Monday, January 23, 2012

Bringing passion to a boil

Wow, look, another post in the same month! (Don't get used to it.)

It is now New Year's Day in the lunar calendar. I've made this point before that it's not the "Chinese" New Year, but the Lunar New Year. Why? Because other Asian cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year, too! So, on behalf of my people (who just call it New Year), I want to let people know we are not trying to hog the Lunar New Year.

So, I understand that this is primarily an art blog and that there has been very little art. Yes. I know. The art has been subsumed by the immense amount of time and effort the three internships (yes, you read that right) have been taking.

That's a lot of psychology. It's a lot of therapy.

I might have written before that I practice a kind of therapy known as FIT, which is short for Feedback-Informed Treatment (or Therapy). It's an outgrowth of CDOI, which stands for Client-Directed Outcome-Informed therapy. Basically, they are two approaches, rather than theories, which utilize feedback from clients to improve positive outcome in therapy.

Getting feedback works well in any situation where you'd like to improve or have more success. Randy Pausch (may he rest in peace) of The Last Lecture fame, advised, "Get a feedback loop; and listen to it!" It could be measurements (like an evaluation at work or grade at school) or a person (like someone you trust to tell you the truth, customers in your restaurant, etc.), but whatever your feedback loop is, pay attention if you hope to develop your potential. We keep thinking in terms of the hero being The One and all alone, but if you look back, all heroes had allies and gifts (and a gift is given to you--by someone or something else).

Anyway, where FIT and CDOI differ (as I understand it) is that FIT is concerned with the excellence of the therapist's skills, like that of a concert pianist or Olympic athlete, beyond any sort of psychological theory.

CDOI is more strongly rooted in the "common factors" which state that all theories and interventions have about the same, minimal effect and that there are other, more powerful factors at work in psychotherapy that help clients get better, and that all factors (there are mainly four) are common to all therapeutic practices. It's an "anti-theory," since theories aren't seen as the star of treatment (it's the client). However, in being an anti-theory, it's become a theory of its own.

And once again, I do have a point. As interested as I am in psychotherapy, a friend who is also a FIT practitioner talked with me and I just had to admit: My passion is not in being one of the so-called "supershrinks." It gave me no tingle to strive for this level of achievement.

"So, what do you have passion for, if not psychotherapy?" he asked.

"My clients. I have a passion for people to be happy. I care about what happens to them, and I study psychotherapy to serve that end, but psychotherapy in and of itself isn't my passion."

There I had it (although my friend still had to describe it to me)! My passion (one of them, at least) is about helping people live happier lives. Ease their suffering and so forth. Psychotherapy is just another vehicle for it.

Another therapist friend during another conversation gave me a homework assignment.

"Every night for a week, write down what you were passionate about that day. It doesn't have to be career related. This will strengthen your muscle for discovering and accepting what your passions are."

Let me tell you, this is a great homework assignment!

I am passionate about soup.
I am passionate about dandelion greens and unusual edibles.
I am passionate about conversations.
I am passionate about blue.

That's just a sampling, but I have to say, the one that kind of struck me was my passion for conversation.

I thought of books as a letter, or conversation in the form of a story, with the authors. I felt safe and thrilled when I read wonderful stories, and moved when I read poems. I didn't feel alone in what was a very dangerous world to me. Comics were a particular treat because the conversation was both visual and textual.

I always thought I'd be an author when I grew up. (I still do.) I wanted to give that sense of security, hope, and fun to others. I wanted to share my philosophy of life, any wisdom I had gathered, through entertaining stories.

Oh, right. The other thing I'm super passionate about: Imagination. It takes my breath away and makes life worth living. If you haven't watched Six Degrees of Separation, please do. The part about the imagination in that film is wonderful. Imagination is not escapism, it's a way to go deeper into life.

And since there was an art dealer in the film, I cannot forget my first and unrelenting passion for beauty.

I am Passionate about Happiness and Conversation and Imagination and Beauty.

Ain't that a hoot?

Invite Beauty,


Thursday, January 12, 2012

It's been a long time, baby

Jeez, is it really going to be every three months that I post an update, and without any new art?

I hate it when businesses make a promise they don't keep, and yet I'm guilty of it quite a few times in the last couple of years. I suppose I could just not draw attention to this breach of your trust, but I feel it wouldn't be honest.

So here I am, exposing my mistakes and asking once again for your forbearance. Those who are only newsletter readers probably have figured I've fallen off the face of the earth like another business casualty of the bad economy or the flightiness that seems endemic in artistic types.

I'll have to correct that misunderstanding some day. Not soon, though--I've learned not to promise that.

So what will I need to catch up on, once I'm done with my psychotherapy internships and have my license? (Dear Universe: Please make it less than two years left before I get all 3,000 hours to sit for my license exam!)

I've got a few solstice paintings to do. Those will be fun, and I'm always flattered that they're quick favorites.

I've also got to finish blogging about the family tree commission I completed last year. That was a fun project, too. I do love trees, they express so much. If we could express as much by standing still and being quiet, this would be a very different world.

I'm also planning a sale and donation of my older works to make room for the new and to support worthy causes, respectively. It's no secret, also, that I paint over some paintings and recycle the canvas, if not the image, for new dreamings. Nothing's sacred. Everything's sacred.

The New Year brings with it such promise, mostly because we say so. Truth is, we can start with a resolution any time we like. I also like that a friend of mine doesn't do resolutions, and prefers to have a "New Year's Theme" instead. Isn't that brilliant? To live according to a theme seems so much more sustainable and doable. A theme is like the air you breathe. A resolution is like a chore. Hm, which one is more fun?

One of my themes this year is "purified passion."

What I mean by that is, I've been burdened over the years with the idea that whatever I did, it had to have a strong social impact. Social justice had to be a part of whatever I undertook, and really, that wasn't fair to me.

Yes, I do believe in social justice. It's one of my core values. However, it's not the top core value--it belonged to my beloved teachers in high school who taught me to care about the environment, people, endangered species, and all that good stuff.

However, I've been longing to have a purified passion, a passion that isn't laden with this kind of virtue for the sake of virtue and conscience. Rather, a passion that is a passion because it's a passion.

Remember when you wanted to be good at something, just because? When you had to get that trick on the skateboard right, or you practiced your handwriting so that it looked the way you wanted it to look?

That's the kind of passion I'm talking about. I remember as a kid I wasn't worried about the homeless or how my paint materials might affect the ecosystem. I dreamed of being a superhero, a novelist, an actor, and a comic book writer.

I wanted to save the world (that hasn't changed) and I wanted to thrill it with stories, entertain it with comedy and drama, lift its spirit through heroism and strange insights.

Where does being an artist fit into this? Or my crazy love of interior design? What about my fascination with philosophy? Or the pursuit of well being and self-acceptance through psychotherapy?

I don't know. I've had so many years of other people's voices layered on top of mine, that the last three decades have been a process of submitting, then succumbing, and finally emerging into my own sense of self.

I still struggle with a feeling of shame when I admit what I would like to do, yet I revel in the artistry of those who follow their passions unapologetically (especially when I benefit). I am grateful for the sushi chef hellbent on making the best sushi ever. I swoon for the storyteller that excavates slowly a heartbreaking story I'll never forget.

So not all filmmakers turn out to be George Lucas. The point, though, isn't that Lucas aimed to make Star Wars to affect the world. The point is that he did what he loved, told a story he was passionate about, and everything that came afterwards was unexpected gravy.

We have no right and no control over what other people think of us and what we do. We can only do what we do with integrity, and determination if it calls for it.

Up, up, and away!

Invite Beauty,