Advent, Preparing, and Opening Up

Its been a crazy month, and I haven’t really felt like writing. I had a few great weekends, working on some really cool projects just for the sake of doing them, with no financial gain. In many aspects, they cost me money, which put my finances in a precarious situation.

I made a commitment to myself last month to work on faith, keeping it and following it. It’s not easy, but I can tell you this: Each time I focused on it, and let things go, it only took minutes for the answer to appear. I don’t want to call myself a skeptic, or even cynical, but I am reluctant to completely “Let Go And Let God”. To me, I still need to be in control, or at least have some responsibility that I should be participating, and not solely sitting back waiting for God to fix everything. “When my preparedness meets Gods plan is when things will fall into place” has always been more my motto. But to be honest, it always seems to fall back more on my preparedness and less on me trusting in Gods plan.

Here is just one example:

My 17 year old daughter and I had a chance to participate in a street art festival, with a combination of chalk art, street painting, and a small amount of graffiti art. There were artists from over 30 different countries, and we decided to participate in a big way. Rather than play it safe, we went with an attitude of “Go big or go home”. Failure for me is much easier to live with than a feeling of “I should have tried”. That type of thing lingers with me longer than any feeling of failure.

I was thinking of canceling a few days before. With work being slow, it seemed irresponsible to take the time and resources to go “play” rather than focusing on finding work. After talking with my dad, who is a rather rough, unemotional type of guy, I decided to do it. What did my Dad say? “At some point you have to decide if you are following the course God put you on. It doesn’t mean it will be easy or without peril. But if you know deep down that God wants you there, you need to just do it, and trust that the other parts will work out. Faith means believing when the demands of the world tell you something different.” For my Dad, that’s about as supportive as he can get.  LOL

We did the festival and kicked ass. It was a great time, we knocked out an amazing piece, and I got to spend the weekend doing something incredible with my daughter. How many other people get to put their daughter in a position to spend time with some of the greatest street artists from all over the world? It was a fantastic experience for us both.

We got home late Sunday night, and by Tuesday I was a bit stressed that money was running out. Tuesday night Irish Girl came over and as we were talking, I apologized for being a bit distant, as I was strapped financially and the stress of it can send me off to some far, distant land. “Well”, she said, “I’m sure the minute to decide to let it go and put it in God’s hands that it will work out”. I agreed and spent the next minute or two reflecting on her words. It didn’t take long for me to unwind and focus on letting it go. Believe it or not, within 5 minutes of that, my phone rang, at 10pm, a call from a prospective client that I met with the following morning.

I can tell you countless stories similar to that over the last month, enough to know that it is more than coincidence, and its beginning to give me a deeper understanding of that whole part of faith whether it comes from Church, Deepak Choprah, Wayne Dyer or any other program that focuses on finding happiness or fulfillment in life. “Following your destiny” always tells you to follow it even in times when it doesn’t seem practical. While I still have an issue with feeling irresponsible by “letting go” it has opened me to see possibilities.

It has sent me back to church, and as luck would have it, its the beginning of Advent. If you are not familiar with the liturgical calendar, its the beginning of the church year for many Christian denominations. Aside from being the church “New Year”, Advent is a season for preparedness and reflection. Its the season to prepare for Christmas, in the sense of spending time reflecting on those areas in your life where you can make additional room for faith. As we would prepare our home for the arrival of a new baby by getting a nursery ready, its our time to prepare ourselves and begin making room for those areas in which we could use faith, or haven’t allowed it in completely.

I identify with Advent. I can see the need for preparedness. Even with the signs of faith I have been given over the last month, I’m still reluctant to completely give myself over to it. Having a season that says “Take this time to prepare yourself, and to make room for it” makes perfect sense to me.

Advertisements

A Night Away

I spent Halloween night at Irish Girl’s house. The kids were gone to a friends, her daughter was at a friends, and we were both looking to spend more intimate time together.

I tossed and turned all night. The next morning I was anxious, and anxious enough that she felt it and asked about it. She didn’t ask if I was anxious, because that was obvious. She commented that she knew I was anxious and asked if I wanted to leave.

I’m not sure what my issue is. I know I’m not a morning person, and before a few cups of coffee I prefer to be left alone.I enjoy solitude to start my day, along with the comfort of home. Being in someone else’s space just isn’t comfortable for me.There is also some undeniable trauma issue there, some sort of defense mechanism of not being in the right environment. I can’t pinpoint it, and I’m not going to try to analyze it.

When she made the comment, I was taken a bit off guard. How do you politely answer when someone says “You don’t feel comfortable in my house”? I paused for a minute and a million things went through my head. Spending weekends at the Widow’s house and waking up to kids watching cartoons, the idea of somehow abandoning the kids to spend the night elsewhere.

I answered honestly and told her that I wasn’t. It had nothing to do with her, and more of still finding my way. I felt bad and told her I hoped she wasn’t insulted. “No,” she said,”How could I be? Whatever things you have going on, they are yours to work out. All someone else can ask is that you be are honest in what you are feeling.”

Interesting….no fixing, no suggestions of how to make it better. Just be honest in the struggles.

Creativity Is The Pursuit Of Imperfection

Im teaching a class sometime this month to a group of behavioral health professionals. While I teach them to paint, there is always questions or a flowing conversation on art and creativity. For this group, I want the discussion to touch on creativity, innovation and perfectionism.

Creativity is so badly defined in our culture, it has become a sort of box that many people feel they do not have the ability to break into. They feel creativity is some sort of a gift or skill that isn’t in their genetic makeup. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creativity is nothing more than imagination. And everyone has an imagination. We use it to solve everyday problems, work problems, and even day dreaming. To say you are not creative would mean you lack imagination. And as human beings, that is impossible.

Somehow we built this idea that the creative person pulls things from the air, or through their spirit, and can suddenly sit at a piano and bang out a concerto. We believe an artist can stand before a blank canvas and suddenly paint a masterpiece. Nothing can be further from the truth. While the pianist or artist may have unique tools they develop to inspire themselves, inspiration is a completely different animal than creativity.

Creativity is an exercise in failure. What you don’t see is the behind the scenes sweat and blood, the grueling attempts over and over, finding 1000 ways something doesnt work before discovering the one way it does work. Over time, the artist or musician develops a repetiore of techniques that do work, but only after countless failed efforts.

To be creative is to allow imperfection. The only way to innovate is to try something new. And no attempt at anything new can ever be correct the first time. In order to innovate, one must become comfortable with imperfection. Perfectionism is nothing more than  expectation. In art, as in life, expectation stops us from seeing what we have actually accomplished as it doesn’t meet the idea we created in our head. And sometimes what we create is really good, it just went in a different direction than we originally had planned. But that doesn’t take away from its unique beauty.

Our brains have a very unique ability of memory. When we create or build something, our mind records the process to memory in a very specific way. It memorizes the action and result. It is recording the technique in which we make something so that we can recreate it in the future. The result of how it is recorded is that when we look at our own work we see every brush stroke, or taste every ingredient.

The best analogy is cooking.  We don’t naturally have the ability to taste the blend of spices in a dish we created. Since we cooked it, we taste all the individual ingredients as our brain has recorded it that specific way so that in the future we can pinpoint a missing ingredient. The downside is that we have to work harder to taste the entire blend.

A painter can paint beautiful clouds, but see only brush strokes while the causal observer sees nothing but clouds. The casual observer has to study the painting to see it the way the artist does.

Two weeks ago I was asked to create a custom painting for a client. I had an idea in my head, a crashing wave rolling onto the beach,  that required new techniques. I researched my concept, attempted a new way to paint water, and fell short of my expectation each time. I painted over it 9 times before I finally began hitting on something I was beginning to like. It’s not 100% of where I want to go, but the client loved it and bought it. All they see is a wave crashing on the beach. I see each brushstroke, and opportunities lost. I see opportunities in which my lines could have been straighter, or used a different color. But what the client, or outsider, is usually drawn to are those areas of imperfection. They are drawn to the artists choice to leave it alone. They are always drawn to what the artist sees as imperfection. Its what makes it unique and one of a kind. A painting brought to its perfect conclusion becomes dead, and more about expectation than beauty. As in life, we can perfect the beauty right out of it.

When we begin to accept imperfection, we can truly begin to create…or live.

Time For A Change

I haven’t been writing much lately because on the emotional front, all that much hasn’t changed. I really don’t feel like writing the same crap all the time, until I feel some sort of shift, enlightenment, or at least something new.

Life has developed into a nice little routine, with the same stresses,( financial, dealing with teens), but somehow a nice comfortable routine. The routine and structure that has developed does feel nice and comforting, and feels like a well rounded life.

On that note, I think the blog is going to change a bit, as I feel the need to write more about creativity, art, and similar things. Personally, I don’t think it takes the blog too far from where it started, and I think over time it will all become a more cohesive boy of work. Creativity is an essential part of healing, and touches on issues of perfectionism, spirit, healing an authenticity. All of which are issues faced by codependency.

Lets see how this goes…….

Monica…..and shame

I was watching Monica Lewinsky and her first talk since her infamous episode with Bill Clinton, and I’m somehow impressed. Not so much by what she said, but her ability to stand on a stage after all these years, and talk about her life since, and the effects on her and her family of the devastating affair and cyber bullying.

While some question her judgement in coming public with her life, I give her alot of credit. It seems, looking at her history, that she has attempted to build a private life, but her infamy follows her, blocking attempts to build a life outside the spotlight. Her reputation and notoriety seem to block her ability to build a fulfilling life by limiting her employment options and even after all these years, her ability to perform tasks you and I take for granted.  Why be back in the public eye? I think she has no choice, and has to accept it, whether she wants it or not.

There are those saying “Well, thats what she gets, she was 22 at the time of the affair, old enough to know better, and now must pay the consequences”. Funny, isnt it? We allow men to redeem themselves, but still, we want to define a woman by her lowest moment. Since she was old enough to be responsible for her actions, it seems that people expect her to forever live in shame. Not only do I think that is not fair, I think it is a tremendous double standard.

I find that contradictory to everything women have been trying to teach us men. Women have been trying to teach us that we don’t have the right to forever define a woman by her actions from an earlier age. We don’t have the right to dismiss her, shame her, and cast judgement. We don’t have the right to forever treat the promiscuous girl from high school or college with indignity for her youthful indiscretions. Women are more than their lowest moments, and for men to forever hold a woman’s past against her , and attempt to  shame her is completely inappropriate. Girls, and women, have the same right to redeem themselves as men…..unless you are Monica.

I find Monica to be a modern day Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A woman who is labeled an adulteress, imprisoned, and then forced to wear the letter “A” on her clothing, in an attempt to shame her for her past indiscretions. As the story develops, Hester begins to rebuild a fulfilling life by owning up and openly admitting her sins. She begins to reconcile her past and begins to wear the scarlet letter as a badge of honor.  Shame, as we know, needs darkness and secrecy to survive, and in the book, the other characters, who refuse to admit their parts in the affair, begin to lose their sanity, as their own shame, fear and secrecy begin to eat away at them. Only Hester truly survives in the end, by embracing her past, and owning it.

Monica has been asked quite often why she doesn’t change her name in an attempt to get out from under. Did we ever ask Clinton, Elliot Spitzer, or even Rob Lowe to change their identities to get out from under the cloud of shame? Rob Lowe, if you recall, had one of the first ever sex tapes, an was roughly the same age as Monica was at the time of her affair. But we forgive Rob Lowe for having a “youthful indiscretion” in his early 20’s.

We want Monica to go away, change her name, and forever live in shame, while we watch Clinton continue to redeem himself and become even more popular now than ever before…….Let me repeat this and put it another way……. We want the kid, who was only 22 at the time to go away and live in shame, but will allow the grown man, who was still a grown man at the time, the ability to redeem himself. We will forgive the guy, but expect the girl (she was a girl at the time) to quietly go away and live in shame. That’s horrible.

I’m not bashing Clinton here. I like the guy. But I think how we treat Monica is completely wrong in contrast to how we treat Bill.

I applaud her courage for standing up and telling her story. If you are reading this, I’m pretty sure you and I both know how difficult it can be to find that type of courage. Stand up and own it, as we know, is extremely difficult, but the only way to truly heal.

I’m glad Monica is speaking out. Does that mean I want to see her on “Crossfire” giving her views on politics, Ebola or immigration? Would I watch a Monica reality show?  No, I’m interested in her story, her honest account of what led to the affair, and her life after.  I’m interested in the parts of her story we can identify with, like mistakes, shame, and picking yourself back up after making dreadful decisions.

I’m glad she has the ability to teach young girls the devastating effects of youthful indiscretion. I’m glad to have her first hand account of cyber bullying and how it felt like “a blow to the stomach every day.” Having  someone stand up and own their story should be more important than it currently is. Shaming people and attempting to give them a life long sentence of scorn and secrecy is completely archaic.

And I hope women continue to stand up and tell us that we have no right to ask a woman to forever live in shame for her youthful indiscretion. Because as men, we NEVER have the right to hold a woman’s past against her, or expect her to live in shame because of it.

Just Dating

Things have been hectic lately and it doesn’t feel like much is new, so I haven’t been writing alot lately. I just don’t see the need to regurgitate things, like stress or the same issues with the kids over and over. If feels like it would be counter productive.

It does feel like things are shifting a bit in a good direction. My social calendar is quite full, work is OK, and a nice routine seems to be developing. There is one little thing though……….

I went over to Irish Girl’s house last night, and we were hanging out watching Netflix. About 1 am, I called it quits and came home. I could have spent the night, but preferred the comfort of my own messy house and bed.

We talked this morning about me spending the night in the future. She has a teen daughter, so I asked how she would feel if that were to happen.

One of the reasons I’m hesitant is because of something that happened when I was dating the Widow. Early in my relationship with her, too early in retrospect, she asked me to spend the night. Being the first guy she dated after the death of her husband, it was odd for her kids. They let it be known, by crying an knocking on the door, that they were not yet at the point of being comfortable with this new arrangement. I offered to leave, but the Widow insisted it was OK, and that she ha previously discussed it with her children.

But it wasn’t OK with me. I relented and stayed when my gut told me I should leave. Partially for the kids, but mostly because of MY values. While I trust someone else’s ability to make decisions on how they raise their children, my values teach me not to be a catalyst for an uncomfortable situation. If her kids being uncomfortable was making me uncomfortable, I should have left and told her we would revisit the issue at some point in the future. To be perfectly honest, it made me feel cheap, like some sort of male companion whose physical presence was more important than substance. My gut told me it was not right, and I should have left.

How is that affecting me now? I really like Irish Girl, we talk for hours, and there is a really beautiful emotional and intellectual connection going on. I’m enjoying that type of connectedness, and this type of dating thing we are doing. There really hasn’t been much of an opportunity for us to be intimate. We have an a few occasions, but most of our time together is either out on dates, or for brief periods of time when our kids are around.

I’m not in a rush to have her spend the night here. While my kids are older, 17 and 21, I’m not completely comfortable with the idea of having a girlfriend spending the night and becoming that integrated in the household. It seems like it would be a change to the household dynamic, and I’m not sure how the kids would feel about it. In the long run, I don’t want them in an environment where the person I’m dating becomes a part of the household, and then if things don’t work out, shes gone. With the kids not having a mom around, I think I need to be more aware of them becoming attached in that way.

One thing at a time. I’m liking the dating aspect, and just not ready for more.

 

 

Courage over confidence

10357111_10152509933672815_1455070824417610450_n

10694430_638222582955416_1342150673268827346_o

I had a totally incredible time Saturday. I was asked by a local group to come out and do some sort of public art, so I decided on chalk drawing.

At the very least, it would be a great practice session or a few events I want to do in the future. Sometimes the best thing you can do it jump in with both feet.

I wasn’t feeling very confident, but how could I? I’ve never done anything like this before, it was being done before a crowd of 20,000 people, and I had no clue if it would turn out decent.

But my motto is “courage over confidence”.

Confidence says “I can do this”

Courage says “I dont know if I can do this, but I’m going to do it anyway”

We ran out of chalk relatively early and had to use BBQ briquettes to fill in the black with only partial success. While it wasn’t perfect, and lots of technical issues will need to be addressed before attempting another, the fact is that I went out and did it. The only failure would have been in not trying.

The philosophy of courage over confidence has been an ongoing theme the last few weeks, and was even brought up in a session with my counselor. In talking about relationships, and my relationship with Irish Girl, my counselor commented on how cool it was that I seemed to have found someone who admires courage over confidence, a person who would rather see someone take calculated risks as compared to someone who prefers the security of the known. She has a good point, and I think I see what she is saying.

I feel like I finally am getting my legs back under me in quite a few ways. Getting out there and doing this Saturday night felt exhilarating. We were only given a few short hours, and it was alot of fun.

I’m glad I took the risk and did it.