Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ode stole my heart.

Ode. Pronounced O-Day. Meaning "heart" in Ojibwa.

I have fallen in love with this dog, Ode, so hard that I'm not even sure what to do. Every time I read an update about her, I am overpowered by such intense _________ (my god, there are not even words!). There's a reason why people associate the heart with love. My heart feels like it's going to turn inside out, sit down in front of me, and then burst into a thousand tears. The particles of my heart feel squeezed, pulled, under pressure.

Really, I barely know how to make sense of the weight and rawness I feel surrounding the effect that Ode's eyes have on me.

Although I love dogs, I am also a bit guarded in my affection for them. I wasn't always this way, but when my soul-dog, Abe, died several years ago, my whole world fell out from under me. Because of him, I love more deeply. But since then, to really-truly-deeply love a dog feels like such a huge risk to me. Sure, I love all dogs, immensely, but I limit myself to a certain level--a somewhat safe level. I love my wolfie, Anu, and Louie beyond words. I've granted them special permission to take up residence in the deepest part of my heart. But to give my heart away, personally and specifically, to a dog I don't yet even know? To Ode?

Ode raises the bar. Not only on love, but life.

Why does loving Ode feel like such a profound act of bravery? Because I know that in loving her to this degree, my life can't help but be altered. There are probably a 100 people (ore more!) that are willing to adopt her. For this, I am grateful. But, me oh my, what will I do with her still in my heart?


**photo taken by Ode's foster mom, borrowed from here.**

read more about Ode's story here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Be Brave: Week One in Review

Sheesh! Was that really the first week of recommitting to the Be Brave Project?

At the moment I am nestled in what I've come to term as my Sacred Space. That is, my bed. I've come here to regroup after a fairly intense week. Oh, but intense is something of an understatement.

I really wanted to make a tidy little list of all the scary things I've done this week. In doing so, I was hoping that it might be helpful to those individuals who are just getting used the idea of doing one brave thing every day. Sometimes it helps to have examples. Unfortunately, I am noticing that my life simply isn't submitting to a tidy bulleted list. Instead, my life feels more like an intricate wild mushroom design or a dandelion blossom gone to seed. You can make sense of that any which way that you would like...which is what I find myself trying to do as well.

I'm going to try for a bulleted list anyway and so here it is...

  • Let me just say that my meeting earlier this week with Marilou of Pet Haven has very well altered the mission of Stray Dog Arts and quite possibly changed my life in the process.
  • Started a painting to be exhibited in a show curated by the wonderful Kristine. And then finished it despite the fact that I'm not happy with the way it turned out. In the process, I learned that sometimes painting needs to be about more than turning out successful pieces. This time around, the act of creating simply helped me to listen to my heart. Somehow, I even managed to formulate an artist statement to explain my thoughts behind it.
  • Said no to a freelance opportunity that didn't fit me. This is a giant step away from the feeling of desperation that would have otherwise caused me to agree to the job, even though my intuition was telling me otherwise.
  • Attended a dog event at a local retail store that is carrying a line of my cards for the sake of networking. Even though I'm a fairly outgoing person, mingling with a crowd full of strangers takes an incredible amount of energy for me, but I'm glad to say that I repeatedly put myself out there and met some really wonderful people in the process.
  • Had several successful photo shoots and, in the process, am learning that I love working locally since it allows me more artistic freedom and the opportunity to paint from my own photos if I so desire.
  • Had a week filled with several meetings that I am absolutely excited about the potential that can grow from them--each for different reasons.
  • Declined an invitation to another networking event that I didn't feel would truly serve me. I was afraid I might hurt or offend the person who invited me. But this week I've learned that the things I invest my energy into need to hold meaning for me. I only have a limited about of time and energy. How do I want to use that energy? I've learned that when I am uncertain about what I should do, all I need to do is ask myself: "Does it hold meaning for me?" To make meaningful decisions doesn't mean that I have to be serious all the time. Heck, sometimes plain ol' fun is a good enough reason to do something. But I was exhausted and this particular event just wasn't me at all. Thankfully, the woman who invited me was totally understanding.
  • Cut back to ONE day a week at the garden shop--this is a compromise that, at the moment, feels good to me. I'll help them see their going out of business sale to the end--and hopefully get more of my own work done in the process.
  • Brought my laptop in and GOT IT FIXED after the poor thing had been sitting dormant on my desk for the past two months. I am currently snuggled up in bed with it right now. :) I was afraid that it would no longer be covered under warranty and this alone had kept me from even checking on it. How silly is that? My warranty doesn't expire until 2010!
  • Applied for a local dog event. Simply applying isn't what scares me so much as the application fee. It's not hugely expensive, but when I add it to all my other expenses it is a bit nerve racking when I'm not sure if the money will continue to be there. Strangely enough, an unexpected check showed up in my mail box the very same day! I'm not even making that up!!!
  • Ok, this one is kinda a big deal to me...but I lost 5 pounds! I have been wanting to lose the extra weight of grad school ever since I put it on. As I find myself moving into this newly self-created life I finally feel ready (and more determined) to actually succeed at my attempt. All I've done is completely cut simple carbohydrates out of my diet. Mind you, this has not actually been an easy task. My husband is Italian, after all! Not to mention I LOVE bread...and pasta and chips and crackers and... But I am amazed by how many healthy alternatives there are.
  • Went shopping for some new clothes. The ones I have are horribly faded and worn out. I needed something for Friday's event. Feeling stressed and with very little time, I would have liked to skip the whole endeavor...but I also needed to do something to feel better about my physical, tangible self. I tried on several outfits that looked fine and were inexpensive. I stood in the 3-way mirror looking at myself and questioning the outfit. I asked myself: "Do you really like it? Or are you just considering it because it covers up the parts you don't like?" That question, my friends, was a revelation! I put the outfit back and decided on 2 pieces that truly made me feel good.
  • Took some time to myself--right now--because I really, really needed it. I have so much painting to do...and yet, setting my perpetual fear of "falling behind" aside, I know that I need this moment of PAUSE in order to refuel so that I might actually get some real work done.

Well, that was my week in a short and condensed nutshell! It sort of feels like just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of things going on inside of me right now that I don't quite understand yet. It is as though there is a very fine string unraveling before me. I don't know exactly where it is leading me, but what is important right now is that I allow myself space of heart in order to follow it. If I don't, the string might break and I will lose my way. However, the fact that I've found this string at all is something I feel profoundly grateful for. My faith in grace, authenticity, success and growth feels stronger these days. I don't have any monetary reasons to feel that way--I just do.

What about you? I want to hear more about your week, too.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

don't give up

Yesterday, after a full morning of running around like a crazy person, I decided to treat myself to an hour at an art-filled coffee shop that I've always wanted to visit. I had an overdue artist statement to write for Kristine's show out in California and, with a long to-do list ahead of me, was desperately seeking enough breathing space to let the rather complicated thoughts untangle themselves into words.

I ordered my drink (an iced coffee) and asked where the restroom was.

The quiet, but smiling barista: Under the stairs.

Me: (as though this might be some sort of magical place) Where under the stairs?

The quiet, but smiling barista: Go down the stairs (he points to a dark corner) and take a right at the flashing red star.

Oh, well OK. Down the dark stairwell I went. The walls and floor were painted deep shades of red and black--cavernous, in an old building sort of way--rough stone arched doors leading in all sorts of directions. But then I spotted the flashing (more like pulsing) star, in the deepest corner of darkness, and there it was: the restroom, in all its graffiti glory. I shut the door behind me and, well...as you can see, I couldn't help but take a photo.

don't give up

Let me just say that those were, by far, the best directions I received all day.

After returning to a sunlit world and retrieving my iced coffee from the counter, I went and sat down on a couch in the corner of the room, opened up my (now fixed!) laptop, tried to breathe, and then get to work.

Unfortunately, my mental clock was ticking, music was playing, and an acquaintance had just sat down across the room from me. I was trying to explain my latest painting, "Modern Day St. Francis," in as few of words as possible. It is the painting that I began on the first day of the Be Brave project. An image of a homeless man with two dogs. The reason I painted it is because, these days, I find myself frequently drawing inspiration from St. Francis. Mind you, I'm not affiliated with any particular religious organization, but he is one guy that I have always admired.

The painting didn't turn out nearly as good as I had hoped it to. Actually, I am not sure that I've ever painted anything in such a short amount of time. I've been being very judgmental about this piece, but the truth is that, even if it's not very good, spending time with this painting has served a very deep purpose for me, as it helped me to decide what is most important to me. He reminds me that if I walk through my life authentically, the rest will fall into place and I will be taken care of.

My time at the coffee shop was mostly unproductive. I had an event to attend later in the day and was beginning to feel a dose of nervousness and tension set in. To mingle and small talk with a crowd of strangers with the intention of "getting my name out" does not come naturally to me. I'm able to somehow pull it off--but, for me, these events take a huge amount of energy.

Happily, the event ended up being a wonderful success. I met a really incredible artist there who seemed to have even more self-doubt than me. It was interesting and I'm glad that I met her. She picked my brain and I was happy to share what I've learned. This is, after all, such a learning process. Even though we were technically each other's competition, I think we were both grateful that the other was there. We kept wandering over to each other to talk and, essentially, bolstering each others confidence.

I wanted to tell her: Don't give up! And, in doing so, I was really saying it to myself just as much as I was saying it to her.

Anyway, after a night of meeting many wonderful people and their dogs, this is what I ended up writing...

Artist Statement:
To live a purposeful and satisfying life takes great amounts of bravery. For me, that act of bravery was in taking the leap towards becoming a full time pet portrait artist. Recently, that leap has grown to include a commitment to helping abused and abandoned dogs. I must admit, though, that sometimes I get scared. Sometimes I worry about where the money will come from or if my ideas will be good enough or if the right people will find me. But over and over again, through painting animals, I am graced with opportunities that allow me to experience the deepest imaginable love. I can only describe that love as God Love. Pure. Egoless. Unconditional.

Of all the saints, St. Francis is my favorite. Since I was a child, his gentle love for animals has had a profound effect on me. When doubt starts to creep in, I think of him and am deeply inspired to continue with my work. “Modern Day St. Francis” represents the notion that—no matter how much or how little we have—we always have enough to give love. My painting is but a heartfelt gesture in celebration of the unconditional love, infinite happiness, and immeasurable comfort that our four-legged friends have brought to us.

~ ~ ~

And so here is a mantra for you, my Be Brave cohorts:


Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Life shrinks or expands according to one's courage." ~Anais Nin

It's been a busy week filled with photo shoots and meetings.

When did my life become so professional sounding? Well, my new business-like vocabulary might still sound a little strange to me, but let me say: it feels wonderful. I love that being professional means that I go over to a client's house and, without hesitation, get down on the floor to make friends with their four-legged family members. Before I know it, they're absolutely basking in the attention of my camera. By the time I'm ready to leave, cats become exceptionally sleepy and dogs tend to take on a whole new aura of proud radiance. I've started to ask myself on a regular basis: Is this really my life?? Because I love it.

I've gotten to know some pretty incredible animals (and their people!) within the past week--2 huskies, a sheltie, a pug, a lhasa apso, a yellow lab, and 2 cats. I still have 2 more photo shoots scheduled, 2 dog events to attend, and will have met with 3 rescue organizations before the week's end.

I think it's safe to say that my business is taking a turn for the positive.

It seems absurd to me that it is only Day 3 of the Be Brave project (well, Day 4 since it is hereby past midnight). Holy taledo. This has been a pretty intense past couple of days! As for bravery, it seems like just about every single thing I do requires some level of courage. Maybe it's just because I'm getting a bit tired (fatigue seems to have a wonderful way of taking the edge off), but I've noticed that I am able to walk into more and more situations with a lot more confidence. Or, at least, I no longer feel nervous about things that would have caused me to feel a certain amount of anxiety in the past.

Strangely, my biggest act of bravery today wasn't about doing something new, rather, letting go of something that I have out grown: cutting back my hours, once again, at the garden shop. You see, while I was on vacation I spent a lot of time thinking about how to handle the uncomfortable situation of trying to run a business while still trying to hold a part time job. I've been wanting to quit in order to focus my energy on Stray Dog Arts...but it's been crazy there, but we'll only be open for another month, but we're understaffed, but my boss injured her arm, but she needs my help, but I don't want to leave her hanging...but, but, but...there's always a but. And, in the meantime, I've been starting to feel absolutely fried.

Turns out, it was easy and all I had to do was say: I'm sorry, but I can't continue at this pace. What can we do to solve this? I said I could be available one day a week. I let her decide what day that would be. For some reason I was scared to say something, but I forced myself with numerous nudges and finally spoke up. I feel a sense of relief because, really honestly, the actual doing is rarely as difficult as we make it up to be.

Before I know it I will be fully and completely self-employed. I can't tell you how happy that makes me feel. Not to mention, my work (of painting) has taken on an entirely new depth of meaning. I'm still getting the logistics formulated in my head, but I can feel the necessary details starting to fall into place.

One thing I do know is that my painting has taken on a whole new level of freedom.

Bravery is quickly becoming more than just doing one thing every day that scares me...it is becoming a way of life. Is it really only Day 3? Sometimes it's harder not to be brave. Or as Anais Nin once wrote:

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

By the way, look at how well this BRAVE SPIRIT is doing. :)

*photo is of Talie, a 14 year old Sheltie. 100% love and dignity.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Be Brave: Day ONE {July 21, 2008}

Holy hell.

It has been quite a day. I would say that Day 1 of recommitting myself to the Be Brave project has been successful. Beyond measure.

To be honest, I'm still trying to make sense of all that has happened today. I mean, where do I start? Gosh, I feel like I've begun blog posts like this a lot lately.

My day started out by meeting the president of an incredible Minneapolis based rescue organization, Pet Haven, to discuss a potential partnership over coffee. This woman, she is amazing. Intelligent, heart-felt, professional, inspiring.

A door, a window (a rabbit hole?)...something has been opened.

Something inside of me has changed.
Yes, the shift--the same kind I felt while shoveling snow how many months ago? An unexplainable shiver and quake that causes one to fall into place.

I feel like I've just dipped a toe into the water of something very deep...and now there is no turning back.

This story involves a rescue dog named Ode (pronounced ODay, which means "heart" in Ojibwe). Ode, a 12 week old pup, was recently rescued from the Red Lake Reservation. Her ears were burned off. Completely and purposefully.
Her story is gruesome, and yet she somehow holds more hope than I am even able to give words to. Just look at those eyes! She holds enough beauty to bowl me over. And I have a sneaking suspicion that she is only the beginning of something that is bigger than my heart even knows what to do with right now.

Or, rather, my heart does know what to do. And I'm pretty sure it involves painting.

* * *

But wait, that's not all...
For my first day of recommitting to bravery I also:

  • decided to turn down an offer to illustrate a series of children's books. Although it is an interesting opportunity, it just doesn't feel right. Today I decided to listen to my gut and honor my intuition. A little whisper is telling me that I'm going to need that time for something else.

  • altered my diet drastically. I finally feel ready to deal with my weight. Certain unhappinesses in my life have caused me to become something of an over-eater. Stress, negative emotions...these are all good reasons to eat whatever I want, right? Um. I've been eating badly for too long. It wasn't until just recently (while on vacation) that I finally started to feel as though I have the emotional energy to make necessary changes and deal with the issues that need to be dealt with. Today I ate things like handfuls of fresh blueberries, nuts, raisins, lean meat, yogurt, raspberries, and granola. I went to the store and bought organic spinach and tofu. Strangely, today's diet was absolutely painless. I am happy about this because I have 25 pounds that I feel like I am finally, finally(!) ready to let go of. I'm realizing that the trick is to truly be ready. I wasn't ready before now.

  • took my laptop in to get fixed. Mind you, it's been broken (completely useless) for the past 2 months. Ironically, it died shortly after defending my thesis. I couldn't find my warranty and was afraid that it had expired or that they wouldn't do anything without it and that I would have to clean my closet (oh horror!) in order to find it or that I would have to deal with a zillion inconveniences of trying to mail it in, or, or, or... Turns out that it took me all of 5 minutes. I was waited on by two incredibly smart and friendly people. My computer will be ready in little more than a week. I can't even tell you how many times I wished I could use my laptop!! And now? It will be painlessly fixed. For free! Why did I wait TWO months to do this? Fear, even the little kind, is a funny thing. Lesson to ponder: What if everything in our lives is really this easy?

  • completed a painting of a modern day St. Francis with 2 dogs for a show that Kristine is curating in California even though I'm not even sure if it will get there in time. As I painted, I really couldn't tell if it was any good. I still don't know if it's any good...but I'm glad I did it anyway--because it was exactly what I needed to do.

Dang. That's enough for one day.

Goodnight, friends. And here's to getting reacquainted with BRAVERY. Whew!


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Belief in Dreams: Lessons from Louis.

What would happen if we gave ourselves over entirely to the things we want? I love these photos of Louis--such sweet abandon! Pure energy! Wild heart! No holding back!

I feel refreshed. Revived. Relaxed. Renewed. I guess that nearly a week's worth of bathing in a lake and cooking on a campfire will do that to a person. I feel like myself again.

Lesson #1: Nourish the muse with delicious bouts of down time.

These past several months I have found myself consumed by the notion of time and how to make the best of it. I've gotten good at equating time with money. How many emails, phone calls, paintings, and meetings can I accomplish in one day? How many items can I jam pack into my to-do list? How little sleep can I endure? I've been striving for maximum efficiency but I think that sometimes it only comes at the cost of a skewed perspective. A skewed perspective too often brings with it a sense of worry, doubt, confusion, and becoming easily overwhelmed. In other words...perspective makes all the difference and there is nothing like a good vacation to put things back into balance.

I spent a lot of time this past week thinking about all the ways that I want to Be Brave. I am strangely excited for Monday and all that it marks the beginning for. I am excited by how many people are joining in on the Be Brave project and I swear I can feel the accumulation of energy already starting to swirl!

Earlier today I read a post by Kristine that really spoke to me. She writes:

"Here’s the scoop – I have been through so much hardship over the years that I just realized recently how tainted I am – how afraid I am to dream, how I look for the shoe to drop, how I am afraid, always fearful even when it’s not necessary to be. I tend to anticipate the worst and I am so very sick of having this cloud of doubt over my head. It’s draining and keeps me in a state of confusion most of the time. I know I need to shake this negativity and yet doing that involves taking risks. At the same time it is hard to take a risk when you have people around you who think your dreams are crazy and that the fact that you’d have such aspirations audacious, well more than audacious – bombastic! And then you begin to shrink back and diminish your light, while at the same time knowing that something is off, something does not feel right, knowing that a part of you is hidden and dampened. So today, I am tossing that away. I am making an effort to shrug off this sloth that drags me down... "

She continues by sharing a few of her own dreams and then asks us to share some of our own. Her words woke me up to just how much of my energy I have been giving away to worry. It seems silly, really--because, now that I'm rested, I feel weirdly removed from the rush and ridiculousness of my life. I see how much I've been letting worry leach the enjoyment from this incredible new life I've started to build for myself. I've let myself get weighed down by fretting over time and money. Simply put, this is my weak spot, my limiting factor. I get tangled up in concerns over how many commissions I have lined up and how to organize upcoming projects and events. I start planning new endeavors from a place of desperation rather than joy. Luckily, I've become keenly aware of the fact that "desperation" is nothing more than my perspective sliding off kilter--no matter how bad the situation might initially seem. This is easy enough to fix since I only have to remember...

Lesson #2: I have everything I need.

When I truly give myself space to nourish my muse and pay attention to how supportive the universe has been, it becomes more obvious to me how important it is to lighten up. Which leads to...

Lesson #3: Don't be so serious all the time.

This of course leaves me at a very wonderful jumping off point. There is so much potential, happiness, and transformation to be had!

Lesson #4: Go for it!

Don't hold back.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Gone till Friday...

I'm off to the great big North! Lakes, woods, stars, hammocks, dogs, books, sun, tent, quiet, journal, husband, loons, fires, hobo dinners...and not much else. Internet access will be minimal. Things have been wonderfully busy with photo shoots and painting...but now it's time for a much needed break. I look forward to catching up with all of you upon returning--but, for now, I am off to contemplate all the ways in which I might Be Brave.


*photo credit: Digital Camera Workshop

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ready...Set...BE BRAVE!! {Revisited}

Dear Friends,

Back in October of 2007 (oh, that sounds like such a long time ago) I decided to start a new project and invited any one who was interested to join me. Little did I know that it would CHANGE MY LIFE. In proper blogging fashion, people from all over the world decided to participate and, thus, live their lives a little bit more bravely. The cumulative energy from so many brave individuals felt as powerful as a tidal wave, a wave that just keeps growing. I will forever be grateful for the success of the Be Brave Project because it has propelled me forward in ways I never even imagined. Maybe you have participated in this project since the beginning. Maybe you've just started. Maybe you've simply been letting the idea incubate inside of you. Or maybe this is the first you've heard of it. Whatever the case, I deeply believe that there is strength in numbers and so I once again invite you to join me in this Be Brave journey.

I began with the intentions of living by Eleanore Roosevelt's quote for one month.

"Do one thing every day that scares you."
~Eleanor Roosevelt

One thing. Just one. Every day. Turns out that it became a habit. I didn't mean for that to happen, but I'm glad that it did. Granted, committing acts of bravery has not gotten any easier--but what DID happen is that I got better at recognizing the signs of evasion. I got better at giving myself those little nudges--like jumping into water, it is never as painful as we imagine. I think it's safe to say that most of us are creatures of comfort. Why cause ourselves discomfort on purpose? Well, the point is not to be uncomfortable. The point is to MOVE FORWARD. The point is to grow and evolve. The point is to manifest your wildest desires--no matter how impossible they might seem. The point is to shine with our whole being.

And sometimes that requires incredible amounts of bravery.

These days I feel as though I have hit a bit of a crossroads, a hump, a rock, a wall...whatever it is, I'm struggling to move past it, and it feels very NECESSARY and important that I do. Over and over this quote has been finding its way back to me. And I have to tell you that it's down right weird how often and blaringly it has been popping up lately. One woman, who has no knowledge of this project, commissioned me to paint this EXACT quote on 5 feet worth of canvas to hang about her bed. Another woman, who also has no knowledge of the project, invited me to her home for a photoshoot in preparation for a commissioned portrait of her cat and dog. Mind you, the day before I had been on the brink of giving up on myself, but then (the universe stepped in?) I unexpectedly met her on a sidewalk and, for some reason, we started talking. When I arrived at her home, there was a tall gate leading into what I can only describe as a magical place--and on the inside of the gate was, yes, you guessed it, that quote.

Then there have been the emails, the comments, the requests--dozens of them saying: Be Brave, Be Brave, Be Brave...

And so I've come to the conclusion that it is time to revisit the Be Brave Project and to invite you, once again, to join me in doing so.

I will whole-heartedly return to this project on Monday, July 21st. I've chosen that date because by then I will have finished a major project (thus opening up more time and energy for living extra bravely) and I will have just returned home, refreshed from a small vacation. For me, these are good conditions for continuing on this Be Brave journey. And I will blog about my experience here, as often as I'm able to.

I want to make it very clear, however, that there is no beginning and no end to this project. If you decide to join in, there are no rules except for the ones you create for yourself.

We each have a different goal. We each have a different reason for calling on bravery. And we each will have a different outcome. The important thing is that you make a commitment to yourself--and then believe that the universe will support you in that commitment. It's safe to say that you will get as much out of it as you put into it. This blogging community is here as a network of cumulative energy to help propel you forward and remind you that you are not alone when the going gets rough--and it will--but I assure you that you will expand in hugely positive ways.

Taken from the original Be Brave post, here are a few thoughts to get you started:
  • (most important:) MAKE YOUR OWN RULES.
  • Do this for yourself.
  • Make a commitment for the length of time that best suites YOUR needs--one day, one month, one year, one moment...it's all up to you, and you alone. ;)
  • The "brave" or "scary" things that you choose to do can be as big or little as you want them to be. Sometimes it's the little things that can be the most scary (and beneficial)!
  • (not to quote Nike, but...) Just do it.
  • Be on your own schedule. You don't need to make a commitment until YOU are ready.
  • This is your unique journey--make it whatever you want it to be.

If you want to participate, I invite you to add the Be Brave badge to your blog (like you see on my sidebar). In order to get the image to link back to the original Be Brave post, the html code is:

Here's to continued bravery, to moving forward, to full-hearted authenticity, and to living a little bit more adventurously in the process!

One thing:
Be Brave!


Sunday, July 06, 2008

"G" is for Gratitude.

Today's post is brought to you by the letter "G."

And these are a few of the things I'm grateful for:

  • This space.
  • Nearing completion on the very large alphabet commission, enjoying the process along the way, and finally getting around to sharing it!
  • The fact that there's only 8 days between me and a much desired vacation.
  • Meeting just the right person at just the right time.
  • Voicemail...and the love, friendship, and support it is able to contain.
  • The ceiling fan above my bed, sweet relief from the heat.
  • The potential in everything.
  • Really wonderful emails and blog comments.
  • Good books.
  • Rose petal iced tea.
  • A cold shower and rosemary mint soap after working outside in the sun all day.
  • ...followed by a deliciously homemade Greek dinner prepared by my husband.
  • ...followed by an hour of laying in my hammock with a good book and my 2 dogs playing underneath me (my definition of heaven).
  • ...followed by returning a whole slew of emails that I am receiving in response to my recent Call for Dogs--and feeling a drastic spike in hopefulness in the process.
  • Getting to know the incredible group of women that are participating in the first gathering of Creating in the Midst.
  • Late night double espressos.
  • Stunning dog photos and the freedom to choose which ones I want to paint.
  • Inspiration.
  • A body that works well, despite the abuse I sometimes put it through.
  • This quote.
  • The fact that this list is nowhere near complete....

...more letters coming soon! :)


Thursday, July 03, 2008

living from love.

I found this video on Olivia's blog and, despite Whitney Houston, I was a pile of bluthering tears before it was over! This is love. This is such true, real love. You can see it in each of their expressions, movements, touches, gestures--of both the lion and his people!

I'm posting this video here because it struck a chord in me. A deep chord. I can't really explain it, but this is what I feel when I paint dogs--this intensity of love. It is sometimes nearly enough to knock me over...or more like spill me over.

Nearly every day there is a massive number of things happening in my little world. Where should I even begin? I honestly don't know how to put words to my experiences and emotions. I wish I could explain myself better. I have never in my life moved through a time of such certainty and doubt all at once.

I am certain that this is what I should be doing right now. I am certain that I am creating from my very center and it is enough to pull me inside out and back again. I am certain that every single choice I've made and every circumstance I've ended up in has been leading me to this very place, in this exact moment in time. I am certain that to give up on this would leave me with only half a self. I am certain that I have never felt so absolutely surrounded by such deep love. It doesn't come from any specific individual or animal or anything...it just is. I am profoundly thankful for these certainties.

There has always been a part of me that has wished to invest more of myself in my life's Purpose. But I am certain that, right now, I am invested fully and completely in my Purpose. This is a staggering sensation. I feel like I am capable of even more--and sometimes I get glimpses of what that looks like. Interestingly, that "more" has nothing to do with me. That is, it has nothing to do with my ego. It has nothing to do with money. It has nothing to do with recognition or achievement or validation or any of it. It is an ever-so-brief vision and, in it, I am doing my truest work to make the world just a little bit better for even just a few beings that I meet along my path. For now, I feel like I am living my purpose to the best of my ability at this time. I am evolving. This, right here, is only as far as I've been able to manage. There's more (higher purpose) beyond this, but I'm just not there yet. And the only way I can get to that higher purpose is to continue living this strange journey.

Painting dogs is a massively unexpected bend in the path for me. I didn't expect the scenery of my life to look like this. My days are full of more energy and movement than I often know what to do with.

And yet I am struggling deeply with doubt.

I would explain that feeling of doubt a bit more...but each time I try, I end up deleting the words because they create a picture that doesn't quite fit. What is the difference between doubting yourself and doubting what you can make happen for yourself? This is the differentiation that I am struggling to explain. It doesn't have anything to do with my ability, but it has everything to do with my belief in whether or not I will be capable of making my hopes happen.

And so, these days, I am living on faith. I am living on love. I am living on sheer determination. If anyone is envious of the things that have happened for me over these past couple months I would just like to state that there is nothing to be jealous about because it has been incredibly F*@%ING hard!

Maybe I'm telling you this so that you won't give up on your own dream when the going gets tough. Maybe I'm telling you this because if you don't give up on your dream then I'm less likely to give up on mine.

I am starting to wonder how it is that I can have so many successes and still be struggling so hard to fulfill my basic needs, like paying the bills. Things will work out, they always do. But man, oh man...doubt is one tough cookie to deal with. This time it is not even my husband's doubt or my family's doubt or so-and-so's doubt...This doubt is mine--ALL mine. And self-doubt is the biggest bitch of all.

I'm not really sure what the point of this post is except maybe to remind myself that this struggle is worth it. Even if I lost all my earthly possessions, this would be worth it. But, dang, that is a scary line to walk.

When those guys released that lion into the wild, how did they know that he would survive? I can imagine how difficult it must have been for them to make that decision. But it was a decision that had to be made. I can imagine how much confusion the lion must have felt over being left in the African wilderness to fend for himself. I can imagine it because, these days, I feel a little bit like both the lion and the lion's people. I am them (the lion's people) living on some sort of risky strange faith, and the lion is what I'm capable of (he represents my fullest, highest, wildest potential).

This is my time for major and necessary change in my life. I am right smack dab in the middle of it. It is welcome, but frightening in its magnitude.

I often ask myself what, exactly, I would do if I knew I would succeed. What would my next step be? Without a doubt, my answer is always the same. Which is why, today, I have fallen in love with that lion and his friends.

What was the biggest risk you ever survived? Please tell me. Dear lion hearted friends, I want to hear your stories.