I turned 40 this year. It felt like a significant milestone. I styled it out though; tried to make out that it was ‘just another birthday’ – that I felt much the same as I did when I was 39. But between you and me, I was acutely aware of the malevolent presence of ‘Father Time’ or ‘the Grim Reaper’- which morphed from one to the other depending on my mood, which was in turn usually affected by how much booze I had consumed.
My brain has been foggy with negative thoughts about the physical changes that lay in wait for me, and has been preoccupied by the experiences that I’ve left behind; I’m probably done on the reproduction front- my uterus is now ‘fallow’, withering incrementally with every passing day. Menopause next. Bring on the hot flushes, rage, tears, skin tags, whiskers, liver spots and hairy moles.
I took distraction actions and got highlights to hide my silvering although I have spent too much time wondering whether I’ll ever be able to carry off red hair again. It seems only Julianne Moore can do it successfully, all the other famous redheads (Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman) become blondes in their 40s. I now wear factor 50 all year round to ward off wrinkles and skin cancer and I’ve been dieting since before Christmas to reduce my chances of type 2 diabetes.
I regularly consider getting fit, but not in a ‘park run’ kind of way, more a ‘make a conscious effort to be more active’ type of (lame) compromise. I downloaded some HIIT workouts and googled ‘exercises to improve bone density’, but haven’t looked at them since! I think demonstrating curiosity about their existence is taking action of a sort. I still don’t drink enough water.
But concerns about my physical evolution isn’t the worst of it. The worst part of hitting 40 is a nagging sense that I have reached the (likely) half-way point in my life and I don’t feel like I am really good at anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely average at lots of things, my kids and husband are happy (and they are gorgeous, and brilliant, and kind and each one is a truly exceptional human) – I know I am winning in lots of ways, I know I have lots to be thankful for, and I am; but in personal fulfillment terms, I haven’t absolutely nailed any one particular skill.
This nagging doubt triggered a period of inevitable introspection. How fulfilled did I feel about my work, did I consider myself ‘happy’, and did I have any regrets?
Every year I, like many others, write my resolutions list. On that list I commit to losing 3 stone (fail), ring my family more (fail) and to ‘do more art’, and, every year I don’t. I get out my sketchbook on average 3 or 4 times. In the moment, when my pencil is in my hand, I feel calmer and I am reminded of all of the reasons why getting lost in something creative makes me feel good. But then I pack away my things and forget about them. Art hasn’t been a priority for me. I can blame a busy life packed full of competing demands; children, washing, cleaning, TV, Netflix. But there is more to it.
Why am I choosing a life of brain-withering social media checking and passive TV ingesting over time spent drawing, or painting? I think it’s the fear. When I was 17 I painted a still-life for my A level art exam and it was probably the best thing I have ever produced. Since then I have listed, under ‘interests’ on my CV and on every job application since reaching working age, ‘sketching’ or ‘art’. But I don’t engage in creativity that often. Perhaps I like the idea of being a ‘good artist’ more than a practicing one.
There is a reason and that is that sometimes, when I pick up a pencil and start drawing, it doesn’t go to plan. Sometimes I can’t get the likeness. Sometimes it just looks crap. And that feeling of failing, is what makes me leave the pencils in the tin. It is easier sometimes, to not do it at all.
I regret not having invested in nurturing the potential talent that I had when I was 17. I regret not doing a fine-art degree and seeing how good I could have been if I had lived and breathed painting for 4 years. I regret not having the courage to give it a go.
But, here’s the thing, hitting 40 and allowing myself a bit of self assessment time has made me realise that I still am that 17 year old- she is me – same hands, same eyes, same potential. Okay so the talent is a little rusty. But I’m not going to be able to see how far I can go, unless I open my mind to learning again. I am too young for regrets about goals I haven’t achieved. I still have time.
This blog is my way of making art my new habit. It’s a way of tracking my progress and making a commitment to it. It’s also a way to create my own digital ‘on-line’ art-group that will help me to tap into a network of others like me out there in cyberspace, who could give me pointers and feedback and encouragement. This is my way of giving art another go.
I’m Beryl, and these are my adventures in art.
Welcome to My New Blog
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