Sunday, January 26, 2014

The young, the old, and the new. There's no expiration date on you're dreams.

Where I live may not have much in way of stores, cities, trees, and buildings, but it has sunsets






I was thinking about a lot of skewed ideas, or self depreciating message that society sends to everyone as a whole. Message that keep me, and many other people like me from living the life they were meant to live.

Not that I'm the ideal liver of one's dreams. I still battle with my inner "Olga" every day.
One of the worst, self-limiting paradigms that I see all the time, is number one: That once you're past a certain age, you can no longer do_____ You fill in the blank. Dance, sing, play the piano, write, travel, etc.

I was also thinking about a study done by a group of scientists that had a group of monkeys in a controlled group. In this environment, a ladder was placed, where on top was a banana. Naturally the monkeys began climbing the ladder to get to the banana. But just as they reached the top, water got sprayed on them. All of the monkeys soon learned to try to stop any of their companions who tried to climb the ladder to get to the banana. New monkeys were added, one by one were added, and each time they tried to climb the ladder, the other monkeys pulled them off.

 Soon, all the original monkeys that had had water sprayed on them had been replaced, yet they still continued to pull down any monkey that tried to climb the ladder. Not for any other reason, except that they had been conditioned to do pull each other down when one tried to climb the ladder.

I thought this was a powerful example of what we do to each other.  We might not know why we think we or someone can't do something. Only that it can't be done. And we know it quite emphatically.

We climb ladders, yes. But all the wrong ones, then punish others for climbing the ladder that actually is worth climbing. 

My sister teaches violin lessons to a lot of people---old, and young alike. Once she even taught a 80year old lady to begin to play.  Sometimes my sister puts a violin in the mother's hands so that the mother and child can play and learn together.
Once the mother starts to learn, suddenly a paradigm has been broken. It's a fun thing to see.

"I can't make music," some say.
"I don't know how to dance."
"I'm too old for that."
"Only Olympians can ice skate like that."
"My parents didn't give me lessons when I was little. So I can't learn now."

And so the world spins, and time flits by, and we pull ourselves down, and pull others down too.
Our defeat is not just our own.

I've been around people, angry people who, for the life of them, can't say one nice thing about anything. Instead of art, music, and words, they see the flaws. They are stifled themselves, suffocated by the limiting beliefs they have been accumulating for a lifetime. 

They won't let themselves climb the ladder. They're afraid of what might happen if they did. And they're sure not going to let anybody else try either.

I think parents do this a lot, mostly to themselves. They're worried if they take time for what they love, or do something that makes them happy, that something bad will happen. That it's too selfish, too frivolous, that it makes them look silly, flawed, and foolish.

Yes. Art, play, and creative discovery does make you look like a child. It makes you giggle. Makes you smile. Makes you feel vulnerable. It makes you incredibly aware of how funny you look reaching for that "banana" that everyone said was off limits. It makes you believe in yourself. It makes you hold up whatever it is you created, and feel a sense of pride, even if it is just a silly scribble. To make art, to create is what we were born to do. And if we deny that, we deny the creator who created us.

  If to be like a child is a crime, I hope I'm guilty of that my whole life.

 Another extreme example of this strong, unbending self limiting paradigm was shown to me when I went to visit the old folks home.
My sister and I put on programs there regularly, and many times I learn something new about human nature, and myself every time I visit.

One lesson I learn is, we all get old. And when we are so old, we look foolish, and sometimes a little crazy.
And no matter how rich, famous, smart, talented, beautiful we are right now----we all end up looking about the same, dressing about the same, and reduced to the same raw, helpless-like state. Hopefully not. But that reality is of this is something we all need to remember. Not to depress us, but to release us from our own self made prisons.

Once we are in old age-stripped of all our pomp. What is it you will wish you had done more of?

Singing to the old people, me and my sister do this music therapy thing, where we get different musical instruments, and have them try to play, jingle, or tap to our music.

Most often when I hold out the drum, or instrument for them to tap on, the first thing they do, is look afraid. They look at me with worried eyes and say, "But...I can't. I'm not musical at all." 

They're terrified of this little drum, afraid of the sour notes they might make. It befuddles me every time to see such fear. With music, with art, is there really wrong notes? Wasn't art created to unify people, not separate them? Isn't art something that should take away our fears, sooth our soul, and make us feel connected to the divine for a short moment---to helps us remember that this stark world is not it. That life, creation, beauty exist forever.

  I look at these old people  truly amazed. All this time I thought old age was to be fearless. 

But it's not. Trapped in broken, old bodies, wearing diapers, toothless, hairless, mostly deaf, mostly blind, in wheelchair, and they're still afraid? Heck, I think, what are you afraid of? What have you got to loose by playing to the music now? It's about time you had some fun!

Then I gently place their hand on the instrument and then ever so carefully, tap, tap, very softly at first, and then a little louder as their confidence grows, I cheer them on. 

I often think who told them there was only one right way to tap on a drum? Why is making "music" attached to fear? 

When did we learn that this, "Banana" was off limits. 

Why do we make fun of another efforts when we ourselves don't dare to raise our voice?

And to carry that fear far out with us into old age seems frightening to me. Must we wait for a kind hand, an offer of safety, of encouragement before we begin to tap to the rhythm, before we can truly dance?

This seems very horrible to me. So much lost talent, so much lost enjoyment. Life is not just meant to be endured, but lived, enjoyed.
 When was it when we began to hold back?
When was it that we learned to stop asking questions?
When was it that we first learned to fear what others thought?
When was it that we began to be afraid of our own voice?

I'm not sure. But I see it happen, time and time again, with children just turned 11--12ish. Sometimes sooner. This self awareness that the other "monkeys" are going to punish you for reaching out.

I've heard of husbands, time and time again not allowing their wives, or their children to reach out to do the things that made them happy. As if by them, succeeding, or taking time for themselves was a crime. Seriously? Are we so insecure that if someone does something that makes them happy, we feel that somehow, they've taken something away from us? If you're one of those people, STOP, now. If you persist on pulling other people away from the things they want, they'll pull away from you. 

Give the people you love the most encouragement, help them find time to do whatever it is they love. Give them space. Help each other, build each other up. Allow those you love time to discover themselves. Just because the person you love doesn't want to spend every waking hour with you, doesn't mean they don't love you. 
Accept that everyone's needs are different just as yours are, and you will be amazed at the love that will be offered to you in return.

So, do you secretly want that banana? Only to punish those closest to you when they try to get it.  

Do we pull others down because we won't allow ourselves to climb, and take the wonderful gifts that are within our reach, if we only allowed ourselves to?

Do we hide from the shame, or guilt, afraid of censure?

What paradigms do we hold that actually hold us?

Who do we let define us?

We are not too old, too young, or too underqualified to do what we were meant to do. Despite what boxes society puts us in, despite the labels we put on others and ourselves, the voice of God, of the creative spirit is waiting to take us by the hand, if we let it. This voice is inside us, on rare moments, when we hear a line of music, or see a beautiful sunset, and most oftentimes when we are alone we, hear glimpses of truth about ourselves, that outweigh whatever we have been told.

 "Why don't you try?"
"Remember when you wanted to do that?"
 "You still can, silly."

Those are the nudges we should listen to. 
Nor should we try to hold others back from achieving their dreams just because we ourselves are afraid to do so. Nothing is too silly, too juvenile, too childish to try.

If there's no one to give you a chance, give yourself one. You deserve it. 

What is truly childish is to act like you're above such things.
No one is above playing in the dirt, licking their fingers, playing with paint, gazing at the clouds, watching bugs, or just sitting and doing nothing. Sometimes doing nothing, actually, is a lot more something, than we think it is.

I was talking to my sister the other day about how our society worships youth, and the promise of what might be. Teens and kids have a lot of pressure put on them to "BE" something, and to BE that something very quickly before we are an adult.  It's like our life ends at a certain point, and we have to get on the bandwagon of whatever it is we want to be, between this, and that age, or be left behind. And if you are left behind on the "Be something fantastic train" you are left feeling a sense of loss.
 

But who can put a time limit on dreams?
Every day I learn something new about myself. 
Who said you had to learn everything all at once, or be everything all at once?
When we were a child it was okay to experiment, be okay to experiment and not know now. 
Have faith.
Who can tell what seeds may emerge out of the ashes?
Perhaps while all your friends are growing branches, you are growing roots, so that when you do have branches, there will be something for the branches to lean on.

We encourage young artist.
But we forget the adults.
Ever notice the scholarships, and contests for the teen.
The dances, the plays, the ball games?
But what of the adults?
Have they outgrown such things, only to grind out the rest of their days in a joyless fashion, where all that he once loved is replaced by the soft light of the TV?
We laud the child genius, born with a piano attached to its fingers.
We marvel at the talent of raw, budding children.
But adults?
We think we have them figured out. They don't have time to be great it seems.

Whatever they are, they are, so we are told. 

Not true. 
Like a slow growing plant, new buds may appear even in winter. 

Do we ever notice the patient, 50 year old, beginner, who dares let down her pride, and learn something new?

Now don't misunderstand me. I think it is a wonderful thing to encourage young talent.
I applaud, and admire it whoever I see it.It makes me happy to see excellence wherever I find it.

But what about a young talent in an old person?
What about undiscovered, buried dreams, hidden under layers of self doubt?
What about those who were never encouraged as a child?

Once you reach a certain age, does the desire just fade?
Do we give up?

What about people who never encouraged themselves?
We often-times think that in order to have validity in whatever we choose to do, we must first gain followers, supporters, or people that will cheer us on.
We need degrees, trophies, pats on the backs, and lots of them. Then we will be validated, because we have gone through the right channels. Therefore now people will listen.

But will they, really?

While all that that is good, and always very desirable. You might not ever get that.
Does it make you less of who you are, or who you are trying to be?

No.

The only thing a certificate, trophies, or the clamor of awe-struck friends means is that for a short moment, a private victory has become public. 

Praise, recognition, these things are to me, like shiny bubbles. Wonderful, delicate, and very fragile. They are there one minute, gone the next. 

If you are living off praise, you are riding on bubbles to keep you afloat, and once those bubbles are gone, what will you have left to keep you from sinking?

If you don't have something stronger to hold you up when the water gets rough, you'll probably spring a leak and sink.

 Bubbles, fluff, are all very well and good, but they have nothing to do with much of anything.

Those things are fleeting, fickle, and most people will be quick to drag you in, and when you're not interesting anymore, throw you back out to the sharks.

The truth is, most of us wait for someone to give us permission to go after the thing we desire.
I know I've felt it in myself. You learn to be like a dog waiting at the master's table for crumbs, waiting, hoping, watching, that some day, "the master" will throw you a "bone" a "crumb" a "pat on the back" a "kind word." We hunger for it. We live for it.

But you have to very careful what, and who you choose as "your master."
Be it, friends, family, or a significant other. If you place your happiness solely in their hands, you might be waiting a very long time before they even notice you're sitting there, waiting, hungering for just a nibble of encouragement.

We think that in order for us to venture out, we must wait for other to recognize our talent, and validate our dreams. 

The American, "Idol" mentality is crippling. When I think of that show, it makes my stomach churn. When I watch it I can put myself in many peoples places as they perform.  I can feel their pain, and sense of rejection, of hope, and failure. 
True, sometimes good talent emerges out of the woodwork.
But what of the excellent musician, the almost-success solo? What if you didn't please the judges, or tickle sensations fancy? Then what? Do you give up? Does the journey end there?

No! 
 
Must you flip hamburgers for the rest of your life?

NO!
 
Do you need their permission before you make that CD? Or strike out on your own venture?

No!
If nobody wants to listen, does that mean you are a nobody, that you should quit?

No! Of course not. Oftentimes people won't listen unless they see a crowd gathering around you. We are like groups of lemmings, waiting to follow one another. Excellence in so much of the world is a standard that changes with the styles. 

So be your kind of excellent, no matter how mediocre someone else may think you are.   

A lot of good talent is overlooked just because it wasn't "In," at the moment.
Does that mean you should change your style?
No.
Does it mean you're not worth listening to?
No.

It just means you have to be brave, and stick it out on your own, alone sometimes. More often than not, while you are traveling, you will, without even trying, find friends, new paths, helps, and opportunities, just by walking.

All we can do is take one more step in the right direction.

We marvel at the ugly singer. We box people up, and act surprised when they prove us wrong.
All seems sensation, pomp and circumstance. We sell ourselves, and our talents, and let the world crush us when it decides someone better has come along.

Why do we let others put a value on our head?
Why do we act like puppets? We'll perform, if someone is pulling our strings, and when here's an audience to watch. But when all is quiet. When we are alone, when the audience leaves, the applause fades,  and the echoes of admiration dim, and the curtain is drawn, we shut out the one voice that actually means the most---the voice that leads us to freedom, and a greater more fulfilled life than just pleasing other people.

Our society worships youth. We worship the possibility. But the possibility of the adult gets swept under the rug, like a worn out toy.

How quickly we cast greatness away as if people had expiration dates on their foreheads. Greatness is not about youth. It is not about time.
It's about never giving up even when you feel like you've tried, time, and time again. 

Don't let anyone put an expiration date on you, package you, and set you on the shelf, once they think they've seen all you can do.

You're not some toy, made by someone else. You're not a thing. No one can measure your possibility. 

As long as you are alive, there is hope, there is a dream, there is a way, there is a light. You just have to let yourself reach for it. 

Don't try to live your life through your kids by pushing them to do something you've always wanted.

That's way to much pressure.  And your kids will rebel.  Let them live their life. Give them the freedom you never had. 

It's funny, but when I was younger, I never really noticed how much adults push aside their own wants, "Because it's the kid's turn."

Now that I'm an adult, I am kind of miffed at the whole mentality. 
There's nothing wrong with putting kids first. But I honestly think we use that statement as an excuse. We hand out goodies to the kids, and forget the adult teachers in the room, as if they had grown too old to enjoy such things. Why?

We encourage kids to play, but why not adults?
 
Parades are one thing I always feel this adult stereotype in full force. In order to pick up a piece of candy, one must have a child near. You sit on your chair and watch the floats go by, enviously watching the greedy kids load up their bags with taffy. All the while, you think, "hmmm, I'd really like to pick up that pile of taffy at my feet, but no, the kids need it."
You cautiously look from side to side, trying to assess if anyone is looking, then you snatch up a peace, and enjoy it all the while, feeling a little sheepish. 

Seriously. Why do we think it's so terrible to do kid-like things.
Easter candy, gingerbread houses, jump ropes, bicycles, running, silly puddy, fireworks, passing notes, night games, tag, water fights,  snow angels, laughing, giggling, scribbling, crayons, Halloween, dress up, and yes, even Taffy. All those things are very terrible indeed. Wouldn't you agree?


Maybe sometimes, the adults need that, "Taffy" more than the kids do. That, "Taffy" being a symbol for all the things we want to reach for, but feel awkward, childish, even greedy, or silly trying to obtain. So we sit by, and stew in our own juices, feeling angry, bitter, and sorry for ourselves, without ever really knowing why. Why would we want such trivial things anyway?

We wait instead for someone to pick up the "Taffy" and hand it to us, we hope that they can see what we want and need. I see this scenario played out most times in marriages, (not that I'm married) but I am a good observer.

The husband ignores the wives needs, wife gets angry for not fulfilling her wants.
Husband gets angry, wife gets angry. And they go around  punishing and being punished, waiting for the one person that's supposed to care about them most, to appreciate them and encourage them in their dreams, hobbies and ambitions. Then their kids come along, and the same thing gets repeated. Only the parents try to live out their failed ambitions through their kids, and are surprised and hurt when the child has dreams of their own.

While I think it's awesome if people can be mature, and abundant enough to give encouragement, and help when it is needed. I also know, by experience, and observation that much of the time, and probably most of the time, the people who you love the most, and hope and expect to encourage you, and to see you----the whole you, don't.Not because they don't love you or care about you. But because they have not filled their own well, and are living on mortgaged, loaned, and double loaned, borrowed self worth, mixed mostly with self doubt, with very little encouragement for them to subsist on, much less give away.

Everybody is empty. And trying to fill their well up with lots of outside, empty, meaningless things.
We are all living in our own heads with skewed versions of ourselves, mostly from other people who can't see themselves clearly.

The only way to fill the well is from the inside. No one person thing or place can fill it for you. Nor should you expect them to. Ever!

We wait. And wait. And wait for that blessed day when the people around us, see US, and validate us as a worthwhile human being. Isn't that what we all really want? To be loved, and appreciated. To be understood, and have our voice matter?

At the heart of the rat race, and the endless climbing of "The wrong ladders" we forget to climb the most important ladder of all. Our own.

How can we expect other people to believe in us, if we don't believe in ourselves?
How can we expect other people to invest in us, if we don't invest in ourselves?
How can we expect other people to see our worth, if we can't see that ourselves?

How can this be done? How can you obtain that feeling, of "I'm alright."
I'm not perfect, and I'm still alright.

By filling your well.
By building your foundation on a moral foundation that isn't founded in people, places or things---But in principles that never change. In listening to the voice of truth.

No one can give you your worth. No one makes you a writer, or whatever it is you want to do or be.
Whatever it is that gives us joy, that moves us, that gives us that sense of "This is right" this is freedom, that is what tells us we are on the right path. That is what drives us into action even when the world scorns us.

Even when we fail, that is the voice that tells us to get back up under fire, that helps us see other ways of solving an unsolvable problem.
As a child I always thought adults were so self assured, so mighty, so powerful, so unshakable.
I thought they knew everything, and were about as perfect as you could get.

How little I knew. It was a shock to find that adults are mortals too. It continues to amaze me, that people, good people, adults that I thought were pillars of self assurance, were in fact, more full of insecurities than even a small child. So be gentile with adults. Don't blame them. And be kind to your parents. They are just as flawed as you are. They have a lot more paradigms to break through than a kid does. They have more misgivings, more insecurities built up from years of snide remarks, being programed by school, friends, and sometimes even religion.

Sometimes it's hard when the voices without are stronger than the clear voice within that tells us to climb that mountain, and conquer whatever it is that we are facing. 

But as an artist, yes you are an artist, you have an obligation to share the light you have been given. 
  
Nothing lasts, except love. And to make art is an act of love. And what is art?
As in the words of Marvin Goldstein, the pianist, "Talent is anything that causes us to feel love."

 God is the ultimate creative, and It amazes how often I limit God by my own thinking. It amazes me how many problems that can be solved if we look at them creatively enough. Just as there isn't one way to dance, one way to draw, fly kites, make cakes, or drive cars, there isn't any one way to solve the problems we may be faced with.
 

There isn't just one way to our dreams. To think that is very limiting, very small, very meager-lack thinking.  

I had to let go of my idea of what an author is, in order for me to find a way to publish my books.
I thought there was just one way to get my work out there. And I let that thinking box me in. It limited me. But once I broke that wall of thinking I began to see things differently. I felt free. And I felt abundant, and I felt amazed that I had felt so hopeless before.

There in lies the challenge. To look at everything with new eyes. To not limit ourselves or others by what we see now. Who knows what can be? What we will do?
Deep down, we feel an answer, an answer that drives us into action, even though we don't know all the hows, whys, and ways to get there. We know that we just need to take one more step in the right direction.

We have to look beyond what we don't have, or the things that we aren't.  To what we really are, who we really are.

To what can be, could be, and the hidden things that are often overlooked. There is freedom when you don't tell yourself I can only have this, this way, this time, and in this fashion. That type of thinking kills, cooks and pasteurizes, any good organic, wholesome possibility's that may come to us. We think along a certain unbending line chaining ourselves down to our own limited thinking when we could be using our wings to fly, had we known that we had them.

Instead, be open. Be awake. Be full of possibilities no matter your age. There is no end to what good you can do. No time limit on creativity. No expiration date on your talents. Fill your well, so that it will spill over, and others who are thirsty can find refreshment, and inspiration as they near you. Give encouragement. Don't withhold any light that you may have found. Share it. Give it. Let yourself be a child. Use your imagination. If you feel don't have time to fill your own well, snatch up bits of time as best you can. Learn to say No, so you can say Yes. Most of all, don't give up, and live abundantly no matter how meager your life may be. 

I came across a short quote by, Lao Tzu that says it beautifully.

"If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. 
 If you want to eliminate all the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself 
Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation."

A lot of times I think that I'm wasting my time when I'm writing, painting, creating, or enjoying myself. My inner, "Olga" tells me that I better stop and get to real work, get a real job. It's like I have a hard time admitting to myself that I'm okay in this moment.

But we are okay in this moment.
Old, young, beginning, expert. Obscure, well known, rich, poor, ugly, beautiful.
There has never been a better moment to begin, to start, to dream, to dance, to live. Now is all we have.

Don't let age stand in your way, don't let anything tell you that you aren't worth it.
You are.
You were born with a gift.
Only you know what it is. 
Discover it.
Use it.
Share it.
But most of all, enjoy it.

And when you're truly happy----time, no matter your age, doesn't exist anyway. You are lost forever in the timeless. ageless wings, of light and inspiration, whose only limit is as wide, and as deep and endless as the imagination itself.

You are free.




The power in "No"

A new year has come since I wrote last.

A lot of snow an ice has melted.
 
Christmas has come and gone.

Three new baby goats have been born.

Much candy, cookies, and turkey has been consumed.

Merry making, holiday bustle, and creative projects have been completed.

It is a new year. But even more important to remember is the fact that everyday, every sunrise, every moment, not just every year, is a chance to reawaken ourselves to the moment, to live fully and abundantly. 

With the Christmas holiday, and last minute creative Christmas ideas, a lot of my writing goals have been put on the back-burner. I'm behind. Yes I am. 

 But I'll catch up soon. Now that I've got a little bit of time there seems to be more bumps in the road trying to block my way.

 For some reason I've been having a lot of formatting issues with my manuscript---namely margin errors that crawled out of the cracks of cyberspace and decided to spin little webs in my manuscript while I was busy. 

So please be patient with me, my books are coming out, but everything takes longer than I think it will. I sometimes forget that the distance between idea, creation and reality is a road that has a lot of twists and turns. 
But that is good, right? Life is made up of these winding roads, unexpected plans, events, and golden byways. If everything went according to plan, where's the fun in that? Where's the mystery? With all our new year's planning we set ourselves up for disappointment by not being able to figure in the little sunbursts, and rainclouds that drift in and out of our lives. The best things in my life have not been planned, but discovered. And I think that's what life is meant to be, a journey of discovery. We may not know all that we are capable of right at this moment. But that doesn't mean that that version of ourselves does not exist. It is silently waiting for the right moment to become found.

These winding roads filled with bumps, and sometimes full of dragons and shadows, are what defines us. They make us, or break us.
I have been thinking about the frustrations of all artist everywhere. And when I say, "Artist," I mean individual---creative, unique person however you choose to express that part of you. 
What are the challenges that you face? As the main character in your own story, who is your antagonist, the "Dragon?" What is your journey about? What is the part you play? What role do you think you play? What role do others try to make you play? Who is the wise person in your life? Who is there for you when you hit those rocks?
What stands in your way? Who is it, or what is it that brings out or breaks your Character? 
What must you overcome? What don't you have enough of?
Time?
Appreciation?

What gives you a sense of direction?

It's hard to remember when we're battling those "dragons" that those obstacles is what gives our journey meaning. It is what makes our story worth telling. 
Without the dark, how could we appreciate the light?

I have to remember this while battling a self-made deadline I now know I cannot meet.
I did my best, but sometimes the "Dragons" we can't defeat, only learn from, and tame.
Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed by the challenge of finding time, energy, and willpower to balance all the areas in my life. It seems like where I focus on one area, like exercise, then something else falls out of balance.

 But maybe if everything was always balanced then we'd be dead. Maybe nobody is really ever completely balanced in all areas of life. And maybe that isn't the goal anyway.  

Maybe the challenge is instead of finding perfect balance, is to do one's best, hold on to the moment, and remember that to be balanced is more than just having lots of branches stretching out in every direction, north south, east west. To be balanced is to have deep roots, so that no matter how short, or long, weathered, twiggy, or stubby our branches may seem, we will always be grounded, solid, and have something to build on even when our branches break, and our life seems to crash around us like swirling autumn leaves. 

Sometimes I get frustrated because, with nine siblings, and family's of their own, and more kids on the way all the time, there is usually someone coming or going to and from our house, which means there's always something going on, always a Birthday, a party,  a graduation, or some other event that is sure to greet you next. Always something to call me away from whatever is I start to focus in on.

Big family=every month several holidays for someone.

Sometimes it is hard for me because my work, my writing, is always here, people assume I'm always "here" always available to counsel, to befriend, to drop everything to "fill in the cracks" so to speak. 

Sometimes I welcome the break. It makes me feel special that I can be there for them. 
 Other times it can be especially frustrating because in this day and age, everyone is so busy, so in a hurry, that there's a lot of gaps left by these busy people---gaps that need to be filled, gaps with large lonesome holes, neglected people, kids without one on one time with adults, old people who need a friend, sick people that need visiting, important but not urgent work that gets neglected, books that don't get read, kids that don't get loved, people that get forgotten, words that don't get said...or heard. And the list goes on. 

The problem is when people are so busy being busy, and they never have time to fill these seemingly not so important but still very important cracks. So because of the lack of time to fill these gaping, sometimes ever growing, "cracks," my sister and I get calls all the time to fill in, to fill the cracks that no one seems to have time for. We get pleas to help fill this hole or patch this crack, care for this person here, or hold this person's hand there.

All of which are very good things to do. And many times I feel grateful that I can help---that I can say yes. I like to feel needed, and of help. But other times, I feel a bit...well...tired of filling, "cracks." And sometimes, a bit misused.

Not that I don't mind filling a "crack or two," when I can. It makes me feel very good to be of help. But honestly, there are times when "crack filling," can be a very thankless job, especially when you drop everything to help, fill "cracks" for someone else, and then they proceed to tell you how wonderful everyone in the world is, but you. How much they admire these busy people, or the brilliance of Mr. bright-bottom for his apparent lack of time.

Then is when I feel a bit, well...undervalued. Not that I need appreciation. But who doesn't like to feel important now and again?

Then these kind, but sometimes, oblivious people go on to tell me that because I obviously don't have a real job, that I can "fill their cracks forever," and how good it would be for you. 

Times like that make me reconsider which "cracks" I chose to help fill.
If I help someone I do it because I really wanted to help. Not because I need to, or am obligated to, or because I'm hopelessly bored, or in need of work. 
Then is when I really want to say, "Hey, No. You've got this all wrong. I chose to help you because I care about you. There are lots of kinds of busy, and many people make it their life's work to look busy, so they don't have to face whatever it is they're running from. Don't try to turn the tables to make it look like you're doing me a favor when I'm trying to help you. And don't use me. Appreciate me. Value that I am here. That's it. Don't try to change me, and I'll probably be back to help you next time you need something."

*sigh* Yep, the things I wished I was brave enough to say, but don't. Hence the birth of this Blog. 

If you asked me what I value the most in my life, I'll tell you Freedom. It is something I will fight to keep. Without it, I feel constrained, as if my air has been cut off.  Don't devalue me for valuing something that is mine, and yours too, if you wanted it. And if I choose to help you, it's because I choose to, not because I'm a lowly peasant, who has nothing better to do. If I stop what I'm doing to help you, it is because I want to show you I care."

As an artist, it's especially hard to explain to people that what you do is work, even if you enjoy your work, even if someone isn't holding a whip to your back. As a culture we seem to think that if someone else isn't making you "work"  then it isn't work.

I mean, what is work really?
Is it how you make money?
Is it something you do to show everybody how miserable you are?
Is it something that chose you instead of you choosing it?
Is it something horrible, miserable and something you want to escape from?
It is something you do to keep you alive?

Some people don't seem to realize that my work is something I don't always wish to escape from. Sometimes I can't wait to start. Sometimes I just want to draw away from the noise to go and scribble, and draw, and do nothing. And sometimes, doing nothing for me, is quite a lot. In the nothings I find a lot of somethings. In the spaces I find depth. 
Sometimes I can't sleep because of all the ideas I have rolling around in my head trying to get out. Sometimes I just want to get away from all the people, and just be quiet so I can hear my self think. And it's not because I'm mean or selfish, or want to be a hermit. Nor do I expect everybody to have the same needs as I do. That would be very silly.

I've never really thought of myself as an introvert. But maybe I am. I wouldn't know. I've always liked people, and I've always enjoyed doing things with people. But on the other hand, people can make me very tired. I think it's because a lot of the time I find myself listening a lot more than talking. Not that I'm that great of a listener. No. Sometimes I'm terrible at listening to people, especially when I'm tired, and when I'm having my own loud thoughts bump around in my head.

Another thing that's frustrating is when you're self employed, people don't quite understand that your work doesn't just stop because theirs does. And it's really hard to balance spending time with people you care about, and taking time for yourself. I wonder if anyone can truly find the right balance between the two?

I think part of my problem is that I have a very hard time saying "no," even to strangers. I like to be nice to the point of not being very nice to myself. I like to please people too much. I like the feeling of being "There" for people. It makes me feel important. But the truth is I can't always be there, no one can all the time. It's exhausting. No matter how nice I am, I can't make other people happy. That's impossible. 

I was thinking about the word, "no." And how it sometimes defines a relationship. In my own life the people I feel closest to, I can say "no" to the easiest, because I know that they'll still love me, and respect me for not always meeting their needs. I know that they know I still love them, even when I do say no.

It's a good feeling. This feeling of being okay. This feeling that they respect, the "no" you may sometimes have to say.
                   
On the flip side, I have the hardest time saying "no" to the people who I'm unsure of the most---relationships where I'm not certain where I stand. I know that if I say, "No," they might take that no as meaning, "I don't care."
But I do know that the times where I know I needed to say, "no" even when it hurt, I feel pretty good----free. Standing up for oneself is very nice. Something I wish I did more often.

Also, I've learned that this saying, "No" can also be very useful in dating.
If you want to know if that person really respects you, then try saying, "no," when he wants you to do something you don't want to do. Believe me, "It's a real eye opener." You suddenly see where you stand with a person very quickly, once the word, "No," introduced. It's very interesting. You might try it sometime just to see what happens. Plus, I've learned that saying, "No," helps me to be more me, and honest. With, "No," there isn't any pretending. 

I seriously think, "No." is an awesome tool in relationships. Not that you should just say, "no" every time someone needs help.That's not a good practice either.
 Nor should you act like a spoiled child every time someone wants you to do something you don't want to do.There's always going to be times when you do something you don't want to do because you care about the other person---times when you see the higher good than just your needs.

But, on the other hand, if you're not careful, people will use you because you never say no. And you'll set up an impossible image of yourself you'll struggle your whole life to live up to. I think it's healthy to say that there will always be someone you will probably disappoint, but if that person truly cares about you, they'll eventually understand. 

You need know yourself enough to know when it's appropriate to say yes, or no. You need to know your limits, and when to decline an opportunity that may take you in the wrong direction. 

There are a lot of good people in the world. But everybody is going in different directions, and it's easy to get pulled along with the next person who wants your talents to do this, or needs your help for that, until you've forgotten which direction you were heading in the first place.

Sometimes when I fall into this trap, I sit where the last person has "dropped" me, afraid that if I start doing what I had planned in the first place, someone will pop out of the woodwork, and yank the paintbrush from my hand and tell me to go get busy making bricks. 


I know that when I ignore my own needs, and limitations for too long, and cater to everybody's whim, a subtle resentment builds up inside me. I get angry, and hurt. I feel as if by saying, "yes," to the "never ending needy thems" out there, so many times, that they should somehow see my needs, and help fill my wants and wishes.

But this is TOXIC thinking. Instead of making myself happy, I've somehow made it someone elses responsibility. It's a bad road to be on. But one that I'm sure many people---many frustrated artists take, who have forgotten a very important truth---that no one can really make you happy. Nobody---your kids, your husband, your wife, your job, your friends, your family, can fill your "happiness bucket" except yourself. That's why it's very healthy to be able to say no so you can say yes later on. 

My yes's mean ever so much more when I've filled that well inside me. All the resentment is gone, because I have enough to share. Yes, to fill one's well is good. It's like a beautiful watercolor painting---the deep white glow underneath all the color still shows through even when many colors are applied, through it all that deep white adds a special feeling of depth to the picture. 

When my "bucket is full, there is time to spare, and I have a deep sense of direction even when the world is spinning at all sorts of speeds trying pull me along.

"Yes." I like to say, "No." 

And "Yes," I like to say "Yes." 
But to have the wisdom to know when to say these two words makes all the difference.
 


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