Behold!

I seem to be on a word binge lately – remember juxtaposition, plethora and epiphanies from yesterday’s post?  I don’t actually talk like this a lot in my everyday life.  I am usually prone to conversation (often one-sided) that goes something like this…

  • Did ya’ pick up your clothes off the bathroom floor?
  • Did that seem like a good idea?
  • Take the trash out – NOW.
  • If you don’t pick up your room now, I’m coming in with a trash bag.
  • Did ya’ pick up your clothes off the bathroom floor?
  • Go do your math – NOW.

There is more, but you get the general idea.  So, this blog is fun for me.  I get to remember that I actually did go to college, am educated and could converse in a pompous manner if it is ever required again.  I am flexible.

Today’s word is “behold”.

I have a revered reverend friend who pondered yesterday about why the word “behold” has fallen out of use.  I pledged to use the word today…so here it is.

Behold!

I looked up the meaning to make sure I got it right:

Basically it means to see with attention, to see clearly, to direct the eyes to, or fix them upon an object.

And somehow that totally fits with what I am thinking about today.  I love it when those mysterious coincidences happen.

I suppose that when you behold something it seems to happen in an instant…Wow, look at that! I am suddenly seeing that for the first time.  Amazing!

Sure, the actual seeing happens that quickly.  But, what groundwork was laid before.  What brought you to that moment when you were able to behold?  When the realization and recognition were possible?

Take, for example a seed.  It’s tucked safely in a seed package.  There’s a picture on the front of the package, a promise of what’s to come if, and when, that seed reaches it’s potential.  You see the picture.

But, a lot has to happen to that seed for growth to occur. Work has to be done.

The seed has to be planted and watered and have the warmth and light of the sun.

And it has to change…to be damaged in a manner of speaking.  It can’t stay the same.  It has to be broken open and exposed for the sprouting to occur.

It has to struggle to break free of the confines of the earth that has nurtured it.  Yet it can’t leave the earth entirely.  It must remain firmly and extensively rooted or it will not thrive.  It must continue to grow and branch out in the world.  It’s hard work.

And then, one day, a bud…a possibility.

And then, BEHOLD!  A flower, some fruit.

It’s not the same as the picture on the package.  You saw that.

But you can “behold” the actual flower, the fruit.  It’s real and you can experience it.  Smell it, taste it, touch it!

How well does this apply to us and to our lives?  To the growth we are striving for?

The growth I am striving for…a life lived more intentionally.  Potential realized.  Filled with peace, joy, love and creativity.

The promise of the seed is never realized in the package.  The potential of the seed is merely an image.

I want to rip open the package, to break open and strive and grow…to bear bountiful fruit.

And I am afraid of it.

The choice is – to look or to behold?

It’s not a choice you make once and it’s done.  The choice has to be made over and over and over again.  Sometimes daily, more often moment by moment.

A rich, full, intentional life is hard.  It’s full of mistakes, and do-overs.  Lots of learning and frustration.  And rewards.

Today, I’m going to choose to live a life that can be seen clearly.  Behold!

How to Stop a Ginormous Rock Rolling Downhill

I just love the word “ginormous”.

So I figured out a way to use it in a really long title today.

But, I digress.

What I’m really thinking about today is change.  Some folks say that all change is good.  Some of us greatly fear it.  Most of us resist change.

I struggle to be at peace with it.

Regardless of how anyone feels about change or how hard we try to stop it, change happens.

And thank goodness for that.  I, for one, am a big fan of the wheel, written language, electricity, air-conditioning, pre-stretched canvas, and that I don’t have to wear a corset or hoop-skirt.   Cake mixes also.

Not everyone will agree on the cake mix thing, but they’ve never tried my scratch-made cakes.  Nobody has.  Because I’ve never made one.  Honestly,  I don’t even get the box mix thing.  My grocery store’s bakery does an excellent job.  Why strive to achieve out of my comfort zone?

But my Mom thought the boxed cake mix signaled the end of civilization as she knew it.  She refused for the longest time to use one.  She didn’t actually like to bake all that much though, so we just didn’t have cake.

My youngest child doesn’t even realize that there was a time before boxed cake mix…and can’t comprehend a time before electricity.  The power went off the other day, and she just about lost it.  Life was over as she knew it.

Change happens.

You can run from it, ignore it, and try to stop it.

You can yell at it and everyone who is trying to promote it.

Change happens.

It’s called history…and the future.

Instead of trying to stop that ginormous rock of change from rolling downhill –  get out of its way,  ’cause it’s not going to stop.

Take a picture of it if you need to .  Then you’ll have something to look at and remember the time before the change.  You might be shocked  and a bit bewildered to find that you survived it and that the world did not end.  You might even come to like it (or at least tolerate it).

I don’t think that change, in itself, is either good or bad.  It just is.

Change that benefits me, may not be so great for someone else.  A change that you desperately hope for, may adversely affect others.

The Dark ages came and went.  Yea for the Renaissance!  World Wars – not so great.  Peace – awesome!  Lessons are learned.  Newborns are amazing, but not forever (I like to sleep).  Toddlers can be fun.  Then they toddle on to the next stage and we are grateful and a bit sad.  I grow older – and hopefully, wiser.

Perhaps one day, we will all become wiser.  And, realize that fear and yelling and fighting do nothing to change things.  The change is unaffected by our fear.  That big ole’ rock keeps rolling.

Maybe love is the only answer.  Love those who are fearing the changes.  Love those who are hurt by the changes.  Love those who are working hard to change things for the better.  Love those for whom change is not coming fast enough.

Just love.

The Corner

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Another neglected, unfinished canvas languishing in the corner of my studio has been finished.

What shall we title this?

How about:  “What if it doesn’t mean anything?”

Or…

“Connect the Dots”

The second suggests a theme developing from the canvas I finished earlier this week.

But, I’m not sure that I want to take myself so seriously.  I read an old art journal entry yesterday that led to these thoughts:

…not taking my art so seriously, and just creating for the sheer need and joy of it.  Creating because it’s who I am and what I must do to be alive.

…Not striving to create something that is significant and important, but just allowing the image(s) to emerge from whatever mysterious place within us that it originates.

…Staying out of the way of the art (stuff) that happens when I don’t overthink it or overanalyze it.

…I have a modicum of talent, a great love of making art (stuff) and a whole lot of self-doubt, fear, and restraint.  I can be my own worst enemy when it comes to creativity.

…What if I just let it happen?  …Paint the heart in the middle even if it’s cliché, add a big yellow blob, paint over it, let it sit…quit worrying so much.

Very few artists become “successful” in the eyes of the world.

But, what a sad place the world would be without the creativity of all!

Be the Change…

I had several ideas for writing today, but one has very clearly floated to the surface on this Wednesday.

It could actually have been titled:  Perfectionism, Part 2.

Background information here!  For Christmas, I was given a beautiful journal with the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, stamped on the cover.  I had an epiphany of sorts…I had been pondering a “theme” to use for the New Year.

Resolutions just haven’t ever worked out well for me.  Does anyone really have any luck with them?  Who makes it to the end of January without breaking the resolutions?  Certainly not me!

Anyhow, in 2014, I decided it would be my year of “No Fear”.  I consciously decided to face things that I was afraid of instead of avoiding them.  For example, I started this blog (which had actually been started previously, but abandoned because I was afraid).  I publicly shared my art.  I battled my tendency towards agoraphobia.  Whenever I became reluctant to start or do something, I thought it through and tackled it.  Much better than resolutions!

Back to January 2015…I decided to play with Gandhi’s quote a bit and came up with:  “Be the change you wish to see in your world”.  Instead of worrying, perseverating, whining, or giving up on the things I’m unhappy with in my/our life, I decided that I would take action.  Taking steps, even baby-steps, even steps in the wrong direction, is preferable to doing nothing and being miserable.

The thing that I’d most like to change in my/our life right now is our financial situation.  It might be classified as dismal except that’s depressing.  Let’s just call it “a situation that has room for improvement”.

And that brings us back to the beginning of this post…

I’ve been sitting here at my desk for well over an hour.  It’s been a busy month with lots of distractions and I’ve totally let my money management system get out of control.  That’s a fancy way of saying that I’ve just been shoving the unopened bills into a big pile on the shelf above my desk.  Let me tell you, procrastination is no way to get your money woes under control.

Lesson number one:  Remember the theme from 2014 (No Fear) and stop avoiding that which you are afraid of.

Lesson number two:  Don’t forget to  “Be the Change”.  Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing at all.

One of the reasons I had avoided dealing with the bills is that I couldn’t pay them all.  I couldn’t do it “right”.  It wasn’t going to be finished.  Some bills were going back in that pile.

It’s so hard for me to take steps in a journey when I know I can’t get where I want to go; at least right now.

I’m trying to learn to let go of the expectations…that I can somehow be perfect, please everyone, have control of the journey, or change things as quickly as I’d like.

Most importantly, I’m trying to be kind to myself when I can’t seem get my act together…when the fear never fully goes away and when I feel like giving up instead of trying to change things.

Life is hard sometimes.

Life is always wonderful.

Looking up.

I took a bit of a tumble off the top of that mountaintop I talked about yesterday.

Today was a day I’ve been dreading.  I sat down to reconcile our bank account and budget…and…look at this month’s bills.  It hasn’t been done since my stay in the hospital.  What can I say?  I did the best I could.  Some folks got paid something and a lot went into the “maybe next check” pile.  Math is not my best subject by any means, but I’m pretty good with the concept that once you hit zero, it’s all negative on the other side.  I confess that I shed a few tears and wondered what in the world to do, but then I moved on.  You can only do what you can do…

Even good days have bad moments.

I’m close enough to the mountain top that I can see it clearly if I look up. And looking up is a pretty good way to live.  I guess I’ll just start hiking back up there…I need the exercise!

If anyone is reading this who is facing a hard time of one kind or another – please know that you are not alone.  Take a moment to count a few blessings:  we all have something to be grateful for.

Tomorrow is a new day and it will find me waking up with a thankful heart.

To change or not to change.

It’s been an interesting week.  I started off in a bit of a blue funk.  I didn’t feel like doing much of anything.  I didn’t have a car so I couldn’t distract myself with shopping or the like.  I was stuck here with myself.  It could have turned into a really ugly situation.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like being moody.  But, something amazing ended up happening.

Three things really, but three things wound together into one life-changing realization.  Not a big “we’ve sold everything and are joining a cult and moving to a small island off the coast of Africa after having a sex-change” kind of life-changing moment…this was a small, significant change in a way of thinking that makes good change possible.

First, I realized that I was really, really tired of the themed journal-a-day challenge I set up for myself.  Not so much the journaling part, but the “bird” over and over and over again.  I stopped doing them and then have been trying to catch up.  Ugh!

Next, the Get Messy Journaling challenge for the week dealt with the topic of “what would you do if you had the courage to live your dream”…I’ve paraphrased a bit.  We were also supposed to challenge ourselves to a new art technique.  As I wrote yesterday, my first two pages were – not something I liked.  I tried to create without paint and layers.  I went for a plain background.  I handwrote with pen and ink in a free word-association style reacting to the photos.  The photos were of myself at two points in my childhood.  One was a photo of myself as a young child before I have any real memories of life and the other at the beginning of junior high during a particularly unpleasant time.  I know that nobody enjoyed junior high really, but this year of my life was particularly horrible.

And third, I read someone’s post about “having a habit or being in a rut”.  I’m sorry but I can’t remember where I read it and I can’t seem to find it again.  If and when I do, I will give proper credit due.  It talked about the difference between doing something intentionally out of habit and repeating something without intention (being in a rut).

This is what I came up with after a day or two of thought:

  • The journal pages had become a “rut” and thus, were boring.  They all look somewhat the same.  I wasn’t risking anything new or using it as an opportunity to learn.  Of course, they were boring.  I had simply turned it into a chore or task to be done…a check on a checklist.  They were never supposed to be completed works of art, but experiments and practice.  Lesson 1.
  • The challenge was supposed to be exactly that – a challenge.  What I had viewed as a disaster was actually a stunning success.  It’s called art journaling for a reason.  Art is only part of the picture.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and pushed myself artistically and personally.  Equally important:  I participated in community by sharing of myself even though it was uncomfortable and difficult.  Being a part of a community is not always comfortable (the rut).  I needed to make an intentional decision to be part of the community.  In the process I dealt with some personal stuff and took another step in my personal journey.  Lesson 2 – the difficult personal one.
  • Habits are good; especially if you deal with mood issues.  Habits ground us and help us grow artistically.  “Practice makes perfect”.    But I need to avoid falling into a rut in my art making.  I need to challenge myself and grow.   This will mean taking risks and investing myself emotionally in my work.  Lesson 3.

I’ve long hoped to grow in my art and infuse it with more passion and emotion…more of me.  Now I know that, at times, that may be painful or difficult.  I can do that and survive…grow.  Living with intention is never “done”.  It is a process, not a product.

Life and art -a process, not a product.

Get Messy Thursday/Adventurous Dreams

IMAG0369IMAG0370Get Messy is an art journal challenge where a gang of crafty vixens are sharing art journal pages we have created to practice our skills and push past our creative limits with hopes to inspire. We share our pages without restraint every week, and once a month we create around a prompt. Go check out these crazy talented ladies who are creating pages who each have a unique perspective and style. We will be sharing our work around social media so follow the hashtag #getmessyartjournal.

Journaling Challenge: Live your adventurous dreams on paper. What would you love to do, or at least try, if you had the courage to live more adventurously? I would, for example, like to live on a houseboat or a train wagon.

Art Challenge: Try a method or material you’ve never worked with before. Be adventurous

The journaling challenge:  For me, it’s all about continuing the adventure I started when I began writing my blog almost two months ago.  I’m focusing on changes and goals for my life.

The art challenge:  No paint, using paper I’ve been saving forever because I didn’t want to mess it up or use it up, and keeping it very simple.

Now……….for the hard part.  As I’m typing this I’m trying to decide how much to share and whether to share at all.  We’ll know if this gets posted or not.  One of the things I wrote was “bravery” and I’m not feeling very brave at the moment.  The posted photos are actually my second attempt at this challenge.

My first attempt was not successful from an artistic standpoint.  I tried to do a photo transfer with gel medium.  I’m okay with art mistakes or failure.  Most of my work is built on that…that’s why so many layers.  After I finished the pages though, I totally lost it emotionally.  I got angry and snapped at my husband, and deleted the posted photos.  Racing heart, light headed, chest pressure…classic anxiety attack.  Worst I’ve had in a long time.  I don’t know what in particular caused the reaction and I started to throw them away.  As I type this, hours later, the anxiety is returning.

But, the point of journaling is more than practicing our art skills and trying out new stuff.  And, I said I would share without restraint each week.  So, I’m not going to post the black & whites on instagram, but  I am going to post them here and on our facebook page.

Like I said, I don’t know what was so emotionally upsetting about these pages.  I’m gonna have to deal with that.  And I will deal with it.  That fits in with the challenge of “what I would do if I had the courage to live more adventurously”.  So, here’s the photos and I’m going to hit publish.  And it’s all going to be okay.  Growth and change are difficult.  I am brave.

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Keeping score.

I love giving gifts and help (and my kids say that I love giving advice or at least offer a lot of it).  If only they knew how often I don’t comment and advice is not part of what I’m writing about today!

However, over the last 6 months or so, I have discovered how uncomfortable I am with receiving what I am so willing to give.   We have some great friends who have been supportive emotionally and financially during rough spots. It’s hard to just say thank you.

I find myself trying to explain that the situation is just temporary and that things will be back to normal before we know it.  But truthfully, what was “normal” probably won’t ever be again.  What is now is our new normal and will probably change again before we know it.  It is one of my “myths” to believe that life is stable and reliable and normal.  Change unnerves me.  It makes me feel vulnerable.  I like to know what’s coming around the bend and that I am prepared.  I’m coming to understand that this belief system contributes to the fear and anxiety that I deal with daily.  It’s more than worry about what might happen:  it’s a desperate need to hold on to the present and have things stay the same.

There’s a saying that is frequently repeated during a retreat program that I used to be involved in:  “Don’t anticipate, participate.”  I’ve never really been able to comprehend and apply that little gem. It means having a mindset that allows you to be in the moment and be fully involved in it without giving undue attention to what might be or change or happen next.  I know that this a simplification of how life must be lived.  We need to make plans and preparations for the future.  But that awareness of what that future might be isn’t the same as being fearful and anxious about it.  You can’t plan for any and every eventuality.  We can’t see our future and that is a good thing.

I titled this Keeping score, because that’s what I do.  When someone “gives” me something, I make a little mental tally mark.  I now owe something back.  I keep track of the giving and don’t like it when things become unbalanced…when I owe someone.  I forget that, in true friendship, giving comes without expectation of return.  We also don’t need to exchange like for like.  The friendship wouldn’t continue if everyone involved wasn’t benefitting and being enriched by the relationship.  But still I keep score.

If something good happens, I “record” the happening and “know” that something bad will happen next.  This is basically the same system that I use for keeping track of giving.  To live a normal and stable life, there must be balance in all things (or so my faulty beliefs tell me).   Bad must follow good. Therefore, I live anxiously awaiting the next disaster and miss a lot of happiness and joy along the way.

When I first started this journey of mine last January, I mentally titled it “The year of no fear.”  I had no idea what I was getting myself into:   New and risky adventures like this blog, an art journaling group, and a public art project.

I didn’t anticipate the amount of emotional work I would need to do.  I wasn’t prepared for the fact that I would be intentionally creating the frightening and anxiety-provoking situations that I would then need to face.  I had no idea how much I could accomplish in such a short time.  The fear and anxiety is still there to some extent, but each time I overcome it, I’m giving myself a tally mark in the win column.

I’m learning a new way to keep score!

 

Quantity versus Quality.

One of the stories from the book, Art and Fear, that keeps bobbing to the surface of all the thoughts that I’ve been thinking goes something like this:  A ceramics teacher told half of his students that they would be graded on the quantity of pieces they created and completed in class.  The other students were told they should concentrate on making a perfect piece.  At the end of the semester, the group that created the most had also created the best pieces.  The students that worked on a single piece seeking perfection had not been successful at all.  Keep in mind that this is a paraphrased version of the story; perhaps altered a bit by percolating in my brain for the last week.  But, its close enough or rather meaningful enough for my purposes.

In a way, it’s a rather “duh” idea:  the more you practice something, the better you’ll get.  Depending on how you look at it, you might also deduce that if you make enough of something, eventually you’ll have a successful outcome. “Practice makes perfect” and  “If she looks long enough, even a blind sow will find an acorn”.   Common enough sayings and yet, none the less true.

The more I’ve thought about the story, the more I’ve gotten from it.  I can certainly become a more skilled artist if I spend more time making art.   I like the unexpected result…the oops moment…the spontaneous creation that can come from not thinking things through.  I often don’t do a lot of planning before starting on a surface.  But, the more I play with my materials, the more opportunities I’ll have for that magical result:  A seemingly “unplanned’ art piece that conveys a message I wasn’t even aware that I wanted to communicate.  Everything I created up to that point contributed to the magic whether I planned on it or not.

Here’s an example of what I’m trying to say.  When I was twenty years old, I wasn’t planning on who I would be when I turned fifty.  I doubt that I spent much time thinking of it at all.  I was busy being twenty and twenty-one and so on.   I lived every day and through experience, good and bad, I became who I am here and now.  Who I am is a direct result of everything that I did between twenty and fifty.  Every action counts.  I didn’t plan the details of who I would become.  I didn’t contemplate the consequences of each act.  But they all added up, literally.

I believe that making art in quantity works the same way.  I need to create every day and trust that each act of creating is building on the previous one.  I don’t need to be afraid that what I’m making isn’t good enough.  I don’t need to compare myself to others or expect perfection.  Each less than perfect art piece is valuable experience towards what my art is becoming.  I certainly didn’t want to be fifty years old when I was twenty!  I wouldn’t have been very good at being fifty without the time and experience I garnered along the way.  I can’t expect to create like anyone else any more than I can make myself into anyone else.

I committed to the daily journal page as a direct result of this story.  I knew that it would be a difficult challenge…to make a page every day…no matter what else life would throw at me.  I didn’t anticipate how quickly I would tire of a theme – that only 5 days in, I am struggling with the whole bird concept.  I am going to have to find some new materials and work out of my comfort zone on this one.  How many days in September?  There have already been more than a few pages that I don’t want to post…I don’t think that they are good enough.  Haven’t I been talking about art and fear?  Haven’t I discussed that quantity triumphs over quality when it comes to becoming a better artist?  Sometimes you “know” something in your head, but it still doesn’t fully sink in.

I believe in the story.  I believe that perfection doesn’t apply in this case.  I need to make a bird page every day in September…process over product.  No fear. I know it.

But, part of me still wants everyone to look at what I create and say, “Wow, that’s amazing.  You are so talented.”  I don’t want to fail.  I’m afraid of not being good enough.  I want perfection without the risk.

So, I’m going to make 25 more bird pages.  Somehow.