It’s my birthday today and I couldn’t sleep last night. Those two things aren’t actually related except for the fact that my insomnia meant I was awake at the exact time of my birth (3:34a).
I never used to have a problem sleeping, but ever since my cancer diagnosis it’s been a struggle. Sometimes it’s anxiety that keeps me up, sometimes it’s steroids, sometimes it’s like my body just has a surge of energy running through it that keeps my brain awake even though I’m tired. That was the issue last night.
I read until I finally dozed off around 1:45, and then I woke back up 15 minutes later and lay there for a long time hoping to fall back asleep. As I waited for sleep to come, I kept thinking of my birthday mantra: begin as you mean to go on. This is the way I try to live on a daily basis – I’m intentional about starting my day mindfully, with certain practices that ground me and set my focus for the whole day. I see my birthday as a chance to think about this concept in an even broader way. What is it that I hope to be and to do in the coming year? And, what practices will help me live out those hopes? Whatever those practices are, I try to start them that very day, so that I’m not just dreaming but doing.
As I lay awake in bed in the wee hours last night, I kept thinking, “This is not how I mean to go on!”
So finally, I got up and started painting.
For awhile now, I’ve been wanting to learn how to do watercolor. I’ve been thinking of it as a way of getting at our sabbatical focus from the inside – learning a visual art while studying the visual arts, all with a focus on the intersection with spiritual experience. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading about watercolor, and watching online videos, and making plans to start learning. On Sunday afternoon, I went out and bought my first paints and brushes and paper. Yesterday afternoon, I pulled up a video tutorial, and then I did this:
I was hooked, and immediately. Painting with watercolor was every bit as enjoyable as I’d imagined! Such an adventurous partnership between painter, paint, paper, and water. It was thrilling.
Before I went to bed, I started working on creating a color chart, a tool for mixing the colors of a palette and seeing what colors they create. It’s kind of slow-going, and I only finished a little bit before going to bed. But around 3:00 this morning, when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to just get up and paint.
So I did. And it was so delightful (even though my chart is kind of a mess – oof! in the wee hours I got a bit sloppy down there in the green section). Messy though it was, I was happy to have started this particular trip around the sun the way I mean to go on – getting up from the things I can’t control (like not being able to sleep, or having cancer, or losing people I love) and taking hold of whatever power I do have (like creating, enjoying, delighting, paying attention, and being in the moment).
After awhile, I put the paints away, got back in bed right after the exact time of my birth, and fell right asleep. When I got up this morning, I picked up the paintbrush again. And, throughout the day, I found time (and made time) to pick it up again and again, and do a little bit of painting, until I finished my chart.
So. I’ve started this year the way I mean to go on. Making time and taking time to: learn, try, grow, make, and delight. Even when it’s imperfect. Here’s to another trip around the sun!