Saturday, December 4, 2010

For Once: It's All About Me!

Note: This painting is an original by the artist I mention later in the post. My painting is similar but not the same.

I spent many childhood summers at a camp that drilled into me: "The secret to happiness is unselfishness." Though I try to make this mantra central to everything I do, the result can be that my needs get swept under the rug. I'm so busy caring for others that I don't take time for myself. I don't mean to sound like a martyr--far from it. It's my own fault really for not speaking up when I desperately need "me time."

It's this mind-set that almost caused me to pass up a trip with my hubby to Hawaii. Crazy, I know! He had a business trip with most expenses paid, I could get a free frequent flyer ticket, the grandparents were willing to watch the kids, and I was at the tail end of nursing Brooke. Thank goodness I came to my senses and booked our first trip without kids in 8 years!

We ate and drank whatever we wanted, took daily walks along the beach, snorkeled together, fed hammerhead sharks and touched stingrays. I took a yoga and tai chi class overlooking the ocean, danced on-stage at the luau, and got not one but TWO massages. Most importantly, I unplugged completely (no cellphone, email, internet, or TV) and let my mind rest. No to-do lists, no responsibilities.

I'll admit I felt a little guilty when I watched other parents enjoying a vacation with their children. I longed to share the wonderful facilities and opportunities with our own, but then I reminded myself that would have been a very different vacation. My body and mind craved this and I should just enjoy it while it lasted.

Then on the final day, I did something completely spontaneously: I took a watercolor painting class. I was just walking to the market for a sandwich when I noticed the artist, Donald K. Hall, selling his wares. Bob and I have a collection of watercolors from different vacations and I considered buying one. That's when he said, "Why don't you paint it yourself? The class starts in two minutes."

I like to think I'm somewhat creative as a writer and videographer, but an artist I am not. The last painting class I took was in fourth grade, at which point I realized I should pursue other avenues. Now here I am, just having celebrated my 39th birthday, thinking, "If not now, when?!" So I skipped the sandwich and sat down in a gorgeous outdoor setting.

The next four hours, he went over many of the basics that were probably obvious to most but which I'd never really thought about: how to accomplish scale, a mix of colors, how to let the water not the paint do the work. I was clearly not a star student, as I was admonished for my over-worked, detailed technique several times. I needed to relax more. Imagine if I'd tried this at the beginning of my vacation!

In the end, my first watercolor original was pretty good, if I do say so myself. It's definitely the most special memento I brought home. Now that I'm back, I gaze at it throughout the day and smile. No, I will never become a professional artist, but I will be more likely to paint with my kids or maybe, just maybe, on my own. For once, I didn't have to worry about who else needed me. It was all about me: my skills, my needs, my joys.

I write this not to say you need to book a trip to Hawaii (although, given the opportunity--GO), but to encourage you to find ways to be a little selfish at times. Maybe it's five minutes alone to watch the sunset or a one hour pedicure during a season when no one sees your toes. Maybe it's signing up for a class you've secretly wanted to explore. Go ahead. Give yourself permission to relax, learn, and live!


  1. The more you realize your own value to this planet, the more you start to give back. And we all now the more you give the more you get! A fantastic cycle of enjoyment and moving forward. In Hawaii this concept is depicted in one word," Imua".
    Mahalo for your kind words. Donald K. Hall.

  2. I think you better described my reason for making unselfishness central to my life: the more you give, the more you receive. I'm not surprised the Hawaiians have a word for it; they seem to have life all figured out.

  3. I'm so glad you took the class--sounds like it was a great experience! Hopefully, you will try making some snowflakes! :)