Monday, January 11, 2010
Okay, so it's Monday and I'm only now getting a chance to upload this. But here's my painting from Sunday...
So I laid out a layer of color first, and then realized I'd have to let it sit to dry.
I got all huffy and impatient.
After that, I painted some colored circles, but then realized I'd have to break to let THAT dry.
Then Ella, my four-year-old came over and ran her fingers through it.
I'm learning something about myself already.
I have this, er, issue, where I think everything going to take, like, 5 minutes, when really it takes half an hour or more.
This time issue thing seeps into every aspect of my life and I'm learning that its resistance is something that creates a lot of unnecessary frustration in me, and steals a lot of joy.
I've been like this as long as I can remember.
I've always run up stairs, always banged myself against walls, always burned myself on the stove trying to get something out too quickly, always spilled my tea trying to fill it too full.
I've always tried to find the shortcuts. In school, I avoided homework until the very last minute. All my grown-up life I have created work for myself where I could control my own hours so as to avoid the pressure of deadlines. This has resulted in having nauseatingly long to-do lists, and, at the end of the day, never feeling like I accomplished enough.
But recently, I've been noticing how depleting this habit is.
I dream of having a measuring stick within myself. Of being able, at the end of the day, to say "enough", and feel happy with the work I DID get done.
Last Christmas, after spending the whole fall dreaming of having a few empty days to myself to write, I took a trip up to a monastery to participate in a silent retreat for 3 days. Even there, with other people doing most of the cooking, and only a tiny cubicle of space to care for (a bed, a small desk, a lamp) I still felt myself resenting the small tasks that needed doing - having to make my bed as part of the monastery rules, having to share in the preparation or clean-up of one meal a day. I still only got a small amount of work done, and I still ended each day feeling like I didn't DO enough, didn't accomplish enough.
This is when I realized that - clearly - I had a problem.
Was I going to live my whole life resisting the small, menial tasks like brushing my teeth, doing the dishes, preparing healthy food and tidying up after myself? Obviously the right answer was no, but I needed to re-adjust my thinking more than a little bit in order to stop resisting these things in favor of more creative time. It became clear to me that I had in fact been, very simply put, resisting life itself.
Since then, I have been trying to make peace with time limits. Trying to make my lists smaller, trying to be more realistic about what I can accomplish in what amount of time. Whether I'm at a monastery, or at home with my 2 young daughters to care for and laundry to put away, I still only have a few hours a day to devote to creativity. Any more than this sets me off-balance, causes me to neglect other important things like walks or housework or eating (which leads to a diet of cheesetoast and plain yogurt - not altogether unhealthy, but seriously lacking in veggies!)
Julia Cameron, drawing on her experience as a recovered alcoholic, writes a lot about the idea of "creative sobriety"; a way of living where you are setting do-able goals, and not burning yourself out. Her writing quota is 3 pages a day. For such a prolific writer, this is amazing to me that she has gotten so far on such a small amount of daily writing.
Painting every Sunday is a good, grounded practice for me. On the one hand, it reminds me that I don't need a lot of time, I just need to get something down to feel satisfied and like I am moving closer to something. On the other hand, it reminds me that not everything is instant, like photography (maybe that's why I LOVE it so much!) Some things take time. It is necessary to honor this process, and to approach it with patience and respect. As Barbara Sher says in her wonderful book Wishcraft: "Great deeds are made up of small, steady actions, and it is these that you must learn to value and sustain."
By the end of this year, for better or worse, I will have painted 56 paintings. I will be that much closer to being able to paint those images that float through my head, calling to me in my dreams.