keep it curious

She had an immense curiosity about life, and was constantly staring and wondering.
— henry james, the portrait of a lady

Listen. Let me whisper in your ear. I have a secret. 

No one taught me how to paint. 

No one taught me how to make marks on a page.

No one taught me how to create excavated poetry.

I did take a few online workshops. Well, I signed up for a few online workshops. Rarely did I finish them. Those I did, I proved to be the worst student as I bucked and kicked against any boundaries. I wanted to figure it out for myself. I watched countless videos on line then I went to my easel or to my table and made a big ole mess. 

My purpose in telling you this is not to pat myself on the back. Personally, I do not think my work is great. It would be greater if I would submit to formal classes. My technique is tenuous at best. My work does reflect me and my process and that is what is most important to me. In that, I love my work. 

I tell you this because I want you to know that what I have is available to anyone. You don't need classes, you don't need a degree, and you don't need to invest a lot of money or resources. You do have to invest the time. You do have to surrender to the process. You do have to embrace mistakes and the possibility of failure. Most importantly, you have to nurture curiosity. 

Curiosity is the secret ingredient. No. Curiosity is the recipe. No, that's not right either. Curiosity is the hunger. 

Every painting, every doodle, every poem is brought to life because I tilt my head to the side and say, "Isn't that interesting? I wonder what would happen if I did this?" and repeat again and again and again. 

As present as curiosity is in my creative process, I haven't necessarily used this tool well in other parts of my life. When the inevitable challenge shows up, instead of applying curiosity, I dig my heels in, ready for a fight. I push against, rage against it, worry over it, ignore it. I will do anything other than engage it in the dance of curiosity. 

This week, I finished listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on the Pete Holme's podcast, You Made it Weird. About midway through, she told this story. 

my role model for most things in terms of how I want to move through the world is my great aunt lolly whose now in her nineties . . .

Lolly is like, she’s somebody who finds the entire world incredible interesting and always has and has not has an easy life, everything hasn’t gone her way but she thinks that everything is ... her words are neat, interesting, fascinating, amazing.

[at a family reunion]

Lolly!

she’s like,” LIZARD!”

and I said, “Lolly, what’s up?”

and she’s like, “Lizard, guess what I have?!”

and I said, “What?!”

she said, CANCER!!”

and I was obviously taken aback

and she’s goes, “Isn’t that interesting?”

and i thought, “you know what? it’s pretty goddamn interesting.

if you just think about it there’s very few things more interesting. You’ve got these cells in your body and they don’t know how to die and they’re growing ... that’s interesting stuff.

and she said, “I just think it’s so interesting. It showed up, this skin cancer in my arm and I met the most NEAT doctors and it’s so fascinating and they show me all this stuff they’re learning and its just the NEATEST thing. “

What a beautiful way to move through life! 

I've been dealing with some persistent body pain that is seemingly not linked to any reason or source. Every morning I wake up and I am pushing against this pain. I do not want pain and I don't want to be identified by pain and I don't have time for pain. All day long, I am engaging with this pain in an aggressive manner. How's that working for me? I am waking up every day in pain. 

It's time for a change. It's time to take my practice of curiosity to another level. It's time to look at my pain and say, "Isn't that interesting? I wonder what would happen if I did this." It's time to surrender and pay attention to what I have to learn here. 

I am also wondering what life would be like if I I applied the questions of curiosity to all forms of challenges. What would happen if I stopped and thought, "Isn't that interesting" when I feel my frustration rise during difficult conversations? What would happen if I examine my reaction to others with grace-filled curiosity? What if I could keep it curious?