The other day I had a conversation with a friend. She told me there were many things in life she longed to act on, but most of the time she was stopped by fear. Fear of failing, of being neglected, of not being good enough, of setting out with a goal and not reaching it. She told me that she was hoping that one day she would be able to “knock that monkey off her shoulder” and begin doing what she really longed for.
“No, no”, I almost shouted, “for God´s sake, don´t kick the monkey off, bring it along!!!
And then I laughed: where did that come from? I thought about it for a while. And I realised that I had such a strong reaction because it could have been me speaking: I have that monkey too. The FEAR-monkey. Very much so. The one that has been whispering in my ears for years and years that I could never make an exhibition, that what I created would never be Art. People would not buy it. I would make a fool of myself if I tried, and besides, I didn´t know how, where to begin and how to even physically hang the exhibition. Funny, that was one of my biggest fears: HANGING paintings on the walls for an exhibiton!!! You see, I got that monkey too, oh yes.
(You can almost see the cheerful former Fear-monkey on my shoulder here: “She put up an exhibiton, and I´m here too, and it´s actually fun, yay!!!”)
Years back I read a popular book called “Feel the Fear – and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. I love that title. I didn´t get through the whole book at the time, having a baby in the house and not much time to myself. But somehow the title alone created a small wonder for me. Because that is exactly what I began to do, tiny step by tiny step.
I FELT the fear, the monkey on the shoulder. Then I nodded to it, and I DID whatever it was, anyway, with that monkey of fear still sitting on my shoulder. And every time I had done something new that I really wanted and had feared, the monkey transformed to a curious and not so fearful monkey anymore. Until next time I would stretch my limits and it was back full of fear. And I did whatever it was, anyway. Sometimes hesitating, but I still did it.
“Answering the stars”, print available here, story behind the painting here
My life is full of monkeys, and I suspect yours is too. Your monkey today may be fear, or illness, or trouble in your family, or selfdoubt. Today mine was a morning routine with the children that left me frazzled and wanting to creep back to bed and stay there. I didn´t. (Well I did, but only for 10 min´s) I know no that if I want to answer my life-callings there is no other way than to look the monkey straight in the eyes, and do whatever it is I long for, anyway. Don´t let the monkey rule the day. Just bring it along!
(“You can fly”, print available here)
“I am in the cage, I know I have the wings but I am afraid to trust them and try flying. How did you find the courage to spread your wings and dare to fly?”
My eyes filled with tears as I read this line in my inbox one day. I was moved by the sincerity and trust behind the question. But more than that I was moved by the fact that someone would ask me about something I have been struggling so much with.
(Be gentle with yourself, available as A5 postcard here)
Before I say anything more, let me assure you: I still struggle with finding courage, trusting that the way ahead will be good and safe, feeling uncomfortable by all the insecure bits in this puzzle of creative worklife. And overwhelmed by all the new stuff this journey pushes me to learn, and learn fast. I often forget I have the wings, then remember it, and struggle till I find the courage to trust them again.
But I do know something about moving through those fears, doing it anyway whilst being gentle with myself. And I want to tell some stories from what I found to be important keys in that journey:
FIIRST, DARE TO MAKE A DECISION
5 years ago I decided to find out what I was passionate about in life, and step by step start making it a part of my career. I wanted to parttake more actively with what I had to offer in this life. And so I went on a deliberate search to find my passion, searching in books and writings to get some guidance on the way. I knew it would involve lots creativity. I just didn´t know exactly what it was I was supposed to do. One of the books I read talked about how you can have many passions in life. And live first one, then another. And at some point maybe even combine them. You never have to be stuck with just one chosen passion. What a relief!
The first passion I found was teaching Creative courses for adults.
(From the course “Creative everyday”, creating visionmaps)
I really don´t think it matters so much WHAT you set out to do. What matters is that you DECIDE to do something you feel to some degree inspired about, for a start. But do choose, decide to do it and begin taking the first small steps. There´s a key in deciding and sticking with it, with small actions in that direction. At least for a while till the next chapter reveals itself.
(The exercise “Walking with visions” from Creative Everyday course)
A POWERFUL TOOL: ACTION
I prepared my material for the course and then I hesitated. I was so afraid of inviting people for the first course, the fear kept me back and that went on for a whole year! One day, at the point of desperation, I talked to a friend who had a lot of experience in teaching creative singing classes, and she suggested we set up a course together. Brilliant, that was exactly the helping hand I needed to move through the fear.
(From Creative Everyday course: searching for images)
ACTION ALWAYS REVEALS THE NEXT STEP….
About a year later, after teaching my own courses and enjoying it tremendously, an underlying passion began to bubble it´s way to the surface. I was teaching people to find and follow their creative passion and integrate it in their life. And now my own unfulfilled dream began shouting: “What about me? Bla, bla, bla, you teach other people to follow their passion. And yet I am still here, un-lived. I want to paint and express myself creatively! I WANT TO GET DIRTY WITH PAINT ON REAL CANVAS!” The whispers had been there for many years, but it was only when I began acting in a decided, passionate direction that they became loud enough – or I became open enough – so I could finally listen. Acting on my first longings gave me the ability to hear the other dreams that had been buried so deep I didn´t even know if they were there anymore. The dream of painting was still there, and once I began it was as if we had never been apart.
NEW DECISION, NEW ACTIONS AND DARING VISIONS
I began painting again in a winterholiday 2 years ago. I had one week alone at home without husband and children. I wrote about that journey here. After that, I made the decicion to paint every week. I have been painting one sacred day every week since then.
(Finding oneself, print available here)
I loved painting so much that it filled me with a giggly courage and I began to utter the wildest things to my closest friends, like: I think I want to be an artist, or: I would not mind being known by the world just enough so that I could live off my art. Or even: I am dreaming of licencing my art and creating cards and posters with it!!! The small steps of action evoked more passion, which in turn created more courage, and an upward spiral had started.
WHEN YOU FOLLOW YOUR BLISS, BLISS WILL LOOK FOR YOU
Around that time, wonderful coincidences began to occur. It was like invisible hands in my back, often in the form of other humans. Helping hands that lifted me along in small and big ways. But this only happened after I had gone a part of the way “blindfolded”, with passion as my guide. And a faith that my urges to create was there for a reason. That my creativity had a place in this world. You may think that can happen for others but not for you. I firmly belive that if you take the steps I talk about in a passionate direction, and keep listening to corrections on the way, this not only can, but surely will happen to you too. Bliss. To you! Yes, you!
(First “exhibition” ever, in a street market in Præstø here in Denmark, summer 2011)
SHOWING UP = CREATING STRONG WINGS
Today I am building a life around my true life passions, doing my best, still listening to the guidance inside. And, very important: showing up at the canvas, computer or wherever I am needed. Like I told, I still get regular visits from doubt and all it´s cousins. I also know that the exact spot where I can win new land is when I show up and do my very best in spite of the doubts. And as long as this journey is filled with joy and a feeling of genuine inner richness, more than with struggle and despair, I know that I am on the right track. I continue to experience helping hands and happenings of joyful coincidences when I least expect it. I also still have periods where I don´t get any signs, and then I know: I will always be the one responsible for this journey, and there will always be first steps it´s up to me to take.
(“Old friends”, available as part of 6 pack A5 card series here)
I believe there are helpers around us who love when we act on our dreams. In my mind they clap their joyful hands when it happens. I imagine they are watching carefully when we set out in a direction: “Does she mean this seriously? Is she going to quit at the first obstacle? Do I dare invest some of my bright gems in her quest?” And then, when they feel that we are genuine, they find the most charming ways to help us. We don´t have to be perfect, not at all!!! But we do have to take the first small steps, not knowing the outcome.
I think that real courage is daring to be vulnerable enough to feel fear and doubt and do something anyway, building our own trust one small step after the other.
(My business card made me jump with joy when I got the first batch; another step in believing my dream)
If you are gathering the courage to carry something out in the world, I wish you all the passion, strength and help you could ever imagine to take that first tiny step!
This morning the house was finally emptied of sick children and other obstacles. Everything was ready for a wonderful and long-awaited painting session. Coffee poured, the stove roared nicely. Painting day, finally!
(Creative quickie page, inspired by the wonderful line from a Leonard Cohen song: “There is a crack in everything – that´s how the light gets in”)
I had waited and sighed soooo long for this day to come! And then:
– Ready to GO!!?
– I CAN´T BE BOTHERED!
-What? Oh no, honestly, you have longed so much for this moment and now it is here!
-Yes, but I AM JUST NOT IN THE MOOD!
-I am afraid! (maybe she’ll feel sorry for me ….)
-What are you afraid of?
-(Oh no, she´s in question-mood, better come up with a real good reason, ahem…):I am afraid….I have ….forgotten…. HOW TO PAINT! (HA!)
-Forgotten how to paint? You can´t forget how to paint, you just paint….even dots are good for starters.
-Well, actually I am afraid that I CAN paint, what if I am a brilliant genious, I am not up to a commitment like that … I am sure it will be really really hard with all the overwhelming success and fame and too many requests for me to handle!!! (Surely she wil buy this one, I know she loves to have big thoughts about herself, hahaaa!)
-Are you afraid of that? Is that the REAL reason you don´t want to paint?
-All right no, not really…….. it is simply because I CAN´T BE BOTHERED!
-You can´t be bothered?
-No, I CAN´T BE BOTHERED!!!
-Well, you know, that’s alright.
– (What, she said it´s ALL RIGHT! Now we´ll take the day off and watch a good movie in bed, yeeaaaah, ta-ta-ta-daaa-di- dum-di -dum-da…)
-Listen, here´s what we´ll do:
-(Movie, movie, mooooviiie!!!)
1. First we dance 10 minutes to beautiful music, just move for a little while as you like, neither more nor less, are you ok with that?
(“Joy in the air”, original available, just e-mail me)
2. Then, we fill the palette with colors and made the table ready, all right?
-Yeah, I guess
3. Last, we´ll take a canvas and play around with papers and colors, no intentions of making art, just having fun, ok?
-Well, if it´s only for fun….
4 hours later:
Wonderful creative mess in my studio yeaaaah!!!
And now it´s time for a good movie…and a glass of red wine….
(“Be gentle”, print available here)
….or maybe I will just continue painting…or do them all at the same time; paint, wine and movie!
So, there you have it, now you know what goes on in my head on a completely normal thursday!
Are you a mother? Are you also a creative soul?
And do you sometimes wonder how on earth other creative mothers manage their time and energy? How they find a good balance between motherhood and their own creative time? How they make the shift from mother to artist and so on?
I Do! And I guess that´s why I love Artfully Carin´s Arty Mama interview series. I loved reading the first one with Marcia Beckett. And I am so honored that I am up next! Today!
In the interview Carin asks me how I go about motherhood/ artist-life, time schedules, how I get ready for making art and much more. Curious? Head right over to Carin´s blog:
Arty Mama Interviews
2012 you surprised me. You showed me for real how to actively make dreams come true. Over and over you told me the story of the power of many small steps in one intended direction. You made me feel humble and sometimes not able to contain it all, and at other times so impatient that it almost hurt.
Some favourite moments with you:
One evening, after seing the art of Kelly Rae Roberts I was totally inspired and wrote a song. When Kelly Rae so openheartedly recieved the song, and in response posted THIS on her blog, it made my heart sing. Her post send many kind people to my blog, and also generated my first US painting sale. Like a circle dance of goodness and smiles, truly enjoyable.
From the exhibition in the shop/ vintage inspired café Emely and Elliot, one of my fav places to have a cup of coffee and a writing hour on my own
About 2 years ago I was unsure whether I would ever find the courage to have an exhibition on my own. With good help from an artist-friend who urged me to do this, I ended up having 5 painting exhibitions this year. One in a church, 3 in art galleries and one in a beautiful clothe shop/café. The paintings have been touring non stop, and I truly enjoyed the whole experience.
MULTIPLE ARTS COMING TOGETHER
As part of one of the exhibition-openings, a piano-player and I made a small concert. Later in the evening I told about my painting journey. Loved that evening so much. I have always wanted multiple expressions; the paintings, the songs, the stories. And here I was allowed to share it all in one go. I felt so grateful for that opportunity.
LETTING GO, AND FINDING SOFTNESS
(“Old friends”, original available, just e-mail me)
20012, You have shown me that I sometimes need to let go of situations or relations that for some reason are keeping me back. Even when there is nothing wrong with situation, or the people, or with me. Simply because – for reasons that I may not fully understand at the time – it is no longer a win-win situation. You taught me about trusting and following my “gut” in this, also when my brain don´t understand the full picture. You also showed me that the true part of friendships will rest safe guarded in my heart, even in times of low tide. You made me firm so I could be more true in my softness.
ASKING FOR HELP
(“Just knock”. Original sold. Print available here)
You urged me to dare ask for the help I needed, and you amazed me with the outcome of that simple act, many times. You surprised me when help arrived in often totally unexpected ways. You totally charmed me with that!
PAINT, PAINT, PAINT….
(“Match made in heaven” in process, original sold, print available here)
I found so much joy during days of painting. Those hours opened up a connection to places and things beyond me. This was exactly where I found the strength to keep pursuing the dreams for my business and my life. Being in a creative mood or not, that was not important. It just mattered that I showed up, willingly, week after week. And then it would sneak up on me, the inspiration. How come it took me so long to learn this for real I don´t know. But I know that this wisdom is now deeply engraved as experience in my heart and soul.
PRODUCING LISE MEIJER POSTCARDS AND POSTERS
2012 was the year where I began selling cards and posters for real. Researching printing options and choosing a wonderful company to print my work. It also involved reaching out to shops I wanted to sell my products. 8 shops in Denmark and 2 in Holland now carry the Lise Meijer products. A fun, and for me completely new process. I am proud of this birth. It makes me curious how things may unfold in 2013.
FIRST WEB SHOP
(Dancing with life, original painting available, or print available here)
Yes, yes, yes, I finally did it! Opened my very first webshop on Etsy. I love my little shop and you (you!) sweet customers from around the globe, who have been buying prints and postcards for yourself or a loved one. Thank you so much for your support!
CREATING A HOME
2012, you became the year where me and my family could finally move into our loooong anticipated new house. (We lived in a caravan-home for 4,5 yrs.). And once we moved, you threw in an extra challenge we did not see coming: For 7 long weeks we were ill in turn, all 4 of us, and unable to create a home. A big test for me; I felt sick in my soul by not being able to unpack, make order, grow roots. So much bigger the joy when christmas arrived, and we finally got our strength and vitality back.
(“Home is where the heart is”, original sold, print available here)
What a blessing a home can be. Our new home includes a wonderful working space for me. Thepic above was taken before we moved in. Right now it´s still filled with boxes, but not for long. I can´t wait to begin create in it!
ENJOYING FAMILY LIFE
This year I had many joy-filled moments with my family. I think I like being a mom of growing up children more than the challenging years when they were toddlers. Of course I loved my children endlessly since they arrived. I just enjoy life as a family more now they have grown a bit. Celeste is now 9, and Vincent 6. Less awaken nights (we had 7 years of them due to skin-allergies). Less hard work. More spending enjoyable and relaxed time together. More laughs. Rune and I also celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary this year. I think that´s worth a toast!
(“Sharing a moment”. I think this is my own favourite painting from this year. Original available)
This year, I have recieved help and presents that seemed to arrive on my doorstep from out of the blue. A friend gifted me money, and it wasn´t even my birthday, a sheer act of kindness. Another person I only knew via facebook offered to help sell my cards. She did so succesfully in her home country, Holland. One of my friends went on a trip to sell cards for me here in Denmark and landed my biggest order yet. And so many more stories of kindness and help. It all made me feel grateful and humble. I am very aware that no one can do it all alone, I definately can´t. I believe that true success in life is when the outcome is not personal, but spreads its benefits to many people. I found myself smiling at life, saying: thank you, sincerely, for being part of such rich a circle of goodness.
Thank you, 2012, you have become a dear friend!
If you have not yet watched this video by this gifted woman, here is your chance, your artist-heart will love it and possibly feel healed by it:
Sometimes I wonder: will I ever reach the point where I can actually earn money from painting, singing, writing, dancing and teaching about creativity? And then I realise that this is exactly what I already do!
And in a way have done my whole life. Gradually moving from being a teacher toward expressing my own art and style, plus learning how to share it with the world. And lately also creating and selling products and thinking out of the box like never before.
All the time it has been art that made my heart sing. Colors and melodies, words and dance. Never just one thing, I always wanted them all to be there, the paintings, the songs, the dance, the words. When I was a kid at 7, faithfully drawing one fairy drawing after another, it seemed too good to be true to live from creating a world of goodness.
(resent look of my morning pages journal, created with cut-outs from magazines)
And it took me years and years to acknowledge that what I created was fine just the way it was. That I did not have to create heavvy or intellectual art for it to have a place and value, that it was ok express art that holds the goodness of things in this world. Strange that I would ever doubt that! I guess we are all under the influence of a sometimes mad world, not knowing what is natural and true. And more than that, that goodness was, and is, most needed.
(New painting, “Sharing a moment”, right now part of the autumn exhibition)
Now my belief has changed: I no longer think about what the world needs first, I think about what turns up in me as a natural and inspired urge. And I follow that, knowing that it is probably there for a reason, and that by witholding it I may hold back a needed piece of apuzzle in the world. And then, but only then I ask: who may benefit from this? And I am open to the answers that turn up, often surprising even me.