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Speaking with my sister this morning, I found myself describing my latest prayer flag as “incredibly challenging.” She didn’t even breath, I swear it. “Good!” she exclaimed, “that’s great! It means you’re growing!”

 

How often I forget to be grateful for challenges because they mean I am growing. It was so good to be reminded. So often it feels like challenges just keep following one another into this life without respite. Somewhere in my psyche I still seem to think this isn’t how life is supposed to be. Something in me still thinks life flatlining means all is well and I can relax. In reality, flatlining means death. Death of the artist just as sure as it means death of the body.

 

Apparently, sometimes I also still pretend making art will someday really be all joy joy joy!. I am learning though that Joy is rather a bit more complex. Joy resides in the deep place in one’s middle where our deepest and most honest feelings originate.I think that may be part of why it is so hard to access. It can sometimes be found alongside heartbreak, disappointment, frustration, fear. Not that we feel joyful in those moments of heartbreak or fear, but I do think those more challenging deep feelings block our access to joy. It sometimes is hiding beneath them.  Some of my favorite authors are able to make use of this in powerful stories that take one to the depths of despair in one sentence and in the next have one laughing until tears form, or vice versa, take one to the height of hilarity and in the next line plummet one into utter disbelieving shock at what the human experience can bring. This to me is a super-power some writers possess. Through it they let us know the vast expanse of experiences we can hold in an instant. Through it they show us how gloriously strong and brave we are to live this life.

 

I am learning that joy, and perhaps bliss (which is closely related), coming from the middle, the center of the self is far more beautiful and perhaps truer when it flows from the midst of life as well. Joy is not the sunny vacation at the Riviera (though I’d not turn that down!) so much as it is the rippling laughter upon noticing one has put on mismatched socks or found just the right answer to a child’s earnest question. Joy is not ease of creation. Joy IS creation, grueling, challenging, fun, inspired, messy, lovely, silly, sorrowful LIFE. In a sense, one gives birth to joy. Some labors are short, some take more energy. All bring something into being which before was hidden. Joy is like this. It shows us something of life we cannot see. It allows us to express that which cannot be seen.

 

 So, Yay, today I was challenged. Today I didn’t flatline. Today was a day well lived and Joy was indeed created.