape, and skies. It took me a while to learn how to do it and how to be comfortable with it, resulting in an epic and sustained love affair with the landscape around Stroud. I can love other people’s creativity, and not find that problematic any more. In seeing this as something intrinsic to me, not coming to me from outside, I think I’ve also become better at hiding it, which probably makes me easier to be around. There will be an ongoing process of finding out who doesn’t need me to hide.
Love and inspiration are intense, consuming experiences. When it seems that both are due to something external, it’s easy to feel powerless in face of them. I’ve found this holds true for all aspects of passion and desire. Hate functions in the same way – it seems to be about what’s on the outside, but the force of the feeling comes from within, the shape of it fundamentally belongs to the person experiencing it, not to the outside presence sparking it. This is why it’s not a valid excuse to say ‘he made me angry’ or ‘he made me want him’ when explaining violent behaviour – and all too often this is exactly what happens.
If we want, if we hate, if we feel fear or love or anything else, that’s on the inside. In owning that, all kinds of other things become possible. It’s certainly changed my relationship with my own emotions. It gives me more space to own how I’m feeling and to recognise it as my own, but also to separate it off from external reality. Just because I love does not mean the other person is doing something that entitles me to expect anything. Just because I am enraged does not mean the other person has done something to truly justify that. This is not a mindfulness approach to emotion, I’m not trying to see the emotion as some transient thing to hold lightly and let go of – the effect is the opposite – of bringing my emotional responses more deeply into my sense of self. What it gives me is full ownership, and full responsibility.