"The turquoise and gold call out to me, my heart leaps as I envision golden butterflies, wings fluttering up the page. And I pick up the brush to manifest them, and they begin to take shape ... a clumsy, bubbly, child-like shape, not very much like butterflies at all, really. Stupid and dumb, the scribbler doodles of an 8-year-old who dots her i's with hearts.
Or so says a voice in my head ... except it's not a voice, there are no words, no critical monologue, no vicious rant. It's just that my chest tightens, my shoulders stiffen, and I feel like giving up, because I obviously can't do it "right". I don't have to wait for the voice at all - my body contracts, and I know what it will say.
The butterflies in my head are bold, confident, beautiful, quirky, brave, artsy things - mature, grounded, risk-taking, unfolding, shimmering with all the excitement of their act of becoming. Dancing, leaping, full of energy and motion ... joyous motion.
But the butterflies on the page just sit there, like bubbly lumps, not even the suggestion of a flutter. The only motion is the tightness in my chest. I want to give up. But I paint them anyway, breathing into the tightness, the disappointment of where I am and its distance from where I want to be. Because starting ANYHOW is essential. And persevering EVEN THOUGH is, too. Start close in. With the first step.
And the more I keep painting these butterflies, letting them be as they are, the more fondness I feel for them. Perhaps, some day, if I dedicated myself to painting gossamer-winged beings, perhaps eventually they would fly off the page. Maybe I end up dedicating myself to other things. But, regardless, one must start. Be present to where one is, not where or how one ought to be.
The first bubbly butterfly, or awkward presentation, or grant proposal, or community program. You don't have to draw perfect butterflies. But if your heart is calling you to draw golden butterflies on a turquoise background, listen to its call. You are not accountable to the mythical, imaginary butterflies in your mind. You are accountable to the paper in front of you, and the paint, and the art of starting, that small humble step where you stumble into making mistakes in the real world.
The ideal that flutters there in your mind should be inspiration, not impediment. Your job is not to recreate it, but to take one tangible, honest, authentic step in its direction. And then another. What would it look like, my 20th butterfly canvas? My 100th? You can never know unless you paint the first one."