Two women sat on couches, feet curled underneath and warming their hands on mugs.
“You should try painting. I heard it helps with writing.”
“Poo. I can’t even draw, my stick figures are pathetic.”
“I know just the thing! One of those catalogs of DVD classes came in the mail yesterday, and Beginning Drawing is on sale. It was on the cover.”
“Perfect! I could dabble at home where no one can see. Would you bring it to church Sunday?”
I didn’t finish the course, but my drawings became recognizable. Still, I knew adding color was way out of my league. Another friend’s blog recommended free tutorials on Let’s Make Art. Shivers ran down my arms. I couldn’t wait to try it.
My first attempt to watercolor trees with leaves (don’t laugh) I hid in a stack of papers. My second was slightly better. My third try was decent. I revisited the website and found a tutorial for a sunflower. When finished with this project, I was satisfied enough to send it to a friend recovering from surgery. I was downright proud, knowing how far I’d come.
The painting website has a private facebook page for artists to share their work. Brilliant! I could join this group and be encouraged by all the other watercolor newbies. The acceptance email came, and I scrolled down the posts. The longer I gazed at the gorgeous paintings, the smaller and more ridiculous I felt. I was embarrassed I’d mailed my silly sunflower. What was I thinking?!!
I often feel this way when I post a blog or join a conversation. I think I have something to say, but after it’s in the air, I shrivel up with all my pride wrung out. Two weeks ago I joined Toastmasters, a learn-to-speak club, and gave a 1-2 minute speech on a topic given on the spot. Sitting down afterward, my cheeks combusted and a little pile of ash was all that remained in my chair. As I drove home and relived the humiliation, it occurred to me how inconsequential this little talk was. I can’t improve if I don’t accept floundering along the way. I need to stop expecting perfection and get over myself.
I’m discovering that once I admit that I’m not in the talented top ten and am wrong much of the time, the pressure is off. I can relax and host company while my floor is dirty or serve burned cookies without apologizing. I suspect that letting go of perfection releases other people from pressure too. If I can stop being self-conscious or laugh at myself, I’m more pleasant to be around.
Sarah, the artist ‘starring’ in the tutorials encourages beginners with quips such as, “ Don’t get mad at yourself. It’s only paper!” Today I discovered she and her students make a charge before they start a project. “I promise to be brave. I promise to be kind to myself. I promise to have fun.”
This reminds me of what Paul says in his letter to the Philippians.
Not that I (…) am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:12-13
I love this! He nails my thoughts down: I am not perfect but keep trying, because Jesus already made me His. I leave mistakes in the past and keep going. Then, to address my preoccupation with myself, Paul says in Hebrews,
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:2
Keep Jesus in might sights. He is already perfect and is the one who is perfecting me. Done!