WORDS: JENNIFER NORTON
COVER PHOTO: PIXABAY.COM
Like most children, I found great solace and pleasure in practicing the crafts of drawing and painting. I don’t remember when it became official, but according to others, from early on I apparently had a natural inclination, a capacity, beyond the average. I recall younger me receiving positive attention, even admiration, from the adults in my life. They said I was “good” as they smiled, caressing me, and I instinctively knew there was something important to be explored in these lovely childhood hobbies.
Several years later, in a period when my family’s attention was focused more on my parent’s crumpling marriage than anything else, making “art” soon developed into a tool with which pre-adolescent me could measure my lovability. My sense of self, my feelings of worthiness, my accessibility to joy, were all dissolving along with my family unit. What was once a source of great happiness and a space for innate playfulness became a cruel measuring stick for my artistic and existential value.
I continued creating, often escaping into my practice, searching for my dearest companion, my original inspiration, my inner muse, doing more seeking than finding, in those years. I’d paint, the entire time not focused on the process, on the act of creating, but rather, fantasizing, imagining the expression on my often exhausted mother’s face, which would then miraculously, instantly soften. My mother’s smile would return, her eyes would brim, not with hot tears, but with overwhelming pride and LOVE for me, her worthy, lovable, visible, admirable daughter. All while hugging, praising, celebrating, me!
That’s not how it ever went down though.
Not because my poor mother didn’t recognize my efforts, she always did, and to the very best of her ability. Rather, because the goal, the end result, the completed piece, is not the point of self expression. The act of doing is the Thing, not the approval that may or may not come as a result. The process, the present moment, the practice of the craft, that is where infinite creativity lives. Happiness is found in the present, joy and pleasure, all reside in the Now. By concentrating on and working only towards my goal, I had inadvertently robbed myself of any possible joy, my most beloved activity striped of any sense of play. My inner innate creativity was in deep hiding; I’d cut myself off from my intuition.
After having abandoned Fine Arts as a career choice, I left Art School for Drama School, relieved for the peace of mind I imagined changing craft would allow me. My young heart was broken in such a complex and chaotic manner, the loss I felt frightened me into denial, thus I dug a big hole within which to bury my love. Ten years passed, ten furious years, before I even looked at a paint brush, much less touched one. I refused. I’d amputated a large essential piece of my person in order to uncover a new love, a new entrance, a path back to my true nature. And it hurt like hell. It took me years to liberate the joyful, playful, curious artist within; and now, decades later I am aware that there is still so much yet to unfold.
What I grew to understand, other than great forgiveness, is the significance of joy, playfulness and childlike curiosity when accessing our shared, infinite, innate, creativeness. To mature creativity, or to facilitate the development of a thought, an idea, or a project, fun and pleasure must partake. We must playfully plant the seed of inspiration, so that it grows into introspection which manifests impulses we remain receptive to, in turn igniting our intuition beyond the five senses, and in communion with our inner wisdom. This is a high vibrational state of playfulness and openness. If this early tender process is done sans judgment, it leads to innovation, positive action, more information, wild, limitless imagination and high intentions. When we are intentional while simultaneously remaining receptive, we create from a state of response-ability.
Our willingness to access a state of playfulness immediately informs creative action. In communication, for example, vocal, facial, and physical signs of playfulness and joy actually help establish trust across the entire animal kingdom, humans included. It is said that playfulness is as innate to our essence as is creativity, both being part of our true nature. Having tested these theories over the course of a lifetime, I must agree and take a stand for younger me and for all of species, against our reliance on insane concepts such as “perfection” and our tendency towards harsh self criticism and cruel judgment towards all that is. Nothing good can grow in these behaviors, because nothing true is being invested in.
I don’t know the secret to bringing ideas to life, but I sense the answers reside within us, that we instinctively are aware of when something feels True. Thus I remain on this side of the measuring stick, where we are all connected and where we all thrive, in hopes of meeting you here and sharing our continual, brilliant, blossoming. Life reflects back at us who we are; what we believe in, we manifest. If art is a reflection of life and life is a reflection of us, it is safe to say we are in fact, Art, itself. And I don’t know about you, but that seed, that thought, that idea… fills me with joy, invites me to come out and play, fully, tweaks my childlike curiosity, and organically produces a smile. Much like the expression I once eagerly aimed to construct on my beloved mother’s face, the same one I am now greeted by in the mirror, every single morning.