Insist upon Living Your Life

Time and money — these are two things that most people feel they never have enough of.

Well, there’s not a lot most of us can do about making significantly more money — high taxes and fees on ordinary people and low wages for honest work are the hallmarks of a “free market” capitalistic economy.

afternoon tea party mother child country family steve henderson art decor

Time isn’t money — it’s far more important, and lasting, than that. Afternoon Tea Party, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Time, too, is something that the grasping mega-corporate culture can’t take enough of. We live under the constant pressure and propaganda to work harder, faster, smarter and constantly. Despite this, however, there are still 24 hours in each day, and while “they” fill our hours with incessant demands, they do not yet own every one of them.

(Incidentally, it’s worth looking at our free time and addressing how many thinking moments we give to work, mindless entertainment, social media, “news,” politics and other mental drains that produce little but worry, anxiety, insecurity, and discouragement.)

The artwork, Afternoon Tea, focuses on one of the most important things we can do with our time: we spend it — invest it, really — into the people we care about. And these people tend to be our family (one of the richest, most valuable resources humanity has), neighbors, and friends. As we see the value of these beautiful people and bask in their company, we grow in depth and wisdom. Soon, we find that have more love to give, and extend beyond our smaller circle to a larger one.

At the tea party, a little girl, a trusted adult, and pink teddy bear spend an afternoon “doing nothing” (when we think of it in corporate America terms). But when we think of it from the perspective of truth and reality, they are doing much indeed.

They are together. They are sharing not only watery tea but stories and companionship. And they’re having fun.

Aren’t these some of life’s most precious gifts?

Indeed they are. And they are worth taking time to live, and enjoy.

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It’s Not Abnormal to Want to Be Alone

The American corporate/entertainment society has a difficult time with people who want to be alone.

“It’s abnormal to want to be alone!” we’re told. “You’re introverted and shy, anti-social and afraid of people.”

incandescence country field rural meadow landscape steve henderson art painting

A long walk in a country field gives us time and space to think. Incandescence, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

(It’s odd how the opposite is considered normal. People who always have to be the center of attention, in the middle of a crowd, their every word hung onto by the acolytes buzzing around: these people are considered not only normal, but leadership normal. Other cultures might consider them attention seeking.)

Wanting to be alone makes sense in a society where we are surrounded by constant noise and traffic. Ask any clerk in a retail store if, after an 8-hour shift of being on their feet, dealing with customers who range from polite to downright rude, they feel like going straight to a demo derby, then after that to a bar, and then onto a crowded grocery store having a midnight madness sale.

Some people will like this. We have become so accustomed to clamor and commotion in our lives that, when we do find ourselves at home, we turn on the TV to avoid any form of silence.

But others want to get away from the tumult and commotion. They want to find a place of silence where their thoughts are not drowned out by bedlam.

The artwork, Incandescence, represents such a place. It is a country field in the hills, with a well-used pathway leading through broken down fences.

(“Ah, but you’re trespassing!”

So many limitations we place upon ourselves, so many barriers to freedom and thought. This particular country area welcomed hikers.)

In such a quiet place, not only one’s ears, but one’s eyes receive rest. The grass, gently waving in the breeze, is mesmerizing, and our thoughts flow with its wave.

It is in times and places of silence that we do our best thinking because, realistically, our thoughts are distracted by noise. Those who never seek silence, who never spend time alone, who surround themselves constantly with activity and movement and buzz do not think deeply. They are unaware of their own thoughts, own ideas, own creativity, own dreams, because they do not explore them.

And that’s not normal.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Are You Important?

Important people get their portraits painted. That way, we get them on postage stamps (once they’re dead), or buy a print of their face to put in our home. And there are always the history textbooks and pop culture magazines, ready with their sanitized information on why this president or that CEO, this royal personage or that knighted singer, is so very, very important to the rest of us.

A medicine man of the Navajo People in the late 19th and early 20th century, Nesjaja Hatali, was not a president, not a CEO, not a Silicon Valley billionaire. He was a man who loved and worked with his people. Art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Regular people, if they want portraits of themselves, go to box stores and buy a photo package. And those portraits stay in their home or that of relatives, because those are the only people who know them and care about them.

Isn’t it intriguing the distinctions between the very very rich (the “important”) and the ordinary, regular people? It’s vital to recognize these top-down created distinctions so that we can identify their deception, the deception that some people are worth more than others for no other reason than . . . money, lots of it, which buys power and “fame.”

The artwork, Nesjaja Hatali, is a painted portrait based upon the historic photo taken by Edward Curtis, a photographer of the 19th and 20th century who was commissioned by financial magnate J.P. Morgan and President Theodore Roosevelt, among others, to document the American Indians before they completely disappeared. In the minds of these “great” men, that’s what these real, ordinary, incredibly unique people — the Native Americans who simply wanted to live their lives and watch their grandchildren grow into adulthood — would and should do: disappear, so that progress could be made.

Because Nesjaja Hatali was not important in the world of Morgan and Roosevelt, we know little about him, but his face shows a man who has lived through and seen much — a face of experience and wisdom, of great thought. It is not a face that thinks about how much money he has in the bank, nor how to exponentially increase it.

It is a face that thinks about the future of his grandchildren, and the grandchildren of his people, and wonders what kind of life they will have. This is the focus of the regular person, the ordinary person, the everyday person who does not get their presidential portrait taken and distributed to the masses.

This is the face of the person who is important enough to have their portrait painted.

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Movies Aren’t Real — But Life Is

Because we are surrounded by movies, it’s tempting to feel that our lives should look like one.

In a way, we are force-fed an entertainment diet– cinema, TV, “reality TV,” Instagram stars, YouTube luminaries, music videos, “news” — the way ducks and geese are forcibly fed, via a tube to the stomach,  to produce the oversized liver necessary for foie gras.

film movies oscar pretend world

The more enmeshed we are in the entertainment culture, the more likely we are to confuse it with reality.

And in the same way that the fowls’ livers become grossly oversized and swollen, so do our expectations of life become unrealistic and delusory, to the point that regular, real, ordinary life seems boring and unfulfilling.

Most of us aren’t fabulously rich. Many people who live in New York do not do so in spacious, luxury apartments. If we post a YouTube video of ourselves singing, we don’t become an overnight sensation. Our Facebook posts don’t go viral.

We don’t tell off our boss and through that, change him or her for the better. We don’t wow the judges with our comedy act. Our books aren’t made into movies.

We can’t fly.

In a continuous, unending stream of cinematic propaganda, we get the not so subtle message that, because our lives don’t look like what we see on screen, then they’re boring and unfulfilling.

Not so. Not so at all.

Real life, our lives, are beautiful, because they are real and genuine and good, and we are surrounded by a unique array of real, genuine and good people — our family, our friends — that we know uniquely, deeply, intimately.

twilight romance love dance romantic couple fiddler steve henderson art painting

The love between a man and a woman is unique to each couple — a story that is both timeless and distinctive. Twilight Romance, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

The artwork, Twilight Romance, touches upon this concept. And while the image is surreal, magical, a touch fantastic, it draws upon emotions that are so grounded and real that they are a bit surreal, magical, and fantastic themselves. Love, true love, is fantastic.

When we look into the eyes of a person that we know deeply and well, we see beyond the surface — we see the experiences we’ve shared, the laughter and the sadness, the hope and the grief. We see a fullness of life lived side by side with one another as an adventure — exciting because we never know where it will go, tempered by the ordinary, almost prosaic, cup of coffee over the breakfast table.

That’s real life, and it’s worth living.

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Be Cool, or Happy — You Can’t Be Both

Being happy and looking cool are distinct from one another.

People who are “cool” are sophisticated, savyy, polished, worldly, suave, and  bit . . . bored.  A smooth sense of ennui pervades every action, and they never look clumsy, awkward or unsure of themselves.

brimming over woman laughing basket fabric coast beach ocean steve henderson art

The fabric is escaping from the basket, there’s nothing she can do about it, and it’s definitely not a time to worry about looking cool. Why not laugh? Brimming Over, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

(In the animal world, “cool”  animals are cats — that’s why we find it so outrageously funny when they leap for a shelf and miss. With dogs — which are decidedly uncool unless they’re Dobermans or German Shepherds — we expect uncool. Interestingly, we also consider dogs to be friendly, and cats to be distant.)

In the American corporate, entertainment-dominated society, cool isn’t so much next to godliness (since God isn’t cool) as it is just The. Way. To. Be. In order to be truly cool, we focus intently on how we come across to others, which necessarily mean that we focus a lot on ourselves.

True happiness, however, gets in the way of being cool — because when we spontaneously laugh at something, or . . . an amazing thought . . . are willing to laugh at ourselves, we don’t look cool. (Many people hate the way they laugh, and think it makes them look like a dork. So they’re always keeping themselves in check, controlling their emotions so they won’t haw haw haw and draw attention to their lack of svelte urbanity.)

The artwork, Brimming Over, shows a woman in a moment of true happiness, of laughter, of joy. Why she is standing at the beach with a basket of fabric we don’t quite know, but because this is a work of representational art, we are invited to make up the story and add to it as we please.

What we do know is that the fabric is burbling and bubbling and spilling out of the basket, resulting in a situation totally out of the woman’s control. But rather than drop the basket to stroll pointedly, coolly away, the woman simply laughs — at the situation, at herself.

That takes confidence.

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Choose Wisely Who Influences You

I remember the first time I ran into the word, “Influencers.”

Something about it provoked a reaction of distaste, this idea that some complete stranger expected to  shape the minds, beliefs, development, and character of others simply because they spoke or wrote. And “they” had the right to speak because . . .

reading novel book woman thinking thoughtful literacy steve henderson figurative drawing

Through reading, we are able to access the thoughts of many others — both wise and unwise. The more we read, the better able we are to discern. Light Reading, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

they were rich.

they had a million followers (how? why?).

they were a celebrity.

they knew how to write computer code (or said they did).

they sold ticky tacky home decor items.

they analyzed the “news.” or they presented the “news.”

they lip synced on cool music videos.

Influencers are everywhere, available to mold and guide our beliefs in everything from politics to our eating habits, and if we’re not careful, we’ll let complete strangers who have absolutely no interest in us, but every interest in promoting their own belief system and that of their corporate masters, to formulate the very core of our being.

(“Drink this!” “Wear that!” “Drive one of these!” “Treat people this way to get what you want!” “Vote!” “Hate him!” “Love her!” “Watch this show — smart people do!” “Match your artwork to your rug!” “Go to church!”)

Obviously, we are all influenced by somebody, or a series of somebodies. And when the people who influence us are good and right and true, honest and compassionate and generous, caring and thoughtful and wise (this kind of sounds like . . . good parents), then their influence inspires us to be better, wiser people.

The artwork, Light Reading, encourages us to read — read often, ask questions, think deeply — as we move forward in our lives to achieve not only knowledge, but the wisdom to use it. People who regularly read are less likely to be blindly influenced by media influencers, more likely to say,

“Hmm. That seems kind of simplistic. After listening to you, I don’t feel so much inspired as overwhelmed, so much hopeful as despairing, so much creative as kind of . . . unimportant in the light of all your glory and fame.”

When we are wise about choosing who influences us, we may find ourselves to be an influencer — ordinary, regular, normal, good — ourselves.

It’d be nice to have some good influencers out there.

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Posts complementing this one are

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Multitasking What We Believe

Despite all we’ve been taught about multitasking, it’s unrealistic to expect to do two different things, at the same time, equally well.

magenta zion woman dancer indian southwest art print steve Henderson

When we truly think differently, it comes out in how we dress, how we speak, how we act, how we dance. Magenta in Zion, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

It’s bad enough when we juggle texting one person while we’re listening to another: quite frankly, the listening part usually suffers.

But it’s worse when we try to live in accordance with one set of beliefs while incorporating another, totally opposite way of thinking. Like this:

“I am an independent, maverick sort of person,” we tell ourselves. “I do my own thing, my own way, and I don’t let anybody boss me around.”

While this is actually a good way to think, that we are encouraged to do so by advertisers, TV shows, movies, and politicos, should give us pause. The same corporations that flatter U.S. residents into thinking that we are highly individualistic — remnant of our bronco bustin’ frontier days — also teach and tell us what cool and successful look like: by how we dress, what we drive, who we listen to, whom we hate, whom we fear. (The message is slightly different, depending upon whether they’re catering to self-identifying conservatives, liberals, or libertarians — but the key thing is that we go along with what’s acceptable for our particular group.)

The artwork, Magenta in Zion, shows one lone, unique, singular, distinct individual. She is dancing, with measured concentration and grace, in a desert — far from the crowds, the noise, the phone, social media. She is dressed in bold, flowing colors, and she is not looking over her shoulder to see who is watching her, and wondering what they think.

Neither is she pushing her actions or beliefs upon another. Her concentration is upon the task at hand, and her focus is to do it well. She is not worried about looking cool, but rather, to being true to herself: aligning who she is and what she does with what she believes to be right, good, honest, meaningful, kind, and true.

That’s an individual.

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Storms of Life: We Survive Them

As long as we’re not out in the middle of it, and as long as it’s not too violent, there’s nothing like a good storm.

pacific storm ocean beach coast storm clouds steve henderson art painting

When we’ve got a good umbrella and are protected from the cold, a storm is a fascinating phenomenon. Pacific Clouds, art print from Steve Henderson Collections.

Dramatic clouds drifting around the sun cast surreal light over a scene that, on a sunny day, looks completely different. And while sunny days are beautiful, cloudy ones are as well. Colors and shadows and light that we didn’t even know existed emerge, almost magically, when the clouds move in.

So it is with life, which has its sunny days and rainy ones, its calm intervals and stormy moments. Anyone who lives on the planet very long knows that we need both: sunny days are delightful, but 365 days of them, year after year after year, result in a desert.

When it comes to a storm, it’s no fun being in the middle of the tempest, drenched without an umbrella, shivering in the cold. It’s understandable that our major thought would be getting inside someplace where we can be warm and dry.

But not all storms are hurricanes. Some are like the image in Pacific Clouds — brooding and somber, wild and unpredictable. We’re not quite sure what’s going to happen — and we have very little power over a lot of what eventually does. What we do have power over is dressing warmly, finding shelter, trying to figure out what will happen next and changing our actions accordingly.

When we’re out in a storm we have to think deeply and well, be flexible, find creative solutions, be willing to move. If there are others with us, we work together, each contributing what we can, all the time that we protect those who are dependent upon our strength. A storm is no time or place to be selfish if all involved are to make it through.

But it takes a storm to see this.

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Special Event? Take Your Time Getting Ready

Everybody loves a special event — whether it’s going to a superb restaurant, shopping for the day with friends, picnicking in the park, spending a few days at the beach for vacation. It may be fancy, it may be simple, but what it is is different, which is why we call it special.

evening date celebration event anticipation steve henderson woman pink romantic art

The joy of any event is enhanced when we enjoy the preparation for it. The Evening Ahead, art print from Steve Henderson Collections

Whatever it is we’re doing, it’s a break from normal routine.

Now there’s nothing wrong with routine; after all we live on a planet with relatively predictable seasons that allow us to grow our food, reasonably secure that it won’t snow when it’s supposed to be warm, and that blossoms on fruit trees won’t appear in autumn, just before winter.

Routine is the opposite of chaos, and chaos is unsettling because we never know what’s going to hit us next, when, or how hard. (This sounds a bit like today’s political living situation on the planet. The regular, ordinary, normal people never know what their “leaders” will impose upon them next.)

But too much routine is not a good thing, because life starts to look boring. And this is where special events come in.

The artwork, The Evening Ahead, not only celebrates the special event but — very importantly — expresses enjoyment over the preparations for it. A young woman stands at the mirror dressing her hair. Her movements are slow, measured, relaxed, unlike the rush we consider normal when we’re getting ready for work.

Gentle thoughts of anticipation run through her mind. The flowers surrounding her add to the sense of peace, tranquility, and contentment because one of the major aspects of flowers — other than their beauty — is that they are never in a hurry. They take their time, and in that time, they develop into the fullness of blossom.

The next opportunity you find for a special event in your life — and remember, it doesn’t have to be “big,” just different — savor the preparations for it. The time you take to do so will add sweetness and depth to the memories.

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Walk away from What Doesn’t Work

We’ve all been discouraged about a path we’re taking, when the various methods we use to reach our goals don’t seem to get anywhere. Upon expressing our frustration and dispiritedness, we’re sure to get someone well trained in American pop culture to respond:

“Power through it!”

“Don’t be a quitter!”

Cadence confident woman female walking coast beach pink dress steve henderson art print

Walk with confidence your own path and see where it takes you. Cadence, art print from Steve Henderson Collections —

“Keep at it — I read about someone who contacted 70 book publishers until the LAST ONE took her book — and now they’re making a movie about it!”

And of course, we’ve all heard — long before business seminar speakers and Influencers erupted like TV preachers — that Once You Start Reading a Book, You’ve Got to Finish It. (The main result of this maxim is that bad authors continue to sell drivel.)

There is much to be said for perseverance. Nothing worth achieving comes easily, especially in a corporate-business-controlled culture that sees ordinary people as nothing more than monetary units to purchase products.

But there’s also much to be said about individual human intelligence, and our ability — and freedom — to realistically look at a situation and determine if it isn’t worth dropping some ideas and developing new ones. Those new ideas, when we start trusting in our instincts, thoughts, and skills, may look very strange and unusual indeed, because they won’t be anything we’ve heard from a seminar speaker, Influencer, or preacher.

And because they don’t look like anything an Influencer insists we do, we doubt whether they’ll work or not because, after all, we just thought of them. And who are we?

Be Your Own Influencer

The artwork, Cadence, answers that question of who we are: we are intelligent, confident people who are walking the individual paths of our unique, precious lives. Where we go depends upon the paths we choose, the steps we take, the decisions we make.

So . . . since where we want to go is unique to who we are, so also is the means by which we get there. Try out new ideas. Give them time. Analyze how they’re doing. Finesse them.

And feel free to drop what doesn’t work and move on to something different.

Yes, it’s true: you can quit too soon. But it’s also true that the more time you spend doing something that just doesn’t work, the less time you have to find something that does.

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