Saturday, January 6, 2007

This Little Light of Mine

You know the song, ..."This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine." Usually it is a group a adorable preschoolers or kindergarteners singing it. And all the admiring adults are hoping that they do let their little lights shine. We want them to grow in to the perfect and wonderful beings they have started to become.

But then, somewhere along the line, the light begins to diminish. Those same people sitting in the audience and beaming at those adorable kids have begun to temper the dreams and aspirations of those same beings with reality. Of course this is done to protect them. But the consequence of all this protection can be that light loses some oxygen and begins to fade.

My dad was an engineer. But when I was young, he used to paint. And he was really quite good. He could sit down and do some amazing sketches. I was in awe, and inspired. I remember watching him paint or draw, and wanting to be able to do that too. And I would spend many, many hours drawing pictures. My parents sent me to several art classes along the way, which I remember to this day. They were feeding something inside of me that was so essential to who I was. I was desperately absorbing as much as I could out of these experiences.

When I grew up, I wanted to be an artist.

But as I grew up other messages began to be absorbed. My dad stopped painting. To this day, I don't know why. And he is not around to ask. When I voiced my aspirations, I was told that this was a difficult path. I might not want to do that. It might be better to keep it a hobby. Only those who are really good can succeed at it. (You can spot the implication there, can't you?) All of this was done with the love and need to protect that we all feel as parents. It is hard to watch a child struggle, especially if we see a perfectly good, and easier path for them to follow.

At school, I was a good student. In particular, I was good at math and science. There are lots of good paying jobs that one can pursue with math and science. Not only was this message coming from home, but also at school. When it was time to figure out what I was going to do after high school, that little light still wanted to go to art school. But it could not compete with all the other voices in my head, and from the adults around me.

So I went to an engineering school and studied chemistry. By my junior year I realized I hated my choice, but did not see a way out at that point. I began taking business classes to create some new alternatives in my life. I liked marketing because it gave me room to be creative. When I graduated with my degree in chemistry, I went to work selling industrial gases. In Cleveland. Where I did not know a soul.

While I was in school, I was at least able to take some art classes. Yes they do have them at engineering schools! But once I was out of school, and trying to adapt to a new environment, I started to lose touch with that side of me. I began to take some classes here and there. It was my way of grounding myself. Unconsciously reconnecting with who I was. But I would not let myself take any of that seriously. Compliments from instructors or other students would not fully penetrate the armor I had built up by then.

I went on to get an MBA. Work in several different companies. Pursuing the jobs that I thought would make me happy. Changing companies to try and fix what was wrong. But none of those things worked. I still was only my happiest when I was creating.

But I still would not allow myself to see that this was my light that needed to shine.

It was only when I had kids, and gave myself permission to leave that world that the process of reconnecting began. That, several wonderful books, lots of work, and some therapy, have all helped me find and nuture that light.

So, how bright is your little light these days? Could it use some oxygen?

Try this out. Begin to write down the bits of your story. The parts where you learned your light was not as important as someone else's light. Or that it didn't quite shine the right way. Or that it was just plain silly. Write them all down. Put each one a separate piece of paper. And put them in a box. This may be something that you do in a day. Or for years. You can even decorate the box if you want! And this is not just for artists. Whatever light you

Now the object is to then take out a piece of paper and read each one. One by one. And ask yourself, "is this true"? "Do I have to believe this or hold on to this?" You may not be ready to let go of some of them yet. Some of them may be so deeply embedded into your sensibility by now that you can not see them, or let go of them yet. But when you are ready. Throw it away. Rip it up. Burn it. Get rid of it in anyway you choose. But let it go. Get rid of it, and you will start to feed a bit more oxygen to your light.

You know what is going to be in your head today...."this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..."

It is not just for kindergarteners. Let your light out. Let it shine.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Judy, you have an uncanny way of speaking some of my heartfelt thoughts. Reading your blog lately has been a lovely side trip to an artist's retreat for the soul. Thank you!