I’m writing this in the midst of Hurricane Florence – in Western North Carolina, now just a tropical depression. She continues to dump rain and is taking her time moving on out of here. She has changed people’s plans – and their homes - in both dramatic and subtle ways. She is everything from an inconvenience to a life changer. In thousands of ways, she is a huge pain in the ass - and what I feel and think about her is totally irrelevant.
Weather has a way of reminding me of one of my favorite sayings: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothes.”
Growing up in tornado alley, we would have argued with that saying. Some weather just can’t be handled with a better coat. But nasty weather definitely taps into my inner control freak.
When I was a kid, we had tornado warnings regularly – and they were often backed up by actual tornados doing actual damage. We had a “tornado closet” that I got stuffed into more than once with my little sister. To this day, I hate, I mean really hate, being in tight spaces.
While in the closet, I would start inventing ways to eliminate, eradicate, obliterate or kill tornados. I was just SURE that a big enough gun could stop the havoc and get me the hell out of this closet! If a gun wouldn’t work, maybe there was something else like an airplane with special chemicals. It was magical thinking run amok.
The world is still waiting on my great inventions. The weather is still doing what the weather is going to do.
And my inner control freak is still learning what can and cannot be controlled.
Worry and fear don’t solve things – even though they appear like wolves in sheep’s clothing, telling me they have the answers. Complacency and denial don’t solve things either, while they try to “shelter” me from the truth.
The media doesn’t help. Yes, they are giving lots of facts and sharing the best guesses as to storm path, impact, etc. They are also in the business of getting ratings, so they are also going to show the worst of the devastation over and over again. If I’m not aware, my mind will run away with me, fueled by the guy yelling over the wind while people walk calmly behind him.
Parsing out what I can and cannot control takes everything I have. Making decisions about whether to stay or go and what preparations to make takes up a huge amount of mental space.
It’s also great exercise on learning to accept what cannot be changed and do what I can do AND developing the wisdom to know the difference. (This is a not-so-subtle reference to the Serenity Prayer, which is one of the most powerful lenses through which to tame the lion of control freak.)
So I sit here on Sunday morning grateful to be inside, prepared for what I can think of, and planning to enjoy the day while the rain pounds and wind howls outside my door. Will I keep worry, fear and control at bay? Stay tuned.
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We have recently finished renovating 3 old cabins on Mystic Waters. After a dramatic search for the water connection for one them (it’s a long story), the basics are mostly done. Now it’s time to make them beautiful. The walls really need to be dressed up – and seeing my old art through new eyes has unleashed a whole fresh burst of ideas and creativity. It’s also reminded me of how easy it is to forget what makes me strong.
My husband suggested I frame some of my original art and hang it. My first thought was this: “What a dumb idea. I don’t have anything that is frame-able.” My assumption was pretty simple. When a painting is “frame-worthy”, I frame it and either sell it or hang it. My stubborn desire to always be right kept me from doing anything with this for a while…and then my curiosity got the better of me.
It started with me in the studio, opening drawers looking for something else. In one of the drawers that almost never gets opened, I found a big brown envelope. When I pulled it out, I found the above picture.
I had forgotten that I could do this. The part of me that came out of hiding to produce this piece went back under-cover almost immediately all those years ago.
Finding this drawing stuffed away in a drawer reminds me that art - or any other expression of ourselves - is more about the willingness to be real and be seen and to risk not being liked than it is knowledge and technique.
When I was young, my mother -an art major in college – taught me how to sketch portraits. She helped me learn to see the proportions, and most importantly, to understand that the eyes are NOT at the top of the oval, but in the middle.
Just because I knew HOW to draw did not mean that I could bring myself to risk the critique of showing WHAT I would sketch
So 30+ years ago, I sketched this and put it away, only to find it all these years later. Now my curiosity was piqued. What else is hiding in here?
And in the next hour, it was like I had entered a whole new world. My eyes began to see differently.
In that same drawer, I found one of my earliest paintings from my “watercolor era” which started around 2002. An older, gentler version of me was able to give that painting a loving critique and then a slight makeover. By adding some depth to the trees, a “drawer painting” became frame-worthy.
Still needing MANY more paintings to fill those walls, I started pulling out more drawer discards. Having opening my mind to the possibility of bringing 16 years of experience and the courage to screw it up, I started having some serious fun.
One of my favorite reclamations started with a frame mixed with desperation and a big dose of seeing everything through the eyes of possibility. I had been storing a square frame for years and had never painted a square painting. It’s just a weird proportion. With my new found courage, I pulled out several old paintings that were too big for the frame. Then I started experimenting with finding the best part of the picture:
Just putting a frame on this made it a better painting in my eyes. Here’s the original:
Now I had a choice to make. Which part would I reclaim, knowing that the rest of the painting would be scrapped? I was feeling kind of reckless, so I made my choice and got to work. I figured the worst that could happen was that a long forgotten painting would simply move from the bottom of the drawer to the trash. It’s just paint and paper, I thought.
If only it were that easy. In reality, working with this painting was pretty uncomfortable at times. Once I decided this was going to become a “good painting”, I got more invested in the outcome. Seeing with new eyes quickly triggered the old patterns designed to keep me safe and keep me small.
I started wondering “will it be enough?”, which quickly morphs into the question “am I enough?” Dammit. It’s just an experiment with paint and paper!
I talked myself into having fun with it – and after letting go of a good outcome, I’m pretty happy with the final outcome:
The differences are mostly subtle – I just brought out the parts of the painting that were already interesting. I strengthened what was already there. I reframed what was so -so and made it frame-worthy. It is still full of “mistakes” and imperfections – and those are part of what makes it good.
The painting was enough. With new eyes and a new frame, it is now unleashed.
This experience has reminded me – once again – that we are enough too. Where do we need to find the courage to screw it up and make mistakes? What will it take to bring our true selves out of hiding? How can we learn to be real and confident in who we are at the same time? Where can we see ourselves with new eyes and a new frame? Where have you forgotten what you are truly capable of?
Your strength is already there.
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