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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: Artist's Dates

 I let myself out of the house today.

You wonder about that statement? Yes, I suppose it makes little sense to others, but it tells me a lot.

I do not enjoy leaving the house to do something that is not related to work. Yes, I confess, I work way too much. I tire out others when I explain what I do every day. I am frequently out of the house, but generally because of some work-related activity. As I think about today though, I realize that there is a pattern. I just like working. I do not enjoy doing things that are not related to work unless they are activities that I can enjoy alone, such as reading, writing, or watching movies or TV. Or doing something in my home. You would probably say I am a loner type. The folks I work with would be amazed to hear this, but as I have said earlier, I generally have no problem doing anything that is related to work.

I am a big fan of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and her strong suggestion that we creative types engage in the ritual of writing morning pages. I have done this activity for years, and I encourage others to join me. I gain so much insight and personal peace by sifting through my thought snippets each morning. If my mind is too full of things, the morning pages help me to carve out a route to the other side. If my mind is empty and drifting, the pages draw out helpful suggestions to pull me together again.

One of Julia Cameron’s other creative tools is the artist’s date. I am not so good about doing this requirement. Part of the problem is that I am generally too busy to take the time to do something like this. The other part of the problem is that I do not like to do something that is unrelated to work.

I made up my mind to do something this year about my problem. Recently I got a notice about a university theater performance of a Steve Martin play. I duly noted each of the performance dates on my calendar and especially noted which would be the last performance date, so that I would not get bogged down into thinking that I could "skip it this time and go next time.”

Today was the last performance. I had even thought that I would call up a friend to accompany me; I procrastinated making the phone call all week. Too many reasons came up. The weather looked bleak, I felt tired lately, the flu bug has been making its rounds so I should take precautions, and the dogs needed to spend more time with me. I let each performance date slip past me.

I did tell you that I got out of the house today? Yes, I did. It took a three-year old to accomplish this, one of my students. She was celebrating her fourth birthday a few days early, and at first she had planned to have a party at the local regional zoo. When the weather turned cold and icy, she moved the party indoors to a local pizzeria.

I accepted the zoo invitation, because that would have been an activity that allowed me to wander in solitude if I needed it and would definitely fit Cameron’s definition of an artist’s date. When the celebratory plans and venue changed, I said no at first, then later changed my mind. I really, really wanted to share my little student’s birthday enthusiasm. She had talked about her birthday cake all through Saturday’s group class. She was clearly excited about the event and about my coming and joining her friends. I thought about how disappointed she would be about the change in plans, and I thought I could help her mom to ease the disappointment of having the party in a new place. I would rise above my petty problem about not leaving the house to do things outside of work for the sake of my three-year old student.

And that is what I did. I attended the birthday party at the pizzeria. I met lots of people I did not know, and everyone was lovely. I had no trouble interacting with the kids, and my little student was such a pleasure to watch as she opened up her presents and walked over to personally thank and hug every single person who gave her a gift. When she finished opening up all her gifts, she announced, “Thank you, everybody!” She said it more than once. Wow, I do not know any adults who do that as well!

I had a lovely time, and I realized later that I was fulfilling my original purpose of embarking on an artist date. Cameron’s purpose for the artist’s date is to do a solo expedition about something that interests the individual. For me, however, the artist date will involve something outside of myself, because I understand now that any successful artist date for me will entail my having to overcome the problem of going outside of my comfort zone of work. I also understand now that the reason I have not succeeded at meeting the artist date requirement is that I have this work compulsion problem. Solitary excursions are not difficult for me; I embark on solitary artist explorations all the time because I enjoy being by myself. My future excursions will require me to involve myself in community outside of work no matter how uncomfortable; I will gain new insights from my social observations, and I will learn something about myself in the trying.

Maybe I should ask my little student what I should do for my next week’s artist date? Maybe we can go to the zoo?

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