Since then, I have been nonstop busy with show after show in my gallery, and exhibitions and expeditions around the world.
I miss putting my thoughts onto paper, or in this case, onto a screen. The formation of letters, of words into sentences, had almost become foreign to me. It wasn’t that I haven’t been writing. I write every day. Emails. Responses to emails. Descriptions of art. Biographies of others. But nothing personal. Or private. Only business.
I was feeling bereft of creativity for a long time. I think when you put your 1000% into the lives of others, it takes its toll on you. I love what I do, but there comes a time when one needs to say it’s time to reclaim myself. It’s time to remember. To dream again. To take a chance and do something that is so dangerous you don’t know if you will return the same.
The sixth-century philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Everything flows. One cannot step into the same river twice, because when you step in a second time, neither you nor the river is the same.”
I have stepped into a lot of rivers, each one a different lesson to be learned. If there is not an element of the unknown, an element of exploration, a little bit of danger, a new experience that very few dare to attempt, then I don’t want to do it.
Why? Because I WANT TO OVERCOME MY FEARS. Because life is full of fears. And to allow them to stop you from climbing a mountain or snowshoeing a hundred kilometers across the Arctic or diving deep into the ocean to be one with the water, then life is not worth living for me. It may sound a bit extreme, but I don’t like the words “average” or “ordinary.” I want to live an EXTRA-ORDINARY life. And by doing that, I want to prove that anything and everything is possible.
Perhaps this determination stems from a surreal childhood of being witness to sadness, to pain, to seeing lives not fully lived. I chose to live. To feel. To touch the earth, the water, the flowers, the sky. To say that I tried. I gave it my best and then tried even harder. Growing up, I was often afraid. And that followed me to adulthood. Am I good enough? Am I strong enough? Do I have what it takes to see something through and succeed? How can I do this alone? What if I fail? What if I am rejected?
Sometimes, being witness to pain and suffering can be as damaging as being the victim. But I made the decision to face my fears with a resolve I didn’t know existed inside of me. My life was going to be different. I believed I could change my direction simply by choosing to. By not being a victim of my childhood, but by moving beyond.
My back straight, my eyes wide open, I faced my demons head-on, telling them, go away, I don’t have time to waste on you.
I have oceans to swim. Rivers to cross. Mountains to scale. And people to love. I have this one life that I know of and nothing will stand in my way of breathing the oxygen, of planting a flower and watching it grow, of painting the canvas of my life the way I choose to.
Because in the end, my life is my responsibility. I cannot make excuses or blame anyone for what I did or did not do, what I did or did not accomplish. It’s all on me.
I learned how to swim when I was 47 years old because I wanted to do a triathlon. Swim, Bike, Run. I was afraid of the water. Especially open water, fearing I would drown. During my training, my friend, Alan (the Ironman) took me to Ohio Street Beach in Lake Michigan. We stepped into the water together and he swam beside me, one stroke at a time until each stroke disappeared into the waves and I became part of the lake. I learned to swim a quarter-mile. Then a half. And then a mile.
I think the hardest thing in life is to learn not to resist. We often put up a shield to protect ourselves from our imaginary fears. We won’t take that step because what if an idea we have might fail. What if we love and are not loved back? What if we make a fool of ourselves? What if we die trying?
Bruce Lee once said,
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. If you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
That was a good time in my life. I learned how to swim. I became water and I flowed.