"Johnny Moonlight" mixed media on canvas paper, 9 x 12. Sold.
It's raining this morning in south Florida. A steady, drizzly rain, the kind which makes the sky a hazy gray and the world feel blanketed and muffled. A perfect day for pajamas and tea, gift wrapping and music. A contemplative day - I find myself reviewing the year, its highs and lows, moments of laughter and tears. And it has been an incredible year.
But the world doesn't want me to sit in contemplation. No, it demands goal-setting for 2017. Planning and scheduling. Examining what worked and what didn't and making a new strategy for my personal life and my art. Articles popping up every time I go online - "Have you set your goals for next year?", or "Goal setters wildly outperform others" and such. And I am a goal setter, so this shouldn't annoy me so much.
But just this once, I want to savor the year all the way to the end of it before tackling the next one. I want to drag my heels a bit, run a stick along the fence rails, lollygag and dally. I want to savor this last morsel, eat every crumb and lick my lips. I want to tarry awhile.
Even as I write these words, I realize how oddly wonderful this is. One of my goals this year has been to play, to savor moments, to relax and sink in to the present moment. And here I sit, already transformed, refusing to be pushed out of the present. This is not who I was a year ago. And if I hadn't tarried here with these words, I might not have had this realization.
With this one last blog post for the year, before the family arrives and the late nights, board games and hilarity begins, before the inevitable (and important) goal-setting and planning, I want to thank you, dear sweet reader! Thank you for reading when your day was already so busy. Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Thank you for supporting and cheerleading and uplifting. Thank you for sitting with me in the present moment, just for a bit, in this wild ride that was 2016. See you next year.
"Winter's Child" - mixed media on canvas paper, 9" x 12". Ready to frame. Available on Artfinder.
"They might say I couldn't sing. But they won't say I didn't sing." - FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
This line from a movie has been tumbling around in my head since we watched it last weekend. Have you seen it? Based on the true story of a woman who loved to sing opera, but didn't do it very well. Yet she put on shows in big venues, sang her heart out, made records and became a bit famous, either because of or in spite of her awful singing voice.
As I watched this story, I felt at first uncomfortable...a bit of the nerves we all feel when we do something creative and put it OUT THERE IN THE WORLD, open to criticism and judgment. Florence was mostly protected from negativity by her husband, and perhaps that's why she kept going despite the odds. All she heard was remarkable feedback until near the end of her life. And she was encouraged to go big! Carnegie Hall, no less! Her dream came true.
Now I am one who really appreciates ALL feedback, not just the positive. Because I truly want to get better at what I do. But the movie did get me to wondering how far a person could go if they were simply encouraged over and over again. As a society, there is a sort snarky judgement vibe that pervades everything we watch and read, for the most part. I see it in our youngsters and in media aimed toward them. I wonder how much this critical undertone inhibits them from reaching for their dreams?
In the end, Florence lived her dream at Carnegie Hall and had her songs played on the radio. True, maybe the songs weren't very good. But her personal experience of her own life was unlimited, grand and fearless! And don't we all want that?
So as we roll into a new year, contemplating goals, dreams and resolutions, I am determined to encourage others - endlessly, fully and enthusiastically. Because with a little cheerleading, any one of us, or ALL of us, could live out our dreams.
And I went into this event, as adults do, filled with the wisdom and whimsy I was going to pass along to these youngsters. The universe (you knew this was coming, right?) had another plan for me.
It was only thirty minutes. A dozen or so slides. A presentation of my story as an artist. And everything went according to plan...until the drive home. I was replaying the event in my head, looking for areas of improvement for next time when I was overwhelmed with tears. Happy tears, grateful tears, but tears, nonetheless.
I've told my story before - in soundbites and elevator speeches, captions and quick paragraphs, in interviews and blog posts and workshops. But never before as a story beginning with Once Upon a Time... It was the first time I vocalized my own fairytale, in the third person, from start to finish in the whimsical style of my very own creations. It was magical... these kiddos gave me the enormous gift of listening, participating and applauding. And I felt like Cinderella, magically transformed into the person I really already was!
Public speaking isn't something we normally consider a gift. More like a Herculean task to be conquered with shaking knees. But the opportunity to tell our story is a HUGE gift - one that has the power to influence others and to transform ourselves.
In this month of exchanging gifts, I am so grateful to have received this one. It will go into one of my joy pockets!
Online Visual Journaling in 2017!
It seems that when I let go of outcomes and truly just go with the flow, life is a lot less stressful.
Now this seems counterintuitive, right? Planning ahead, scheduling and organizing are there to make things go smoothly. And mostly, this is true and quite reliable. However things inevitably don't go according to plan now and then (or every day for a week) and that is exactly when letting go is the right strategy. Things just fall into place, exactly how they are supposed to be, which isn't always the way we planned them.
It used to be I got great satisfaction from things going according to plan. But anymore, I am delighted by things going their own way, often against my plans, because it is much more fun and sometimes magical! So it seems you can teach an old gal new tricks after all. :)
But when I asked myself, the list was looooooong. I am afraid of death, pain, being old and alone, failing, zombies, ax murderers, clowns, balloons, being poor, death of loved ones, losing my mind, being hit by cars, being bitten by (insert all animals here - dogs, alligators, lions, snapping turtles, snakes, rats...), tripping while wearing heels, forgetting a speech, messing up a class, embarrassment, being lost, being boring, needles (oh yeah, I faint when someone removes a splinter for pete's sake), betrayal, confrontation, conflict, war, palmetto bugs, heights and losing love, for starters.
Now for sure some of these fears are long shots. I don't stress out about potential lion bites every day of the week. Clearly though, fear is a major part of the human condition, and I am no exception. But fear is nearly always a state of anticipating something that hasn't even happened. Living in a hypothetical future. Not being present. And fear can become a rut or a pattern we fall into and have trouble getting out of. And the first step in getting out of a rut is being aware that you are in one. :)
With that in mind, I will march out into the world today, determined to find a new groove. And perhaps tame a lion or two along the way.
Jen Walls and her imaJENation