How Self-Awareness Makes What We Do Fun

winding river

This painting, entitled The Winding River, reminds me of the path I’m on now.  As I took all the steps I had to in order to arrive at my goal, I came to more self-awareness and more sure of what I really want.  All the sudden epiphanies I’m having now are providing new ideas with more choices to make.  So, I’m finding more and more that the way to my destination hasn’t and will never be a straight one.

“As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you – the first time around.”

― Oprah Winfrey

The definition of self-awareness is: knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character.  I learned a lot about myself when I wrote a memoir.  As I wrote and went deeper into the reasons I had acted the way I did during some past experiences, I discovered strengths and weaknesses, vulnerabilities and passions, and in some cases, idiosyncrasies.

From these awarenesses I discovered that sometimes I rely on other people’s judgments of how best to achieve my goal, when it’s obvious that the person’s approach won’t benefit what I want to express.  Sometimes I see that what I’ve accomplished contradicts what I’ve just learned about myself.  Always though, clarity makes it obvious what I’m really striving for.

“Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one’s awareness of one’s ignorance.”

― Anthony de Mello

I’ve always known there’s more to learn.  I remember when I received my B.A. degree in English and Art, thinking, This degree just shows me how little I know.  However, when not actually learning in a classroom setting, or some online course, or reading a book, living your life doing the same things each day, we tend to keep things we know about ourselves hidden.  We may not have considered them because our lives have become structured.  There may be things we are ashamed about; or things that we really don’t think important or things simply best forgotten.  It’s easier and safer to go with the status quo.

When I committed to writing a memoir, I knew I’d have to be more honest with myself than I ever had.  But I was ready.  My life was a mess.  I wasn’t happy in my job.  I wasn’t making enough money to pay all my bills, and then my body broke down so that I had to quit my job.  Bodies are like that.  They close down when we wallow in stress and inaction.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

― C.G. Jung

Now that I’m aware of how much influence our unconscious choices have in key areas of our lives, how much they influence, sabotage and sometimes derail our desires, I always check in to make sure that the decisions I make are coming from my heart.  If it feels right, despite everyone else’s opinions, it’s the right choice for me.

So far, for me, this has proven true.  Yes, it’s harder.  Yes, sometimes you have to deal with other people’s dissatisfaction and discomfort, but in the end, it’s you who has to be happy doing what you love.

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Helen Keller

The gift of self-awareness is that it steers us in the direction of certainty and faith.  Our journey becomes more enjoyable, even when confronted with difficulties.  We’re no longer all over the place, questioning ourselves and our decisions.  We’re full of conviction, making the journey easier and more fun.

For more about self-awareness, go to https://wp.me/p9td7w-uA.

Why we often create the same theme multiple times?

I came across the painting above going through 300 slides that were recently converted to digital.  It’s one of many paintings I did in the past depicting lovers in a jungle scene.  Since I’ve been noticing that same themes  crop up in my artwork a lot, I asked myself:

Why have I felt compelled to examine this particular subject over and over again?

This quote may elucidate this conundrum:

If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.

Pablo Picasso

Many writers and painters have often used the same theme to create their art. John le Carre wrote spy fiction.  J.M.W. Turner, considered the founder of English watercolour painting, was famous for his landscape paintings with their unconventional emphasis on light, colour and atmospheric effects.

And then, there’s this that further clarifies why I felt drawn to paint this subject.

I do not think writers ought ever to sit down and think they must write about some cause, or theme, or something. If they write about their own experiences, something true is going to emerge.

Doris Lessing

I know it’s getting into muddy waters discussing “alternate” truths.  It’s been a hot topic since Kellyanne Conway spoke those words in defense of our president.  But without questioning what a truth is, how can we know how our truths affect us?

The one thing I know for sure is that knowing a truth doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same truth for someone else.  We all carry a set of beliefs that we hold as the truth. This doesn’t make my belief any more true than what’s true for others. 

Our truths may be like other people’s truths, but often they are not.  Contrasting beliefs can often causes division and sometimes conflict, especially when some people want to force their beliefs on other people.

My own beliefs have changed over time.  Big changes have caused new, different circumstances in my life, and with those new circumstances I felt impelled to reevaluate what is the truth for me in the present.

The Impressionists faced harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France, but through the impressionist’s independent exhibitions and their well-heeled admirers, they were brought to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s.  This was a result of the changing belief and acceptance of impressionism as art.

So it stands to reason that there’s no one truth.

Even though I was painting the same theme many times, the paintings included different subject matter.  Some were the jungle scene with a single person, some included a couple, some depicted dancers. 

The answers to my question began with remembering the time I first saw a jungle scene in a painting.  It was a painting by Rousseau of a woman next to a lion in a jungle.  The painting impacted my 12 year old self because I’d been struggling with the truth that women didn’t count for much in the fifties.  My interpretation of having the lady next to lion, both peaceful,  meant that a woman could be as strong as a lion–a colossal awareness for my disappointed and angry self at that time. 

As I look at my different jungle themed paintings now, I realize that I have approached each successive painting with a new viewpoint of the subject—updating the truth.  No longer needing the lion to remind me of my strength, I am safe in a jungle alone.  Lovers and dancers are depicted enjoying the beauty and expansiveness of the setting.  I am aware now that it was that jungle scene which set me free to be my highest, true self and now I’m free to be there in any guise I choose.  

The truth does emerge when we paint our experiences.

How Self Awareness Changes Our Perspective

couple in jungle

I recently had all the slides of my artwork digitalized.  Above is one of them, an enamel I made many years ago.  This one reminded me of a time when when I was young and obsessed with my being a girl and not as respected as my brother who was eighteen months younger.  In the forties a girl was expected to be married when she grew up and dependent on her husband.  Boys were being groomed to do something important in life.

My brother was invited to go with my father on Sundays to collect rents on properties my father owned.  It was understood back then, that because I was a girl, my place was with my mother and sister, doing what women are supposed to do.  In order to get the kind of attention I craved, for my accomplishments, I became competitive with my brother.  I did manage to excel in school and being creative, but nothing I achieved received the same respect my brother easily received by simply being male.

I didn’t want to be a boy.  I loved dressing up and imagining myself as pretty and popular as my seven year older sister was.  I just wanted to be treated equally with boys, to have a chance to prove myself as a woman.  I think now I was born angry over the inequity because this same issue, women’s rights, surfaced time and again for the next four decades.

Then, on a trip to New York with my brother and our parents, when I was 12, I saw a painting by Rousseau entitled, “The Dream” at the Museum of Modern Art.  The painting pulled me into another world.  This was a world in which a woman sitting next to lion was being depicted as strong and as courageous as the lion.

No one had ever offered me an “Alternate Perspective” on what being a woman could be before.  The images in that painting before me were telling me that I had a choice.  I could stand in my power being a woman without having to compete.  Sure it would take courage and strength, but I could choose to be that.  Rousseau’s symbolism struck an “alternative truth”, that I didn’t have to be a victim of the picture my every day life painted–that of women being beholden to men.

I was so excited I wanted to be able help other people see”alternate truths“with the same daring Rousseau had expressed.  I wanted to offer what I knew to be true so that other’s could be as free as I felt at that moment.  So I became an artist.

Many more instances occurred during the next four decades where I resented what I perceived as men’s sense of superiority when they didn’t want to believe women could make it as an artist.  During that time I soul searched myself to find out who I was.  I was reinventing myself along the way until I finally did make peace with the anger.  I didn’t need it anymore to achieve.

It’s been a long journey on one self awareness after another to come to where I am now.  And I know the journey’s not over until you’ve transcended this earthly life.

The images in the jungle on the enamel above are more subdued and calm than the images in Rousseau’s painting.  There is a peace in the jungle scene I painted with enamel.  I think I painted this enamel to congratulate myself on a job well done.

I’ve been challenged and have changed as a result.  I never gave up.  I kept plodding through one challenge after another, knowing those challenges have come to help me become more empowered.

My beliefs have changed over the years.  My perspective on life is more expansive.

Self awareness helps us understand our truths.  It certainly opens ourselves to more happiness.  That’s because, by accepting who we are, we’re not swayed by other’s beliefs for us, beliefs that are based on their fears.  And self awareness helps us to produce the art that’s authentic to who we are.

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