Sometimes a duck is just a duck.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and swims like a duck…..its a duck.  Right?!?  Unless… want to see something else.  Then it could be an duck-billed platypus or even an aardvark.

Human relationships are complicated.  Imperfect beings are trying to figure out their own feelings, where they fit into this world, and how they relate to other people.  We use any tools we possess (feelings, perceptions, intuition, ideas, conversations and our own decisions) to figure these relationships out.  Sometimes we only see what we want to see.  And sometimes we see something that isn’t there.  We all do this.  And it is so much easier to see this happening to someone else.

When discussing this behavior with a friend, he told me a story about a time when he was in high school (age 17 or 18) and was going to be staying over night by himself.  For some reason, he got the idea in his head that there was someone else in the house.  Rationally on some level, he knew this wasn’t true.  But the idea was there in his mind, stuck like it had been glued.  He had to search the entire house in order to get the idea out of his mind.  It wasn’t logical.  It wasn’t reasonable.  But he was seeing what he wanted to see.

Have you ever had an idea about someone or had been told something about someone and the idea just stuck in your head?  Even though you had no proof of that behavior or even had proof of the contrary, you continued to believe your original idea.  You are seeing what you want to see.

I have a friend who had a short first marriage.  She worked at a women’s clothing store.  All of the sales associates were women.  In all the time she worked there she did not deal with any man on regular basis with the exception of the UPS delivery guy and it was a different one all the time.  Her husband started accusing her of having an affair a month after their marriage.  They would have huge fights about it.  He would go through her phone, purse, computer and never found anything.  After a year of this behavior she filed for divorce.  She never had an affair.  She was tired of being accused of something she wasn’t doing.  It turned out that he was the one having the affair and couldn’t imagine that she wasn’t doing it too.  He was seeing a behavior that wasn’t there.

I was talking (okay emailing) my friend in Japan.  And she shared a phrase about how blind people can be.  The Japanese phrase  “kuuki wo yomenai” roughly translates as “He can’t read the air.”  Wow!  Not only is it beautifully phrased; but it perfectly illustrates when someone misses the obvious.  They cannot see what is right in front of them.

Whether we are looking for something that isn’t there or seeing something we want to see, what we are really doing refusing to see what is right in front of us.  I’m not saying that you should second guess every decision or interaction that you have with others.  What I am saying is if something doesn’t feel right and you don’t feel like you are reading the situation correctly, maybe you need to step back and re-examine things.  Talk to someone you trust and ask for their advice.  An outside perspective may help you see things more clearly.  I know that when I need to gain new perspective it helps to talk to people I trust.  Then I can see things for what they really are.  Sometimes a duck is just a duck.

Quack.  Quack.  Waddle.  Waddle.

Adult Coloring Books

You may have seen the latest art/creativity craze …. adult coloring books.  I confess, I have a couple myself.  (Yes, all of the ones in the picture belong to me.)  Some I use for projects in the creativity classes I teach.  Some are for my own enjoyment.  And although I enjoy coloring them, I was trying to wrap my head around why they are soooooooo popular.  So as I am known to do, I put the question to my friends, family and random strangers.  The results, as always, were interesting.

One friend said that he found the adult coloring books to be intimidating.  He sees the empty image and is instantly filled with anxiety.  He said that he was afraid to fill in the patterns on the pages because he worried that he would ruin the design.  I suggested that he photo copy the page and color the photocopy.  He thought that was a good idea and added that way he could try different things before coloring in the book.

When talking to another person, she stated that she found adult coloring books to be too confining.  I countered that you can fill in the image in any color scheme you would like and with any media.  This person looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  I think the confines are in her mind and have nothing to do with the coloring books.

I overheard a conversation in Barnes and Noble between two people I do not know.   Person A said something along the lines that they had received one of the books as a gift and were looking forward to using it.  Person B told them that coloring books are not a serious artistic pursuit.  Person A countered with not everything has to be serious all the time.  (I wanted to hug Person A but thought that might be a bit awkward for me to go up to a complete stranger in a book store and hug them.)  Person A had an excellent point.  Adult coloring books are not about being perfect, exact or serious.

One friend when asked about adult coloring books said that they brought back the joy of coloring from her childhood.  She particularly likes garden or nature themed books.  She finds them to be light-hearted and fun.  This friend uses markers, color pencils and even watercolors on the pages.  The pages are a way for her to test color combinations.  She told me that not all color combinations work out, but it is a fun, safe place to experiment without judgment.

Another friend was given one as a gift.  At first she pooh poohed the idea of coloring in an adult coloring book.  While ill and having nothing else to do, she began filling in pages to pass the time.  Now that she is well, she still colors in adult coloring books because she had gotten so much enjoyment from coloring.

One person I spoke to said that they started by filling in a coloring book while watching TV.  She found out that a couple of her friends do them as well.  She said “We don’t take it seriously, but we get together, color and enjoy ourselves.”

My theory about why adult coloring books are so popular has to do with permission.  These books give adults permission to have fun doing a project that they may have enjoyed as children.  I think that adult coloring books are not about being serious or exact.  I think they are about experimentation.  It is about trying things without being judgmental.  It is about getting together with others, enjoying each others company and sharing a large selection of color pencils.  As Person A said to her friend, “not everything has to be serious all the time.”  Adult Coloring Books are not about being serious.

My challenge to you is to find an Adult Coloring Book.  Get out those crayons, color pencils, markers, watercolor paints, acrylic paints, finger nail polish (that is specifically for my friend, Sue, who is an excellent finger nail polish artist) and have fun!  No judgments.  No expectations.  Just adding color to designs like when we were little kids.  You have my permission to hang your favorite one on the refrigerator.


No, No, No, No, No and No!

Several years ago over the Christmas holiday my entire family had gathered together.  My then two and half year old niece was very excited.  First there were all kinds of people to show off for and get attention from.  Second it was Christmas Eve.  I don’t remember what my brother, her father, was trying to get her to do but she wasn’t having any of it.  She stood with her hands on her hips and shouted, “No, no, no, no, no and no!”

Of course, to a two and half year old the word “No” is the best invention ever!  And to my Brother and Sister-in-law, it was a word that they heard way too often from her.  Due to some recent events in my own life, I got to thinking about the word “No.”  As a creative person do I say it enough?  As a nice person do I say it enough?  When my intuition is saying it, do I listen to my intuition?

Last week at work, when answering the phone I got a marketing call.  A woman answered my greeting and asked if I had health insurance.  I responded that I did.  She asked me how much my insurance cost.  I told her that I would not answer that question.  She then stated that her company could get my health insurance costs cut in half.  She could not see me, but I was raising one eyebrow skeptically.  (It always makes me skeptical when people make promises without knowing anything about me or my situation.)  I stated firmly and politely that was very nice but I was very busy at the moment…. Before I could finish my sentence she launched into a monologue about if I would only answer 5 quick questions she could give me an instant quote.  I responded no, thank you…. Again before I could finish she launched into a barrage of questions requesting my age, height, weight, educational background, and income.  That was it.  I had tried to be polite.  I tried to give this person the benefit of the doubt.  I said to her, this time not letting her finish a sentence, “That information is none of your business.  Do not call this number ever again.”  And I hung up.  Telemarketers are trained to push and keep you on the phone.  It’s their job to get your information and sell you whatever product. It is okay to say no politely.  But sometimes one must use stronger language and if all else fails….hang up.

In the book The Artist Way by Julia Cameron, during week 5, she talks about “The Virtue Trap.”  We worry that if we are not nice and that our friends and family won’t like or accept us.  We worry what other people will think.  We worry that we will not appear generous, supportive, or of service to the world.  And we neglect ourselves.  This trap ties in directly with our ability to say “No.”  Instead of taking care of ourselves by saying no, we say “yes” and be nice.

“We expect our artist to be able to function without giving it what it needs to do so.  An artist requires the upkeep of creative solitude.  An artist requires the healing of time alone.  Without this period of recharging, our artist becomes depleted.”   The Artist Way by Julia Cameron

When you are a nice person, people don’t want or expect you to tell them no.  It is important to take care of yourself and say “No.”   If you have flown on an airplane at one time or another, you have seen the safety presentation where the flight attendant demonstrates how to put on the oxygen mask in case of an emergency.  You always put your mask on first before helping others.  The reasoning is that without oxygen you can’t help others.  If you do not take care of yourself by saying no and setting boundaries, you are not giving yourself oxygen and are of no help to anyone else.

Have you ever noticed when your intuition says no?  Do you listen?  I had a situation a while ago that required my intuition.  I had known a gentleman because of my job.  We would always say hello.  There might be some small talk about the weather but that was it.  On one occasion we were waiting in line and he asked me if I was seeing anyone.  At that time I was not and stated such.  He then asked if I would like to get together with him for dinner or coffee.  I said that would be nice.  He called me at work, gave me his phone number and asked me to call him that evening and I did.  It was an odd phone call but I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  We set up a time and met for lunch one Saturday.  The restaurant had these round tables.  I sat down, thinking we would sit across from each other in order that we could talk.  He sat down next to me.  I would scoot away.  He would scoot closer and again I would scoot away.  It almost became an odd game of chasing me around the table.  The conversation was not flowing very well.  He made a couple statements about his ex-fiance that made me uncomfortable and then proceeded to grill me about my divorce.  I felt that the experience was awkward, uncomfortable and generally dissatisfying.    He told me to give him a call when I had free time.  I said okay (being nice).  I thought he felt that the relationship wasn’t going anywhere as well and was “letting me down easy.”  But for him this was just the beginning.

This person would text me and if I didn’t respond within a certain amount of time accuse me of ignoring him.  Even if the texts were in the middle of my work day.  He would call me at work and if I told him I couldn’t talk right now he would demand that I promise to call him that evening.  Even if I told him I was busy teaching or already had plans for the evening and wouldn’t be able to talk.  I decided that I was going to have to tell him no and to leave me alone.  After several more bizarre texts from him, I finally told him that it wasn’t working and wished him the best.  He still wanted to engage in a relationship with me.  I had to not respond to his texts in order for him to leave me alone.

From the odd phone call and icky lunch, and the way communication continued my intuition was screaming at me…..”GET AWAY FROM THIS PERSON!!!”  I have since heard some things that validated my intuition in regards to that individual.  I am very glad that I listened to my intuition and got out of that situation.

The thing was that he didn’t look or act like a “villain.”  On paper I’m sure he looked very typical or even normal.  But intuitively I knew something was off.  When the intuitive voice speaks we need to listen to it even if in all other respects the situation appears normal.  In a blog post called “Intuition” Seth Godin said, “Don’t dismiss intuition merely because it’s difficult to understand.  You get better at it by practicing.”

There are people in our lives who push us to do things their way or by their own agenda.  We all want our own way at different times.  But part of living with other humans is compromise.  But this blog post is not about compromise.  It is about protecting ourselves.  No is a powerful word.  As a creative person, as a nice person and especially when your intuition is saying it, I give you permission to use it.  Now put your hands on your hips and repeat after my niece and I, “No, no, no, no, no and no!”