1986… 2010…2011…

I found some of my sketches from 1986 recently, and they reminded me of the fertile creativity that burst forth from my being at that time. Ironic, because it was also a time of great confusion, frustration, and sadness. The sketches reflect these qualities, but as I looked through them, I remembered something else that I had not recorded very well in that sketchbook. Optimism.

I had taken Optimism for granted: Of course I was only 24. Of course I had my entire life ahead of me… Of course I was independent. Of course the world was supposed to be my oyster… I was entitled. Period. Willing to bust my butt, but entitled, nonetheless.

I remember also that about this time last year, I toasted the arrival of 2010 with, “Gosh, I hope it’ll be better than 2009!” ¬†Twelve months later, I’m re-defining “better”. No, actually, I’m re-understanding better.

Better, in this age, brings growth. Better brings change. Better brings awareness and acuity; sometimes it stings and bites. Better brings fulfillment of a sometimes unpredictable nature.

If I had paid more attention to my semantics with my 2010 welcome toast, I might have used the word “easier” instead of “better”. Because I received “better”, but I did not receive “easier”. And still, things are definitely better, and in a profound, indelible way. Just like the ink on the sketchbook pages. I got my wish. In fact, in 2010, almost every one of my wishes came true. Just not in the way I expected.

A few weeks ago, I started drawing again, after a pause of too many years. The sketches began to flow as spontaneously and prolifically as they had in 1986, and the emotional intensity of 25 years ago resurfaced. I sat back and looked at them, bemused. What makes the difference between then and now, and what connects these two periods of my life? And why did that gap last so long?

I realized that the clarity comes not from specific emotions or circumstances, but from accepting and exploring and expressing those emotions and circumstances… Without judgement or fear or expectation.

That “gap” in my sketching life had been filled with a “career” that was filled with judgement and expectation, and, yes, a transparent shadow of fear that things might not go as planned. All of that creative energy had been diverted towards trying to steer my boat against an unnatural current.

Last week I went for a new hairstyle. I had been pinning back and restraining my shaggy locks for six months – hiding them – so I could get some growth. As I drove to the salon, I heard a friend’s words: “As she cuts your hair, visualize everything you want to lose, falling away from you as the hair falls to the floor.” I hardly remembered this as I was in the salon… Salon chat is seldom profound… But as the stylist finally spun me around with the mirror, she smiled and said, “See? A new you! It’s lovely!”

Something clicked, and I realized that 2011 has boundless potential if I allow it to birth itself. Just like the ink and paint will continue to flow freely if I continue grasping that pen or brush ever so lightly, and just wait to see what appears.

I didn’t really make a new year’s resolution for 2011. I simply wish for 2011 to arrive in the way that 2010 came: “better”. And I’ve learned that the less attached I am to what “better” means, the more freely the creative energy flows into everything that comes my way. And that makes it better.

Here’s to 2011!