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When Your Art Gets Ruined

Many years ago, I took a class from Dee Wallace, the actress who played the mom in E.T. At the time, she had been “blackballed” in Hollywood and consequently, was holding acting classes and life coaching seminars, one of which I stumbled upon.

Those weekend seminars fascinated me, but one particular experience stuck with me all these years. It was a rather jarring watercoloring exercise.

At the news of doing an art project, I immediately grew anxious. Definitely not my forte. Dee got everyone settled in with the proper acoutrements and told us to paint whatever we desired.

A miracle happened that day in July because somehow, I created something worthy for a lobby in a Marriott hotel. Sure it was an 8×10 watercolor on paper done in 15 minutes crouched on the floor, but I remember being extremely proud of what I had created. I was ecstatic.

Then Dee tells us to take our watercolor and hand it to the person next to us.

The guy next to me was a sketchy, struggling actor who looked hyper-paranoid and super emotional. I had zero interest in handing my precious artwork to someone who was probably going to be on the 6:00 news before he got cast as an extra.

Dee then instructed the group to use our watercolors to destroy the piece of work we just got. Paint all over it! Make it as ugly as you can! Do whatever you want! The Emo-guy holding my opus lit up – he slashed brown and green all over it before she stopped talking.

I’m horrified. My heart breaks. For the first time in my life, I did something artistic that I loved, that I was proud of and I had to watch it get destroyed by some emotionally unstable hipster?

The moment Emo-guy stoically handed my piece back, I felt broken. Dee tells us to really look at that piece. And then she calmly tells us to take our watercolors and to “fix it”.

How do you fix something that seems hopeless? Those first few moments felt tedious as I struggled out of paralysis into action. But my brush somehow found a color and a place on the paper… and then another color and another place… and ten minutes later, I looked at my watercolor and froze.

What I did the first time was good. But what I ended with that day – after fixing it from the brutal artistic trauma it endured – was actually FAR BETTER.

When Dee got blackballed in Hollywood, someone “ruined” her art. But it was only because of that incident that she got into doing the life work that brought her to her true purpose in life. She wanted to impact people on a spiritual level. Being an actress was fine, but being a coach, speaker and writer was a far greater contribution to humanity.

Recently, my “art” has been getting ruined. My plans for life changes keep getting hijacked. I’ve been stuck in “fix it” mode. So tonight, I pulled out my watercolors and I painted. And I remembered that session with Dee. I remembered that a ruined plan is simply the layer beneath something beautiful that I haven’t created yet. From destruction comes inspired greatness.

The ruins and broken pieces are what generates inspiration, creativity and brilliant new paths. Every broken situation is simply a call for us to dig into our creativity. A nudge toward something better.

Perhaps the ruined art, the fiasco at home, the loss of a job, or the mishap on the dance floor is simply an invitation to be greater…. to become more than what we ever thought we could be. We might just surprise ourselves.


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What Broken Things Really Mean

Last Wednesday, I vacated the house while my house cleaning service was here. When I returned, I found them waiting for me outside. I knew immediately that something was wrong, but I welcomed them warmly as I approached.

They explained there had been an accident. A lava lamp that I had kept in the kitchen had broken. They insisted on replacing it or paying for it. Both of which I adamantly refused.

I loved that little red lava lamp; it was a quirky little addition to my decor and it created a fun ambiance in the rare moments I spent more than a few minutes in the kitchen. But I refused to have it replaced and I wouldn’t hear of them giving me a dime for it.

I’ve learned that when something breaks, it’s because it is no longer needed in your life. That energy is no longer supposed to be with you and the break is an invitation to let it go and get rid of it.

I don’t question the breaks in my life for this reason. If it breaks or gets ruined, I know it’s time to let it go. I never keep anything broken or damaged in my home (bad energy/Feng Shui). So I’m okay with things breaking. It’s simply a shift of energy – something I always welcome.

There is a difference between something “breaking” and needing some repair. If it is a repair, I do my best to get the item fixed as quickly as possible. If the repair isn’t fully restorative (or it just doesn’t feel good to me), then I know it is time to let the item go. Not all breaks are fatal. But it’s smart to know when they are.

Relationships, jobs, life situations are the same way… sometimes they “break”… beyond just needing that little bit of repair. Not all breaks are a heroic challenge to see if you can weather massive emotional storms or slay dragons playing manipulative mind games. Sometimes things simply break – and sometimes breaks are endings.

Maybe I outgrew that quirky little lava lamp. Just as I know I am outgrowing other things in my life. I take the lava lamp breaking as a good sign because I see other parts of my life “breaking” as well. If I can accept losing a beloved lava lamp, I’m pretty sure I can accept the “breaks” that are shifting me into new experiences, new friends, and new journeys. For that, every break is something I can be grateful for. 

A Gratitude Challenge

I consider my Gratitude Journal to be my most powerful tool in life. Each morning begins with writing down all the things I am grateful for. This simple act has had a stunning impact on my life today, but it wasn’t always this way.

After many years of doing gratitude journal and NOT having any significant changes  in my life, I had a major epiphany.

Most people are introduced to the concept by being told, “Write down 5 things you are grateful for each day”. They do that and after six months they say, “Well, that’s very nice, but my life isn’t much different.” So they stop.

If I told you that you could get flat abs by doing 5 sit ups a day, you’d think I was crazy. Gratitude is the same way. You get flat abs by working at it constantly. You get an attitude of gratitude by working at it until it becomes second nature.

At first, I began every day with a list of 10 things. Nothing changed in my life. I was about to give it up when I had a small epiphany. I decided to write down anything that made me happy, that I loved, enjoyed or appreciated. I was easily filling my book with 20-30 things each day.

Then one day, I had a crazy thought. Could I find 100 things that I was grateful for? It seemed intimidating. I knew I would be struggling to list 100 things; I’d have to stretch hard to do it…. But I felt inspired to give it a shot.

I was on fire for the first 50 items. The more I wrote down, the more passionate and excited I got. Items were filling my head faster than I could write them down. I was on a total high.

Then I slowed down… and I had to really think about my world, the different parts of my world, the people I knew, the decisions I made, the experiences that shaped me, the things I took for granted. All the beautiful things that I never really “saw” until that day.

That was when I “got” it. Gratitude is about retraining your mind in how it experiences the world. If I hadn’t been challenged to find 100 things, I wouldn’t have been pushed to see how incredibly beautiful and wonderful my world truly was. I became grateful for things I hadn’t been acknowledging. And with 20/20 hindsight, I was finding gratitude in things that seemed dismal at the time.

I felt amazing when I hit #100. The next day, I reflected on this challenge and I found myself wondering whether I could do it again. I took my journal and once again, listed 100 more things I was grateful for. As before, I struggled to fill a list of 100 items. It forced me to take an even deeper look at all areas of my world

This simple challenge changed how I saw my world. It sensitized me to the beauty and grace of everything around me. It made me aware of all the phenomenal things in my world that I had taken for granted. This simple exercise is exactly what created the stunning impact on my life today.

Need some ideas on things to be grateful for to help you get started?

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