Whenever I spend time with horror fans, I ask them the same question: Why do you like to be scared?
I have heard all kinds of answers.
We can go into the dark to face our fears in a place of safety.
It's just fun to be scared.
The world is a scary place and these movies just reflect that.
I have always said that I just don't get it. I say, I don't like to be scared.
But the truth is that I must have liked being scared at least a little, because I let myself be too scared to do something I have always loved for 50 years!
Here's my story:
From the time I was a little girl, I loved art.
I bought my first piece of art when I was a teenager, and I went on to study art history in college. I was and still am an avid museum goer, gallery visitor, art collector. So, I became an art dealer. I owned a very successful gallery. I created space in that gallery where emerging artists could have their first gallery show. I am hired to put together incredible art collections for individuals. I work with artists to create commissions for clients. I give, talks about art collecting, art appreciation, arts advocacy at museums and arts organizations all over the world. I love doing all that! Why? Because I LOVE art.
Every so often someone would ask me if I was an artist. I would snort, guffaw, laugh, demur. Oh no! I would say. Are you kidding? Me? An artist? No. No. No.
But what is an artist? One who makes art. And what is art? Art, according to the dictionary, is the "expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."
Well, there you go. I didn't paint or sculpt. Nope. Not an artist.
Sure, I photographed, and friends told me that they liked my photos. But that wasn't art. That was a hobby. Yes, I designed houses, furniture, rugs, tile layouts, interior and exterior spaces. But that wasn't art. It was my job. It was working with other people who were real artists. Sure my clients told me that they loved the artistic work I did on their homes, their tile layouts, their art collections, their rug designs. But that didn't make me an artist. That just made me a creative designer who knew how to collaborate and co-create with artists.
Then, one summer day about three years ago, a photographer (a real artist) and I gave a joint talk called Learning to See. She talked about her photography and I talked about how learning to see with fresh eyes can change our lives and views of the world. To illustrate that, I realized, I had to show some slides of photographs I had taken. But I made sure to say loud and clear that I was NOT a photographer. I was just showing these photos to make the point of how taking pictures had taught me how to see more deeply and through the eyes of love.
When I got done with my talk, Jane -- the wonderful photographer with whom I was presenting -- said to me, "You know, you have to stop saying that you're not a photographer. You ARE a photographer. You take photos."
Well, okay. Yes, I took photos. That, on the most basic level, did make me a literal photographer. But there's a difference between taking pictures and being an artist.
Still, something about what she said stuck with me.
I tried it on in my inside voice. The one inside my all-too-often naysaying mind.
I'm a photographer.
Hmmm. I liked it. I particularly liked it because it gave me permission to photograph more. And that's what I really loved. Taking pictures. I loved -- I have always loved -- taking pictures.
Long story short. I kept taking pictures. Slowly but surely, I began unearthing old stories in my head about why I believed I could never be an artist. I wrote blogs about it. I gave an interview about it. And then I made a decision: I had to take a huge risk. I had to try to be an artist.
It took a year and a half of procrastinating, self-flagellating, and more procrastinating to make the sixty pieces that constitute my first art show, which is opening tonight.
But here's what happened, after all the kicking and screaming and skidmarks of resistance across the past fifty years of my life.
This week I opened the boxes of my printed photographs and looked at them. This week I posted all sixty images in an online gallery. This week I announced my show at a talk I gave about "real art" at the Cleveland Museum of Art. This week articles about my journey to becoming an artist came out in print and online. And you know what?
I FELT FANTASTIC!
I read the articles, heard the sound of my own voice, looked at the images over and over again as I tweaked the website, hung the show and co-created the displays at the gallery and. . .I felt only Love. Huge, overwhelming, exciting LOVE.
I fell in love with every single image. I felt nothing but love for every painful moment of the fifty-year process that it took to get me here. I felt only love for the journey that this show represents. I heard the love in all the voices that had encouraged me along the way. And I knew how loved I am by everyone who is supporting me tonight -- from phone calls and texts and even a gorgeous bouquet of flowers that arrived at the gallery yesterday.
All I felt was LOVE!
Suddenly, all the fear that I had felt all those years just seemed so ridiculous. Why on earth had I let fear prevent me from doing something I love? Sure, I knew all the stories of how the little girl in this photo got talked into believing that she was not talented.
But that's not the point. The point is that I believed fear instead of Love. I believed the stories of not good enough instead of I just love to do this, so I'm going to do it, no matter what.
Did I look around the gallery and think -- OMG, I am the next great discovery in the world of art? Oh no! But I DID look around the gallery and think -- I love everything I am seeing, and behold it actually is very good!
So, here's what I've learned from this whole experience. And what I've learned goes out to ANYONE who believes that CAN'T, AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH, AREN'T TALENTED ENOUGH, SHOULDN'T TRY.
Don't you DARE let fear talk you out of doing what you love!
Life is not about being museum quality or New York Times bestseller material. Life is about showing up to what you love and not letting all the fear voices talk you out of it.
And believe me when I say, when you show up to your own heart and do/be what you have always known you loved, not only will your world change, but our world will change. Because when we live in a world in which people are not ruled by fear, but rather by the Love inside us all, the world around us reflects that Love. Love really is all we need.
Henry Miller became world famous as a young man for writing what my father winkingly called "dirty books". Books that earned the title of "literature" yet were banned for their sexual content. So Henry Miller went to Hollywood to make money as a screenwriter, but instead he found himself writing crap he hated. That's when he started to paint. Slowly but surely, he painted his way whole. By the end of his life, he was painting every day, living in Big Sur, and making the art his soul had always wanted to make. He had done it all, but ultimately, this is what he came to know: "Paint what you like and die happy."
In this canvas we call life, we all must learn to paint what we love, as we love, to live as we love, to love as we love. To not let fear call the shots. With no expectation of any definite outcome other than the one for which we have always longed: To show up to our own hearts and feel, finally, that we are home in Love.
Eventually, of course, we all come home to Love. So, why not now? Why not just try it? Because, as the old TV ad promised, you won't just like it. You will love it!
Trust me. . . I know.