Thursday, January 2, 2014

In its Own Time

I have for the most part ceased to make New Year's resolutions, save for the annual resolution to work out more, never quite satisfactorily achieved. I find that my inner need to be productive will cause me to achieve new things anyway and there will be surprises that I cannot conceive of from today's vantage point. When I look back on my past year, I feel a sense of movement. New opportunities arose and I was ready for them. Sometimes I gave them a nudge as well. I am heartened and encouraged that perhaps the same will be true of the new year.

And yet, 2014 feels a bit different, a transitional year of sorts. Seven years ago I left my job and embarked on an adventure into the unknown. It has taken me wonderful places that I could never have anticipated, into artwork, story and the opportunity to share it with others. Seven years often represents a cycle and I am feeling as if I am about to embark on another adventure to yet another unknown destination. I must confess that gives me a bit of unease as I like to know where I am heading. And I'm not quite sure.

I remind myself that it is not always about producing. Sometimes we need a quiescent period, a time of stillness during which we nourish ourself, before we have more within with which to create. 2014 may be such a year for me. Looking back, I realize that 2007 was also such a year, a year of laying the groundwork on which I began to build.

In 2007, my first year post-job, I began things that didn't take shape until the following year. I planted seeds. I began a series of paintings on family history. I submitted a proposal for my first solo show. I spent a month in China. Those baby steps resulted in three solo shows and two bodies of work in the following year. Not everything matures in the space of a year despite our tendency to define time in that manner. Many of the things I do in my work today had their seeds in that early period.

Each year I go through my annual number counting exercise. How many books did I read? How many blogs did I write? Websites design? Exhibitions hang? Paintings complete? Talks give? I realize numbers don't tell the tale fully, but they capture a certain momentum and focus. I also look for firsts. What did I do this year that was new? What caused me to stretch, for it is in the stretching that I begin to create new directions. Much to my surprise I realize that with the sole exception of reading and painting, the things I now count all were a first for me during the past seven years. My first public non-work speech, my first website, my first solo show, my first blog, my first video. I stretch into the challenge and discomfort of something new. Then I reinforce it by doing it again and again, each year adding a few new firsts. I feel a bit like a juggler, continually adding new plates to my routine until I move faster and faster to keep them all in the air.

Now 2014 may not be the year when I let all the plates clatter to the floor, but it may be the year when I slow my pace down, take a class in a new artistic medium or a writing workshop. Put less emphasis on immediate results. Hone my craft. Experiment with some new approaches. Too much activity can get in the way of hearing myself, so this year may be one of listening. Often when we state an intention publicly it moves us in a direction. Rather than my normal intentions to take action, this intention is the reverse. I hereby give myself permission to not take action, to explore in a testing and meandering way, feeling my way with no clear outcome in mind. Perhaps I'll trip over the next step when I let it happen in its own time.


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