I have become quite adept at living in the present moment. I used to head straight for the future, anticipating every possible scenario, ruminating–which, unless you are a cow, serves no purpose whatsoever–and giving myself a major headache in the process. Painting is part exhilaration, part meditation, part obliteration. The importance of focusing on the here-and-now in clinical practice was drummed into our heads when my classmates and I were studying the art of doing therapy. Living in the present doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for the future, whether it’s buying a shovel in anticipation of a blizzard that may never materialize or practicing for a recital at Carnegie Hall. The question is: How much?
When I paint, I have no use for the future. In fact, the future interferes with my desire to be in the present. That, I grant you, is pure luxury. The luxury of spending hours locked into my art bubble, elated when I mix a new, unexpected color, deflated when a simple stroke escapes me.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Living in the here-and-now is only possible if we have made arrangements for the future. I, for one, am constantly reminded of the future when my medication alarm goes off, six times a day. I promptly take my pills, and continue painting. Living with a chronic illness forces you to pay attention to time. And time is, in a way, the enemy of art. Artists do not wear watches. Artists do not like deadlines.
But I have found that practicing art is, in essence, a strategy for survival. The path to happiness and fulfillment. During those hours when no alarm goes off, I relish the present, relinquish the past and do not anticipate the future.
And therein, my friends, lies the power of art.