I’m sitting at my desk watching rainbows flit across my walls and ceiling. A prism hangs in the living room window, open to the breeze. The prism was a gift to Mom from my sister Jean, so I feel close to them when this happens. I have begun to stop whatever I am doing and focus fully on the lazy twirling of this short-lived moment. Too soon, the sun shifts, the rainbows disappear, and life resumes.
My theme today is “focus”. The key, for me, is finding and maintaining a fluid, balanced, ebb-and-flow focus between meeting deadlines and watching rainbows. Like the frames of a film, our lives are constructed from a series of moments. By not being present in any one of them, it is lost, along with whatever rainbow blessing it might have held.
You might call me a speed addict. I have the flow part of focus down. Granted, my idea of flow can often be more like the force of a firehose. For the most part, the faster I move and the more I cross off my list, the better I feel about myself. Before, this just seemed the right way to live. I did accomplish a lot, but the high was elusive; it never seemed enough. It still feels rewarding to be busy like that, but I’d much rather slow down, enjoy what I am doing, and trust that everything always works out well for me.
The ebb part of this balance includes watching classic movies. “Now, Voyager” is one of my favorites. In it, Bette Davis plays a timid, mousy (imagine!) old maid who meets Claude Reins, psychologist extraordinaire. He knows that she must extricate herself from her disabling family and encourages her to go on a solo ocean voyage. Free from familial expectations, she transforms into the glam girl we know and love, meets the dashing Paul Henreid, aims her newly acquired self-confidence where it is most needed, and makes things happen.
I felt a connection to Bette’s role in this movie. It was time to get out of my comfortable creative zone and shake things up. “Now, Voyager” began its (and my) journey as a landscaped-oriented abstract with collaged paper.
The movie title is based on the 1941 novel “Now, Voyager” by Olive Higgins Prouty who borrowed from Walt Whitman’s poem “The Untold Want”. In entirety it reads:
“The untold want by life and land ne’er granted,
Now Voyager sail thou forth to seek and find”
Sounds exciting. Just like that, sail forth? As appealing as dropping everything and going forth sounds, it also feels a teensy bit scary. I prefer my freedom within structure; I like knowing that when I do return from all that sailing forth, this voyager will find her home and life, although altered by the journey, familiar and intact.
Focus: How do we get it and how do we keep it? At the time of the opening paragraph, I had been focused on paperwork and scheduling my day. It took a rainbow flitting across my face to get my attention. Focus, of course, is key to getting what we want. But to what degree must we? Sometimes my focus gets me lost in the details, the busy-ness, and I think I miss the stuff that makes my life worthwhile (like dancing rainbows or seeing friends or simply sitting quietly).
In a nutshell, what we focus on, gets bigger. It follows that by holding focus on what we want and following the steps that are revealed, we can get to where we want to be. We are all voyagers truly, always in transition and transformation, and our focus must shift as our needs do.
Changing focus (our theme for today): Here I pulled off some collage paper; reoriented the picture; added texture gels and pastes; and began layering color with fluid acrylics, crayons and pencils.
The formula for getting what you want is simple: Decide what that is and only think of that - not what anybody else thinks you should want or what you think you should want so others will approve. What is your hearts desire? What is your secret passion? What dreams did you dream when you were young before anyone started messing with you?
I’m telling you, magic happens when you begin pursuing your dream. Opportunities show up and stuck bits shift. Most of all, you feel really, really happy which paves the way for more good things to come. (Kinda like clearing out clutter to see what stands out).
That’s where I am now, receiving aid on many fronts - emails and personal feedback from those who love me, creative inspiration through dreams, meditations, conversations, reading materials, and inner nudges. All lead me onward, one thought at a time. I feel supported and encouraged and not alone. Because of all this, I do not mind not knowing where I’m headed. I’m just having fun and that’s a win.
Looking at options along the way. Turn it upside down, trim off the other part and it could be a volcano...
So…how do we get the right kind of focus? One aspect is scheduling time for the important stuff. And by “important,” I mean what feels big to no one else but you. Energy leaks such as procrastination, unresolved anger, guilt or regret, or doing for others when you’d rather be doing for you, can zap energy and block brain space. Ask: What’s important to me right now? And then schedule whatever time you can for that. We’re aiming for a sense of accomplishment so even 10 minutes can make a difference.
Showing support to my creative self is vital to me. Whenever possible, time for her comes first. Creativity defines me and making time for it brings satisfaction on a number of levels. Next, I fill time slots for other things important to me like studying French and keeping up on office work, as well as reading and exercise and rest. I schedule chores as well.
This way, I am free to play knowing that I will do all the adult stuff in its proper time. Another benefit to this type of scheduling is that I feel compelled, when a particular time slot comes up, to get going. And, I experience fewer evenings wondering what the heck did I do all day? That’s another win.
I whited out and painted over parts of this painting so many times I lost count. When it refused to look like anything else other than a melting ice cream cone, I put it away.
Always exploring, experimenting, expanding - me in a nut shell. I would venture to say it’s the same for you. Especially when we think nothing is happening, it is. When life feels stuck, most often the real action is occurring off stage. Time and again, seemingly random and sometimes haphazard events lead us to where we want to go. It’s a bit of a trick to back off and just let things unfold. I have experienced varying degrees of success with this. No matter what, I still can feel grateful for the clarity brought by slogging through a definitely not-so-fun time.
It can be very frustrating when life does not go as desired, but, like this painting, it can also provide extra satisfaction when we stop pushing and decide to see where it goes. Sooner or later, things coalesce and the end result can feel even more rewarding.
It took a shift in focus and a classic movie to show me the ship in this abstract painting. I, too, journeyed forth to discover this conclusion. “Now, Voyager” is now beautifully framed and ready to hang in a show starting this month.
As an aside, this letter to you was also a year in the making! Everything in its own time, right?
Bon Voyager, mes amis!