Today I found myself wondering about ‘encouragement’. You hear the word ‘support’ a lot these days and that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t seem quite imbued with the emotion that the word ‘encouragement’ conveys. Perhaps it is just semantics, but whatever you call it, it’s what we give to those who are either struggling or who are working at something. We validate their efforts. It needn’t be a verbal thing, it can be a smile or a nod, or it can mean just ‘being there’ for someone… and it needn’t even be physical presence, but the kind of enduring relationship where the other person knows you are ‘there’.
More specifically, I was thinking today about an experience I had yesterday which was immensely satisfying. I’ve been attending Life Drawing sessions for a few weeks, twice a week. Last week was an awful session where I was sure I had some stranger’s hand attached to my body, it was so unwilling to do what I wanted! I found myself questioning why I was pursuing the Life Drawing and I really had no rational answer, except that it just felt like something I wanted to do. (I’ve learned to pay attention to that still small voice that encourages me, even though I am not sure why!) I’ve never been particularly interested in drawing or painting the human form but for some reason last year I had the urge to take it up again (we had to do it years ago at University and that was mostly where I left it except for a few very brief encounters). I had gotten only a few sessions under my belt when cancer and travel interrupted me for the remainder of the year. When I emerged from the challenges of last year, I found my first thought was to get back to Life Drawing. Wow. Where is that coming from?
But even after the unhappy result of last week’s session, something moved me ahead. Out of the blue, a friend offered me some new paper and some pastels, and then I put one foot in front of the other… a little sketch, an experiment with materials, an instructional DVD, a card from the newsagency with a pastel drawing of Degas ballerinas. I had the feeling they were all feeding something inside me, and then… Yesterday when the time came for Sunday morning Life Drawing, I was just glad to be there again, with no expectation of a particularly good result, but ‘hope springs eternal’. in a very short time, I found myself ‘in the zone’, and the drawings, while not masterpieces, were flowing and had some life to them, and something had shifted. My fellow artists were complimentary, and not in a general way. They had specific comments that I recognised as ‘true’ and sincere. It was so encouraging. It was… life affirming. I was in the creative flow again, and the reward was joy.
This morning Ali’s email said she is finding it a struggle to settle on a topic for her first essay of her Master’s Degree program, and to wade through the academic reading to find what she needs. Indeed. I will write to her and encourage her, because I have realised if I am not too old for encouragement to be helpful, her 23-year-old-self certainly is not! Are we ever too old to enjoy words of encouragement? I hope not.