Ode to Joy

Oh, Joy.
A feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
Where do you find happiness? In what things? Stuff? Does stuff bring you happiness? What lasting joy do you have? Any?

My daughter sent me an email yesterday. It was simply a link to a YouTube tutorial on how to build a light box. She wants an artist’s light box to trace her drawings. (Light box: small lighted box to shine light through paper to help artists trace and enlarge drawings and other artwork) She doesn’t like the pencil marks, eraser smudges and tiny, little, outside-the-lines mistakes that she makes. She wants her drawings to be perfect. Her method is to trace the completed pencil drawing, ink it, and then color it in with some really awesome colored pencils she got from her Aunt Karen. She wants it to look professional, like a comic book or graphic novel.

I can’t say I blame her. It does look better. But I’m afraid her dad and I have instilled an ever-growing need for perfectionism. And as perfectionists know, expensive items to up your game are almost essential. Almost.

A few weeks ago, I gave her some of my tracing paper from art school. I went back to school in 2009 and pursued a two-year art degree. In all the time I was at art school, I only used the light table 2-3 times. I had tracing paper and other methods to duplicate and manipulate my art. Heck, scanning your art work into a computer can take out most of the mistakes you make and the rest can be cleaned up in Photoshop. Work-arounds become a way of life for artists. Sometimes because we are lazy, but mostly because we don’t have access or means to buy the most expensive product. Being creative about how to solve a problem in art? That’s essential. More essential than a light box. To my dismay, I may not have taught my daughter this fundamental element of being a good artist. Yeesh.

So. Like a bad mom, I snapped. We had talked about a light box and making one, but I actually don’t have the money, time or motivation to make a light box. And I thought that might be a project to accomplish by the end of summer. So when she sent me a link about the light box after several requests and inquiries about price and project completion and project summary and etc. I snapped.

But my failure was this. I had not been clear.

Yes! She should be patient. Yes! She was bugging me about the light box. Yes! She was nagging me to death.

And yes. I was exactly like her when I was a kid.

But! we had a nice, little come-to-Jesus moment yesterday. After I snapped and ranted (I didn’t yell!) for a few minutes, I realized…I haven’t been clear. This is why she is nagging me. And she’s bored. And she wants something to do. And I have failed her in some way.

But! she is also responsible for not fixating on this one thing in the first place. But! it’s my job to guide her. I haven’t focused her. I haven’t found a work-around for her. I have left her fixated on this one thing because I said, “Yes. Maybe. Later. Okay. We’ll figure it out.”

I need to be clear.

First. I told her.
You do not need a light box. I’m an adult artist and even I don’t have a light box. You have tracing paper. Or you can just scan the drawings into the computer and mess with them in Photoshop.

Second. I told her.
I will work on this project when I have time. I don’t have the materials to work on this now. Some materials are in storage, some will cost money and I have other things I need to accomplish.

Third. I told her.
I love you. I’m sorry I haven’t been clear. But let’s be thankful for what we have.

Happiness isn’t about wanting things, getting things and being satisfied. The truth is, wanting and getting things is so temporal and temporary. It doesn’t last. The thing we thought we wanted or couldn’t live without can sometimes turn out to be disappointing. It can lose its value over time. We only wind up wanting another thing that we can’t live without. It’s a never-ending cycle of excitement and anticipation devolving into boredom and disappointment.

True happiness is having some perspective. Making a list of things to be thankful for is a start.
1. I’m alive!
2. I have a roof over my head. 🙂 A really nice one that doesn’t leak.
3. I have clean water to drink and food to eat.
4. I have pencils and paper to draw on.
I could go on and on.

And also. The type of happiness that lasts? Comes from God. The second fruit of the Spirit is joy. Joy from the Spirit lasts. It is deeply satisfying and has nothing to do with getting things. Deep joy and satisfaction come from loving and helping others, not acquiring things.

Simply pray: God fill me with your Spirit so I may be happy, joyful and satisfied.

I have failed to remind my daughter of these things. But we had a long, productive talk about wants and needs yesterday. I’m HAPPY/JOYFUL/SATISFIED that we talked. I don’t know if she is (LOL), but I think so.

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