Monthly Archives: October 2016

Ups and Downs

I can write such wise posts sometimes.

But when the darkness comes and sweeps me away, I wonder who I was kidding.

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Envy

A radio DJ was interviewing someone the other day. I tuned in halfway through the conversation, but I figured out that he was a musician who paints and draws on the side, and always has.

“You are so lucky,” said the DJ. “I envy you that talent. I envy you having something like that, something that you can always turn to at any stage of your life and in any situation.”

My first thought was “wow. Yes. I have that same gift. Art is something I have always done, always enjoyed, always returned to, and seem to have some level of talent for. And it didn’t ever strike me that other people might envy that. Instead, I am too busy criticising myself for not being as good as I would like to be. I need to lighten up and be more appreciative of that gift.”

Then today, I was listening to the radio and a different presenter was reading out emails and texts from her listeners on the subject of beauty. One lady wrote in to say she had just come back from holiday and, as a middle-aged woman, couldn’t help envying the beautiful young bodies she saw.

The presenter said ‘I empathise, I do. But you have to remember that those beautiful young women don’t see themselves as beautiful. They don’t see what you do.”

How true.

When we envy people, we imagine they fully understand the gifts they have been given. In actual fact, they are likely all riven with the same problems and self-doubts. They either don’t even see, or see but take for granted, the gift(s) they have been given. So the artist thinks “I wish I could be a musician.” Or the single woman wishes she could be married while her married friend dreams of the single life. Or the middle-aged lady envies the beautiful young woman in a bikini, never knowing that the young woman has an eating disorder and suffers from chronic anxiety.

Now when I look at young people, I see that they are almost all beautiful just by dint of being young. And looking back on my younger self, I wish that I had known that and been able to enjoy it.

And, if you take that thought to its logical conclusion, when I look back on this time in my life, I will wish that I had been able to appreciate it.

So what’s the secret? Maybe it’s truly understanding and appreciating what you have, without thinking about what anyone else has, or dwelling on what you don’t have. Maybe that’s the simple secret of life.

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300

Wow.

I started this challenge pretty sure I would finish it – I’m quite dedicated to achieving the things I set out to achieve – but I’m still amazed to realize that I actually created 300 self portraits in a row without ever missing a day.

There’s a little voice in the back of my head – actually its not little and it’s not in the back – sneering: ‘yeah but they’re not all good are they?’

Screw you, little (big?) voice. I committed to doing something hard and I did it. I’m patting myself on the back and you can go get lost!

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Exploring

Riley and I have started exploring new paths for his daily walks.

Many of the public footpaths around here go over farm land and I have run afoul of some farmers because I’ve taken the wrong route, or in one case because he’s a famously grumpy old man who hates that people are allowed to walk dogs across his land.

But there are other farmers who smile and wave when they see you – even if you have strayed slightly from the route you’re supposed to be on.

Those are the farmers who have accepted the reality that people will always be allowed to walk across their land, and that some of those people will get a bit lost (or deliberately disregard the route), and they’ve just decided not to let it get them down.

So much of  our happiness is dependent on this I think: how willing/able we are to accept the realities of our particular situation.

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Mindful

Everyone talks about mindfulness these days. It’s a bit of a trend.

But I think that’s for good reason.

Because being mindful is about being aware. And usually our brains run on autopilot. We don’t know how they work or why they do what they do and we just leave them to it. That’s fine when they are serving us – but when those same brains are telling stories that make us unhappy, it helps to be able to step back and just become aware.

“Oh right,” we can think. “This is that old story about … (insert your story here). I’ve had these thoughts before and they often turn out to be totally unfounded.” And we can recall some of those times, and remind ourselves of just how wrong we were. And if we have been in therapy, we can take it further and remember why we have those thoughts in the first place.

“Right, we can say to ourselves, “I know exactly where this comes from. It’s an old pain coming back to haunt me in this present situation. But I can choose to remember that the two situations are not the same. Not even remotely. So my reaction, while it may make sense emotionally, makes absolutely NO sense in the real world.”

And in this way, mindfulness can help us. As it did me today.

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Left-Handed Again

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I look much sadder than I feel in this drawing. But while I was drawing it, I was planning a conversation. One where I am honest with someone who matters to me. One where I talk about the past and the things that have hurt me.

I think those past hurts are what are captured here.

The Other Hand

“You over-analyze everything,” one friend said recently.

“Do you think you are over-complicating this?” my therapist asks regularly.

“You’re a bit too deep for me sometimes,” says another friend.

And my best friend Jon sums it all up with one succinct phrase… every time I start over-thinking, questioning, getting into the weeds, he simply says “Life with Louise!”

They’re all good reminders of something I only became aware of recently – namely that most other people don’t think the way I do … this way of seeing the world isn’t universal … and therefore, I may be able to rewire and start seeing things differently.

I was reminded of it again tonight at life drawing class. My last few drawings have been disappointing and I have become quite frustrated.

“Try drawing with your left hand,” suggested our teacher Helen, “you’re over-thinking and it will get you out of your head and free you up.”

I can’t do that,” I said. “I’m rubbish with that hand,”

“Do it anyway,” she said, “you will love me by the end of the session.”

And would you believe it – the minute I switched hands, the drawing was transformed. The lines became more interesting and I quickly captured an accurate likeness.  I am genuinely proud of the piece I produced. Helen was right. I had been over-thinking and lost all spontaneity and natural expressiveness.

I’m realizing that in art, just as in life, you can only get what you want if you stop trying to control exactly how you get there.

Here’s the drawing from tonight’s class

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And in honour of Helen, tonight’s selfie is entirely left-handed.

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