I finally did it. I’ve been threatening to do it for nearly a year, ok longer, but I kept telling myself that my little point and shoot Canon Powershot S500 was good enough. I kept telling myself, “It’s compact, takes a decent macro shot and someday…someday…” Besides, every time I’d begin to research DSLR cameras, I’d get a little spun out in a whirlwind of confusion and decide to check into it “later.”
So yes, you’ve guessed it. I bought a DSLR camera. I landed upon a great deal with 18 months to pay, no interest, at Best Buy and I had my new Canon EOS Rebel T1i with two lenses delivered directly to my doorstep. I was like a kid on Christmas morning opening the box. I kept saying out loud “Look Dad! Look what I bought for myself!” My father liked to take photographs too. We mostly bonded around photography, windsurfing and computers. He passed away a couple of years ago. I knew he’d share my joy.
But this post is not about cameras or my beloved father. It’s about giving ourselves what we want.
It’s about honoring ourselves with instruments and spaces that allow us to explore and expand our creative outlets, talents and passions, for no reason other than we want it.
Over the years, I’ve wrestled with good enough and it works mantras. I’m frugal. I didn’t build a decent retirement fund chasing after every new shiny toy. Sometimes good enough would win and I’d go into toleration mode letting my ego make up stories about how it was a better than ethic to be able to suffer having less. Like my neighbor’s bumper sticker says, “Less is Moral.”
I am not one of the Americans who over consumed and is now attending the church of new found simplicity. I don’t have over-consumption guilt or a heavy yoke of debt around my neck. I bet many of you can relate despite the headlines in the local rag.
There is another kind of yoke that can make the spirit weary and that is the yoke of tolerating and being stingy with oneself.
I’ve pursued a number of activities in my life. The new tennis racket, the new windsurf board, harness and proper sails, the proper fitting mountain bike with great suspension, all made an extreme difference in my skill and joy for these sports.
When I was in high school, I took voice lessons and I taught myself guitar. My mother let me have her little nylon string guitar from Mexico. One night, while lying in bed, I was shocked out of my sleep by a loud snap, whap and echoing tone. I turned on the light to find that the bridge had snapped free and tossed itself, with all six strings, at the wall behind the guitar and was left dangling pitifully from the neck. The front of the guitar body was also loosening from the back. My solution? Duct tape.
One night, at a party, I was playing that taped-up guitar and singing. A guy I’d never met before said to me, “You need a better guitar. I can get you one.” A few days later he called. He had a brand new nylon string guitar that he would sell me (with case) for $50. It was a huge sum for me in those days and well worth the investment. With that new guitar in my arms, I began classical lessons with a neighborhood friend and relished every beautiful sound we made together, that guitar and I.
When I was in college studying music, my parents helped me buy my own piano so that I would have it at my apartment instead of having to go to the dimly lit, dreary, smoke-filled practice rooms. I bought it used from a woman who’d received it on her 16th birthday. She never played it and was happy that it was finding a good home with me. She gave me an amazing deal. It was still in great shape and when I had it worked on years later, we found a snippet of ribbon inside the piano which I just know was part of the original Sweet Sixteen Birthday wrapping.
As much as I loved that piano, I always dreamed of a beautiful light-filled studio with an Asian carpet and a grand piano. A grand piano is not something you want to move around with a lot. In the earlier years, I told myself I was waiting to know I’d not be moving again in the foreseeable future. Every move with my “sweet sixteen” piano required four strong guys, a borrowed truck and cost me a case of beer.
Yet even when I bought my first home, I did not buy the grand piano. I told myself the home was enough and besides, I had not earned it yet. Someday….someday…
When I opened my private music studio, I used the “sweet sixteen” piano for 6 years before I treated myself to the grand. The truth is, I did not count my desire for the piano, my musicianship (because I was a singer and composer more than a pianist) or my worthiness as good enough to give myself such a treasure.
It took one new adult student ‘s words to send me out looking for the grand piano I’d always wanted. She said something like, “I wasn’t sure I should take lessons from someone who didn’t have a better instrument. I wasn’t sure you were a serious musician.” Those words gave me an understanding of the way in which how I value myself creates how others value me.
Within a month of that insight, I had my new Kawai grand piano and I was in heaven. I took jazz and classical lessons from local musician Gini Wilson (The Duchess). My playing improved dramatically. Having the instrument motivated me to play every day and encouraged me to see myself as a real musician, something I’d always had trouble calling myself, M.A. in music notwithstanding.
So now, we hit upon the “good enough – good enough” irony. I did not consider myself good enough, so I sang the good enough song. In other words, I decided that whatever I had was good enough for the not-so- good-enough me. I was the gatekeeper to my own happiness and I was using the ever-elusive goal of being flawlessly good and masterfully skilled as the key to the “promised land.” I had it all backwards.
My Self knows when I’m being stingy with me and it creates an awful rift, a painful disconnection between me and my soul.
The self that feels honored will rise to the occasion.
Who’s responsible for that honoring?
So, while there may be a hollow kind of consumerism, a need to fill some unspoken void when we chase after bigger, better, newer, there is also an incredible sacred honoring that comes with giving oneself the instruments, the space, the beauty that enable us to open to new landscapes of joy, creativity and serenity.
Yes, there is stretch that is called challenge and there is a stretch that is called receiving.
What is the stretch for which you are longing now?
I take my new camera everywhere. I wear it like an appendage. Not only has it enabled me to take better pictures, it has already stirred my creative juices with some very fun ideas. I have a lot to learn, but I am eager and I am totally in love. I see the world through a new lens (no pun intended). I notice the smallest of creatures and delight in playing with perspective. I see color and light like never before. As a musician I’ve always heard the world and now, for the first time since I got my first SLR, I am also seeing the world up close and personal.
My inner creative self no longer stands before me all raggedy with an empty bowl pleading “Please sir, may I have some more?” My spirit soars and there is much joy and anticipation over what will happen next.
The earth is the soul’s playground. Give yourself something worth playing with.
And you, my wonderful reader:
What are you tolerating?
What is the one gift you could give yourself today that will inspire and challenge you, taking your skills, your talents to the next level?
What is that you really want?
What will feed your passion?
When will you let yourself to have it; to receive it?
Where there is the will there is a way.
The question is … are you willing?
Copyright(c) April 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved