It’s been a while since I’ve posted; that’s because I had nothing to say that didn’t sound like a sermon. But I’ve been through an experience this week, and it gave me pause for reflection.
Last week a quilting friend of mine posted a piece of quilt art, and introduced it with approximately these words: “I’ve been nominated to share a piece of my art on Face Book for 10 days running. No comments, no explanations. I am also nominating someone each day to carry on with this challenge.” She nominated me. This sounds like the chain letters that we used to participate in when were naive 12 year olds, promising all kinds of good luck, or recipes, or even dollar bills. We ended up laboriously making 10 copies (by hand!) and sending them off to 10 friends, and were inevitably disappointed. I’ve grown up since then.
But I was surprised at my reaction: I wanted to do this. Why? Perhaps because I enjoyed seeing the work of others who were participating – their work added a dash of colour to these grey, rainy days that all seem to run together. Maybe by displaying my work, I could do the same for someone else. The friend who nominated me confessed that she was dragging her art out from under the bed where the pieces had been stored for years. I know from experience that there are more artists than there are buyers out there, and only so many pieces you can hang or give away. So there’s a lot of art stored under the beds of the Comox Valley. It was time to bring them out to see the light of day.
|"Still Marching" -- Self portrait at 70. Still under the bed. || |
Ah, but when you put yourself out there, that’s a big step. I heard a number of voices in my head...in fact, there was a real chattering going on in there. “Hmm. Tooting your own horn, eh? (Fishing for compliments?)” “What makes you think anyone wants to see these?” “You may think your work is fine, but they’re just amateur compared to X, Y, and Z.”
|Memories of Newfoundland. I haven't finished this one...still under the bed! |
What’s with those voices? Do you hear them too when you step out? The voice that suggested I was tooting my own horn had a Dutch accent, belonging to an older gentleman whose family had hired me to write his life story. He was reluctant because he did not want to toot his own horn. The voice that said nobody would be interested belonged to people who, when I showed them my work, said, “Oh, that’s nice,” and then changed the subject. And as far as my being an amateur...that was probably my own perfectionist streak, comparing myself to others. Sometimes it’s very hard to believe in yourself. Do I hear an “Amen, sister?” I hope so, because I do not think I am alone with these feelings.
|Woods in Spring...not done, still under the bed.|
It’s been said that putting your work out there for all to see is like dancing naked in public. You are very vulnerable. All your imperfections are on display. And so I tend to downplay my work ... “oh, it’s just something simple” or “I learned this in a class with so and so, but of course it’s nothing like her work,” or “everyone is creative in their own way.”
Well, I put my work out there. The feedback was amazing and heart-warming, enough to make me blush at times. (If you aren’t my friend on Facebook, you can check out those posts at https://www.facebook.com/jessie.schut.9)
So when I say, “I’ve been through an experience this week” this is what I am talking about. As I reflect on the experience, I’ve learned again that yes, creating is what I love to do. Writing and making art is who I am. I should – as should we all – be happy to name and claim my gifts. And your response has showed me that my gifts can add a splash of beauty to this world. I need to get over myself, ditch the negative voices, and be who I am. Your gifts too can add beauty to this world, and hiding those gifts under the bed does the world no favours.
I reflect on how integral beauty is to our experience of happiness. Psychologists say we are hard-wired to need beauty in our lives. We are drawn to it every time we notice it. Plato thought that merely contemplating beauty caused “the soul to grow wings.” Mmm...I like that idea! “All beauty and art evoke harmonies that transport us to a place where, for only seconds, time stops and we are one with the world. It is the best life has to offer,” says author Andre Aciman.
“Beauty will always have the power to inspire us. It is that enigmatic, unknowable muse that keeps you striving to be better, to do better, to push harder. And by that definition, what we all need most in today’s world is perhaps simply more beauty,” writes designer Lazaro Hernandez.
We all have it in us to contribute beauty to the world, not just works of art, but beauty in doing kind acts, in really listening to someone who is hurting, in allowing children to express their creativity, in exercising hospitality, in playing or singing music, in writing a note to a shut-in or doing errands, in speaking a word of gratitude or encouragement, in treating a customer or client with respect, in handing out smiles ...
It’s all Beauty, eh?