Hope your Monday is already awesome, Celebrationists! I’m caffeinated, calibrated and ready to chat : ) If you’re a fellow New Yorker (or living someplace else that is currently being BLASTED with snow) – be safe, snuggle up, and enjoy the blizzard from your (hopefully) warm homes!
Before I launch into my three statements of gratitude for the day, I want to share with you a fabulous thought that has been rolling around in my mind since last week, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. This delightful Japanese philosophy is called Wabi-sabi. Broadly defined, it means embracing what is imperfect. Noticing what is (literally and metaphorically) cracked, worn, uneven, and appreciating the piece of art, person, or circumstance for what it is, as it is. This practice encourages mindfulness, acceptance, and releasing the impulse to strive for the shiny plastic glaze of “perfection.” It’s finding the beauty in unconventional, incomplete, impermanent things. Isn’t that wonderful? In a society that preaches that “polished and perfect” is what we should be aiming for (or else we’re lazy,) it’s inspiring to redirect this thinking for a moment.
(A sweet example of Wabi-sabi. This bracelet, made for me by a wonderful little girl named Catherine. She ran out of green and white, so she added in different colors – she wasn’t derailed for a moment, and didn’t second guess the beauty of her art. And I certainly didn’t – it was perfect : )
When I was an acting intern in Cincinnati a number of years back, I wrote a poem that was essentially about Wabi-sabi, though I didn’t know anything about it, at the time. (This poem is also filled with wonderful Wabi-sabi of its own in terms of structure, grammar, and innocent lack of polish) If you’ve known me for awhile, you may know that I write a lot of poetry, and that I typically work in a very particular pattern of fourteen-syllable rhyme. This is one of the only non-rhyming poems I’ve ever written. Here’s what my young hand penned, inside the Newport Barnes and Noble Cafe, shoulder pressed against the window, looking down at the Ohio River:
A Cincinnati Winter
A gray cast hangs down over the city,
one cloud barely distinguishable from the other and
poured on thick, like cake batter.
From just below the endless gray, proud buildings are shoved
into the center
like upside down candles on a birthday cake.
The river below, full of so much and cradles this magnificent snapshot
of the city in transition.
It is as though a giant hand could come down; scoop the whole thing up, and transport it
to a different location for another young girl to write about.
Perhaps she wouldn’t see what I do at all.
Instead, she might see: a smear of winter gloom in the sky, stuck behind colorless squares who demand to be supported by the ripples of murky sewage.
Or yet another might see tufts of burnt winter cotton
bearing the weight of the right boxes
toes into the
But not me.
I see the birthday cake part. The semblance of a million little wishes and possibilities
The potential is irresistible, actually.
I want to take a bite.
Of the sky, of the trees, of the water, of the architecture
in all of its gray glory,
just as it is.
Now for some statements of gratitude.
1.) I am thankful for reliable, supportive, inspiring friends
2.) I’m thankful for the many layers of clothing that kept me relatively warm while I was out and about today
3.) I’m thankful that I made it home safely today, before public transportation becomes considerably more complicated
Ok. Back to Wabi-sabi. It has me thinking – in what areas in my life do I have the hardest time tapping into this sort of unique appreciation for people and things? In what areas do I most cling to an unrealistic goal of “perfection,” or for things to be a certain way? How can I tap into the Wabi-sabi mindset, noticing and creating more little bits of good in my own life, and in the lives of others? I don’t know for sure, but here’s what I’ve come up with for today:
I think I have the hardest time with desired outcomes. When I imagine a situation, day, or event, and unconsciously get attached to a particular outcome in my mind. The way that people “should” do things (myself especially included), the way that something “should” go. Some days, no matter how much I tell myself to operate from a place of unconditional acceptance, I struggle. Struggle with the fact that we are all imperfect, that everything is transient, and we can’t know what a particular experience will or will not bring.
Life gives us all sorts of super-simple opportunities to practice Wabi-sabi…like when we make a totally imperfect pancake. Metaphor for bigger things? (Maybe…but either way, it was the most delicious, gluten-free, vegan blueberry pancake I’ve ever made, if I do say so myself…)
Being an artist is a particularly unstable existence – half the time I don’t know what city I’ll be living in, how much money I’ll be making, and where that money is even going to come from. Artists are constantly throwing fishing lines into hundreds of different waters, and hoping something will catch. And in 2015 I’m trying to learn how to cast those lines, and then move on. Not cling so tightly to what the “perfect” outcome would be. So here’s to the cracks. The unknown. The imperfect. The effort – which is the part that makes us most beautiful : )
Have an incredible week.