A friend of mine recently sent me a scan of a sketch I did of his grandmother in my early twenties. It blew my mind. With only the barest of memories tickling my brain, I could almost not believe it. I did that? My friend assures me: I did that. I don’t recall doing the sketch, but I remember the shading, how I struggled with it in places. OK, I conceded; I did that.
Memories swirled. I recalled that I did like to sketch back then, back before talking wires and horseless carriages. I have in fact always felt drawn to it (ha – get it?) and yet, despite encouragement from family and friends, it was never something I felt confident enough to develop fully. It always remained somewhat latent, a seed dormant in the earth just waiting to be nurtured.
I keep totes full of art supplies, and have carted them around from home to home as I’ve moved through the years. Walking into an art supply store always gives me a tiny zing, a natural high that makes me feel a little bit in love (at least I think it’s natural and not attributable to paint fumes). I’ve shelled out a lot of hard-earned cash over the years for quality paper, pencils, pastels, chalks, instructional books, etc. I’ve got one of those little wooden, pose-able people. I even have some modeling clay, which I’m guessing that by now is quite useless. Always when I open the tote, it feels like it’s Christmas morning, all of that color – all of that potential – greeting my eyes.
The admission that I did that sketch inspired me to open that tote again. Lifting off the lid, I immediately felt that familiar surge of joy, that sense of peacefulness that comes when I’m lost in a drawing, that sense of being in the moment. As I thumbed through a sketch book, I was transported to the time each sketch had been done. I delighted in a few that had turned out well and cringed at a few others.
I asked myself why I don’t sketch more often, why I don’t nurture the seed. Instead, the totes, with all their potential and unfinished drawings inside, had been put away, my very own time capsule.
The half-drawn sketches tucked away were snapshots of points in time that, when reintroduced to daylight, said cheerfully, “Remember? Remember you then?”
Ah, the nostalgia of it!
“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
This is true. Each day piles on top of the next until the memories of some days get buried. It’s up to us to keep what we love uncovered, active. Front and center.
Some things, like dental appointments, are OK to remain buried and untouched by memory but the things we love, the things that keep us active and engaged, should be guarded. I have forgotten most of who I was then and, sadly, some of the things I loved and loved doing have been covered up by years of neglect. It is just too easy to fall victim to life’s myriad distractions.
And that’s me all right: prone to distraction, allowing myself to get side-tracked from activities that bring me joy and instead get sucked into the mundane. My two biggest time-sucks are household chores and online media. Granted, I know the domestic duties must get done (I do consider myself to be somewhat of a responsible adult) but the other is just blatant procrastination. I will sometimes sit down to write and instead find myself perusing health and science-related articles, social media sites and news feeds (zap, there goes an hour). I’ll then get irritated and will try to cheer myself up by looking up funny Husky memes (zap, another thirty minutes).
I combat this proclivity for procrastination through the masterful use of to-do lists and monthly accountability challenges. I enforce discipline by writing without an Internet connection, scheduling writing time. I also schedule meditation and exercise, which is fun for me (don’t judge) but could easily fall into a sink of dirty dishes or into the ditches that hug the tracks of the Laundry Train. I don’t like to schedule myself silly but sometimes, “I have to write (because it’s a to-do)” holds greater sway over me than “I have to write (because I’m a writer, dang it!)” does. Scheduling isn’t for everyone but for me sometimes that’s what it takes to get myself engaged in things I find truly meaningful.
Does scheduling fun activities make them less fun, does it take the joy out of them? Happily for me – nope. It’s quite the opposite because then I don’t feel guilty about the time I’m spending doing fun things while the laundry piles up. I’m happy to hear your ideas, the tricks and tips you use to keep focused on things that bring you joy and not get sucked into the void of the mundane distraction.
Thinking of all this and seeing that sketch stirred in me a sense of reconnecting with an old friend. Remember you then? Yes, I started to remember. With this in mind, I sat down. I opened the sketch book to a new, fresh blank page, and I began sketching.
The laundry would have to wait.