Get Past the Cover & Read the Book

I was talking with a woman the other day who in her late 60’s has to work because her social security check just doesn’t pay her bills. She is blind in one eye and has cataract in her other. Last fall she slipped on some water at the department store where she works and broke her ankle. The department store made her come back to work two days later. She says management has been very unforgiving, once making her walk (with crutches) in the rain to her car, and though she is still limping and in pain, they make her park at the back of the parking lot because “that is where the employees park”. They have been unreasonably rude to her in what seems an obvious attempt to make her quit. But she can’t. She just has to tolerate the mean-spirited remarks about her disabilities and the lack of empathy regarding what she has just gone through.

 I met this woman a few weeks ago as she desperately needed a ride to Dallas to attend the memorial of a long-time friend who died recently. I was driving up there for the same memorial so I asked her to come with me. Meeting someone for the first time in anticipation of spending hours and hours on the road with them can be an interesting prospect. We both laughed, sharing our “concerns” about the other which were completely negated when we got to know each other. She is beautiful, intelligent, witty, and sharp as a metal burr.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time together in the car and when we got back vowed to stay friends.

 So, why am I telling you this story? I am appalled at how this woman was and still is being treated by this department store (I would tell you what store it is but I don’t want to get her in trouble). Management, apparently all the way up, is simply being mean spirited.

 Rudeness it seems, is much more prevalent in recent decades. People have forgotten how to feel a basic respect for each other much less even pretend they feel that way.

 Is life so bad? Have we become so spoiled and apathetic that there is no room in our universes for anyone besides the ones we have to care for? Are we so cocooned in our own misery that we can’t see (and understand) that the people around us are going through their own stuff? Most people I talk to these days think everyone on the road around them are idiots. Really? And what do you suppose they think about you? Or do you even care?

 Whatever happened to ‘treat others as you would have them treat you’? It seems many are slowly devolving into egocentric, nuclear, single-minded, mean-spirited humans and have forgotten that we sow what we reap. I am not talking about karma, though I do believe that the meanest of the mean will get their come-uppance. I am simply referring to the fact that if your attitude is that everyone is an idiot and not worthy of your energy, attention, time, or respect then that is likely how people will treat you.

 No one wants to be disrespected. Even the kids with tattoos and nose rings and spiked hair. Most of us simply want to be accepted for (or despite) our choices whether it is religious preference, color of our hair, or lifestyle preference. In the big picture, it is a test of a sort. Behind the overt display of what might be considered rebellious appearance, unfamiliar spiritual ideas, or choices in the gender of our mate, they are simply people with personalities, wants, needs, …and value.

 We have become a society of snap judgments. And worse, we seem to not even want to know what travails someone else is going through. It means that you would have to act like you care. If you avoid the knowing, then you have no responsibility to help the person in need, or acknowledge that they have struggles of their own.

 Whether you concede it or not, the vast majority of us have value. And if we ignore the superficial differences between us, it gives us room to explore the unique qualities that have worth to us as individuals or as a society. The young woman with blue hair could be a brilliant painter, the Muslim man in Pennsylvania might have a talent for healing lost souls, and the aging woman, despite her disabilities, and with her many years of experience, may have incredible insight into how the store where she works might improve sales. If we harbor a collection of judgments, biases, and prejudices then we rob ourselves of the chance to see the value of a person behind their book cover. And, by that will never grow in their light.

 Let’s read each other’s books. I promise we will all find an interesting story in the binding of each life.

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thinking in Colors

As far back as I can remember, I have related words and concepts to colors. Not in any meaningful sense. I just see a word or concept in my head in a specific color. And the color is sort of random; i.e., it doesn’t relate to anything in particular, like its actual color in life, if there is a color associated with it.

People’s names (the word I see in my head when I think of the name) are very clear: Mary is red, Sally is yellow, Bridgette is burnt orange, Lyle is a sort of dreamy blue-grey. Every name has a color associated with it, and it is not something I even think about. It just is.

What made me think about this? I was laying in bed last night in that icky half-dream state one experiences  when you first get sick with the flu or a cold, and I had drainage down the back of my throat all night. Around 5:00 AM, realizing I was not going back to sleep, I was thinking I needed to get myself out of my warm bed and take something for this incessant…blue…drainage. Why blue? Who the heck knows?

This odd phenomenon called synesthesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia) apparently has to do with individual brain chemistry and patterns. Some people see numbers, some see spatial patterns, some vibrations. There are apparently thousands of ways that synesthetes ‘see’ words and numbers in their heads. This has no intrinsic value except to point out that everyone’s brain is unique. There are processes going on at lightning speed every nanosecond of our existence creating patterns and memories and foundations for future experiences.

The expectation that we all see things the same way is unrealistic just based on our individual brain function, much less on life experiences. Just as teachers (should) acknowledge that children each learn in different ways (by touch, by listening, by seeing, etc.), we should consider that as adults we approach new experiences in life with that same distinctive perception.

Our unique perspective should be taken into account when we decide to make a change, whether it is to break a bad habit, or bring creative endeavors into our life. Ask yourself what might reinforce positive change? Does your mind respond to music? Then use beautiful (or soulful or upbeat or rhythmic…) music to produce a constructive correlation to the behavior you want to change. Do you love colors? Then find pictures that touch your soul, or wear the colors that make you happy, or find a room where you can retreat/regroup/meditate, and paint it your favorite color. Are you a tactile person? Then relate your new behavior to something warm, soft, and fuzzy that you carry around with you and touch each time you need reinforcement.

This may all sound kind of superfluous. But discovering what clicks your brain into the comfort zone will help you begin the process of creative thinking, which leads to inspired action. If you use your natural mind map, change will be less like a grueling gauntlet and more like a fantastic adventure.

Why make it complicated when you have the means of creating (relatively) effortless transformation? Sort of like the butterfly. The caterpillar doesn’t think about how its body is radically transformed into something beautiful. It just trusts that it will happen.

Louise (which is sort of a steel-grey)

www.artfulperspectives.com

Changing the Paradigm

I was talking to someone the other day who questioned whether the US should help all those who don’t seem to be able to help themselves. “Why don’t they just change?!” – i.e., grow their own food, develop their own economy, build their own houses, find their own clean water,  _______(fill in the blank)?

I was struck as I often am by how people who have it all (like those who live in the US) have trouble understanding the difficulty of those who live where generations of people (sometimes representing hundreds of years) never learn HOW to do all those things. It is not a matter of intelligence, or apathy, or laziness. It is about how humans follow the path of least resistance, especially when it comes to “how things have always been done”. If you have never been taught how to change, then it is not likely you will do it, even if it would make your life easier, healthier, more meaningful.

The problem is not that these people don’t want those things that would make their lives better, it is that they have never felt empowered enough through example or education to even begin the process. In societies like ours, we are not born with knowledge, but it is offered to us freely from an early age so we can choose to act on that knowledge. If that information is never offered then how would change ever take place?

This is a debate that could go on perpetually. But I bring it up to reinforce something I have been trying to elucidate in previous posts. Change is not easy. But if we have the availability of tools, and examples of how it can be done, then we are empowered to do something that makes our lives better.

If you are lucky enough to live in a country like ours where all your basic needs are easily met, then climbing to the level of self-actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs) is a no-brainer.

So if you decide you want to add creative activities to your life, (part of meeting a higher level of need), it is only a matter of exploring your options. For people who live in our society it truly is that simple. You just have to start the process, expand your periphery, open your mind to possibilities, and the answers will come. You have to change the paradigm. Instead of thinking, “I wish…”, it should be “I will…”.

`I think I can, I think I can….I THOUGHT I could!’ Do we not read this story to our children at an early age?

 It is time to reach your potential – now.

Louise

www.artfulperspectives.com

Rooting Out Creative Blocks

As I mentioned in a previous post, though I may have the same “artistic” genes as some of the more talented members of my family, creating art (per se) has always been a bit more work for me. Despite having the want/need to express my creative self, it has often been a concerted effort to do so. When I was a younger woman, it was the busy-ness of life – working, raising children, and the multitude of other pressing issues that seem (at that juncture) to curse our existence – that made it difficult to find the time to stretch those muscles of imagination. Now, it is chronic pain and fatigue that challenge me. (More on that another time.)

My mother, who unfortunately passed from this world a couple of years ago, was one of the greatest influences in helping me understand the significance of creative expression. She weaned the five of us (me and 4 brothers) on the gift of permission. We were allowed to be children. Back then it meant climbing trees, wandering the woods, pretending (remember pretending?), drawing, painting, coloring, cutting, pasting, running like the wind, riding miles on our bicycles, and just generally living in the world of daydreams and freedom – that special place where we get to try out all the ideas, win or lose, succeed or fail. It was all ok, …and fearless.

But after having lived over two thirds of a lifetime, I’ve come to realize that because not everyone had that kind of idealistic rearing there are many who are expressively crippled. When you are a child, you think whatever you are experiencing is the norm. Though it might seem naive, it has always been curious to me how difficult it is for so many people to convey the inventive part of their spirits freely and without fear. The need/want is there. Apparently the permission, real or implied, is not.

You have permission. Whether you are 28 or 80 give yourself the green light to grow your imagination. If more people allowed themselves to see their lives through the wonder and curiosity that are hallmarks of a child’s frame of mind, we might be having much more fun. The anger, resentment, ubiquitous fear, and general unhappiness that seems to pervade humanity these days might vanish as mist in the morning sun.

Root out the cause of your mistrust that being creative is not acceptable, or worse, not an integral part of who you are. Expand your idea of what behavior is permissible.

Embarrass your kids. Laugh, burp, or sing out loud. Dance if you can and wiggle if you can’t. Have fun with your food, walk barefoot in public, wear a fancy (or silly) hat, make gingerbread cookies, join a band, build an adult-sized swing, and use it. Play a game of gin rummy (using real cards) with your mate or kids or grandkids, instead of watching TV. When is the last time you cut out a paper snowflake? (check out these instructions http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/christmas/snowflake) – or one of those long chains of little paper people with joined hands (http://www.parentsconnect.com/do/hand_in_hand.jhtml)? When is the last time you let yourself just get dirty (I mean the dirt-type dirty, not the other kind…tsk.).

Cut loose and have fun. It truly is the other side, the important balance, the yin to the yang of the All Holy, Responsible Self.

Louise

Essentially Being Creative

I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they “don’t have a creative bone in their body”.

 Tsk.

 I believe everyone is creative. Creation is part of our nature. Creativity is such a beautiful thing. It needs to be expressed or it constipates the soul. But many people misunderstand what being creative is.

 Creativity is articulated by humans in more ways than can be defined in this journal entry. When you participate in something that gives you joy then you are likely expressing your creative spirit, whether it is solving a math problem, raising beautiful, happy children, volunteering at the food bank, playing your old guitar, digging in your garden, helping people or animals in need, crafting, joining a community theater group, walking in the woods, singing in church, visiting (and laughing with) a friend, or learning something new on the world wide web. It is having fun with food, learning to crochet, building a car from scratch, making a wooden rocking horse, laying a stone path in your back yard, or starting a compost pile. It can be as simple as dreaming of what you want to be, and as important as becoming that person. It is learning a new trade, taking a course at the community college, dancing in your living room to your favorite music, or simply crafting and achieving meaningful goals.

 You do not have to be an artist or musician, actor or writer, scientist or inventor to express creativity. And, truly it is more about trying than the actual result. How will you ever know if you don’t try?

 Whatever you feel passionate about, do it. If you don’t think you feel passionate about anything, then it is time to start removing the blocks that are keeping your creative spirit from being expressed. If you are not happy then find out what is making you un-happy and simply remove it from your equation. Nothing in your world whether you believe it to be another person, your environment, your job, your real or imagined dis-ability, or poor health, is the true root of your un-happiness. Choose to be at least content and your spirit will begin to stretch and yawn and wake up. Choose to be happy and it will fly.

 Expressing your creative spirit is a bit like falling in love. It gives you that warm, fluffy feeling that stokes the life-fire in you. There is nothing to keep you from it. It is a part of you. Let it out.

 If you look, you will find it.

 Louise

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Starting Over

I began this web-log on another site in January of 2011, but decided (for various reasons which I won’t go into right now) to switch to Word Press. I will be entering all the posts from the other blog to this one within the next few weeks.

This web journal has several intentions:

 1. To express my awe of the innate beauty in nature and how it has inspired me throughout my life.

2. To share the ways in which that inspiration has evolved, not only as an art form, but as a keystone that anchors me in this life.

3. And, most importantly, to help those who believe they have no creative spirit unlock the expression of that aspect of their soul, and recognize that it has been there for them to access all along.

 Creative expression has been dotted throughout my family as far back as I’ve been able to research (without delving into the National Archives), and has been articulated in many ways. There have been physicians, botanists, scientists, and pure artists. Some combined all in that list, as one great grandfather who was a physician, but who also wrote a book on the unique relationship of plants and animals (mostly insects) and illustrated the entire book from observations he made in the field. Don’t see that much these days.

 The native artistic gene is rampant in our family and includes not only grandparents back a few generations but both my parents, a nephew, two of my brothers, and my son (who has talent in art and music). Despite being born into this clan, the expression of art per se has never been quite as easy for me as it has been for many in our family. I have always had to work at it, and still do not consider myself an artist in the traditional sense. However the thing I have in common with these “natural” artists is a need to express my creative spirit, which bursts the seams of my soul.

 Understand that I believe the need to be creative is not unique to me, or my family, or anyone in particular that seems to have a talent for art…or music…or writing. Everyone – that means everyone – has a desire to create. It’s in our genes. It is part of being human. However, somehow the need to express that desire has become synonymous with frivolity in the day-to-day grind of making a living, taking care of a family, and lately simply surviving. The idea has been submerged so much that people are not even aware of when they are letting it leak out. (grin)

 In the coming months I want to share my concern that the decline of creative expression has been slowly unraveling the weave of our existence. But also my belief that if we reconnect with that vital instinct, the anger, negativity, resentment, and the overall unhappiness that has pervaded our current culture will evaporate. Creating makes you at least content, and at best joyful. It balances the scale of burden we take on ourselves, relieving some of the overpowering weight, so that life doesn’t feel so…, well, heavy.

 Join me in finding (or rediscovering) that joy for yourself. My prayer is that in sharing my love of creativity, your doorway to expression and inspiration will open for you. If you are already there, share it with others. If you do not believe yourself to be creative then follow me. I will help you find the ember that has been waiting for you to ignite.

 My next entry will be a discussion of what creativity looks like. Sometimes those who lament a lack of it will soon realize it has always been there.

 Till next time, wishing you a peaceful passage.

 Louise

Published in: on February 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm  Comments (1)  
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