Monday, September 30, 2013

A Blank Canvas

Recently, I committed to donate a painting to Paris in a Cup, a darling tea shop and restaurant in Orange, California, for it's cancer fund raiser.  First of all, I'm still not confident in the fact that anyone would want to purchase a painting from me.  And, second, I had no idea what to paint.  These were dilemmas for this "late bloomer" artist. Cheryl Turner, the owner of Paris in a Cup, is a cancer survivor that has become a friend, and I wanted to support her.  I was excited to buy my 11 x 14 canvas, but had no idea what to put on it.

As I stared at my blank canvas, I thought it was such an excellent metaphor for life.  Every day, every month, every new year we are given a blank canvas of time.  We can stare at it for awhile or we can start throwing all the paint on it we can. Danny Kaye,  a now deceased singer/entertainer, said, "Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it."

So, that's what I did.  I began playing with my paint, paper, and pens on the canvas, and threw everything on it that seemed to fit.  Yes, my canvas is full.  Maybe too full for some, and not full enough for others, but it's my canvas, my choices, and that has to be alright.  And my concern that no one will want to buy my canvas? Well, I know someone that would buy it.  Me!!!  

On my mixed media piece of art is a quote by Vincent Van Gogh that says, "What is done in love is done well."  I'd like to paint my days(canvases) with love, so that I can live well.  What is on the canvas of your day today? Is it colored with love?  I want to encourage us all to not live in fear of what others will think of our choices, but to be brave enough to play with the colors of our lives, and to love the best that we can.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

Try, Try, and Try Again

Diane Nyad accomplished her dream today.  After four unsuccessful attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida, she tried one last time, and made it.  Here are her words:

"I am willing to put myself through anything, temporary pain or   discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often painful process." 

I can relate to chasing a dream, and not succeeding the first time. After going to graduate school, working 3,000 hours as an intern, I failed the oral exam for Marriage & Family Therapy licensure for the state of California.  Feeling a bit cocky after passing the written exam, I did not go into the oral prepared enough.  After receiving my rejection letter and sobbing, I decided it was time for a makeover mentally, emotionally, and even physically.  I found new coaches and practiced vignette after vignette for months.  I bought a suit and decided to wear my hair pulled back in order to look more professional.  Alas, I went back to the site of my first failure and proceeded to try again.  Even though I sounded like a sheep when I said my name, "Naaaaannnnnnccy Peeeeeveeeeey" into a tape recorder, I could hear (in my mind) my coaches saying, "Get it together, Nancy."  At least six weeks later, the letter arrived again with good news that I had passed.  No, I didn't have to take the oral five times, but it still took everything inside to try again.  It was such a blessing to succeed, because the state decided to not administer the oral exam again.  

Knowing for years that I had to face that oral exam filled me with fear. I was able to keep that fear in the back of my mind as long as I kept moving toward the goal.  Once it was time to meet that fear head on, I was filled with anxiety.  Voices in my head said, "What if you don't pass?  You will feel like such a failure," and those negative voices chatted on. In my second attempt, I had to work hard to quiet those voices, and instead used the mantra, "Get it together, Nancy.  You can do this."  I would imagine Diana Nyad had to battle lots of voices of condemnation after those four other attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida. Her test was not only mental endurance, but one of tremendous physical endurance with certain factors outside of her control. Still, she decided one more time to try again.  At 64 years old, Diana has succeeded.  

Whatever you are going through, whether a dream, a goal, or something unexpectedly traumatic, remember Diana Nyad's three messages.

1.  We should never, ever give up.
2.  You are never too old to chase your dream.
3.  It looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team. 

Life isn't meant to be lived in solitude.  Sometimes we need to be carried along the way, and that's more than okay.