My First Love
I love painting. I love the ideas involved, the pursuit of balance, the way it seems to come from nowhere. I put time in each week to get better and the truth is I'm always thinking about an article to read, a demo to attend, an Instagram account to covet, a Facebook friend to engage. However, If I had to - really, really had to - I could lay painting aside. Such is what we do for love.
Love and the Truth
Even so, My first love was challenged years ago during terrible times, but it didn't leave me. Have you ever held something that you thought was so important that turned out to be expendable? A new car, a new relationship, a convincing argument – many things constantly wave for our attention, but not many tell us the truth – that they are junk, and we are better off without them, living simply.
I'll spare you the details, but I'd like to share a little about how art came to know its place in my life in the hopes that you may gain a bit of balance if you feel wobbly from life's constant barrage of “must-sees” and “must-haves”.
I looked down at the table and swept everything onto the floor. The sound of glass breaking, vessels spilling, and life's paraphernalia crashed around me until the sound of coins rolling in smaller and smaller spirals finally ended with complete silence. That silence wasn't dread or freedom. I don't know how to articulate it other than to say it was pure. Some things had been broken already, but I had deliberately broken expensive things. There were parts and pieces slung away from the whole. Fractured glass looked like spider's webs. All of my life was now on the floor in pieces, and I had done it on purpose.
I looked at the disaster on the floor and, having noticed a few things still in tact, I chose something important and placed it back on the table. Just one thing. I considered my choice, and after a while, I glanced at the floor again and selected another item to replace.
I made a few more selections, but after some contemplation, I realized that the first thing was really the only thing I needed. The other items were beautiful, intensely personal, and some were valuable, but the first choice seemed to be all that was needed to set the table in order.
Such is how I rearranged my life after a personal tragedy. This was the imagery that filled my mind after I had lost almost everything. What wasn't already destroyed was swept away so I could see what mattered most.
You probably aren't surprised to learn that keeping a horizontal surface clean isn't the easiest thing to do. We come home and slap the mail down, set drinks on it, slide keys over it, drop food on it, and so on. Life just seems to clutter, but now I am very sensitive to what really matters, so I deal with the mail, pick up my drink, put the keys on the rack, and eat somewhere else. This space has been set apart.
Set apart. Think about those words. When is the last time you actually set something apart because it was just that important? Set apart is another way of saying sacred. I am an oil painter, so I'd be thrilled if someone gave an honored place in their home to one of my works. But what about things that matter more? Have you recently placed boundaries around something and said to others that it must not be disturbed?
Set the Table
This table is sacred now, set apart. I stand around it and say to life's clutter, “This far you shall come and no further.” That goes for friends, events, even to my oil painting. Out of the rubble and discord, desolation and chaos, there was this. One thing didn't break or even bend. It was never tarnished. When picked up, it hushed the blaring noises, covered me with affection, returned my focus, and held my gaze. It is greater than painting.
For me, it is greater than relationships, jobs, and money. It is greater than politics and religion. It is my life's hub, the thing around which all else spins.
Art Is No Master
Do you have an experience that relates? Have you become overwhelmed by everything we're supposed to keep up with? Has art been a part of regaining sanity, or has it tried to become a master?
Have you found your core? If you have, do you allow it to become cluttered? Let us take what time is needed today to refocus on the center of our beings – on what matters most. Let's agree to clear the table and keep first things first.