At 5:00 this morning I found myself lying in bed, wide awake, thinking about this painting and wondering what marks I might add to lift it out of the ordinary and "make it a winner."
Eventually I fell asleep, and began to dream, and in my dream there were several people I've known and admired through the years, beautiful people, who appeared (in the dream) to take an interest in me but either didn't follow through on their promises or were just using me; some couldn't even remember my name.
I woke up thinking, "What on earth was that about?" I mused for a bit, then settled down with my current reading -- John Daido Loori's Zen and the Art of Creativity.
After a few pages I settled into meditation, and realized I was remembering what it felt like to paint this painting. And it was, quite possibly, the first time I have ever been fully engaged in that act. I was using a short brush, so I was close to the canvas, and I could feel the memory of it in my heart; that I was listening to the painting, letting it tell me what to do rather than "thinking" -- what would look good here, what should I do next.
So coming back to it this morning, I realize -- it doesn't need a thing, a mark; something I arbitrarily come up with and apply. It's not about what's beautiful, or what I "think" is visually appealing. It's about presence, about collaboration, about listening and learning. It's done, it's complete, it's whole, in the same way that I, in this moment, am done, complete, and whole. And it doesn't matter if it's a winner or not: it's my child, and I treasure it. It's my teacher, and I have learned something truly special from it, about what painting is, about what it means to be in the moment, about acceptance...
Just because I'm not all "My way or the highway" doesn't mean I don't have control issues. It's just that they're not about controlling outcome; they're about controlling process.
This came to me this morning as I was reflecting on a number of issues -- the dreams I had last night after watching a local production of August, Osage County; a recent decision to leave a board I serve; and painting -- always painting.
It's really about impatience, I think: I'm always itching for resolution, and I don't have a lot of patience for what it takes to get there. As a mother, I noticed it was impatience that made it hard for me to let my children learn to do things themselves.
As a meeting leader and participant, I grow impatient with deliberation, endless discussion, and indecision. And as a painter, I have trouble allowing paintings the time they need to evolve, even though the reason I took up painting was because of the pleasure I found in working with paint, brushes, and the various techniques required to bring a work to completion.
So my question today is this: what is it I'm rushing toward, and why is it so important? What could I possibly accomplish that would have more value than the work it takes to get there? And when will I stop itching for the future, and just appreciate what's Now?