July 12, 2017 – When it’s hard to focus

Some of the light and color that caught my eye on our trip.

Joe and I have been back a week and a half from a rich and full trip to Paris and several places in Italy with my family.  Since coming home life has been full – working with Carla, our bookkeeper, Fourth of July activities, getting everything out of the kitchen for the start of a remodel, dealing with a front yard that is infested with fleas (!) and preparing for and teaching a color workshop last weekend – on top of my regular groups.  Plus – there has been the jet lag.  I usually have no problem coming west, but I’ve been just done every evening since we flew home – though it’s been just 7pm, it may as well have been midnight for as tired as I am.  This has meant that I’ve barely painted since a few days before we left on June 22.  I’ve not gone three weeks without painting in so long I can’t remember – I know it has been years.

Spending time in my studio making art has become part of what makes me feel like me.  And even though this is the case, it’s still easy for me to be pulled away from it.  I look at my studio – which has become a dumping ground for everything that I don’t know what to do with – as we’ve made the dining room into a temporary kitchen/pantry – and I wistfully imagine myself sitting at my painting table, listening to music and working the colors on the paper to make something come through.  Why can’t I get myself to get in there and paint?

Yesterday morning I read last Friday’s Painter’s Keys post.  Sara told a story about Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.  They were asked independently if there was one single word that described what helped them the most in their lives.  They both came up with the same word: focus.  Focus.  Yes, I can see how letting all distractions fall away, or ignoring them, or operating in the face of them towards a singular aim would contribute to mastery, to one’s success.  As I then hiked up the hill with Bo, I pondered what focusing is for me – it is necessary that I focus in the process of painting, but I also need to focus in order to organize and commit to the act of painting.  If I am to paint, I must look away from email, clear the clutter in my space, get out my palette and put clean water in my container – brushes, paint, image. Go.

Yet, things clamor for my attention and it’s so easy for that focus to evaporate.  A few more paces up the hill, I remind myself I am a feminine-oriented being – and we don’t have the natural ability to focus as much as masculine-oriented beings do.  Biologically we are still the gatherers.  Hunters are wired to keep their attention trained on the deer.  They aren’t just ignoring – it goes further – they have the capacity to not even take in what is occurring peripherally – as if it weren’t even happening.

Gatherers, on the other hand, have brains that are made to mind the little ones, dig roots, collect the ripe berries all the while keeping an ear out for predators.  I had the thought that if indeed what it takes to become a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett is focus, then it’s no accident they are both males – both hunters.  It’s no wonder then that feminine people don’t wield nearly as much influence in the material world.  A part of me doesn’t know whether to feel relieved – as it is so hard because I’m not made to easily focus – or if I should be depressed that gatherers may never have their influence, unless how we are wired changes.

(I feel compelled to remind you that I don’t mean all men and all women in what I’m saying here. Everyone knows men who have a hard time focusing and women who seem to quite easily – I was born to one.  Still, the majority of women are innately feminine and most men operate from the masculine. On top of this how we see and express gender is exploding which blurs the differences.  Nevertheless, regardless of biological gender, these ways of operating are real and I find it helpful to see their distinctions.)

It is my deep belief that the theme for the life I’m living this go round is to seek balance and harmony between the masculine and the feminine – both within myself and in my relationships with others.  Until fairly recently, I’ve lived my adult life in a way that was more masculine (active, goal-oriented, practical, efficient), than meets with my innate rhythms.  In the last seven years I’ve learned about what it means to be and live from the feminine.  I have experienced a shift in both what it feels like to be me, and in how I operate.  I do focus less readily on tasks, but I also intuit a whole lot more and see patterns and connections.  And I feel people and situations more deeply. And what is most visible to my outer world is that my tuner has been reset – to pick up light, color and beauty.

Sara Genn’s post revealed something else about Warren Buffett.  She quotes him as saying:  “I can’t tell you the color of the walls in my bedroom or my living room, I don’t have a mind that relates to the physical universe well.”  We cannot be everything.  Warren Buffett is Warren Buffet because he’s not distracted from his pursuits – from his focus – by his physical surroundings.

I’m (slowly) learning that life goes better when we lean into who we are.  Which leads to something else she quoted Warren Buffett as saying:  Warren says he focuses on his “circle of competence.”  He says “I don’t worry about things that are outside that circle.”  We don’t think about it this way, but what if seeing beauty, feeling deeply, sensing the infinite – what if being feminine is a “competence?”  What if our future needs for more of us to focus on the feminine circle of competence – instead of just getting more done (which for me even includes making more paintings)?

Two people who are viewed as highly successful each identified focus as the quality that helped them amass gigantic financial wealth and power.  And we admire them because they use their wealth and power to care for those who suffer and are in need.  Most of us will never amass their billions.  But we can still do what is ours to do – we can live our own lives, using whatever capacity we have to focus on our sweet spots.  I see today this is my expanding feminine circle of competence.  I will continue to garner my limited capacity to focus, to pull myself away from the distractions that keep me from painting.  And, I remind myself that for me art-making happens in the context of a lifetime that is up to something else – one that is about endeavoring to bring beauty and understanding and love – to the extent that one person can.

With my love for you –


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