Today, I had an interesting conversation with my student office assistant, a very smart and mindful young woman. After sharing a link to a TED talk with her, she and I began discussing the turning point in our lives when we didn’t like where we were, better yet, who we were. She is braver than me, as she recognized she was not being the person she was capable of being while she was still in her teens. I was a late bloomer, I was 30. But, each of us had a moment of clarity, a moment we realized we could be so much more and this would require change from within. Perspective, promise and courage. Those three words were used throughout the conversation as we shared how we chose to change things in our lives to put us on the right track, but more importantly, how we viewed the world around us and our role in the world. Perspective, she said, more than once. Courage, we each said, to make the change. Promise, the unspoken word we shared between us, the promise of a new life, a better “me.” And we agreed this moment of clarity happens more than once in a person’s life, especially if one wants to continue to grow.
This conversation verified why a few weeks ago I signed up for an online e-course by Brené Brown, writer and research professor and through the OWN network. The class utilizes art and Brown’s bestselling book, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” to help one lead a wholehearted life, or “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.” Now, I’m usually not one to sign up for such things, to participate in something so touchy-feely and scrapbooky-self-helpy. But after viewing Brown’s internet-famous TED talk on vulnerability during a leadership conference, I became very interested in specific things she focused, specifically looking at the things that get in our way, belonging and owning our story.
As a writer, I’ve always struggled with letting the emotion flow out on the page. I’ve been accused of holding back, of stifling the pain, possibly because I don’t want to recognize the pain. There seems to be something getting in the way of my ability to let go when writing, to open up, own it. I can’t and my writing suffers. It feels stunted at times, shallow, faded. Sometimes, there’s a hint of it, a touch of that grief or anger just on the surface, but then it disappears. What’s holding me back? Me. So, when Brené spoke of allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to stop numbing emotion, and let go of self-doubt, I was intrigued. Could this researcher and her art journal class help me find clarity? Funny, in the very first class assignment she spoke of setting our intentions to gain clarity, meaning and purpose. Hmm.
And how will we embark on this journey? Through weekly reading assignments, video how-to’s and lectures, and an art journal. My new art supplies are stacked on the dining room table: 24-cake watercolors, 24 brightly colored markers, two black fine point pens, double-sided tape, construction paper, a few stamps, and an art journal. I just completed the first art journal assignment and I admit I’m a little iffy on this journey, especially since my watercolor was more water than color. I was reminded why I didn’t really like kindergarten. I was not the child who loved to cut construction paper rings and glue stuff together. My favorite part of the morning was the reading circle, go figure. So, I clumsily finished the assignment, pondering if I should give my paints and markers to my artistic husband, toss the journal and just read the book, when the assignment closed with a quote: “She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.”
I’m at another point in my life where I’m seeking a change. It’s different this time because I love my life, I like where I am, I even like who I am, but there is something keeping me from feeling satisfied, from feeling whole. So, I’ll allow myself to feel uncomfortable and disorganized and inartistic as I slop watercolors and scribble in my journal. I’ll read and take notes and hope it will be worth it in the end. When the paints are half empty and the colors dribbled together, the markers dry, and the journal unable to close completely, packed with handmade paper envelopes, photos, stamps, and words, I hope to understand how to go from living a hole-hearted life to a life of wholeheartedness, a life that encourages me to feel the pain, feel the joy, feel imperfect, feel scared, and be okay with all of it.