Most of the time, life is beautiful. But when you’re feeling trapped and helpless, it can get un-beautiful pretty fast.
If you’re seeing the not-so-fab side of life at the moment, this is for you. I’m living the (mostly) post-trapped-and-helpless life, and I hope that this guidance will get you to join the crowd a little more speedily.
First point: You’ve got more options than you realise and will hopefully, by the end of this, see the possibilities for new-found solutions.
As humans, we are constantly creating. Through our work, the shopping lists we write and our avo on toast. But it goes further than that. We answer questions, creating different opportunities and realities for people. We hug, creating different emotional states in others and ourselves. We think, creating a forever changing mindset and set of emotions.
We are essentially creating and recreating our internal and external worlds, constantly.
We are the artists of our lives.
Our lives are our artwork.
Why this perspective changes everything.
1) When you view your life as an artwork, you zoom out.
Time translates into canvas space; choices and creations turn into art. Paint, pencil, mosaic, coffee-cup stains, whatever.
Your shitty boss soon becomes a black speck amongst other more beautiful things. And while your university debt is a pretty damn obvious undertone in sections, I hope that the patterns above it are more prominent – like why you chose your course or the memories (or lack thereof) of university Friday nights.
See the white spaces, the dark elements, underlying colours and maybe the colours washing over them. What is connected by line and what is distant? Where are you focusing at the moment? See the expanse of your canvas.
Have you gone over one area multiple times – obsessed over it, tried to correct it, picked at it? Maybe that was a relationship, a regret, a trauma or defining moment. Can find the courage to change and peel your eyes away from this? Spending the next 5 years in the same spot isn’t going to help, whatever you’re focusing on. This is true especially if it’s negative, since as cliché as it is, where attention goes, energy flows.
Through this perspective, you’re able to see your life as a whole, rather than the daily situations that are so-often consuming. You are more than what you’re living at the moment. And there is so much more space to fill.
2) Realising that you create everything you are, do and feel is pretty empowering.
This is a biggie. In a good… and probably scary way. I didn’t want to accept it at first, but after my fair share of reading, I couldn’t deny it. And this pretty profound idea has seriously reduced my anxiety and low days. I take responsibility for (I’ll be real – most of) my life and this not only encourages accountability, it it also allows me to celebrate when my choices result in good things.
Knowing this, how are you going to do things?
Are you really going to put that gross-looking green (which, in my mind is a visual representation of all of our detrimental beliefs and ideas) at the centre of everything?
We are often told to see our lives in a certain way: We’re told what success is. Where we should be at 30. That beehive hairstyles belong in the 60s. And while some of this may be true, who decided? Our individual and collective options are endless, and yet, we don’t even give ourselves the freedom to consider most of them. We are given beliefs and values, which we rarely question. This is your call to question them!
Make these ideas your own before adding them to your canvas. We don’t easily do this as children, so look for some of the not-so-helpful things, which are now the hopelessly-unstable foundation of pretty important parts of your life. We’ve all got them:
- Money is the root of all evil
- Loving someone limits my freedom
- I’m misunderstood and this cannot change
If you’re anything like me, you’ll quickly use societal ideas to justify some self-doubt when considering your options. Like, “Who am I to say that I can make the digital-nomad lifestyle work? It’s so much easier to just listen to other, more experienced people… right?” But so far, since making more of an effort to get out of my own way, I have experienced some pretty amazing things with the help of logic and self-trust.
Secondly, it’s how you see things, not what you see.
Cue the eye-rolling (but give me a chance). You may be tangled up in obligations and responsibilities, unable to choose how you spend your days. Yes, this isn’t great. But it doesn’t have to dictate the space, place, form and colour, which you allow this stuff to take in your life. It’s about perspective. While life is messy and choosing positivity and rainbows can sometimes be total BS, at least choose to not put the pain or anger dead-centre.
Realise the responsibility of living.
Find your control, even if this is only over your mind and reactions to situations.
Response is everything.
And this is the beginning of freedom. The very beginning.
I can tell you that with this perspective and some constant work, everything changes. You will slowly begin to gloss over your canvas, one thin layer at a time. And after some aaha moments *sprinkles glitter* you’ll find that you’re looking at a very different artwork. A very different perspective and a very different life.
What is the result of living life as an artist?
- Mindful and intentional creation, as you prompt and design your actions, thoughts and ideas to add to the world.
- An appreciation for practise through the use of habits. There is such a thing as ‘being good at life as a human’ just the same as there is such a thing as being good at art, even if it’s a totally subjective and personal definition.
- An understanding that, as the philosopher, Nietzsche explains it in The Birth of Tragedy (1872), there are two central concepts in life:
Apollonian: the rational, order, self-disciplined aspects of human nature | Head
Dionysian: the sensual, emotional and spontaneous aspects of human nature | Heart.
These opposing ideas are both vital in life. Passion can be destructive without rationality, but a life without emotion or excitement is like watery hot chocolate – pretty bland and a little gross.
- A realisation that everything created by you (weather through work, during conversation and connection or inside your mind) reflects your perspective on the world. Life’s about sharing this perspective.
- It’s also about (hopefully intentionally) sponging up other perspectives and combining them to influence your own. Learn from others, but also question before accepting beliefs and values.
- You see that art is sometimes uncomfortable. It is difference, bad dancing, fashion statements, self-expression, a job resignation, a new trajectory (maybe towards a career in Architecture or Venice).
This metaphor encourages a broadened perspective – not the daily grind. You are more and you are meant to create more.
Here are some practical ways you can put this into practise.