Thursday, February 27, 2014

Can't Wait for Inspiration

"You can't wait for inspiration. Sometimes you have to go after it with a club." Jack London 

"Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." Anne Lamott

Given a choice, it's a no brainer. I want to live in the world of WOW NOW. I want to stride from peak to peak, to be effortlessly inspired, cheerful, full of seeing things for the first time and knowing my heart is full and I am present. I want to look out my kitchen window and always see the full rainbow that arced across the sky yesterday. I want everything to come easily. I want to write and paint effortlessly. Don't we all!

Entering the unknown of the blank page or canvas takes a lot of wandering in the wilderness. It takes a lot of practice to bring something out of nothing. It takes a lot of faith and a lot of work and given a choice, I want cut to the chase and start with inspiration. But when I start out knowing where I want to go and stick with that, I limit myself. I'm in the land of easy, of tried and true, not on the road to discovery.

We all have limiting beliefs. One of mine is that for most creative people art and writing come easily. I know this isn't really true, but there is this nagging belief; since it doesn't come easily to me, it means I'm not very good. And then Jack London appears. Thanks, Jack. The truth is I love the process of discovery, of not being so good and getting better. I'm so in love with those aha moments. The most important thing is to do a lot of work even if it's not very good work, because I know my work has gotten better. It takes a lot more time than any of us want to become competent in almost anything.

When I get bogged down on the creative path, I realize I am also way low on the gratitude scale. The more I feel grateful, the more willing I am to see the blank page as an opportunity for discovery rather than a stab in the dark.

On my desk is a lovely gratitude box. Around the edges are the cards below, little recycled remnants of art projects and motivating messages.

Card by card, I will write on the back of each one a few words about people and events I'm grateful for.

There are very few whoopdeedoo wowzers in this box. The cards are appreciations of lunch with friends, a good movie or concert, finding something I've lost and found, good food, community, a productive time in my studio. Forty-seven little cards so far this year. I look at that little box and those little cards and know card by card I'll fill that box to overflowing in another couple of months. It helps me to pay attention to the smallest joys, joys that can be written about in a very few words.

Just as I expect too much of myself as a beginning artist, I sometimes forget to remember the power of gratitude. It all takes time and practice. As much as I've been working on this, sometimes I forget how easy gratitude is and how good it makes me feel. Perhaps a few words on little cards in a lovely box will work for you, too.

Baruch ata adonai...writing today's blog has been an exercise in patience. It has taken me hours. Because I haven't been writing, I'm rusty. I'm going to begin writing everyday for five minutes first thing in the morning. I used to do this and I want to begin again. I am grateful to myself for coming back to this piece over and over until I finished. Amen

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Possibilities of Gratitude

"The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention." Oscar Wilde
"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." Meister Eckhart

Prayer Flag (Acrylic on Denim)

Sunday I received a gift, a most wonderful email, one that has created within me a deep warm feeling of well being. Each time I think about it I smile. It begins, " have been on my list of people for which I am grateful, since 2011, and have wanted to thank....Periodically I search the net to see if I can find contact info for you. To my delight this morning [I found it.] You never know how large the ripple you create is.

Several years ago I showed prayer flags and bookmarks with colorful pen and ink drawings I'd made  at a local open studio art show. For me, this series of bookmarks are visual prayers. It was a leap of faith for me to participate in that show. I had never gone public with my drawings and flags, and yet with all my uncertainty and a sense of being in heady company, I felt a strong impulse to be there.

One of the bookmarks was bought by a very thoughtful and receptive woman. "You will never know how much your Our Lady of Possibilities kept me focused on the positive when I was battling a now defanged autoimmune disease." She loved that bookmark into weathered raggedness and now keeps it in a safe place.

If gratitude were to have a symbol, it would be the sign for infinity. No beginning and no end. In this case it was a blessing to the person who gave and the person who received and then it worked back the other way.

Thank you notes of any form resonate long after they are sent. I like to think I always write them with a full heart, which probably isn't true. Today I know, when they are written that way, they bounce around like echoes and go on long after I've stamped and sent them, no matter how long it takes me to mail them off.

Yesterday and today I awoke from dreams that could have left me sandbagged for the day, until I thought to be grateful for them because they reminded me I'm not like the person in that dream any longer. I'm not a Pollyanna, though she had a lot going for her in bad situations, and more and more I believe there is gratitude to be found in more situations than I ever thought possible. When I do work my way to gratitude, it is though I had stretched and released in a way that allows me to breathe more freely than moments before. Gratitude works.

Baruch ata adonai...whenever I hear people my age referred to as old, which seems to happen more and more, I laugh. Today I am healthy and strong. Today I can laugh and cry and I know that's because I'm a whole person. I'm brave and move on through fear and doubt, and I'm very happy to be alive. Amen


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick by Lettie Cottin Pogrebin was written just in time for me and my friends. It's an important read for the friend who is ill and for those of us who want to be the best kind of friend we can be when all the rules change. I bought a copy for myself and gave it to my friend with breast cancer. Then I ordered another for myself. Now I'm ordering a third.

My friends and I are getting to that age, not that there is any right age for this sort of thing. It can happen at any age, but more and more a bad diagnosis for you or your friends is likely to happen the older and older you get. My friends and I have been dancing with each other for a long time, dancing like we know the steps when we do and when we don't, dancing when we feel more like crying and hiding, and being wonderfully brave and adventurous when we haven't a clue what dance we're doing. And then the bad diagnosis taps us one of us on the shoulder, cuts in, and partners us off to an unknown ballroom where the rules have nothing to do with us, except they do. And so it is for three of my go to friends.

Lettie Cottin Pogrebin is an old friend too. She doesn't know we're old friends. She's someone like me only on a national scale. She is one of the founders of MS magazine, and because we're the same age and because we're both Jewish we've always had a lot in common. Twenty-five years ago she wrote a book for me when I was beginning to figure out if I had a place in Judaism. She introduced me to her friends and I read their books as well, and I found my way. Some of them cycle back through her current book. I'm grateful I met them all.

If you are in the dark corridor of illness, your own or a friend's, if you're looking for a light to lead you forward, the title of this book is the beginning of everything you need to know. 

Baruch ata adonai....I am grateful for health and the wealth of friends who guide me to unknown parts of myself. Thank you for waking me up this day. May I be a friend to others and especially to myself. Amen