Ben and I went to a Sukkot celebration at an urban farm syesterday. There were chickens and goats, a whole acre of vegetable beds growing delicious things, fresh baked cookies from a cob oven, face painting and awesome music. What got Ben most excited though was when he saw that kids were painting the sides of the vegetable beds. He sprinted over to the paints, found a brush and went to work, all within ten seconds.
It has taken me years to get a brush back in my own hand. It was my first love and I imagine myself as an old woman, still painting my heart out. It’s the medium that gets me deeper than anything else, that gives me more joy than any other possible thing. Something about brushing those rich colors around, putting pinks next to oranges next to the brightest blues and lime greens. It makes me want to squeeze the tubes of paint directly into my mouth and devour them. (It is at these moments I completely understand how Nico would want to do the same)
Once, many years ago, I took Bari Tessler’s Conscious Bookkeeping class. She led us through a visualization where you imagined what you would be doing for work, how you’d want to be spending your time (and with whom) if you knew you had 10 years to live, or five, or one. Then we imagined knowing it was our last day. (This exercise is totally intense, right?) Anyway, what I remember so clearly from that exercise is that even though I hadn’t done it in years, painting is what came to mind in every scenario.
So you’d think I’d rush out and hop to it, right? buy some canvases and begin. But no. I am human. I am like you, perhaps? Which means I still haven’t done it, all these years later. I go for what’s practical, what’s my habit, because (as far as I know) I’m not dying this year and I figure I’ll have plenty of time to do what I love.
So yesterday, when Ben darted over to the painting area, the first thing he did before beginning was spin around and smear a ginormous streak of royal blue paint across my dress. This is my favorite dress, one that I have blogged about, the dress I have been wearing almost daily. And then I surprised myself. Instead of getting mad, I took it as an invitation to get messy, to grab a brush and go for it. The planter that Ben and I painted is pictured above. It’s no Picasso, but man, it felt amazing. I felt free, I felt happy, I felt more me than I have in a long while.
How about you?
Is there something you love to do that you haven’t done in ages? Do you feel like a million bucks after yoga but never get to class? Does dancing make you feel totally alive but you always have an excuse about why you can’t go? Have you decided that you just don’t have the money to travel? Case closed?
For someone like myself who teaches a course in dreaming big, you’d think I’d have this stuff nailed. The sky’s the limit! You can have anything you want! Just write it down and you’re half way there!
But we teach what we most need to learn.
There is a painting retreat that I am longing to go to. There are about a hundred reasons I am telling myself it isn’t practical and yet some part of my heart is bursting at the thought. Some piece of me is whispering, This is going to change your life! This yes is a doorway. This is the life you dream of having, one in which you say yes to things exactly like this…”
Have you ever said yes to that little whisper in your heart? What gifts did it bring you? What did it open up in your life? (Please tell me your story in the comments below!)
I had melanoma two years ago, at the young age of 35. It totally changed my life and it’s how I came to Mondo. I KNOW now my time is limited.
That is when I stopped saying no to my dream of becoming a photographer and threw my energy into it. At the heart of busy season right now, clients are finding me out of nowhere. Never have I felt more like my life was headed in the right direction.
PS. NOT THE DRESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m getting there slowly. Mondo Beyondo was the catalyst to get things moving for me and I really can’t thank you and Jen enough. I’m working through my list and have finally (this past weekend) started to work for myself doing things that interest me and my mind.
Thank you! now go get some paints!
Oh, me too – and with the painting, specifically! I’ve recently been coming up against the life-lessons inherent in my own less-than-conscious choices (I procrastinate until it becomes clear to me that I don’t want to do the work I set out to do).
A dear friend recently took me through a similar mental exercise (but without the death stuff) – she asked me to imagine that I had suddenly won the lottery, and had no more financial worries. She asked me to picture my days, once I got through all the travel and play and found my perfect little home…how did I spend my time?
Unbidden, I said, “I would have a light-filled studio and I would have tiny canvases and huge canvases and I would paint and paint and paint!” Not take pictures. Paint. Wow. …and she said, “well, then we need to figure out how to make that your path, then.”
It’s scary, claiming that thing for which my heart is yearning. Really scary. And there are all of these “but what if I’m not good enough? what if no-one likes my art? what if *I* don’t like my art?” (a big danger – I’m an obscene perfectionist)…but I want to try. I really really do.
If I may ask, what is the workshop you’re wanting to do? Is it local? Because we could be brave and buddy up and go together, if you wanted…two wanna-be-painter-again girls. If not, no worries – I know we’ve never met irl, but I *feel* like I know you, like you’re a kindred spirit. The interwebs is funny that way. 🙂
Carry on, amazing soul!
This is so powerful! and inspiring.
and I am SO happy for you.
And your work is GORGEOUS. I can see why you’re busy.
Just thrilled for you.
which painting retreat??
’cause I’d love to go to Chris Zydel’s retreat, but keep telling me self “Me self” I says. “I am an east coast mama and hate getting on a plane to travel to the west coast.”
The other whisper tells me to hire Hiro Boga.
In about 10 seconds last spring, I booked a trip to New York to see Pema Chodron. Even though I live 800 miles away. I paid admittance for my friend, too, and convinced another friend to go. We’re headed there in 2 weeks.
What a timely post for me. I have said yes to so many whispers lately. I began a new business (www.livefromyoursoul.com) which has meant putting is all out there in a way I have never put myself out there before. And by that I mean, being honest about who I really am, what makes my heart smile, and the stuff I have to offer – not because I should or it’s practical, but because I want to. This has been a grounding, so scared it left me weeping, living soul first, walking through the fire experience. I had to grin when I read your line about teaching what we need to learn (you can insert the word writing for your love of painting). I think that’s okay. I bet it helps us help and/or have compassion and empathy for others, too. Thank you for sharing your response to your dress & the paint. I just love you for being able to do that for yourself & for Ben.
Dear one, you HAVE to go on that retreat. For you and for your soul and for all of us.
You are a magnificent painter and an extraordinary spirit, bursting with iridescent hues. You enrich everyone whose life you touch.
I am sure you recall SARK’s magnificent micromovement approach. Today, do nothing more than pick up a paint brush and hold it in your hand. Tomorrow, look at the website of the painting retreat. Who knows what will happen the day after…?
I wrote recently about my own desires to be creative again. A friend made fun of my art really rudely a few years ago. She’s a talented painter and she basically mocked my attempts at being creative so many times that I stopped. But lately, I find myself drawn to that side of life again: I want to paint, I signed up for a knitting class, and I find myself wanting to explore my more creative side lately. I’m trying to say yes, despite my own self doubt.
I do know that when I say yes, I’m richly rewarded. Last year, I was laid off from my teaching job and I took a job that seemed more “steady” and “corporate.” After a few months, I knew I needed to be back in the classroom, and that return to teaching has opened up so much space and joy in my heart.
Happy to see you going back to painting. I hope your dress is okay, too 🙂 xo
That’s so interesting. I can’t wait to see if you start painting! I have had inclinations to paint myself, and mostly resist them. What goes through my head is: “I’m not good at it”, “but I’ve never done it much before…” and I think about how messy it is, how much paper it uses up, etc. I signed up for ArtFest for next spring though, and I’m really looking forward to it.
All I kept thinking to myself was – Oh my god….
because – I secretly want to go on a painting retreat too. She has one in Mexico and I keep telling myself it’s too much….
she also has one in colorado – so much closer – so much less expensive…..
I’ll meet you in Mexico! Or Colorado! Or lets just pinky swear we will go for it – and see if it’s the same one we’ve both been dreaming about.
And I dream of having canvas – in a white studio – paint dripping off a wooden easel(s)
and music, lots of windows, etc……..
Oh that dress…….now it’s your painting dress! Even more reason to wear it every day – paint brushes in hand!
Go! Follow your heart. It can only lead to good things. And thank you for sharing. From here it looks like you’re living the life of my dreams. I always appreciate hearing of the gritty as well as the dreamy. It helps me see I can always create my own reality.
well for me it was yoga. when you mentioned it man it was like a hit in the head. i feel so great going and find so many reasons why i’m too busy. yesterday i bought a ten class package because i’m so frugal and i know it would kill me to waste the classes. it was a weird way to push myself but i did it.
you.are.always.right.on.the.mark. and i keep saying this, it sounds stupid when i say it, but i mean it to be the highest of compliments: you are so wise, so so so wise, way beyond your years. i remember what it felt like to be on the threshold of 40. i had accomplished some things, yes, but i was not nearly (still am not) the sage that you’ve become, as you begin to enter the fourth decade of your beautiful life. just last night, as i began to enter my 55th year, i wrote a stream-of-consciousness list, at the tail end of what turned out to be one of the most difficult years of my life. no good or bad list, no anything list, just a list that i wrote as it popped into my head…something i do every year on my birthday, according to the number of years i’ve accrued. and on that list, i stated how i feel that i am a very poor student, that i don’t follow through with things i would like to learn, to do. a few? tai chi. painting. kayaking on still waters. fly fishing in the wilderness (real fly fishing, with a line tossed out all wavy-style across the water). why haven’t i begun ANY of these? this year i plan to do something that frightens the dickens out of me – a move to another city, from this place out in the middle of nowhere i’ve called home for six years. i need, so desperately need, a sense of community, something i’ve let slip through my hands as the years passed. yes, i have an online community, yes there are lots of friends, but most of them live so far from here that i’d have to hop a plane to see them the day i leave. something’s gotta give. the boys are all big and grown, and i am sensing a dwindling in my heart that needs to be rekindled.
you are so wise. and yes, i agree with everyone here – attend that art retreat. (and i commend you for your plans for your 40th – solo – scary – but as someone told me yesterday, “rough weather makes for tough timber”. and what beauty there is to that.
Singing. It’s always been the thing that makes me feel like the “real me.” When I’m on stage, I feel like the person God made me to be. Now more than ever, this is clear to me. My 7 year old daughter has cancer. This past weekend, we held a concert fundraiser to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. It was such an inspiring night, and as I was singing on stage I felt like all the things in my life were coming together for a deeper purpose. My singing not only makes me feel happy, but I was using it for real good. It was like I got a glimpse of my real purpose for this life. For so long, I denied that my singing was something I should do. It seemed silly and self-serving. But now I can see it’s not. Thank you for this post. Your writing (and your art) is lovely.
I was wondering how you got started painting in the first place. I have a bunch of acrylics and paper sitting in my apartment and have only touched them once. I get stopped at the question, “What should/do I paint?” I’m not sure if I should wait for inspiration or just start messing around. Thank you in advance for your advice!! XO
Oh Andrea, that little voice is nagging me quite a bit lately! I’ve always felt like I had a dream job, (working for wildlife conservation) but I’ve gotten so bogged down in the mire and minutia that I often forget what brought me here in the first place. My little voice tells me to return to something fulfilling, whatever that may be, and reignite that passion. I keep thinking about getting out of debt in a couple of years, getting an airstream trailer, and setting out with my little family and finding somewhere in this country that we really love, really want to live, and move there. The job will come after. At this point I still very stuck and tied to where I am, but I hope that I can throw caution to the wind and strike out into some great unknown at some point.
The latest dream I’m entertaining is to sell my own handicrafts and garden goods. Wouldn’t it be lovely to make a living doing that?
Hello Andrea, for 2 years I have continued whispering in my head, “you have to dedicate yourself professionally to scrapbooking (colors, pictures, paint, paper, etc.)”, to create,it is there, it is what you were looking for and not know, pum, pum !!!!!. Against this, I have the time, I am an engineer and my schedule is very broad, two children (boy 3 years / girl 6 months), in Spain and especially Madrid, scrapbooking is not widely used, to my help: how happy that makes me do scrapbooking, so I love it, it enables me to be myself and support my partner and friend, Sergio.
At the moment I’m doing industrial facilities, but I’m little by little, doing scrapbooking, without forgetting ….
Incidentally, I loved your article in the e-Kelly Rae Roberts course, you are very brave. I told it to my husband Sergio and he was totally agree with you.
A big kiss from Madrid. (I hope you understand my English, sorry)
I am delighted you picked up the paintbrush with Ben and joined him! The painting is both vibrant and playful!
I am doing a dance with my dreams: one step forward, next step sideways, two steps back, then forward again. It is easy for me to take the two steps back after I tentatively took the one step forward. I am reminding myself to Breathe through the fear and anxiety and maybe get the feel of the forward step without immediately jumping back.
I hope you and Ben paint together soon!!
Dear Ben and Ginormous streak of royal blue paint,
You are awesome. Loud and clear…with color to boot! Right on, with your message! Well received… whew!
PS Andrea…many words of gratitude :)for showing your human side :0)
How lovely to read your story and all the comments that have been left here. I do hope you continue with the painting, if that is what makes you feel good.
I understand that. I’ve just discovered painting myself after not having painted since I was about 12. I’m plagued with self-doubts but they’re not enough to stop me. I just love love LOVE painting – I could do it all day long. I feel like I’m a better person after I’ve spent a few hours painting.
Sometimes we are fearful of the whispers… But the truth will set you free… right?
Please consider going to the retreat…. hmmm.. Practice what (well you know the rest).
I was so moved by this picture of Ben. So fully in his body and spirit. The sense of utter concentration and attention and devotion in his face. And something about the way he’s crouching, the bend in his knees, how he’s sitting on his haunches – he’s gotten his whole body square with the canvas in front of him, where he can see it at eye-level.
What you wrote has such resonance for me, and clearly for so many of your other readers. And what it made me think about is how sometimes (when I’m driving in the car in particular) I get this little shiver, this shimmy of happiness, a moment of beautiful reprieve from all the self-doubt and self-critique, when I realize what real freedom could look like. When I see that the world has the capacity to expand and deepen with as much as I want to give it.
It’s a thrilling thought to carry, that the bigger we allow ourselves to be, the bigger the space the world will hold for us. And yet it’s terrifying all at once. It’s can feel so much easier to shrink back and take up as little room as possible, silence our creativity in particular because it might not “fit,” or because we’re not “good enough,” or because “someone else is already doing it better” or because it feels “frivolous.” There are a million things we tell ourselves to stay “practical” and not come in contact with what truly wakes us up, what makes us come alive.
But at the heart of it, I think we often associate this expansion with pain. Like looking at the sun – it’s an almost unbearable intensity. It feels so risky, so dangerous, like we could go blind from it, like we could die.
Of course the irony of holding ourselves back is that that THING – whatever it is we’re keeping ourselves from becoming – becomes even bigger. It wants us very badly, so it continues to show up, waving its arms in our faces as if to say “Don’t forget about me.” Those little shimmies of happiness I get in the car – it’s like I get a glimpse of how electrifying it would be to say yes. I can actually feel my cells multiply and light up, and the air has more oxygen in it, and my heart swells and my body becomes fluid and flexible and a big ole grin plasters itself on my face and I look in the mirror and see how RELAXED I look. Like all that tension of holding back has been released.
I think painting must do that for you.
It’s so clear to me that you are someone who takes the big risks and carries an enormous amount of courage – a true visionary who so generously takes us all by the hand and says, “Come.” It’s only fair and reasonable that there would be times when you need that hand, too. And how perfect that the person who could offer it up would your own beautiful boy.
I’m going to keep Ben’s little crouch in my mind, a reminder that all it takes to bridge the distance between the painter and the canvas – between us and any of our dreams – is to step in with the brush and make that first stroke. The rest will take care of itself.
With gratitude, as always, for your voice and vision,
That picture of ben makes my heart melt. x
Andrea, Gahhhh! We have to meet sometime. This post is just too much. So, I have my BFA in painting. I was a children’s art teacher before our 1st son was born (the one who shares a birthday w/ you, is 4 weeks older then Ben and a name w/ Ben). I worked for a local museum and was surrounded by paintings every day and painted most everyday myself until my little guy was born. I haven’t painted much (some but not much) since then. Stuff happened in between and then we had our second little one (Little N who is just 4 weeks or so older then your little N). As I read what you wrote here I thought wow we are kindred spirits. Funny thing too is that as I turned 40 in January I thought . . . finally I’ll get that 35mm camera I’ve always wanted and give myself the joy of photography, something I once dabbled in for a semester in college 20 yrs ago! Your blog was a beam of light when my sweet little 1st baby boy was just about six months old and every time I’ve checked in on your blog or shared a brief email w/ you ever since you have been a beam of light or source of inspiration. I hope we can plan to meet someday so I can say thanks in person. Go paint!
Wow…I haven’t seen a picture in such a long time that took my breath away like this and made a catch in my throat. I wouldn’t have guessed. Thanks Ben. Thanks Andrea. I’ve been trying to listen, but this really wants to make me say yes to what has been whispering in my ear!
What a beautiful post! I think that I’ve been ignoring the whisper in my heart for so long that I almost don’t recognize it anymore. I’m going to really try to calm my life down and listen, because I feel like my life is becoming what everyone else thinks I should do with it and I’m not as happy as I’d like to be.
Thanks for the inspiring words. Good luck with your painting!
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