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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The art of improv: going with the flow when you least expect it.


“I never reach those far-off places. New trails tempt me at every turn.” 
― Marty Rubin

It's funny when you plan things a certain way and they just don't happen like you thought they would.

(Reminds me of something pretty familiar actually...)
I definitely didn't plan on a coma at the end of my high school senior year...or having my high school graduation in the ICU of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital!  But I did end up graduating!

Yes, that's how my life worked out, and I'm sure that everyone has had something in their life go in a different way than they had hoped or at least anticipated.  

But that's the art of life - the improvisation.  That's where we get to be creative, work with what we've got, and hey, sometimes, we end up being pleasantly surprised by what amounts.  

And sometimes can be all the time, in three ways: (in my opinion...)

1.) We can choose to view it in a certain light (i.e. glass is half-full)

2.) We can just follow that path and keep waiting, waiting and patiently waiting until we arrive at a plateau we we are able to experience the view from the top, and see the grand picture of how everything fits together, and then say "oh, it was a longer road than I had thought, but ultimately, this view is better." (i.e. everything will be okay in the end and if it's not okay it's not the end)

3.) If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  We can just shrug off what we had anticipated, laugh it off, go with the flow, and surrender to the uncertainty which is neither good nor bad - just be with it and experience what is rather than what should be.  (i.e. Man plans, god laugh)

In my experience, this is how you get through anything.  But more importantly, it's how you manage to live while you are living.  It's maintaining your aliveness no matter what happens rather than just enduring in order to get to something "better."  Because who knows if things will ever get better?    Things could be the best they ever are right now.  And...that could be the greatest gift in your life.

(You just have to see it.)


I was thinking about this surprisingly NOT because of my own beautiful detour.  I was actually thinking about this because I took my walk this morning and saw all of my beautiful trees who I love.  Anyone can fall into a routine - especially me, who used routines, creating and activities to cope with years of endless surgeries and not being able to eat or drink for an indefinite period of time.  

So my plan was - as I do most days - to go right down to the studio and paint my vivacious trees.
Like these!!!
But I didn't really feel like it.  I was going to go back upstairs and say "today is not a painting day..." but I still wanted to do something.  I think.  

So I started to paint messy things - just not thinking at all because that's what feels the best when I create.  And I went for the flesh tones.

And I started to create a body.  I felt connected to what I was painting, and the colors felt like home.
Painting a human figure was not what I had anticipated - first and foremost, anything resembling figure drawing intimidates me because I'm not the best realistic drawer and don't really know much about technique, perspective, etc....I'm sort of better at the "I'm painting what I see in my head" or "I'm painting what I feel" kind of thingy...
I threw in some nutmeg just for fun :)
Soon, I was painting from a source larger than myself, it felt like.
Like it was coming from my subconscious, or somewhere I really needed to paint - and feel - from.
I put it away for a bit. 
(Meaning about a minute)
And then I had to come back - I really did want to finish it now, even though I was a bit tired and pretty messy.  I wanted to add more and more layers, keep brushing, dabbing, painting, banging - you know, all the proper Amy-Painting techniques :)
And then I left it alone.  I don't know if it's done yet but I think tomorrow I'll look at it again and decide it's finished.  I do like it so far though.  But it's probably done.

It had already been an hour or so and I was about to head upstairs, but I had that little kiddie voice in me going, "I just wanna do it one more time!"  Fine...
So I got out one more canvas...
And I had that same need.
I kept going, kept painting - I knew the body was there but I had no idea what else was going to appear on the canvas.
I just allowed myself to dab my brush in whatever color was there and just go with it, go for it.
Of course there were times I was thinking while I was painting, things like "oh that messed up what I was doing" or "ooh, I don't like how that part turned out"
But I just ignored it and kept painting.  I figure when it's'll be done.
I dabbed, brushed and shmeared on and on, layer after layer, not thinking about what it looked like, just feeling the physical sensations of my palm on the wet canvas, each little pin point of my brush, how vibrant each color was and how it blurred into the next...
And when I was getting an idea of what I wanted to do, I'd have an "aha!" moment...and then paint from another area would splotch over what I had planned and I had to live with it, work with it and wait for it to lead to something else...
...which was a lot of waiting...and a lot of paint!
It was a long journey through this one, but I think I'm happy with what's become of it.  I stepped away for now.  I think tomorrow when I come downstairs, I'll look at it again and be quite pleased.

Whew.  Haven't done one of those three hour painting sprees in a while.  But it was good to do today.  Always good to keep my mind jumping just when it gets settled on the idea.  

It's what keeps me young :)
My art at Temple Shalom in Norwalk, CT

Before I Go...
Another different thing (for me today)...I do have quite a bit more to share, but I'll save that for another post.  I'd rather share the lesson I learn today (and continue to learn day after day) and ask if yo've ever experienced this for yourself...

What do you do when life (or anything in life) doesn't go just as you had anticipated?  What's your strategy?

I guess I've learned that the best strategy is to not have one at all.  Go with the flow, and have a blast improvising and co-creating with the universe...

...Or as good ol' John Denver says...

And give yourself one of these today!
"Water flows because it's willing.” 
― Marty Rubin


  1. oh gosh I struggle with just going with the flow. I am not none that deals with things changing well. I love the art pieces:)

  2. Amy, I can so identify with your feelings about things not going as planned. I had so much planned for this year art-wise and have done none of it - getting a bowel cancer diagnosis in mid-January left me so unsettled and unable to get down to anything at all! I have just started again with baby steps but it's a slow process. I am due to start my chemo in a week or two and probably won't feel like doing art again... I refuse to let myself get frustrated or depressed about it and do try to "go with the flow." Zentangle is a good distraction and is very calming and focused, and you can work on a small scale so no project seems that overwhelming. I am doing that again now and it's helping!

    Loved following your art work through this post.

    Shoshi (on Inspire/Ostomy)

  3. So glad you could still do your graduation and with a smile on your face! Thanks for joining OMHG Wordless Wednesday!