I love Thanksgiving. A holiday dedicated to focusing on what we’re thankful for — how beautiful is that?
I’m thankful for so much — a loving, supportive partner; my family and friends; my home; my kitty; abundant, healthy food; clean water; work that challenges and inspires me; the ability to run up and down stairs (not something I could have done post knee surgery, just a few years ago!) The list goes on.
Today I’m especially thankful that now, in my late 40s, I am finally able to extend the same kind of compassion toward myself that I do toward others.
Instead of holding myself to a superhuman standard, and then beating myself up when I invariably fail to measure up, I’m learning to give myself a fresh start whenever I need one.
What a change from my teenage and early adult years, when my unforgiving attitude and impossibly-high expectations (combined with a few other little things like, oh, sexism and Capitalism) helped keep me trapped in a bulimic spiral of doom.
I could point to so many factors that helped me heal, but ultimately it all boils down to self-compassion.
Allowing myself to treat myself with compassion affects all areas of my life, but where it really hit me this morning was when I looked at my messy art table, which had been gathering dust after weeks of on and off travel. I’d been in such a great groove back in October, painting, making spontaneous music loops, playing in the Creative Sandbox — usually in multiple mediums — just about every day. But as it so often does, travel derailed me.
To paraphrase Newton’s First Law of Motion “A body in motion stays in motion; a body at rest stays at rest.”
When we’re in the habit of creating every day, it’s easy (or at least easier) to keep creating. When we fall out of the habit, inertia sets in, and I felt like a Big Block of Inertia.
It was tempting to point to some Very Good Reasons to explain the dust collecting on my paints and tools. I mean hey, I’m busy! I have a Living Room Tour to organize, improv shows to practice for, courses to launch!
Underneath it all, though, I knew these were just excuses.
The temptation was so great to lambaste myself, first for not diving back into the Creative Sandbox, and second for making excuses! “Oh, Melissa,” that inner voice said, “how could you? For shame!”
Thankfully, though, I’m wise enough to know that such treatment only ever backfires. Shame is not a motivator. Beatings do not increase morale.
So I smiled patiently at that mean, inner voice, patted it on the head, and responded with compassion instead.
“You are human,” I reminded myself. “Yes, you stumble, just like everyone else. This does not mean you’re flawed, or broken, or unworthy, or hopeless; it’s simply a reflection of your humanity.”
Instead of beating myself up, I loved myself up.
I reminded myself of rule #4 of my Creative Sandbox Rules, my Keys to Creative Flow: Think tiny & daily. I reminded myself of the surprising power of setting “ridiculously achievable” goals, like 15 minutes a day.
So this morning I set a timer for ten minutes and cleared space on my messy art table. Then I set a timer for fifteen minutes and played.
Recent trips kept me away from my art table, and inertia started to set in over the past few weeks, as it does. The antidote: just start, and make it “ridiculously achievable!” 15 minutes playing in the #creativesandbox and I feel ready to face the day! HOORAY for PLAY!! #livingacreativelife #creativeprocess #joy #play #fun #paintingfun #workinprogress #experiment #juststart #15minutesaday #abstract #abstractart #art #artinspo #artinprocess #artistsofinstagram #mixedmedia #mixedmediaart #yes #sayyes #purple #cracklepaste #kromacrackle
Another #workinprogress with one of my favorite #quotes: “Better is better.” #livingacreativelife #truth #reminder #quote #wip #art #artinprocess #artistsofinstagram #abstract #abstractart #mixedmedia #mixedmediaart #cracklepaste #kromacrackle #type A photo posted by Melissa Dinwiddie (@a_creative_life) on
And you know what? The rest of my day went better.
I smiled more. I had more patience. I felt happier. I was more productive.
That’s how it works: feed yourself well, and you’ve got the fuel you need to deal with the slings and arrows of life.
I know this. I preach this, for goodness’ sake! And yet I still fall off the wagon.
Thankfully, I know enough to keep my wagon really short (i.e., a few minutes, a single 3×5 card, a brief scribble — or as Laureen says, any amount counts), so it’s easy to climb back on. 🙂
This is what will get me through the craziness of holiday season: the power of self-compassion and the power of play. And the solid understanding that it’s never too late to take a fresh start.
This is what I’m thankful for.
Wanna jump in the sandbox with me?
If you’d like a gentle nudge onto your own short wagon to help buoy you up through holiday busy-ness, join me in the sandbox next week, when I’ll be running a special holiday session of Creative Sandbox 101. It runs for one week, inviting you in for a tiny, luscious bite of playful goodness every day for seven days, from Wednesday, December 3 through Tuesday, December 9 (but you have a whole month to access the content and play in our private Facebook group).
Insiders get super-special holiday pricing, so if you’re not already on my mailing list, sign up now in the form below.
I know your mean inner voice is probably screaming that you don’t have the time, but believe me, just a few minutes a day tending to your creative spirit pays off in spades. It may be the best return on investment you’ve gotten all year.
Click here to read more and register now.
PS — Want to give someone else Creative Sandbox 101 as a gift? Email me and I’ll set you up with a special certificate you can send as a gift.
PPS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!