In her memoir, An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir, Lilian Hellman writes:
“I do regret that I have spent too much of my life trying to find what I called ‘truth,’ trying to find what I called ‘sense.’ I never knew what I meant by truth, never made the sense I hoped for. All I mean is that I left too much of me unfinished because, I wasted too much time.”
I haven’t read her memoir…I’ve held onto this quote of hers for years. Perhaps I clipped this from an article I read because I wondered if it was true for me. Have I quested after the truth long and hard and what do I have to show for it? Have I fruitlessly tried to make some sense of nonsense to no avail?
© by Christine O’Brien
The Goddess is the mistress of these cycles.
“I’ve found a sense of my place in the world,” I say.
as we share a pot of milky oolong tea on the deck of the boat.
The early evening sky is bathed in sunset hues.
“Sharing your gifts is the path to enlightenment,” you say.
We sail our boat in the protected bay.
“If you want, coast when the wind is right,” I offer.
Red and gold tint the sky.
“There is no black and white pendulum of truth,” you say.
“Crystal clarity is rare.”
Our wisest thoughts dissipate into the blue serenity of water
and the dove peace of this day.
The yet to be lived is our uncertain map.
“People’s dreams are where the nectar is,” you say dreamily.
Colors change regardless.
Comparison is a tender spot for many an artist. Last week, at an art exhibit where I had a piece on display, I heard myself repeatedly minimizing my painting. I had already walked around the exhibit and seen the work of masterful artists, some of whom had been painting for their entire lives. Inwardly, I went into “I’ve only been painting for five years. I’ve learned what I’ve learned from online classes, my own practice and experience. I never went to art school.” In other words, I diminished my art and myself.
When someone complimented me or said they liked the painting, I said “You’re being kind.” I heard myself nearly apologizing for my piece! Where on earth did all of this self-denigration come from? Thinking about it in retrospect, it feels painful.
Yesterday, when a friend said I should send an online portfolio of my art to a larger venue, like San Francisco or the bay area at least, I nearly laughed. “You must be kidding!” I said. But she wasn’t. She had seen several groupings of my art and said that she recognized my unique style. “You have a style,” she said. “Why not try?” she queried.
So here it is, in my face once again–the artist produces a product. It matters less about the “expertise” of the painting as to what the process was for me. What is the journey I took to bring this painting into fruition? Did I take the journey with acquiesce or protest? Did I allow myself to be guided by the question what next? Did I push through the “ugly” stages and arrive at a better place? Did I say what I wanted to say? Did I fall in love with my piece, finally? I DO NOT HAVE TO MAKE EXCUSES FOR ANY OF THIS!
Being an artist, like being a human, isn’t about comparison. It is about SELF-EXPRESSION, your personal process and if you so choose, sharing your gifts with others.
In the Desiderata, the author reminds us “always there will be greater and lesser persons [artists] than yourself.”
Finally, he says, “Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”