Thursday, February 2, 2012

The process and the perfectionist

We are in the middle of a bedroom shift at our house. We needed to paint the bedrooms and that meant moving everything off the walls anyway so a shift didn't seem like too much more trouble. Our youngest, Aiden, (16), had been in the smallest bedroom in the house and, since he's most likely to be at home the longest, and honestly, really needs the most space (energetically & physically!), it made sense to move him into a bigger room and give his older brother the smaller one (which has it's own bathroom, which equates to more privacy so, it worked out for everyone).

Boxing up Aiden's room was no small feat! Aiden is what I refer to as a sentimental hoarder.  Where he gets it, I'll never know! (snigger! see my making room for the piano post for full disclosure). Packing up his room was like a walk down memory lane: stuffed animals, toy cars, jewelry, his extensive knife collection, the  broken skateboards (he can tell you exactly when, where & how each of them were destroyed) and the artwork: boxes & stacks of drawing pads & journals.  Aiden hasn't drawn anything in years but he's got the goods to prove that he used to be really into it!
I always thought he was a great artist. He had a really unique & edgy style. But Aiden has always been a very active and social kid and, at about 10 years old, that became all encompassing. There was no longer any time for artistic pursuits because the great outdoors called. Hiking, climbing & exploring near our creek with his friends gave way to skateboarding and then bmx biking, both obsessive hobbies. If he wasn't actively participating in them, he was watching videos or reading magazines about them (the bmx thing should not be in past tense here, it is still very much his passion).

And, art wasn't hard to let go of because he was often irritated by his process. Aiden is one of those people who thinks he should be able to do everything really well, right from the get go. I gather that there are a lot of people in the world like this (a form of perfectionism) but I am not one of them. I'm all about the process of learning. I like how the spark of an idea and the flow of creativity can lead you somewhere you never imagined going! As an artist, Aiden was always frustrated. The images in his head did not match up with the images on his pages. It drove him crazy! My assurance that it was the same for me was of no comfort to him. In his mind, he was no good and so, he abandoned it.  And then, all these years later, while boxing up his room, he starts going through his old drawings. "Hey, Mom, you know, I was a pretty good artist!". "Yes, Peanut, I always thought you were..."

Last night, I walked into the family room to discover him, BMX video on the TV and sketch pad in hand, drawing! "I think it looks like a toucan" he says to me. I ask him what he was going for "nothing in particular" he says, "I just felt like drawing." "It's a cool drawing!" I encourage. "Yeah, I kinda like it." he replies. And for me this is a huge milestone! No drama or frustration. No expectation of outcome. Just the pleasure of drawing.
Will it lead to something more? A desire to study art? Who knows! For me, it's not about that. Like I said, I'm all about the process of learning and, in this case, the spark of a new idea (I was a pretty good artist but I couldn't see it at the time) opens the door for all kinds of self reflection, and perhaps, a new attitude in his future explorations. When you don't have an expectation of how something should be, it's easier to enjoy the process and appreciate the outcome, whatever that might be.
And that's a great life lesson!