Shield Thyself


The distant mountain of gray-blue contrasts against the white sky, which silhouettes the gnarled, twisted scrub oaks, looking like a movie set — as though an army of armored trolls is about to come in the scene. As I sit here, bright pinkish clouds begin to light up the horizon and illuminate the sky to the sound of angels singing.

Fields of little yellow flowers sprinkle the naturally weed-filled fields, and the beginnings of crunchy brown leaves are sprinkled in between. Signs of fall in Texas, a place where rich color is rarer than finding a diamond in a cave. 

On the old porch, red Adirondack chairs remind us of the place we spend our summers and mark our return here to Texas. Though we’re always sad to leave the Adirondack Mountains, the stunning fall color had ended and the ice was beginning to form on the lake, which is not a good thing when you have to get your food and supplies in by boat. For everything, there is a season, and we’re here to enjoy Texas again until late spring.

Living in Lockdown

Though life is grand, and it’s good to be home, I know many people who are struggling with the continued lockdown and its impact on their “normal” lives or incomes.

If you know me, you know I’ve been preaching about rewarding yourself with things that stimulate your creativity by doing things you love, avoiding the news and social media, and trying to “keep your head in the game.”


All the bad news, fear, misinformation, confusion, and vitriol are not good for our immune systems. We become what we mentally eat. And though the elections are entertaining, like a great football season, we can all get caught up in believing the world will end if our side does not win. Every election we hear “this is the most important election in history,” and the fear and worry become fever pitch, getting us all worked up. 

We have become emotional targets, manipulated by fear. If you can step back, step out of your fear or anger, and look at it from a distance, you can see exactly how we’re all being played. 

I don’t share my politics because I love my followers and don’t want to disrespect you by not respecting your opinions. I would never step out to share my thoughts — because I respect you, and I also don’t think it’s smart business. 

I’m NOT Running

About six years ago a major, well-known political operative approached me and inquired if I would run for the U.S. Senate. I thought about it for about 10 seconds before declining the offer out of respect for the quality of life I’m living and the need to be here for my family. And, frankly, I don’t want to make enemies. I want to love and be loved and would not be capable of launching a negative campaign against another. It’s not a game I want to play. I wouldn’t run for dogcatcher.

Great Entertainment

Over the next nine days, we’re all likely to be glued to our screens like we’re seeing a great cliffhanger in a movie. We’ll probably see more mudslinging than we’ve ever seen before. We might see unexpected things that rock our world and make us lose faith in humanity. We’re even likely to hear things about people we love and respect that will severely disappoint us. No, I have no inside information, I just know that there is a war on for your vote, and lots of missiles will be fired over the coming days. I’m guessing the unexpected will surprise us all.

A few thoughts to get you through the next nine days, and probably the months to follow, where sore losers will try every possible thing to change the outcome.

  1. Stay in prayer. If you’re one who prays, remember to turn everything over to God. Pray for His will to be done in your life and in this country. This, more than anything else, gives me peace about all the craziness.
  2. Be there for others. Everyone is worked up. Everyone needs a distraction. Everyone needs to know you care for them. You can be there without talking politics. But, with all that is going on in the world, suicide hotlines have seen huge increases in calls. People have fears about their future, and you can help them through it.
  3. Boost your mental and physical immunity. Fear and worry destroy your immunity. You need to do things to increase your happiness. Do things daily that give you joy, that are fun, and that distract you from doom and gloom. Eat well, take your supplements, and get exercise. 
  4. Keep your head down. If you’re in the middle of a political discussion, there are bullets flying over your head. Do you really want to be in the middle of that negativity? You cannot change anyone else’s mind, and they cannot change yours. Is this where you want to spend your energy?
  5. The only things you can always control are your actions and your reactions. Voting is one thing you can control, and avoiding the negativity and the negative people is another. Change what you can control. 
  6. Be the kind of person who lifts others up. We all know them and look forward to being around them. Don’t be the kind of person who is constantly firing bullets at others over politics. I’m so disappointed in the social media vitriol, which is why I’m trying to avoid it.
  7. Think for yourself. I’ve come to know that I cannot trust ANYONE to have accurate information. I can’t trust any news source. I cannot trust social media. So you have to dig for your own facts, try to find multiple perspectives. Don’t just look for things that reinforce what you already want to believe. Seek balance.
  8. Let go of “shoulds” — things we’ve told ourselves we should do. We all have preconceived ideas based on our past, our families, our parents, our friends. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself why. Why am I voting? Is it emotional, because I don’t like someone? Is it practical, because I want something accomplished? Or is it based on something I have always done, and changing makes me uncomfortable? Don’t listen to your friends, your family, the people you have always followed, but examine your own heart. Just because you’ve always voted a certain way does not mean it’s right for you today. Peer pressure is intense. But follow your heart, not what you or your family have always done in the past.

I want nothing but the best for you. I want you to have pure joy in your life and peace. I want your life to be what you want it to be. I want you to live your dreams. Everything we have in life comes from what we manifest, where we focus, and how we react and respond to the world. If you respond with love, peace, and with a smile on your face, your life will be filled with grace, which beats high blood pressure, anger, fear, and hate.

If nothing else, this is going to be a wild ride. Enjoy it.

Eric Rhoads

PS: This summer, after several days of back pain, I discovered a chiropractor, “Dr. Joe,” who was able to make my problems disappear. We hit it off on the first visit because he had just created his first paintings ever. I was able to give him some ideas and tips, and every time we met all summer, he would ask me for more ideas and tips on painting. The day before we left, I went in for a final tuneup, looked forward to next season, and said a fond farewell. He asked if he could contact me for painting advice through the year. Of course I said yes, and looked forward to coaching a beginner (I love teaching).

Little did I know it would be the last time I saw him. Three days later, Joe was dead. He had pulled the trigger on his own life for reasons I’ll never know. 

Though I had only known this young man (about 30) over six visits, I was really bothered by this news. Such a nice guy, such a talented chiropractor, such a promising painter. But the demons inside his head got the better of him, and though I don’t know what those demons were, someone has to be hurting deeply to want to take their own life. He had never shared hurt, but I’m wondering if I could have made a difference, helped him through his pain, shown him an alternative path, or offered him a new perspective. If only I had gotten to know him on a deeper level.

Then last week, an acquaintance, painter Greg LaRock, also a fairly young man, fell while rollerblading with his wife, and experienced head trauma that resulted in his death. Another brilliant candle snuffed out too early.

We all tend to be optimists when it comes to life. I think most of us plan to live long lives. We don’t expect an early passing from an accident, a disease, or even being so distraught that we end it ourselves. Yet life is fragile. The reality is that none of us know when our time will come. 

In each of these cases, my first reaction was that I wished I had known them better, on a deeper level. I wish I had taken the time and made more of an effort. It’s a reminder for us all to get to know people on a deeper level, seek to understand their needs, and step in to offer help if needed.

Live each day as if it were our last.

Last week I completed Fall Color Week, a week of painting fall color with friends. Then we completed Realism Live for a huge number of artists in 27 countries. And I just announced our January watercolor conference, Watercolor Live.

Halloween is just around the corner. Find a way to have some fun, even though it will be less than normal. We all can use a little more fun these days.