I was sitting in the garden recently, on one of the days following writing my last blog post on Vulnerability, ironically feeling vulnerable.
I had written out something that felt profoundly private and not kept it to myself. It felt hard to sit with that knowledge and not delete my blog post. But I drank my hot cuppa out there under the bright sunshine, and committed to leaving my post where it was. Even though I felt the vulnerability, fear and self-doubt rise up in waves, I committed to not silencing myself.
And I started to think about Commitment.
What commitment might be. What it might look like. When we need it. How we give it. Who we give it to.
And what we might be, unwittingly, committed to.
When I sit down to paint, I am thoroughly intimidated by the white canvas, the blank page, the wide open space of nothingness that I'm hoping to fill.
Every. Single. Time.
I want to turn away. To not take the risk of getting things wrong. To not mess up. I want to step back from the edge (of my desk). No matter how much I paint, this experience of doubt just before I paint, never leaves me.
For years I was afraid to paint. I had images in my head of how I wanted my paintings to look, but my skills didn't match my imagination. The gap between where I wanted to be and where I was, seemed too painfully large.
It filled me with disappointment and frustration that I couldn't create what I wanted to create. It hurt to not be able to recreate what my heart was seeing.
I had huge doubts about my abilities.
Eventually, I reached a place where it hurt more not to try.
Without even realising it, I had been committed to not failing. And in doing so, had cost myself dearly.
So, I finally said "Fuck doubt".
I have to choose what I want to be committed to. Not failing by never trying. Or, trusting.
There's huge commitment involved in the process of painting.
A commitment to trust myself.
Before I paint, my head is filled with noise, and self-doubt.
When I paint, my head becomes silent and my heart takes over. I know it sounds strange but I don't know of any other way to describe it. The worries, fears, niggling thoughts, and constant mind chatter are all silenced and instead I can only hear what my instinct is telling me to do.
I trust that instinct completely. It has never let me down. I might be afraid to follow it at times, but I follow it all the same.
They're not right, Em, they've got to go.
But if I white them out, I won't have much of a portrait left.... What if I can't paint them in again as well as I just did?
It will be better. Trust me. I promise you. White them out. Get rid of them. Daub gesso all over them. Obliterate them. Go on. Do it. DO IT!
OK, I'm doing it. Oh. sh*t, I'm doing it.
For me, the only thing more frightening than a blank canvas, when painting, is making parts of the canvas blank again after I've started filling it.
Commitment is a strange thing, isn't it?
It can be terrifying.
But in making a commitment, we can find something in ourselves we didn't know we had.
It felt scary to follow my instinct and paint over the features, to whiten them out. To erase what I'd already done.
But each time I paint, I'm making a commitment to myself. To follow my heart. To follow my instinct. To trust that quiet but powerful voice inside me that knows what I need to do. That guides me through. That helps me be sure about which way I need to go.
And each time I commit to listening to that voice, and hearing what it tells me, I get better at painting. Making that commitment helps me find something new within myself, I didn't know was there. Making a commitment to myself moves me beyond doubt into something concrete, known and beautiful.
I was chatting to someone this week who said that the blank canvas, and painting, are powerful metaphors for life, and I think he is right.
We may not know how to fill the canvas, whether we have the skills to create what we want to create, or whether we will make a mistake and mess it all up, but when we step to the edge and commit to following our instinct, following the peaceful, powerful voice inside us, we grow.
Whether that's when we paint, or when we're doing Life.
With love to you as you step to the edge.
P.S. This is my latest painting. She's called "Michelle". Mixed-media on watercolour paper. Inspired by the art of Annie Hamman