The above artwork is strange and bizarre, but an anxiety attack can be just as strange and bizarre. For as long as I can remember this particular vision would pop up out of nowhere. I say vision because it would happen while fully awake. I would be quietly sitting in math class and then, without any warning, I would be stuck between two elephants boxing. My heart would race and my head would throb with every punch that was thrown. As a child, I had no idea what was happening but I knew the elephants were not real, so I kept quiet about it. It was not real, so I did not have to address it.
The elephants would enter the arena with their satin robes draped over their massive shoulders. The crowd would start cheering and the first punch would be thrown POW!! The crowd would roar with excitement as I would cringe in fear of being trampled. WHAM!! my head would pound with the resonance of a timpani drum. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. My heart would march along to the rhythmic tempo and accelerate as the cheering would get louder. Meanwhile, those sitting around me casually went on with the math lesson not knowing of the battle going inside of me.
These attacks would strike at some of the oddest moments. I could never be sure when the elephants would appear, but the one place they never appeared was when I was drawing, so the art room became my sanctuary and comfort.
Art to me is extremely therapeutic. There is a zen-like quality to immersing oneself into a creative state of mind. Allowing the emotion to ebb through and come out on to the canvas, paper, tablet, or the pixels of digital art, is a release of the anxiety that can get bottled up within. When my life gets chaotic or stressful and I don’t make time for my creativity to flow, that is when the elephants make their appearance and can stampede through my mind. Exercising the inner muse is my way of calming the herd of judgment and self-doubt that can accompany the anxiety.
I have a friend who is always scolding me for putting others before myself. He sees the destruction that happens to my soul and ultimately my art when I neglect myself. The anxiety builds up to the point where I feel trapped between two boxing elephants. That is the time to stop, take a moment, breathe, and realize that I am in control and not the elephants. I have the choice of crouching in fear or standing up and proclaiming myself as the champion in the ring.
Today is Inspire Your Heart with Art day. It happens every year on January 31st. It has become my new favorite HOLIDAY.
Take a moment today and feel some art. What kind of emotions does it evoke? Art surrounds us even when we do not realize it. It is the music we listen to, the packaging on the products we buy, the painting hanging in the museum, the car driving too slow in front of you, the book or the article you just read, the icicle hanging from the gutter. Today is the day to examine that artwork and think about what it makes you feel.
I’m one of those people who sings to the songs in my car while driving down the road. You may even spot me doing some crazy arm gestures while dancing in the driver’s seat. No worries, I am not having a seizure, I am just feeling the music. I find it relaxing and liberating. It is my time to be “ME.” Too often the stress of everyday life can make me feel like a macrame owl, a little bit wise but entirely made up of knots, and art helps untie those knots. Today on your way home crank up the music and dance. Instead of yelling at the guy in front of you going too slow, look at his car and the design of it. Those brake lights may actually impress you with the engineering of them. For dinner tonight, play with your food, you might create a forest out of that broccoli.
Art is made to inspire and make you feel. It can transport you to other worlds and take you back in time with memories and the playfulness of childhood. It can help you understand other cultures and see other perspectives on life. Art can transform people, places, and things.
Today is Inspire Your Heart With ART Day, it could transform you.
Ahhhhhh. Disappointment, the gum on the shoe of every artist. Difficult to remove and a constant reminder of a step once taken. It clings to your soul and gives you a feeling of inadequacy. A nagging persistence that your art or even you are not good enough. It is a struggle that everyone must deal with from time to time. It has become a constant companion that is stuck to my shoe and I have learned to incorporate it into my walk. Every now and then it gets a little sticky, but most of the time it’s just an imbalance that needs to be corrected.
The artistic way of life is really quite masochistic. The muse inspires one to create, but the creation seldom measures up to what the mind has envisioned. Leaving an artist feeling disappointed, discouraged, disillusioned, and dejected. Then that artwork is put on display for all the world to judge. If the piece is accepted the brain is flooded with endorphins that will give the artist a temporary high. A high that is desperately sought after, to the point that rejection is the price that is willing to be paid in order to achieve a personal validation.
This week I received another email that will be added to the collection of rejection letters in my file cabinet. (I keep thinking that someday I will make a collage of all of them). It felt like I had just stepped on a tarantula size wad of gum. No matter how much I tried to shake it off, it would not let loose. This was not the same as entering a juried art show where the judging was based on your work and whether or not it would fit in with the rest of the show. This felt personal. A judgment of me and who I am. No matter how many times I told myself, “It’s nothing personal.” It stuck to my soul as a constant reminder that I was not worthy. I would be happily preparing Thanksgiving dinner and then BAM! it would remind me and I would start crying. (The blessing was, I could blame the crying on cutting onions). It took a few days and a few bottles of wine to accept the fact that it wasn’t personal. It’s not that I wasn’t worthy, it’s simply that I wasn’t ready YET.
It is extremely tempting to give up and not submit oneself to rejection over and over again, but then there would never be that ultimate high of validation. That wondrous ecstasy of achievement that I strive for. If we let the disappointments fester an accumulate we become stuck and never move forward. Disappointments can fool you and stretch to make you feel like you are moving forward, but they will inevitably pull you back to where you were. I will scrape the gum from my shoe and leave a bit of the residue to harden, to remind me that life has its disappointments, it’s what we do with them that makes the difference. The important thing is to keep moving forward, that is the only way to arrive at where you are going.
Now then, please excuse me while I go to the store to purchase a pack of gum. I seem to have dropped mine.
“Each person does see the world in a different way. There is not a single, unifying, objective truth. We’re all limited by our perspective.” ~ Siri Hustvedt
The last few years has had me examining the question, “What is true?” That question has taken over my life in the last month. Not just in the political atmosphere, but in business and personal as well. When long held beliefs turn out to be false there is a foundational shift that occurs. An earthquake of the conscience that makes one re-examine everything that they have been taught. What we perceive as truth is based on what we have been taught to believe. Our perception of the world is based on our life experiences, what we consume in media, and who we socialize with. Each one of these will bend the truth to fit into what we perceive to be accurate, if it does not fit in to our preconceived notions, then it is often ruled to be false.
I am not a degreed scholar, and I do not sit around and drink coffee with philosophical individuals (although that would be nice). I am an artist who examines everything from different perspectives. I have learned to examine things and life from all angles, because I will always notice something that I did not see before. Recently I discovered that my perception had been a bit skewed by folks who I believe meant well, but ultimately caused a tilt shift in my view.
Let me explain.
When photographing architecture with a wide angle lens a distortion will appear in the photo. Straight lines will look curved and there may even be some vignetting at the corners due to light bending on the lens. With an adjustment in Photoshop or Lightroom this can be corrected, or a person can invest in a tilt shift lens that adjusts enough to obtain the correct perspective when the image is captured. Much like the distortion that happens from a camera lens, what one learns from another person has been distorted by their preconceived notions. On closer examination and independent research I discovered that a serious correction was needed in what I thought was the truth. I had to look at things from all angles. Some may call this overthinking, but I prefer to call it getting the right perspective.
In this crazy, mixed up world we live in where we are told that everything is FAKE news and that, “The truth is not the truth,” it is becoming more and more difficult to correct the distortion.
I am often accused of being too sweet, too pleasant, too accommodating, too quiet, and too nice. That last one, too nice, that’s the twisted knife. It appears that in today’s world in order for a woman to achieve success the label “Too Nice” is the hemlock in her cup of caffeine each morning. Do you have to go for the jugular in order to succeed in life? Being nice and accommodating is how I was raised.
Oxford dictionary defines accommodating as: fitting in with one’s wishes or demands in a helpful way.
The question then becomes, is being accommodating a good thing? Who is it benefiting? I watched my grandmother spend all day cooking a meal and then serve it at the table for the family. She never sat down with the family, she just hovered over the shoulder or sat in the kitchen waiting to serve in case anyone needed anything. I did not think much about this growing up possibly because I watched my mother do it. My mother would sit at the table with us, but she was always ready to get up to retrieve something. My mother tried to teach me to do this and some of it took and some of it didn’t.
What I learned was to be accommodating and to put others needs before mine. This accommodation can be beneficial, but it can be even more detrimental to my own personal well-being. I no longer look at it as being accommodating or nice and sweet. It’s enabling. I am an enabler. By bending to others wishes or demands I am enabling them to continue controlling MY life and MY wishes. That control is a powerful thing and breaking free from it is extremely difficult, but in order to achieve success in my life, I have to be in control of it. Do I have to go for the jugular? I don’t think so, because ultimately it is my own neck that I am sticking out and I am kind of attached to it.
It has not been easy taking control of my life and telling people “No. I’m not doing that anymore.” They are stunned and even a little angry but they will get over it. I only have one shot at this life and it’s time to make it my own.