I just got the latest issue of Spirituality and Health Magazine yesterday and was enjoying the article on Elizabeth Gilbert about the holy calling of creativity. First off, let me just say I love Ms. Gilbert. She is such a wise old soul….every word out of her mouth is like music to my ears and words to live by.
I have been wrestling with validating the importance of making art and making time to make art, while simultaneously combating the negative force going against me (in that department) who has shown up as my opponent in this match. Without naming names and their relationship to me, I am trying to convince myself that what I am doing is important, it’s what I need to do, it’s what I was born to do (thank you Priscilla!). But my wrestling partner always seems to get the edge on me, causing self doubt and feeding me thoughts of whether the art I strive to make is legitimate and worth my time. I know it is. And as much as I put every ounce of strength into pinning this bad guy down sometimes I lose my hold on him. It is difficult to not let those ugly words sink in and warp the stronghold of my soul.
Ms. Gilbert has written something in this article that has made me think. Yes, I’m taking ownership of her words and I want to share them with you here and make them my own. Because now that I’ve read her words of wisdom, they become my mini manifesto.
‘I was given a contract, and the contract is: “We are not going to tell you why, but we gave you this capacity. Your side of the contract is that you must devote yourself to this in the highest possible manner, you must approach it with the greatest respect, and you must give your whole self to this. And then we will work with you on making progress.” That’s sort of what it feels like for me.
My contract is one of creating art and never doubting my purpose or intent in this life and especially not allowing anyone to get in my head and cause me to feel otherwise. To my wrestling nemesis: If you can’t support me in my artistic endeavors, then just leave me alone. And keep your damn mouth shut because I have a contract binding to my soul.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E Cummings
I was pretty shy and very quiet kid, so going to school for the first time in kindergarten was a terrifying experience for me.
After a short time, though, life brightened for me in my little elementary school. As it turned out, I loved learning and was a natural student. It was my bliss and often a respite from tumultuous home circumstances, the first place that I spoke out loud with confidence.
Unfortunately, in the urban neighborhood where I lived, being smart meant being very low on the social hierarchy.
For years, I was oblivious to this, but as I moved in to pre-adolescence, I became acutely aware of how my peers viewed me and felt increasingly embarrassed about standing out as a stellar student.
In one particularly memorable experience, I left the stage of a successful debate speech humiliated because I spied several of my peers mocking me in the audience during my delivery. This was a turning point.
Because of an intense desire to win the approval of my peers, I began to actively make decisions to fit in rather than finding my joy by expressing who I really was. Although uncanny to me now, at times, I even would intentionally give the wrong answers on exams to bring my scores down.
An occasional wrong answer didn’t change who I really was, but each decision I made to choose the approval of others, buried my true self deeper.
The momentary gratification of being liked or winning approval could have had profound consequences. It certainly left me feeling empty.
Every time we make small decisions to fit in, whether as a child or as an adult, we are burying a little part of ourselves down deep. This is really serious business, this denying of who we are.
Make it a habit, and you risk becoming confused about who you really are. Just search online for books on topics like finding your true passion or how to get back to your true self to get a sense of the energy it takes to find pieces that are lost.
In high school, I made a dramatic internal shift. Because of a newfound faith, I started to think about my future and felt that I had a responsibility to begin living my life in a way that reflected who I really was.
This, rather than the approval of others became a driving force for me. Small decision by decision, I began to act with the courage to be me.
I’d like to say that from that period on, I have been always and consistently true to myself. That, though, would not be true. And ironically, not being honest about who I am.
The opportunities for adults to deny their truth in favor of approval are endless, and choices can feel complicated. In some moments, I have done better than others, whether it be stating an honest, but unpopular position or leaving a lucrative career for more meaningful work.
I do know for sure that I have never met one human being—not one—who regrets making choices that reflect who they really are.
Recently, something reminded me of the rewards of being true to who you are. My son asked me if I had three wishes for my life, what would I wish.
I was stumped. Really. Sincerely. Stumped. I couldn’t come up with one wish—not because I have arrived to a particular destination or had everything that I ever wanted, but because I know that I am truly on the right path, my unique, one-of-a-kind path.
There is good news though. Just like denying ourselves can bury who we are, small decisions to be you can have a cumulative impact too. The more often that we are brave enough to express who we are, the easier it gets.
So, in this present moment, how about you? Are you growing up to be who you truly are?
Here are easy suggestions for building the being you habit. Pick one or more if you like.
1. Express your uniqueness daily.
Create a daily practice of doing or saying something that expresses you without regard to its popularity or commonality. It can be as simple as a wardrobe choice or saying no to a social engagement that will leave you feeling drained.
1. Express your uniqueness daily.
Create a daily practice of doing or saying something that expresses you without regard to its popularity or commonality. It can be as simple as a wardrobe choice or saying no to a social engagement that will leave you feeling drained.
2. Make time for brief moments of solitude.
Even just a few minutes during the day can help you connect to yourself rather than being caught up in outside forces.
3. Re-connect to a childhood passion.
Think about what you loved to do as a kid as it can be a clue to your truest expressions. Anything you want to try today?
4. Write down three things that you truly value.
Take one small action every day to express your values.
5. Go easy on the pressure.
There’s a difference between compromising your true self and having multiple passions. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make the right choice when it comes to your calling. Sometimes you just have to pick something and take action.
6. Create relationships based on being you.
Some people are more naturally inclined to care what others think. If you are one of those people, you also likely have a great propensity to be empathetic. Build upon that strength and reach out to others to get the support you need.
7. Find your mantra.
Sometimes we end up compromising who we are because it is hard to say no. Write down on a small card your response to requests for your time or an opinion you are not prepared to give. Doesn’t have to be eloquent—“Huh, I’ll have to think about that” works.
8. Support someone else in self-expression.
When you see someone standing out rather than fitting in, be a voice of encouragement and support.
9. Create art.
Buy a small journal or notebook just for self-expression. It will be one of the best purchases you will ever make. Spend even one minute a day writing or drawing a picture. No directions required.
10. Remind yourself how important this is.
Hang up a sign with the quote at the beginning of this post or another that reminds you the importance of being you.
If you feel like your true self is lost under the debris of fitting in, take heart, you are closer than you think. If you are a being you master, then add to the above list. Either way, I’d be honored to hear your stories in the comments.
Over the weekend someone I know purchased this lovely lamp at a thrift shop and presented it to me as a gift. I absolutely love it. It’s solid brass, a bit vintage and full of character. One has to wonder why this lady is reading nude, but hey, I’m not one to judge-I love it all the same. The lamp didn’t come with a shade so I was in search of one while hitting the Goodwill on Saturday. I found one I thought would work so I grabbed it and took it home with me. It turns out it fits great!
When I’m at Goodwill I always pour over the books because there’s never a time when I go that I don’t find a treasure. The Goodwill’s in my area have great book selections. On Saturday I found two copies of one of my favorite books, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray.Love. I already have a few copies I keep on hand to pass along to friends, so I just grabbed these two extras to add to my lending/gifting library. After getting home I started to think about what a fun project it would be to give this lamp some character with a collage of book pages on the shade. This brass babe is going to be my reading lamp, so why not embellish her with the pages of one of my favorites.
I wanted to share with you the very simple process in case you’d like to make one for yourself or for a friend. A Literary Shade can be whipped up in a few hours and would make a great Christmas gift for the book lover in your life.
Okay, here goes:
Your going to need the following items:
-A lamp shade that fits your lamp of choice (thrift for one if you can-it’s a great way to recycle items. Besides, new ones can be very pricey.)
-A used copy of your favorite book
-Matte Medium gel or Modge Podge
-Sponge brush or 1″ wide paint brush
-Beading or fringe for a vintage boudoir look
-Something to protect your work area.
Accent your lampshade with some beautiful fringe or beading if you think it will complete the look. I’m thinking I might add some fringe to this one. Looks like I’m off to JoAnn’s Fabric for just the perfect touch.
Have fun and get creative with this. Instead of the pages of a novel, you can use pieces from a French book or a vintage mathematics book with formulas in it for your favorite intellectual. The ideas are endless. Enjoy!
Yesterday I took Xander to the woods for his morning romp and I started to notice something. It seemed everywhere I looked there was a letter ‘Y’. It took the form in cracks in the sidewalks, parking lot asphalt, fallen twigs and branches. What is the universe trying to tell me? Or maybe the universe is trying to ask me something-specifically ‘why?’
I thought this would be a perfect post since my blog is called Why Jane. Why? I’m seeking answers constantly, as I think we all are.
“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” ~George Washington Carver
The cold wind has started to whip and howl, igniting my urge to dust off my copy of Jane Eyre. To me there’s nothing much better than snuggling on the sofa all toasty and warm and revisiting the creepy twists and turns of Thornfield Manor. I love this book so much. It speaks to me for reasons unknown-maybe it’s her being an orphan as I was, or maybe it’s the strength she exhibits though her childhood adversities, or it could be the rugged, Gothic sexiness of Mr. Rochester that sucks me in. I hope this time through I’ll be able to put my thumb on it. I’ll let you know.
If you’ve read Jane Eyre before and loved it I recommend you pay a visit to Derfwad Manor where Heather has written Jane Eyre and the Linen Closet-a parodic synopsis of Jane Eyre had she written the original. You might want to check it out…it’s one of my favorites next to Charlotte Bronte’s..lol.
And if the book isn’t enough for you, by all means rent or Netflix the 2011 movie. This version was to me, so accurate in every way I had imagined the story unfolding. The cinematography is breathtaking and it seems so spot on-right down to the clothing and the characters. If you haven’t seen it, you must. Tarry not. See Jane Erye. Watch the trailer…you’ll be captivated.
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*Today is one of those days-I woke up in a funk and feel a subtle cloud of sadness over me that just won’t lift. I’m not sure where it’s coming from or what sets it off. I’m feeling so emotional these days…I cry at the drop of a hat and get angry over the smallest things. I think peri-menopause is rearing it’s ugliness in my head and I don’t like it. Pain makes me sad and I’ve been suffering with very arthritic knees. They bother me and keep me from doing the simplest things. I actually had to drop a yoga class because I couldn’t do the positions. What a bummer to be hindered by my joints. Today my knees were really sore and it’s affecting my mood. Could it be related?
*We are all where we are for a reason. The person we are (shape, sex, caste, race, etc.) is who we are intended to be for a specific purpose. Learn to accept who you are and love yourself. Be yourself-everyone else is taken.
*I need to forgive myself for being overweight. I struggle with this every day of my life. It gets me down and depressed. Despite the fact that I’m curvy and heavy I love myself enough to start cutting myself some slack. I FORGIVE MYSELF.
* Be a ‘Life Experience Processor’. Let the experiences come in and get absorbed by osmosis-whatever, and let them be ‘processed’ internally and then released back into the universe as more positive energy. Let good come from the bad. Make yourself a living filter for making this world a better place. I’m capable of that.
* I have a few preliminary ideas for what I’d like to accomplish in 2013. Here’s a few of my intentions so far:
a. Read all of Jane Austen’s novels.
b. Read all of the Toni Morrison novels I’ve collected from the thrift store.
c. Learn some French for my trip to Paris next summer.
d. I want to find my biological family. Not sure I will succeed, but I want to amp up the search and hopefully find someone who knows of me or knows of my parents who can tell me something about them.
e. Paint regularly.
f. Complete The Artist’s Way with a few friends.
What are your Monday Thoughts?
Dearest Emily….how weird it is to be writing to you in the future, but there are so many hopes and dreams I have for you. You are 49 now. Today is November 14, 2012 and I am feeling so happy right now thinking of the next twenty years and what wonderful things will happen on your life’s journey toward becoming a wise, mature woman of 70. May your path have few bumps in it and may the turns in the road always be clear. I hope your path never becomes foggy, so foggy you have to stop because you can’t continue on.
Right now, as a woman on the cusp of turning 50, I know I am no where near as wise as I will be and certainly not in any position to be giving out life advise to a much older person. All I can do is write to you, Emily, and convey my wishes and hopes for your future the way I see them now at this ‘young’ age. When you think of being old, immediately poor health, achy joints and fading beauty come to mind. Aging doesn’t have to be that way, even though to some extent some of those things are inevitable. In an effort to ward off those maladies, take care of your health now, by seeing the doctor regularly, have yearly tests done, eat healthy and take supplements to further increase the probability of staying healthy. Exercise is your number one nemesis right now, but you’re learning to think of it as a friend; and your heart has conveyed to you in the form of palpitations that it loves exercise. When you get active, your heart beats completely normally. If that isn’t a hint from your heart to get moving, I don’t know what is. So, just go along with it, it knows best. Get walking and vow to be as active as you can. Right now you have very sore knees. I can only imagine that by the time you are 70, you will probably have gotten knee replacements and if so, I hope you start running. That would be awesome! As far as beauty goes, I believe you have inherited excellent aging genes since most people think you are younger than you look. Part of that is attributed to the fact you wear sunblock daily and stay out of the sun as much as you can in the summer. All you can do is try. Blueberries-Yes, blueberries are fabulous and by eating them by the handful daily will help you stay young looking and healthy.
In the next twenty years so much can happen. We will lose people in our lives due to death or estrangement. Be kind and giving, but do not tolerate people who make your life miserable, or those who have nothing but negativity to offer you. Whatever happens, I hope you can endure it and carry on with life because, after all, that is for best. Be sure to live each day being happy to be alive and to carve out joy from life doing the things that make you happiest. It’s so important to have something that we love besides people. Hobbies, reading, art, and exercise not to mention a dog are wonderful ways to cultivate joy when we are older and find ourselves with less people around us. I hope your family is there for you, available to you and holds you dear until the day you die. My wish is that your children will look forward to seeing you and want to spend time with you-that you can somehow continue to contribute something positive and memorable to your children as well as your grand kids. My hope is you won’t become a ditzy old lady who is a burden, but instead one who stays stay sharp and interesting and will grow wise beyond her years. Be that beautiful old woman with a long white braid that everyone wants to be around.
May art always be your love, and your joy. When I think of you getting older, I see you with paint on your hands sitting at an easel, creating large, colorful canvases. I hope you get that studio of your dreams and are able to paint daily. But paint for you, not for anyone else. Just you. Don’t let anyone’s opinions of what your doing bring you down. Remember the quote by Andy Warhol,
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
If you paint on a consistent basis and get yourself out there, there will be people who love your work and will want some of it for themselves. You will do this, I know it. And, anyway, how cool is it for your grandchildren to have a grandma who paints cool pictures? Never stop reading,even though the prescription on your Progressives may get stronger. Write. I hope to see you blogging well into your seventies, because you have so much to say to the people out there. Don’t fall into an ‘old lady’ rut-be the modern, hip old woman you really want to be. Evolve into a juicy crone-that mature woman who’s alive and flowing with life. Keep up with what’s going on in the world and for goodness sakes, Em, don’t become a fuddy-duddy. That falls into the slot of ditzy and remember, we don’t want you to end up anywhere in that category.
I see you travelling to Paris and New York City for extended stays. Get yourself a little apartment in your favorite city, so you can bring back your family and friends to share with you the places you love the most. I hope you can travel to art retreats, and exotic places. Enjoy your girlfriends and make time for them always. They will be your safe harbor when all others fail you. In return, be that reliable, loving source of sanctuary for them.
Live simply, and with intention. Don’t accumulate a lot of stuff that one day your kids are going to have to deal with . Surround yourself with just what you need to be comfortable. You want life to be simple so you don’t have to spend precious time shoveling and shuffling your crap from one corner to the next. You want your home to be a haven that is easy to take care of so you can get on with the more important things in life like art, friends and family.
I hope you can always have a loving closeness with your husband, or fall in love again some day. Love keeps us young and alive. When it goes stale or becomes non existent, it can become a drying up factor in our lives. Seek out love and make it yours. Become more spiritual as time goes by. Pray. Seek answers. Never lose your faith because there has to be something beyond this beautiful, mysterious world we live in. Work on your feeding your soul with creativity, beauty, love and the Spirit.
Seventy is young and I know you will arrive there ready, willing and able. How wonderful to have reached this age! I wish your life to be long and full of love, friendship, faith and family. I wish you happy holidays full of tradition and new family members. Don’t be afraid of changing. I want you to be happy, on a very basic level. I know with old age can come set backs, but don’t let them get the best of you. Live life to it’s fullest, drink it dry and then only then will you be ready to leave this life as a legacy of a woman who lived her life artfully, was like sunshine to those she met, practiced kindness and left a lasting impression on everyone she came in contact with. I hope they say to themselves, “I want to be like her.”
Here’s to the next twenty years and beyond. I’ll see you there.
I’m participating in WordPress’ Daily Post blog prompts and thought this one, Write a letter to your 14-year-old self. Tomorrow, write a letter to yourself in 20 years would be interesting to do. There are many times I think to myself, “If I could only go back in time and tell myself __”_”_”_” Here’s my chance. Also, I’m going to write my 69 year old self a letter and send it here, too… Won’t you write your own letters to yourself, both past and future? Leave me a comment if you do. I’d love to read it!
You really are such a dear, sweet girl. I’m so proud of you and what you will become as you grow older. I love your honesty, creatively and your sunshine. You will always be gullable and a little naive. There’s always sunshine around you, not just the golden rays that bounce off your hair, but the ones emanating from you. You are so lovely inside…don’t lose that. Because you are so good, there are a few things I must tell you. I have inside knowledge of just how things are going to go for you and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes twice. Keep this letter in your jewelry box and read it often. Remember how good, kind, smart and important you are.
Never let anyone, especially the kids you go to school with make you feel bad about yourself, or make you feel self conscious in any way. They are fools to treat you like that and you can’t let what they say affect you in a negative way. Let it roll off your back and to the floor. I repeat, do not let what they say to you sink in. You are wonderful. And when people look at you they are not thinking negative thoughts about your facial features or how fat you are. They are going to remember the way you made them feel. Always be like sunshine as much as you can.
Emily, you are so young. I know Larry is a fun, exciting boyfriend but sweetie, you need to just be ‘Emily’ for a while and develop who you are as a person. Boyfriends can be as much trouble as they are fun. You need to enjoy your freedom for a few years longer and then think about getting serious. The best thing for you, dear girl, is to date many boys and see which one fits you the best. Find someone who makes you laugh :(trust me…he needs to laugh at you and you at him. Boy, do I know!) and tells you how wonderful and artistic and amazing you are. And do the same back for him, because boys love to be appreciated just as much as us girls. Oh, and when Larry pouts and withdraws when he doesn’t get his way-well, just turn around and ignore him because it doesn’t matter anyway. Don’t let yourself get caught up in people pleasing because it only hurts one person and that is you. It really, really hurts you so stop doing it. NOW. And if he lets you go because you won’t play the game, then so be it-he wasn’t worth it in the first place. But if he pays attention to what you are doing and changes, then that will be a good thing. You have to train them early. Either way Em, go ahead and meet other boys and try them on for size. The perfect fit will come to you and you will find a good one. Oh and that kid Jim Phistry in high school really likes you but is too shy to ask you out. Go up to him and be friendly and tell him you’d love to go for lunch. Watch how surprised he is when you ask him! You can thank me later. :)
It’s so important to exercise and stay active. Over the years pounds creep up and before we know it, life becomes a daily struggle to lose weight. Read about calories now and don’t over eat. Food never tastes as good as being slender feels. I know you will obsess and fuss and think about how you want to be thinner and you can avoid that now by not allowing yourself to gain too much weight as you get older. The biggies: Sugar and bread. Watch it kiddo. And don’t be lazy. Learn to like being active and train yourself now to walk and maybe even run. Be active daily and you will be thin when you are middle aged. And watch out for those ‘all you can eat’ restaurants. They will be the reason you gain unwanted weight.
Emily, you are only 14 now, but you will be 19 before you know it. I’m so sad to say you won’t have your sweet dad for very long. He will get very sick by the time you are 18. You need to spend time with him. Quality time-Laugh, hug, and talk to him. Play board games with him. Visit the museums and go on Sunday outings with him. Find out everything, and remember as much as you can about him. Find a way to record his voice so you will always be able to hear it. Save his letters to you so 30 years from now when you are still missing him you can pull them out and read his words to you over and over again as much as you need to hear them. Treat him nice and be patient with him even on those days when he gets grouchy. You won’t have him long and you must savor every moment, both good and not so great. I know this is sad news, but I had to tell you. Now that you know, you can make the best of what you have left with him.
You will have your mom for a long time. Try to better your relationship with her so you won’t want move out at such a young age. Remember,as much as it doesn’t seem like it at times, she really, really does love you. It’s just the way she was raised. She can’t help it. Be the better person and understand. She needs you more than you can imagine.
The best thing I can tell you now Em is to just take your time growing up. Remember you are so important and you are the only person you have to answer to in this life. Do what’s best for Emily, but not at the sake of others. Be a good, empathetic, caring person. But don’t sacrifice yourself or what you want because others might make you feel bad for wanting those things. Nothing you want is bad. But you have a right to be the person you dream and hope to be and let no one keep you from that dream. If they try to stop you or shame you then they aren’t worth knowing in the first place. Most importantly, you need to be able to support yourself with out a man. You never want to have to feel forced to stay in a bad relationship because you have no other way to support yourself than staying with someone who makes you miserable and unhappy. Don’t be eager to get married so young. Go to college. Get an apartment. BE EMILY. Get a good job and be self-supporting. Then, and only then, should you decide to marry. It’s okay to say no. Learn to say no before you are 40. It will do you a world of good, my dear.
You have some friends from grammar school who you don’t see much of now but they will be your best gal pals when you are in your 40’s and beyond…can you believe that? Laura Paul, Cindy M., and Sharon T. will be there for you. It’s hard to imagine but they will!
Now, get on with your life and kiss your dad on the top of his bald head and tell him you (we) love him. Remember what I’ve said to you and use this letter as a guide to get through life. You’re gonna need it, so tuck it under that little white box in your jewelry chest and don’t lose it. Oh, and one last thing….never stop praying and loving God. He will be there for you. You’ve got the love to see you through.
I love you!
–Your Guardian E.
If there were such a thing as time travel I would certainly get in line for it. I wish I were able to go back and spend time with my father. Certainly there are many places and events and people from the past I find fascinating and believe would be fantastic to see and explore, but none would delight me more than zooming back to Chicago, circa 1979, and visit my dad again. He’s been gone for 30 years now and I still miss him terribly. If I were able to get a ticket for that Time Machine, I’d turn the clock back to August 29th, the day he turned 50-the age I will be on my next birthday.
How incredible it would be to face each other at the same age. My visit would precede his lung cancer. It would enable me to get to know my father from an adult perspective, a part of him I didn’t’ get to know before he died. For the first time we would be two adults having a deep conversation and exploring all the interesting things I never got to discuss with him. I would want to talk about and learn of things that help fill in the gaps of my own life. I would use that time to tell him all the things I would love for him to know about my life, my family, and specifically how he has impacted my life in such a large way even though our time together had been cut so short.
The questions would be abundant. After finding out I was adopted at 37, I would ask him why he swore family and friends to secrecy so I wouldn’t learn about being adopted. I’d question, “Are you my biological father? Why did you adopt me, of all the children available that needed homes? Who was my biological mother?”
And by the way, dad…do you know that I absolutely adore you? I love you and I’ve missed you so much through all these years since you’ve been gone.
I’d be delighted to stay home with him. I’d pay attention to every detail of his face, etching it in my mind as not to forget. I no longer remember the sound of my dad’s voice. It’s incredibly sad to me. If I were blessed with a chance to go back, I’d record long conversations between he and I and keep them forever. Never again would the sound of his voice allude me.
What would we talk about? I’d tell him my troubles. Everything. And I’d ask him for guidance and to help me figure out how to solve problems in my life and my marriage that still haunt me. I’d cry, and laugh and divulge everything to him. We would discuss everything. I’d hold his hand and look into his eyes and once again tell him how special and wonderful he is. We would bake Houska bread and drink lots of coffee. We would pick the dahlia’s and gladiolas and make pretty arrangements for the table. I’d show him pictures of my kids and tell him about their lives. I would tell him how much I love art, show him my paintings and maybe even paint with him. We would talk about mom and how she suffered at the end of her life. And I wouldn’t go to sleep for fear when I woke up he’d be gone.
Finally, we would have our photo taken together and forever I’d have something tangible of the two of us together once again at 50. Father and daughter, two people who adored each other and were together again for just a little bit, but it felt like a lifetime.