On creating a meaning of life…

Or should I say meaningful life? The year just stumbled out of the starting blocks, which is always a great time to reflect on how things are going, and planning for the year ahead. How was your year 2017?

Mine was great, compared to others: I took one month off to travel to Italy, I have a great job and a lot of leisure time to draw, read and think about my comfortable and healthy life… You can see my sketches here: https://www.instagram.com/barbaraluel/ and here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/barbara_luel/

I wanted to write about my stupid good resolutions, but there’s all these refugees in Brussels who are starving and risking their life to go to the UK or elsewhere just because they also want a comfortable life, just like me… And I wanted to write about watercolor, drawing, and the new year coming, but there’s all these refugees freezing and starving and all my rich country (Belgium is one of the richest countries in the world) does is trying to make them get out as soon as possible, back to their miserable life in Africa etcetera…Stinky rich Europe doesn’t want refugees… and prefers to give money to criminals and dictators to prevent the refugees from crossing the sea. Luckily there are some citizens who are willing to help them.

On the good side of this year there’s indeed a lot to say: a lot of generous people are really making a difference in this world and bringing beauty, with warm attention, friendship, humanity and a lot of love given for free,…  I say to myself I have the luxury of having been born in one of the richest countries on earth in a fine family with lots of love, so I have the “duty” to choose to be happy, stop whining about my luxury problems that aren’t real problems, and reach out to help others, to make also a difference in this world.

We don’t choose where we’re born… some of us are really unlucky, and some are just born in a comfortable place and are really lucky… Everything is figureoutable, but some need help to figure it out and having a roof over your head and be free are basic human rights.  And we all have just one life. So let’s make the best we can out of our life.

So I have again a question for You to reflect on for this new year: what do you want to do before you die? Let’s stop the small talk wasting time and get to big talk immediately to get a real connection with each other. Show your real vulnerable self: Suppose you die next week: what do you want to do this week? In other words: let’s immediately get to the important stuff: what’s REALLY important to you? What do you want to look back to with pride when you die, so you’ll have no regrets? Who’s REALLY important to you and who do you really want to spend your PRECIOUS finite time with?

How can we make the difference and make this world a better place? Like Nina Simone said:”It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times.. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians.” And like Toni Morrison wrote: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.”

Scientific research has shown that what makes us really happy is:

  • spending time with loved ones
  • help other people, doing volunteering work
  • get in a flow
  • concentrate on the content of an activity and not on the reward
  • exercise gratitude

Also, to be able to maintain good resolutions one has to create essential small daily rituals to remind us of what makes us happy, like journaling. I decided to write every evening and morning in my journal to reflect on my days, think about what made me happy or not, and I keep a gratitude journal.

I try to use my phone less, and to get in a flow when I work or draw. I noticed I get in a flow when I manage to get into my right side of the brain: the visual side. I’m reading “Drawing on the right side of the brain” by Betty Edwards. It’s really an amazing book! I wonder why I didn’t read it earlier? It features some interesting exercises to connect to your visual rich side of the brain and to improve your drawing skills and this book confirms the “big truth”: everybody can draw !!! And also that drawing is profoundly energizing and relaxing, like meditation! I will talk more about the book in my next blogpost and we’ll do some exercises together.

So anyway I’m done now with the big resolutions I can’t keep and will concentrate on small everyday rituals that keep me happy.

Still a very important big resolution (I can’t help it): I want to make one drawing a day, because that’s the only way to get better at it: practice, practice, practice!

I leave you with a quote by Seth Godin: “Art is what we call the thing an artist does. It’s not the medium or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky, something human. Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist.”

Love to you all, wishing you a loving and creative 2018!




PS: and a last quote because I love quotes so much (why try to say something in a new way when somebody else already said it in a more beautiful way):

“Feel all the things. Feel the hard things. The inexplicable things, the things that make you disavow humanity’s capacity for redemption… Feel afraid. Feel powerless. Feel frozen. And then FOCUS. Pick up your pen. Pick up your paintbrush. Pick up your damn chin. Put your two calloused hands on the turntables, in the clay, on the strings. Get behind the camera. Look for that pinprick of light. Look for the truth (yes, it is a thing—it still exists.) Focus on that light. Enlarge it. Reveal the fierce urgency of now. Reveal how shattered we are, how capable of being repaired. But don’t lament the break. Nothing new would be built if things were never broken. A wise man once said: there’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Get after that light. This is your assignment.”  Courtney E. Martin


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