Gratefulness Challenge Day 10

Day ten! Not only have I made it to double digits (remember how exciting that was as a kid?) but I am a third of the way through my gratefulness challenge! Haven’t run out of things to be grateful for yet. Here’s to another 20 awesome days!

1. The generosity of others: I am always amazed at how much people are willing to give for nothing. Considering we live in a culture that is frequently described as selfish, self centred, and financially driven, the fact that I still see so much generosity makes me really glad. Perhaps I simply choose to see the world through a very optimistic lens, but I’d rather believe that people just genuinely enjoy giving.

Because giving actually feels really great. It is a wonderful feeling to know that you were able to help someone. Maybe I’m a little extreme but I actually get just as excited to watch others open presents I’ve gotten them as I am to open gifts I receive. It makes me happy when I am in a position where I can do something significant for someone else. Even personally knowing how great giving feels I am still always shocked when other are willing to do the same for me.

Working in the performing arts it is constantly drilled in to our heads by society that what we do is worthless, uninteresting and gives nothing back to society. Even though I fully disagree with those thoughts knowing that there are people out there which think that about what I do has caused me to feel really uncomfortable about asking people not in the field for help. I never want to be a nuisance or a burden. I had a fellow artists this summer say the following to me about this topic and it really shook me: “Everyone wants to be doing what you’re doing (creating a life that you love). Some of them even wanted to be artists at one point, but gave up on the idea. For that reason alone they will want to help you.”

And how right they were! Almost any kind of gift you can think of many people are willing to give. They don’t even necessarily have to believe in what you’re doing, they just have to believe in you. And I’m not only talking about gift related to my creative pursuits. I have been the receivers of many amazingly generous gifts in various areas of my life. Whether it’s the receptionist that didn’t make me pay for my yoga mat when I forgot mine this week or the colleague that lent me her home for a day, the amount that people are willing to give for nothing always takes me by surprise. I guess they have figured out the true definition of happiness: It is not about how much you have, it is about how much you are able to share with others.

2. Strong work relationships: I am currently in production of a new work (which I will share with you all in due time). For this project I am collaborating with one of my closest friends, and a wonderful artist, Aria Evans. We have been friends for a while and have collaborated on many different projects over the years.

Working as part or a team is pretty hard to avoid in most line of works, but especially in artistic fields. Working with friends can be hard though, especially when the boundaries between friend and co-worker are quite grey. I know of, and have even experienced, many a relationship between great friends which has gone sour when they try and create something together. The reality is though, at least for what I do, that pretty much everyone knows everyone in the field and most people are good friends. The arts community is small and we spend so much time dedicated to our work, that as a result the people we see the most are our fellow artists.

It becomes crucial to be able to separate the fight you had in the studio that morning from the beer you are sharing at the bar that night. On the flip side it is detrimental to the work that you feel comfortable voicing your concerns and don’t censor your comments in fear of upsetting a good friend.

And that’s why I love working with Aria. Through trial and error we have developed a working relationship where we both feel heard. We have learned to be willing to compromise and give each other’s ideas a try and also feel comfortable being assertive when something is important to us. We’ve become really good at reading each other and that helps a lot.

Most importantly, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we use that to our advantage. Aria is really great at dreaming up these big amazing ideas. I on the other hand am a little more practical in the way my thoughts process. From her I have learned to give things a try even if they don’t seem perfect because it just might work. I have also become less confrontational when I think her ideas are bat shit crazy and instead just try and get us to dig deeper so as to find clarity. I’ve noticed that since we first started to collaborate she has become better at organizing once the initial picture has been painted. She also knows me well enough to usually predict which ideas I’m going to have some technical questions about therefore is prepared for those discussion.

I am grateful to have Aria, as well as a few other great people who I work really well with in collaboration. It is so exciting to get to create art with people that support your vision and compliment your personal process.

3. Empathy: Sympathy is wonderful but the connection which comes from empathy I find to be on a very different level. I think as humans we are constantly searching for things we have in common with each other. It is those similarities which help us form the beginning of bonds and to feel like we belong.

In life there are many tragedies. No one wants to experience any form of pain, but we all will. It is wonderful to have friends and family to support us through those times, but sometimes it can be hard when the people you hold near and dear don’t have personal experience with what you are going through. It is not that we wish others to experience the pain in our lives, but it does make moving through difficult periods easier when you have someone who understands the journey you are on.

In my family we recently have experienced some tragic losses and I have been very fortunate to have a strong community of family and friends show me both sympathy and empathy. Last night though I had friends go through similar experiences as I have in the past few months and was able to pass on the empathetic sentiment. It was while sitting with them that I finally understood the true beauty of empathy. Not only is it comforting for the person receiving the sentiment, but it is also very healing for the person giving it. In that moment I saw my story of pain from an entirely new perspective. I could see my past in what my friends were experiencing and bond over those shared thoughts and emotions. I could also see the difference between their present state and mine. A few months ago I was the one needing support, and I still definitely do, but the fact that I am now able to play a supportive role for others is a true marker of just how far I have come.

It is hard to see the good in the bad. Nothing will ever make tragedy easy, or right, or wanted,or better but since it must be experienced from time to time, I am grateful for the empathetic capacity it gives us. Both so that others are able to offer it to me when I need it and so that I myself may pass it along.

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