Racing Through To-Dos
Before leaving Muscat I was in a whirlwind of all the many “to dos” I wished to accomplish. I panicked about disconnecting from everything Artist Strong… so much to do, so little time! I am often in a perpetual state of working, or thinking about work. What would I do while I was away? What had to be accomplished before I left?
My parents have always wanted to go on a cruise. I remember them talking about it since I was really little. I remember hearing “someday.” When Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary came up my sister and I decided it was time to treat them to something special, so we took them on a family cruise.
Listening to My Inner Artist
This trip was the perfect opportunity for me to slow down and remember what’s important in my life: my family, my health, and the arts.
As I began to tick off my to do list, I feared I wouldn’t get everything done I “needed” to accomplish for my home, my art, and Artist Strong. I thought about buying an internet package on the ship, taking days for the business (aka my awesome, amazing community, yes that’s you), and somehow still have quality family time.
I contemplated how to make this all happen when I heard a quiet voice inside of me ask for relief. What about a time out? What if I took time away from the internet and all of my projects?!
I decided to practice what I preach: the cruise and family time was a perfect opportunity to disconnect. For 7-8 days I had no internet. And you know what? It didn’t even occur to me that I should go online while I was away.
Disconnecting to Reconnect
As I rested, played cards, and did things like jewelry making on the ship I noticed a change in myself. It was easier to listen to what I really wanted to do and what I needed. I also had more space for my loved ones: I was truly present while I spent time with them.
I noticed something else, too. The longer I was on the trip, disconnected from the world of internet and my busy to do list, the more ideas and inspiration flooded my way. I looked down at the water breaking against the ship and planned beautiful abstract paintings. I saw our row of beach huts on Haiti as a compositional decision. And I saw the blue reflection of water at my parents’ lake and witnessed painterly marks as the sky transitioned in the water’s reflection from sky blue to black.
Art Isn’t Optional
People constantly argue the arts are optional. And I guess if I was choosing between having a house over my head or food to feed my family, I’d choose house and food, too. But we have a deeper need to be creative and express ourselves.
Those that choose to honor that need often use that creativity for the greater good. One day back from the trip and I stumbled across a wonderful example of how the arts can help inform the sciences. Some researchers are looking at how to apply the art of paper folding to technology to develop flexible electronics.
The arts not only make us happier, healthier human beings, they actively help us envision and develop a better future.
I have such a busy body personality that when I’m home it can be hard for me to slow down, I’m always thinking about the “shoulds” in my life: laundry, dinner, groceries, errands, articles to write, etc. By changing my geography I was gifted a new perspective and point of view: an environment free from my “shoulds.” I didn’t hear the worry wart in my head, instead I heard my inner artist speaking loud and clear. She said, “Relax. Create.”
I was nervous to bring out my watercolor kit on our beach excursion day. Despite knowing I wanted to draw and paint, people I care deeply about were around me. What if I didn’t finish the drawing? What if it was bad? Even the good intentions of loved ones can lead to a path of creative doubt if I’m not mindful and careful. I listened to those doubts, and decided to draw anyway.
My family slowly returned to our beach hut sun-kissed, seeking some shade. And much to my inner critic’s surprise, I received kind, enthusiastic support.
The Choice to Be Busy
Rest is something in this go-go-go society we now talk about but we still claim we don’t have enough time. This trip reminded me that all of the busy we experience we create for ourselves. I was so busy before I left for Berlin and the cruise and yet, I couldn’t even tell you what was on that to-do list…
If we are busy, it is because we choose to be. Our children don’t actually need to be in a thousand different activities every day (and it doesn’t serve them, either). We don’t have to always have those dishes put away. We don’t have to iron every item of clothing. On some level we choose these activities. And often that choice is over our desire to be creative.
As our trip continued it was easy for me to look around and see everything via my artist eyes. It was about color, light, pattern created from shadows. There was no more thinking about Tweets, texts or timetables. Instead it was brush strokes, mark making, and texture. My whole trip was about the visual, as my artist eyes became a vehicle for mindfulness, a means to be present in this special moment with my family.
Say No More: A Prisoner to “Should”
It’s always easiest to speak about the lessons learned when the memory and experience is fresh. The true test is time. Can I keep these lessons close to me once I’ve returned to my ordinary world and routine? Or will I remain a prisoner to my “shoulds?”
As I sit downstairs, looking out at the beautiful lake my parents live on, I hear my inner artist. Her name is Emily and she says she’ll remind me to, “Relax. Create.”
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Do you remember a moment when your inner artist spoke loud and clear? I want to know! Please share your experience in the comments below.