Spiritual Exercise

 

Make a self-portrait on an index card, a piece of paper, etc.

***

I’m going to assume that you did a drawing, although my spidey-sense tells me that you didn’t.

***

I want you to imagine a four-year old hands you a picture, drawn as well as a four-year old with very limited mastery over fine motor skills can draw.

What are the words you say when receiving seeing their art?

(A) “That’s atrocious! Do you even know what atrocious means?”

(B) “What is that supposed to be?”

(C) “That’s lovely.”

We all know the answer.

We know to be kind and encouraging when a four-year old hands us a drawing.

***

At the start of seventh grade this past September, Emmett was working on a personal coat of arms project, and I was helping him. He kept getting frustrated because it wasn’t turning out as he intended.

“It’s not fair,” he cried, “even when I try my hardest, it just doesn’t turn out right.”

I comforted him as best I could, telling him what he did looked just fine to me.

“Dad,” he chastised me, “it doesn’t matter to you. You like anything I do and anything I make; even if it’s horrible, you think it’s beautiful.”

***

People often tell me that they treat themselves less kindly than they would a four-year old because they, the adults, should know better.

We should be meaner to ourselves because we know better?

This is not sound reasoning.

If anything, four-year olds get lots of love. And, we adults need more of it.

***

I remember a middle school art teacher lauding a messy, unrealistic rainbow-hued watercolor still life I made of a sneaker.

I remember thinking she must be mentally compromised.

I don’t know how I learned to love my own works.

Or when. I’m just so glad that I do.

And wish I could get you and Emmett to think the same of your work.

***

It makes me sad that despite their lack of training, most everyone with whom I’ve done this exercise in the past 20-years ridicules themselves. 

I don’t know if this will work, but maybe the key is to practice self-love?

(If you haven’t yet, actually make the picture. No matter how atrocious it might turn out.)

Now look at it.

Practice liking it.

It might take a while to believe yourself that it’s good.

It might take you months or even ten years until you believe it.

You are worth the practice.

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Sabbath.   It’s late summer, Friday night dinner. Annie is at a birthday party. Just Jane, our 12-year old boy, and me. We sit on the patio in our backyard. Candles, a wine glass, and a challah I made. Jane made meatloaf.  Emmett and I look at each other knowing...

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