Monday, January 30, 2012

Too Timid

I started taking an art class recently. It is something I have been interested in for a long time, but never had the opportunity or inclination until now. If all goes well, I will be oil painting in a month or so. But for now I am focused on using charcoal and learning how to convert squares, triangles and circles into wine bottles, apples, pears, etc. The substitute instructor we had the first two weeks was impatient with my lack of experience, and when I asked her for her assessment of my first effort, she replied, "Too timid," and walked on. I was a bit deflated, but in the spirit of trying to be open to learning, I thought long and hard about her words: too timid.

It made me think about how I used to color. Most kids either press hard and get bright colors between the lines, or scribble indiscriminately in the general vicinity of the space they're trying to color. But not me. I was not one of those kids. I was the kid who meticulously placed a hard, dark outline around the area to be colored, and then finished with a perfectly light shade of pastel inside the lines. It was all so perfect, so nearly invisible, so understated. So timid.

I realize that I have been living much of my life this way. I was shy and quiet in grade school (earning the end of the year, tongue in cheek award of "biggest talker"), shy and reserved in social situations in college, and as an adult, always willing to go along with whatever my best friend or partner wanted to do. The only time I have felt authentically me is when I have been in the woods or on my bike, or outside somewhere in nature. That is the only time I feel completely free, willing to grab life and embrace it fully.

Today, while I was working on shading one of my still lifes in art class, I took the charcoal pencil and made a bold stroke to show shade. The effect was quite dramatic! Not only did the picture look more realistic, but I felt more confident, more alive, more like an artist. It wasn't exactly transformative, but it felt like the beginning of something.

So think about how you're living your life. Are you a spectator? Someone who makes commentary but never fully commits to the act of living? Timid, fearful, looking for a contented life versus a full life? Or are you one of those who lives by the command Carpe Diem? Perhaps it is recognizing that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind me that has caused me to stop and assess. Maybe I'm just finally recognizing that there is no negative consequence to being true to myself. I for one am grateful to the impatient art instructor who made such an astute, albeit blunt, observation. Here's to the end of timidity!Here's to a life fully lived!

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