So many times our lives feel like they’ve been reduced to a to-do list we’re forever trying to finish. We tear through our weeks, striving to find a balance between doing and being, giving to others and taking care of ourselves. Even a happy life can be reduced to a black-and-white list of things accomplished. What if we think of life in a different way? What if we think about our days as blank canvases, waiting for us to paint them? What if we turn our lives into an art form, picturing each of our activities as a color?
Most of us spend a good deal of time working for the benefit of others, or to support ourselves financially. Even if we don’t especially enjoy our jobs, there is beauty in them, in the benefits they bring to us and others. We can think of them as the base color of our canvases, and picture those hours painted a favorite color. Our free time gives us a chance to add accent colors to our base color.
Just as each artist has her own vision for her art, each person will have her own vision for her life’s canvas: some people will want theirs primarily filled with one color, and others will want a canvas splashed with multiple colors. Some will gleefully spatter their canvases with bright tones, while others will choose a more muted, serene palette. I like variety, so I’m happiest when my paintings have multiple colors. My ideal canvas would have plenty of purple and blue, the colors I associate with reading and writing. I’d also have strokes of red for physical activity, green for working for my family, even some yellow for doing nothing. (I’m not sure how a literal painting like this would look, but my imaginary painting looks great!)
At the end of each day, when we look at our finished canvases, what do we notice? Is our free time primarily filled with things we value? Have we let too much work take over? Or too much mindless entertainment? What about self-care, or acts of kindness? Do they appear? What does a week of canvases look like? A month? A year?
We are the artists of our own lives—why don’t we paint some masterpieces? (For more parallels between art and life, see “Artful Living: Applying the Five Es”.)
If your day was a painting, what colors would you fill your canvas with, and what would they represent?