“Speaking words of wisdom, Let it Be…”
How do we move with a combination of intention and grace while letting life unfold as it’s meant to? How do we set and achieve big life goals while still living each day? If we are goal seekers and achievers and futuristic thinkers, how do we allow the universe to help propel us toward our biggest dreams? In the great words of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, how do we let it be?
My 8-year old daughter had been asking to take an art class. At the time she asked, our life was like a 3-ring circus. My husband and I were both working full time, I was commuting over 2 hours per day, juggling 3 kids and their extracurricular activities – travel basketball, baseball, dance class to name but a few. My artsy, creative, free spirit, try anything, beautiful soul of a daughter then wanted to add an art class to the line-up. “But mom, we could do it together. It could be a mom-and-me art class.”
Ok, sold. The truth is, I had been longing for more time to slow down and connect with her. As another benefit, my bucket list had always included learning to paint with watercolors. Two birds, one stone.
My daughter and I have always had this wild heart connection. She seems to somehow intuitively know what I’m thinking and feeling. In hindsight, I think she knew an art class was exactly what I needed when I needed it. I called the local art studio and found a class time that would work for us.
Well, sort of. Honestly I had to move heaven and earth every week to get to it. We were often late. I booked an “appointment” on my work schedule and dropped what I was doing every Tuesday and rushed through traffic to pick my daughter up an hour away at her school to get to the art studio. Once we walked in though, I felt the stress of life lifted off my shoulders.
That art class would become the bright spot in our week. The teacher was a precious gem. This beautiful soul of a woman was living her passion in her art studio. Not only was she an incredible artist, but also an exceptional teacher. There were only two other women in the class and no children.
My daughter would don her art smock and the teacher patiently taught us the basics of working with watercolors. She would gently correct our inexperienced ways and guide us in proper technique. Often she would prepare an age appropriate art project just for my daughter.
Amazing lessons relevant to life can be found in learning to create art. There is a distinct switch in the brain that needs to be reprogrammed for someone like me. At first, my structured personality was continuously at odds with that paintbrush. I tried to direct the colors, infuse the art of my perfectionism into the painting. The teacher would continuously remind me – no, no, no, you are trying to control the process too much.
With watercolors, you need to put the color down, then let it do it’s thing. Be intentional, but then let it be. Have a vision for the outcome, but let it unfold as it’s meant to. Those were the words I needed to hear at the time I needed to hear them.
The end product of my early paintings would surprise me. By an accomplished artist’s standards, I’m certain they were infantile. From the perspective of someone who had never picked up a paintbrush, they weren’t half bad.
Working with watercolors is a process. You lay color down, and then let it dry. Lay color down, let it dry, repeat, repeat, repeat. The painting doesn’t take shape until mid-way through the process and it’s often hard to tell what it is going to be until the finishing details are done. In working through each stage, you begin with light colors and slowly add more color, allowing the painting to dry before applying the next level of detail. It requires patience. I learned to appreciate the process.
I learned that when others looked at the painting in the early stages, the image wasn’t at all recognizable. What was intended to be a bird looked like a blob and a flower looked like I may have spilled the paint. Each week the painting would take more form until it became clear what the final piece of art was meant to be all along.
The vision was in my head, but unclear to an outside observer until finished. I had to learn to let go of perfectionism and appreciate the process. I learned that subtleties mattered in the final details.
So many resonant lessons. Most times, it’s important to just begin. You may have no idea what you’re doing, but you WILL figure it out. Do it wrong first, you can always fix it later. Just start the journey. Become comfortable with messy progress.
All too often we race through life toward some arbitrary finish line. Sometimes that finish line is set by others or by societal expectations. We often try to direct the process, thinking that we know best what the outcome should be. We force a path or direction instead of letting life unfold as it’s meant to, forgetting how to let it be.
All too often, we forget that happiness is unlikely to be found at that arbitrary endpoint. There will not be a magical sign once you’ve reached that goal line that says, “you made it, you are now happy.” Or “You’ve arrived, happiness is here.” The happiness is actually there throughout the entire process, if only we hadn’t been so focused on the endpoint. The joy was actually in the journey. When we are able to remember that along the way, it makes reaching the goal that much sweeter.
Learning to appreciate the process and letting life take shape around you are great correlations between creating art and living life. Layer by layer, day by day, move with a combination of intention and grace, while learning to let it be. Not everything needs to be controlled and managed. Life is so much more beautiful if you watch it unfold as it’s meant to. Trust the process, take your time. Patience is truly a virtue. The joy is in the journey.
Next time you find yourself focusing on the endpoint and feeling sad, frustrated, worried or annoyed that you haven’t achieved your goal or reached your destination, try this. Stop in your tracks. Look around you and take notice. Notice the beauty at this very moment in your journey. What stage do you find yourself in? What is beautiful about this stage? This place? This moment? I can almost assure you, there will be something.
Perhaps it isn’t as beautiful as the endpoint you are envisioning, but I can guarantee you there is something in this stage that is incredible. If you choose to take notice, it just may help to propel you down your path and allow you to appreciate your journey along the way.
“Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.“
Credit to John Lennon and Paul McCartney for such wise and beautiful words.
Credit to Ms. Kim at the art studio for your steadfast patience in working with beginners and for sharing your passion with the world.
Credit to my daughter for getting me to the art class right when I needed it.
If you are interested in learning to paint with watercolors, I highly recommend checking out Jenna Rainey. She has a ton of free resources including numerous YouTube tutorials, inexpensive books, as well as paid courses. I am so inspired by her work.
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