I have spent a lifetime being told I have a great imagination.
Actually, great is not usually the word that is used. I usually hear “vivid” or “active”. When these words are used it is meant to convey the fact that I am wrong. I am mis-remembering, making things up, foolish or childish. As I write this I am vividly recalling the people who diminish, or dismiss me because of my imagination.
My purpose today is not to defend or negate the claim that an active imagination is detrimental, perhaps even dangerous. There have been times that my imagination has led to trouble – most notably the time I imagined that the narcissist romancing me was actually who he pretended to be. Without a doubt, imagination is a double edged sword.
Lately I’ve been trying to decorate my new townhouse, and it has been brutally difficult. I spent the entire winter ruminating paint colors for the main floor, to no avail. I couldn’t even pin down a color family. As spring approached I was determined to finalize the main floor, so I could relax and enjoy the summer. I went to Lowes and Home Depot and had every color chip taped to my walls. I spent days and nights staring at the various colors, trying to figure out which was “right”. One day it was the blue family, the next day green, the following day orange. I was in a pickle – I had no idea what I wanted or what I liked. More importantly, I had no idea if I had the right to pick what I liked.
I asked people for help and decided on a color called Cosmic Dust. When I saw it on my wall in the sunshine I saw an undertone of blue, and I fell in love. I spent an entire weekend painting the whole 1st floor Cosmic Dust and, when I was done, I excitedly put all my furniture and artwork back and waited. I waited for that smile that is inescapable when something is truely right. I waited for that feeling of satisfaction and joy you get when a job has been well done. Instead, I felt the overwhelming urge to wash white clothing with copious amounts of bleach. I have come to rename this color “dirty socks”. I hated it. Not just a little – a whole lot.
I was really bummed. And perplexed.
Eventually I asked a friend of mine who is an artist and interior designer to come take a look. She looked around, examined some of the colors I was drawn to and said what I’ve come to dread – “you’ve got quite the imagination”. I cringed when she said it, and I waited for the follow up recrimination sentence, the qualifier that would be something like “you are getting carried away here”. Except it never came. She’d meant that statement to be a compliment. I chalked it up to the fact that she in an artist. She must be a bit wacky, right? Of course she would compliment an active imagination – she had one too, and she wasn’t afraid to show it, so obviously she was a fan of this sort of thing.
We discussed color families, how colors change with lighting, what emotions each color evokes and how to use colors together. Under her guidance I chose 2 colors, and was off to Home Depot for more paint, with much trepidation!
Fast forward to 6 hours later, and I am halfway through the main walls on the 1st floor with the primary color – a vibrant yellowish orange. As I painted I have felt joy. Painting this time has literally felt different than it did last weekend. Last weekend it was a chore, today it is just fun.
While I loved the color close up I knew I had to see it from across the room, so I took a break after finishing one wall. When I stepped back I was dismayed to see how the paint was drying. It seemed like each brush stroke was shouting out at me “look at me, you crazy, inept woman – I look like crap”. Ugh. Was it bad paint or was I putting it on wrong, or was it, once again, the wrong color? My imagination went wild as I pondered this wall. After calming my brain down, I kept painting.
It is now 3 hours since that 1st real look. I have rolled the 2 walls I cut in and everything is drying. And guess what? Now that it is dry I Love It! I love the contrast of the yellow and the white woodwork I painted last weekend. I love the way the yellow shines with the sunlight. I love how the corners that have no light appear strong and satisfied. Is that weird? Has anyone ever called a wall satisfied? My damned imagination……. In the back of my mind I can hear my walls thanking me. Hopefully I don’t need antipsychotics!
None of which is my point. My point is simply this –
Paint Like You Deserve to Be Alive.
Live Like You Deserve To Be Alive.
I think back over the past 25 years and the decorating choices I made. Every choice I made was based on the premise that I didn’t matter. I chose lace curtains for my 1st home, even though I’ve never been a fan of lace. The kitchen was finished with a green countertop, regardless of the fact that green isn’t a color I love. My second home was interesting. In this home I honored the choice of my boys, allowing them to choose the color for their bedroom. I joyfully painted each of their rooms, and loved it! In retrospect I see that this happened because I let the voices of right and wrong, the condemnation of an active imagination, take a back seat. Funny isn’t it, that I would honor my children’s imagination but not my own.
Anyway, the rest of the house was done in contemporary colors, the colors of the day. I neither liked nor disliked any of them. I chose what I was supposed to choose, and, when done, I happily cleaned my brushes and washed my hands of the given color. I was neither happy nor sad. I did the “right” thing, and I felt empty.
Today, as I’ve slathered this vibrant yellow/orange onto my walls, it occured to me that yes, I have quite the imagination. Today though, I don’t hate myself for it. Today I feel like my imagination is not a curse, it is not a liability, it does not make me childish or stupid. It is simply an imagination. Neither here nor there, just a thing that I have that others might not have.
As I painted it occured to me that I am painting like I will be here tomorrow. What an odd thought, right? Yet there it was – “you will be here tomorrow”, kept running around my head, bouncing off the walls, glaring at me, blinding me in it’s obvious truth. I will be here tomorrow.
Clearly this has weighed on me since I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (ovca). A late stage OVCA diagnosis brings with it the obvious fear of imminent death. In fact, in the years since my diagnosis I have behaved as if each day might be my last. I know most advocate for this attitude but honestly, it has its drawbacks, with decorating being an example. If you decorate with the attitude that you might not see tomorrow, what is your thought process? If you are at all like me you find yourself mired in thoughts of what others will like, what will enable your loved ones to sell your house, what will make your friends happy when they attend the wake at your house. Ugh. No wonder I struggled with a color!
As I paint my Ambitious Amber (yes, that is the paints name!) I feel like I’m saying “hey girl, you will be here tomorrow, and you will be happy”.
So today I am telling you – paint like you are worthy. Paint like you are all that matters, like you will be alive tomorrow, and you want to be, you deserve to be, Happy. I think you will find painting is much easier when you love the color, when you serve your imagination, your soul.
PS: I am using Behr Marquee (weekend sale-yippee!!) and I love it. It has actually fulfilled it’s promise of 1 coat coverage. Of course all it has to cover is dirty socks so….