Painting + Flow

There is the patter of rain on the windows and roof, I am settled into my seat, lemon water at my side and my tummy rumbling for a sweet treat – I keep cookies in my desk drawer for these occasions. I am feeling good – processed. I recently missed an opportunity that I thought might be for me. It was disappointing and I allowed myself to wallow yesterday. I needed a day to be angry and frustrated. Today, I needed to get into flow, so I painted.

An easel sits across from me in my office. It typically holds a painting that I am working on or a blank canvas waiting to be filled. Today the paint and my ideas flowed. I am feeling quite satisfied to have created something I know to be beautiful and believe to be good. I also have had the idea to ask the local frame shop if on Friday afternoons I might paint in their front window – possibly to draw customers in and hopefully sell a few of my pieces. It might be fun and it is something that occurred to me as I painted.

That’s the beauty of creative work, it frees the mind to wander. And gives space to let the imagination roam. There’s actually a pile of research on the benefits of somewhat mindless activities like painting. These tasks help us get into slower brain waves that bring us into flow and help us to make connections in our brains more efficiently. When our brains are in the state of flow we’re able to bring together a variety of ideas to create a new and unique solution. To learn more about the research I would encourage you to read The Art of Impossible by Steve Kotler. 

When I create I get to consider imaginary situations, topics that I have thoughts on but haven’t had the time to process. For me painting is meditative. When I am in the midst of my work it is easy to loose track of time. I feel completely absorbed in the best way possible, choosing colors, creating patterns or destroying them. It is powerful and empowering to simply focus on my work and what I want to do next. Painting frees me to finally think clearly. It gives me a fun medium in which I can make mistakes or change my mind and the consequences are minimal. It is freeing and makes my soul sing.

Whatever you do today I hope you give yourself some space to create. I notice that when I don’t make room in my life to act on my inspirations I feel cranky and stifled. Why make ourselves miserable for no reason? With that in mind I am grateful and excited to see what beauty we create in the world next. For now I’m focusing on this canvas and what colors and images come next. It’s a very good day, I hope yours is too!

Sacred Spaces – Making a Creative Oasis

My studio feels cozy and safe today. It feels like a warm and welcome reprieve from the outside world. It feels like exactly the space it was designed to be. It is warm, it is soft, and it is all mine. This is not a community space. It is my sweet little apartment. My home away from the world. I am so grateful for this space and the creativity and joy that I find and make in this room. I can already feel it working its magic, giving me the balm I need to think inventively and creatively.

This space feels holy and sacred, like a luxurious and welcoming den. A lair where I may heal and tend to myself as a sacred and special person. A place where my intrinsic value is nurtured and nourished. The space is warm. The walls are a buttery yellow and the windows bathe the space in delicious natural light, even on an overcast and rainy day like today my small lamp alights my workspace gently, as if respecting the boundaries of every other object in the room. There is much to unpack and arrange in this room but right now it feels blissfully disorganized. There are boxes of treasures just waiting for me to open and unpack them. There are mysteries and hidden gems in every package, under each lid. I delight in finding old friends in familiar places and giving them new life in this space. 

I am thrilled to welcome my precious belongings into my new home. I am excited to explore and imagine where each piece belongs. I am eager to see how I make this space my own.

Tonight I will make bolognese and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Tonight will be a night of comfort foods and cozy family time. It will be a welcome reprieve from the challenges of the day. It will be an opportunity to give the gift of good food and comfort to myself and to my family. These gifts will be small but they will also be monumental in that they will be felt deeply by those I love. That is the point and purpose of generosity anyway.

Some ideas for making your own creative oasis:

  1. Boundaries – Make sure the space is your own. Or if you invite others in to join you, let them know what level of engagement and sharing your are comfortable with first.
  2. Art Supplies – I am always inspired in the art store and try to come home with some projects or tools I’ve never used before to get my creativity flowing. I don’t have to be good at everything and trying something new is always fun.
  3. Water – Keep yourself hydrated and energized so you have all you need to keep going!
  4. Writing utensils – It doesn’t matter if you type, write, or sketch, it’s always good to have a pen and paper to jot a good idea down.
  5. Quiet – Or a playlist of your choosing – the sounds that comfort you are always a quick way to breathe new energy into your space and create the mood you are after!
  6. Bonus – Anything that engages your senses, beautiful artwork to look at, images that inspire you. Some incense burning or an essential oil diffuser. A cozy blanket or fan that keeps air moving. Anything that brings you into the present moment will help invigorate your energy and get you in the mood to create.

Do you have a space in your home where you can recharge and rest? How do you create hygge in your home? What do you do to spread warmth on winter days?

Modern Day Grace

I have felt so benevolently full of grace lately. Full of grace for myself, my family, and the world. I have held this grace honestly and openly, feeling benevolent, patient, generous, and kind. I have walked in euphoria for days on end – blissed out on the beauty of the natural world, the people in it, and how blessed my life has been. And then I took a writing class, insert discordant record scratch here.

The class was good, deliciously good. It was deep and raw and had all of us unearthing trauma and processing it so that we could turn that vulnerability, shame, and fear into gold. Write it out and hopefully find the true essence or nugget of universality in our pain. Mold that darkness into something useful and create art. 

The exercises were effective but now having scratched open our scabs the course is done. We are left bleeding out in the world. The life we return to, the normal every day world, is what we were hoping to protect these pains from – exposure.

We were ready in the class to feel and dive deep but now that the class is over we need closure, a little second skin to cover what we have opened up inside of ourselves. Those dark and crusty things that we fear and feel more deeply than anything daily life has ever handed us. 

This is where we are all dark and dangerous. It is terrifying and as you’d expect painful to be so open to the world. But here’s the trade off, I couldn’t feel the glory of sunshine with the sensation of holiness blessing my very core if I didn’t embrace this vulnerability too. This conflicted feeling of being so wide open and almost unwisely exposed to the elements of relationships and life. Because life is both that shining light of afternoon sun that warms some of our rooms like a sauna and it is the dark and scary loneliness of confronting our deepest and darkest fears. If I don’t look inward and stop staring at my phone to distract myself from these hard and real sensations I won’t feel that sun as brightly. The sun will still shine on my face but I won’t feel it in my soul. It won’t warm my heart to the same depths because my heart will have been walled off, protected from the deep darkness and also the blinding light that just might help my heart to heal. The sheltered pieces of myself might never see that perhaps I need not be so walled off, so sterile, so trapped in solitude. I might learn that perhaps the world is bright and lovely on some days. Other days it’s hard and cold but if I do not open the drapes to let in the sun it is never completely dark and it will never been completely day.

I’m mixing metaphors but you get the idea, to be that grace filled generous soul who sees the hurt in other people and takes the time to reach out and connect I must also be the angry wounded animal that nurses her wounds and occasionally lashes out to protect herself because she hasn’t finished the work she is doing to heal. Oh, being alive is such a dangerous thing. To survive we need only coast on the surface but to live, to really live, we have to feel all the pain, the dark and twisty elements, and then we get to really enjoy the light.

And all of it takes bravery. We get to embrace the beauty only if we embrace the pain and know that it exists to show us where we have work to do, something to heal, tenderly and gently. What a gift to be so alive and feel all of it so brutally and beautifully.

Reconnecting in the New Normal

When you believe in something or someone you do something about it. 

Today I wrote an email to a friend I haven’t spoken to since high school. I was inspired by another friend who reached out for ideas on how to cope with the various plagues of 2020 and entertaining herself in long winter months. First, for this woman I have nothing but praise, she is planning for her future and investing in those things that will sustain her through the long months – new ideas and old friendships. If that is all I took away from her reaching out, it would be a gift. But that is not all, I also was reminded of a dear friend from many years ago. A vulnerable, beautiful, and talented author who may not be writing – so I wrote to her to find out. 

Why was this important? Well, to me when I believe in someone I tell them, I tell them deep beautiful truths out loud. I do this intentionally, because I do have a gift with words and I write often but my work comes of labor, effort, and refinement. That is not the way with talent. With talent, your words will silence a high school classroom of overachievers and lead the teacher to ask your friends if they know how you did it. Talent, is twenty years later someone remembering the lines and the power of your writing. Talent, is touching people’s souls.

While I’m sure I gave support when we were younger and close, I haven’t given support to this woman in a long time. I don’t know what her life looks like, the shape of her days, or where life’s journey has taken her. All I do know is that she has, “It,” whatever it is. While many aspire to that gift, to have it and not use it would be a loss for humanity. Not for her, I imagine she lives a happy life that is fulfilling and rich – but the rest of us who need to listen and learn, we would only know the absence or the feeling of an unfulfilled longing. I cannot put pen to paper on someone else’s behalf, but I can show up, I can remind her of her gift and that I am eager to read her words. I don’t know how the message will land but I do know that my gift to humanity today was to inspire her to write, to share her words, and to trust herself and her talent.

As a creative, I suddenly am completely clear on the need for patrons of the arts. Because artists like Cathleen Collins and T. S. Eliot go to work each day, and make dinner, and pay their bills, and might never have the opportunity to craft the stories that move our civilization, our species forward.

As I write it also occurs to me that I write these words for myself, to align my priorities and to say these words out loud. It reminds me that I have these gifts too. I am not on her level, I may never be, but I have witnessed greatness and I am capable of greatness and I am willing to try. I am willing to show up and give it my best. I hope you are too. 

Has anyone sent you a message of support or encouragement that landed just as you needed it? Would you find such a note presumptuous or invasive? My hope is that it lands as it should or upsets you enough to do something about it. Do you like love notes from long lost friends? Do you send love notes to long lost friends? Will you now?