Living Your Art

Bring the artist to every moment of every day.

I read a book when I was a very young wife to an Army soldier. It had a profound impact on me. It was called "Living a Beautiful Life" by Alexandra Stoddard. I recently reread it, and while the topics are a bit dated (it is from the 80s before computers, smart phones, and Amazon took over our lives) it is not irrelevant. The intent of the book still holds true. You can make your life more enjoyable, happier, more content, more beautiful, by cultivating and curating every moment. Today we like to throw around the word 'mindfulness'; an ancient concept from Buddhist and Taoist teachings. This went beyond mindfulness.

The book aligns with Marie Kondo's philosophy of only keeping those things that spark joy in your life and eliminating the clutter, the unnecessary. William Morris also spoke of this in his famous quote "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." But where William Morris and Marie Kondo are referring only to material objects, Alexandra Stoddard spoke of applying intentional and artistic purpose to our daily actions...or as I like to call it 'living your art'. Bringing the same type of attention to your life that you put into creative projects. Each moment is an opportunity to make considered movements as decisive as you would to a painting. Your life is your ultimate artistic endeavor. Notice the values, the hues, the contrast, the balance, the composition, the rule of thirds...every artistic principle that applies to a work of art can be applied to the moments of our lives. Even the messy bits. Changing a diaper is not pretty, but the moment is...caring for your child, being careful, being attentive, soothing, cooing, touching, grateful for their health, their happiness, their comfort.

Consider the mug. Seems off topic, but it's not.

Most of us, at one time or another, have had a favorite one. Regardless of the reason, maybe it was a gift, maybe it fit our hand perfectly, maybe it was the perfect weight, or color...whatever the reason...consider the difference in having your coffee or tea in your favorite mug compared to having to swig your morning cup from styrofoam in the break room at work. Same drink. Same time of day. But when we get to hold our favorite mug that simple event is elevated that much higher in our own mind. It's just more enjoyable. It's just better.

Realize that these moments have nothing to do with money, or 'nice' things. It is about the composition of your life that makes you happy. Perhaps, right now, there is a ratty old concert t-shirt in your closet. It's faded, thread-bare, you bought it used from a thrift store during college, or stole it from a boyfriend. It's embarrassing to your family...but you LOVE it. It is more valuable to you than any high priced designer shirt you bought to wear to the office. Like a great work of art it elicits a response. You smile just knowing it is sitting in a pile of clean laundry waiting for you to arrive home and peel off your work clothes. You can't wait to put it on. You live in it all weekend. You value it. Revere it. Then begin to look around at the other pieces and parts of your life that contribute so significantly to the composition of the art that is your life. Find more of them. Then step back often, and look at everything in your life with a critical eye. What does it need? Where can it be better? Does it live up to your intent? Is it working? Does it reflect what you are trying to say? Toss out the bits that don't work and try again.

Ironically, when we were angsty teenagers with the least amount of control over our own days was probably the last time many of us fully curated our lives. We painted our bedrooms our favorite color. Plastered posters of our favorite actors or musicians all over the walls. We listened to our favorite songs over and over and over until they were the soundtracks of our lives. We bought clothes our parents didn't like. We were intimately involved in creating each and every aspect of our lives that we could control. The result is that most of us probably have incredible memories of those years. We can tell you what color our bedspread was when we were fourteen, but we can't tell you anything about the first three apartments we lived in after college. Why? Because we lost touch with what makes We stopped trying.

Authors like to use the analogy that our lives are our stories, and we are the main character. As an artist, I prefer the analogy that our lives are our true masterpiece. Each day, each moment, is a stroke of the brush. Some areas you will want to paint over. Some parts will become the principle focus. We don't get to finish this work until the very end. There will only be one moment when we get to see the whole picture, finished. Is that sad? No. Buddhists have a saying 'it is about the journey, not the destination'. Focus on every moment of every day as you paint the picture of your life. Select carefully what you allow into the picture, and if it's not working, don't be scared to rework the parts that don't fit.