One of my biggest self-critiques of life right now is that I seem to have tapped out professionally. I can do a permutation of any number of things over the next couple decades, but I’ve done the number of things. I keep looking for opportunities for professional growth, and find that the leadership seminars and personnel crash courses never quite ring true. Do they ring true to anybody? I can’t say. But I’m not one to settle.
So I’m looking for something new. If you follow this blog, you know I bought this house to seek authenticity. If you talked to me two years ago, you would recall me seeking clarity. Now I’m looking to act on what makes my heart sing. My art mastermind program is helping with that. It has a strident recurring theme - new growth is terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.
Artists do it anyway. They make the work. They hang it on walls. They dress up in the “show wardrobe,” they put on lipstick. They show up at the opening. Then, depending on the mood, they stay and jubilantly chat the night away, or they run.
I’ve done both. I love a good reception. I love meeting new people. But with the wrong vibe, with my vulnerability on the wall, I’ve also ghosted as fast as I could. What, am I supposed to stand there smiling next to my piece while everyone else talks to everyone else because I’m the only one who came solo and doesn’t know anybody? See what I mean? That didn’t make my heart sing.
Yesterday I dipped my toe into something that I never believed I was “(insert whatever word you like) enough” to do. Since January, I’ve been painting rock faces, doing studies, using them as a tool to explore abstract expressionism, and then I watched Free Solo. I’m far from the first artist to be hit like a ton of bricks by that movie. But watching it right after drawing three iterations of the face of El Capitan really struck a chord. I felt like I knew how the face of the rock felt as it divetted in and out. And watching the film, I felt it was possible to walk forward vertically.
So I thought I’d get tactile with these rock faces. There is so much climbing in Joshua Tree, and I have many friends who have recommended it to me. But I haven’t rock climbed since I was a kid accompanying my ringer brother to the climbing gym, saying “I don’t have the arm strength” and playing second fiddle while he raced to the top of the wall each time. A few weeks ago I found myself clamoring up to the top of a rock formation to take (this) photo, and I thought to hell with it. By touching and feeling and maneuvering the rock face, I will be able to incorporate that into Abstract Expressionist Mark-Making.
I spent more money than is reasonable on a chance to learn new parts of the park, meet new people, and scramble up over rocks with someone who knows how to react when she sees a rattlesnake. Fittingly, we started off at the Rattlesnake Canyon trailhead in Indian Cove. And it was more than worth the money. For the first time in a long time I did something I’m not good at on purpose, and learned.
I pushed through fatigue, fear, and fitness. In a very uncharacteristic way, I executed on some physical limits when I hit them, remembering that discretion is the better form of valor. I sought tips on what I would need to do to improve. For the third time in as many months, I was told I looked fit (where did that Nicole go off to?). And I learned that it isn’t all in the arms. In fact, your four limbs are four points that are equally necessary. My biggest lesson learned: Put all of your weight onto your foot so that you don’t slip. As a former soccer player, for whom “arms” were never a thing, that was empowering.
I want to do this more. I know so little, and my muscle memory is so untrained, that this is an opportunity for growth. Who would have ever thought that I could find so much motivation for something I’m not naturally inclined to do?
I have a couple of these out-of-the-comfort-zone experiences on the docket. The reason is, I’m saying “F it” to waiting for groupwork or codependency. I’ve never liked those things anyway. There are perks, but existentially they feel like settling. I might rent a satellite phone, but I’m doing what makes my heart sing come hell or high water. I get no satisfaction out of 44 hours of my week. So I’d better damn well grow through the rest.