Finding Joy in Dark Times2022-05-26T19:39:09-04:00
The best night’s sleep ever occurred last night, with all the windows open, the curtains blowing along with the cool breeze, and a wonderful 65 degrees. This morning I peeked out the bathroom window to see a red cardinal perched on a branch singing its heart out. I feel like I’m in a Disney movie, living in a perfect world. Of course, after a cup of coffee and a check on social media, reality strikes. Perfection isn’t possible. At least I had a great night of sleep to improve my focus and attitude, letting problems bounce off my chest like projectiles bouncing off Superman.
Walking on Air
I have to admit I’m still on a high from our big artists’ convention in Santa Fe last week. It was the first time in almost three years that our family of artists has been together, with the surprise of hundreds of new people joining for the first time, and hundreds of others joining online. I knew I missed it but did not realize just how much it was missed, because my energy comes from being with other people. I had not realized how low my batteries were and how being with hundreds of others who share the same passions would give me a much-needed full charge that can last me another couple of years. Hopefully, we’ll all be together at this time next year in Denver.
My wife and kids went with me for the first time to the convention. I wanted the kids to see what dad does for a living. They worked, helped out where possible, and found out about my 5 a.m. alarm so I can teach marketing at 6:30, and my midnight bedtime after entertaining people in my suite till the last person leaves. It’s a full day, it’s exhausting, and I would not change a thing.
But it was especially eye-opening for the kids, age 20, who maybe have never seen someone work so hard. And it was not just me — my amazing team worked from early morning to late night as well. They all deserved a chance to cut loose in our closing party. We were all dancing fools. It felt good.
Arriving home, I was energized, but my wife and my daughter needed some extra sleep, because, unlike me, this activity drains their batteries and their only hope of a recharge is a quiet room, sleeping in or reading a good book. I’m told different personality types have different ways to charge their batteries. It’s evident in my own life and the differences between us.
How do you recharge?
It’s All About Joy
For me, joy recharges my batteries. It may be the joy of being with people I love, maybe the joy of a party or dancing, the joy of being in my studio or being outdoors painting, the joy of travel to exotic places and seeing beautiful scenery, the joy of hanging on the couch with my kids doing nothing together, or even the joy of a great phone call connecting with an old friend. I also get lots of joy out of taking a creative idea and turning it into a product or a business, and at the convention I got a lot of joy out of coaching artists on their marketing and showing some of the vendors some things that were obvious to me that could improve their products or businesses. Sometimes my joy comes in the form of a special passage in my morning devotional time or a special moment in prayer.
Joy can be accidental, or it can be deliberate. But I’ve found that most of my joy is deliberate, seeking it by following certain routines or orchestrating special moments. It can come if we wait for it, but why wait if you can feed your soul deliberately? Some of my best moments of joy came from things my parents did to create memories.
The hard part is finding joy during the most difficult times. How do we find joy at times when we’re suffering and hurting? The answer lies in seeking it, looking for it.
Finding Joy in Pain
When my dad died last year, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever faced. Yet, in spite of being sad and depressed, my nature is to seek out the positive side of things, to look back on the memories, or to understand that he is now in a place with nothing but joy, where no pain or depression exist.
One of My Worst Moments
As a young man, I can remember being devastated over the loss of the love of my life. I could not get out of bed, I laid in a fetal position, I cried for days, I was not sure I wanted to live. I knew I was the most depressed I’d ever been, and I was not sure how I’d pull myself out of it. And I could not imagine not seeing her again. It was horrifying, and once I pulled myself out, which took over a year, I swore I’d never go through that again. It crossed my mind to avoid falling in love again so I’d never have the pain of loss. In that situation I got on my knees, prayed, and asked, “Why me?” And the thoughts I had made me understand that there was a plan for me, and that I’d not appreciate it without experiencing pain. It made a huge difference in my outlook. Years later, knowing what I know now, I’m so happy I did not stay in that relationship. I’m so much happier now, and I’d not have my incredible wife and kids had I been stuck in that relationship mud.
At the convention I was speaking with a friend who told me about a devastating year of pain and business problems. When I started to console him, he stopped me and said, “No, Eric, you don’t understand. This resulted in the most important lesson I may ever have learned.”
Outlook changes everything. It seems overly simplified, but it has a huge impact. There are lessons in every moment of pain. Seek them and you’ll find joy.
What’s going on in your life at this moment that is causing you pain?
What is happening when you’re asking, “Why me?”
As a child I used to wonder why my parents were so hard on me at times, why they made me suffer without the things I thought they should give me, why they disciplined me. It was because they cared deeply, and they knew I needed to learn lessons that I was too blind to see for myself.
Instead of “Why me?” ask, “Why not me?” and, “What can I learn from this?”
Whatever you’re going through now, no matter how hard, how devastating, it has another side. Seek it.
PS: I want to thank all the people who showed up for the Plein Air Convention for the joy you brought me with your presence. We had some people cancel at the last minute because of the news of fires in the area. Yet we had mostly clear skies and incredible painting every day during the convention, and we had what some say was the best convention yet. It sure felt that way to me.
PSII: At the convention we revealed that we’re going to Colorado next year. We’re painting in some amazing places like the Garden of the Gods and the Rocky Mountain National Park, plus some other places nearer to Denver, where we’re holding the event.
Because I always offer attendees a chance to get our best price ever if they get their ticket during the Plein Air Convention, we have 58% of the seats already sold. And before COVID, our Denver convention had 1,000 seats sold. Our limit is only 1,200 seats. That means there are only about 500 seats left, and I suspect they will go fast, especially with what we’re going to announce in the next week or two. If you’re thinking of going, book it now to make sure you have a seat. It’s our 10-year birthday bash, which means there are lots of things we’re going to do to celebrate. It’s not the one you want to miss.
PSIII: Next week I’m going to take a few days off and drive to the Adirondacks. My big artist retreat is June 11-18. It’s a week of painting together with about a hundred others. We paint all day, play at night (music, cocktails, and more painting), and we stay on campus on a beautiful lake. There are about nine seats left. I’d love to see you there. I think this is the 12th year. I’m not sure how many more years I’ll do it. If you’ve always wanted to come, I hope you’ll do it. Upstate New York is stunning, the Adirondack Park is protected and about the size of three National Parks, and the beauty is unexpected and stunning. I’m especially fond of painting waterfalls, and there are lots of them we paint every year.
PSIV: Our next online virtual conference, Pastel Live, is coming in August. It’s all about pastel painting. I’m really getting into pastel lately, and I’m doubling down on pastel at Streamline. We’re going to make a major announcement about pastel this week (that is not about the conference). If you want to attend, we have a free webinar called The Future of Pastel with me and Gail Sibley. I think you’ll be pleased.
PSV: I’m told this week is the last week to register for Paint New Zealand, my private painting trip to see and paint the sights of that amazing country. I’m guessing this will be the only time we do it because there are so many other places I want to take people. I think there are about eight seats left (of the 50-seat limit). It’s the trip of a lifetime, and I think you need to get signed up ASAP.
PSVI: People have been begging me to return Fall Color Week to Maine one more time. This is our fourth time there, and we’re staying inside Acadia National Park. We always pick the peak of fall color, and the scenery is amazing. In fact, most of the Hudson River School painters painted there too. Join me. I think there are 12 seats left.