Creativity, the lifesaver.

In my younger years, from time to time, I would have a vision come to me. I would be standing in front of a giant frame of stretched canvas, larger than my own body, using a large paintbrush to make broad strokes across the expanse of white.

Never mind the metaphor here.

I would be zapped with inspiration to create something beautiful, something rich with soulful color, something big, and powerful.

Then I would go on with my day and think on it no more for a good long while. When the image returned, I might say out loud, “I have this urge to paint.”

My friend or my son might reply, “You mean, like, paint these walls?”

“No, like on a canvas.”

“Oh.” End of chat.

But then I got to a point in my mid-50’s when I decided to spend my one hundred dollars of birthday cash – Thank you Mom – at Michael’s craft store. I strolled down the aisle with my cart and filled it with brushes, a few tubes of primary colored paint, numerous small canvasses and a pack of canvas boards. No easel, no palette, no extras at all. I hauled it home, and that night, I sat down to paint this:

And this…

I gave one to my sister and one to my mom, and I was absolutely pleased as punch. For a woman in her 50’s to paint such whimsical 5×5 inch works of art with zero drawing and absolutely no prior classes was satisfying. I was just fine with my sister or mom chuckling at them, or even tossing it away. I did not give a damn if they approved. I approved, and that was enough.

Never mind the lack of any suitable gel coat to smooth its texture; never mind the fantastic lack of definition and the absurdly small canvas. It was the best time I had had alone with my sober self in…well…maybe ever.

For the one hour I took to create them, I felt alive. I felt fulfilled. I felt spiritual. I felt like maybe I was not such a bad person. I felt like I was more interesting and more interested in the world. I did not spend any moment of that hour wondering what other people were doing without me. I didn’t think about who I should invite over. I did not think about food. I was utterly consumed with the act of creation. My creation.

I could barely wait to paint something else. As soon as possible.

And that is how I made it through my very first year of being purposefully single. Turns out creativity is the whole deal when it comes to figuring out who you are as an individual, free of others, free of performances for the stage of another’s play.

Today, completely self-taught, I bring in a nice additional income painting for myself and others. The coolest part is that when I run out of supplies, of which there are so many now, I get a little itchy, like running out of cigarettes in the old days. It has been three and a half years of painting now, and I still cannot wait to get at it. Life gets in the way nowadays, and I have to pace myself. I have to stop painting so I can be there for others and maybe even shower and eat.

When I become afraid of being alone, being abandoned, being hurt, growing old and having no value – which is just what I do as a result of my traumatic past – I just picture myself painting some giant canvas, and I know I will be absolutely more than fine. Strangely, this thing has a life of its own. All I had to do was follow the subtle whispering call from beyond.

The Upside of Pain

A young mother shared her tears with me about the hardship of her wailing child. She told me that she, her husband and their little boy had gone into the gentle forest to commune with the divine, to set up camp and be one with the elements and find solace in the quiet and power of the wild.

She had hoped to get spiritual.

Only things didn’t turn out as she had expected.

Well, that was her first mistake, I suppose. Expecting. Not an easy thing to avoid, but I digress.

She told me how her child, normally so agreeable, spent the entire 3 days raging and fighting with thrashing, screaming, inconsolable tantrums. Other campers nearby suffered with them, only to increase the madness of his defiance.

The child was not ill, but he was definitely expressing his childish form. They finally surrendered and returned home and the peaceful child they knew returned as well.

What is the lesson in this story? Never leave home to find spiritual sustenance? Well….no.

The lesson here is that my friend had an idea of how to gain a spiritual experience. She did not fully recognize that it is in our suffering that we gain the depths of spiritual growth.

If our lives were entirely filled with all that we needed, if food was plentiful, if homes were without flaw, if children behaved, we would want for nothing. And we would not wonder for a moment about the unseen world. We would forget that something beyond us exists. We would be blind and grossly arrogant and self-satisfied. We would not be grateful, nor strive, nor understand the suffering of others.

When things don’t go as we expected, or trials generate a suffering so great as to stop and notice, we are in a perfect storm of facing our humanity, our fragile and precious state.

Therefore, I remember this when my back aches, when I miss being held, when my milk goes sour. I remember the glory of my growth when my best friend betrayed me, when my cat was stolen, when I had to walk home for miles in my bare feet on a Sunday morning.

Our longing brings that most potent of riches, a recognition of how very sweet it is to come home and find a beloved child sleeping.

The Plateau of Summer

The best part of summer for me is that 3-week period right after the 4th of July. A sweet long stretch of open softness. A plateau upon which we may tread naturally and calmly, or pause and bask under the vast skies with nothing but what we individually choose before society requires more.

We come upon a great big beautiful WHAT NOW?

Ralph Blume said, “As I cultivate my own nature, all else follows.” In keeping with such a wondrous philosophy, I encourage you to harken back to this wisdom and ‘cultivate your own nature’ now. What would that look like? Who do you wish to be now?

The essence of living a spiritual life implies synchronizing two acts: First, to do the footwork of manifesting what you really want, the actual completion of logical tasks. This could range from getting yourself some coffee to building schools in the Middle East. Second, to have faith that something divine is supporting you and will provide the momentum and outside variables required.

I do. And I trust.

I keep doing. And I keep trusting.

If I am not doing what is needed, I pay attention to the changes directed by my intuition, the “messengers” around me, my experiences including dreams and unexpected sparks of thought, and I keep going. This is how the divine keeps me between the lines on my path to success. I am always listening, watching and wondering.

Nonetheless, there is also a time to understand that what I do may be nothing. Sometimes I choose to be still or be patient or just mentally prepare. This is not a justification for procrastination, that absurd dysfunction steeped in fear or defiance. I am talking about knowing that timing is important and impulsive, sloppy action is not helpful.

My father used to describe my mother as peripatetic, a constant movement, a nomadic existence, and in her case, it was meant as “unable to stop moving.” He felt she was too nervously erratic.

My mother would likely suggest that his big cushy chair was a bog of muck where he could not be truly living.

I learn from my elders. I find the solid ground of the mesa’s flat top. I move, but I move slowly with intention.

I will spend each day now curiously observing myself as I meditate, meet strangers, walk the city alone, make myself a meal, listen to a friend, write, paint, and share my ideas.

I know my station, my post, my purpose and my plan. This is a result of spiritual living. I don’t have to rush, nor run in circles. I can cultivate my nature, which is to create and to bravely share my creations, and trust that all else will follow.