As I mentioned the other day, I just finished taking Flora Bowley’s “Bloom True” class for the second time. It’s an online painting class that runs for five weeks. It’s fairly intensive if you do all the reading and journal in response, plus do the painting and watch all the videos (there’s literally HOURS of video…) and do the instagram prompts (I never have time for these…) and keep a sketchbook and everything she recommends.
Flora teaches by sharing different techniques in different layers, so as you paint along with her, your painting goes through a LOT of different looks. The image above is just three of the MANY layers my painting has gone through, and since I paint very slowly, and like to sort of noodle around a little, I suspect there will be many more layers to come. But I’m learning as I go, so I don’t feel too bad about all the time (and paint!) I am putting into one canvas, because the one canvas is like a classroom, or like a little time capsule.
When I took it for the first time last year, it was all about the painting. I devoured all the class materials, but I basically spent 90% of my time focusing on the painting. When I wasn’t painting, I was thinking about painting. When I read the class “lectures”, I was basically applying them to painting.
This year it was more about the life lessons that come *with* the painting. I spent just as much time reading and re-reading, and re-re-reading the class materials (and then journaling in response to them) as I did on painting. Maybe even more.
Last year it was all about being brave, and learning about my own painting style, and learning how to trust and paint from the gut. This year I was able to freely paint from the first stroke because I knew from having taken the class that all the first layers on the canvas will eventually get covered up (they are really just “practice”), and everything sort of comes together in a really magical way in the end. So this year I was able to just paint without obsessing over every little thing, which freed up a lot of time and energy.
As far as the life lessons, the big thing I got this year was about SIMPLIFYING. Flora has a lot of amazing information and little nuggets of wisdom that she shares throughout the class in her videos and interviews, but one thing she said struck me:
You have to be willing to sacrifice what you *like* in order to make room for what you love.
What she means is that when you are painting, it’s sort of a dangerous thing to get too “precious” about certain areas of the canvas because by being careful to not “mess up” a part of the painting you sorta like, you are basically depriving yourself the opportunity to use that space to make something you really LOVE.
You can’t really have creative freedom if you are too busy guarding part of the canvas. You lose out on all that canvas *could* be.
As you can sort of tell from the images above, I am simplifying a lot as I paint. I really hate letting go of all that bright color, all those random marks from the early layers, but I am trying to be brave and just PAINT. Just let go of the stuff I merely find interesting so that I can make room for what wants to come through.
I think it’s very true of LIFE, too- sometimes you have to be willing to let go of what you think you like (routines, habits, “shoulds”, certain relationships, etc.) to make room for what you really LOVE.
It made me wonder about my everyday routines: how much of what I *think* I like is merely comfort, known, easy to do without too much thought or courage? It’s kind of scary to think of it like that, but it’s true.
On the other hand, I know that I’ve been fairly conscious of being honest with myself about happiness and what brings joy for the last few years, and I know that I’ve slowly made progress in moving my life towards things that I know are right for me and actually bring me happiness.
For example- the social thing. I’m shy. And social stuff makes me crazy. Not only while it happens, but especially *before* it happens. I’m fine around strangers, but when I go into a situation where I know I’ll have to make any sort of prolonged small talk (which means being “on”, which means it will totally drain my energy), I start feeling like a trapped animal. I’ve always felt this way, but it’s amplified a lot as I’ve gotten older.
For years I thought I needed to force myself to be social and it would eventually “click” and become easier, but it never did. When I realized that – duh!- I’m shy, and therefore socializing in large groups of people wasn’t necessarily in the cards for me, I decided to stop doing it for a while and see if it made me unhappy to not have it in my life.
And, you know what? It totally didn’t. Instead, it’s been a tremendous relief. Sometimes I get a little twinge of sadness when I see photos on Facebook of a big social gathering with local people, but in general, I know I’m just happy doing my own thing.
To be completely honest, I’d much rather hang out with my family at the movies than go to happy hour any day. Or stay home and take a painting class online. It sounds strange, I suppose, but it’s just who I am. And now that I am 40, I’m getting more and more comfortable with these things about myself, and less compelled to “go with the flow” of what’s normal for a person my age. I’m just not a social butterfly.
Anyway, back to simplifying and “what you like vs. what you love”: I know there’s quite a bit in life that I do because I feel obligated to it, in some weird way, and not because I *want* to do it. Or things that I used to really love to do that I no longer enjoy quite as much. I really want to be conscious of all of that and slowly edit things so that life is more about LOVE rather than “well, this is what I’ve always done…”
I’m *really* thinking about this a lot now that we’re in the holiday season. The last few years, I’ve been on this mission to simplify the holidays. And I will continue to do so this year. Not STRIPPING the holidays of joy and magic and sparkle, but just getting rid of the “should”s to make room for the “want to”s…