I have to admit that like many of you, the chaos of the outside world is affecting me. It’s amping up my anxiety and challenging my sense of peace. And no matter if I am not directly affected, the overall trauma and stresses we are seeing in the news can very well influence our moods and invade our thoughts. Recently, though, I recommitted to choosing the path of artful living as my focus for the every day.
Though I am creative, I never saw myself as an artist. Because I don’t have the traditional skills I though described an artist, people like my oldest daughter and some of my clients who can take raw materials like paper, canvas, ink, paint, and wax to create the kind of creations which hang upon walls and move us emotionally when we view them.
What I’ve come to understand as I’ve aged, though, is that though I can’t sketch anything beyond stick figures, it doesn’t mean that I can’t live in a way that is artful.
“He decided to give up his large ambition of knowledge and action for any narrow craft or profession, aiming at a much more comprehensive calling, the art of living.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson about his friend Henry David Thoreau
Artful living is about the choice to recognize the beauty in the everyday. And let me tell you, my darling, it can be more powerful than you imagine.
I’m sure it helps that I’ve long had an optimistic nature. Long before I read the works Emerson or Thoreau, I thought along the same lines of the Transcendentalists – that humans are basically good. And that each of us is born into this world with a special gift. This core belief leads me back to myself – time and time again. And is especially important when we witness unkind and unethical behaviors by folks out there.
When the news – or social media – shows me the ugly side of humanity – I look for kindness and beauty. Because as I’ve often said – and been told – what we focus on grows. When we expect the worst of society, we will always see it. And when we search for goodness, we’ll find that as well. So, when I choose artful living as my approach, it helps me keep the stress of the outer world more firmly out of my mind. Because our thoughts do affect our reality, right?
This isn’t to say that I am always Pollyanna. Because though this is an approach I want to make for my own sanity, it’s not always an easy choice. Yet, this is the exact reason I want to invite you to see your own life as art, too. Because it opens the door to a more nourishing life.
Why do I believe artful living matters?
When the world feels out of control, approaching life in artful manner gives you back your power. Which allows you to take a deep breath and remind yourself that you have a modicum control. Because even when life is certain, we still need to feel in control of some aspects of our life.
This is why some kids (and adults) are picky eaters: sometimes it’s the only thing they feel like they can control. But let’s not digress too far. Rather, I want to remind you that it’s OK to feel like you need to control something. And when you shift your focus to living in a way the fills you with joy, it’s easier to let go of what you can’t control.
When you decide that you’re going to approach your own life like art, it’s easier to examine your daily life. And make choices that fill you up instead of drag you down. As a reminder, you have control of what you read and witness. When you curate your social media feed – and unfollow negative accounts – you are making the choice to honor yourself.
You have full control of your routines, what you watch on television, and what you eat. And even though work may look different right now for many of us, you have control of your attitude. Because you are always in choice.
That, my dear, is why artful living can be the difference between feeling happy rather than feeling crappy. The choice to see our lives as art is an invitation to pursue delight and beauty in the everyday.
Here’s an example of what artful living looks and feels like for me.
My first cup of coffee is not just coffee, but ritual. And I’ve attended each detail of the experience. I prepare the coffee maker the night before with filtered water and excellent coffee beans. Upon waking a push of a button sends the coffee maker into action. Because we love fresh ground coffee, I made the investment in a machine that not only brews, but grinds as well. This is artful living: to choose everyday items in a way that enhances life.
But the details of that first cup of coffee continue. While the coffee is brewing, I also boil water in a teakettle so that I can pre-warm our cups. And, of course, not just any cup will do. It must be a cup that feels good in my hand and is delightful to look at as well. As for JB, he prefers thermal cups with lids so he can sip throughout the morning without his cup getting cold.
And because the details matter, I also unload the dishwasher while the coffee brews. This is about how compassionate discipline plays a part in artful living.
I always pour my coffee into my cup and then pour coffee into JB’s cup.
By doing so, this choice is a reminder to make myself a priority no matter what happens in the day ahead. After our cups are filled, the rest of the coffee is poured into a thermos to keep it nice and hot. Then the ritual part begins. Using a tiny Demitasse spoon, I add turbinado sugar to my cup and organic whipping cream that comes from grass-fed cows into the cup and gently stir.
I close my eyes and take that first sip: heaven!
Then I finish preparing JB’s cup, adding organic half-and-half (also from grass-fed cows) and putting the lid on tightly. Yes. I make his coffee every morning. This is another aspect of artful living: the care of my beloved. While he’s perfectly capable of making the coffee – and on the weekends he often does – by beginning the day this way I am reminding myself that small gestures and kindness matter in relationships.
And while he usually drinks his coffee at his desk since he’s been working at home, I purposely avoid my desk. Because artful living is about being present to the good around me. So, I take my cup out on the deck along with a book and my journal. Or if the weather is too hot or too cold – hey, call me Goldilocks – I take my first cup of coffee to the recliner in my bedroom. No computer, work, or email until I consume every last drop.
From the push of the button on the coffee maker to the last sip of coffee takes less than thirty minutes. Yet, I’ve set the tone for my entire day. And that entire thirty-minutes – a mere 2% of the day – embodies the heart of conscious, artful living.
Artful living encompasses beauty, ease, discipline, kindness, choice, self-care, and love.
Setting the coffee maker up the night before is about ease. And unloading the dishwasher is not just about discipline, but ease as well. Because I want an empty dishwasher available throughout the day. I choose beautiful cups and have carefully chosen every single ingredient.
And while I’ve acted from a place of love and kindness from JB, I don’t leave myself out of that love and kindness. By pouring my cup first, it’s an act and reminder that I must matter and be a priority even as I’m caring for others.
The choice to sip my coffee with a book or my journal, preferably outside where I can see the trees and flowers. And hear the birds chirp is about being entirely present in the moment.
Though you may not be a coffee drinker, hopefully you can see how living artfully opens the door to a nourished life. Complete focus on the smallest portions of the day pay of big dividends.
So yes, while the world outside your door is chaotic, by choosing artful living as the underlying mantra of your life can make a huge difference in the overall quality of your life.
This may mean keeping a vase of flowers on the kitchen table. And rather than seeing food as only fuel, it’s the creation of – or the consuming of – a beautiful meal. Rather than eating in front of the TV, lighting candles and turning on some music is a loving gesture at the end of a stressful day.
It’s the choice to put a slice of juicy lemon in a glass or water or garnishing your plate with a snip of fresh herbs. These open our eyes to beauty.
And though we aren’t going anywhere, artful living can look like choosing to adorn your body with a lovely outfit. Or putting on makeup even though you will only be seeing your family (and yourself in the mirror).
We must remind ourselves that we are always in choice. So, rather than make choices that make our lives more stressful, we choose actions that bring ease. Perhaps the choice to listen to music that makes us desire to dance or sing is a choice over watching the news is what’s needed. Or rather than watching mindless nonsense, we can choose to feed our mind with great literature. And feed our soul with those beach reads that make us laugh.
Artful living is also about listening to the call of our hearts. To being brave enough to discover our inner gifts and unearth our truths.
It’s your one precious time on this planet and you get to choose how you live it. And like art, the way we live may not be pleasing to all the other souls existing on this planet. Our idea of living artfully may not be another person’s. Because artful living is all about the personal choices that make you who you are.
The transcendentalists also believed that in addition to being born with special, unique gifts, each of us has our own answers within us. And this, I agree with as well. This is why artful living is so unique to you. Because deep within you are the answers to what you need in order to live a nourishing life. And if you don’t know, then you just need the right question to nudge you towards your answer.
Artful living is about creating a life that is lush, loving, and nourished. And though each of us has challenges along the way, seeking beauty in the everyday will always help you find the bright spots.