Filling in the Form

Faded Bangkok 1969

I’m always two steps ahead of myself creatively.  I’m thinking about what a final series of paintings will be before I’ve even prepared the first canvas.  According to Julia Cameron, this is creative sabotage.  When we are thinking about the end goal, we are allowing ourselves to submit to the fear that our efforts won’t get us there, that we aren’t up to the task, that we aren’t worthy of the inspiration.  But since I’ve been doing the disciplines of morning pages and intentional creative play time, I find that the daydreaming about the future is harder to turn off.

Case in point: I drew this from a beautifully faded photo of my brother and me on a boat in Bangkok.  I loved the bright negative space in the photo.  This inspired me to spend time cataloguing my mother’s letters to her mother when we went to East Pakistan to live in 1969.  I spent Memorial Day placing the old tattered tissue paper hotel stationery and aerogram letters in plastic sleeves.  I started to journal the in-between the lines places of love and guilt of a young mother writing to a worried mother.

At about the same time, a warm wind of inspiration took a hold of me and I wrote a children’s book in one sitting.  I’m now working on the illustrations for it — slowly, steadily.  Sometimes painfully.

Where do these projects lead?  I know I shouldn’t care, but I want to work towards something. I want to devote my time to something that will come to fruition — and soon, dammit! Is that so wrong?

I turned to Pema Chodron’s Wisdom of No Escape last night as I was falling asleep and came upon a favorite passage.  It spoke to me in this instance.  (Sorry I can’t give you the page number — it has a place of great importance in my Kindle, but I’m disappointed that I can’t see the page numbers!)

“The experience of labeling your thoughts “thinking” also, over time, becomes much more vivid.  You may be completely caught up in a fantasy, in remembering the past or planning for the future, completely caught up , as if you had gotten on an airplane and flown away someplace.  You’re elsewhere and you are with other people and you’ve redecorated a room or you’ve relived a pleasant or unpleasant experience, or you’ve gotten all caught up in worrying about something that might happen…Then suddenly you realize, and you just come back.  It happens automatically.  You say to yourself, ‘Thinking,’ and you’re saying that, basically what you are doing is letting go of those thoughts.  You don’t repress the thought.  You acknowledge them as ‘thinking’ very clearly and kindly, but then you let them go.  Once you begin to get the hang of this, it’s incredibly powerful that you could be completely obsessed with hope and fear and all kinds of other thoughts and you could realize what you’ve been doing — without criticizing it — and you could let it go.  This is probably one of the most amazing tools you could be given, the ability to just let things go, not to be caught in the grip of your own angry thoughts, or passionate thoughts or worried thoughts or depressed thoughts.”  

Still recovering.  But at least I’m in the studio today. Sit still, breathe, work, and just be.

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