I started 2020, like many of us, on a roll. My art business was picking up, my calendar was full of little tasks and to-do’s; Fridays found me parked in front of my easel painting merrily away. When I wasn’t painting, I was growing my competence and confidence in facilitation and other small business/NGO consulting, playing outside, or spending time with friends.
Then the pandemic hit and the last painting I started, full of greenery, was left on the easel in my public studio half-way finished for months. I vacated my art studio in favor of working safely from home. Finally, I closed down the studio, partially as protest and partly due to Covid-19. During the summer I eased myself into gardening more and working less. I had less to give at that point as a human, and indulging in simply taking in good, green, fragrant sensory input from my backyard at a time when the world was going to shit felt like the right thing to do.
Friends passed through, outdoors or around a fire, but the interior of my home was just for me and Wes. As the months went by and the days got shorter, that interior got fuller and richer. I turned more into myself than I have since I was a teenager. It felt fascinating and indulgent; also limitless and scary. As someone who’s moved around a lot and relishes big change, I’ve always wanted to know what it would feel like to be in one place and go deep; to experience everything one place has to offer and understand things like how the sun hits in a certain way or why a plant grows here but not there. This year I had my opportunity.
But I can only let the world carry me along with it for so long, with no aim beyond my present moment and taking it all in as I go. Going into 2021, I need to set my sights somewhere and pick myself back up.
Interestingly, when I took some time this past weekend to write down all of the high and low points from the last year and reflect on themes, I noticed that I had more high points in 2020 than I wrote down for 2019. This is despite much less external activity.
And the themes I’m taking away are all about presence.
What will it be like, I wonder, to both set my sights on where I want to head and pick myself up on a path I am designing, while simultaneously being more fully in each moment as I go and letting it take me along?
I have big dreams, but this year also taught me that those dreams are realized every step along the way.
So, The Plan for 2021 is grand: I am picking back up on painting and art; I am starting up again modestly with only tiny paintings because it’s what I can do from my kitchen table; I am working toward designing and purchasing a mobile art studio either this year or next. But The Plan is also to feel good; better – not just to take my time, but to fully inhabit it.
I hope that at the end of 2021 I can once again tick off a list of high points that are both external and deeply internal. After all, if 2020 taught me anything, it’s that I live mostly in my own mind, and I can shift much of my own experience by being fully present within it.