Archives for posts with tag: choices

I’m sipping my coffee and thinking about life as art. Authenticity, creativity, beauty… transcendence of pain, finding voice for those things in life for which we lack language or words… isn’t a life well-lived, itself, an artistic endeavor? Life, lived, as an art form, itself… means… what? Another day in the studio. Today, a lot of questions, consideration of the day behind me, work already started, unfinished – like life.

Who is the artist?ย A question for answering, individually, subjectively, personally. There is only one answer, for any one artist, really;ย gnothi seauton. The journey to the answer, is the life as art.

A woman told me, once, some long time ago in another life altogether, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body – I’m not an artist. I don’t do anything creative.” I took that at face value, at the time, and it fit my understanding of the world, then. I later saw her in her home. Her home struck me as a piece of fairly wonderful artistry, and the lack of paint staining her jeans, or dust under her nails, or bits and pieces of creative moments needing to be cleaned up didn’t detract from that impression at all. Her home was lovely, orderly, cared-for – each piece of memorabilia, each ornament, carefully selected, an impression exquisitely crafted – how is this not also art? Wherever she moved, she appeared to be quite carefully placed to communicate a mood, a moment, or an idea of beauty. The point I’m trying to make is that, as an artist, it isn’t really for me to define “what is art?” – only to define who I am, as an artist, myself. Those choices are not made of words – they are conveyed by my actions. By my art.

Words over coffee. It was a good day in the studio yesterday. Playing with paint – and chaos. I choose my materials with care.

A pair, 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/glow and UV. “Chaos Theory”

I did several pieces as pairs yesterday, specifically indulging my fascination with chaos theory. I started with two canvases, the same palette of colors for each, the same measured amounts of those pigments, placed similarly on each canvas, the canvases placed side by side, and worked as a single larger piece, to the same playlist. Mood, movement, brush strokes, technique – all as much the same as I can easily make them.ย  In every instance, of course, two different canvases still result. Not just different-as-in-separate-and-individual, but also just… different, as in – not the same. It was a fun day in the studio, playing with science, chemistry, and philosophy.

I spent the day in a meditation made of movement, color, and music, contemplating differences and similarities, considering the way I’ve carved up my life into “separate canvases”; the life of the artist, alongside the life of the analyst. The lover, alongside the angry woman. The professional, alongside the free spirit. The citizen, alongside the protester. I spent the day thinking about life as art, and contemplating this vast broad canvas of experiences as a single unified whole. I spent the day free of any constraints aside from those I have assigned myself. I answered a few questions – I asked a lot more.

I spent time in the garden, too. Another living metaphor.

I gardened later. I grilled a lovely summer evening repast. I meditated as evening came, and watched the dwindling twilight become night. It was the sort of day I could single out from among many and say “this is some of my best work”, as an artist.

Happily enough, it’s already time to begin again. The day stretches ahead of me, a blank canvas. You, too. What will you do with it?

This morning, before I quite realized what I’d done, I’d gotten lost in my newsfeed within moments of sitting down to write. I didn’t write. Well, I did write – but I wasn’t writing in a rational, purposeful, helpful way that supports me as a human, or shares something of value. I was mad. I was… posting replies. Oh my.

Once I noticed I was putting myself at risk of an angry screed, I pushed my chair back, sat fully upright, and took a couple deep deep cleansing breaths, and let myself relax. I held on to the awareness of that moment, breaking free of the tantalizing sticky trap of opinion, pulling myself free of the outrage machinery. (There is so much to be outraged about this days, no lie, that’s real.) Differences of opinion so easily become anger. We each feel so certain we are “right“, and that if only we could share the nuances of our personal perspective, everyone else would get it, too! While that may be true, now and then, it mostly just isn’t, at all. We are each having our own experience. It’s not actually fully share-able.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a “relativist“. While I do recognize that context, culture, and variations in human understanding and experience can change the truth of a proposition, I also understand the nature of reality to have unchanging elements (that I may or may not be fully able to recognize or understand, myself). I think how we define the terms we use matters a great deal, and definitely affects our ability to have meaning dialogue, generally, every bit as much as “the nature of reality”. I have an ethical framework, as an individual, that suggests to me that some actions and choices are “wrong” – meaning, not consistent with my ethics, as an individual. So far so good. Where things get messy, and I think this is true for a great many of us, is when my own sense of “wrongness” pressures me from within to make a point of calling it out when I see others taking those actions, or making those choices. Do I really get to decide right vs wrong for anyone but me?

Yes.

…Also, no.

So… “yes”, in the limited sense that I’m utterly free to express my opinion on the matter. However, in doing so, I’m a wiser happier human if I can also remain aware that my opinion on such things is not likely to a) change anyone else’s opinion (or actions) or b) have any great persuasive weight in the world, generally, and also… c) it’s not for me to decide what everyone else will think or do. I’m just saying. I mean that – I’m literally merely, simply, only, and “just” saying words. Someone may hear my words and change. Someone else may hear my words and double-down out of pure resentment and fury, because in their view I am clearly wrong. Still someone else will disregard my words without ever hearing me out,. We are each having our own experience. I don’t really get to decide what anyone else understands right or wrong to be – but I am not required to respect, value, share, or appreciate their perspective, beyond hearing them out, and accepting their agency.

I don’t personally take any of this to be an expression of futility, or as a reason to “stand down” or “keep my opinion to myself”, because humanity’s culture has formed around our opinions and understanding of the world. Our shared ethical commitments become our shared understanding of right vs wrong, and ultimately informs entire communities, and whole nations, allowing society to enact change. We do need to share our individual sense of right vs. wrong with each other to help steer this cultural ship through the waters of change and growth over time. It’s the anger and outrage of social media specifically (before coffee) that is problematic; too much noise, not enough signal. So, I give myself a break, sip my coffee, and bring my moment closer to home. I have plenty to do to make change happen right here. I have work to do to be the woman I most want to be. That’s a project I have real influence over – every day. My example, as an individual, has meaning without extending my reach “to the world” by replying to all manner of media detritus in a reactive moment. Hell, I don’t even respect the opinions of 100% of every human; some are worth far more than others (this is likely true for you as well), and we each “rate” the value of another person’s opinion on different criteria!! (Totally true, too.) So… another good moment to practice non-attachment. lol

I finish my coffee and begin again.

I talk a lot about making choices. I remind myself to make a new beginning, regularly. I practice non-attachment with commitment and discipline. I let things go. I move on. There is a serious reason why these are important practices for me; I have survived a lot through these practices. These are not practices for small circumstances, though it is the mundane petty things that provide the opportunities to practice regularly. These are the practices for the big shit in life.

Marriages that dissolve – with small children involved; sometimes people have to literally choose to walk away from their children to save their own lives. That’s hard. I can’t at all imagine what that must feel like, although I’ve had friends and loved ones go through it.

Jobs that end unexpectedly – with no opportunity to continue in a field of expertise or passion; sometimes people have to choose to undertake something entirely different, from the very beginning, without wanting to at all. Been there a couple of times, myself.

Abusive relationships – sometimes with real love involved; sometimes people have to walk away (in spite of love) to save their own lives – from violence, mental illness, or a narcissistic, petty, spoiled, unremorsefully callous loved-one unable or unwilling to make changes. Too many of us go through some version of this experience, sadly.

Sometimes life throws some very adult shit our way, seemingly forcing us to choose between our life and well-being, and what we think we want, or think we have, or think we need. It’s not easy. Sometimes the better, saner, choice is to just let it go. Begin again. Choose differently.

To escape violence in my first marriage, I had to reach a point where I was willing to walk away from everything. My home. My “stuff”. My existing social network. My career. My community. It was a matter of literally saving my life. I didn’t have much in the way of good practices for such circumstances then; I got lucky and made some choices that favored my survival. I’m grateful for that – and every day that my arthritis pain reminds me how mortal I am, it also reminds me that I have survived hell, and I am okay right now. Powerful lessons.

It’s tempting to work at things we’ve invested our hearts in, well beyond any useful point in making that effort. It’s tempting to excuse, explain, troubleshoot, or try again (and again, and again…). Sometimes those aren’t our best choices. It’s hard to be sure when that is the case, in advance, and we can be easily stalled by doubt. It’s emotionally difficult to choose differently, to select “self-care” from life’s menu, and “quality of life”, and to walk on from something we earnestly value, even when it is wrapped in misery. A good starting point is a realistic look at whether the thing we are valuing, whether it is a job, a relationship, a circumstance, or a possession, is truly all we think it to be. Is it just a “soap bubble”? What matters most? Have that and be controlled by it? Let it go and be free? It’s a choice. A really fucking hard one.

Still, and again. The very best practices work that way.

Letting go doesn’t necessarily mean there is no later follow-up, and there may be other actions to be taken… ending a marriage likely requires a divorce, for example – that’s a process that has a beginning and (hopefully) an end, but the process follows the decision to let go. The choice to act precedes the actions. Lost jobs are generally followed by new jobs – or some other new option for living life. Abusive relationships are… complicated. The ending of such things can be filled with further trauma; it’s rare that an abuser wants that relationship to end, themselves, they are invested because they specifically benefit from it. Things can get ugly. Scary. Filled with fear. Filled with sorrow. Filled with panic. Letting go – non-attachment- is a broad and well-lit path to emotional freedom. We can’t be controlled by what we are willing to let go.

It’s not easy. I’m having to let go of a specific, warm, and charming retirement that seemed so real and imminent, in favor of… no idea yet, but realistically I have to be willing to acknowledge that it won’t be that. I’m having to let go of a promising-seeming relationship (less difficult that it might have been, because the person involved made a specific point of burning bridges by way of mistreatment) – always painful. The worst? I’m having to let go of 42 original works of (my) art that I have not yet been able to recover, and may actually be destroyed (39 small works on paper, 3 canvases). It’s fucking hard, but even to continue to pursue recovering them (which may require litigation), I need to let them go, at least inasmuch as I have to allow myself to move on from grieving the loss, or being attached to a specific outcome. Still fucking hard. This? This is why I practice some of the practices I do, though; when I need them, they are here for me, reliably.

The sky is still blue. ๐Ÿ™‚

I had a lovely weekend, in spite of the possible loss of 42 precious original works of art. No small feat, and I am smiling over my coffee, feeling wrapped in love and supported and cared for. (Seriously? It was like a vacation, crammed into one delicious day and night.) I am relaxed and ready for the work week. I’m grateful for my Traveling Partner. Grateful to have such wonderful friends. Grateful to be okay right now.ย  It’s a nice beginning to the week, whatever it holds.

My busy week has been nothing like “routine”. I’m still smiling. I did not see my Traveling Partner last night, as we’d planned, the hour of evening was later than we’d figured when my hair appointment ended, I’d started the day quite tired already, and my partner considerately suggested I get the rest I needed and embrace the late Thursday night ahead without additional fatigue. Good idea. I agreed. I’m still smiling. I’m alert. Rested. In no particular pain in spite of the rainy morning. I am ready for a late night! Bring it!

It’s been a busy week, sure. It has, however, been more ups than downs. More successes than failures. More challenges overcome, than challenges that thwarted me. More wins than losses. More beautiful moments than aggravating ones. I suspect that this is the truth of life, generally, much of the time, for most of us – if we can find the sweet spot in our perspective from which to view our experience.

This morning I sip my coffee and practice a favorite practice – I take the things I need to practice it with me everywhere I go: memory, experiences, presence, and a kindly disposition toward my very human self. I start simply enough, by remembering something, maybe looking through my recent photographs, or contemplating a moment, conversation, or experience – one that felt really good. That’s the important bit; start with something that feels amazing, before working towards transforming the perspective on a less comfortable moment. Because that’s totally possible too, and does not require compromising my values, telling myself pretty lies, ignoring painful truths, or constructing a fake narrative, it just takes some understanding, some compassion – and some practice. (I learned to transform some painful, awkward, or uncomfortable recollections into recollections with positive value more or less by accident, through the practice of “taking in the good“, and I don’t have “steps” to offer to make that a reliable thing; it requires practice, no avoiding that.)

Did the phrase “working towards” cause you to lose interest? Yeah… You’re probably going to have to get over that. Just saying. There are verbs involved. The effort must, in fact, and unavoidably, be your own. ๐Ÿ˜‰

A beautiful way to say thank you (to me) (because I like flowers) (in vases) (and being appreciated). Flowers from colleagues. My work space smells like a garden. ๐Ÿ˜€

The complicated week has been dimpled with beautiful moments. A promotion. An appreciative gift of flowers. Smiles from colleagues in moments of shared success and celebration. A festive dinner out with my Traveling Partner and a dear friend. A delightful outcome on new hair color. It’s not even over yet – and there’s still more to appreciate, to pause for, to savor, to relish, to sit with in gentle contemplation over a great cup of coffee, too early in the morning. ๐Ÿ™‚

So look, my life isn’t “perfect” (and that’s not a thing, so let that go now!) – my arthritis pain has been kicking my ass all this rainy chilly week, and I’ve had an on again/off again headache that has chased me for days. My schedule is a so far off routine at this point it is wreckage, calendar in useless tatters, which is deeply uncomfortable for me. My sleep, until last night, has been of exceedingly poor quality, offering little rest. A wee fish in my aquarium died. The first time my Traveling Partner ever saw my new place, my bed wasn’t made – which bugs me. The powerful “Me, Too.” meme unfolded on Facebook and Twitter, which although powerful and extraordinary, was also painful, uncomfortable, and saddening. Life is not about perfection.ย We are human. So human. Pain is a thing. Sickness is a thing. Emotional anguish is a thing. Running late is a thing. Being ditched is a thing. Disappointment is a thing. Setting ourselves up for failure is a thing. Learned helplessness is a thing. This is a “choose your own adventure” sort of experience – and you have choices. But…

It isn’t “easy”. It does take practice. It is utterly necessary to “do something” about “that” – whatever it is. ๐Ÿ™‚ One thing at a time, and it’s okay to take it slow, to fumble, to get it wrong, and to have to begin again…

…like…

…a bunch of times.

This is your experience. The craftsmanship involved in making it a “good one” (defined by you) is yours.

This morning I’m fortunate to be sitting in the sweet spot. It’s been a busy week. I’m still smiling. That’s enough. ๐Ÿ™‚

I woke slowly, resisting the end of the night as long as I could. I felt comfortable, content, and rested – I just didn’t want to wake up quite then, although I could see dawn was imminent by the lightness of the room, generally. I woke. Wandered around the place in an unhurried way opening up the patio door and the rest of the windows to let in more of the cool morning breezes. Today won’t be as hot. I find myself smiling; I’ll get more done. There’s more to do. This works for me.

The night ended gently.

Yesterday was a good day. I’d planned to do more, including go enjoy dinner with visiting friends from out-of-town. I wasn’t up to it after all. I didn’t let that blow my general good spirits or fill me with guilt or shame or disappointment, and since I took a different approach than all of those things, I also avoided becoming mired in hidden resentment, irritation, or defensiveness – the sort of things that are, while very human, so capable of wrecking a perfectly good time, and frankly so easy to avoid, by choices that I make myself to live authentically, and take good care of this fragile vessel.

This morning we have it in mind to get together over brunch. ๐Ÿ™‚ Fun! I love brunch.ย My traveling partner is of a mind to join us, and it all sounds quite wonderful. ๐Ÿ™‚

Today is another day of packing, boxing, and sorting things out for the move. Laundry, too. Fuck – this doesn’t sound like a day of leisure at all. LOL I take a deep breath as my anxiety level attempts to rise, and as I exhale I feel myself relax. I chose this. I’m eager to proceed with it. This means it will be most easily done if I am also able to embrace the realities of the effort involved. There’s really no dodging the verbs, and life has a lot of them to offer.

I remind myself that this is a move that is only 11 days away at this point. (What?!!) That’s okay – I have boxes, a list, packing tape, sticky labels, a sharpie, tissue paper, and bubble wrap! How much more prepared could I be? Yesterday I got a thoroughly excellent start on having Day 1 items ready to move, and placed in an expedient “staging area” that I suppose could also be called a “dining room”. I made sure to provide the landlord my new address, and my firm move out date, and in return she provided me with the specifics of my pro-rated July rent. This is real. This is happening.

I take a few deep breaths of cool meadow breezes, and pause to listen to the wind chime, the call of the crow in the little pine outside my window, and to sip ย my coffee. There remains much to do. It only feels overwhelming when I find my consciousness stalled in some future moment, while standing in the midst of all of the things yet to be done, and feeling rather as if that future moment is now, a now in which I am clearly not ready for it to be that future moment, then. lol Well, that’s easily remedied, is it not? I return my consciousness to now as well, and I’m just fine.

My anxiety comes and goes as I move through the work and details of managing yet another move. Some of my anxiety is merely baggage, the remnants of my chaos and damage lurking in the background of every moment. Some of my anxiety is real enough, but also that fairly natural impotent sort of not-very-helpful anxiety that crops up in the face of adulting at full speed, and suddenly noticing “I don’t have training wheels”; I feel less skilled at all of this than I most likely actually am. I’ve moved before. I’ve moved recently. I’ve moved myself with minimal help. I’ve coordinated moves when I’ve had a lot of help. I’ve got this. Anxiety is liar.

It’s a pleasant morning, and the day has yet to reveal its many delights. It’s enough to enjoy the moment, to enjoy the breezes, to enjoy my coffee, and to begin again. ๐Ÿ™‚