What Lessons I Hope To Take With Me In 2021

2020 has been quite a year, hasn’t it? Here in New York, we have basically been in quarantine since March 16 when the restaurants were forced to close down. We went for our “last supper” to support our favorite local restaurant. It was such a strange, eerie feeling, but we thought it would only last a few weeks. Little did we know that we would still be in strict lockdown for the rest of the year, and then some. Having our 94 and 98 year-old moms living with us makes it an extra-trying time. Our emotions range from wanting to go about our normal (will there ever be a “normal” again?) lives, which consisted of seeing our kids and our small grandchildren on an almost-daily basis like we used to, go to breakfast occasionally, run into a store now and then, and not be confined to our houses. But the practical sides of us tell us to continue to be cautious, we made it this far, we can hang on a few more months until the nice weather returns and we can be outdoors, which was a great help to our mental health.

During this year of reflection and introspection, I’ve learned many things. Even though I’m a quiet, introverted person who shies away from being put into unfamiliar social settings, I do miss not seeing the people in my small circle of life. Many are just networking acquaintances that I would see at various meetings, but I now realize that it was a part of my life that seems to have vanished forever, and was something that I took for granted and actually miss. As humans I think we all take things for granted, don’t we? I am going to try to never let that happen again, because we’ve been faced with the harsh reality that life can change in an instant, and anything that was part of our life won’t necessarily be there tomorrow when we go and look for it.

On March 6, 2020, I decided that I wanted to do something that would make me feel like I accomplished something on the other end of the quarantine. Like the shoemaker who has holes in his shoes, I am an artist who doesn’t get much time to paint, except for creating private commissions and lessons inside my virtual painting club. In an effort to hold myself accountable, I decided it had to be done publicly. So, I started going live on my Facebook page, https://www.Facebook.com/ArtbyDebbieViola, every single night! I created a painting a night, and little by little people found me. I’m a night owl, and found it especially hard to go to sleep (and still do) in the early months of the pandemic. My audience has grown by hundreds since then, and I cannot tell you how humbled I am by the outpouring of appreciation and gratitude for creating a calming environment where people want to come to every night. I’ve been told I have reduced their anxiety, helped them fall asleep, helped them during their grief, and gave them something to look forward to during these trying times.

So I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned, is that it only takes ONE. Just one act of kindness, even if it’s just one live painting session, can make a big difference in someone else’s life. Who would’ve thunk??!!! There were many times that I wanted to stop. I didn’t think I was making a difference, I was getting bored with the routine, I had a bad day; whatever the reason was, I felt like it didn’t really matter and I would just stop. But then I reminded myself of the people who reached out to me privately, who let me know that I actually did make a difference in their lives. As unbelievable as that still feels to me, I carry on for them. They give me the energy and are my reason for continuing. I don’t know where this all leads to, and sometimes that’s OK. It is serving a purpose, and I’ve learned that alone is enough of a reason. I’ve learned not to underestimate the power of sharing your superpower, whatever it is, and however small it may seem to you. Sometimes I feel like “big deal, I can paint, I’m not going to change the world with that”. But now I say, I can paint, and by sharing my talent, I’m changing someone’s world, and giving them something they might not otherwise have. And in these trying times of looking for things to grasp onto, I am so blessed that I can provide that comfort to others.

I have also learned not to be judgmental, because you never know what that person ahead of you in line may be experiencing. They may have a loved one in a hospital or nursing home that they aren’t able to visit; they may have experienced unimaginable loss with this pandemic. Be Kind. It’s as simple as that. I think I’m a good person, but going forward I will make a conscious effort to just Be Kind. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt, because I’m not walking in their shoes. I’ve definitely learned appreciation of every single thing I do have in my life. Not the material things, but the people and the relationships I value most. Those are the things that are most vulnerable and can disappear in an instant. Now, I’d much rather hang out with my husband in the living room than run to Kohl’s to buy a new top like I might normally do. I have enough clothes; besides, where am I going anyway?! If I didn’t have bigger grocery bills now, we’d certainly be saving a ton of money with all the non-essential shopping trips that have stopped.

Going forward on a creative business level, I don’t want to set too many goals that will make me feel defeated if I don’t accomplish them. But my vision is to keep this blog going on a regular, hopefully weekly or bi-weekly basis. I know I’ve tried that before, and life got in the way. This time around, with more time being spent inside, I think I can be more consistent about it. I’m learning that many are quite interested in the life on an artist — where I get my inspiration from, what my studio looks like, how I start a project, why I choose certain materials, etc. So I plan on sharing those parts of my world with you. I actually wish that on March 6, 2020 I made blogging my goal, because I would be so much further ahead than I am now. But I’ve also learned this past year, to give myself some grace. We are usually harder on ourselves than other people are. Am I right? Always looking at our downfalls instead of our accomplishments. It’s still not easy for me, but I am going to really try this time around.

To kick off that effort, I am working on being consistent. That has been my weakness, and this is the perfect time to change. I will be creating regular scheduled virtual painting workshops, along with growing my painting club membership, selling online courses, selling my paintings, and giving away my art to my followers like I’ve been doing on my Facebook page.

I look forward to this fresh start we have all been given, and hope to see you soon.

With much love and gratitude,