It can be very empowering to let go of something that no longer describes who you are. The words to quit gets a bad wrap sometimes. It sounds so final – and maybe under the right circumstances it is. But it doesn’t always have to be forever.
I wrote the above words in a post that I published late last year. I was writing about walking away from things that just weren’t working anymore. The thing that wasn’t working for me at that time was my relationship with painting. I’d committed myself to a project that was to be part of a series, with the theme being Autumn Woods. I’ve expressed myself through art in various forms of oil, pencil, pastel, clay or watercolor for over half of my life, but in December of 2010 I was feeling disconnected and decided that it was time to walk away from it for a while. The full post can be found here. Below, is an excerpt:
I passed those paintings every time I washed a load of laundry. I’d walk by and see them sitting there out of the corner of my eye and each time I did, I’d get this nagging feeling in my gut reminding me that I ‘needed’ to finish them. Notice I didn’t use the word want. There is a huge difference between the two. In reality, I need to work; I need to pay my bills; to get up in the mornings. I should want to do the things that normally bring joy and a sense of meaning to my life. Instead, what was once my passion was now bringing me anxiety and a sense of dread. I knew that I had to do something but truthfully, it scared the hell out of me. Have you ever done something for so long that it becomes an extension of who you are? And then lost your passion for it?
What if it were OK to set something aside for a bit? What if it were perfectly acceptable to put a pin in it; to let it simmer about for a while? Dare I say that depending on the circumstances, it could actually be better to completely let go of something with the intention of never looking back?
Fill in the blank: What would happen if I quit _________? (painting? running? blogging? hanging out with people that are not good for me anymore?) Would it make me sad? Would I miss it? Would I feel lost without it?
I decided to do a little experiment. First, I assured myself that it would only be for one month – then I would re-evaluate the situation. I also began telling myself that I was not throwing them away; I was just moving them for a while. Once I became comfortable with that idea, I packed up the paintings. I cleaned my work station and placed all of my brushes and paint into a box – and I put everything away. Let me tell you what happened the next time I went downstairs to do laundry: I felt as though a 4 ton weight had been lifted from my my mind.
That was seven months ago. I spent seven months without feeling the need or desire to finish that series of paintings. The longer I went about my life, the less I thought of it. Part of me wondered if I’d ever unpack my easel. Then, one day a couple of weeks ago – I did.
I don’t know what happened, exactly. I was in the basement separating lights from darks and suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to put together the easel and just set out my unfinished painting, which I did. Two days later, my brushes and acrylics were put to work. I didn’t work diligently; every time a load needed to go into the washer or dryer I’d spend 5 minutes adding a few brushstrokes here and there, then I’d head back upstairs and continue about my day. I carried on like this for almost a week. And then, I finished it.
I’m now working on a new series of paintings and I am feeling this surge of creativity beginning to flow again. I feel like ‘me’ again. Not that the me who didn’t paint for seven months was suffering any; I took pottery classes, wrote more, and realized that it was OK to put that part of me away for a while.
It wasn’t easy letting go of something that I felt, at least in part, defined me. I was afraid that I’d no longer recognize myself for who I was anymore. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I’d never picked up a paintbrush again but I have to say, I’m relieved that I found my way back to it. Truthfully, I think it needed a vacation from me. I wasn’t doing my craft any favors with my indifference and lack of desire.
Have you ever lost your passion for something or felt the need to take a break from it? Did you ever find your way back to it, or did your time away lead you to something completely different?