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Learning to Paint. Badly.

I've been painting a little of late. Badly. As in, intentionally trying to paint badly. This goes dreadfully against the grain for those of us who have - supposedly - "thrived" on the cycle of self-condemnation and perfectionism for, well, let's just say a very long time.

A dear friend of mine, and a life coach, has gently suggested, for - ahem - a few years now, that I need to lighten up, loosen up, and give myself a break. Maybe several. Maybe, in her words, I need to, "be as kind to yourself as you are to others." That concept was shocking to me when I first heard it. But I am working on this premise. Trying to get it right, by being NOT right. Just by "being." Giving myself permission to just take a walk and breathe for fifteen minutes, instead of making lists of "to dos" and "to gets" and "do NOT forgets;" or taking a horse for a walk. Not a ride, where I have to be focused every single second, but a walk. Like a dog.

Like my pet.

As part of all this initiative to be kinder to myself, I've taken up the practice of yoga. Who knew such a simple thing as movement could be such a profound thing as breathing and "be-ing." I'm no yogi by any means; I only know a few positions at this point, and only a few "yoga" words. "Tadasana" is one of my favorites. It sounds like a Native American syllabic word, and it means a whole bunch of things. But, to me, at this point, tadasana means, "stillness with strength."

My baby steps into yoga have improved my posture, my breathing, my standing, my walking, and - best of all - my riding. "Lift your heart to the heavens" - is there any more beautiful way to consider one's best posture?

Kaliwohi is learning "tadasana." Halt square, beautiful mustang. "Be still," as the Scriptures say. Stillness with strength.


I prefer to practice yoga outside, thus I have yoga mats (yes, two - I like cushy, so don't even go there, yoga purists) and blocks and a mat wrap that should, preferably, live outside so they're handy when I'm ready to be still with strength. Where to put them so no critters decide to nest or otherwise soil them? Well, I had this spare trash can. (Note: read nothing Freudian into the notion of putting yoga paraphernalia in a trash can. It seals well and it was handy. Reduce, reuse, recycle is surely "zen" don't you think?)

Anyway, a plain galvanized trash can seemed a bit boring to have sitting on my porch day in and day out, and besides, visitors might presume said trash can was, in fact, for trash. Providing a courtesy notice might have worked, but some sign that reads, "not for trash" seems completely UNzen, to me.

So I decided to take my good friend's advice and "be kind to me. Let your inner child play! Truly play! Not try to be YOUR best, or THE best, or anything. Just PLAY."

I got some different colors of paint that make me happy (but probably clash within traditional decorator rules . . .) and some cheap foam paint brushes, and I let some mythical little-girl version of Esther do whatever she felt like - smudges, drips, and all.

The results are both ridiculous and adorable. If some sweet six year old had painted this can FOR me, I'd be absolutely delighted and proud as punch of all the flowers and polka dots and smilie faces, and I'd completely ignore the smudges and drips and imperfections.

I wonder why, when I'm doing things that do not really "matter" - such as painting a trash can to hold yoga mats - why we adults continually put pressure on ourselves to be the 'best' or 'perfect'? When did I forget how to just have fun with paint or crayons or whatever artistic tool? Why did it take a very zen friend to help me remember the childlike enthusiasm of just having fun?

Have I forgotten how to actually PLAY?

Have you?


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