Friday, July 29, 2011

Up the Wall

Finally, I'm blogging about my art again! First of all, sincere apologies to my blog followers. If I could offer an explanation it would be this...When home becomes your 'workplace', it makes it challenging to put aside the time and space for home to also be the place where art is created. Before two months ago, working on a piece of art from home was in a sense an act of stepping away from the world and seeking refuge in my home to focus inward using my art as a vehicle. Things are a bit different for the time being. That being said though, my creativity has been amply fed recently by my surroundings and circumstances; now I feel it's time to return the favour and have my creativity give back to the world. A 2-month hiatus is quite enough. Zahida and her art are back.

Up the Wall is a piece I completed 2 months ago. It's the final piece (for the time being) of the series of ink drawings I created, devoted to the sports I love and the sports that have transformed my life over the years. Rock climbing to me will always have a special place in my heart. It's an activity I do only once in a while, although I used to do much more frequently. And unlike most of the other sports I take part in, this is one I don't do alone.

My partner in crime for this sport is my very good friend Patti - with whom I'll be running the Victoria Half Marathon this coming October. It's an activity you're forced to not do in isolation as you rely on the support of a friend to both belay you safely, and of course, cheer you on! Our many visits to Cliffhanger in Coquitlam have allowed us to have great conversations and stay in touch over the many years of friendship, as well as challenge each other to conquer obstacles, go the distance, and reach the top of the wall. And now we don't climb as often as we used to, but we achieve some of the very same objectives in our regular long distance runs and hikes up the Grouse Grind that we do together.

Rock climbing is a great workout. It works all the muscles in the body and is definitely good for strength training. It also is like a giant math and science project; it requires logic, reasoning, and often experimentation, to strategize where you place each hand and foot, and how to use physics to your advantage to get up the wall. And of course, rock climbing is a test of your will and your ability to tell the voice of fear to shut-up and take a hike. This was particularly true in my few adventures of climbing for real in the great outdoors in Squamish many years ago. Now I'm happy staying within a gym, knowing what the coloured footholds are meant to represent, but with the convenience and safety of having all the ropes properly secured and waiting for you within a gym across the street from a Timmy's. But even in the gym, you're still scaling heights of about 45 feet. And for someone who was once afraid of heights, I now love looking down when I reach the top to see exactly how high I am! It's like, "hey ground, look at me!"

So this drawing is a doodle of me climbing Up the Wall, enjoying a challenge, ecstatic about reaching the top so I can take a view at what's below, and high-five my good friend and belayer, Patti, when I get back down again. Pretty sweet stuff.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Another 'self-indulgent' blog post

While I normally focus my blog posts on actual artworks I've created, I'm not going to blog about that today. In fact, I have 3 pieces of artwork that are waiting to have their blog entries written. But I'm putting that aside for the short term, knowing that it can wait and my art will not be offended nor will their blogs lose their meaning. Today I woke up feeling low. And we all know that low is not where Zahida likes to be. In order to feel myself again, I decided to take advantage of the sunshine, walk down the road to the local library (I'm still here) and do some writing. But it's not fair to write and not share it with others. And so, here's an excerpt:

If I were to summarize what I’ve done this past month-and-something since I began my career-transition -stay-cation (and I mean stuff aside from job application work), that should summarize what’s most important to me. That is, of course, if my theory that we are what we do when given ample time off does indeed carry any weight. I've spent my time saying 'yes' to possibilities. I’ve worked on several art projects and I’ve attended several art-related events in the community put on by community-based organizations. I’ve started my half-marathon training program, pushed myself hard to kick that training program’s proverbial backside, and started doing the Grouse Grind regularly, while collecting sponsorship for a local charity. I’ve spent time with friends I’ve not seen as often as I'd like. I’ve also spent time with my family and been able to offer them assistance when they needed it even if they live a little far from where I do. And everyday I’m reminded at how lucky I am that I found true love four years ago, that I share a home with him, and more importantly I’m sharing my life with him too - my best friend.

So in a few words, based on the above description, what’s important to me? Artistic expression. Community and community-based activity. Health and fitness. Personal transformation. Social change. Facing challenge head-on with courage. Friends. Family. Love.

What do I want to do with my life, now that I have the freedom to find something new? Three options have struck me, which match the above list of important items nicely. In no particular order: 1) the arts 2) working with community-based or non-profit organization 3) working within field of health and/or fitness promotion. I believe working within any of these realms would give me a great deal of personal satisfaction. There are also many ways of combining realms together. And whatever realm does not get touched by a career I find, I know I’ll still find a way to make it fit in my life.

At first I thought that the arts was the next direction I could most see my career taking me. But it’s not true that it’s the only direction. I see myself as an artist, yes. But that’s not the only thing I see myself as. I’m many things. And I’m seeing that more and more every day. But I did focus much of my first month off on the arts. I think that was a wise move because the arts are connected to everything, in my opinion. I wrote a recent blog and described this in much detail. The gist of the entry was around how the arts are a way to express oneself and a way to make sense of the world. It’s how we imagine possibilities. It’s how we enter the depths of ourselves and see what lies within. So it’s no wonder I’d start here.

When we’re kids, we’re not afraid to create art. In fact, it excites us. We love getting our hands dirty. We create something and we revel in it. We’re anxious to show it off and have our parents display it on the fridge. We don’t care if it’s good or worth anything. We just get excited about playing, about the existence of something we created with our own hands. And we’re excited to share it with others.

Then we grow up and we become jaded and cynical, and we perceive faults where there’s no need to perceive them. We stop valuing the arts, and we stop seeing ourselves as artists and creators. We say things like, “oh, I’m not an artist” and “no, I can’t draw” because of a perceived lack of talent. We refuse to take time to play, to create, and to share ourselves with others. We worry about what others think of us, and forget that the most important opinion of ourselves is not that of someone else, but our very own self. We prioritize things that we perceive to be “responsible” and leave the arts and anything playful behind us, because we refuse to see the seriousness and power that lies within it. How can we be responsible contributing citizens of the world, working for a better tomorrow, if we refuse to nurture our imaginations? Isn’t imagination fundamental to creating a better future?

I believe my imagination allows me to be who I am; it allowed me to change my own life. I imagined what it would be like to be healthy and active, and here I am. I’m imagining myself crossing the finish line at the Victoria marathon this October within my goal finish-time, and so no doubt I will and it will feel extraordinarily rewarding. As an educator, I imagine potential and possibilities for others and that enables me to inspire them and mentor them in achieving success. Now I am trying to do that for me; I imagine myself in a meaningful career that allows me to both find joy for myself and to inspire others. And so now that’s the path down which I’m headed.

Here’s to something new. And here’s to not feeling guilty for taking the steps I feel are necessary to get there.