It's been quite the year for me...downsized out of my job, losing a substantial amount of pay, learning a new job, losing my husband, losing my dog. In between, I've had some amazing experiences that have kept me going when everything seemed lost...Las Vegas, Australia, Virginia, California. My son coming home to live with me a mixed blessing since that stretched my salary even thinner. Despite these moments, I have to confess that much of the time I felt like the steel ball in a pinball machine...being bounced from place to place, up and down, left and right and just when I think I have earned my rest, I get caught in a flapper and am sent back in the game to do it all again.
I've grieved, I've raged and, at times, I've given up. I've been drifting in a thick fog waiting for another shoe to drop, my feelings locked up in a straight jacket. Losing my faith. Feeling very alone....and sometimes scared. I wavered on giving up on art and seeking a second job, thinking there was no other way to go, but dreading the loss of my days off, the only time I have to breath. Yet there was the promise of unpaid furlough days, higher insurance premiums, and a future demotion and I needed to be on top of that...in control...as if that is even possible anymore. Decisions to make...no more retreats or classes to take, no more art supplies, art dates, magazines or books, nothing but the basics, you see. Doom and gloom pervaded my thinking.
But then a serendipitous meeting with a fellow instructor, took place and she offered me a teaching spot at her new retreat (more on this in my next post). Despite my resolve to give up art, I found myself eagerly accepting. I spent three days in her class and the art flowed from my fingers. We took a class together at Art and Soul and the art kept coming. I ran into many of my friends at the Art and Soul Vendor Fair, and the warm blanket of friendship and caring that can only come from the friends you share in art washed over me. And I realized that I had focused so stubbornly on staying safe and in control, I had almost abandoned the very thing that makes life worth living.
Then came a wonderful offer from one of the members of my art group, Portland Art Collective, asking if I could take her spot at our annual fall retreat at Menucha since she was unable to go? I had wanted to go so much, but knew the responsible thing to do was to stay home and save money. But here it was, a present gifted to me at the time I needed it most. And over the next three days, in the cradle of this beautiful setting in the Columbia River Gorge, in the company of friends and artists, I felt myself becoming alive.
I realized I focused so much on what I had lost and was losing, I had neglected to give thanks for what I had....and what I had was so much more valuable than what I had lost. Instead of living in the present and practicing gratitude, I was living in the fearful future world of if's and might's, and in the past, where dark loss dominated the landscape. All the jobs and possessions in the world, do not come close to the value of friendship and the passion to create.
Life's still pretty scary, but I have my art, my friends and my faith that I will never be handed more than I can survive. And I know so many people that have so much less to count on. And each day I will practice gratitude that I still breath the sweet morning air...hear the geese singing themselves south...and see the flame of the fall trees as they celebrate their end in a blaze of glory. And thanks most of all, to all of you, for holding me true to my path in art and being there to show me the way.