When We Let Joy Lead
By Julie Daley
WHEN WE LET JOY LEAD
I’ve been thinking about the power of one’s positive legacy and the power of the good and beautiful things in our lives that bring forth a life of meaning and joy. The Dark Side is powerful, yes, but nowhere near as powerful as your Spiritual Self. When we let joy lead, we come to know just how powerful, creative, and mysterious we are.
THE JOY OF CHILDHOOD
I grew up in Palo Alto when it was a sleepy college town and Silicon Valley was slowly emerging. We lived in an unincorporated part of Palo Alto called Barron Park where there were no sidewalks. Our neighborhood cul-de-sac was the site of a number of annual communal celebrations. It was truly an amazing place to grow up, a hotbed of vibrant creative expression.
I went to preschool just down the street from home. My fondest memory of preschool is of painting. When painting time was announced, I would jump up from my chair, put on my painting smock, and run out the screen door to the backyard where sawhorse-plywood tables covered with bright white butcher paper awaited.
I distinctly recall the feeling of painting and how much I loved the experience of yellow paint spreading across the long white paper. I felt so much joy and freedom when I was painting. Even though things were rough at home, there were times like this when I clearly felt my soul shine.
Then, about eight years later, my mother enrolled me in painting classes at the Palo Alto Art Club downtown. Suddenly, painting got serious. I remember standing in front of my easel, brush in hand, palette loaded with oil paint at my side, along with what I remember now to be a ‘stern’ teacher. I’m not sure she was, but as a child I was extremely sensitive to criticism. My greatest memory, the one that has stuck with me to this day, is how I felt in front of my easel as she picked my work apart. I cringed as she critiqued my work. It was horrible to feel like I was incapable of doing something correctly that I loved so much.
POSITIVE MATERNAL LEGACY
My mother, her mother, and my mother’s mother were all painters. I have paintings from all three women. While I inherited the love of painting, I came to believe that I didn’t inherit their artistic talent.
I remember the joy I saw in my mother’s eyes when she hung a new painting in our house or when she sold her work. Our next-door neighbors purchased a beautiful painting of a sail boat on open water. Fifty years later, it’s still hanging in their living room.
For me, two things are true: painting is a big part of the positive legacy from my mother’s maternal line and I was born a child who had a natural love of painting. Yet, here’s the rub: one of the hardest things for me to do is to step up to a blank canvas. When I do, I am immediately beset with fears of how ‘bad’ it will be even before the brush hits the canvas. It’s a Dark Side attack, extraordinaire.
WHERE JOY TAKES US
I’ve realized that instead of focusing on the fear of what could go wrong, I can turn to look at what is simply true, good, and beautiful. Just this act of turning toward the good and the beautiful opens up a fertile field of possibility that awaits my participation. It’s more than just a blank canvas. It’s the feeling of being a creator and turning to face the mysterious nature of creativity itself. This is what I found joy in as a child and what awaits me when the Dark Side quiets. I can feel, sense, and see the beauty and goodness that’s always been here.
First and foremost, for me – the real me, not the Dark Side – making art is not about money nor is it about others liking my work. Making art is the expression of the Spiritual Self through the body, intellect, and emotional self. Money and appreciation might come down the line, but at the heart of it, making art is truly about self-love. Self-expression is a beautiful way to love ourselves.
When I am willing to quiet the Dark Side and turn toward my true self, I am loving myself. To let myself have what brings me joy, what I love, and what is inherently true for me, feels almost forbidden – but not completely. Maybe this is what the Dark Side fears most – that life can be filled with joy; because when we let joy lead, where joy will take us is a complete mystery!