Quiet and stillness fill the cool Texas air. Not a single leaf is fluttering, and the deep orange morning light entertains my eyes with streaks of color as it blasts the front porch of my art studio. Morning or afternoon light glow is something I never noticed before picking up a paintbrush. 

Silence is a good thing on any morning. I love awakening early, before anyone else is awake, and sitting quietly with my thoughts. There is a special place, right between getting up and waking up. It’s as if it’s a time when my thoughts are more abstract, more free.

Hello Silence, My Old Friend

Today silence is especially welcome. We are all numb from a year or more of election drivel, of intense dialogue coming at our brains from every direction. I’m wishing all the political signs would come down, and I’m thankful the advertisements have stopped. I’m ready for silence, for quiet, for peace. Though I’m not sure that wish will come true anytime soon, which is why each of us must look for the means to find solace in our own way.

Trophies for Every Child

Sadly, there are sore losers, and frighteningly, I’m seeing more name-calling and anger than any time in the last year. In a world where every child receives a trophy, where we must not hurt any feelings, it’s a time when we all have to swallow a dose of reality.

How We Deal with Losses

No one cherishes the idea of losing, but in any contest we enter, we understand that not everyone will be a winner. We are each dealt our cards, and we have to handle the outcome. It seems to me that how we deal with our losses is what defines who we really are. Are we dignified and high-road? Or are we low-road and sore losers? 

Each time any of us is challenged by a loss or by adversity, we’re made stronger. Pain always equals gain. And though we don’t want to face our pain, we always grow from it.

Why? Why?

Though it may seem odd, my prayers are not a wish to Santa Claus in hopes of gifts for Christmas. Though I’m tempted to ask for more, or for perfect outcomes, or for winning, I try to ask for what I need, but in all cases, I simply ask for God’s will. I figure He knows a lot better than me. And, as I browse my life, I’m thankful that my prayers of the past were not all answered. Though our losses may be painful and seem unreasonable, there is always a plan, and trusting in that plan and learning lessons is helpful. Learning to trust may be the hardest lesson of all when things in our lives don’t seem to make sense. Why would this happen to me? Why not? Maybe pain is forging a lesson we all need.

When Pain Is OK

The absolute best things that have happened in my life have always emerged from the most difficult and painful moments. It’s when maturity sets in. Those moments make you raw, which makes you sit up and take notice of things you were not seeing. That’s why I want my kids to lose from time to time. Though I pray for their safety, I also pray that they face adversity and difficult challenges, because I know that will serve them better than perfect lives. I want them to experience pain, I want them to be frustrated and challenged, I don’t want them to win every contest or do everything they are trying to accomplish in their lives. Their lives will be better, more appreciated, if things are not always as they wish.

A Tough Moment

Flashing back to fourth grade, my life was crushed. My Ds and Fs resulted in my being held back because I’d come in before I was ready to go to school. I was suddenly an outcast. My friends from kindergarten moved on while I stayed back. I was a marked man. And it was no secret from the third-graders, who were now my equals. All of this resulted in a very difficult time making friends. It was a painful time, and I was very angry at my parents. I did not understand it, and I was not mature enough to realize that it was no one’s fault but my own. I blamed my parents, teachers, principal, and others, but I never accepted the blame for my own actions. In hindsight, it made me stronger, made me work harder, made me come out of my shell, and helped me develop skills and coping mechanisms that helped form who I am today. It was not fun at the time, and I’m sure my parents had a tough discussion about whether it was the right thing, but it was.

Pushing a Little Harder

Now that my kids are in college, I look back and realize they needed more pain growing up. They needed to work harder, they needed to be challenged more. We kind of let them decide what they wanted to be involved with, and we felt sorry for the kids whose parents forced them to play sports or take piano lessons. But we may have been wrong, because pushing kids beyond their own wishes develops important skills, and the pain of all those kids pushed to do things resulted in their developing talents and self-esteem, and perhaps a work ethic that gives them an advantage. Though I have few regrets, I can see some lacking life skills because we protected them from pain. 

Tough Love

We have a small monthly cash budget we give our kids in college. They don’t really need much money because meals are covered, but a little for gas or extras is helpful. But we’ve made it clear: They get it on the first of each month, not a day sooner, just like a paycheck, and they have to make their money last. This week one of our kids is already asking for his December money in early November. Though it’s tempting to help, we said no. He needs some pain, he needs to learn to manage his money, he needs the reality of life, and if he needs extra, he needs motivation to go make it. The pain won’t be fun, but it will be better than not having learned how to manage his money once he has a family.

None of us wants to face the hard decisions in life or the tough love moments with our families, yet it’s losses, failures, and pain that make us stronger. We can’t all get our way all the time. Therefore hold your head high, be a high-road person, and move on. And ask, what am I supposed to be learning from this moment in time?

What about you? What lessons should you be seeking?

Eric Rhoads

PS: There has to be more to life than working all the time. Due to quarantines, people are discovering they need something more. As a result of the forwarding of this blog to others, and tens of thousands subscribing, and my “pitch” that art is good for each of us and enriches our souls, I’m hearing of people all over the world who are trying art for the first time. Many are signing up for lessons locally, others are using our videos online, others are watching me at noon ET daily on YouTube and Facebook, where I have artists teaching, and still others are watching the free 3 p.m. ET video of the over 600 art instruction videos we’ve produced. I find this very encouraging, and I want to help you grow and discover yourself through your art.

A foundation in art is critical, and it starts with learning what we call values (lights and darks). I have a few free lessons to get you started. Hope you’ll check them out. 

Our online virtual conferences are really bringing the world together and teaching thousands of artists worldwide. Our next is in January; it’s called Watercolor Live. Watercolor is a terrific place to start, and we’ve got the world’s finest artists on this 4-day event (Beginner’s Day is one of the days). It’s a great way to dip your toe in the water without the expense or commitment of an in-person event.