I am having a bad day. You know, the kind where you wake up annoyed and just can’t seem to snap out of it? Today, I feel like the weight above me is just heavy enough to override the wind beneath me. In other words, I feel down. What’s got me in this funk? Who really knows, but at my best guess, I think I have taken too much on again. I feel like my ‘to-do’ lists are growing wings, levitating off the kitchen island and taking flight for the sole purpose of flapping around my head all day. Like a murder of crows after a chunk of fine flesh, these lists will consume me piece by piece. My mind is always with them, ever-buzzing, never at peace. Today, these lists make me sad. Sad that I cannot seem to muster up enough empathy for myself to just let them die a quiet, pulpy death. If I could only grant myself as much kindness as I could any friend or acquaintance in a tough spot, each day would be that much more free.
Think about the last time you sat with a friend who was hurting or upset. Did you lower your voice? Speak softly to be sure they were really hearing you? Did you use empathy and really try to understand their situation so that you could give an honest outlook? Were you caring and sympathetic? So what if we could use this same kind and consoling manner with ourselves? What if today, I just took 10 minutes to create some compassion for myself, acknowledging my daily struggles and recognizing that I have some choices to make. As any good friend would, I can note that I am doing the very best that I can. I could suggest that I am being a little too hard on myself and expecting too much. Perhaps, expecting more than anyone else ever would.
Self-compassion and empathy would likely allow me to again remember that I am enough. To acknowledge my worth and my value – without all the unnecessary trimmings. I could speak softly and gently, kindly guiding the way. Then, I could let the lists rest like paper should, in a pile, waiting its turn to be dealt with. There are more important things to be done. Like tickling my children to entice their laughter, holding my husband’s hand just to feel his warmth, and twirling around the kitchen to my favorite song. All things guaranteed to lift me up above this hazy fog to clear skies and brighter days.
Be brave and show your colors!
I started my second painting class last weekend. I have newly discovered the joy and release of painting using acrylic on canvas. Placing myself with paintbrush in hand in a completely new environment at the age of 36 has been so refreshing. It’s a new way to open up creatively, throw myself off balance and choose to become vulnerable thus learning more about myself in the process. Surprisingly, it has revealed a little more about my parenting style. Painting has shown me that one of the hardest things to achieve as a parent is to let your children experience the world in their own way without introducing any of our own biases or opinions. My work is my interpretation of the world. It can be judged but the critque will not change the facts and emotions behind my experiences. My children deserve the same from me. I should allow them the experience, encourage full artistic licence and make no apologies for what they create.
My class has about 6 participants of all ages and most of us are beginners. This means we are still finding our creative voice and feeling out of place. Still lacking confidence and quick to judge our own work, it is common to hear across the room at any point, “Ooops, I think I did it wrong!”. This statement made me think about how my children approach art. When my son was 2 or 3, he showed his own interpretation of the world in his visual art with no apologies made for colors, shapes or sizes used on his impressions. But once he began to join social groups and hear critiques of his work, he would also begin to judge his artwork. That head on the dinosaur is a bit small or the lake is not the right blue. Outside opinion became influential, so I became aware of my own judgements in this manner. I have to remind myself that art is interpretation and shows glimpses of how we see the world. There is no right or wrong. Expect variety and difference.
Being the recovering perfectionist that I am (see blog post here for details) , I had previously had moments of conflict while helping my children draw or color. I used to look over my children’s works of art and feel a compulsion to add or direct color use. I would even embellish pictures after they completed them! You may have experienced similar compulsions or you may think I am a complete control freak. Either way, we can learn from this ridiculous tendency.
I believe there is great value in teaching our children that their thoughts and impression are valid, regardless of popular opinion. Through art, we can teach that not everyone will agree with what they see and feel, but that does not make their experience any less significant or important. If, as parents, we embrace their works with empathy and share our past experiences of harsh judgement, we can create a strong bond of solidarity and teach shame resilience. We can teach strength, compassion and kindness.
So when someone in my painting class announces they have screwed up….I like to grab these moments to shout out…. “Not wrong! Just different!”. We usually have a giggle, but it lessens the judgement. It opens up our ability to use different blends of color, paint a sky with a few extra clouds, or sketch a skyline with a few extra peaks. Creative freedom found in a world where we feel constrained and must ‘fit in’. This support of being different helps us to feel conviction in our work and confidence as we press on. Such feelings I would be thrilled to pass on to my own children.