Monday, December 21, 2009

Living a Hand Crafted Life

This is the first of a monthly series of a column entitled "Living a Hand Crafted Life" published in our local newspaper, the Hendersonville Times-News.
“Don't ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Harold Thurman Whitman
This is a powerful passage, one you may have read before. I’ve seen it often and I believe it’s because the desire to do what we truly love resonates with each of us.
This is a new column to explore and encourage what it might mean to create a life of one’s dreams. I think a lot about how important it is for each of us to express who we are. The act of self-expression occurs in myriad ways: in our work, our families, our art, our volunteer efforts, our community. Our strongest form of expression is related to our passions.
Take a moment to consider the question, “What are you passionate about?”
Studies have shown that the amount of control we have over our lives directly corresponds with our mental health: the more control, the better our mental health; the less control, the poorer our mental health.
These times are difficult and many find their lives out of control. Their passion then focuses on survival. This is completely appropriate. So how can we enrich our lives even though we are not in control of our surroundings?
Unemployment is high. I know: I was laid off from my full-time job less than a year ago. And while my logical side repeated, “Get a job! Make a paycheck!”, there was a constant small voice saying, “It will be ok. Do what you love.” And while I loved the work I had been doing, it was time for a change. I wanted to create a “crazy quilt” livelihood of all the things I love most. And unemployment was a blessing in disguise that gave me the opportunity to explore my passions.

The thought kept drifting through my head, “When a door closes, a window opens.”
I found that with time for myself, I reconnected with one of my greatest passions: creating art. We are all creative. Our main hindrance is that we don’t give ourselves the time and space to explore our creativity, our unique form of self-expression. With my new schedule, I was able to dive into the art that had been pushed to the back burner, and it was a wondrous and prolific time.

In the spring, I was invited to submit entries in a Recycled Art exhibit at Hand in Hand Gallery. Within days of receiving the invitation, I found a box of old brass window escutcheons (you know, where you put your fingers to open old, wooden, weighted windows) my dad had purchased in the 1960s from an old hardware store going out of business. (Being a child of a Depression-era parent, I could not get rid of these.) Intuitively, the recycled art idea came together, and I joyfully created a mixed media necklace using the escutcheon as a pendant holding words I’d cut from a vintage book “When a door closes a window opens” and adding brass chain, charms of pictures of closed doors and open windows encased in mica, glass lampwork beads, and a small key.
Oh, I don’t deny it: times are tough. But today’s challenges demand that we live our lives differently – more creatively – than we have in the past. A hand crafted life is when one follows one’s inner voice – that inner compass – in order to create a more self-satisfying and fulfilling life.
What hopes and dreams do you hold dear? What are you passionate about?