Is That All There Is?

A dear artist friend of mine recently finished a major commission. (SO excited for her and proud of her!) However, she mentioned she’s feeling a little let down after all the hard work she put in to get it finished on a tight deadline. She’s left with that feeling: Is that it?

It reminded me of a story I heard about an artist who achieved the distinction and recognition of being included in the Whitney biennial in her early 20s- an achievement that many contemporary American artists covet and aspire to. And yet, as she was riding the bus after the opening and she described an empty feeling and a similar thought. So that was it?

(Depending on where you are right now with your career you may be saying to yourself, If only I had such problems!)

But this kind of post-event let down brings up a question all of us face: Why are we doing this stuff in the first place? Because I’m sure many of you, like me, have these benchmarks – things we want to achieve because we think we’ll feel better when we get them.

I’ll be really happy when…

I get in that gallery.

Someone buys my work.

I get in the Whitney Biennial.

We might get so caught up in reaching that goal, completing a body of work or preparing for an exhibition that we forgot to feel happy with where we are right here and now. We may neglect to appreciate the present moment and our current situation.

I know in my own life I have had different dreams for my art. For instance, when I was in my 20s I always wanted to travel abroad for my art and have shows in different countries. I dreamed of exhibiting my work in museums. Now that I’ve achieved these things I want even bigger things. I want to be in bigger museums and better known venues. I compare myself to others who have achieved things I have not and I forget to appreciate all that I have created and all that I have achieved. This isn’t good enough. What’s next?

There are always things to appreciate no matter where you are in your career. It’s great to always be looking forward and to have big dreams visions and goals to help us move forward.

But actually the true joy and excitement is in the day-to-day!

We live only in the present moment.

Honestly, nothing else exists. Everything else is just dreams (the future) or memories (the past).

We got in this racket to enjoy the creative ride!

Every dream or goal is to inspire some kind of fun action that we can savor while we are in the moment.

Moment by moment by moment.

Contrary to popular myth it’s not about some kind of arrival, some pinnacle, some accomplishment.

Think for a moment about all the unfulfilled dreams and wishes you have currently for your creative or professional life. Now ponder what exactly is it that you hope you will feel when you’ve achieved this dream? Will you feel more successful? Will you feel happier because you’ll feel validated as an artist? Will you feel better when your work is recognized? Or that other people will take you more seriously as an artist?

Is there a way you can validate yourself right now? How can you appreciate or recognize yourself as you are in your current state?

Now, pause to savor this very moment. Breathe deeply. Feel your body against the chair, hear the hum of your computer. Receive the sounds around you near and far. The drip of the faucet, a bird, the neighbor’s thumping bass? Notice the colors and textures in your vicinity. Close your eyes and allow a faint smile to lighten your lips. Can you keep breathing and relaxing until you can touch on the exquisiteness and the preciousness of this present moment?

I’d love it if you’d share in the comments below something small (or big!) that you treasure and cherish in your current life. Be it the fact that you are blessed to have a box full of art supplies to make your work, or the fact that you have a space to work in or the fact that you have these gifts or skills or you have a family member or a friend or a teacher who is supportive of your endeavors.

Isn’t it wonderful that I have this connection to my creativity?

How great it is that I have had ideas and new ones keep flowing through me!

Isn’t it sweet that I am reading this article because I’m committed to supporting myself mentally, emotionally spiritually as a creative person?

Whatever it is, I invite you to appreciate that now and do not let go of your dreams!

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