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Joyelle: Light My Fire

Ten years ago I created a vision statement for my life: Beacon of light.
I want to be a beacon of light, inspiring others, shining a divine presence that uplifts others. But almost immediately I came up against my biggest problem: how do you shine your light when it goes out? How can I inspire others when I am not myself inspired?

I would start out inspired, fueled with passion about a project. But inevitably, I would end up in a vicious cycle of over-extension and increasingly long periods of burnout, which only ended with the birth of my son. Finally, I had a reason to stop doing. Finally I could let go of the deep unending void that pushed me to do more. Or at least that’s what I thought. But old habits die hard. They creep back in the side door when you aren’t looking, and slowly reclaim their lost territory.

“Come on baby, light my fire,” Jim Morrison sang. But as artists and mothers, we cannot rely on someone else to come by and light our fire when the flames go out. It takes constant tending, loving attention, and most of all, a belief in our own self worth. As women, from a young age we are encouraged to place the needs of others before our own. But this is a road to disaster. This is the road to waking up one day and wondering who the hell you are and what happened to your life.

Learning how to light your own fire is not a selfish luxury, it is the most selfless thing you can do, and it could quite possibly save your life. Because if you are not living your passion, you are not yourself. You are just a hollow shell living out someone else’s life.

Deciding on your vision for your life is the beginning. But deciding on how you will live that vision is crucial. What I have learned for myself is that I need to guard my energy zealously. The phrase “no” needs to pass my lips on a regular basis. When I feel the need to give more, I need to stop and ask myself if this is really what I should be focusing on right now. I went through the burnout cycle so many times, and each time it took longer and longer for me to come back. I missed out on so much of my life, so many opportunities to live my vision, because I couldn’t listen to my own voice. I looked always to the future, thinking that if I worked hard, one day I would be happy.

I have heard the phrase “Life is a journey, not a destination” so many times, but I never really got it before. Now I am starting to understand. Every day I wake up to a new challenge. If I want to be a beacon of light, I need to start by lighting my own fire. I need to pay attention when the quiet voice inside me says “slow down.” I need to let go of limiting thinking that says I need to do it now or it will never happen. I need to believe first in myself, and then in the abundance of the universe.

But most of all, I need to know the difference between hard work and struggle. Hard work is tiring, but not depleting. Struggle is a sign that I am not in alignment with my purpose.

Slowly, I am learning. Learning to listen. Learning to tune in to what is important and tune out what is not. Every day is a new opportunity to live my life with intention, honoring my vision and lighting my own path.


Joyelle Brandt Music:
Joyelle’s blog:

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. This post really struck a chord with me. I’ve found myself in a rut for more than a year or two now and have been trying to find a way to get out. On the job front, those of you who have known me here for a while know that I’ve been trying to make a move out of adminstration over to faculty for a couple years now and am in the process of trying again now. I’ve accepted the fact that some things simply cannot be changed, i.e., I can’t simply walk away from 18.5 years invested into the Florida Retirement System, so I can’t completely break away and follow my dream. I have to find a way to fill the holes outside of the time taken up by a full-time job outside the home combined with the job of wife and mother of twins. I’ll admit it’s a challenge I’m not doing very well with.

    May 24, 2011
    • Kelly, you’re doing an AMAZING job. It’s so hard not to focus on all the things we’re *not* doing, instead of all the fabulous things we *are* doing — but there’s a middle way, and you are making it work.

      Some of us are not in a position to ditch our day jobs an follow art fulltime. And that’s OK. For now, this is what it is. The future may bring something different (as it inevitably does). I think our task is to figure out how to not feel torn in all those different directions, but instead focus on our wholeness and gratitude for being able to do the things we love while also supporting our families. It isn’t easy (as Lucinda illustrates so poignantly) but it’s all part of the life path and nothing is worse or better. It is what it is.

      Just the very fact that you work fulltime, raise twins, and maintain a creative career on the “side” is a triumph. I hope you can see that for what it is, despite the stresses of the details.

      May 26, 2011
      • Thanks Miranda. Your perspective from the outside looking in to what I do lets me know that I put up a pretty good front! I can tell you it doesn’t feel very amazing most of the time! 🙂 Right now I’m just drained and need some refresh time.

        May 26, 2011
  2. bravo, and what a wonderful post. i hear you on the saying ‘no’ thing too.

    May 24, 2011
  3. A post worth picking up for re-reading every few weeks, Joyelle. It’s amazing how things we accept as true suddenly “click” and take on a whole new depth of meaning. I’m right there with you.

    Thank you for the beauty and the inspiration.

    May 25, 2011
  4. Heather #

    Thank you Joy! That was so beautifully written. You have inspired me and I am sure others, now and on so many other occassions. I truely appreciate you and the calming wonderful spirit and energy you bring into my world. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    May 25, 2011
  5. I found this post very insightful, interesting and I was glad to read it. I am at the other end of this journey, a studio grandmother. The passion for art & creativity, always being the direction and motive in my life, took on a different role when I found myself a single parent with three children. As art was all I knew, I found that I now needed to put my passion to work. I began businesses and burned the midnight oils , making things while the children slept. I did shows, I worked at other jobs too, landscaping, house keeping, what ever I could get. All in all, we somehow made it through, being very much in line with the “wing and a prayer” mode of operation. Through all this there were times when the joy & passion for art was over shadowed by fatigue and stress and even a martyred feeling. Things often getting done out of commitment and responsibility and obligation. A year ago when I reached the age to get Social Security I made the decision that it was time that I found myself again, found that soul of a child. It would be hard, financially, etc, but it was time that allow myself to be me, the artist again, out of love, not obligation. Finding the deep inspiration, the passion and joy in life is a process of self-discovery , recreating oneself again. I find Joyell’s insight to be very accurate and wise, and can testify to many of her points, being older now. I am now trying to fulfill the calling,the calling that became a struggle over the years.
    I encourage every creative mother to find a way to nurture her creativity and art form, like another child, nurture this part of yourself for in the end it will be your truest experience in life and your strength. Let it embolden you to dare, to do and to create!
    Thank you Joyelle and Studio mothers

    May 25, 2011
    • What a beautiful comment, Lucinda! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. (And I have to add that your birdhouses are simply magical!!)

      May 26, 2011
  6. I find both Joyelle’s post coupled with Lucinda’s comment to be a beautiful balm that can be mixed to together and administered as a healing medicine for so many woman who are trying and striving and hustling to some ends that seem so elusive – especially when you have small kiddos to tend to. I will be thinking on this as I head to bed this evening.

    May 26, 2011
  7. Yes! Yes, yes, yes. SO often we doubt that our creative work has any value because it doesn’t get the laundry done or the dishes cleaned, and yet, truly it is some of the most critical work we can do. Thank you. I loved this post and the insightful comments!

    May 26, 2011
  8. Today I posted a permission slip for us all to take the time to re-charge. Here it is:

    May 30, 2011

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