It’s amazing how attempting even the smallest new thing when more or less “set in your ways” can send one into a sea of uncomfortable unbalance. For example:
-Going to a party and meeting new people.
-Drawing/writing with the non-dominant hand.
-Teaching someone something.
-Trying to paint outside in public.
-Doing a cartwheel.
-Learning to navigate manual settings of a camera.
-Attempting to chat with locals in a foreign language/country at a party without seeming a bit dumb.
My job as a weekend caregiver of 8 years recently ended, which has prompted me to try new things. For example, I recently decided to paint and draw more outdoors, which artists call painting “plein-air.” The image is, of course, of an artist sitting outside at an easel dabbing away at a canvas, usually wearing a European hat. Unfortunately, this is not how it goes, at least the first 100 times or so.
One lovely Saturday afternoon, Josh and I decided to go to White Rock Lake and set up a little station. He would read and I would plein air! I really was looking forward to doing something new. “You need to get some zen,” Josh said.
I had a hell of a time dragging my can of water across the field and then realized my chair was too big, and I had nowhere good to put my brushes and the watercolor board was a kite. After spending 30 minutes situating myself, I'd just squeaked out one awkward line of green when a mysterious invisible bug starting biting the shit out of me. Then it got very, very hot. Sweet Josh, ever calmly reading, would check on me occasionally out of the corner of his eye. I tried to look calm but was beginning to get the opposite of zen.
A sudden blast of strong wind sent all my supplies in 6 different directions, including my sketch papers, which I thought were cleverly secured to a board. People looked on, sympathetic or laughing as we tried to collect and chase the plein air supplies. Now, out of embarrassment and pissed-off-ness, I reset up my station, determined to keep trying. A young man walked up, kindly holding the wrinkled piece of watercolor paper that had blown away out of my sight. “Ma’am I think this is yours. It’s beautiful.” He handed me a piece of paper with the shitty green line on it, that had a nice watercolor on it from over 8 years ago on the back.
I guess it’s going to take a bit of time before I have my perfect little plein-air setup and European hat, navigate my camera settings with ease, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to speak in Spanish with locals at a party without sounding a little “slow.”
However, I’ve noticed, when I return to my own turf, my studio painting is a bit stronger, my camera skills are a bit better, and I feel more confident in general. Yesterday I overheard some Spanish speakers and realized that my grasp of the language has increased just after a week of practicing Spanish in Costa Rica.
I once read to do "one thing new every day," even if it is taking a new route home from work. I believe one of the keys to fulfillment is trying new things. There’s a whole big world out there, way more than what we “know,” or can navigate from our smartphones. Not daring to step outside of what I know or what feels "safe" actually traps me in a bubble that blocks me from growing stronger and more confident.