post congregation syndrome & what does Father’s day have to do with it?

Last week I was freshly invigorated from the World Domination Summit and felt no choice in writing about it. I think most of the bloggers that attended did as well. Having an experience that makes us feel truly connected to another person is the best stuff life gives us, and when that happens in a group of 500+ it is transcendental. But what do we do with that after the fact?

I am choosing to call this “post congregation syndrome” in reference to Tara’s WDS experience and embracing of the word “CONGREGATION.” Whether it’s an intense meeting with a new friend or 500 of them, we all get a high from these experiences that tends to diminish when we get back to “real life.” But I am questioning, “Why?” Perhaps we can learn to keep the connection alive and transcend real life every weekend, even every day.

Perhaps that’s what REAL LIFE is.

This brings me to Father’s Day. I have not said Happy Father’s Day to my own father for 40 years, and I have not often acknowledged that. Ironically, WDS not only got me connected to a ton of amazing people in person, but made me think about my dad…a lot. After 40 years and never having known him as an adult I had lost sight of any connection to him, at least in terms of what I do now.  At WDS I was reminded that everything that made it right for me was from my dad. So, this Father’s Day I am honoring my father. That’s him up there in his High School yearbook.

My father, RCM, Richard Charles Michael III, would have loved WDS. He was the one that taught me to be a nonconformist, and I have spent my life doing that, but only half way. Attending WDS gave me the edge to do so completely. The best advice my Father gave me was :

“Whatever you do don’t become a teacher.”

He did not mean don’t be a leader, or don’t teach, but specifically don’t become a public school teacher. In the late 60s, as an art teacher in public schools, he could see that this was not an institution that encouraged or respected creative thinking or nonconformity. In the year before his suicide he quit teaching and left my mother and me to go be an artist. Our family blamed this on his mental illness, which is what took his life, but I knew and know that even in his sanest moments he wanted a different life. He despised our suburban cookie cutter lifestyle and wanted to teach about alternative ideas that his school did not allow. Of course he sneaked his views in and his students LOVED him, but he was not popular with the principal, or even my mother. She liked to play it safe.

Ironically, finding myself lost and lacking purpose I used my father’s story and advice to write the essay that got me into grad school for Art Education when I was the same age as my dad when he died, 39. I thought I could be different and make a difference in education. I was wrong. Had I been 25 maybe I could, but not at near 40, so I quit when I was 9 credits shy of my degree and got a taste of student teaching. I digress.

Back to WDS. I was reminded in many ways of my father’s spirit there, but a few of the speakers can say it better than I.

Neil Pasricha, who was not actually there but still present, said this:

Authenticity is about being you and being cool with that. You end up following your heart and feeling very fulfilled.

Awesome, Niel! I was teased a lot in elementary school and my dad taught me that what made me different was what made me special. He made me believe that being teased actually meant I was cooler than the kids that teased me. Awesome, Dad!

John T. Unger is probably most like my dad for real. Eclectic talent, musician, poet, visual artist, etc. and funny and wise as well. A renegade artist, I’d say, and so was RCM. John got me with this line about his customers:

We have a lot in common: I love my art, they love my art. I am a big fan of me, they are a big fan of me.

I can hear my Dad saying that and this:

We cannot violate the truth of who we are within our dreams.

I have done this. No more. I promise. The prior is about owning your value, and when we do that we can not violate our truth.

Jonathan Fields was truly amazing. He is the embodiment of living authentically and it shines from him. I believe my Dad was trying to do that and had an obstacle he could not overcome in his mental illness, but if he had lived I could imagine him saying this to me now as Jonathan did:

Consistently walk fearlessly in this deepening world of uncertainty, and create genius.

I will. I am.

This brings me back to the post congregation syndrome I started with. How to keep the fire burning now that the congregation has gone home? For me that will mean more of this. More writing from my heart and telling the stories that make me remember who I am and what I believe. My take-home word from WDS is “connection,” and staying connected is how I will maintain my mission and energy. But there are three other words that have been on my mind for some time. I wrote them on my arm, Mondo Beyondo style, today.

I was recently dissuaded from calling myself an environmental artist by someone I respect. The logic was that if I want to sell my art, labeling it environmental was narrowing the playing field too much and alienating people for whom “environmental” is a bad word. At the time I thought that sounded logical, and this person said that I could still talk about the environment on my blog and do that work elsewhere, so I tried it. It is not going to work. If I am to be true to my heart and authentic in my life and work, I am an environmental artist.

These words ART.HOPE.TRUTH are the tagline for my website, work, and life. I may actually have this tattooed!

So I ask you, readers, what words express your mission in life?

What wisdom comes from your father or another mentor that reminds you who you are?

In what ways do you transcend “real life” and shine?

Happy Father’s Day, RCM! I love you.

15 thoughts on “post congregation syndrome & what does Father’s day have to do with it?

  1. Gwyn,

    Great post, so full of interesting ideas to compemplate. I, too have been going through a searching, re-discovering phase so I appreciate your weekly conversation starters. BTW I like the title Environmental Artist — maybe that’s because it is a “positive” word for me.

    My words:
    Wonder — Truth — Journey — Stories

    My Dad, also a HS teacher, also advised me not to become a teacher. He felt the profession was changing and it was becoming harder to Teach. But he loved his summers off and spent them puttering around the yard and sailing on his boat. He was a laid back guy who taught me to be kind and generous to people and to enjoy the quiet parts of life.

    Thanks, Maureen

    1. Glad to hear environment is a positive word for you! Yes, I suppose your Dad was in the same boat as mine. Frustrating when you are called to teach and the system crushes it.
      Love your words too. Journey is of course why most of us are here.

  2. Fall down seven times, get up eight. And smile.

    All my life I have hated being described as “cute” and “bubbly.” Ugh. While “cute” remains in the eye of the beholder (thank goodness) I cannot NOT be bubbly. Depression, self mutilation, eating disorders, divorce and still I talk too much, laugh too loud, and look forward to today. I hope I help other people do the same.

    Great post, Gwynn.

    1. Interesting how we learn about each other in this format. Your list of negatives is the same as mine barring divorce and I almost did that. Still I too am an eternal optimist and I am so glad for that. I don’t think I’d be described as bubbly but definitely positive.

      Thanks!

  3. What a beautiful post and story about your dad. I say call yourself what you want! If environmental artist speaks to you, then use it. If someone has a negative view of the word “environmental” then you probably don’t want her/him as your customer anyway.

    My words are inspire, hope and create. My dad is my cheerleader and stands behind whatever I do. He gives me ideas for my art (I don’t always use them) and has never dissuaded me from making a living with art.

    1. Thanks Lisa! I always love it when your name pops up.

      I agree I will call myself what feels right. As you know making a living as an artist is tough so I was getting derailed by advice that may have made me more money but would kill my passion. Not worth it!

      So glad you have a Dad that does that for you. I imagine mine cheering me on.

  4. First of all, it was so interesting to read more about your father!

    Second, I think those words would make a perfect tattoo.

    Third, forth, etc…

    I’m really glad you are sticking with your identity as an environmental artist. You posted something about the shift away from that a bit ago and I wondered where it would lead. I’m glad you’re back!

    Many people say “do what you love and the money will follow” and I don’t think that’s universally true (though it is true sometimes). But I do believe that if you do what you love AMAZING THINGS will follow and there are ways to craft a life around those amazing things (and people). I’ll choose those amazing things and take my chances. :)

  5. Always glad to see your name pop up too Emma!!!

    I love what you say about the amazing things vs the money and I agree. There are many ways to make the money but following your heart can’t be compromised.

  6. I’ve been grappling with these same questions since returning home (and am also considering getting a tattoo!). Skype dates…lots of skype dates. :)

  7. Gwyn,

    For me, connection is energy. Connection is what gets me up in the morning.

    I know that longing to maintain connections.

    My words = health/harmony/creativity.

    Enjoyed your post. I like “Environmental Artist.”

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