This is a tough one. But as hard as it seems to be able to do, from my experience it seems essential to self understanding. I don’t believe you can have love for yourself if there is no understanding of what it is you have gone through in life. And that love is only able to blossom if you have come to understand the experience deeper than just the hated part of it.
In my own life there were alcoholic parents, terrible physical injuries, uprooting myself from more than one college for reasons beyond my control, and an excruciating divorce after 20 years of marriage. And those are just the highlights. Could I have hated all those events? In fact I did have hate for them. But I wasn’t FILLED with hate. Hate was part of what I felt. But so was hope, fear, happiness, anger, frustration, determination, love. I developed resilience, perseverance, a sense of adventure, compassion, love, and strength that led me forward through those things. And I was deliberate in looking at the value those events had in creating the positive part of who I am and what I can do.
Here’s the thing. You will not get to be old in this life without events that hurt you, scare you, destroy you. You will not get old without injury, illness, failure. Those things will exist at some point in some way. Your decision is the label you give them. Is ‘hate’ the first word, maybe the only word, you attach to that event? Then I submit you haven’t looked deep enough at it. By giving more labels to these things you aren’t giving up the right to say you hated it. You are simply saying there was more to it than just the hated part. Focus on that other part. What did you learn, how did you grow, who did you help as a result?
Don’t Love Hating
I know I have lived just one life. It’s a life that didn’t include many terrible things, things that I can’t imagine having to deal with. I can’t say I would have been successful in overcoming the hate if any number of other things had happened. But I do know there are many who have so focused on what they hate about something or someone in their past (or present) that they aren’t able or willing to see beyond it. Their identity is attached to what they hate. And I know of no people who are happy being that way.
A few years ago I posted a napkin drawing using a quote by Sarah Haines that struck me profoundly. “Don’t love hating people.” It is a variation on this same theme and I hope you will go read what I had to say about it as well.
I am not sure if this is really good advice or not. But it’s better than ‘get drunk as you can’ and ‘go kill someone’ so let’s say it’s good, ok?
The truth is, most of the time when we think we are in hot water, we aren’t, just like when we take a bath. We get in and it is HOT! But before too long it’s actually quite temperate. Bad events are often like that too. We see them as outrageous, unforgivable, irredeemable at first. Then we realize they aren’t as bad as we thought. It might take a while, weeks or months even, but eventually we find we will survive.
So, maybe the best thing to do when you are confronted with getting in trouble is to do exactly this, take a bath. Or a go for a walk, or a run. Or watch a movie. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just mellow out for a bit so you can calm down and see the situation through more reasonable eyes.
Then, if you are still in hot water, get a lawyer!
I have known many people who do feel they are not equal to anyone else. Maybe it is like a friend of mine, one of the smartest and funniest young humans I know, who posted that she is worried sometimes that she will not live up to the standard of all the talented people she sees all around her, that she won’t make the cut. This is what I wrote to her in response:
We all feel like fakes sometimes. I am like 3 times older than you and I still feel it. But, while I was feeling that on and off all these decades I also became a kick ass artist who has created some amazing stuff. So, doubt all you want, it’s normal, just KEEP WORKING ON WHAT YOU WANT TO BE. That is what matters in the end, the work you do, not the feeling you may have once in a while.
Where did that originate with her? Honestly, I don’t know her well enough to say for certain. But if it is like many others I have known, it could be a disconnect between her desire for high achievement (based on her intrinsic understanding of her intelligence and abilities, of which there is a lot), and the recognition of her limitations of health, opportunity and ambition. I don’t think it’s an uncommon disconnect among young people. They have grand dreams and those dreams often narrow as they age. There is a moment at which they only see the narrowing of the dream, not the blossoming of another dream that will be even greater and more fulfilling.
Or maybe it is like my ex-wife, who felt she didn’t have enough value to stand up for what she wanted and expected in a marriage while she was married to me. I wish she had been able to, but she wasn’t. Where did that lack of value come from? Perhaps the roots were in her parents’ decision that if you wanted to be a good Christian (which they were in many ways) then not only was acting bad not allowed, but expressing, or even having, bad feelings wasn’t allowed either. The consequence was that when she did express the completely common and expected feelings of growing up into maturity, those feelings weren’t allowed or validated. And that told her that what she felt, and thus she, was of little value.
How to Balance
How do you get a balance? It’s about practice. Just as an artist or athlete gets better by practice, so attitudes and perceptions do as well. You can think about changing an attitude but the truth is that attitude will very likely not change until you take action to change it, to practice a new attitude. This can happen if you let an old attitude or perception trigger a new way of looking at something. For example, when you catch yourself denigrating your abilities, allow that to be a trigger to say something positive and good about your abilities. You don’t do this to fake your way towards something, you do it because you are practicing being truthful about who you are in the world. You actually do have positive and valuable qualities. Stating that you have them is not egotistical or vain. it is reality. And since you are currently on the self-denigration side of the scale you aren’t really in reality. This practice is getting you back to a balance, that is all.
One of my favorite lines in any song is “Sometimes we’re blinded by the very thing we need to see.” It’s in ‘The Last Word’ by Mary Chapin Carpenter. She’s one of my all time favorite singer/songwriters. She never fails to bring real and raw meaning into the world with her poignant lyrics and powerful music. This song also happens to be on one of my all time favorite albums, Stones in the Road. If you haven’t ever listened to it, I really do believe you are missing one of the most perfect albums ever made.
My Blind Spots
Hearing those words made me start to look at my own blind spots, which is hard, since they don’t want to be seen. Actually, that isn’t true. The spot itself, as is shown in my drawing, is actually what we do see. We see it so big and bold that we don’t see beyond it. We don’t see what it’s hiding.
We can even be enamored of our own blind spots, as when we brag about our ignorance on a certain subject, or our lack of talent in some area, as if it is a badge of honor instead of something to pay attention to and move beyond.
What both the quote and the lyrics say to me is that you see what you want and need to see; infatuated love, the possibility of wealth, the dreams of fame for example, and seeing those things so big can blind you to seeing the emotional desperation, the selfish greed, or the empty loneliness that might come along with those things.
In other words, desire often begets blindness. So I try to ask myself as often as I can, what is it I am desiring here, and how is that changing, and perhaps warping, what it is I am paying attention to?
Many years ago I did a napkin drawing of the actual lyrics I mentioned above. Here it is. it is one of the earliest of the napkins drawn for the world instead of just for my daughters. it’s from 2009.
Do you want to know what is impossible? A relatively obscure Austrian bodybuilder who can barely speak English becoming one of the biggest international movie stars ever and THEN becoming Governor of the most populous state in the USA. That is impossible.
Here’s another one: A divorced B-list actor, on his way out in popularity, becoming the President of the United States. That is impossible.
One more: A clinically depressed unwed mother on welfare becoming the biggest selling author of the last 20 years with a net worth of over 1 billion dollars. That is impossible.
Each one of these examples followed the process in the napkin. First, they did what was necessary. They did the hard work to reach their first goal. That first goal is not where they ended up. It was the necessary first step. If you aren’t willing to do the dishwashing in a restaurant, chances are you aren’t going to become an owner of a restaurant.
Each of the people above had a vision of what was possible. One knew he could become a world famous bodybuilder, the best that has ever been, before or after. One had the foresight and courage to change direction mid-life from acting to politics and public service. The third believed in all her heart that if she could get this book finished and into the right hands it would be a success. Their necessary hard work gave them glimpses into what was possible and they took advantage of those opportunities.
Once the possible is taken advantage of with the foundation of necessary hard work, then those things that were WAY out of reach, that were impossible, all of a sudden became no longer impossible, just unlikely. Then more possibles came to pass and then the unlikely became a possible. Then, the impossible became real.
Arnold, Ronald and J.K.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was just another bodybuilding meathead. Ronald Reagan was just another washed up actor. J.K. Rowling was just another wannabe writer. But that’s what others thought of them. It wasn’t what they thought of themselves. They saw themselves, AND applied themselves, as if they were much greater and much better than how others saw them.
They knew they couldn’t let others opinions decide their fate.
They knew hard, focused work was the key.
They knew they had to take advantage of the possible for it to become real.
They knew their vision had to expand and adapt as the future played itself out.
They knew not to be afraid of failure OR success.
Do you want to achieve the impossible? That’s how to do it.
Here are some rags to riches stories that illustrate this process again and again.
I usually think of perseverance as just sticking with something. But this quote brought to the fore a different aspect of perseverance for me. This focuses on the underlying reasons so many people don’t persevere; they think they’ve already worked hard enough or they simply tire of the work. That make me think about my own work differently.
Seems To Me
Yes, I’ve done a lot of work in my Napkin Dad efforts over the years. Sometimes it seems like it should be enough work to have succeeded. But what difference does it make if it ‘seems’ like anything? You can’t go by what something seems like. You have to go with reality. And the reality says I have more work to do to get where I want to go. In other words, ‘seems’ is irrelevant.
The Top of the Rock
Have you ever watched TV reports of rock climbers attempting to scale some giant cliff? They never have as their goal to get half way up the cliff, right? They say they are going to conquer that mountain, not conquer the half way mark of the mountain.
Often in rock climbing you see these beautiful photographs of the climbers in little tents hanging on a vertical cliff taking a break. They have food, shelter, warmth and they can actually survive days and weeks going up a cliff that way. They sleep all night and start up again the next day or they may have to wait it out a day or two if there is a storm.
But they stick to their goal, the top. No matter how tired they are, they can’t say ‘I worked hard enough, I am now at the top.’ They aren’t at the top until they are at the top, no wishing or feeling they should be at the top will change that.
It’s no difference with our goals. Do we want to achieve something? Then let’s set our minds to it and get started. Take little steps, keep at it, and let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we are done before we are done. We know it will be hard work and we commit ourselves to doing it. When we are tired, we take a break. But, we don’t shortchange ourselves and we don’t shortchange the world waiting for us to contribute what we have to give by quitting. We get out of the tent the next morning and resume our climb to our goal.
Here is the Periscope video of the #NapkinKin trying to ‘guess the quote’ as I drew.
Drawing and Commentary @2015 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Quote by Newt Gingrich, 1943 – not dead yet, American politician
This is what happens when I decide to ask the #NapkinKin on Periscope what I should draw! I had the quote and had just the word ‘wish’ in the top and bottom quote areas. They had to guess the quote as usual but this time I decided I would let them suggest what I would draw as well. The result? A funny, crazy, unique and totally original napkin! See the bottom of the post to read the chronology of the drawing’s creation.
Prints are still available. $25.00
Someone Else’s Help
Sometimes self-help is knowing when you need or want someone else’s help. You don’t have to NEED someone’s help like when you are in a burning building and need to be rescued. You can just need or want someone’s help because it’s more fun than doing something alone.
I do my drawings alone. I come up with the ideas and images and I find the quotes. I choose the elements, the characters, the backgrounds. I then choose the colors and the type and degree of shading and rendering. I do it all. What that means is sometimes you start to get in a rut. You do the expected thing a little too easily. You fall back on a character or a color or a concept you may have done a few times too often.
How many of us have never said, “I wish it were easier.”? Maybe it was losing weight or getting in shape. Maybe raising kids. Perhaps your marriage or job or family or home ownership or….or all of it. People just wish all of life was easier sometimes. right?
What I’ve noticed is that often that desire for things to be easier is actually a desire for a sharing of the burden. You aren’t opposed to the hard work of life, you just sometimes want to have some support in making it through. I know it’s true in my life as a runner. I run 5 days a week in a group I coach. I do all my own miles obviously, no one runs them for me. But I am not alone. I have companionship and support as I run the miles. Most of the people I run with think I am there for them, since I am the coach. But that is not completely true. I am a coach in no small part because I want to run with others. They meet my need as much as I meet theirs.
Friend in the Head
This week and next I am off from coaching and so am running on my own. I have been running 12 years now and it’s STILL not easy getting out my front door for a solo run. I can think of a bazillion reasons to not go between my bedroom door and the front door. But if I had a friend waiting in my driveway for me? I would not have those bazillion reasons going through my head. I would have my friend in my head. That is the power of doing things better.
How It Came About
So, as I mentioned, this funny and strange drawing came about via crowd sourcing on Periscope. Here is how it came about. All the people mentioned can be followed on Periscope.
The first suggestion was from @orion. He said draw stars (based on the fact that ‘wish’ was the only word showing).
@frogulox (Aaron) said there should be a top hat. I ended up drawing a sort of stove pipe top hat.
I had a suggestion of a rabbit from @futureartist123 (Mario). My attempt rendered a whale instead who fit snuggly under the top hat.
@feynwoman (Julia) suggested flowers. Since the whale was looking up, I decided flowers growing off the tree would be what he was looking at.
Then @ladyNynah (Antonia) said a tree and @JCahoonArtist (Jennifer) said a cactus about the same time. So, I drew a cactitree.
A cane with a bauble on top was then suggested by @frogulux, which I gave to the whale, along with a bow tie. Fred Astairewhale was born. He also asked for a hole in the tree for a gnome. I made the hole, but later @gintonics2 (Ginny) suggested a little bird instead so I drew a bird we named ‘Gnome’.
Then a turtle was recommended by @sfgianttortuga (Steve, a SF Giants and Turtle fan) and @Frogulox. I decided to make Turtle have a fascinator on her head and voila, we have Ms. Gingerturtle, the perfect friend for Mr. Astairewhale !
@LadyNynah reminded me Mr. Astairewhale needed water to survive so I gave him a swimming pool.
Then what to put in the middle. We had suggestions of a waterfall, a ladder, and from @PeteMtz, a stepladder. I decided a stepladder would be the right size.
@hammyton (Natalie) was thinking about danger and suggested a banana peel. I made it a whole banana to make it easier to comprehend quickly.
But what to put on the stool, anything? @VictoriaJamesUK (Victoria) suggested a vase of flowers and it seemed just right.
Then it was just the background left. @VictoriaJamesUK wanted a mountain and I fit it in behind Mr. AstaireWhale. I added a small hill on the other side, behind Ms. GingerTurtle. Then it was just a simple road going back into the distance and it was done.
The coloring was done to be as fun and bright as possible.
So, there you have what went into making this drawing, one I never could have made by myself!
You can follow all the people mentioned on Periscope. Tell them I sent you!
Yesterday I watched a Periscope by a friend in the UK named Victoria (@victoriajamesUK). She is starting a new daily broadcast where she and her followers will all say one positive thing about themselves each day. It’s a good practice to get into, especially if you are prone to beating yourself up over anything and everything.
She was talking about using a hashtag so everyone would know where to find the broadcasts and tweets and she used a phrase that included the words ‘mind and flowers’. I wrote back, shortening it to just #mindflowers. She liked that quite a bit and decided to use it.
In the meanwhile, A few days ago I had written down some quotes on the topic of self-help. When I went to start my drawing, and the accompanying Periscope, I saw this quote among the ones I had chosen. It was an obvious choice to use today!
I got a text last night from a friend who was upset that she couldn’t argue a certain point very well. She had posted a statement on Facebook and had gotten some backlash for it. She tried to argue her point, and I thought she did it pretty well, but she did not. The reason? Because the person she was arguing with ended up not agreeing with her. Boy, if I felt I failed every time my simply brilliant arguments didn’t lead to the reader or listener to come to their senses and agree with me, I would feel like a failure ALL THE TIME.
What my friend was hoping to see was an immediate acknowledgement of the rightness of her position. Don’t we all, right? But the truth is most changes of opinion don’t happen like that. Changes of opinion do happen, and I am all for arguing your position. But changes happen when the time is right for them, not necessarily when you happen to make the argument.
Think about a garden. in the middle of winter you can have seeds or bulbs underground getting plenty of water from rain or snow melting, right? That doesn’t mean those seeds or bulbs are going to sprout and blossom. They have a much more complex dynamic going on, as does our minds. The water (argument) is essential. But so is temperature (society) and soil (biology) and fertilizer (circumstances) and more. One argument is like one watering of the garden. It isn’t going to grow the garden if there isn’t another watering later on, if there isn’t good soil, the right temperature, the right nutrients. The garden will grow in it’s own time, when it is ready to grow.
Our minds open and blossom in their own time, and it’s wise for us to be patient with ourselves and others as to when and how that is going to happen. It doesn’t mean you don’t put forth your beliefs and opinions of what is right. It just means you understand and trust the process.
Periscope and Katch
I am now having my Periscope videos automatically saved at Katch.me. Here’s the one from yesterday where I drew this napkin.
This is #6 in my self-help series. I have done them all live on Periscope (@thenapkindad #napkinkin). Some of them have been a ‘Guess the Quote’ style scope where I start with just a few words of the quote on a blank napkin and the viewers guess the quote as I draw. The drawing hopefully is illustrating the quote so the more I draw the more hints the viewers have of what the quote might be about.
The only rule is you can’t google the quote. You have to just guess live. While doing this drawing someone did look it up but it was towards the end so it wasn’t a big deal. Plus, I had forgotten to mention that rule at the beginning anyway.
The key to making the most of who you are is first, knowing who you want to be. Not ALL of who you want to be, just part. Then, you act deliberately to become that. As you create that part of you that will help you understand what more you want to do or be. Then you go about doing that as well. Yes, you may have a big picture vision of your overall ‘YOU’ but practically speaking you are going to be doing one small step towards that at a time. So, focus on that and don’t worry about the big picture, it will take care of itself.
Another essential element is courage. Whoever you want to become, whether it’s the best burlesque dancer in town or the town librarian, someone is going to judge you negatively for it. You may be judged a loose woman of easy virtue as they used to say. You may be judged a prude and a spinster. It doesn’t matter what you choose, someone won’t like it. But it’s your life, not theirs, right? And if you want to live their life then bow to their judgment and be who they want you to be. But if you want to live YOUR life, then have the courage to say, “This is my life, my choice.”
The Juiciest Peach
There is a famous quote by Dita Von Teese, “You can be the juiciest peach on the tree and there is still someone out there who doesn’t like peaches.” It’s futile to try to persuade every random person on the planet that you are a juicy peach. You just go about being the peach you want to be and be that confidently. That confidence and courage will do more to persuade the world and gain you respect than any bending over backwards trying to please everyone.