I’m going to tell the saddest story I ever lived, and one that I believe God is changing.
I’ve been wrapped in the chains of fear for so many years, 45 years to be exact. A prisoner, from one moment in time that scarred me, from that moment until now. This story may seem like a small thing to the reader, but for me, it was a moment that crippled me and robbed me of years of happiness, not doing what I was born to do. Though there were moments along the way that I experienced the joy of freedom, the joy of painting, they were fleeting, only to be shrouded in fear.
I don’t tell this story for sympathy. I tell it for closure, because today I’m changing my story and I’m trusting God to give me courage to DO the thing that I believe HE created me for. To BE an artist. To LIVE the life of an artist. How am I going to do it? One day at a time. I am going to live like each day is the first day and the last day of my life.
From my earliest memories, the thing I could always be found doing was drawing. Things I took notice of, needed to find their way on the page. I think everyone who knew me, knew that art was what I was about. It’s all I’ve ever cared deeply about, well, except for God and my family of course. All my days of drawing brought such a sense of happiness and purpose to me in my younger days, until my first year in high school at the tender age of 15. Art class was not just an extra curricular activity for me, it was my life. I think it was my dedication in class and to course work, coupled with a project that I was working on, that caused my teacher to ask if I would consider competing in a painting competition that was to be held at a college in another town about two hours away. I wasn’t the first person she asked. She had asked another girl in class who turned it down. I told her that I didn’t feel I was up for the task, because for many years, I had mostly just drawn and I didn’t even own a set of paints or brushes. She and others in the class convinced me that I could do this and I reluctantly agreed. Up to this point, my experience in the art world, concepts in art…were to say the least, extremely limited.
It was the weekend, although I don’t remember what day, it was most likely Saturday. The two hour drive to the collage, was made with several other students who were going to cheer me on and my teacher, along with a couple other students, were in a different car. To say the least, I was nervous, but convinced myself that I could do this. The time came for the participants to assemble at individual tables for instruction. New tubes of paint on my table, a fresh WHITE, BLANK, canvas, new brushes....then came the instruction. Up to this point, I had no clue what we were going to paint, what the rules would be, I knew nothing. We were to paint the still life....wait, still life? Still life....believe it or not, I had no idea what a still life was. We were told that we could arrange the still life any way we wanted....words were swirling around in my head. What does this mean? We can go up and rearrange? What does this mean? Remember, outside of drawing, my experience was limited. I don’t remember how much time we had to paint the still life, but I do know that half of that time, I was paralyzed! By the time I started doing anything, the time was almost up and I pretty much had nothing on the canvas. Then came the ultimate humiliation. All paintings were displayed out in the great hall and were going to be judged. I hadn’t even thought about that part! Truthfully, that entire experience was so humiliating, I don’t even remember what my painting looked like. I do know it was not finished. I do remember the silence when my classmates and teacher saw it, and I do remember the silence on the two hour drive home and I do remember taking the painting to my room and hiding it behind the window, because I had no place to throw it away before I got home. Life altering, life crippling, was what this experience was for me.
I’m pretty smart, very introspective, why is it that I haven’t been able to break free of this prison of fear for all of these years. Believe me, I’ve read books, tried to force myself to begin again, push past it, only to find myself unable to break free. There is an earlier post on my blog where I talk about the experience of a Plein Air Convention that I attended in Monterey, CA. in 2013. 8 years ago!! I heard Joe Paquet speak and just wow! I thought for sure, I would be able to apply what I learned and what his speech meant to me, to break free. Nope. So many times I’ve given myself chances, trying to push myself, trying to break the chains of fear. I went to Salina, CO. to attend a workshop with Joshua Been, attended a workshop in St. Paul, Minnesota with Joe Paquet, went to France with Cindy Roof and a group of other artist. Through it all, most of the time I was too gripped with fear to paint. The tender, gentle nudging of both Josh and Joe helped me to finally do something, but not what I had painted over and over in my mind while there and definitely not what I was capable of. Last year, I attended a virtual Plein Air Workshop and I had so much fun. No one could see my work, as the conference was Virtual. I was sketching along with the painting demos and was so happy. I was doing the thing that I love, I was doing the thing that makes me FEEL like me. I even surprised myself at how happy I was with the work I did, that I actually, even with the imperfections, shared them on social media as a way to help me push past my fears. Only, they were still present.
What is wrong with me? Maybe I should have gotten counseling years ago. I just kept thinking I could get past this fear that had such a tight grip on me.
Why does it all of this matter so much anyway? It matters because every day, every day! I paint so many pictures in my mind, it’s all I think about, it’s what I love, it’s what I want to do on canvas, it’s the life I want to live, it won’t let me go and I don’t want to let it go. I can hear Maria now, as she would look up and say “yes God”.
So, here I am today. After reading yet another book to help with this struggle I’ve had for too long, I realized something, something I learned from the book. Actually, I’ve realized several somethings. One of the biggest somethings I realized is, I can flip the script, I can rewrite my story. Instead of focusing on the disaster of that one day, that one day that I was not prepared for, I’m going to focus on the fact that I was chosen to compete out of a class full of students because of the work I had done. I hadn’t considered that before, never entered my mind! All I could see, all I could FEEL, was the failure.
I’m thankful for my family and friends who have always cheered me on. They’ve been my biggest supporters. I’m thankful for my mentors, my teachers, who have imparted so much wisdom, knowledge and words of encouragement that I will always carry with me.
I have BIG plans and visions for my future, but they can only come true by “DOING” one day at a time. How fun is that going to be! Even if I only get one day, it will be a great day. I’m not saying there won’t be some fear, some insecurities, but they won’t be defined by the past and they won’t keep me from living my best day, each day.
So now, I say goodbye to yesterday and to focusing on the future and live for the day. I get to stand on the shoulders of giants as I learn and DO. I get to dream a big dream, live a big dream, all the while knowing that as big as my dreams are, God is able to make even bigger dreams come true.
To quote the book that has changed my perspective: “Day by day by day”.
The book that brought me to this place of understanding: "WinThe day: 7 Daily Habits To Help You Stress Less and Accomplish More" by Mark Batterson
By the way, I believe seeing this book on FB by a friend of a friend, was a God Stop. One of those moments where you have the nudge to stop and look, take notice.
Maria DeLaJuen and some of the thoughts that she took the time to write and type to me (some her original thoughts, some borrowed). She knew the depth of my struggle.
Joe Paquet: So many things. Some which are listed in an earlier blog. Through his mentoring, I learned so much. Things that for sure will be a springboard to everything I do from this time forward.
Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not come, right now I have this moment, this day. I’m going to make the most of it. THIS, is day one for me. I believe I am free and I thank God for it.
All I've ever thought about and dreamed about, was being an artist and painting.