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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is storm.

That tempest in the heart, that storm in the head…have you ever felt it? It’s an agony of indecision, a quandary of impossible choices: should I paint this way or that way, choose this one or that one, spend it here or there, move now or later, do this or that? It’s a pain that starts slow, like a migraine twinge, and builds to a frenzy. Any decision in question seems so very consequential, almost life-threatening.

These words look so calm, so benign here on my screen, like amusing ‘postcards from the edge.’ But the experience is a miserable one, and it always shakes my confidence to the core. It’s an experience that illustrates in living (black and blue?) color that expression, “Down here without a map.” Lost, lost, dreadfully lost. And time is going by! If you’ve been to this particular dreary destination yourself, you know what I’m talking about.

Fortunately, like any storm in Nature, this furious energy eventually reaches its apex and begins to dissipate. Like Dorothy and her tornado in The Wizard of Oz, I am deposited on solid ground once more. The still, small voice is again accessible, and a path, however faint, reappears before my weary feet. I have noticed that Surrender can look a lot like exhaustion.

Next time, I promise myself to remember sooner: Sometimes I just don’t know…can’t know in advance. Realizing that calms the storm.

Above: Storm   (watercolor, pen & ink, gouache, colored pencil)

Right: Of Two Minds   (watercolor, pen & ink)

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

c. Susan Sorrell Hill

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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is double.

Wizards and avatars aside, most of us cannot be in more than one place at a time, and virtually none of us will live forever. As a result of these limitations, life in a human body will be mostly about making choices.

It is an archetypal situation that pairs, or doubles, the seeming contraries of Joy and Grief. No matter how joyful it can be to choose something, inherent in every choice will be the other thing(s) not chosen… the other man, the other career, the other road… the other dinner entrée. It is the classic bitter-sweet experience… and one that becomes more pronounced as one’s years accumulate and death approaches. Perhaps humans have evolved beliefs in things like reincarnation and a heaven to compensate for the sense of things missed?

Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung (1875-1961), popularized the archetype of the puer aeternus, the eternal boy (or puella, girl), but it is a truth that has been around far longer than the recording of myth. The Puer embodies the very human resistance to the necessity of making choices in life, and the resistance to the limitations that are invariably part of those choices. The Puer in us wants to have it all… and with no consequences whatsoever! It is a stance on life that is not workable in the long-term. And it is a stance on life that cheats the Soul out of its learning experiences.

In The Book of Runes, Ralph Blum states that “The ability to foresee consequences before you act is a mark of the profound person.” But sometimes only negative consequences can be seen in the moment of choosing: options lost, forks in the road, doors closed. How do we choose wisely? By “… choosing with the heart, not the mind,” say all great teachers. By choosing what we love most, and would be most sorry to have missed…

The fear of making choices, popularized by the well-worn phrase, “Fear of Committment,” over-emphasizes the loss inherent in choice-making, and usually fails to take into account the joy of making a choice… a choice which naturally leads to more choices and more choices again, as a tree branches out from its trunk. To make a choice is not a dead-end. It is only the next step, the beginning of something new. ‘Choosing from the heart’ does require a healthy amount of faith and wisdom…faith that there will be no wrong choices… only lessons and more lessons… and the joy (and grief) of choosing once again.

What’s for dinner?

“Contemplation” (watercolor, pen & ink)

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