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.