Tonight Mess Cat and I went to the Coffee and Canvases event at Bare Bulb Coffee, our local coffee shop. She’s been once before with my oldest, as have I. So tonight we finally coordinated our schedules to be there together.
As our instructor shared with us the story behind what we’d be painting and talked about techniques and brushstrokes, he said something that struck me in the very center of my being.
“If I was worried about it being perfect, I’d never pick up a paintbrush.”
Okay, I’m back. Let me tell you, this is a talented young man. He is a skilled artist, whose talents at painting are only matched by his teaching abilities. He has the patience and gentle way about him that brings out the best in every person in the room, whether they’ve painted before or not. He has a gift, many gifts actually. To think of the world without his art, the beauty he creates, and the passion he has to share it with others–unfathomable.
And then I started thinking about times I haven’t “picked up a brush” because I was worried I would mess up. Why start when I know it won’t be any good?
How often do we do this to ourselves? Opportunities that are lost, dreams never even attempted–all because we are worried about the end result.
I have to admit I wasn’t ready for tonight. I had been looking forward to it, but I’ve been feeling a bit off my game and out of sorts and off kilter and discombobulated lately, and it just took the oomph out of it for me. I had fallen in love with the picture we were painting, but I was tired and just didn’t feel up to it. And to top it all off, the picture was quite intimidating–a beautiful old twisted tree on a beach–so I wasn’t sure I had it in me. How would I ever paint that?
But I got there and saw my sister and my dear friend already there and waiting (story of my life–sigh), and my spirits lifted. From the first gentle instruction, I felt the worries and anxiety and stress begin to wash away. The smell of coffee, the beautiful scene in front of me, and the comforting presence of folks I love–all were soothing. We were soon laughing together and encouraging each other and moaning over mistakes we made. Which our instructor assured us were not problems at all and set about teaching us how to fix them.
So yeah, I painted this tonight.
In the end, I was pleased. I learned a lot about brushes and texture and about me. See, when I went into this, I didn’t see how I could pull it off. Oh, I know it’s nowhere near as good as our instructor’s version, but I love it. I love that he encouraged us to make it our own with our own colors and style. And I love that with each leaf I painted and with each grain of sand I dabbed on, I relaxed a little more. And slowly, one detail at a time, the big picture came into being.
Too often I tend to look at a task or project or goal or dream and think, unh-uh, no way. Not gonna happen. The end result can be off-putting and scary. But if I can break it down one piece at a time and take tiny steps, it can all come together in the end and look pretty all right, if I do say so myself.
I am encouraged by the folks in my midst who have “picked up their brushes,” and let go of worrying about being perfect. The young woman who returned to ballet class as a young adult, not having taken lessons since she was 8. The man who returned to the theater, remembering his love of it from years past. The woman who has picked up pen and paper and keyboard and is writing and pursuing her dream of being published after years of wanting to. The non-fiction author who set out to write a fictional novel about the past and the land she comes from. The young man with the doctorate in electrical engineering who returned to the classroom at a seminary, determined to be a pastor. Two young women who had a dream of rescuing young women from the streets and doing something about an ecological crisis in a far away land. A couple with young children living in a city whose vision of raising their children on a farm became a reality. The sister who doesn’t think she has an ounce of artistic talent, who sat next to me and painted with a style so similar to Mama’s it brought me to tears.
The amazing thing about all of these beautiful people is not that they weren’t afraid or anxious; they very likely were. It’s that they pushed through the anxieties and fear of failure and not succeeding, and they picked up their brushes anyway.
What beauty are you depriving the world of by not picking up your brush? As my Mama told me more times than a few, “Dream big and go for it. I believe in you.”