Lisa Mitchell

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Transition: The Ultimate Creative Challenge

Lisa Mitchell | Jan 21, 2018 | 84 comments

I’m facing my biggest creative project ever!

I’m moving.  As in, moving my whole life.  Not just to the office next door or to the house down the street (which is what I did 7 years ago).  I’m really and truly packing everything up and sending it across 2 state lines in stacked pods on a truck bed.  There’s a ferry ride at the end which involves breathing through the flood of bliss that always comes when I see the beauty of the Puget Sound.  And there will be the cedars and Douglas firs that wait for us.  They guard our property with ancient solidity. They are home to the eagles and the other birds I have yet to meet.  I’m aware that the isolation could wreak havoc on my relationship seeking psyche from which I’ve formed my therapist identity, but since a part of me already lives there, I’m certain this new life is what I want.

That’s right, my husband and I are packing up our lives here in Sacramento and moving to an island in the Puget Sound.  It sounds crazy and romantic and cliché.  We are those people.  Those people who have decided to get out of the bad air and the concrete and the cars and the speed of life as we know it and move to a farm.  The original idea came from our need to save my husband’s lungs (the Sacramento ozone is literally killing him).  Now, I’ve come to look at it as saving our hearts and our minds—our souls.

Artists know how to stay in the creative process

Every artist has had moments like this.  When the painting or the work is coming along just fine.  The art is developing.  Painting or writing feels good and productive, even exciting.  And then, BAM!—out of nowhere the realization that “this art sucks” flashes without warning.  The artist knows how to work with this.  She knows she can’t ignore the realization so she stays in the process because bad paintings and bad writing are necessary.  She works with it—dedicated, committed.  She doesn’t give in to the doubts that start to nag, “This isn’t working.  This sucks.”  If she hangs in there she can claw her way back to the work and find the path it wants.  She can add the background color that was missing or take out that middle chapter.  She can breathe a sigh of relief and give a head nod to the meat grinding way with which the creative process, her handler, works.

This isn’t what happened to me this last time around.  You see, my business has been the most beautiful work of art.  For the last 25 years, it has asked me to add and change.  From agency work to private practice, to consulting, to teaching, to writing—it’s challenged me develop the art—to stick with it in the most flexible and creative way possible.  And it’s been successful. A wildly successful, beautiful work of art.

Sometimes you have to say, “This really isn’t working.”

When I think of the artist and the flexible commitment that is required to navigate her creation it’s no big deal.  I’ve taught this.  I’ve practiced this.  I’ve lectured this.  I’ve written it.  I’ve woven this idea into every therapy session I’ve ever facilitated.  And, yet.  This shit is tough.  Because sometimes you just have to say, “This really isn’t working.”  And then it isn’t a matter of just changing your background or getting rid of a bad chapter.  You have to start a whole different painting.  Or write a novel instead of that memoir.  Or, in my case, buy a farm and begin a new life.  When this happens, you are in the unknown—back at the starting point.  Which is where our move to Whidbey Island comes in.

I’m doing my best to stay awake during this big transition.  Despite my intimate knowledge of the creative process, I find times like this are nearly intolerable.  When the in-between, in-process, unfinished is at its peak, we have to live in the unknown and stew in the unresolved. This doesn’t come as second nature to me.  Truth is, I find it easier to deal with tragedy than transition.  I’m a veteran when it comes to suffering.  I know about pain—my own and my clients’.  The only thing to know about the unknown is that it is, in fact unknown.

What’s ahead for me?  I don’t really know!

Which is where this blog post started.  I am moving.  Not just physically, but professionally, too.  I am trying to navigate this big shift in the most creative way possible.  But it is freaky and scary and so, so exciting.  I don’t know much about what is to come professionally. However, I do know that writing and painting my way through the transition will be key.  I want to share it with you because I know it might be helpful, maybe even inspiring, to some of you.

An Invitation for YOU

So, I guess this is really an announcement and an invitation all in one. I can’t make teaching about art in therapy my main focus right now.  I have to step away from that role as I know it.  There is more to come, but I won’t know what it is until I make the transition.  I do want to invite you to come with me as I step into this HandCrafted Life.  I will be using art and my hands and my writing to get through which will undoubtedly lead to great art invitations and inspiration.  Will you stick around and read and comment on the process of dismantling my beautiful work of art?  Will you walk with me as I reflect on the process of closing a 15-year private practice and shift away from my “therapist” identity? I recognize that for some of you, this is NOT why you are here.  That’s okay.  I understand.  There are a lot of goodbyes I have to endure in the next 6 months.

For those of you who stay, who want to witness and share in a Big Story kind of creative process—I promise I will give you what I wish I could find myself.  Which, simply stated, the story of a successful therapist retiring her practice and diving head first into a HandCrafted Life.

84 responses to “Transition: The Ultimate Creative Challenge”

  1. Meg Beshey says:

    Good for you both of you! My friends just moved to Elk Grove recently so anxious to hear their thoughts on being out there

  2. Nancy says:

    Looking forward to hearing about your transformation. I’m going to retire at the end of the year and as you have seen, many transitions in my own life these past couple of year. Let us journey together separately my friend

  3. Vikki Ziskin says:

    This is absolutely the most exciting invitation yet Lisa, an honor to walk with you anytime!

  4. Sheryl Redburn says:

    Good luck on your transitional journey. I hope it all goes well.
    Your message I got closer to my neck of the woods! So if you ever have classes in your new home area, I could attend.

  5. Courtney Armstrong says:

    So excited for you, Lisa! Scary to make big changes– but you must follow the muse in your heart. Puget Sound is one of the most beautiful places earth. Sending you much love and would be honored to walk beside you on this journey & can’t wait to see how this HandCrafted Life unfolds. xoxo

  6. Lyla Tyler says:

    Oh my friend! I am happy and excited for you but our community is loosing one of its best! I will miss you dearly

    • Lisa Mitchell says:

      Lyla, Thank you so much. Compliments like this, coming from you, mean so much. Our paths seem to cross over and over again. I hope it continues that way!

  7. Robyn Becker says:

    Thank you for sharing.
    You are a great teacher, on many levels.
    We need role models and mentors in this crazy world; good ones are hard to find.
    Your post has helped me to understand myself a little more.
    Your light shines bright in our world!

  8. Eileen Keaveny says:

    I’m so happy for you as you transition to this new place, with your feet, your head, your heart and your art. The joy you’ll find in Transition is so worth the scariness and the unknown. Breathe it all in and exhale into the beauty and openness. Namaste and grateful friendship.

  9. Ari-Asha says:

    Breathing in. Breathing out. Repeat as necessary. Thinking of you in this time!

  10. Meli says:

    I so happy for you to be able to leave the concrete and move to the “woods”! Your knowledge and insperation will be missed. You have been one od my greatest sources of inspiration and I incouragment these past few years since I met you at a small training in Roanoke VA! Thank you for being a wonderful guide! Being a third culture kid I find transitions hard but they bring so much more to life in the end! I will be transitioning with you! As you head out I am heading into privet practice and it is scary!!! Good luck on your new adventure!

    • Lisa Mitchell says:

      Meli, You are a treasure and your practice is going to be wonderful. So happy for you. Knowing you are doing a brave transition too is wonderful for my courage!

  11. Beth Tieszen says:

    woohoo! I hear a song coming on. . .won’t you be my neighbor? You will be my neighbor! Blessings on this journey!

  12. Molly McCoy says:

    I can’t wait to see what you discover, Lisa! It will be a pleasure to walk with you ….

  13. Ruth Michelson says:

    I’m so pleased you are taking this big step to improve yours and your husband’s life. Of course we will miss you terribly, but, I feel fortunate to have learned from you during the time our lives intersected. Go bravely into the big unknown… you’ll land on your feet, because that’s who you are, and you’ll have great adventures ahead.

  14. Wow Lisa, we went through something similar 2 years ago and left Sac for Sonoma County. Not nearly as far away, but the feelings are the same. I closed my private practice in Sac after 15 years, not sure what would happen. Although I didn’t leave behind my therapist identity, much to my surprise the professional transition happened quickly and rather easily.

    The rest of the transition? The hardest I’ve ever been through, just now coming out on the other side. And the October wildfires intensified everything.

    But do you remember Eric Maisel talking about devotion vs. dedication in your CreateFest interview? That really stayed with me, that this transition has required devotion rather than discipline on my part. That has been my way through, and to finally get used to the truth that how I think something will go probably won’t go that way.

    Wishing you the very best for this next chapter. And I’m so glad I’m in your Beyond Words class right now!

    • Lisa Mitchell says:

      Patty, This is such a great reminder. Thank you. I remember Eric making the distinction between devotion and discipline. I’m committed to the devotion path for sure. Happy to have you in class too!

  15. Louanne says:

    Yes, Lisa- I will walk with you.

    It’s deep, dark, exciting, sad……unknown. All wrapped up in your internal knowing.

    With you.

  16. I am very excited for you and your life changes. They sound very promising and wonderful ! I will always follow you… you are a very wise , creative and amazing woman. I look forward to sharing your journey with you. Amen.

  17. Cindi Westendorf says:

    Wow Lisa! This is so wonderful and timely and even a little scary as I choose this course BEYOND WORDS to help me in a very unsettling transition. Although we have just begun I am already so grateful for your words, guidance and artistic energy. I have been an art therapist for 34 years and am still running a program full time, BUT with the passing of two parents, my husband getting critically ill (from lung disease), him getting a double LUNG transplant (successfully), and just selling our home of 25 years this past summer, I am creatively and passionately trying to find that balance that you are sharing. What an amazing and blessed gift you have ahead (and behind) you! May you find the gate passage that brings you great peace everyday!
    Thank you for this invitation…I accept xo

  18. Lani Lee Jones says:

    Lisa! I with you and ur adventures forever! I’m so excited for u in ur new frontier, always a pioneer at that growth edge! I love it. Much gratitude for all the guidance in art therapy and the creative art process you have provided over the years. Hope to find more connections over the new horizons! Much love and gratitude. -Lani Lee Jones

  19. very dear Lisa, BRAVO.
    Blessings and good wishes abound
    The fork in the road
    got your attention
    The gentle whispering breezelet
    shouted’ ’tis time,
    ’tis the place to light and land and light.
    BRAVO!

  20. Laura Pratto says:

    I am looking forward to witnessing your journey, to help prepare for my eventual retirement. Thank you for modeling how so that we may learn.

  21. Valerie Covert says:

    Oh Lisa my heart goes out to you during this time of transition – it can feel very overwhelming! I retired last year and my husband will retire this year. We, too, are planning a large move to Utah in search of space and some solitude. Only now have I begun to create art again after feeling so lost. We are creatures of habit, but change opens us up to new and wonderful discoveries. However, we have creativity to give us strength and inner peace when fear sets in. I wish you well in your journey.

  22. Hannah says:

    Lisa,

    I can’t imagine not following your journey. You’ve been a light along my own path and when the going got tough, your presence eased more than one transition! When you look back after your move, you’ll see all the stitches that you cast on to your knitting needles. They are the stitches that will begin your great, new, beautiful hand crafted life. So looking forward to seeing the new pattern and you!

  23. Christine Rolph says:

    Lisa, I don’t ‘know’ you in terms of meeting you in person, but soul sisters work beyond the simply physical. That said, I feel I want to ‘hold your hand’ as you jump right in to the crazy exciting/terrifying journey ahead…
    I’ve loved what I’ve tapped into in terms of what you offer online thus far…and I so hope you’re able to harness the Big Love of your international community and use it as a support/structure/echo or whisper…as you live in the moment of now! Xxx

  24. Amy Fratto says:

    I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you. You are living my dream. I have not been in private practice any where near as long as you, but have been a social worker for 20 years. I am happy you are listening to your heart and following it.

  25. Barbara Bingham says:

    Lisa I enjoyed your workshops when I lived in Shingle Springs and worked in Sacramento. I am thrilled for you and your husband. What a wonderful place to start your next chapter.
    Three years ago we moved out of the woods back into the city to seek medical attention for my husband at UCSD. He is in remission (chronic leukemia) and writing his third novel. I continued my therapist role, working 2 days a week. And I fit in painting between enjoying our 9 grand kids. This year I am comfortable with my life.
    I found you to be very helpful in my using art in therapy. Thank you.
    I am honored to be able to follow you in your journey. May peace and joy be yours. Back to nature and allots beauty.

  26. Nadine Tardie says:

    Ah Lisa! I am excited for you! And, I am jealous! I am so going to follow your journey as you share it. And I am so grateful I got to learn from you last Fall! If I’d waited I wouldn’t have made it! Please keep writing and posting as your tapestry continues to be woven, because you are still teaching through this! -Nadine

  27. Denise says:

    I’m so grateful to be participating in your final class before your big move and would love to hear more about both your transition and arrival into your HandCrafted Life. I accept your invitation!

  28. Suzanne says:

    “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase” MLK

    Best wishes

  29. Sylma Fine says:

    Moving and creating your new handcrafted and heartfelt life is so brave and courageous. Looking at it with fresh eyes, knowing you’ll create something new and different is such a different stance than retirement. Creativity doesn’t retire, it grows as you allow the space for it.
    I moved to New Mexico from the San Franciso Bay Area about 8 years ago taking a strong leap of faith. At first there was resistance until I realized I had so much more time for breathing to slow down and create both art and a life I love. Brava Lisa!

  30. Lisa, when you hear the calling, if you don’t go, you will always wonder. Those woods and ocean and clean air sound absolutely inviting. With the internet, you will not be far away, so you will still be able to connect and teach and write and share all your wisdom. Looking forward to hearing about what comes next for you. Safe journey!

  31. Sharon Eakes says:

    Dearest Lisa, I have followed you on each transition of your life, and I’ll keep doing it….marveling at what you do and who you are! I’m looking forward to seeing what spaciousness gives both you and Greg! And then I’ll come see for myself!
    Love, Mama

  32. Go Lisa! So exciting. I too find staying in the unknown the most challenging of these transitions.

  33. Yon Walls says:

    Dear Lisa!

    Your sharing of your transition now in process inspires me! I do know that we sometimes need to face the mystery for something new, nourishing and vivid to emerge! This is art and life as you know. In a way, your change seems to echo some of my own changes that await this year that I’m still incubating.

    I ‘m also feeling kind of blue about your news as I’ve had in mind for months to meet you and learn some of the ways you work. As a new Psychotherapist, creativity as co-therapist is surely in my plan. I’m also now experiencing some of the joys of working with creativity with clients! Your powerful patchwork blogs and sharing the last couple of years have enriched that.

    And Puget Sound!! It’s such a beautiful and spiritual place. My partner and I have a dear friend who traversed the area for a few years and loved the fresh waterways and wildlife there. He’s a brilliant flutist and feels very connected to the place and have created some amazing musical compositions while in the Sound!

    I’m on board with your journey. Keep me posted!

    Filled with Muse,
    Yon

    • Lisa Mitchell says:

      Yon, Thank you so much for your words. I’m thrilled that you are finding creativity in your work. So happy to have you on board.

  34. Miriam Berkman says:

    Lisa, what a brave and exciting time. A year and a half into my retirement I am still traversing unexpected land mines. Life does throw curve balls. I did not know caring for my elderly mother would play such a big role in my life. Also thought I could wake up and live my life minute to minute after 25 years of having every hour of my work day scheduled. Finding the balance between meaningful activity and spontaneity has been more of a challenge than I imagined. I am sure I will have much to learn from you. Thanks

    • Lisa Mitchell says:

      Miriam, what a thought provoking concept–balance between meaningful activity and spontaneity. I’d love to hear more! Thank you for being with me here.

  35. Lisa Rakusin says:

    Very excited to learn all about your journey of change and growth and what you create along the way as you stretch outside your familiar comfort zone! Your guidance, insight and authentic sharing have brought many blessings to my life, and I look forward to many more!

  36. Deb says:

    Beautiful and brave, Good for you, I would love to join the journey with you.

  37. Wendy Frush says:

    I am so excited to watch and be a part of your next huge step in life. I have always been proud of you and your choices. Every transition has its bumps but the slides down the other side of the bumps make it worth it. I can’t wait to breathe the fresh air with you.
    Hugs,
    Wendy

  38. Peggy Gulshen says:

    Look at all these comments! You are so dearly loved and held in such high esteem! I am in for the long haul as you transition to what might be the greatest chapter in your life. You know what one of my mantras is…”Everything changes. Everything is connected. Pay attention.”
    Love and luck to you,
    Peggy
    p.s I now have a new bucket list destination!

    • Lisa Mitchell says:

      Peggy, Yes to the bucket list destination–my farm will give you a huge welcome! And I can’t wait to share it all with you.

  39. Thank you for taking a moment in this time of change to be present with yourself, reflect on your uncharted journey and your willingness to share those tender pieces of yourself. While rejoicing with/for you, I feel my own heart welling up as I selfishly realize my opportunity to experience future moments of learning and inspiration in person will be further than Fair Oaks.
    I wish for you the excitement of the journey, to drink in the waters of the Pugget Sound, and that as you walk onto your new property, the trees will stand taller with/for you. We all do. Many blessings to you both.

  40. talya halkin says:

    Dear Lisa
    i have been following your work closely for the last two years from Israel, so moving across two state lines doesn’t sound so very far away… your move is exciting and inspiring and I look forward to hearing about it. Whatever you do in the future, your creative spirit and character are going to be worth keeping up with.

  41. Elizabeth Baxt says:

    I will join you in this period of transition. It is so exciting and scary. Thank goodness we have this forum to keep in touch.

  42. Sara Lindey says:

    Wow! What a wonderful adventure! You will be missed greatly by the community. I have so enjoyed the CreateFest and other art journeys with you. I’d love to follow you on your new journey and wish you the very best of luck, lots of love and happiness and health! Sincerely, Sara

  43. Rose Bradshaw says:

    Thank you so much for sharing from the heart. You have been an inspiration since I met you and I look forward to following you on your journery.

  44. Jody Wager says:

    Lisa, although our friendship is new and our contact spotty, I continue to read you and be inspired by you and your work … your insights and your creativity … your heart and your (com)passion. You are doing something that I am not sure I could do, so here too, I am certain, you will encourage me to grow and be stretched. It would be my honor, to walk … or dance … alongside you on your journey. Thank you for this invitation.

  45. Karen Aikin says:

    It will be very interesting to watch/listen to your transition and blooming. It takes courage. I have the same goal, that is to move and to give up my practice. I am not sure I have the courage. I will use your journey for inspiration.

  46. Laura Wolfe says:

    Lisa,
    I love your brave heart!
    May you discover, uncover and be covered by more than you could ever hope for or imagine!
    Wishing you a safe and meaningful journey through.

  47. Kath Comber says:

    Grace Bower posted and I read about your exciting transition coming up. I am interested in finding out more. Coming up to 70 in May still able to do the odd relief day in Pre Primary but knowing that will have to end soon. How can I continue to contribute in a meaningful way? Having more time for what? Will look forward to any more articles that cross my path. Sending warmth from Perth Australia

  48. Janaki Tompkins says:

    I’m very excited for you and your family. I would love to witness your transition and I appreciate your openness. I moved three years ago to a place that has wonderful air. I’ve never been so aware of air! I don’t even know quite how to describe it and have never had such an appreciation for air as I do now. I go walking with my dog daily and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the air. So I wish you and your family healing air in your new home and I am looking forward to hearing more about your journey.

  49. Gloria Rill says:

    I love the Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound! What an exciting and beautiful adventure… and I do have family in Port Townsend! Feeling grateful for having the opportunity to experience your trainings. Thank you for your inspiration and wisdom which you seem to emanate effortlessly!

  50. Betty Readle says:

    California is losing a wonderful gifted and inspiring therapist who has given us all so much of herself. You continue to inspire with your adventurous spirit. All the best in this new journey.

  51. Pati Bruce says:

    Lisa, you are so brave to plunge into this new adventure!!
    I admire you for having the courage to move through your life journey with such faith. You have given me
    so mush to think about through the wonderful classes you have provided to me and so many others. Good luck
    and know that you are taking everything you love with you including ART

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