I am convinced that bad shit happens to us just so we can take the opportunity to refocus and listen. It continues to happen because we’re stubborn and still want to do things the way we want, and we don’t want to listen. And besides, listen to who? And I’m quite comfortable with my stubbornness thank you very much….
Okay, be warned. I’m about to get all Jewy on you. Since that’s my wheelhouse, that’s the place I come back to again and again. Good old G-d of Abraham, my Elohim. He’s a pretty steady guy, annoyingly so at times, especially when I’m really emotional and want him to step up to the plate and do something right now! Instead, he tends to hang back, waits for me to calm down, and repeats what he’s been saying to me for what is usually quite some time. Admittedly, he has to repeat himself a lot with me.
I’ve got this really silly gift he gave me, to do with painting. I hear I’m good at it, and I think I can say I know I am too, finally. But really, couldn’t I have gotten something that was easier to make a living from? Talk about one of the most impossible things to turn into a career! The routine has been going on for years and goes something like this: paint, paint, paint, promote, promote, promote, sell one or two here and there, scream and yell at the ceiling that this isn’t fair, and hang on for dear life to your day job. Wash, rinse, repeat.
In case you didn’t notice, the part where I scream at the ceiling is when I let G-d in, but just a crack and just long enough so I can let him know what a disappointment he is. But man is he good. I open the door a crack and in slips one of his ideas. And then another one. And isn’t that funny but those ideas are related. So okay, I sit and muse on these nifty ideas for a while, until I get bored and forget about them.
But that’s the thing. Once he’s proposed something, if he sees even the smallest glimmer of hope in my sorry ass, he won’t leave it alone. So, it shows up again in another way. Until I finally decide, fine I’ll see what I can do.
One of those ideas was an article I read about Albert Speer’s daughter. For anyone who doesn’t know, Speer was one of Hitler’s top henchmen. A wretched excuse for a human being if ever there was one. But there’s this article about his daughter. She’s created this amazing foundation in Germany where she funds Jewish women’s artistic projects. It’s for artists living in Germany, but I think to myself, what an amazing idea, and wouldn’t I love to have one of my own projects funded? Of course I would.
Just one problem. While my mother is of German descent and spent a good part of her childhood in Germany, I am not. I am very Canadian. Have been all my life. So, I put it out of my mind and tell G-d he’s crazy because I don’t fit the bill. A couple of days later, the story of this woman comes up again, this time from a completely different source. Now I’m listening…
If you’ve been following my blog, I mentioned in a recent post the interview I had, as a second-generation Holocaust survivor, with a young university student. She asked how it is that Jewish artists will continue to remember and carry the torch of our history in coming generations through our art. And her question, really more of a calling, hasn’t left me since. I want to do more of this work. I’ve done some, but not enough. I know I need to head in that direction even more than I already have.
But gosh, those paintings won’t sell! Ah shit, more doing my thing without concern for the market. Great. I’ll be saying what I’m supposed to say with my paintings, as my pocketbook dwindles.
I’ve got some other ideas to get things going… teach a bit of art, have painting sessions, produce prints, set up a shop on my website. All lovely ideas that cost money.
Enter G-d. My sister tells me he is THE provider. Over the years he and I have had a few disagreements about all that. Money, or lack thereof, can seriously come between me and him. It’s definitely a damper on the spiritual journey, such as it is.
But I’m hearing these days that too much money can put just as much of a damper on the relationship with the man upstairs. And it isn’t hard to be convinced of that. Just read a little celebrity news, and you know fairly quickly that hard times and despair are not the exclusive purview of the financially challenged. Sure, let me give their problems a try, along with all their money. But that inkling voice says you don’t want that as much as you think you do, and I’ve got things handled anyway.
Okay. So, he’s got things handled.
Then this other idea comes along… I’m reading in the weekly Torah portion yesterday (see I’m Jewy!). The beginning of Exodus 25 where G-d is telling Moses that if the Israelites want to bring gifts to G-d they should feel free. And then G-d tells Moses what his preferred gift list is. Seriously what’s not to like about my Elohim? No wonder I like wish lists so much, I get it from him!
Anyway, some of the things he likes is gold, silver, copper, lapis lazuli. And I get the idea to see if I can get any paints with those metals in them. Because no matter how pissy my mood might get about my art, I’ve always known the process of painting was a way to worship, and the products were most certainly offerings. So I find this guy on Instagram who specializes in making watercolour paints and after I message him, he tells me yes, he has all those paints, with actual gold and silver etc. in them. Oh, and by the way, the guy on Instagram is Jewish too.
What a nice little tidbit to add to the mix, just so G-d can make sure I know I’m on the right track. I buy the paints, they’re not expensive, but they’re still more than I have. I console myself that at least I didn’t buy another pair of shoes. I’m waiting now for these new colours to arrive and hope my last landscape (at least for a while) will be done by the time they do. I’m at the beginning, or continuation of what I know is a really, really important project.
The gist of all of this is that the spiritual life is not lived alone. There is that big Someone walking it with me, even when I’m telling him to get lost. The hardest thing to adjust to in this relationship is his habit of only revealing one step at a time. Right, ‘cuz that other thing he loves to see is faith. Am I finally going to give it up and trust? I think I actually might this time. The ideas are so intriguing I don’t think I can walk away.
And I understand apparently that he is such a great provider that I don’t need to worry about the money. I just need to ask. So bye, bye stubborn self. You were way too much of a hard-ass anyway.
(Banner Painting: “Tallitot”. Painted in 2004 and one of the first to wrestle with family history.)