Remember Hedda Gabler?
The very confused and somewhat unbalanced heroine in Ibsen’s play of the same name?
You know, that racy play from 1890? The one that’s full of all sorts of juicy stuff for its time: scandal, early feminism, alcoholism, suicide, jealousy, sexism, infidelity, creativity.
What’s that you say?
You mean you don’t have it sitting in your stack of must-reads?
You weren’t planning a tete-a-tete with it tonight?
Well, that’s okay.
Because I spent some time thinking about Hedda while I was on blogging hiatus, so I can fill you in.
The scene I kept remembering was the one when she commits an act of supreme creative destruction. In her hands is the only copy of a manuscript written by a man she once loved, a man for whom she was once a muse. She’s enraged and jealous that another woman has taken her place. And sitting before the fire, she slowly draws out the pages of his book, and places them on the flames, saying:
I am burning…I am burning your child.
Pretty dramatic, right? But the weird thing is, I think I had a few of my own Hedda Gabler moments last year.
It all started well over a year ago.
I decided to get a jump on spring cleaning, setting out to sift through years of accumulated papers, books, and mementos. I needed to do this; I’d grown edgy and anxious (kind of like Hedda), and this stuff was dragging me down and messing with my momentum.
I needed that experience of destroying what no longer served me (inside and outside), in order to step into renewal and the space to create again.
The first layer of shedding was easy.
Old documents, tax returns, bills, invoices, receipts. The flotsam and jetsam of day-to-day-week-to-week-month-to-month-year-to-year life.
But the second layer of shedding, not so easy.
Because it was here I discovered things I had wanted to create that never came to be: half-formed ideas captured in scribbled notes; half-finished projects stuck in the back of the closet. Little creative seeds that would not see the light of day.
Hard as it was, I followed Hedda’s lead and shoved them into the metaphorical fire (in this case a shredder and recycling bin).
I didn’t really flinch until I got to the third layer though.
Here was a play pen full of my creative babies: workshops, seminars, syllabi, handouts, articles, classes, activities. All completed. Facilitated. Written. Taught. Worked through. You could even say they were successes.
But they had to go into that fire.
There was a moment in all of this stripping away and destroying when time stopped, when I felt like I was in a dream. I don’t exactly know what it was. Let’s just say I had a felt sense, fleeting though it was.
In that moment I knew that we’re not here to merely destroy what no longer serves us, but our creations as well.
Some really good ones, in fact. Successes and achievements. Our creative children. Just like Hedda says.
And maybe this is the deepest and most profound kind of creative destruction.
No wonder we get angry and excited and sad and elated and lonely (like Hedda) when we’re in the throes of it. Because in order to create anew, we must kill off some cherished parts of ourselves.
Now, I know that you know I’m not championing Hedda’s final descent into suicide. But the symbolic meaning – yes – it’s really quite stunning. Another example of how art really does imitate life.