Illustrious Change

Sometimes our palette becomes so familiar to us,

we forget that we can mix colors, add texture, and enjoy the process as we create anew.

As a child of abandonment raised in chaos, I established a tendency toward perfectionism very early-on. Thinking that if I was “perfect”, it would establish order; if I could present you with “perfect”, you would stay.

I was not perfect, but I was a lot of things: well-rounded, well-educated, well-mannered, well-versed in spiritual practice…and scared to even entertain the idea of a box of 64-color crayons because those around me barely colored at all, so using anything beyond the “norm” of a simple eight-color box would put me on the precipice of innovative.  To experiment in any way would set me apart, and by mere definition “apart” is separate, thus (in my mind) was potentially as devastating as abandoned.

I understand that in childhood, perfectionism was my way of trying to control external events because I didn’t have the internal trust to know with great certainty that all would be well.  This eventually led me into areas of life that were not particularly interesting nor fulfilling to me. I was ‘well’ at everything, yet dying inside.

Each time I chose to color “my way”, I was allowing a bit of my Spirit to rise…until eventually I became *joy*.

It is with gratitude, wonder, and awe that when I became a mother and introduced art to my children, I would provide them with myriad supplies and allow them to experiment with free-form art.  I mirrored for them that ‘art’ is not necessarily a tangible product (it may be) but a way of living and creative expression is the process of allowing our heart whispers full reign to breathe, roam, and become reality.  You take the supplies you are presented with,  add some of your own favorite tools; mix in a lot of faith and imagination; add a bit of spunk, and moxie; then, celebrate each moment of creation.  This is how my little family creates and lives.

Now, when I find perfectionism present, I know that is my sign that I am in unfamiliar territory in life and about to revert to a simple eight-color box because it seems familiar, predictable, safe to me.  In essence, “stuffing my spirit” back in the box.  When I am afraid to make a mistake, that is mind telling me I’ve ventured “too far into vulnerability”, while heart is open fully, reaching for the bigger box, mixing colors and lightening space with bold, daring strokes.

While those who know me well would tell you that, in general in life, I “play” big  (that would be accurate), I know that in recent months, I began to shrink (for me).  As I created new and different, I cared what people thought (those who have been creating “longer” or “better” or “successfully”) and they generally didn’t agree with, or understand, my way of creating. Creating what, you ask?  Relationships, movement, career, travel plans, this moment, life…

Fortunately, I love to learn, and Universe presents my lessons in ways that I may best receive and understand.

I would like to share this story of illustrious change:

I love to play with color, in my space (have you noticed that since my move, my Flickr photos on the sidebar are no longer “just” beachy blue, sunset gold, but also now vibrant green and lush terrain with flowers and growth?), my clothing, my hair.  A few years back, my hair was jet black, red, and pink; since then, my daughter has asked if she could color her hair.  I consistently said no.  I believe the reality is that I must have cared what others would think (yes, I live an unconventional life, so why hair color would trip me up, I really cannot explain!).

This week, my daughter had a birthday.  All that she truly wanted (her heart whisper) was to color her hair.  I said no.

Then, my grandmother was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital for a complicated surgery…a woman who based her life upon what others thought, yet was often entertained  by the stories of my latest creation (adventure)…I have a feeling I colored life like she wished she had the ability to.

I have released a lot in these past few days, layers of guardedness and protection and barriers to flow.

I colored my daughter’s hair–pink and red under her lovely blonde layers.  (And bleached some highlights into my son’s).  One might use “unbridled joy” to describe their reaction.

The truth:  My grandmother is in the hospital struggling to recover.  I called her and told her I colored my daughter’s hair pink and red.  Because of the tubes and her condition, she couldn’t speak, but I think she shrieked (ha!). Because it takes six weeks for the color to fade, and I know that the thought on my grandmother’s mind is ‘what will the cousin’s think’ and I bet anything she is now concentrating on recovering because it matters that much to her.

And, I am left to ponder this thought:  Is “fearless” the absence of fear, the presence of great faith, or the point when one is tapped into flow and truly trusting the Divine plan.

Your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its
heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

And could you keep your heart in wonder
at the daily miracles of your life, your pain
would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

And you would accept the seasons of your
heart, even as you have always accepted
the seasons that pass over your fields.

And you would watch with serenity
through the winters of your grief.

–Kahlil Gibran

I leave you with this quote from an empowering article “Risk Being You” by Raam Dev: “There is nothing worth avoiding who you are because who you are is worth more than anything you could risk.”

Thank you for your presence.  May abundant color, texture, and light be yours to create with and enjoy.

Much peace and abundant love,


Reminder: Experiment. Explore.  Experience.

Related Posts:

Comments on: "Illustrious Change" (14)

  1. I love your message here in all its many facets. So funny because today I made my blog site white…no color….header of white sand. Someone said they missed the butterfly so I made the headers rotate and the butterfly (orange) will appear sometimes.

    What is the matter with me, I wonder. Why do I love this long stretch of white sand, open space? Others will surely think this is crazy, this is cold. It is what is for now!

    I really “get” your message about perfectionism! Thank you! Perfecto Change-o!

    • Hi Sandra,

      I find this so interesting! My new fascination in photography is black and white…I love capturing the essence of light within the perceived absence of color. Perhaps this is what your header symbolizes now: a clean slate, fresh page, the absence of “perceived” anything…layers removed, allowing transparency.

      This is what I am learning, if my truth does not resonate, that is okay, because it is my truth. Our truths will differ and this is how we learn I celebrate the difference instead os shy away from it. I spent a lifetime burying my heart whispers, so to allow full expression *and* to guide others to a similar experience is a wonderful pleasure.

      The phrase liminal space rises…perhaps we are in liminal space—between the “there” we used to be in, and steps away from the ‘here’ we are aiming toward :)

      Thank you for sharing! May you celebrate this new ‘whiteness’..and allow all that is enlivening to be present within it :)

  2. Joy,
    This article really struck me, I especially liked this part:
    “Now, when I find perfectionism present, I know that is my sign that I am in unfamiliar territory in life and about to revert to a simple eight-color box because it seems familiar, predictable, safe to me. In essence, “stuffing my spirit” back in the box. When I am afraid to make a mistake, that is mind telling me I’ve ventured “too far into vulnerability”, while heart is open fully, reaching for the bigger box, mixing colors and lightening space with bold, daring strokes.”

    I used to be a perfectionist when I was younger but, I was able to let go of it. Now – what I do instead is “shut down” to feeling any emotions.

    Your article was a great reminder of how I react/shutdown in “unfamiliar” territory when I am feeling “vulnerable.”

    Thank you I needed to be reminded about this.

    • Thank you, Angela, for sharing. I understand the desire to shut off emotions; as an empath, I am unable to shut off my emotions, so sometimes my immediate reaction to unfamiliar is to withdraw (my version of shutting off). What I have learned by opening my heart to engage fully instead of withdrawing is that the feeling of vulnerability morphs into complete trust. Mind-boggling, because it is beyond what mind “thinks” we are capable of. When we lean into our vulnerability, the “reward” is utter peace (the “elusive” freedom that so many wish for).

      There is nothing “wrong” with coping mechanisms…there is nothing “right” with opening farther and experimenting stretching beyond our “perceived edge”…it is all energy movement and our choices as we continue to experience.

  3. Joy … this was beautiful. Thank you, as always, for your courage and honesty.

    You’ve made me think of what the word “fearless” really means. Because we’re never without fear. I guess all that really changes is how we choose to handle. (“Feel the fear and do it anyway” may have become a cliche, but I think it’s an accurate description of courage).

    Here’s hoping your daughter rocks those new locks & loves every minute of it!


    • Thank you, Jess! My daughter is rocking her locks, but most importantly her heart is happy and her willingness to experiment in all realms is wonderful to see :)

      Your reflection upon fearless feels very spot-on. When people use courageous to describe me, I tend to deflect it–but I understand the meaning fits; when we think this is the very thing we absolutely cannot do, but we open our heart and trust and do it anyway (bold, confident steps or timid, small ones)…we are experiencing courage, but most importantly we are experiencing ultimate freedom. In those moments, that which guides our steps might actually be fear, or determination, or courage…whatever label we use to describe the energy…but the point is not the label, the point is the act of being and doing…that which we thought we could not. Awesome!

  4. jean sampson said:

    Hey, Joy! Yea! I am so glad to know that you are coloring with all the crayons and going out and squeezing a few berries to make some more colors, too! I think my whole teaching career is about destroying perfectonism and worrying about what anyone else thinks! I teach this because it has been MY biggest lesson in life. I feel like I am someone who sees a lot of wonderful people locked up in a prison cell and I have the key to let them out! But the trick is to teach THEM to hold and use the key—-that is true freedom! And we have to keep on freeing ourselves from various things that we didn;t even know were keeping us from really living fully as ourselves. I love it when I see my students trying new things that call for the sacrifice of old, safe things! I always make sure to give them a huge acknowledgment for that! We tend not to allow others any more freedom than we ourselves have—-so my job as teacher is to keep getting freer and freer! When I find myself being afraid or wondering what someone thinks about what I am doing, I step out of my “small” self and float above the whole situation, watching how “I” am reacting emotionally. Recently, I have surprised myself with how I have been able to make a rational decision OUTSIDE of my initial emotional reaction. I decided to acknowledgd that , yes, I was having feelings and, no, I was going to act in a way that was more mature, forgiving and loving. I did, and it was no big deal, except that I was able to acknowledge and then step beyond, my initial reaction/hurt feelings. Sounds like you are able to observe yourself being perfectionistic and then choose to be not very worried about that! What an exciting life we have when we use all the colors and then look around for more or some collage material to stick on whatever we are making. Luck children to have a mother who is so willing to GROW!
    I hope your grandmother is recovering well now and will learn to enjoy those colorful heads on her great grandchildren! :) Sounds like she WANTS TO!
    Love and hugs!

    • Ah, Jean, why your comment brings tears I do not know….perhaps you have touched my heart *grin*…thank you!

      I thought of you when the children and I attended my favorite monthly event at the local art galleries. I think I have mentioned there are about 20 studios all open to the public. Each so unique and different from the others..yet all celebrating art! A poignant reminder that our creative expressions differ, but we are all on the same path…page…life canvas…it is not how we create, but that we allow our selves to create. A celebration of life!

      This speaks so loudly to me: “What an exciting life we have when we use all the colors and then look around for more or some collage material to stick on whatever we are making”…I used to want to know “how” to do something, what is the ‘right’ way…and experimenting was so far out of my realm because no one can tell you “how” to experiment, you just experiment. *grin* And now here you are encouraging experimentation in all realms..add texture, and color, and use tools that are unfamiliar and fun, and see what you have made. Love it! Thank you:)

      You and I have the same teaching methods…I reflect to my clients their own wisdom, depth, truth, so that they may use it as they create…just as you encourage your students to hold and use the key…freedom (peace) is the most beautiful ‘reward’.

  5. Ah…”Cara  Mia” 

    Just a few thoughts and a few questions.

    As I read the words of Kahlil Gibran the vision of Frida Kahlo came upon me.

    What one word would describe her pallet?

    My soon to be fourteen year old daughter who has had her long beautiful hair dyed assorted colors at various times seeks to ‘lay claim’ to her individualism.

    Her heart is the ‘color’ of gold.

    What is the color of acceptance?

    My nineteen year old daughter is hovering around a 4.0 GPA for her first year at the University.  

    I wonder if she got that tattoo??

    If so…being a double major of art history/cultural anthropology. ..what tattoo did she choose?

    What is the color of determination?

    I have a favorite photo of both daughters. The eldest arms around her younger sister…their hair being wind swept at 6,000 feet elevation…the desert below and beyond as a back drop.

    ‘One’ upon seeing this photo said.

    “They have good energy”

    I, as a father have encouraged and introduced my daughters to what I viewed as being fun and enriching, but never have forced my ‘energy’ upon them.

    Being their mother came from Ireland  a lot of their shared ‘energy’ comes from the colors of orange, green, and yes…white :)

    What is the color of trust?

    At the end of the month with eldest daughter home from college the three of us will go to see The Broadway Musical ‘The Addams Family’.

    This *Family* see’s themselves as ‘conventional’.

    Mortician is so “Black” and those red hot lips are ‘to die for’!

    Ah…”Cara Mia”.

    Oh yes… The caption to the ‘Production’:

    “Nothing changes a family faster than a daughter in love”.

    What are the colors of your daughter’s hair??

    What is the color of freedom?

    • Hi Rand,

      I love this question: “what is the color of freedom?”. Thank you.

      I believe the color of freedom varies according to the moment..sometimes freedom is the brilliant hues of the sunset, sometimes the white that Sanda mentioned she is embracing, sometimes bold and daring, sometimes subdued….it is a color that is familiar and soothing and enriching, and it is a color that is so unfamiliar it feels almost uncomfortable to embrace it…

      I never got a tattoo because one of my most treasured loves reminded me that “untainted skin is most beautiful and a lover may trace their own designs upon it” and the sentiment spoke right to my heart. Sometimes we add a layer because without it we would be most vulnerable. But I understand the desire for the external reminder…when I moved off the boat, I had a temporary tattoo of a glitter butterfly on my hand..looking at it reminded me of my internal truth.

      I know some people who prefer not to color at all, I know some who color with their very breath and many in between…for me it is honoring another’s entire creative expression and allowing it to reflect to me whatever it is meant to. What a beautiful gift!

  6. As always, you have a beautiful, gentle yet strong way of defining your thoughts. I loved the way you talked about the 24-crayon set vs. the 8-crayon set. Isn’t that something that suppresses most of us! And we never really grow out of that thought process. Only the lucky few do.

    I am glad you colored your daughter’s hair. I am still struggling to come to terms with cutting mine. :-) The color of freedom is elusive.

    No matter what you do, you will always be beautiful, Joy. Hugs and love, Vidya.

    • Oh, Vidya, you are beauty personified!

      When I had my original Facets collage done (no longer on my site), while in the photo shoot, a huge chunk of my hair fell out because I was so ill and on meds…So to have hair and color it, cut it, put it up, let it grow…is a wonderful reminder to me of the beauty of the moment.

      The truth is, whether we color with one crayon, or twenty, the ability to color, and the willingness to honor creative expression is the experience of infinite possibility in the *now*.

      Sometimes, we give people that which we “need” so I reflect back to you, my lovely friend whom I treasure: “No matter what you do, you will always be beautiful, Vidya”.

  7. Beautiful, Joy. I’m going to remember the concept of “stuffing my spirit” into the box of perfectionism. Remember, and look out for it.

    • Hi Charlotte,

      Thank you for visiting my site, and joining in this wonderful conversation!

      I find that even talking about the idea of perfectionism allows one to feel vulnerable, so it is joy to explore this concept within community. What does perfectionism block us from experiencing? And, most importantly, what would releasing perfectionism allow us to experience? Wonderfully expansive to contemplate then to live :)

Please share your voice: "Illustrious Change"

When you share, we learn!