So… many of these stories will come from my “off days,” as that is when I seem to do a large part of my reflecting. Actually, I usually think when I run; however, my off days are when I sit still long enough to record things. Anyhow, off days are often times pretty difficult for me, I am a self-diagnosed exercise addict who has come to perfect terms with their disorder and 98% of the time throughly enjoys the experience. When I do force myself to take an off day, I often have to plan out my day to keep myself from running or feeling guilty for not (like a little kid I pack in all sorts of goofy activities so to entertain myself.) Yesterday after work it was gorgeous outside… I often hope for nasty days when I have to take off because I like to think that no one else is enjoying the day either!
Anyway, to take advantage of the day I strolled to the park with some art supplies and hopes of bumping into a 20-something art enthusiast brunet (or blond,) and sat on one of the more popular hills to put the spring landscape onto canvas. I became quickly frustrated (happens often on off days actually) because I couldn’t find the right scene to paint; the view that I liked didn’t have any of the good spring foliage in it, and all the good flowers and wildlife was near the road. I couldn’t seem to find a spot that had both vibrant springtime color and a fun landscape, they seemed mutually exclusive. It was then that I realized that I was the one painting the picture and I could put whatever I damn well pleased onto the canvas! I painted the view from the top of the hill, then I stuck in a couple tulips (the manly kind of course,) a little red kite, and finally a big dog devouring a frisbee in midair. It was then that I took out my leather clad journal (very emersonian) and started writing my thoughts on the art escapade.
I often spend so much of my energy on what if’s, should have’s, ought to’s, and so forth that my “type A” inclinations destroy my more fun “type C” personality traits. For as free as a person that I often come across, I hold inside of me lots of self-made rules, regulations, schedules, and the like. It was around the time I was putting the final touches on my perfectly placed flower that I realized, I am the artist of my own life! Instantly I was free from the guilt of a day off, so much so that I decided to pack up my art bag and go out and make some new friends at the bar.
I walked home, through on my favorite pair of jeans, and meandered out to the local cigar bar. “But Ryan, runner’s don’t smoke cigars” you say. Remember, we paint our own picture! I sat out and smoked one of the craziest, biggest, and may I say “robust” cigars with six incredibly entertaining guys. The first was a very large black man with a derby hat and the wit and wisdom of… well of someone really witty and wise! Another was a half black, half German Jewish man with a Russian wife who spoke at length about a $500 vacuum that he had recently bought from the “upscale” vacuum shop next door. Two others were my age and we shared along with the cigars a bottle of Basil Hayden Bourbon (a personal favorite,) which made THREE HOURS that we sat around go buy quite quickly. Finally there were two guys in from Jersey who really, really loved to talk about the food, or lack there of, in Louisville (supposedly we don’t hold up to Jersey standards down here… Honestly though, Chicago has Pizza, Phili has the Cheese Steak, Maryland the Crab Cake, and Louisville the Hot Brown… but what the hell does Jersey have???)
Needless to say, I stumbled back home that last night smiling because I realized yesterday that life is really too short to be taken too seriously. We all paint our own picture and it is up to us whether we choose to paint flowers or fire. Our minds are incredibly interesting and far too powerful things… Milton wrote in his work Paradise Lost, that “Our minds have the unique ability to make a Heaven out of a Hell and a Hell out of a Heaven.” We often forget that we are the ones that create our own destiny. That our attitude affects how people treat us and how we treat ourselves. We take our life to seriously at times and forget to play, to let down our guard, to be unproductive, and to not feel at all guilty about sucking down an expensive cigar with a side of good Bourbon. God gifted us with free will way back in the time of Adam and Eve and, though there are many who take advantage of that free will, there equally many of us never allow ourselves to paint with the full color palette that is life. Paint boldy and paint beautifully!