“I had the best weekend. I read. I walked. I did some TERRIBLE painting. It was awesome.”
I laughed out loud when my friend recounted her magnificent weekend – complete as it was with awful art. And I laughed not because I think her art is awful (I actually really like how she blends color), but because of the freedom with which she said it. How good she was at it was irrelevant. The art was for HER. Not for anyone else. Not for show, or performance, or to achieve something.
And it made me think: this is perhaps one of the reasons why people say older people have more joy. Because they care less what people think, and make choices based on what they want to do. If they want to paint? They paint. Even if they paint badly. They want to wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit them? They do it anyway.
I’ve never been a confident artist or particularly well coordinated. I was a B-team swimmer and got “good effort” responses on school art projects. No one ever, ever suggested I might make a career as a dancer, even though I really enjoyed ballet lessons. But one of the joys of becoming a parent has been the freedom to enjoy some things I know I’m not *good* at just for the sheer fun of doing them. Our kids don’t care how beautifully or terribly we sing, as long as we sing to them and for them. They don’t care how well I draw or build, as long as I sit down to be creative with them (I have sketched many, many stick figures and drawn many, many straight lego towers in my time. I even illustrated my own blog post once, if you’re curious about how bad my art is.) They’ve taught me about the joy of dancing wildly just because we’re happy, of painting just for the fun of it even thought we throw it straight into the recycling, of running just because it feels good to have the wind in your hair. One of the great unsung joys of little kids is how they give us permission to laugh with abandon.
My kids are a little older now and they’re beginning to care what people think. For example, I’ve discovered that while my daughter used to love all and any kind of dancing with me, that is no longer the case. I’ve discovered I can coerce her to do almost anything by threatening to floss in public (flossing as in the dancing craze move, not the dental kind. *insert maniacal evil mom laugh here*) And my older son pulled me aside recently and warned me before we headed into Target: “you know, mom, it kind of embarrasses me when you sing in public.” So… less abandonment and joy for the kids as we head into the tween and teen years.
BUT the damage has been done. Ten years of wild fun in the tutelage of the toddler years and excellent friends who paint badly with joy have left me a different person. It’s too late to turn me back into a non-flossing, non-singing mom, kids.
I’m bad at yoga. I do it anyway. I feel stronger and more flexible and calmer afterwards, even though I could easily be a posterchild for a #badyogi pinterest board. I’m bad at poetry, but I still make lame rhymes over breakfast. I tried rock climbing a couple months ago and I was so proud of myself for making it to the top of the wall I nearly burst into tears (and then DID actually burst into tears when I realized I was too afraid to let go and belay down). I also was climbing the kids wall and used literally every foothold on the wall… which is as amateur as you can get. But I’m glad I did it anyway.
I turn in my manuscript for my book this month (it’s due in Spring next year – I get to announce the title on my newsletter soon so make sure you’re signed up!) It’s been terrifying and wonderful writing it so far, and I have definitely needed to stop to take stretch breaks and singing breaks. This has been important… and not just because my body and brain need a break (a little cat and cow stretching goes a long way, you know). It’s been important because a little big of baking badly, a little bit of soulful tuneless karaoke, a little bit of awkward yoga, or the occasional paint nite remind me that there are a bunch of things we get to do because we choose to do them, and they’re good in and of themselves. Even if we aren’t successful at it, and even if it doesn’t feel productive.
What are you going to do badly today? I hope it gives you such joy.