Artful Living

Navigating Peaks and Valleys 

I had a tough day yesterday.  I won't go into details but just suffice it to say in my non-art work life in a pediatric emergency room as a mental health tech, I am often witness to some of life's tougher moments.  I find value in providing a calm, assuring presence and offers of appropriate comfort while maintaining healthy boundaries.

Being in an emergency room brings things into sharp focus.  Being an artist has allowed me to appreciate my sensitive nature but being in intense situations and being 'sensitive' doesn't always go together.  It takes some real navigating to keep my bearings, I'll be honest.  Painting, art, and my horses allow me to recharge and balance myself.  I would like to share with you some things I have learned. Since art is life, and life is art I will draw correlations between those two things and how they help me navigate life's peaks and valleys.

I was reading an art blog article on the importance of lights and darks in painting.  First of all, the light and dark variations allow one to see the subject in a painting.  Imagine looking outside in thick fog.  You quickly lose your bearings because everything is the same light value.  In life, if our lives were always of the same intensity, it would be like living in a deep fog.  Just as in painting, the variation of peaks and valleys, lights and darks, create a structure in one's life.  This structure could also be called 'defining moments'.  A defining moment is a major event in a person's life that reveals to them an important aspect of life or character trait that changes the course of their life. defines it as 'a point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group,etc., is revealed or identified'.  

The birth of a child, the loss of a job, divorce, death of a loved one, a move to a new area can become defining moments in a person's life.  It is those times you are jarred out of complacency with new revelations.  Events like these bring life's priorities into sharp focus.  The event can be either positive or negative and have the same effect- the event changed something inside of you.  Whether the change in you is for the good or not depends on what you do from there.  That of course, is the hard part.  Do I let life beat me down or do I allow this event to shape me into a better person?

In an article, What are the Defining Moments in Your Relationship and Life?  Susie and Otto Collins write,  "Find the lessons in your defining moments and open yourself up to valuing what they’ve helped you learn along the way– even if the biggest lesson has been what you do NOT want more of in your life."  We can't stop life from having highs and lows, but we can search for greater meaning in those events.   This doesn't mean you have to put a positive spin on awful things that have happened... sometimes tragedies are just that- tragic.  But you can search, in the midst of the dark times, for some life lesson or bigger meaning in the event and use that to propel you into living a better life.

Another important aspect of lights and darks is it determines the light source. In art, a drawing or painting with incorrect shading will look off.  An artist needs to always keep in mind where the light is coming from, keep consistency within the art and show how the light affects the subject.  In life, a light source can be determined by seeing where one looks for support, guidance and spiritual awareness?  In times of joy and sorrow where does one find comfort and meaning?  Without a light source, the big picture becomes blurry and out of focus.  A light source creates a path for your eye to travel in art and a path to travel in life.   The lights and darks help a person to define what is guiding them.  A person's light source is their God, the Universe, their life purpose.  Without this we are prone to wander aimlessly.

Artists are taught that the human eye is naturally drawn to areas of the greatest contrast.  To bring attention to the main focus of a piece of art,  an artist will put the lightest lights next to the darkest darks in areas that define the subject.  I think if we made a visual timeline of major events in life, it would create a person's major focus in their life.   An overall theme or priority is evident by the paths one took at critical moments.  It is possible to experience life's darkest times and in the midst feel a greater connection to God, your community, close family, and friends.  Those times are when life hands us our greatest lessons- the dark and light are in sharp contrast to each other and we can see clearly.  The 'veil' is lifted and for a moment we see and understand things we couldn't before.  We change.  We connect.  We feel a part of a larger force that is difficult to describe and difficult to hold on to.  We are prone to 'forget' which is why it is so important to savor what has felt to me like the hand of God reaching down in the midst of darkness.  Light touching the dark.

As I am writing this blog post, I am reminding myself to look at life's challenges to be defining moments in which I can clarify my vision, my focus and my priorities in life.  I can keep myself open to God and a greater purpose.  I do not have to fear the dark because my light source is a consistent guiding force in my life.

Just as a beautiful painting needs variation, structure, and a light source, so does a beautiful life.

Create Your Beautiful Life! 

Inspired by a little toddler that helps me to keep things straight! 

Life is an Adventure! 

Here's a little video clip to enjoy about Defining Moments.

Happy Trails!
Sue Steiner

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