Monday, March 27, 2017

Words of Wisdom from the Airline Stewardess

True wisdom doesn't have to come from the expected sources. Life lessons can be learned in the most ordinary situations. The trick is to just listen... then apply the knowledge.

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten was from the airline stewardess. Not a particular one on a particular airline, but every one who's ever done the safety demonstration portion on the inflight passenger announcements (I think they were harder to ignore when a live person did this standing in the aisle instead of on a video screen in the back of the seat in front of you so I'm not sure if people these days really listen to what the stewardess is saying, but, if you do...) At some point, as they are talking about what to do if the oxygen masks drop down, they will say something to the effect: 
"If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person." 
"If you really want to help someone else, you need to help yourself first." OR "If you help yourself first, then you will be able to help others."
So, if you are an Artist in Denial, the first step is to "Admit it." I introduced that concept in the last post: "Admit it. Do it. Share it." After you've admitted you are an "Artist in Denial" and that making art (visually, writing, performing, etc.) is a source of happiness and purpose for you and that denying that truth is a source of unhappiness, the second step is to "Do it." It will make you happy. It will give you a higher sense of purpose. It's like finding oxygen in a vacuum. Which leads directly to the third step: "Share it." Now that you've found your oxygen, you can help others. That's what I think art is all about. The artist recognizes something beautiful or identifies a common situation or fundamental truth and shares it with others. People who identify with the artist, and the statement he/she is making, realize they are not alone in their joy, pain, or fears. Art brings us together. It builds community. It helps us navigate life. It's an intensely personal interaction of one person helping another. Maybe not as obvious as strapping on an oxygen mask; but, it's important just the same. But, it all starts with you. You have to "Do it."

Near the end of the inflight passenger announcements, the stewardess has another great bit of advice:
"If you are seated next to an emergency exit, please read the special instructions on the card located in the seat pocket in front of you. If you do not wish to perform the functions described in the event of an emergency, please ask a flight attendant to reseat you."
In other words..
"If you don't want to participate, go somewhere else." 


Monday, March 20, 2017

Admit it. Do it. Share it.

After the initial realization that I was an "artist in denial," I couldn't stop thinking about it. As I mentioned in my first post "I Know I'm Not Alone," I knew there had to be plenty of people out there that were just as inexplicably unhappy as I was. If I could share my revelation, maybe I could help some of them. From the beginning, I knew I needed to create some kind of educational component. The structure I came up with was based on three pillars: admit it, do it, and share it.

It had taken me 50 years to figure out why I was unhappy. How many people just "suck it up" and convince themselves they're making something out of nothing? That first pillar is the big one. Admit it. I think that's been the hardest thing for me. Saying that I'm an "artist" doesn't mean that I make my primary living as an artist. Rather, it means that "artist" is a primary definition of who I am. Creating is not something that I want to do. It's something that I need to do. But, the title "artist" comes with so much baggage, (at least in the U.S.) it's a scary thing to admit. Even when people mean well and are trying to be supportive, they'll say things like: "you've always been creative, I wish I could be artsy fartsy." So, you can get tempted to try to tell yourself "it's OK I don't look good in black and I really don't want to get tattoos and body piercings at my age any way." There's a couple of future posts wrapped up in there, but I think I made my point. It's really hard to admit that you're an artist in your soul. It's much easier to continue suppressing the need to create and focus on "things that really matter." It's much easier to just stay in denial. To some degree, I don't know if it will ever get any easier. Maybe it needs to be hard. More future posts.

So, when I got back from Louisville, I told my new artist friend about my epiphany. That's when he suggested that I read Julia Cameron's "The Artists Way." What a fabulous book. Everything I read completely lined up with my vision of Artist in Denial. I knew that this would be the base curriculum for my course. But it couldn't stop there. Once you admit you are an artist. You have to create. Whatever that means. Drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, creating music. Whatever your art is, you need to do it. That's where you will find your true joy.

The last step is to share it. Art is an incredibly personal experience. Whether it's creating it or appreciating it, it's intensely personal. When art touches someone on a personal level, it's a powerful thing. To realize that there is someone else out there who feels the same way you do, believes the same things you do, appreciates the same things you do, it's a magical thing. So, after you do it, you need to share it. Somebody will appreciate. Somebody might actually need it. If you have the ability, why would you deny it to others?