Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lessons from an artist...

By: Guest Blogger, Elise Kieffer
Just writing the title “Lessons from an Artist” makes me feel pretentious. So let’s agree to this instead: Lessons From THIS Artist. I am no Guru, but these are my observations based on my own experiences. I am an Artist so the journey is a meandering one. Follow me!

Lesson One: Don’t ever let anyone put you in a box. 
You are gloriously jagged and flawed and plump and full and there is no box on this earth that can hold you. If, perhaps, there is a box that fits you today, tomorrow it will no longer suit. You will grow slimmer in some areas as you learn to let go and say goodbye while other pieces of you will expand as you learn and grow.

More than one box has been offered to me through the years. Here is one: You are an Artist, therefore flakey, flighty, unintelligent, etc. “This box does not fit!” Says the Artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre Performance and a Masters degree in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management. A dichotomy? Probably. But nonetheless it is me and so I politely decline that box.

There are so many examples of boxes that we offer to one another. Perhaps the greatest victory of my journey was learning that I don’t have to accept any of them. I am too liberal for this box and too conservative for that one. I am too intelligent for this one and not nearly clever enough for that one. Aren’t we all just a little off? Too pretty. Too plain. Too funny. Too serious. Always too much or not enough.

You are better than any box that anyone will ever offer you. Realize that. Own it. Don’t apologize that you don’t fit in. Celebrate it. (Says the former sorority girl with the Star Trek costume hanging in her closet). We are all mosaics, stained-glass windows, infinite pieces and parts that together compose a fantastic creation. Don’t minimize it by squeezing into some tiny little cube that someone else says should hold you.
Lesson Two: Realize that you might never be content, and be OK with that.
I have been perpetually divided against myself. I long for the Theatre and everything about it. Makeup, costumes, sets, characters, intensity, the audience, the show. Oh how I love it! And I am a mother. I’m not just a mother. I am the particular variety of mother who wants to be there for everything! I want to be the one to put my babies to sleep at nap time and bedtime. I want to nurse them until they are old enough to ask for it in a full sentence. I want them to be able to climb into my bed and feel safe. I want to hang their laundry out to dry on the line because it is one little thing I can do to show I care. I cannot do that, and also be away at a show every night, rehearsing every day.

I had to choose. And I have to choose again and again and again as I continually ask myself. “What am I doing here again? How did my life become so much less glamorous than it once was?” I chose. And you know what? When I go back and make those choices again I end up right here, right now. That means that I have to make sacrifices for what I truly love. It means that I might have to continue to lay part of myself aside for the sake of the greater self I choose to cultivate. Life is made of seasons. In this season I am first and foremost a mother. When that season ends I will long for it and rue the moments I did not take the time to cherish. I will ever be longing for something I do not have and that is OK. That is what makes me the person I am and it is what makes me always strive for more. I am sure you have made sacrifices too. Accept them. And if you have to, keep accepting them every day. I have sometimes envied people who seem content with their lives just as they are but when I really stop to think about it I recognize how very much I have achieved in my life because of my discontentment. It is because I want something more or different that I continue to strive and grow and change.
Lesson Three: Be inspired. 
You probably expected this one from an Artist, didn’t you? Life drains us. It robs us of our individuality through the aforementioned boxes. It steals our dreams through the previously addressed sacrifices. Don’t let it steal the beauty around you. It is everywhere! Find what is beautiful to you and embrace it. C.S. Lewis talked of his first experience with what he called “joy.” It was Nordic mythology. I’m going to go ahead and tell you, that doesn’t do it for me. But Stephen Sondheim? Oh yeah. That’ll get me going every time! (If you don’t know who that is it’s OK. It might not be your inspiration!)

Lesson Four: Create SOMETHING! 
I am in no way an artistic snob. If you find fulfillment scrapbooking, then that is your art. Whether it is painting, dancing, model trains or even Legos that is your inspiration, your joy, take it and run with it. Just find time in your life to create something from nothing.

I have given birth to two amazing children and there is no feeling on earth like bringing forth new life. All men should envy the power and gift that women possess to usher tiny human beings into the world. However, I have also listened as actors brought MY words to life onstage. I have listened as MY songs were recorded by other Artists. Seeing, or hearing, your creation come to life, come into the world, is bringing new life, new beauty into the world. It is motherhood. It is fatherhood. You have a song. You have a story. You have something inside you that is uniquely yours, and the world needs it. I cannot sing your song and I cannot tell your story. Without your individual creation and artistry, the earth is not nearly as interesting.

Being an “Artist” is not a vocation. It is a way of life. It is an acceptance of oneself as you are with a continuing desire to evolve. I am liberated. I no longer feel the desire or need to conceal one part of my soul for the benefit of the other. I am who I was meant to be. Desires, Talents, Dreams, Passions, Hopes, and Flaws. I strive to grow, to evolve, to change daily. I am no one close to the woman I hope to become, but I will embrace who I am. I hope you will do the same. I am an Artist. Who are you?

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