As creatives (or even human beings!), many of us spend much of our lives squelching all that is frivolous, impractical, and seemingly unnecessary about ourselves, whether it be taking a math class instead of that pottery class we really felt drawn to or not allowing ourselves to invest in that new set of brushes because they were “too expensive to justify spending on a hobby.” Don’t misunderstand – I know as well as anyone that sometimes you have to take math, and many times there is no way to sidestep the boundaries of a budget; however, I also know that self-denial is an easy habit to pick up, and we can often lose ourselves in the cycle of “no” for the sake of saying “no”, or because it feels easier and safer than allowing our inner children to be a little frivolous and impractical, or perhaps because we don’t think we deserve to be indulged.
I am the type of person that genuinely enjoys celebrating other people. I do birthdays. Holidays thrill me. I love buying and making gifts for the people in my life. Over the years, I have learned that not everyone shares this particular sentiment, though most of the people that end up in my circle, so to speak, learn to just accept it from me. You don’t want a birthday present? Be prepared for me to shrug and give you one anyway. You don’t need it, you say? Well birthday presents wouldn’t be nearly as fun if you needed them, would they?
I had grown accustomed to the occasional gift/party/etc. being accepted with a small sigh of resignation (ahem, Jeff), but no one had ever challenged me on my, shall we say, celebratory preferences, until I met and began dating my current fiance, Chris. (He will surely mention this name-drop when he gets home tonight, but frankly, he’s gotten away pretty easy so far) After we had been dating for a while and I knew him well enough to know when his birthday was without it being creepy, I had the realization that I was the unfortunate member of the pair to decide whether and how to recognize his birthday, since his came before mine on the calendar. It would have been much easier if mine had come first – to let him decide if we had been dating long enough to “do” birthdays or not and set the precedent. Clearly, I was out of luck, and I spent days agonizing over how to handle the upcoming birthday for fear of doing too much, or worse, too little.
I eventually stopped having angst over the whole thing and decided to just do what I naturally felt that I wanted to – if it was too much, then it was too much. I figured that I may as well prepare him right from the get-go. When the day in question finally rolled around, I went all out. I made sure to involve his kids since they are a huge and incredibly important part of his life. We had dinner. I got Hall of Fame Phillies tickets. Made sure everyone had a Phillies shirt for the game. Made the kids goodie bags to keep them occupied for longer than the first three innings. And when he looked at me at the end of the night and said, ” Why did you do all of this? It’s way too much.” I smiled and told him that I believe when you care for another person, you should want to do nice things for them. You should want to see them excited, smiling, and enjoying themselves with the people they love. And I believe that you celebrate birthdays, because without them you wouldn’t exist.
It is interesting to me how easy it is to wholeheartedly believe that when it comes to other people, but how difficult it can be (particularly in practice) when it comes to ourselves.
As I’ve tried to dissect this belief of mine, and why I tend to give so freely to others and, at the same time, deny myself, I’ve also begun to think about the small things that I’ve always wanted or wanted to do that, on the grounds of impracticality, timing, money, un-dersevedness, and the like, I’ve denied myself. At the beginning of the week, I made a short list and decided that Artist’s Date #9 would be focused on spending time doing just one of the things off of that list.
I started a garden. I’ve always wanted one. I’ve always wanted to grow food and flowers and always told myself I didn’t have time to tend to something like that, the money to start (even though seeds are not expensive at all!), or stayed in one place long enough to bother setting up something so permanent.
I am thrilled with how well the little plants are doing already! We’re growing cabbage, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, basil, mint, and a handful of flowers for no other reason than that I found them pretty. I spent hours this week digging up our own compost, potting, and setting up our new little garden, and I loved it.
Will it help me be a better artist? Honestly, I’m not sure, but it is one giant step in the direction of treating myself as well as I treat others. A step toward not constantly squelching the desires of my inner self, however impractical or unrelated as they may seem, because, let’s be honest, art, in and of itself, is rarely practical. One could make the argument that humanity could survive without it, but I know that it is necessary for the soul – and what kind of survival would that be?