Fragile

I’ve been feeling small the last few days. Fragile. Young. Sensitive. I want to be held, snuggled, tended. And I’m tired. And weepy. I’m fighting off a skin infection and I’ve had a busy couple months—that must be it. Why must I always search for a reasonable explanation for feeling under par? I’m disappointed to see how hard it still is for me to truly rest. Without anxiety or guilt. To mother myself, with warm blankets, food that strengthens, loving words. Apparently I still do not trust that my body knows what it’s doing and what it needs. That letting go of a week’s responsibilities will not make me into a lazy slob who will never do anything responsible ever again. I know it’s ridiculous. We all have ups and downs—in a month, in a week, in a day—but somehow those times of feeling small, sensitive and fragile still seem shameful, illegitimate (unless, of course, I can find a “legitimate reason” for them). Ok, in this culture we are addicted to productivity and strength–I know that. And we don’t respect our bodies, that’s true. Or mothers and mothering. Or our own cycles, or the cycles of nature. But something else is niggling at me. A memory from last week flashes into mind: during an intuitive painting retreat a little girl emerged from within me, eager to paint, full of play, tantrums and great love. In fact, she embarrassed me by tearfully telling everyone there how much she loved them, that they were beautiful. And she insisted on painting big bubblegum-pink hearts on the canvas, decorating them with paint and...

Don’t Bore the Gods!

I had a humbling Aha! moment the other day. Humbling but also freeing. Tom and I have been reading a series of young adult novels, The Lost Years of Merlin. The five book series, which imagine Merlin from about age 9 to adulthood, are fun, full of enchanted forests, haunted marshland, fanciful and magical creatures, and resourceful humans (including females!). Merlin, who has discovered his grandfather was a great wizard, knows he has special abilities (though he doesn’t know much about what they are) and that he is destined to be a wizard also. Yet he struggles with this, alternating between being too cocky about his powers (and then either losing them or misusing them in some way) and angrily declaring he has no powers and will never fulfill his destiny (poor me). Friends tell him how he demonstrates courage and heart, and magical beings declare he has more power than he knows. We the readers know that all this is true, but Merlin, in typical adolescent fashion, moodily brushes it all away. While we were reading the third book, both Tom and I commented that we were getting bored with Merlin’s constant worry about his powers and whether he would fulfill his destiny. We hoped he would wise up soon. The Aha! came the next day while swimming at the health club. With embarrassment I suddenly realized I DO THIS! For years now I have worried aloud about what I am “meant” to do in the world and discounted or minimized what I have done. I fretted that my offerings were “not enough,” because I could do more,...

Freedom

I stumbled across a poem today while doing quite unrelated things. The title made me curious so I read it. Instantly my belly became fluttery, and at the same time I felt profoundly sad. I read it again. Here is the poem. It is by Naomi Shahib Nye and is called How to Paint a Donkey. She said the head was too large, the hooves too small. I could clean my paintbrush but I couldn’t get rid of that voice. While they watched, I crumpled him, let his blue body stain my hand, I cried when he hit the can. She smiled. I could try again. Maybe this is what I unfold in the dark, deciding for the rest of my life, that donkey was just the right size. Before I thought too much about it I went to my studio. A painting seemed the only way today to honor the truth in this poem. I read it again, grabbed my favorite color and a big brush and began. With a rebellious determination that surprised me I let my favorite colors flow and blend, my favorite shapes emerge and re-emerge. I brushed quickly, not stopping to think or perfect. Following the energy of ME, FREE, NOW. I painted until I didn’t want to anymore. I felt calm and full afterwards. I painted the donkey the way I saw it. Yet how many times have I done this before? How many times over the years have I dropped old “rules” grafted on by others or later by myself? How many times have I reimagined and recreated my spirituality, my self-expression,...

Endless Possibilities—Too Much?

The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.                                                 Robert Louis Stevenson, from A Child’s Garden of Verses  My mother used to perkily quote this to us kids when I was growing up. I remember rolling my eyes, since it was her response to my brother and I on the rare occasions we complained we were bored. I did love A Child’s Garden of Verses when I was young, though, and this quote popped into my head today as I thought about what’s been happening in an online course on intuitive art I’ve been taking these past few weeks. The focus of the course is essentially to practice painting from our bellies and hearts rather than our heads. To become curious about, and trust, what happens when we paint following only those inner cues that fill us with energy. (What color am I drawn to? Which brush? What does my hand want to do with it? What next?) To become less interested in how and what we should paint than in what we want to paint. Which means we have to become more invested in the process of painting than in the finished product. Staring at the class Facebook page where we post our process and our creations, I am delighted at the vast array of shape, color and image our creativity has called into being (not to mention the wildly individual personal stories that live in the art-making). I think the possibilities must be endless! Endless, that is, if we let ourselves flow....