I am perhaps, first a foremost, a teacher. Why did I not realize this sooner? Because teaching (within the educational system) has become so constricted, so bogged down by policy and standardization, so polarized politically, and so replete with endless (and often pointless) paperwork, that there is so little time (or allowance) for creativity, for designing truly meaningful learning experiences in the arts. I became an art teacher because I believe in the power of the creative process and its ability to help kids and teens find and develop their voices, solve problems, and grow, develop, and express themselves as individuals. I also love teaching technique, vocabulary, and more technical drawing, but for me, the meat is the deeper, more meaningful stuff, the stuff that cannot be quantified or measured. State standards and evaluations, however, can only measure skills or information retained–and herein lies my problem. BUT, that aside, this much is still true: I get so excited about the idea of sharing something that I love (be it art, yoga, or something else entirely), that I spend more time feeling excited and sharing that excitement than I do actually doing the things I love.
Ummm, what? How does that even work? I can tell you. You have to be very good at a few things: reading, retaining information, getting excited about that information, and, most importantly, you have to be really, really good at fantasizing. Like, you know, dreaming stuff up. I see a picture of a greek god and suddenly my mind starts spinning until I remember a style of drawing that could be used to help my kids create god/goddess/superhero portraits that are symbolic of themselves and their greatest strengths. I have an annoying pain in my lower back and I imagine up a sequence of asanas for relieving such pain and stabilizing core muscles to help prevent it in the future. That excitement is key, too, because the more excited you are, the more you want to share whatever it is that has garnered such a complex chain of exhilarating reactions.
Anyway. I’m getting ahead of myself. I LOVE yoga, and I love practicing it. I LOVE art, I love looking at it, reading about it, and making it, in both visual and verbal forms. But, I spend a lot more time thinking about the things I love, fantasizing about them (and how I want to share this intense love with others) more than I actually do them. I don’t think this is terrible, mainly because I do a lot of yoga, and I enjoy being creative fairly often. So…what, then, is the problem?
My attitude. It’s not a bad attitude, but it’s forever future focused. When I do yoga, I’m often thinking about how I could or would teach what I’m doing. Instead of making art (visual OR written), I’m busy thinking about other things that make me feel apprehensive about my abilities. The creative and physical processes of art and yoga that I love so very much and want to share so very much are often missed by yours truly! I get so excited about the prospect of sharing something I love that I miss the depth of experience that so often brings us to that place of real satisfaction, contentment, and presence.
I’m aware of this. And I’m working on it. I’m really happy that I love what I do (share and teach), but I know I could do a better job at being more present while doing those things for myself. When I am teaching, I am totally there, my mind and heart are nowhere else (except in extreme situations–you know, those really awful terrible days when you can hardly even get out of yourself?), but that’s besides the point. The point is–I’m often “happier” in my head, in the fantasies I create about all the things I am going to do, that I often forget (is that the right word?) to actually do them. I think I like teaching because it yanks me into the present. And because I enjoy the act of teaching itself, and being around people (especially kiddos!), I am able, once I’m out of fantasy-land, to be with them and stay with them on a very real and deep level. But outside of teaching, I get so lost in my head that I often forget how much I actually love doing, presence, action, and togetherness. The fantasies are so rich (and easy) that it’s not hard to sit or wander around all day generating more and more of them. But it doesn’t really bring me to a place of satisfaction or contentment, and it certainly doesn’t make me a more practiced and aware artist, yogi, or teacher.
When I’m teaching, I’m happy. But when I’m teaching, I’m also aware of my dwindling time and energy. So, I start fantasizing about all the things I’m going to do when I go home: ride my bike, run, go to the park, do yoga, write, paint, meditate, etc. before the night ends and my last bit of energy spirals down the drain. I get so excited about doing all those things that I’m itching to go home and do them, to enjoy my evening. But what do I do? I often go home and think some more, and do very little. I’ve noticed improvements over the last year, but I know I can do better, and I know I’ll be a more balanced, content, and satisfied human being as a result. It’s easier to practice yoga more often because the reality usually lives up to the fantasy: I love how it feels to move through asanas, to be in each pose. But writing and art? There’s a lot of disappointment, ugliness, and uncertainty that I don’t always feel like facing, and those things initially make the reality far less “satisfying” than the fantasy I’ve created in my mind.
So, Katie: stop reading and thinking so much, stop getting excited only about sharing/teaching what you love, and start to truly experience doing what you love, and being in those experiences, even if they’re not perfect. Life is not a fantasy.
That’s all for now. Happy Friday!