My poor, crafty daughter is often heartbroken that I am uninterested in blinging-out, mosaic-ing, cross-stitching or paper-cutting anything.
Last month, a new client landed in my life. No, she is not a make-your-own-centerpiece-out-of-scraps-of-leftover-fabric-and-leaves-from-your-yard kind of client. She's not even an artist. She's a practical, insightful person on a mission to teach women how to live adventuresome lives.
Adventure. I've had plenty. I met my husband, quit my job, sold every item I owned out on the sidewalk below my bay-windowed San Francisco apartment, and took off to Honduras to learn how to scuba dive - within 60 days. I spent more than a year traveling in third world countries. I've lived in nine cities on two continents. Ten years ago, I moved to a country where I had no knowledge of the language or culture, and exactly one friend. I birthed three kids in five years. I opened a business. I'm not what you'd call a shrinking violet.
But this client of mine defines adventure in an entirely new light.
According to her, life is kind of like a triangle of self-definition. You start out at the wide top, making a zillion tiny decisions every day. What yogurt do I like to eat? Am I a Gap girl or do I fancy Laura Ashley? Do I go to dance clubs? Do I swear? Am I a soccer mom? Do I camp or do I prefer hotels?
Every little decision narrows the triangle of self-definition, and over the years, you no longer make these decisions. When you pop in to the grocery store, you don't sit in the dairy section every week and determine which yogurt to buy: you made the decision once, and now you can go straight to your Yoplait nonfat fruit on the top with sprinkles, without thinking. How efficient.
Except that as these decisions are made, you move down the triangle, inch by inch, narrowing your definition of yourself ever so slightly with each passing year. Eventually, you find yourself at the bottom point, in the little tiny red section, unable to move.
The big stuff: I couldn't possibly climb Mt. Everest; I'm a soccer mom!
The little stuff: I couldn't possibly buy a pink coat - how inappropriate for someone my age!
The tiny red section in the bottom of the triangle was where I lived, happily, in the anti-craft zone. That was my story, my comfortable place, and I was sticking to it.
And then I went to a birthday party of a very close friend. This friend is decidedly more touchy-feely than I, and I have so much respect for her that I consciously let her carefully constructed vibe wash over me. I wasn't sarcastic about the art project we all gathered to work on, and while cabernet greased my creative wheels a bit (c'mon... adventure can use some wine) I participated in the activity sans-snark. We were each given a mandala to color, and my friend explained eloquently that she had gathered her community to engage in a mini-project which would re-emphasize things she used to love that had been dropped along the way in favor of motherhood, responsibility and career. That included drawing. It felt genuine, spiritual and marvelously red-tenty to me.
So I drew.
And I failed.
It looked horrible because I'm not an artist. Berating myself for leaving my comfort zone and falling flat on my face, I came home, dejected, obviously missing the point of the exercise in its entirety.
The next morning, I attempted to give the half-colored mandala to said artsy daughter, and she rejected it. Why? Because it was my creation, and while she was happy to help me finish my creation or change it into something else I'd appreciate and be proud of, she didn't want to interrupt my artistic process. Yes, I send my kid to a hippie school (if you don't have it, you gotta outsource it, no?)
So she offered me a mandala workshop, which she quickly extended to the entire family. I showed trepidation and she insisted that it would easy and fun. We turn on mandala music (Jack Johnson, obviously) and sat at the table, awaiting instruction.
She started by asking me what I didn't like about the mandala I began. Why didn't I like it? Were there specific characteristics that bothered me, or was it the whole thing? (I never considered the answers to these questions, but I was trying to be ADVENTURESOME so I gave it a shot. Plus, she's nine, so I couldn't exactly put my colored pencils down and walk away just because we were outside my comfort zone.)
Then, she walked me through "her process." She said it's not all about the color or the shape, it's about creating something you love. She talked about choice of tools and shades, and that it's possible, even once color is down, to draw on top of it and change it into something else. "The whole point, Mommy," says my nine year old teacher, "is to create something you love."
"Do I need to color this part?" I asked, referring to the white space in between shapes. "There's no need in a mandala, Mommy. Mandalas are art."
And thus I had an adventure, as small as it may have been. I consider this an accomplishment, thanks to unexpected inspiration in the form of a client, and an unlikely mentor in the form of my daughter. I am now here:
and I'm a little more adventuresome than I was yesterday.