Today’s quote is:
People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out if fear of unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.
This piece was my favorite of the ones I did in my first week, mostly because the way I did it was so new to me. I first painted the background all black. And then drew my face and painted it on top. Which is why it’s dark looking. But I love it. I loved the process of seeing the face emerge from darkness.
I wish I could tell you my faces get all better after this but that isn’t so. As I predicted, I do a few I like and many I don’t. The process is long, tough and arduous. But we soldier on.
As for the quote, it’s another one of those that gave me serious pause. I will admit right here and right now that I do this. I do this all the time. In fact, I am doing this right now in various areas of my life. As I get older and have more responsibilities in my life, I’ve noticed that I get more and more scared of the unknown. I get much more risk-averse.
The suffering I know is much better than the potential suffering that might come from the unknown. Who knows how bad it might be? I never think “Oh it might turn out so much better.” I just spend most of my energy worrying about how very bad it might get.
And while a little risk-averseness isn’t necessarily bad, it can easily get debilitating. If I am always choosing the familiar suffering, I am still always choosing suffering over any other possible path.
And here’s something I learned a long time ago: taking risks is like a muscle. Unused, it can atrophy. To be good at taking risks, you need to practice that muscle. You need to be willing to try. The less you try, the more you breed fear. The less you’ll try and the circle will go on.
So here’s what I thought today when I read the quote: Maybe I can look at my life and see the small sufferings I’m choosing. Ones that I can risk playing with. Ones where even if the unknown ended up being terrible, it wouldn’t be disastrous. I can start taking small, non-harmful risks wherever I can. This way I can flex my muscle. I can practice and strengthen it. I can also show myself that sometimes the risks pay off. Sometimes the known suffering is much worse than the alternative.
And I will only know if I try.
Since I had book club last night, I didn’t get to post so I thought I’d post two today if I can. This is actually face #4 and I will post #3 tonight.
This one was an attempt to take a photo Judy gave, turn it upside down and try to draw from there. And then to paint it with just a single color to study values.
The quote says:
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.
Since this was a study in shades, I thought the quote fit the drawing. I am not a fan of this face but it’s all part of the process and I am trusting the process. I am trying to show up and do my piece and call it done until the next day. I am actually a few days in now and I can tell you my pieces do get better.
As for the quote, this is one of those things that I think is really important to remember. What is there is just words, we are the ones who give meaning to them and sometimes that can be really dangerous. Our own mood can impact how we read an email, how we interpret a friend, how we decide to respond.
As so much of our communication has moved to written media instead of the phone (which is interesting to me since on the days before the phone, the primary media was written too, is this progress or a regression i wonder?) I think this idea of human voice infusing words with shades of deeper meaning becomes more and more relevant.
It means you have to be careful with the words you choose to ensure it’s not easy to misinterpret them. It means you have to be aware of your own bias/mood/attitude when reading others’ words.
These are extra hard in today’s “get-it-done” or “check-mail-while-multitasking” world. We pay less attention. We are not so mindful.
And yet I think this form of communication requires less rush and more mindfulness.
Email is a tough medium, in my opinion, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation and I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with it. But, in the end, it’s another reminder to live my life mindfully.
And I could use many of those.
Today’s quote says:
I myself am entirely made of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.
When I decided to tackle faces for May, I knew it would be challenging. I’ve tried to draw, paint, color faces before and it was tough each time. And it’s still tough. The thing about art, for me, I’ve learned, is not how realistic it looks, or how unique it is, or whatever. It’s about how closely it matches my intentions.
Does the outcome match what I had in mind? Does it match what I wanted to create? Does it give the feeling I was looking to communicate?
And, well, it rarely does.
Which is why I keep trying, I guess.
There are cases where I don’t have a major plan and I just let it be. Or times when I am satisfied enough. Or, I might even be pleased on some rare occasions.
But I knew it wouldn’t be this way with the faces.
They were going to be hard and I was going to be unhappy. Drawing faces is hard enough for me, and painting them is down right impossible.
But then I remembered that Learning is a core goal for me this year. As I was thinking about 2013 and 2014 back in December, I realized that a lot of what I did in 2013 was practicing things I’d learned the year before. And I wanted 2014 to be different. I wanted it to be full of new experiences, growth and new learning.
Learning something new is never easy and there’s a long period of adjustment (or sucking if you want me to be honest.) For the first hours, days, weeks, months, even years of doing something you’ve never done before, you are not good at it. You struggle, you mess up, you get frustrated, you want to give up.
Or maybe it’s just me.
But the trick is to soldier on. The trick is to show up every day and try again and again. Even after you’re exhausted. Even after you feel you’ll never ever get it. Even after you regret the day you decided to try this to begin with. Even then.
You keep going.
You keep showing up.
And when you’re worn out from the wear and tear. When you’re spent. When you feel it will never happen for you and that you must just not have the head/talent for it. You still keep going.
And then one day it just happens.
You wake up, you sit down, you try again and you notice it’s not as hard this time. You start not hating what you came up with. and that little bit is all you need to just keep trying.
That’s how it works. Learning new things is tough.
I often hear people say I don’t have the ear for languages. I don’t have the talent to draw. I don’t have the head for math.
What you’re missing is not the ear/talent/head/time/heart…. what you’re missing is the persistence. The unwavering dedication any new thing takes. I am not saying we all have to learn new things but I am saying that if you truly want to, you can. Anyone can. You need a lot of persistence and dedication. A lot.
Anyhow, I decided I wanted 2014 to be a year of learning for me. Which also means I need to be willing to suck. I need to be willing to spend the time and effort and not have it pay off for a while.
and that’s ok.
So I will paint my faces. And most of them will suck. And maybe one or two will be okay and that will be wonderful. To ensure the process is less painful for me, I decided to change the perspective on my intentions. My intentions this month are to show up daily and paint a face. Nothing further than that. If I make it to there, I did good.
My pages will be entirely made of flaws but will be painted with good intentions.
Back in February, Judy Wise put a class announcement on her blog and I signed up immediately. See where it says March 24, well, apparently I didn’t because I put it down on my calendar as April 24. So when I emailed Judy, full of excitement, on April 23 about how excited I was for the class, she emailed me back immediately, kindly telling me I had just missed the whole class.
On the up side, I now had all the lessons at once and didn’t have to eagerly await for the next day to show up. But on the down side, there’s something to be said for the momentum of taking a class along with others vs having to do it all on your own.
So I had to make a plan.
Since April was almost coming to a close, I figured the timing was perfect to make this a new monthly project.
So here we are. I will post all the April pages at once next week but now it’s time to start May.
I decided I would couple the assignments with quotes because I’ve enjoyed them all April long and I wasn’t ready to let them go yet.
So today’s quote is:
Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.
A good one to start the month with and a great one to remember. You, and only you, decide your worth. What others see or don’t see is on them.
Today’s quote is actually the ending of a longer quote:
Allow beauty to shatter you regularly. The loveliest people are the ones who have been burnt and broken and torn at the seams, yet still send their open hearts into the world to mend with love again, and again, and again.
You must allow yourself to feel your life while you’re in it. – Victoria Erickson
That last part of the quote really spoke to me.
I always get annoyed when people tell me I feel too much. Too strongly.
I believe that if we don’t let things get to us and we don’t let ourselves experience the feelings we’re having, we’re not really doing them justice. They won’t disappear just because we’re not expressing them (worse, they sit dormant and explode at the most inopportune times). And Brené Brown has said many times that if we numb the bad, we also numb the good. So, yet, another reason to let ourselves feel it all.
I look at my kids and they experience life with so much more acuteness than I do. When something bad happens, it’s a huge disaster. Big tears. Super sadness. It’s like the world is over. This person is no longer my friend. On and on. But then when the good stuff happens it’s just as strong. I LOVE this. It’s the best EVER. I am so HAPPY. And on and on.
But you know the best part?
Because they let themselves experience it fully, step into it and own it, it doesn’t drag on. They feel it and then they move on to the next moment. And it’s over. The expressed whatever it was they were feeling and it’s not in their system anymore.
That’s what I love the most.
I believe we all could learn so much from the little kids in our lives. I want to allow myself to fully feel my life while i am in it. I want to live all of it. Feel all of it. Let it out.
And then make space for the next thing.
Today’s quote is:
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. – Oscar Wilde
This is one of those quotes that made me cringe when I read it. The truth of it hit me so strongly that I couldn’t breathe for a moment.
The fact is, there are so many days, weeks, months when I am existing, and barely at that. I am just making it through my days, doing the things I’ve set for myself and the things that need to get done. And even those don’t really get done.
At this very moment, my clean laundry is piled up high, my floor is full of toys, the kitchen table has piles of papers, and my hands are covered with paint. I haven’t even begun to write my todo list for two weeks and I am hundreds of emails behind in my inbox. Random important things that I have to do pop into my head and I keep thinking I should at least write them down.
But I don’t want to do any of those things.
And I don’t.
I sit and read my book or write here or do some more art.
I am not even existing today but really in the place where I just avoid everything. I am numbing but not with food or internet, with just avoidance.
So when I read a quote like this, I feel like screaming.
Yes, I want to say, I want to live! I don’t want to merely Exist.
I don’t want it to feel so hard.
And then I remember that tomorrow is another day and I get to choose all over again.
So tonight, I’ll do a little bit, I’ll barely exist. I’ll take a walk and then go to sleep. Tomorrow, maybe tomorrow, can be the day I can take on the task of living.
Today’s quote is:
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. – Jon Acuff
Yesterday, I emailed Judy Wise to tell her how excited I was about her upcoming “painting faces” class which my calendar said was starting today.
She replied pretty much immediately and said that the class had started a month ago and was now over.
I felt my heart sink.
She then said the students were still working on all the material in the FB group and did I want to be added. I said of course and she added me and once I visited the group and saw everyone’s work, my heart sank even more.
The other students’ work was so so amazing that I just wanted to quit before I even started. What’s the point? There’s no chance I will ever be that good. I’ve been working on drawing faces for quite a few years now and I just can’t get good enough at them, how could I even think I’d be good enough to paint.
What was I thinking.
I churned and churned all night.
Then this morning, I saw this quote and decided it was my quote for the day.
It was a reminder that even if I’ve been trying for a while, I am still just at the beginning of my journey. I don’t need to compare myself to anyone. Who knows how much time or effort they’ve already dedicated to it?
And who knows where I am in my journey.
All I do know is that I want to learn how to do this. I know that I love Judy’s work and I am thrilled at the chance to learn from her videos. I know that my journey is mine alone. And not only do I not want to compare my beginning to their middle, I don’t want to compare my journey to theirs at all.
So onward we go.
I can’t wait to dig into the classes even if I showed up a month late.
Maybe they can be my project for May.
Today’s quote is:
It always seems impossible until it’s done. - Nelson Mandela
When I saw this quote today, I laughed out loud. Yesterday, I had one of these at work. I had a situation that seemed impossible. It was driving me mad and I couldn’t figure out how it was ever going to be solved.
When I am in situations like this, I don’t handle it well. In fact, it drives me so mad that I become the worst version of myself. I stop thinking logically and operate in mostly the fight or flight mode. I panic and freak out. And, like most people when they are panicked and not thinking clearly, I do unwise things.
I flail and get others involved. Which makes things even worse.
And then when it’s all over and the prefrontal cortex starts kicking in again, I feel the strong wash of shame.
Which is the worst.
So I thought a lot about this quote today. About how I can remember that it always feels impossible until that one magical moment when it’s fixed. It seems impossible until it isn’t and it’s like a switch. There isn’t much in between impossibility and possibility. It’s not always gradual (though sometimes it is) but most of the time, it feels impossible until one day, one moment you look at it and you see it is indeed possible. And then it gets done. Not a lot in between.
So the question is how will i remember that it will get done. That it will become possible. That it will seem deeply impossible till that one moment. And that I need to have faith. Faith that it will indeed get done.
That’s the hard part for me. To have faith. To stop the panic and let my thinking kick in so it can remind me to have faith. So maybe I should make a bigger version of this sign and put it up on my desk so I can remember.
today’s quote is:
You are confined only by the walls you built yourself.
I read this quote a while ago and had made an art journal page on it, too.
I was thinking about it again last night when I was trying to pick a quote today. I thought of all the ways i get in my own way. All the ways I create limits for myself. Hurdles I have to jump through, blocks on what I can and cannot do.
I have so many ideas.
So many ways I get in my own way.
I know that we all do this in different ways but I think, like most things, the first step to knocking those walls down is awareness.
And then Saying it out loud.
I build walls around what i am capable of and what’s possible for me. I feel strong urges to do things (or to stop doing things) and then I talk myself out of each of them. I have a sense of the “responsible path” and I pretty much try to follow it to a T. I create a lot of stories around what responsible means and what it doesn’t mean. In those moments when I look around and I see only walls, I need to remember that they are created by me. They are in my mind, my story, but rarely are they in the real world.
And just like I get to put them up, I also get to take them down.
Today’s quote is:
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. -Maya Angelou
I have found this to be very true for me and it’s the exact reason I do these month-long exercises. I find that the practice of creating art every single day only fuels more creativity more. It gives me more ideas. It stretches me more.
So if you’re from the camp of “what if i run out” I highly urge you to use up all you have. Sit and do art. Again and again. Don’t hesitate, don’t postpone, don’t be afraid.
You will get more.
So much more.
So, sit and create.
ps: alas i don’t like the spacing and lettering on this one. but i keep trying. that’s the goal after all.
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. -Thoreau
How true eh?
Yet another one that’s been on my mind a lot lately. What am I willing to exchange my life for?
To me, this shows up significantly in two different ways. One is how much of my soul (my core beliefs, desires, identity) am I exchanging for it? Is this going against some deep sense of self I have and what will be the cost to giving that up? Am I willing to pay that price? Is this worth more to me than what I am giving up?
Some of these questions are subtle and hard to answer.
But they are important, too.
This is one of the reasons, many years ago, I walked away from my Wall Street job. I wanted to make sure that if I was working 100 hours a week, it was for a cause I really believed in. That wasn’t the case with the job I had then. I felt like I couldn’t look my future kids in the eye and tell them I had to work when I was doing that kind of work. I respect other people’s choices, but it wasn’t a right fit for me. (I left that job to do Teach For America, I felt that, there, I was serving a much more needed and important role. That didn’t pan out for other reasons but I still don’t regret my choice at all. I still believe there’s a cost to doing something that’s really not aligned with who you are and what matters to you.)
The second way this quote speaks to me is more easy to visualize and define: The time you spend on doing activity X is time taken away from being able to do Y. It’s always like that. More than money, time is the one resource that runs out no matter what. We all get the same amount of it each day and none of us gets to save any of the minutes up. So we get it, and we use it. One way or another.
I feel like a lot of my choices would be better served if I kept asking myself, what am i exchanging for this? For this hour of TV I watch, for the trip I am taking, for learning lettering, for listening to a book. Even for the activities I like doing, they still mean that I can’t do something else. My self-induced todo list can sometimes get in the way, too. And it’s important to always ask what I am exchanging.
We often think about “what am I getting?” but not as often about “What am I giving up?”
In coaching, one of the exercises I do with my clients is “what are you saying no to?” So when you say Yes to watching TV, what are you saying No to? (like getting more sleep, reading a book, talking with hubby, etc.) When we’re clearer about what we’re exchanging, we can make better informed choices.
Today’s quote is:
“Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.” ~Arthur Christopher Benson
I remember as a little girl, I kept thinking how I would come over to America and get a fresh start. I wouldn’t be the weird girl anymore, I would fit in. I would belong. As if all the things that made me weird would magically disappear.
Alas, not so.
I took a class a few years ago and one of the quotes they say there is: Who’s always around when you’re complaining?
Let me give you a hint: you.
So I’ve learned that you can’t run away from who you are. Who you are is who you are and it follows you around wherever you go. Hence if you want something to go differently, what you want is a change of self.
(there are exceptions of course.)
I think of this often when I am unhappy with how things are and daydream that if only I had so and so, life would be so much better. If only I lived in this place or had that job or had this body, blah blah.
A shift in perspective, a change of self, can go such a long way in these situations.
I do this with my clients often. What’s the perspective you’re holding and are other ones possible.
And, like most things we tell others, I need to hear it myself often, too.