My heart is in the right place, but sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut. Over the past few years, I’ve offered to draw something for three different people who experienced tragedies. I’m not the best at articulating my love, but I know how to draw it—that is until my ego gets in the way. Within hours of offering the gifts, I began to panic, “What am I supposed to draw? It must be really memorable and fit the occasion. It should inspire them every time they look at it. I can’t just draw anything?!” This is when the chronic guilt begins. “Why did I offer? What’s wrong with me? I’m going to disappoint this person.” The guilt stalks me for days, which turn into weeks, then into months and sadly enough, the months turn into years.
I promised the above illustration to a bereaved friend two years ago. Actually, she requested that I draw something different , which was perfectly reasonable considering I asked her what she wanted illustrated. This friend had helped me cope through a tragedy and I wanted to repay her. The trouble was that what she wanted drawn didn’t resonate with me. Should that have mattered? I don’t think it should have and yet it did. Drawing to help someone cope with a tragedy can be emotionally tolling. It’s not a commission, since I’m usually offering, and it doesn’t feel like a physical offering; it’s me expressing a love too deep to explain in words. It was’t her fault and I should have clarified things, but I didn’t. Instead I drew nothing and thought about her illustration almost every day throughout those two years.
If the offering stemmed from love, then why did my ego come into play? My ego was really my fear. I was afraid that she would underestimate the degree with which I cared. Of course this was irrational because the mere gesture indicated that I cared. But unfortunately I’ve spent so many years building up walls that I have often misunderstood my own capacity for love. I’ve spent just as many years trying to deconstruct these walls using logical reasoning. This didn’t get me very far. Objectively, I understood why I had erected the walls, but this didn’t give me enough strength to remove them. Then I began drawing again and brick by brick the walls have begun to come down. I haven’t given up on logical reasoning because it grounds me. I’ve just decided to complement it with my emotional intelligence.
Why did I decide to finally draw this illustration for my bereaved friend? On Sunday night, I had a deep conversation with another friend about overcoming fears and the illusion of plentiful moments. He said that we behave as if we have an unlimited well of moments from which to drink, so we rarely take the time to savor each one. This made me think of my bereaved friend. What if I never have the moment to give her the illustration? I instantly knew that I needed to start drawing.
“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
What moments are you waiting to happen to you?