Monday, September 23, 2013

The difference

Something I have been having trouble with it trying to tell the difference between being happy making art for myself, and being happy making art for the approval of others. I am constantly reminded that the only way that I can be truly happy with the work that I do, is when I do it for myself. Sadly, I am super self-conscious. I want people to like what I make. It is like when I sit down to watch one of my favorite movies with someone who has never seen it before, and I sit there hoping they will like it so that I can validate my own taste level. I want to hear other people approve of what I have already made the decision to like.

It's not like I don't have the ability to pick out things that I like on my own. I just want to be sure that once I have made that kind of decision that other people can appreciate them the same way I do. That is why it took me so long to start producing my art to put out there for the general population to see. I have been making stuff for my family for years, and they have liked it, but that really doesn't say much, because sentiment and the fact that they cannot tell me how they really feel because they have to live with me. I have always wanted an unbiased group of people to like my work, but have also been afraid that they may not like it.

It reminds me of that moment in Back to the Future, where bot Marty and his dad have made a similar comment regarding their passion. "I just don't know if I can take that kind of rejection." Marty was a musician and George was an author and it is true for me as well working as a painter and even writing here on this blog. Putting yourself out there can be scary, and make you lose sight of why you are doing this to begin with. You can become blinded to why you are doing this in the first place. When you are always worried that people aren't going to like what you are doing you forget that you are doing this because you like it not really for them. Yeah it is going to suck to. But if you give it up because people don't really appreciate what you are doing you are never going to get the practice you need to get better. Then they are never going to get the exposure to your work that they need in order to truly appreciate it.

Why was it that you picked the creative arts? What made you want to paint in the first place? Let's be honest with ourselves. It had nothing to do with what you parents wanted, or your friends were doing, or what your teachers thought. You and I picked the fine arts of one sort or another, because we just liked doing them. There is something about that world of creation that makes us happy. Yes, we want people to like them too, but like with that movie you like. It is not going to change your mind about the movie if your friend doesn't like it too. It is still going to be your favorite because somewhere  in your soul it resonates with you.

I after much reluctance have put my work out there, and I have to admit to myself that I would love for people to like what it is that I do. It does stroke my ego to get the approval of people. It would give me some sense of validation to my work. But I need to always keep perspective. I don't do this for people to tell me it is good, and give me a pat on the back, or even buy my art. I do this so that I can feel the joy of a creative outlet. I do this because my soul longs to do this, to make something. I cannot lose sight of why I am making art, or it will become job, and what made it fun for me to do will be lost, and I will no longer find the joy in it that I did before. It won't be my art any more, because I will so be consumed with pleasing others that I will lose sight of what made me like it so much to begin with.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Recognizing beauty

When I was in high school I spent a lot of time browsing the internet for nothing more than pictures of pretty things. I copied folders, discs, thumb drives, you name it with pictures of things that I thought were pretty. I spent loads of time just trying to appreciate pretty things. There were obviously some I liked better than others, but I would literally just sit there, look at the screen, and appreciate the beauty that other people had managed to capture in those little lighted pixels.

When I had learned about what Plato described as the idea of beauty, it made me think about why it was that I collected these images. Plato thought of things as Forms. Beauty is a Form or an ideal. There is really no existing object in the world that can embody all of the aspects of beauty, but objects that you call beautiful have some aspect or another of what would be considered part of the Form of beauty. It is an idea in your head of what beauty is, not an actual thing. Each person perceives the Form of beauty in their own way. Thus what aspects are contained in the Form of beauty, can be debated by individuals. For example the color of an apple can be the aspect of beauty that you see in the apple. Thus Beauty must be in part the color of that apple. Another example is the smell of a tree. If that is something associated with beauty, then the Form of beauty must include both the color of the apple and the smell of the tree. So, if a person were to try to convey the entire essence of the Form of beauty, they would spend the rest of their life trying to collect all of these aspects, and in the end, most likely have collected the entire world as a demonstration of beauty.

That last bit is part of my own conclusion. Because it occurred to me that if I were to completely understand why it was I had so many countless images of beauty collected on my computer, and yet I was still collecting them, I needed to understand the Form of beauty. When I understood that no single picture or object could account for all of the aspects of the Form of beauty, I decided to change my way of thinking. I didn't need to search for that illusive picture that I could look at and find perfect beauty. All I had to do was to recognize the aspects of beauty in everything that is around me.

This idea changes the way you can see the world around you. when you are looking for aspects of a Form in everything you will probably find it. Everything has at least one aspect of beauty about it. When you learn to recognize that aspect of beauty in an everyday object, it is harder to take that object for granted any more. It is in part Beautiful and that is really all you can hope for since nothing can personify all of the beauty.

What all of this had taught me is that even when the house is a mess, and I feel disheveled and not nearly as pretty as I want to be, I and my home at least still share some aspects with the Form of beauty. When I feel down about my own looks, I can still see that I am not completely ugly, the color of my hair is still an aspect of beauty, or the shape of my eyes are an aspect of beauty. When it feel like the house is an uncontrollable  mess I can at least say that I still surround myself with things of beauty. The dirt on the floor has some aspect of beauty, and the dirty dishes still have aspects of beauty, even if they are covered in grime.

I try not to let this reasoning stop me from maintaining my house, but I also realize that it is still beautiful in its own way. I just work to clean and keep up appearances to include more aspects of beauty in my home, but when it is messy, it is not like I have no beauty around me to appreciate. It is just a little hidden, all I have to do it look at it in the right light to find it again.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Finding Satifaction

There is nothing more gratifying that making progress on a task, or a job well done. The hard part is getting to that point. There can be so much in between beginning and end, that we sometime feel like we are never going to make it to the end. I can often get stuck in a loop, where I don't really have motivation to do anything, because I know just how much work is going to have to be done to get it completion, that I just don't know how to get started. I sit there and think, I just don't want to put in the effort. This leads to my being lazy the rest of the day, and then I feel like crap, because I didn't end up doing anything with my time. Then because I feel like crap I don't feel like I can do anything, and so I don't, thus making myself feel even worse. All this leads to a sad downward spiral.

It is an interesting paradox. I don't want to put in effort, then I feel bad that I didn't put effort into anything. My laziness and my self worth fight each other on a continual basis. I have learned that you have to use logic to help self worth win the fight over laziness. Laziness doesn't use logic, it's just to lazy to do it. Laziness is made up of dreams, a crazy illogical place where you are supposed to feel good about thinking about things you want to do. Self worth is made up of achievements, where you have done the things that make you feel good, and thus you actually feel good. Laziness is an illusion of happiness, where as Self worth actually is happiness.

So, what do I do everyday to get myself going? I think about this logic. I think to myself, Will I actually be happier if I sit here on the couch today watching movies, or will I feel happier and more content if I clean the house, do some writing, and work on some of my art work? Will playing another pointless game on my phone actually bring meaning to my life? Or will playing with my kid bring meaning to my life?

When I have successfully played out the logic of my actions, I usually pull myself out of the couch, and go do something. It is at that point that I realize that, hey, this really isn't as bad as laziness has made it out to be. This work really isn't as grueling or terrible as my illogical dream world of laziness lead me to believe. I gain that sense of satisfaction of having been productive during the day, and in the end find true happiness rather than pretended happiness.

There are many ways to work out the logic that will pull you out of the people eating couch. The first step is to just do it. Pull yourself out of the black hole, and give yourself a task. This is why people break goals down into steps, because they can look at things from a different perspective, and not feel so overwhelmed by a task that laziness's argument wins. If you are looking for instant gratification, then pick a smaller task to work on at the moment, and then work up to the bigger one. The mental high of satisfaction gained from a small task well done, can help you along the way to completing those more difficult challenges. Instant gratification doesn't have to come from eating an ice cream sandwich, but can come from a clean kitchen, or a swept floor. Something that only takes minutes of productivity, can steam roll into greatness if you will let it continue to motivate you into action. Use this a positive reinforcement. An upward spiral can be just as effective as the downward spiral that laziness can create.

Self worth comes when you are done with even the simplest of goals. As job well done can boost your confidence in your abilities. It can also show you just how much you are truly capable of. Laziness will tell you every day that you are not up to par. When you complete a task you get to tell laziness that it is full of crap and it should take a hike, because you a capable productive individual full of self worth, and you don't need the crazy illogical dream world full of false happiness that laziness offers.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Me party

Being a stay at home mom is like having any other job, plus being on call 24/7. You have daily tasks and responsibilities, on going projects, and deadlines. Though they may be different from what the average person may do on the job, they are still very real and very important. The only real difference is that you don't get paid for all of your work (with money that is. Smiles and giggles can be just as much payment some days.)

Every job I have had in the past has not been nearly as consuming as being a parent. That is obvious to anyone who knows anything about parenting. Most people don't have to live with their work, look at it every day, know that this particular project doesn't have an end date, and make sure that it doesn't talk back to them. That is, unless they are making robots, and in that case they want their work to talk back to them. Still, being stuck with your work bound to your side at all times can be a bit challenging. I have found that I lose who I am to all of the time that I am investing into the kid. I get to the point that I am defining myself by how good my kid is doing at meeting developmental goals, rather than trying to define myself as a being, separate from him. I become part of him, because I am like his needed appendage that takes care of all of his bodily functions. Without me he wouldn't have food, or be able to take care of his waste, or get around. He makes constant requests of me, and I respond like a third arm that just happens to be more skilled that the two that he actually owns.

This can be come a little depressing when I look at if from that perspective. So what do I do to alleviate that kind of internal struggle? I have a hobby. I take a little time during the day, like when he is napping or playing nicely on the floor by himself, to do something that makes me happy. Something that makes just me happy. Not just him or us, me. I take some time during the day to have a Me Party ( I literally sing the song in my head while I am doing these activities.

My art and my writing and all of the up keep of these things I enjoy doing, have become my daily Me Party. Every one has hobbies outside of work. I don't think anybody is so one dimensional that all of what they are can be entirely summed up by what they do during work. Everyone I know has to have something outside of work to help them unwind, and give themselves more depth in life. Being a stay at home mom is no exception. I still feel it necessary to have hobbies, and do things that are not associated with being a mom. It has become my release for the day, and absolutely essential to keeping me sane.

It is okay to be selfish a little bit every day. I think everybody needs that kind of time to pursue things that they really care about, in order to stay sane and civil. No one should ever make you feel bad for having yourself a little Me Party every once in a while. If we didn't I am pretty sure all of us would be depressed and angry all of the time. Don't worry a little Me Party is healthy.