In my free time, I like playing around with art supplies and crafts. This is a fact I forget far too often. Last summer, a friend of mine led a watercolor workshop, and it was so relaxing, liberating in some small way to let that paintbrush draw wavy lines, leaves, a wash of color in the background.
Writing is the art I am most passionate about, the one where I will scrutinize every punctuation mark and word choice. I might not let you see a poem if it's not finished. If you look over my shoulder while I doodle, I may be distracted, but I'm never really ashamed. I'm just having fun, so if the outcome is good, that's great. If it's not, great. I can always start over with a fresh sheet of paper.
2011 was a year of ups and downs with a relatively negative undercurrent. This is a fact I almost missed until a couple of weeks ago when I started reflecting on my year. Too often, I kept coming back to things I should have done. There were too many moments in my mind of, "Why didn't I...?" and "I really wish I had..." and "There was no reason for [xyz thing] to happen/not happen except for me." While standing on the precipice of thirty, twenty-nine looked so daunting. Sure, I may have climbed a mountain, but standing near the top doesn't feel so great when all you can see are the jagged rocks below.
Over the holidays, there was a moment of clarity. Sitting in my mother-in-law's dining room, I was drawing with a new set of Prismacolor markers I'd received, just making patterns, figuring out what colors were in my set. Her husband's granddaughter (my...step-niece? Is that a thing?) plopped down next to me with a pen, a notebook and a bag of crayons.
"Whatcha drawin'?" she asked me.
"I'm not really sure yet," I replied. "It's been a long time since I drew anything."
"Draw a dog!" she suggested.
"Well, I'll give it a try," I told her. "I don't think I've ever drawn a dog before." I squinted at the paper and frowned and sighed. I took a deep breath, thinking This isn't going to be that great. This kid is probably expecting some professionally-drawn cartoon character. I'm just not that good.
I slowly made a cartoony head with some Snoopy-ish ears. I drew some eyes, a nose, started drawing some spots and a tail. The feet were kind of a mess, but they were clearly paws.
"That's really good!" she said. "My mom draws a dog and it looks funny."
And it hit me a few days later. Every time I'm down on myself, every time I think that something in 2011 was a terrible loss, something I did will never be good enough, something I write will never get recognized, anything like that, what I need to do is look at it through new eyes. Yeah, a lot of bad stuff happened last year. But there was a lot of good. And so much of the bad can be changed by just working on myself or by having a little confidence in my abilities.
Much like making art for fun, I will always be my own worst critic. In 2012, I hope that I can remember to strive for something beyond myself. Less negative self-talk this year. Maybe a little bit more of tooting my own horn. Just a bit.