When people ask me what my wife Terri is like, I like to tell the story of how I once walked into the kitchen and found her with her head halfway in the oven. She was in there a good five minutes before she came out.
She looked at me and smiled. “The hairdryer broke.”
After 35 years of marriage, cupid’s arrow still shoots straight into my heart. Who needs Victoria’s Secret when your wife is roasting inside the oven?
Of course, this was far from being a simple solution to a problem; it was the ultimate creative act from one of today’s new breed of artists—individuals who create art with their lives.
I put on the oven mittens and threw my arms around her. “What would I do without you?” I asked.
“Probably starve,” she replied as she flipped her hair over and put herself back into the oven.
It’s true. I would starve. It’s also true that I don’t know what I’d do without her. She is the heart and soul of our family, and I don’t mind saying the best thing that’s happened to me. And, of course, she will tell you that I rank very high on her list as well.
I won’t tell you Terri’s whole story, except to say that she’s a wife, mother, and teacher, who doesn’t care much for mimes, clowns, or animals dressed up in costumes. If you want to watch her eyes light up—give her some tweezers and let her pluck through my eyebrows.
Look deeper, and you’ll see a hard-working, down-to-earth, straight-shooter who tells you exactly how she feels. Go deeper still, and you’ll find one of the most compassionate, funny, and wisest souls you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet.
I’m biased, but it’s true.
Of course, it’s the “head-in-the-oven” story that they’ll write about in the history books, a testament to my wife and her life as a full-fledged working artist. I know this is ironic, considering she will happily tell you that she doesn’t have a creative bone in her body.
Like so many people in this world—maybe you—she doesn’t understand that creativity is not about whether you can dance, sculpt, write, draw or play a musical instrument, or even how innovative you are in your business.
Real art is how you approach life, and not just when the hairdryer works.
Like most people, Terri’s a busy woman, and her life isn’t easy. She juggles two jobs, finances, broken water heaters, dead squirrels, hectic schedules, and a high maintenance husband who can’t walk a straight line and needs everything repeated twice. If there’s anybody who deserves to be on a beach in the Bahamas, it’s Terri. Of course, she’d also like a roof that doesn’t leak water into our toaster, but that’s a job for another husband in another life.
While many things would make her days easier, none of these are required for her to have a good life. She knows what all real artists know—art isn’t about creating the perfect life, but how we respond to the life we have, how we bring meaning, optimism, and hope to our small corner of the earth.
And it is in these small moments where my wife truly shines as an artist, elevating the ordinary day into something worth framing and putting up on the wall. When you’ve been around Terri long enough, you can’t help but feel as if there’s not a moment in her day that isn’t important, that doesn’t have intention behind it, as well as purpose and love. All of her day matters. Even the tiniest details.
And as any artist will tell you, art is in the details.
And, let’s be clear. From the moment we get up in the morning, we’re all using our metaphorical brushes and creating art. We do it with every tiny choice and insignificant moment in our lives. We’re making art on the freeway, in the office, on elevators, and at the market. We’re making art while we’re getting dressed, greeting co-workers, and feeding our dogs. We’re also making art in the illnesses we face, the divorces we go through, and the way we choose to retire or start new careers.
We’re making art in how we choose to splash color into our day, along with flair, humor, and surprise. We’re making art every time we stitch together meaning where none existed, or create joy where there was none.
Being an artist with our lives is not only about seeing the oven as a solution to dry our hair but as a creative pathway to a richer and deeper life.
I have spent most of my life as a working creative, and yet my wife, more than anyone I know, is the one who’s been living the true artist’s life. She has turned 60 years into a walking expression of living her truth and standing for what she believes.
Hopefully, a tiny fraction of that has rubbed off on me.
Putting the Creative and Awakened Life Into Practice
Oxygen Buzz Challenge #3: Making Your Life a Work of Art
Something to Ponder
- Art belongs to anyone who chooses to express his or her inspired self. And there’s no more important place to start than with our lives and the choices we make.
- Claiming your life as a creative act will make whatever else you choose to create more beautiful and authentic.
Living the Artist’s Life
- Get up each morning and claim your creative self. Accept that there’s not a moment in your day that can’t be turned into a personal expression of what you believe and how you choose to live.
- Choose two or three daily routines to reframe as art. Find specific ways to add color, flair, humor, joy, surprise, and delight into your routine. Brainstorm your ideas on paper, then put them into practice.
- Fall in love with process, technique, and approach. Let the journey be your art.
- Ask yourself how you can bring a “head in the oven” mentality to the current challenges in your life. Shift your mindset to see the solutions to your challenges as both a creative act that solves a problem AND the doorway to more meaning in your life.
- Once you’re using your life as an instrument for art, start making other kinds of art. Remind yourself that you don’t need permission to be an artist. You don’t need to make money or have natural talent. You need to make something. Balloon animals. Muffins. Music in the shower. Be more concerned with how you approach your art than what your art looks like.
- Let this be the week you become both the artist and the artwork. And as you do, remember that the same genius that flowed through Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci is now flowing through you. But instead of Hamlet or the Mona Lisa, you are giving the world your own masterpiece. It’s called your life.
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