Flickering, crackling, and the soft smell of burning wood come from the old fireplace, tucked away in a tiny sitting room at the hotel here in Williamsburg, Virginia. The decor is Early American — pineapple-patterned wallpaper, old brown furniture, and portraits of presidents.
It’s quiet here, most guests are not yet awake, and no one has discovered this little reading nook. I hear the occasional distant ding from the service bell at the front desk, done to call the bellman like in the old days.
Going Back in Time
My morning walk brought me back to another time, a different era. This old town made up of original buildings from the Revolutionary War era is tightly closed up, but later will bustle with tourists and kids who will march alongside the red-coated soldiers. Later will be the smell of baking bread from the bakery, whose old brick oven uses real fire. The candy maker will be handing out samples, and you can go into the tin shop to see cups being made, or the print shop as they make reproductions of old Revolutionary War posters one sheet at a time, with moveable type. It’s truly a place every family should experience at least once. I came here as a kid, then once as an early married couple, and now, for my Figurative Art Convention & Expo (FACE), which starts today.
A Rockefeller Vision
Last week I mentioned that I was grateful for the wealthy who built great homes and art collections that because museums. Today I’m thankful for John D. Rockefeller, who had the vision to create Colonial Williamsburg by buying up houses in different villages and moving them here to create a living museum. Today we’ll do a plein air paint-out (outdoor painting) in the streets with costumed models before the official start of the convention at four.
The Last Year at Home
Living a life of travel has its benefits, but few things will drag me away from home next year; it is our last season with the triplets, who go off to college in the fall. Life will change for them, and for us. Though I’ll need to keep working to pay the college bills, I’d be working anyway because I love what I do. But I’ll miss feeding the kids each morning, chatting with them randomly on the couch, eating dinner together — even now a rare occasion since everyone is off to jobs and friends. Soon it will be time to reinvent, to ready ourselves for this new chapter.
The Storms of Life
Life is like a series of storms. A hurricane comes in slowly, with ample notice to get ready and get out, but a tornado comes with no notice. It just shows up. We’ve known college was coming since the kids were born, preparing little by little by setting money aside, yet like most, we don’t do all the prep we should until we get closer and closer to the event. I consider knowing in advance and being able to prepare a gift.
Storms, tornadoes, or other sudden, uncontrollable events also happen. Or, as is the case now, fires that sneak up and force you out, if you’re lucky enough to get out. It’s then we have to rebuild, often from scratch. I’ve been closer to this than I want to because of friends who are suffering through fires and losing everything, and friends who lost everything last year and the year before.
The Power of Reinvention
When storms come, we have to reinvent. One friend had enough of the fires and decided not to rebuild, but to move here to Texas (we have plenty of room, and y’all are welcome here). Another stayed in California but moved to a different community and started a life as an art gallery owner.
Being Happier than Ever
If you live long enough and get out a lot, you start knowing people afflicted by all kinds of disasters, and almost everyone has told me that their disaster was the best thing that ever happened to them, though it was horrific at the time. Disaster or tragedy force reinvention. Most are happier and have told me that they had things in the back of their minds that they wanted to do, but never got around to doing them because of the ties or strings they had.
For your sake (and mine) I hope YOU don’t have to face storms, fire, or a tragedy that forces you to reinvention. But I do hope that if you feel the need to reinvent, you don’t wait for a disaster.
What Do You Dream?
Do you have things in the back of your mind you always wished you had done? Places you always wished you had tried living? Careers you would like to switch to?
Don’t wait for a storm.
Laurie and I have a sense of adventure. We find it exhilarating to make new friends and try new places. Since we’ve been married we’ve moved several times to new communities. We’ve lived in Florida, the Bay Area of California in two different homes, and here in Austin in two different homes. And we’re excited about the prospect of living somewhere new once the kids are in college, or soon after if the kids stay in Texas. Though it’s hard to leave friends, we can always visit them (some we see only a couple of times a year anyway because we’re all so busy).
The prospect of reinvention is exciting. Laurie’s big dream is to get an RV and go around to visit people we know or work with. Visiting clients and art shows. She can drive, and I can work in the back. Sounds fun to me.
I’d like to try living in Italy or Spain or France (or all three). And I think it would be fun to do the RV thing there. And I want to build a dream art studio somewhere.
Aligning Your Dreams
One thing that’s important is to get in alignment. It would not be fair for one of us to pull rank and force the other along on a dream they don’t share. Why not sit down with a sheet of paper with three columns, “My Dreams, “Your Dreams,” and “Shared Dreams.” Then you’ve communicated and can pick the shared dreams you want to pursue.
Out of Alignment
Laurie and I loved living in Northern California. One day we decided to put our dream house up for sale because we felt obligated to move back East to be with aging parents. One day one of us said, “I really love it here. I don’t want to move.” Then the other said, “I thought you wanted to move so I was going along with it. I don’t want to move either.” So we took our house off the market and stayed a few more years.
How about today you have a reinvention discussion? Ask yourself some questions. Ask your spouse or partner some questions.
What have we always wanted to do but never done?
Where have we always wanted to live but never tried?
What dreams do you have, what dreams do I have, and which do we share?
Now, when you get to the point of practicality, shove it to the side. “Yeah, but we can’t afford that dream” is a common thing that gets in the way.
Dreams Overcome Roadblocks
I’ve found that if you have big, audacious, out-of-the-world dreams, things you both want so badly, you might be willing to sacrifice an old dream that is anchoring you. For instance, if the dream is to go live in Italy, ask what’s holding you back?
Maybe it’s the house. But if the dream is so big, sell the house.
Obligation is another dream killer. “Yeah, but we have to stay and take care of Mom.” It’s the right thing to do, but have you talked to Mom about it, or your siblings? I have friends who felt they were stuck but found out a sister was dreaming of moving back and living with Mom to take care of her. So they left to pursue their dream and visited on occasion. If you can’t overcome roadblocks, you can at least build the dream, craft a plan, and pull the trigger on the dream the second the roadblock moves.
You’ll find that if a dream has enough power, you can usually find a solution.
Which person do you want to be?
Do you want to be the person who looks back and says, “I wish I had done the things I wanted to do?”
A Final Dream
This last October when people registered for my Fall Color Week painting adventure, there was a framed photo of a beautiful lady at the registration desk, and at our announcements all week. For privacy I won’t mention her name, but she had been to every Fall Color Week since we stated it five years ago. But after our trip to Canada last year, she died unexpectedly at a fairly young age. She once told me it was her dream to attend that event, and once she went, she looked forward to coming back every year because of the friendships. What if she had kept putting it off till the time was right? At least she lived before she died.
Are you living your dreams?
Don’t wait till a storm … or worse, the point when you can’t get out of a hospital bed. If you can walk, if you can breathe, even if you can be pushed in a wheelchair, even though it might be hard, you have dreams you need to live. We both know someday will never come unless you take action.
For most of us…
There is never enough time.
There is never enough money.
There is always something getting in the way.
There will never be perfect conditions.
You can plan it, or you can wait till you’re forced into a plan. And that plan may not include any of your dreams.
Do it now.
PS: When we’re done here at FACE this week I’ll announce where we’re going next year and some of the rock star artists who will be coming. If you could not make it, go to the website to see who we’ve announced and book for next year (there is a 12-payment plan).
Next week I fly to New York for my annual Radio Ink Forecast event, which is held at the Harvard Club. It does not get much more elegant than that. After our day of sessions, we hold our annual “40 Most Powerful People in Radio” reception with all the high rollers in radio. I get to play host and see lots of my friends. It’s a lot of fun for me.
Then, the following morning I take a 5 a.m train to Washington, DC. I’ve been honored with an invitation to speak before the commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission to share my thoughts (along with a few other broadcasters) on what they should or should not do with regulation for radio. Though I’m trying to be cool … I’m pretty excited.
Then things settle … no more trips. We’ll get to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas and reconnect. It could be our last Christmas together if the kids fall in love in college and go to someone else’s house. We have to make it special this year.
Need a great Christmas or Hanukkah gift?
The Plein Air Convention for your favorite painter, or next year’s FACE event, or Fall Color Week for next fall when we go to the White Mountains of New Hampshire (the color is on fire), or the 10-year anniversary reunion (for new and old) of my annual Publisher’s Invitational in the Adirondacks. And because next year I’ll not have to be away from home as much, I’m working on a couple of new surprises.
We are empty nesters and have all boys. None have a college degree. My youngest is a firefighter. But we paid a lot to give them an education. The youngest went to NYFA. To become an actor. Talk expensive.
Declining health has hit us both. Never expected that! So we just take care of each other and are thankful for each and every day! I really am Thankful I went on many art excursions. None over seas. Had great fun! And have some art friends for life. Plans on writing a book about it.
Thank you for taking your time writing these insightful letters. I look forward to them all
Puerto Rico is waiting for you and your painters. Best regards.
Such a great time of life for you and.your family! My plans appeared ok until.my husband died 1 1/2 years ago. We were always going to sell the house and get out from under the mortgage so we could enjoy our retirement on our small but doable pension and SS.
He got to have.1.yr of retirement. The house was taken off the market because.my.oldest son and his little family needed to land somewhere for a.while. now i am sentimental and it is taking me much longer to get the house really ready and myself to leave. Thank heavens for youtube where i am learning how to fix toilets, light fixtures etc.
Plans are fun but they almost never work out the,way you imagine. I plan and then roll with it because that is what you learn to do if you don’t want to be disapoointed,all the time.
If life were linear wouldn’t it be boring!
Good Morning everyone, and thank you Eric you are right “Artist are the Dreamers and god help us if we lost the dreams and the Dreamers.
For all of you in the snow and very cold morning I wish yo a wonderful day from Ajo, AZ. the sun is just coming out and the yard is filled with deer and a few Javelina in for early morning drink. Best part of early cup of coffee is Eric “Sunday Coffee and the wild life that share my mornings in Arizona desert.
Good morning Eric,
Sorry I wasn’t able to join you this year at FACE but very much looking forward to seeing you in Colorado at PACE.
Thank you again Eric for all of what you’ve done and continue to do for art and artists!
Your letters to me are particularly meaningful, nostalgic, interesting, and inspirational and this week’s is no exception.
Artists are dreamers and visionaries and one of my dreams is to live part time in Italy painting and sharing the experience with family and friends. I love everything about Italy, the history, the art, the food and especially the people and their culture.