Tag Archives: hope

Art Vs Dark

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Why is it when you fall out of a habit, it’s so damned hard to get back into it? I was shocked to see how long I let this blog lay fallow. But it’s a new year, and I’m determined to try to dust off this habit and write something useful—well that is to be determined by you—but after a year like 2016, let’s try and do this together. Meet here once in a while? Sure. If you’re willing, I’m willing.

I’ve been on a zero news diet for the past week and lo and behold I find myself spontaneously dancing to Spotify, whistling through hallways and making small joyous pirouettes across my floors. What is going on? What is this feeling? So unusual after months of clenched worry, tightened throat and disbelief at the daily news cycle that obliterated logic and ushered in a new era of post-truth. I realized that the constant streaming of bad news from all media channels was creating a kind of tension fog in my brain. Once cleared, I was able to feel and sense the world around me and voila! The immediate world was a beautiful place I had forgotten still existed.

Look, as a Canadian I won’t lie, the situation south of the border is unnerving. Disturbing. Nightmarish in fact. But what use are we if we’re addled with worry and crouched in a position of terrorized protection?

Having to not go to the day job certainly plays a part in this newfound joyous feeling as does sleeping lots and reading essays by Joan Didion in the middle of the day. Also, how do we forget the healing power of snacks? Triscuits and Baba Ganoush are an old time favourite set on my grandma’s china beside my lap as I thumb through the soft feathery pages of a novel. The wide openness of these days feels like a tide that is not relentless as it comes in but rather like a pool being filled for summer. Inside, I clap and dive in with the joy of having time to just swim to where I want to go and not to where someone tells me.

But with a year passing behind, there’s no denying that I’m getting older. Well, we all are I’m afraid. I know some of you with tighter skin and dazzlingly impervious triceps may not yet know this, but mortality is the polite person at our elevator waiting for the cue to close the doors. As the ice obstinately circles my apartment sidewalks and coats the street with defiance that it can, yes it can, bring us West Coast wusses to our proverbial knees, there is a blue sky above, food in my fridge and a warm radiator. My son has grown a thicker beard and is, like me, gearing up for January courses that will have us pulling our hair our by mid-term. But luckily we have marvelously thick hair so I know we’ll survive.

The point is, instead of going back to the daily news museum of horrors, I’m going to strengthen my outpost here on earth. I am going to shore up supplies like compassion and empathy. I’m going to stock the larder with patience, contemplation, and a tich of keep-my-mouth-shut. I will fortify my defenses with sweet, rational boundaries that are forgiving but infinitely healthy. I will let family in and welcome them with soup and honesty. They can come or go if they don’t find the recipe to their liking. At night I will imagine throwing fistfuls of star light to children dying from the darkness, in whatever form, by bomb, by slap, by word, by starvation, by humiliation. I will love the child I was given, and try to stop from telling, do more showing and be there if he falls off whatever log he’s using to cross the river.

I’m going to dance on my slippery floors in the face of annihilating headlines and ALL CAPS tweets from a deranged president. Because my defiant joy is better than my coiled, quiet fear.

Our creativity needs to stay sharp in 2017. I hope you will join me and create art against the dark.

Here’s to your healthy happy love-filled 2017. I will see you here more often, I promise.

*I will be using the hashtag #artvsdark to tag my writing, collaborations and artwork this year. Feel free to use this to strengthen our collective light in the world.

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Air-born in 2012

It isn’t easy to escape your life I thought to myself as I pulled the covers over my head yesterday and tried to hide. Then I realized it wasn’t my life I wanted to escape. I actually wanted to step into my life more fully. What I was doing was shedding an old skin that no longer fit me.

Vulnerable.

That’s what you are with brand new skin and no hide.

Vulnerability. The very thing I’d worked tirelessly to avoid being.

Now. Deep, deep breaths. Wind in my hair. A little vertigo as I look down. My toes on the edge of a 40 story building about to swan dive from my old life. The phrase ‘on a hope and a prayer’ comes to mind.

What choice do you have when your old life, your old skin, no longer serves you but holds you back, tied like apron strings to a way of being in the world you no longer recognize as ‘you’?

Cut them.

Soar.

Send me lots of your prayers for 2012. I know they’ll help me fly.

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‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.’

The other day I had the pleasure of listening to an amazing lecture on leadership. I marveled how this speaker was truly himself–allowing all his humour, foibles, stories, failures, dreams to be utterly exposed and how he lived his life and chose his career based on whether he was having fun or not. At first, I thought, isn’t that kind of a frivolous measurement? But then as he told his story, I realized what courage that actually took. To stare down complacency. To stand up to the lure of security. To defy reason. To seek, instead, to have fun in his life and in his work and if he wasn’t, then to assert change so that he was experiencing joy. At one point, he quit a job where he was about as high up as you could go, because he wasn’t having fun. How many of us can say the same?

Frivolous? I think not.

Another lesson I took away from this lecture was that most powerful lessons are, in fact, kind of obvious. Over the past few weeks, I’ve really been seeing some staring-in-my-face life lessons that were there all along but I am just starting to truly ‘see’ them now. I was kind of beating myself up about it the other day about getting these lessons so late in life when I realized that was just undermining the learning. Waste of time. Get the lesson. Apply it. No matter that it seems simplistic–apparently, the really big lessons all are. Okay, good to know!

There’s a famous poem I’ve loved my whole life called Invictus, and at various points I’ve thought I ‘got it’ but this poem is truly lifelong learning–you always can apply it in a different way according to where you are, what you are struggling with, or overcoming. It never stops teaching. Where the poet William Henley writes, ‘I thank God for my unconquerable soul‘, I just smile, because if I lost everything, I know I would still have this gift–an unconquerable soul. All too often, however, people just give up, and surrender to hopelessness. I was talking to a friend the other night who had done just that. Given up on life, on relationships, on hope and I had a bleak 20 minutes or so after talking to him where I was kind of empathizing and thinking, is that vision true of the world? No. I won’t allow it to be for me. If there is anything I have passed on to my son, it is this undying belief in one’s self and I am thankful for his endless resilience in the face of terrible odds.

No matter what people may say about you, no matter what they think, no matter your circumstance, you alone say yes or no, you alone choose misery or fun, love or hate, despair or joy. If you resolve you have no choice then indeed you have none. ‘I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.’

Seek fun over ‘work’.

My favourite line however, is when Henley writes,Under the bludgeonings of chance/My head is bloody, but unbowed.’ Ah yes, chance, that hapless destroyer! Of this I can speak with experience: I have had two brothers killed in freak accidents, by minute moments of weird and uncontrolled chance, where had they been one second closer or farther, sooner, or later, they may have lived. And yet, we have to continue, to not let this ‘bludgeoning’ break us. The simple lesson, ‘life is for the living’, comes to mind, that we must deny despair and choose joy and yes, I can tell you it requires tremendous courage and leadership despite the ‘fell clutch of circumstance’.

Here is the poem in its entirety, I hope it brings you as much inspiration as it has to me over the years.It is simply written but I think you’ll find lots of lessons here to apply.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

-By William Ernest Henley


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