We have been in this particular lion's den before. But since this is not a story of vanquishing and over-powering, our return is entirely proper. For once you have befriended this lion, you may come back to it as many times as you wish, as often as you need to be reminded of what soft control looks like.
I was myself reminded of this kind of control — this deep, unwavering, and yet gentle kind of strength — in this week's Brain Pickings with Marie Popova, who shared excerpts from novelist Nicole Krauss' response to Vincent van Gogh’s 1884 letter to his brother. Van Gogh's letter explores fear, especially the fear of the blank canvas and the unknown. Krauss' letter, separated from Van Gogh himself by over a century, offers the following observation, a perfect summation of the Strength card:
"And yet even if we could scrape away the many forms our fear takes and get to the underlying source — our mortality, our division from the infinite — we would still discover that our fear is not based on actual knowledge, unlike the part of us that chooses to be free. Bravery is always more intelligent than fear, since it is built on the foundation of what one knows about oneself: the knowledge of one’s strength and capacity, of one’s passion."This week, treat your fear as if it were a wild animal in need of comfort. Kneel before the part of yourself that wants to lash out, recognize this impulse as a protective one, and treat that creature with all the compassion you can muster. For compassion is no weak thing — it has muscles and stamina. It is strong enough to be gentle. And so are you.
This applies to all your life, not just your creative endeavors. Whether you are sitting down to the page or sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, remember that we must have compassion for everyone — editors and mean aunties, critics and cousins alike — but most importantly for that wounded and roaring part of ourselves. Because if our inner lion is not cared for properly, it might just eat somebody alive.