Not indulging in true desires and pleasure makes you vulnerable to emotional eating, compulsive eating and mindless eating..there’s a craving but it’s not for food.
Recently I’ve noticed…… actually that’s a lie.. for probably years now I have had a deep longing to make some kind of art. Maybe to paint, maybe to draw, it’s not been a super specific kind of craving but a persistent voice, an urging. I hear it and more importantly feel it.. often.
A little history; When I was little I loved love loved to draw. And I got some positive attention for it which was fine, thankfully it didn’t ruin it for me at the time. Unlike playing the piano which my parents started me at about 5 years old. I was already starting to play by ear and they wanted me to be able to read music. But once the lessons began, the nagging and intrusions began, and any joy that would have come from making music vanished. It was not “mine” any longer and after 7 years I declared I was done. And never played again. Which was a sad thing.
There was a scene in the movie/book “The Joy Luck Club” where a young prodigy chess-playing girl (let’s be clear, I was not a music prodigy or anything like it, but I had some talent I was told) in a fury over her mother’s narcissistic bragging of the daughter’s talents refuses to ever play again. Something definitely happens when what is “yours” no longer feels like it is truly yours. A disconnect, a tainting. Something gets lost. Thinking back on my rejection of my musical aptitude and possible ways I might have enjoyed it through my life and chose not to, is sad.
So back to the wanting to make art and not honoring what is clearly an intuitive (unending) urging. I am pretty sure that I am not meant to be any kind of artist. That’s not what this is about and why my stuckness is so noticeable to me. It’s about fear and perfectionism. Of not being good enough. Of not exactly knowing how to start and fearing there will be no pleasure because the attempts will be so tainted by some kind of disappointment in myself at how…ordinary my abilities are.
And they will be ordinary. I know this. And why am I, why are most of us so cowed by this? Why should this matter to me, I am not looking to become an “artist” or to be seen or employed or whatever in any way that matters.
This is just between me and me. Oh let me say that a different way.. this is between my heart and my ego.
My heart wants to play. Wants the pleasure of color and the old feeling of “coloring” and the old feelings of that.. peaceful, dreamy, focused in that flowing happily absorbed timeless way. My ego is afraid that it will be ugly and stupid and ordinary and that it might feel terrible in my heart to be confronted with all of that. Sigh…
More history. My mother was and is an artist. Went to Rhode Island School of Design. Had an interior design business, and 4 years ago at 74 went back to painting.. like a woman on fire.. filling up canvases and taking two painting classes a week. Impeccable gorgeous taste and sense of color. My Dad, who died over 30 years ago was an untrained, uneducated creative visionary with the best visual taste of anyone I knew. Also had a design business, creating beautiful ahead-of-their-time office spaces. He had an eye..critical as hell.. but what an eye. My parents adored beauty, as do I. Although my tastes tend to run a bit different. But I am getting off topic.
I remember my first studio art class in high school. The beautiful studio.. the smells of real oils. Our foreign teacher and his accent, the easels all set up. The moment of looking around at a couple of my friends who were truly talented. Better than me. My childhood talents had not translated. It was one of those moments when you see a kind of truth and it hurts. A “not good enough” moment.. and I knew I did not have that kind of talent. And it didn’t occur to me that if I worked hard I might develop it which in and of itself is interesting.
Another snapshot. My freshman year in college at a beautiful liberal arts school with a pretty famous dance department. Dance had been my thing all through high school..I loved it, lived for it, and was a big fish in a small pond. The first week in college, you had to audition for the dance department to be placed in a class. This was the kind of dance department that had LIVE MUSIC for every class! And big gorgeous studios with floor to ceiling windows. A dream. I walked into that big audition room, a terrified freshman, took one look at all of the other dancers and fled. Didn’t audition. Did not take dance, literally my favorite thing on earth my entire freshman year. More ego,more fear, more perfectionism, more heartbreak at my own hand. More terror at not feeling good enough, at being too ordinary.
I did end up dancing in college. Every morning at 840.. sometimes twice a day..Some of my best memories dancing to live piano, conga drums and electric violin improvised just to accompany us across the floor, back and forth and center. The pleasure of embodiment. But not that year.
And now here I am again. Wanting, longing, clear.. and yet. The old fears are huge. And part of me, the adult me knows of course (and yes.. I teach this time and time again to my beautiful perfectionism-laden clients) that it would be a kind and loving act to just sit down and draw or doodle. I have tons of materials. Gorgeous colored pencils and cray pas and watercolors. And I have this fear that what I want to make can’t translate onto the paper. And I also suspect that if I just start, the act of it, the absorption will have a pleasure of it’s own.
So this is my beginning. Of naming it.. the pain I have suffered in the past because of these sorts of inner battles and fears. The fear of being ordinary is a whole other topic for another day.. big one. Oh big big big.
Cups of pencils and beautiful boxes of pastels are calling me.. I have a sense of where I will start, and I also know that doing this is meant to unlock something else in me.. to open up a creativity flow that wants to come in right now. All of it part of my coming out of the death and loss cycle and into rebirth. And I have actually contacted a dear artist friend of mine and asked if I can come sit with him in his studio, and draw or just see what happens when I sit with the materials in a safe and creative space with somebody making room for me and my wish to create, just a little tiny bit.. Just to start.
So, here is my question to you- where has perfectionism, or the fear of being not good enough, or ordinary, or having not talent robbed you of play, or pleasure, of enjoyment? And where do these fears fuel the struggles with your body.. the eating and the shame and the hiding?
I would love to open up this channel of talking because I know from my work with women, and from my friends, that we all have had these moments and made these choices.
Sharing makes you lighter..
My love to you…
Denise Hughes says
This piece resonates with my soul. It speaks to the longing I now have in finding creative expression in my life. This is a holy piece of writing Lisa and I thank you for sharing it. For me, I am learning to sit with pen and paper…certain pens and certain kinds of paper to birth poems and to link my imperfect photography to them…I love the depth you took me to in this writing 🙂
Denise.. thank you and so interesting to hear that you too feel the longing for creative expression, although I am not surprised. Your photography is beautiful and as we both know, although may struggle with, imperfect/perfect, isn’t the point and that lens (sorry, couldn’t resist) restricts the flow of the creative and everything that wants to move through us. Love to you, Lisa
atm madden says
I recently started an art class and have felt something of an imposter but what you have said about the pleasure being in the absorption is very true.
How this relates back to the ‘hungry body’ I am not sure but expecting to be ridiculed and criticised can prevent one taking in any pleasure or knowing what is enjoyable. Hungry for unmet needs and recognition no doubt that a 2 minute chocolate bar suppresses for another while.
Hello ATM… oh those feelings.. and yet you are taking the class anyways, so hoping that you get to enjoy it! I think the relationship to the hunger is that if we don’t fulfill the true needs and longings we tend to fill them with food and eating.. mistake them for a different hunger.. Love, Lisa
Bri Saussy says
Its so funny that you wrote this and I am reading it today because I just spend the other evening with my mom, riffling through her art supplies and art books. I don’t consider myself artistic-my husband is a very talented artist, as is my mom, and uncle but not me-but I just decided to shelf that internal thought for awhile and organized all my art stuff so that I have easier and better access to it!
Bri- maybe “funny” maybe we’re just connected…like you I have had to alter my thoughts so I can have more fun with it all. I really miss some of those things and got a chance to play with some beautiful art supplies with a friend yesterday.. it was really wonderful. Hope you do it soon also.. Love to you.. Lisa
For the longest time I didn’t write because I was worried about it not being a success, not every being published. But I feel like publishing is just a part of the process, it doesn’t have to be my concern right now while I’m enjoying writing, just to write!
Christie.. absolutely.. I think most of the time having an ulterior motive kills the best stuff that we have.. we get so self-conscious that we step outside of what we really would be creating otherwise.. Enjoying the writing or whatever else we are in the process of is a better way to go.. because no matter what, it’s happier..Love, Lisa
Kate Gardes says
I love your statement about our sense of ownership of our talents.
“Something definitely happens when what is “yours” no longer feels like it is truly yours. A disconnect, a tainting. Something gets lost.”
It’s so very true, and something I as a parent struggle with when I am proud of my children or want them to work harder on something they naturally enjoy.
I’m surprised my tongue isn’t permanently scarred from biting it to stay quiet!
Hi Kate- I hear you.. I remember when my kids were really tiny the big parenting expert, or one of them was T.Berry Brazelton and he used to always remind parents to focus on telling the kids “Look you did it your SELF”.. it was helpful vs “I’m so proud of you” which of course is our instinct.. but that other became my little mantra or whatever version of it and that felt so good given the intrusiveness I had experienced. My kids are also amazing musicians.. and I literally never peeped to them about whether to “practice” or not.. b/c I knew so well what a killer that was.. so.. lots of good has come out of what we learn ..
Bet you do really well without biting your tongue!! Your sleep column is really great!
Jacqueline Fairbrass says
I have a box of art supplies that I never find the time to get into. It’s always ‘I’ll do that after eveything else’. Which is a great excuse to not do anything. Time to let go of the fear and just have fun again. Thanks.
Me too.. but am changing that.. it’s such a great shift and really lights up whole different parts of our brain and our self… I made such beautiful little pictures yesterday.. tiny ones.. with the help of my artist friend who sat with me in his studio while I got in teh groove again!
Julie Geigle says
“Sharing makes you lighter” in more ways than one and so beautifully put. My favorite thing to do is color. When I taught I bought several Tesselations coloring books through Scholastic and when my daughter was in grade school I’d color in them while she colored in her coloring books. I miss those days. And that book sits by my bedside in my nightstand drawer. And calls to me now and then. It may be time to honor its calling. Thanks Lisa.
Julie.. wouldn’t it be fun to have a “let’s color” day like we have a blogging morning? We could all know that we were pulling out some art stuff and just taking a little bit of time to indulge in some other thing.. off our computers.. stopping all the internet/entrepreneurial/busyness, etc and moving into a different creative zone..
I may start something.. thinking..
Love to you.. Lisa
Lisa, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I reached the paragraph about your college dance experience. I majored in dance at a school a lot like yours. I wasn’t scared off by auditions, but was scared into a shell EVERY single class. The most important critique I remember from those days is that I needed to bring more “me” to my dance — and it’s all because I was dancing small. I was too afraid to really move and express and do all those things that a great performer does. I didn’t enjoy it as I could or should have. Every day since, I have regretted it. If I could relive those days, I wouldn’t give a damn what anyone thought, or whether I missed a step.
Jessica that’s so amazing…poignant..It almost makes me cry…I wish you could relive them in some way.. I have had the chance to take some amazing dance classes.. more like free for alls at a beautiful yoga center, Kripalu.. and it’s a wild fest with live drumming sometimes.. and I feel wild and alive and I wish I could take you.
Have you taken any dance since then?
Love to you my friend.. Lisa
Kimberly Riggins says
What an amazing post! Boy, can I relate to some of the things you were saying. I truly believe art can be so therapeutic to helping women with body issues, or any issues actually. I attribute art therapy as a huge part of my healing journey.
Kimberly.. I agree about the art as healing for anything.. I really want more right now.. I used to do so much more that was creative whether planting containers or cooking or painting furniture.. whatever.. now it’s so much about my online business/website/blog etc.. and I can feel the urge to rebalance a bit…
thanks for the support and it seems like so many of us are craving more of this kind of expression.. lets start soemthing!
Danielle Dowling says
Funny….I recently realized I really like to color. It’s so relaxing, calming + centering for me. I went out and bought a box of crayons and sometimes will have a cup of coffee and color before I even start my day. Love it. xo
Danielle.. love that you do that in the morning.. I think we all love to color.. and hope we can find ways to do more of it. love, Lisa
Beautiful post Lisa. I soooo relate to your story around music growing up. I had a mom who was an amazing pianist so I started at 5 years old. Fortunately she was wondrous at teaching me. However… when I tried violin at 7.. I had a strict teacher and ended up bailing on that instrument because of my fears of her which led to many tears. How sad!
As for now? I do still play music … in fact I have TWO pianos! But the art thing…. yes. I have paints and pencils and yet… never really have the time. You have reminded me of my extreme need to have fun and explore this again. Thank you. Lovely post.
hi Share.. sounds like you are a beautiful musician..so interesting to read all the responses to this post.. sort of a global craving to finding room for this kind of creative expression.. and yet how many of us do? I know personally I need to free myself in these ways and have been pondering the options.. Love to you- Lisa