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106.1 The River

Go Ahead and Fling It. I Dare Ya.
By Cindi Alpert

I recently organized a family outing at a Knoxville art studio called Painting with a Twist. They have guided art classes that include your canvas, paints, and instruction while you unleash your inner artist over a two to three hour time period. Everyone in our group was excited to attend with the exception of one person, my husband. You would have thought I was dragging him to ballroom dance lessons, something I did before our wedding day. We were much younger then and more open to new things, but after several dance classes, we finally had to call it quits when he flung me into the plant during a tango. Well, at least he was passionate about it. As for the painting, to my surprise, he really enjoyed himself. In fact, he was so proud of his work, he had to take it over to the next room and show off his masterpiece to a bachelorette party of about 30 women giggling and drinking wine. Go figure.

As I was observing our group and watching the works unfold and come together, I noticed something very profound. The children were very free and flowing with their strokes, almost reminiscent of Matisse or Van Gogh, while the adults were more deliberate and controlled. I thought about this for a moment, and it occurred to me that this was no coincidence, and one does not need a degree in child psychology to see the point. Just think about it. When you were a child, there was probably no stopping your creativity. If you wanted to draw a flower with a dragon head, you did it without hesitation just because it made you happy. Then, eventually one day someone told you that real flowers don’t grow dragon heads, and you listened because you didn’t want to be laughed at, which brings to mind this interesting tidbit. Did you know that a five-year-old laughs an average of 500 times per day while the average adult laughs about 25 times? Just imagine going throughout your day and getting an absolute kick out of everything that crosses your path. (That is without any mind altering substances influencing you, of course.)

So what has happened to us… to me? How did I get this way? Since when did I become so uptight, obsessive, and worried about what others think? A good friend of mine who is qualified to give such advice recently told me that everything flows easier if you just release your self-loathing, guilt, and anxiety, and do as writer Anne Lamott says and just leave everything lay where Jesus flang it. Good advice indeed, but let it be known that my husband likes to spit this quote back at me when I ask him to clean the garage. I don’t think that’s what Lamott meant when she said “flang it.” For me, just hearing those words makes me want to pull out my old Enya album, fling paint around with a fan blowing behind me, and see where it lands. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

I think a lot of it has to do with fear. Most adults are afraid of failure, of embarrassment, of judgment. When I sing with young musicians around town, most of them products of the University of Tennessee Jazz Program, I have to admire their confidence while on stage. They have this attitude like “eh, let the music go where it goes.” They flicker their eyes around and go off on some musical tangent without even a second thought. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered that when jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and inhibition and turn on those that let self-expression flow. I believe this to be true, because I’ve seen it. I, on the other hand, do not speak their language and just wait for the nod from the guitar player so I know when to come back in with vocals. I used to require rehearsals, charts, and definite stops and starts in the music to feel comfortable in front of an audience. Now, after working with these talented young guys, I have learned to relax on stage and trust in them as musicians and in myself as a professional. It’s a lot more fun this way for us and for the audience. I suppose this is a step in the right direction for me.

I am by no means an expert on this subject, nor am I pretending to understand child psychology, but I know what makes me happy. Throwing some paint around while laughing and spending quality time with my family makes me smile, makes me feel free, makes me feel like a kid again. And yes, that is a giant spider with vampire teeth coming out of this gorgeous sunflower I just painted. Ain’t it cool?

Photo by Jeff Haas

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