“I say to the moment: Stay now! You are so beautiful.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Imagine: you’re sitting still in the lingering heat of late summer. You feel excitement, uncertainty. Insecurity and curiosity.
For the first time in a long time your body is waking up.
Something about this feels different, doesn’t it? The energy buzzing like a current through the air.
Have you ever had a moment like this?
Mine came one morning in September, 2013. I was 30 years old and had just made the (alarming, beautiful) realization that I wanted to be a painter.
Excuse the fact that I hadn’t actually painted in 12 years. Excuse the fact that I had over a decade-long career in a different field that was slowly, quietly, putting my spirit to sleep.
When my brush hit the canvas for the first time, I remember feeling a flicker that felt like peace. The feeling was fleeting and replaced quickly with overwhelming doubt, but I held on in a back corner of my mind.
“You are what you believe yourself to be.” – Paolo Coehlo
That first painting was small and simple with the words dream big stamped across the top.
The reminder was as much for me as for others, as in my own life I’d never felt confident enough to live bravely.
I’d been existing for multiple years in the haze of depression, deeply critical of my past and in a state of constant anxiety about the future.
How many of us talk wistfully about the future, without any real sense of how to make that future life a reality? Subconsciously I believed, truly believed, that I was not brave enough to move beyond my current timid life.
My progress was slow at first. I created art in the evenings and early mornings around my work schedule, stamping words and phrases onto my paintings that comforted the most sensitive layers of my heart.
Trust yourself. You are loved. Be free. Be brave.
I didn’t anticipate initially that others would be comforted in the same way, that so many of us need gentle and consistent reminders that we’re loved and worthy.
But as the months passed I began to realize that of course, so many of us do.
We are what we believe ourselves to be.
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” – Audre Lorde
Women began to reach out to me, telling me why they were connecting to my art. Some bought gifts for dear friends who were experiencing big shifts in their lives, another for a young mother with cancer. Some were celebrating new babies, or their moms, or needed encouragement as they faced their own battles.
Their stories sat with me, patiently, until something small yet tangible clicked into place in my heart. These stories were not that different from mine, all of us learning to nurture and heal the wounded parts of ourselves and our loved ones that lay hidden from view.
Perhaps, I started to think, my story was worth telling after all. Perhaps we all grow stronger when we learn from and inspire each other.
I began to listen even harder to what the people in my life were talking about: seeking connection, joy, love. Navigating struggle. Exploring freedom, faith, and the importance of self-care.
I felt the strength of their bravery, these individuals who were determined to live whatever truth felt best to them (even if they didn’t know where to begin inside their current lives).
And I remembered so powerfully the feeling of not knowing where to start, of taking tiny steps into an unknown future and looking desperately for encouragement. So it became less and less important whether or not I was afraid.
What matters most now is that none of us are ever truly alone in our experiences. We all have sadness, love, and fear. We all need inspiration some days and feel able to provide inspiration other days. What matters most is knowing that we’re capable and resilient.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” – Edward Abbey
If you had asked me two years ago if I thought I was enough, I would have launched into a thinly veiled apology for my flaws. My sensitivity was a flaw. My fair skin and quiet voice. I was not strong enough, not confident enough to take up space.
While I won’t pretend to have figured everything out, I’ve been learning ever since how to honor my own space without apologizing.
My definition of worthiness has evolved so much over the past few years, threading together all of the lessons I’ve experienced since letting my heart be seen through my paintings. I hope my new definition speaks to you, too:
We have a daily choice to be fully present in our lives, feeling the joy and sadness equally with the same tender care. We have power and wisdom just waiting to be realized and shared. We are capable of true and lasting healing. We are loved. We are enough.
Photo credit: Elena Saraga Danyluk