Are there any of you out there who feel like the already-busy internet has turned into a madhouse of adrenaline-addled traffic? For good reason of course, but all the more reason to embrace filtering.
You may be wondering about my title, let me explain. Many years ago, 1992 to be exact, I attended a conference at Omega led by a woman named Judith Duerk. The conference was based on her 1989 book, Circle of Stones, and it was perfect timing for me. I was in the middle of a divorce from a man with whom I had not only shared a life, but had also shared a house and a business. During those seven years of joined-at-the-hip marriage, I seemed to have misplaced my identity. Suddenly I found myself turning forty, newly single, homeless, and unemployed. I knew something had to be done.
The good news is that conference reconnected me with parts of my soul, my identity, that had been thoroughly covered up by the busyness of life. Of all the pearls Ms. Duerk offered us that weekend, this story has stayed with me the most deeply. It goes something like this:
“For some of us, and I believe it happens to women a lot, our souls at some point take on a sieve-like character. Thereafter, it seems like all the compliments and loving support we receive starts to runs right through us, as if our comprehension is a sieve, and all that remains in the sieve are the bits that hurt, that need improvement, are behind schedule, or in some way do not measure up. Your job now, from this conference on, for the rest of your life, is to fill in the holes of that sieve, and turn your soul back into a beautiful bowl that can hold all your joy and accomplishments, as well as those challenges that are the spicy, ever changing, natural parts of every life.”
That weekend I saw that somewhere along the line, I had unwittingly embraced a mental filter that was working against me. I had developed Velcro for failures and Teflon for successes, and no amount of psychotherapy was going to really help. The shift was up to me.
Like with so many things, simple awareness can actually be the cure.
For years now, whenever I am feeling low (especially if I am replaying a recent situation that left me feeling ‘less-than’) I think of a sieve. In truth, I actually picture an old, dented aluminum one on my head, and I am forced to lighten up!
Daily journal tools
So here is some putty to help plug up those holes. I have kept a daily journal for most of my life, starting in childhood. A while back I started including an addendum at the end of each day’s entry: I jot down one ‘Proud Of.’
It can be tangible (like a task completed), or an intangible (like handling a difficult situation with more grace than I expected.) Perhaps I moved a ‘complete-able’ creative project forward just a tad, or I spent time on a never-ending project (like ‘improving my watercolor skills.’) Either way, I jot down how it went, the part of it that makes me feel contented or proud. Putting in the time is what makes me proud, naturally; not the outcomes that may or may not show on paper.
So now, in the midst of this worldwide madness, it is prime time for all of us to Seize the Sieve. Notice what is sticking and what is washing through. Don’t analyze it, heaven forbid, but rather just look, notice, and say, “Huh.” If you like what you see, carry on. If not, perhaps you can identify, just for today, a pleasurable focal point, for perhaps 30 minutes, an hour, or even more if you’re lucky like me, and give yourself the gift of contentment-in-the-moment. It is the only place it is ever found, of course.
Speaking of courses (well, sort of), my ‘complete-able’ project for this week is to return to a wonderfully simple watercolor course that I signed up for ages ago and never finished. (Of course that never happens to you, right?) I made a deal with myself: in this online video course, if I just want to watch all the videos, I can do that. If I want to do the homework exercises too, that’s great.
The course I am now working through is on the Udemy platform, instructor is Andy Walker, and there are several from which to choose. I started with Watercolor Fast and Loose and loved it. Then I went on to Paint Landscapes 1 & 2 – that is where I am now. It is great fun, and as Andy says, “Give it a go!” If you are already a skilled watercolorist, it will reinforce the foundations in a very lighthearted way. If you are a beginner, especially an intimidated one, Andy is the man for you. Very encouraging. There are introductory videos you can watch before you decide whether to buy or not. It is very affordable as well.
Here are a few of the exercises from the sketchbook I dedicated to this course:
By now most of us know what to do to stay fairly safe, physically, in this new reality.
Emotionally safe, now that’s another matter, but equally important.
We can’t control other people, but we can have influence over our own wellness by continuing to enjoy life as it now presents itself.
Seize the Sieve!
(And as always, let me know how you got on!)