Archives for posts with tag: do you?

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?Β A question for answering, individually, subjectively, personally. There is only one answer, for any one artist, really;Β 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.Β  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?

I’m “taking a media break” from news feeds, streaming contact, social media – pretty much most of the digital distractions available have been paused, logged off, or shut down for the weekend. I suck at this, so it is a constant effort to be vigilant about the potential time and bandwidth drains, and to choose wisely – and consistently. This? This right here is part of who I am. If I were not writing this blog post, I would be perched on a sofa, chair, or rock somewhere, with a hardbound blank book in my lap, still writing. Probably about the same number of words. This is a thing I do – and have done so since I was quite young (12?13?).Β  No point, really, in trying to halt the flow of words, entirely; it would be an endeavor with (historically) limited success. πŸ˜‰ Gnothi seauton.

Today I’m spending the day (and likely the weekend) in my studio. Painting. Sorting through years of stacked canvases to select inventory for sale. Giving thought, too, to the installation at the gallery where I am presently showing my work. I could rotate something out, put up something different… or… not. πŸ™‚ I could paint all day, instead.

In the studio, I’ve got a couple larger, time-consuming works that I am working on slowly, with care, but today “feels like” new work…

I sometimes find it tougher to get started on new work than I expect to. I have an idea in my head of where the work should finish, what I want to see, but the “point A to point B” of that journey rarely seems to straightforward. Do I begin with a finished background, already painted? Will I “ruin it”? (Which really only amounts to painting something different than I’d planned on – which happens a lot. πŸ™‚ ) Truth is, like any beginning on any journey that seems to have a fixed destination, but an uncertain route, getting started sometimes feels… hard. So, I put a fresh canvas on my easel, much the same way I’d write an observational first sentence when I’m unsure what to write, and grab a big brush, a tube of glow in the dark, and a bunch of glitter. “My first sentence” on this weekend’s journey isn’t written in words – it’s done on canvas, in glow-in-the-dark and glitter. πŸ™‚ Just a bit of fun, loosely inspired by summer mornings, and fireworks shows, and a chill, happy place within myself that is purely okay with who I am. It’s an excellent beginning, lacking in performance pressure, crafted of coffee, birdsong, and personal delight.

…a beginning has to start somewhere… (an unfinished work of glitter and glow, begins the day).

What makes your day – or your life – “sparkle” for you? What do you yearn to make, build, or do? What do you resent your job over, that you wish you “had more time for”? I get it… we’ve got to get out there in the world and hustle, make some motherfucking money, pay the bills, “get ahead”… but… what about what matters most? What about your passion? What about that spark in your soul? Write a novel? Poetry? Paint? Sketch? Sculpt? Craft? Build? Create? Restore? Grow? What excites you about life? Who are you when you are not at work? There’s time for that, too – there has to be, otherwise, what’s the point of living? The thing is – sometimes we have to set a firm boundary, snatch our time back from those who would have it in service of their agenda, instead of our own. Don’t forget that person in the mirror – you matter. Take care of you. Live some tiny fragment of even your boldest dreams!

“All that glitters” is most definitely not gold – some of it? Some of it is actually, literally, “just” glitter… but glitter has its place, too.Β  (My Traveling Partner calls it faerie scabies, and some days its “place” does seem to be… everywhere. lol) πŸ™‚

Enjoy life’s sparkle!

Start somewhere. Begin again. πŸ™‚

 

 

Which matters more, skillful self-care or following through on plans? Or, how about this one, is keeping regular hours more important than “being there” for a friend? Or, what about “work life balance” – is the work more important than the life? Is the income more important than the quality of the experience? Is it more necessary to be a skillful emotionally self-sufficient adult, or to hold on to a child-like sense of wonder, whimsy, and joy?

Here’s a thought; maybe stop trying to divide every damned thing neatly into two clear choices? Life does not actually exist in that form in any common way. We have immense power over our own experience, through our choices, and life’s menu is far more vast than any one false dichotomy.

Yes – good self-care really matters. When I don’t care for myself skillfully (nutrition meals, appropriate caloric intake, good sleep hygiene, getting enough exercise, taking prescribed medication on time as directed, following a strict meditation practice, and generally treating myself as someone who matters to me), my world and my experience of life slowly begins to degrade over time, until my quality of life overall suffers, and I am not the person I most want to be.

Yes – following through on commitments matter. We count on each other as a community. Our shared strength far exceeds our individual strengths. Planning and following through allows us all to level up based on shared strengths.

Yes – work/life balance matters; when we work for pay, what we “earn” is a direct conversion of our life force into spendable currency that we need to meet other obligations and care for ourselves, but it also comes at the cost of giving up precious limited life time, life force, and individual resources. Clearly, there needs to be a balance, and most likely that balance should favor us as individuals, rather than our employers, generally. Or so it seems to me. We are not machinery.

Yes – learning to adult skillfully takes a lot of the strain out of adulting at all. If we can’t adult for ourselves, more than likely we’ve pushed that burden off onto someone else, who is now having to be the grown up in the room for more than one person. Be your own boss. Be your own grown up. Be the person you most want to be.

Yes – child-like wonder, a sense of whimsy and fun, a playful nature, and the willingness to let go a little, and to enjoy life, are delicious additions to a generally adult experience of life. I highly recommend it – but perhaps not the expense of the adulting basics necessary to keep one’s shit together appropriately day-to-day. <shrugs> I don’t know. Do you.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not a choice between two things. That’s a gross over-simplification of how real life works for real people in a real world; it’s so much more complicated than that, so much richer. Choices. Subtlety. Nuance. All the things.

I know. It sounds like a lot to deal with, and it is so easy to become overwhelmed. Narrowing things down to two clear choices seems so much easier – but that’s an illusion. It’s a game we made up that doesn’t really work very well, due to overlooking all the many other choices beyond just whatever to we’ve decided to admit exist in the moment. Mix and match. Choose your adventure. Allow yourself the freedom to look at the whole menu, don’t just sit down to life’s table and fall back on some shortcut for efficiency’s sake – this is your fucking life!! Live it.

Should I go to the store for windshield washer fluid at the end of a long work day – because I do need it – or should I “just skip it” because I am tired? Well, come on now, there are clearly more choices, right? I could… pick it up on the morning from the gas station down the street on my way. I could order it online and have it delivered, and hope that I don’t really need it sooner than that. I could make some homemade from ingredients on hand. So… yeah. More than two choices, by far. This is true of most experiences. Give yourself a chance to consider more than two choices. Yes, and even consider choices that you, perhaps, see as “not really an option”; you may be filtering out more than you realize.

False dichotomies are everywhere in our thinking. Advertising is practically built on them. Politics, too. It’s a lot of bullshit, frankly, and we can do better. That is also a choice. Are you ready to choose differently? Are you ready to begin again?

Ready for it? Here it comes… The next opportunity to make a profound change, or improve something, or embrace something (someone?), or “make that next move”… coming up any second now… Watch for it…

Oh. Wait. I don’t mean to be a let down, or to mislead you… but… that’s literally every single moment, ever, and right now. Seriously. Don’t like your life? Make some different choices than you have been making. They don’t even have to be huge choices. I’m not talking about “leave-your-mate-quite-your-job-move-across-the-world” changes, here, although those exist, too; it’s the small every day changes. Does your quality of life leave something to be desired? Let’s just start there, with something small.

Look around you right now (I’ll wait).

Okay. Based on what you see, from your vantage point right now, what could you be doing differently that may improve the quality of your life? Just that. No need to overwhelm yourself, just some small thing. Maybe “there’s clothes all over my floor” becomes “I’ll stop dropping my clothes on the floor”, followed by “Oh, hey, I’ll just pick these up right now, too”? Small stuff. Not all of everything all at once. Just… something. Practice it until it becomes “natural” – and by “natural” I mean that it will, over time, become something that is just part of who you are, you just do it, and it doesn’t really occur to you not to. That’s a thing, and it really happens.

By the way – it already has. Take another look around you, and hold that thought; you practiced everything you do that results in the life you live, over time, until it became who you are. Yep. Dishes in the sink? Clothes on the floor? Books you never read? A job you hate? Even things like screaming tantrums and hormonal rages. Chronically shitty attitude about life? Yeah, you can practice a mood or state of mind, too, and omg that can feel so hard to change – I mean, aren’t you “just who you are”? Nope. Not a thing. We are a product of our choices over time, our environment, our genes – lots of things – but we can definitely change a lot of it. It’s our choices that make that possible. We’re highly adaptable. We become what we practice, even if that wasn’t who we were when we started our journey.

So… today? Today my devices don’t control what I’m doing with my time, and aren’t permitted to pull my focus from “real life”. I use them, they don’t use me. I’m not a life support system for a fucking phone. πŸ˜‰ That’s my change today – it’s actually pretty huge. I did okay with it yesterday. My notifications are off, and my ringer turned off during the work day, and when I’m driving (really anytime I don’t care to be interrupted by it). I don’t “need” Facebook, either, really, and the day went just fine setting firm limits with myself. I look at my phone when I need something from it. It’s not a tether that requires me to interact with the world on other people’s terms or timing. More practice today. πŸ™‚ Every day. All of the minutes. Nothing but practice. I expect to fail some. That’s okay. I’ll just start over. Endless new beginnings, and we definitely become what we practice. πŸ˜€

Language matters too; put the past in the past tense. Put the person you want most to be in the present tense – then be that. (It does still take practice.) Don’t be tempted to let others define you. Definitely “use your words”. πŸ˜‰

Time to begin again.

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –Β  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. πŸ™‚

It’s time to begin again.