Why Do You Do What You Do Each Day?

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Kindred Spirits II

“Kindred Spirits” acrylic on canvas

What makes you get up in the morning? Is it a loved one? Is it your children or a mad desire to plan and organize? Is it a purposeful job that gets your creative juices going?

Why do you do what you do? Are your efforts passion driven for the sake of enjoyment and fulfillment or do you dread every moment and wish you were doing something else?

A paycheck drives most of us. Without it none of our dreams can come true. But in spite of that, if you’re born to create, nothing, not money, road blocks, handicaps or problems can keep you from doing what you were born to do.

Some people keep plodding along for the “fringe benefits:” a company car, health care supplements and bonuses.  Entrepreneurs build businesses so they may have more freedom to pursue their personal vision of success. Fringe benefits come through tax breaks, incentives and the “cost of doing business.”

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“Moonlight Magic” 11×14 acrylic on canvas

Human behavior is usually based on “what’s in it for me.” In negotiations, the buyer and seller must agree on what’s mutually beneficial to both. When someone does something nice for us, we feel like reciprocating; it’s a two-way street.

On a more personal level, when someone is kind to us, we are more likely to be kind to someone else. Every action has a reaction. Give a negative remark or a physical rebuff in a moment of impatience and watch the domino affect disperse outward to everyone else; cause and effect.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Don’t confuse loud, obnoxious behavior with strength. There is great power in self-containment. A person who can face the world unafraid without having to dominate every situation is strong and in control. Self-confidence is built on clear, concise choices that build bridges not walls.

Tickles from God

“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas

There is a Biblical phrase that says: “Cast your bread upon the water and it will come back to you.” We get what we give. If you are always out to “get people” before they get you that’s what you will receive in the end. Life has a way of dealing honestly with us. Even our faces at the end of life can betray what kind of a life we have lived and how much love we have given away.

Note that I didn’t say “how much love we have received.” I made a point of saying “how much love we have given away.” Like the bread (action) that is scattered on the water, our deeds will come back to us in greater measure. The more we shed light and love upon others, the greater the portion that comes back to us.

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

“A Joyful Heart,” 11 x 14 pastel on Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Some people wallow in self pity thinking that they never get enough of life’s goodness and pleasure. They hold on so tightly to what they have that they smother any chances for expansion or growth. In order to receive, we must first be an influence for good. If you don’t believe it, see what happens when you smile at someone in a long line of people.

Some will shy or turn away, after all, you’re a stranger. But don’t give up. Keep a positive attitude. Continue to smile. If someone bumps into you and apologizes, accept their apology. Don’t always be on the defensive. Not everyone is out to get you. Do some apologizing of your own. Thank people for their courtesy.

Now imagine every smile, every positive action radiating outward and repeated by others who pass your goodwill on to someone else. Like waves on the ocean, the tide shifts outward and inward. The ripple effect comes back to you with more positive vibes than you sent out in the first place.

Living in the Present and Letting Go of the Past

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Sea Swirls

“Sea Swirls” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Today is all you have. If you’re future focused, you may miss out on the blessings right under your nose. If you dwell on the past, you may end up with a heart full of regrets and sadness. No matter how much you would like to go back, the past is out of your control. You can’t change it. Ever!

Tomorrow is not yours, either. Predictions are foolish. Wishes are senseless, unless they’re backed up with action. Concentrate on today’s duties and obligations. There may be pain. There is often unhappiness; but if you’re honest, there are also priceless moments of joy: sunlight coming through the window and landing on a sparkling glass; the smell of peanut butter; birdsong in the quiet of afternoon; drawing a warm bath; a church bell in the distance, slipping tired feet into fuzzy slippers. You just have to watch for these mini-miracles. Savor the few and let the rest go.

Sea Breeze

“Sea Breeze” acrylic on 30×24 canvas

My mother used to say “If you want to retain your sense of humor – read the funny papers!” She was right. Even online jokes and funny stories can change your day. I received one that gave me a huge belly laugh when I finished reading it. What if I’d skipped that email, thinking I was too busy and had no time to waste? I’d have stayed down in the dumps and perhaps been impossible to live with for the remainder of the day. Don’t miss out on a chance to laugh!

Turn up the music and dance. Never wait until you’re in the mood. Do it now! It’s good exercise. If you stop feeling sorry for yourself, you may end up casting those bad feelings aside in a whirl or a jiggle. It’s hard to keep frowning when you’re jiving to the rhythm or swaying with a child in your arms. Go on – gyrate! Get those feet tapping to the music.

Connect with someone. Loneliness hurts! Pick up the phone. If nothing else, turn on the T.V. and listen to other people’s complaints. Hold your pet. Hug someone! Get out of the house and do something. The more you nurse your aloneness, the more alone you’ll feel. Stay connected until you feel better. People need people. You may still feel alone unless you share your grief with someone else. Sharing makes others feel better, too.

Sea Nymph

“Sea Nymph” acrylic on 24×18 canvas

Go for a walk. Yes, I know, you don’t feel like it; but do it anyway!  I walked ten miles one day and still didn’t feel any better than when I started, but I managed to sleep well that night. If that’s all you get out of your walk, at least you may feel better in the morning. Walking gets your blood moving. Sometimes depression may be as simple as lack of adequate blood flow to the brain. A sedentary person ages faster because the muscles and bones are starving for the life blood that stimulates and feeds them. On your walk, count the number of people you pass. Try to remember their faces. The next time you see them, greet them with a smile and a friendly hello.

If you earnestly try to do the above and you still feel like you’re stuck in a deep dark pit, get help! After my divorce, I was confused, lost and completely alone. My former friends had disappeared. My neighbors turned their heads when I passed. New friends were mostly users who took advantage of my vulnerability. I sought out help. A psychologist prescribed Prozac and I began to feel like a new person. I could think clearly, gauge my surroundings more realistically, and I regained my usual optimistic personality. Never try to go it alone. Give yourself every opportunity to get well!

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“Broken Hearted” pastel on 11×14 Bristol; matted and ready to frame

Concentrate on your own needs for a change. You’re having trouble helping yourself. This isn’t the time to change the world. Focus on you. Don’t worry about the past. Quit fretting about the future. Take one day at a time, one step at a time. Get help from a professional, and by all means, follow your doctor’s advice. If he or she says “Don’t drink” that’s what they mean (alcohol and medications don’t mix). If they say you should stay away from negative friends who pull you downward, follow their advice.

Whether you sink or swim, the job of wellness is yours. If you continue to thumb your nose at those who offer help and disregard sound advice, you will be playing the “poor me” game for the rest of your life.

Yes, you can do it! You were made for joy and happiness. Quit comparing yourself to others and start noticing your own progress. Rejoice in simple achievements. Don’t allow others to take you back to that dark place. If that means leaving certain people behind, do it! You are on a journey of health and wellness. You have a right to be happy. You are “divinely and beautifully made.” Reach for what your own heart cries out and yearns for. Don’t look back!

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“First Daffodil” mixed media on canvas

My dancing heart; ravings from a ballet wanna’ be

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Dainty Diva, mixed media on canvas

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to become a dancer. My friends took dancing lessons. Why not me?  After begging and pleading with my mother, she finally consented.

I was ecstatic until I climbed the steps of Ms. Movita’s back porch, opened the door and descended down the steep wooden steps into her basement studio. Fear and insecurity welled up inside and turned me into a speechless vegetable.

I’d been here before. I’d watched my friends do pas de bourrees’ and plies’. I knew the names of all their moves from First to Fifth Position, Sautes’ and everything else in between.

I watched the first class dance to the beat of Ms. Movita’s piano which she playfully pounded while tapping her gigantic pink ballet slipper up and down in time with the music. If a student had a problem, she’d leap from her seat and demonstrate the proper foot position all while banging on the piano. Her fingers flew over the keys, her head nodding in cadence. She’d repeat this exercise until the student got it right. In her class, no child was left behind.

Ms. Movita’s hair was carrot red and tied in a lump of curls on top. When she sang out commands to her troupe every vibrant part of her was fully engaged. Students whispered behind her back, but on the floor she expected complete obedience. There was no-nonsense or sloughing off in her presence. You either did your best or she asked you to leave.

I waited in the parent seats until it was my turn to join the class. Since I was a beginner, she added me to a group that had been dancing only a few short months. The first 30 minutes were spent on ballet and the next 30 minutes on tap dancing. She had agreed that I could dance in my stocking feet until my mother could purchase the needed shoes. How long was this arrangement to last? I had no idea, but my heart was prepared to dance forever.

When it was my turn to perform, I felt like an over-baked pretzel; stiff and unbending. It had looked so easy for the other girls. They smoothly folded into fifth position and fourth. Would I be able to imitate their perfection?

Every night in our living room, I practiced pointing my toes, doing my plies’ and stretches. My parents applauded while straining their necks over and around me to watch their favorite T.V. programs.

After school, I walked to Ms. Movita’s house so I could watch the other student’s lessons. Her door was always open. If I could hear the piano, I knew a class was in session. I let myself in and quietly took my place on the sidelines. Then I’d go home and practice what I’d seen.

And then tragedy struck. My youngest and dearest uncle Vern was killed in an automobile accident. He had served in World War II and survived Hitler’s rampage only to come home and get killed in an auto accident when someone ran a red light. The irony was overwhelming.

Vern was my father’s brother and the baby of the family. The sorrow and agony suffocated everyone. I cried for days, remembering how he walked into our house singing: “It’s only me from over the sea, I’m Barnacle Bill the Sailor.” He’d lift me up on his shoulders and I thought he was strong and invincible.

After the funeral, things went from bad to worse. A wave of darkness and negativity crept over our household and into the neighborhood. This gloom invaded every aspect of our lives. All of a sudden, my mother had no money for dancing lessons let alone ballet and tap shoes. There was no time for frivolity and play. We wept on the inside even when we weren’t crying outwardly. Part of all of us died that year.

After school, I still visited Ms. Movita’s classes. The twanging piano and the lively students picked up my spirits, but they also saddened me. I realized I would never become a dancer.

One day, Ms. Movita asked me to leave. She said the open back door was only for dancers, and that the chairs were for parents and new students. I was crushed and disappointed. In defiance I danced even more at home. Ms. Movita, my mother couldn’t stop me! No one would stop me from dancing.

Later when I had a family of my own, I was still dancing in the living room. In our culture, dancing was considered frivolous and money for lessons was out of the question. I danced to the music, anyway. I told people it was good exercise and that it helped me stay in shape. When the children were young, they danced in wild abandonment with me. As they grew older, they thought it was silly. They teased me whenever I’d try to dance the latest craze. I’d become “old hat.”

Finally, my dancing shoes were put aside. I vented my creative energies into writing and painting. But I still have a dancing heart.