Feeling lost? It's time to take a look at your canvas.
I’m feeling a bit rudderless right now. I don’t know if it’s the holiday season coming up or knowing that a new year is starting in a little over a month…but I’ve been questioning what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
Following a path
I’m a firm believer that our past experiences put us on a certain path and it’s up to us to pay attention and follow it (or not). In fact, I recently had a conversation with a friend who just started a real estate business and it’s taken off in a way I don’t think she ever expected. Up until now, she’s been a teacher and then a stay-at-home mom to her twin girls. And she mentioned her frustration that she started her real estate business later in life than she should have.
But I don’t believe that’s true.
“You couldn’t have started earlier,” I told her. “Your past experience as a mother makes you understand families and their needs. That’s a big reason why you’re so successful now. You needed it.”
So, I’ve been thinking about my own past and how I’ve gotten to this point; I was a widowed stay-at-home mom with three children, wondering how in the world I was going to get back into the work force after staying home for so long. I began writing a book and working on my own social media platform which took off more than I expected. The book was published, everything was going well, and I was on a path I was convinced would bring me success.
And then something life-altering happened.
At the beginning of 2014, just after my book was published, I developed crippling anxiety. Looking back, I can see that it was building (actually, thinking about my childhood I believe I’ve had it all along), but I was just too busy – I didn’t have time to deal with it.
By February 2014 I could barely leave my house.
I was determined to deal with it on my own, terrified that taking medication would numb me or have side-effects that were worse than the problem itself. I tried yoga, meditation, walking, changing my diet…and I told ANYONE who would listen that I was having an issue with anxiety, hoping that someone would give me a magic cure.
By the summer of that year, my mind, spirit, and body were in knots. I scheduled an appointment with a masseuse at my yoga studio to work on my back (something that was terrifying to me at that time – an hour in a room feeling like there was no escape? That was my nightmare).
I told the woman my issue and what she said impacted my life from that point forward.
“Have you ever looked at Japanese watercolors?” she asked.
“I guess…I mean, not really.”
“If you do, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of white space – what some people would call ‘negative space’,” she said. “That’s because they want the viewer to interpret the rest of the painting. With most forms of art, the canvas is completely filled with the picture and there’s no room for anything else.”
I thought about that for days after that appointment. I thought about my canvas, my life, and how I was filling it to the point where there just wasn’t any more room. I saw that canvas as precious, finite. I realized that what I chose to put on it had to be important because there’s only so much space available.
I realized that if my life’s canvas is painted out to the edges, there’s nothing left for me and there’s no space to interpret the picture – my life. There’s no breathing room. There’s no opportunity to stand back, look at the white space, and be creative in how I want to fill it.
I’ve been thinking about that conversation a lot lately because, once again, I feel like my canvas is full; it’s easy to do when you’ve got kids, a business, and responsibilities. And it happens when you don’t even realize it. Life has a way of just painting that canvas for you, if you’re not careful.
Then suddenly you wake up and you don't recognize the picture.
Perhaps this rudderless feeling is what I needed to take a look at my picture and figure out what I need to do to be inspired again. It’s time to take stock and remind myself that my life’s canvas is a precious space and that what I need to fill it not only needs to be beautiful…it needs to incorporate enough room to keep creating the picture.
I guess that negative space isn’t so negative after all.