I don’t know where the day went. It snowed almost a foot in the night, and I had nowhere to go today. No errands to run, no phone calls to make–nada. I slept late, hung out on our very comfy sofa and read a lot, and suddenly the clock says this last daylight of 2007 is nearly over. (The winter sun sets early in New Hampshire!)
When I checked my e-mail, I found it full of newsletters and worthy thoughts from various motivational gurus. Some of the advice was contradictory, including the ones that said that most advice is contradictory by nature.
A time of reflection, of looking back at the past year’s achievements. Of gathering the lessons gleaned from the failures and setbacks. Taking pause to think about the year’s work ahead.
But I find myself simply wanting to get back to my pretty good book instead.
I’ve been beating myself up the past few years for not having a “grand vision” for my art lately. A business plan for success, if you will. I know the importance of that. I know well that old adage, that you can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you want to go.
I’m finding, though, that forcing a dream is just as harmful as not having one at all. Feeling you have to get somewhere means you can’t enjoy whatever particular”where” you find yourself in at the moment.
I’m realizing, too, that even when I had a bunch of big dreams, and worked all hours of the day to achieve them, it wasn’t like I had control over my progress. I simply focused on trying. The constant effort, keeping what worked, discarding what didn’t, and moving resolutely on to try the next thing, was what got me my success.
When I look back, I see that my stabs at organization were always temporary. I could organize enough to achieve a goal, then fell back into my usual muddle of “what should I work on today?” and simply taking care of whatever happened to cross my path.
So why am I feeling so stricken at the thought of not having a game plan for 2008?? Why am I suddenly feeling so inept for getting myself into major organization mode for the new year?
I used to counsel people all the time: If what you’re doing is working for you, don’t change it.
And it has been working for me. I may whine a lot in my blog about the success I haven’t had. But if I am realistic, I’ve already achieved much, much more than I even dreamed of when I first started all this ten years ago. I’ve had a lot of wonderful things happen with my art. It’s only my all-too-human nature, the one that’s never satisfied with what we have, that nags me and pokes me and makes me keep reaching for more. (Thank goodness! I never want to sit on laurels, not for every long anyway.)
How have I achieved all that?
Well, what I’ve always done is muddle along with an odd blend of focus and commitment, and laziness and whimsy. Taking advantage of the opportunities that have crosed my path. Trying not to beat myself up too much at the ones I’ve overlooked or messed up.
Maybe all I have to do in 2008 is let that happen again.
I looked up an entry from my old blog at my old blog Re-do on the to-do list and found this insight I’d quoted from a speaker at a conference:
…..I remembered the “Handmade, High Tech” conference (see blog CRAFT IN THE DIGITAL AGE entry in April 2004.) One of the speakers, Lynn Martin Graton, Traditional Arts Coordinator for the NH State Council on the Arts, talked about how differences in how language is used can reveal fundamental differences in culture.
She said, “If I want to say, ‘Warp the loom’ in Japanese, it actually translates to something like, ‘In order for the cloth to be woven, the loom will be warped.’ It’s a totally different way of viewing the action needed and the person who acts. The loom has its own importance, its own part to play. It’s not just about YOU, the artist.” (paraphrased greatly)
And I realized that for me, the other part of this equation,beginning with the “YOU, the artist”, is not just art but the entire fabric of my life.
When my kids were little, it was easier to set aside chunks of my life to devote to my art–they were so “in the moment” that any chunk I set aside was fine with them.
Things are different when they are teens. The little chunks they’re ready to share don’t always match up right with my times. I choose to be more flexible with that, to enjoy these last few years of their time at home with us.
Other little moments to spend with people and other living things who are important to me, are also not as regimented and organized. I have an ever-growing sense of being on the other side of 50, a sense of urgency, of not always being able to count on “later” and “another time” and “next week” and “next year”. I tend to spend that extra few minutes, make room for that last-minute engagement, plan happily for that spur-of-the-moment dinner date.
There’s a balance, to be sure, of not giving over my art completely to the passing whims of others. I also resolve not to be so quick to answer my phone. Maybe unplug it completely when I’m in the studio, or at least use the caller ID more diligently. And I will continue to be aware of who is sucking energy out of my life, and who restores it.
There have been times to push and forge ahead. And also times to rest, and regenerate. Times to be strong and brave. And times to simply give in and cry a little. Times to set limits with well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) people. And times to be a forgiving and accepting. Next year will be more of the same, and I see now there is nothing wrong with that. There will times to think deep thoughts in the months ahead. And times to simply play with new ideas and new stories, and see what happens.
As the sun drops even lower in the sky and the shadows lengthen, I feel better that maybe what I’ve been doing all along is simply good enough.