I unknowingly had this experience a week or so ago and am now just beginning to get the message. A friend of a friend was traveling with a group of us to an event a few hours away and as long car trips are want to do there was lots of conversation there and back.
At some point he and I started talk, not knowing each other there were the usual, “what do you do for a living?” and “do you like it?” kind of questions. Somewhere in the middle of all the “fluff” conversation two things stuck in my head. One that his sister died a few years ago and that he said he couldn’t stand people who wasted their talent (pointed in my direction). At the time I did think much of it- I personally think that I do waste what ever talent I may have had.
Just look at that last sentence- this is what he was referring too. Lots of people are not “really” good at anything notable (whatever that means) but there are people -like me- who know that they are good at something but don’t necessarily do anything with it. I know this is a little convoluted but stay with me I’m almost there.
This brings me to today, a random Sunday afternoon. Nothing special going on, just finished the chores (sorting paper work and filing it- I really hate that) when I happen to open my closet and see art supplies. I should say that, I have not painted, drawn really taken photos or done anything that used my skill as an artist in almost a year.
As my hand brushed over the bamboo pain set I knew that it was time. My excuses had outlived their reality. I told myself for a long time that I just didn’t want to make art but that was not the truth. At its core I did not want to feel. For me to create something I have to let go of the logical controlling part of my mind and open myself to were the art wants to go.
From the moment the brush or pencil touches the paper it is not about a plan or a destination, it only about how I feel as my hand creates mark on a page. This is why I was not making art, I cannot lie to myself and create, it is just not possible. So today I stared down the white paper and though if this friend of a friend who goes to work every day living with the death of his sister. I could tell from the way that he talked about her that he loved her very much and that her loss was still in someways painful to him- if you can ever get over something like that. And it made me think about my own losses.
How long will I choose to use the loss of my old life and an excuse not to live? This man gets up every day and lives, so why can’t I? Why have I let myself fester for so long? I think I was afraid of what would come out of my hands, what I would feel once I opened the door. It was not what I expected.
At first the novelty of it all amused and distracted me. It was pleasant to see that unlike signing, my hand remembered the shapes and colors. But as I went on and I could no longer ignore myself. I could see my lost-ness in the water, confusion in the clouds; a restlessness in the brush strokes…I began to make mistakes.
I could have given up at that point and given myself a great lecture about how “untalented” I really was but I didn’t. Some how I heard a professor telling me that when you get frustrated put your work across the room and look at it, because half of your issues come from being to close to the work.
So I did. It did not make the flaws any less visible but…I saw hope in the dragon fly’s wing and inspiration in the petals of the waterlily and joy in the speckles of the coi fish. I think I have the same problem with my life, I am too close to it. It is easy to stand in the middle of a mess and scream in frustration about how you’re not getting anywhere. It takes more courage to realize that getting past a death or loss of someone or thing in your life is not easy or measured in large steps.
As I look back over the past year I have done a lot of things, most good and all towards finding a life by myself and for myself again. When I stand across the room I can see the progress I have made and I don’t judge the size of the steps against one another, I see how they fit together to make something better than a blank page or scared canvas.
I am not done with the painting, it needs a little more time and attention like my life. But it is beautiful in its own right and so is this new beginning I’m working on. It won’t be done in a day like a painting but it will be just as rewarding when I get there.
So thanks Dave for your insight and willingness to talk to a stranger about your life. I made a difference to me.