Many years ago, I was visiting my family in San Francisco, and my nephew, then small enough to fold up in my lap like a little frog, frustratedly told me he didn’t like a particular video game because he wasn’t any good at it. In my older, frog-holding wisdom, I told him it was ok not to be good at things, and that furthermore, if you were good at everything from the very first try, where would the fun be in that?
If you follow me on Instagram or we are friends on Facebook, or if you have been to my house or your kid has had a birthday, you will know that most of my watercolor paintings (since I picked up watercolors, around 6 months ago) are fanciful things. sets of birds or smiling chickens that sometimes sprout legs, or seem to grow from a garden, or appear right side up and upside down, silly things that don’t exist.
On the one hand, these paintings are fulfilling. People compliment them, sometimes even request them. I have even thought about making them into prints on fabric, to enliven kitchens or aprons or maybe hats? On the other hand, I know that I am painting them because I am good at them. I am the best at them! No one else paints them, so I am, by definition, the best pollito (little chicken) painter that has ever painted. So gratifying.
I recently purchased a short package of trainer sessions at the gym (stay with me here), to keep me active throughout some of this bleaker weather and these shorter days. When the trainier asked me my goals, I said as I have often said, that I would like to preserve range of motion, flexibility and muscle mass as I get older. We talked about which exercises I like and which I don’t. I tend to train legs more, because it’s easier for me, bigger muscles, they’re a terrain I know, having walked, biked and hiked my fair share, and I feel more secure training them, because I know where I’m going, and also because I have had somewhat serious injuries on both shoulders, so I kind of don’t even trust myself to know what proper arm movement is supposed to look like sometimes. “So you want to train more legs?” he asked.
I thought about it. “Not necessarily,” I said. “I feel like if given the opportunity, people will gravitate towards what they like, and are good at, and that may or may not be what is good for them.” I told him I trusted him to take me out of my comfort zone a bit.
I am under the impression that my main brain strength/personality quirk is to pull two unrelated items together and join them into one. This has served me in law school, in my current gig in marketing, and in many a conversation, though more linear thinkers may wonder what exactly is going on at times. This might be one of those times.
I hate to wax on about this um, pandemic we are having, but I think you might be thinking it, too. One of the hardest things once your basic concerns are taken care of (and you thank all of the forces and luck and privilege that made that happen) is the sameness. Same people, same places, same worries. Hell, I’ve been listening to Lil Nas X at the gym for three months now. This evening felt like time for a touch of a shakeup. I sat down to paint a couple of fanciful flower paintings, with flowers that don’t exist in real life, and I put on the Weepies, which you should totally do sometime if you are feeling kind of wistful.
If you were good at everything from the very first try, where would the fun be in that?
I regarded my fanciful flowers and thought, “what if?” What if I trust myself to get out of my comfort zone a bit. And what if I don’t have to be good at something, not the first time I try it, and maybe not ever.
It was simple, and it is not very good. Also that coffee mug actually has coffee dregs in it, and I kind of lament having a patchwork table (see below, and above). But I’m putting this out there, in case you or someone you know never was a little frog that someone held in their arms and told that they didn’t have to be good at everything the first time.