It Only Takes a Moment to Change Your Attitude

November 29, 2010

The post is a suggestion on changing your attitude when you’re experiencing a bad day.

Above: Page spread from my current journal. The grid paper sketch was completed in a notebook I carried around with me on this day—I had to travel light so I couldn't carry the large journal. I was working with a thin point Staedtler Pigment Liner. I glued the paper in that afternoon and later that night added additional sketches of the French Bull Dog. The page had been pre-painted with metallic rubberstamp ink. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

You can be having the worst day in your life, but if you are a visual person it only takes a wink of recognition to whip you out of it. You'll see something that you love: the light on a puddle, the smile of a mother walking with her child, the blazing colors of fall leaves, the odd fashion juxtapositions of people waiting at a bus station, or the intent gaze of a dog—and you'll have to sketch.

Trust that impulse. Don't swallow it. Get your pen out of your pocket and go for it. Don't worry if you come up with a finished sketch or not. Focus only on catching something from the moment: a few lines, the energy, a sense of what caught your attention and called to you.

The rewards will be great. You will feel frustration at your circumstances melt away. Arguments with loved ones will fade to the background (and you'll see your way through to patching things up). You will smile. But most of all you will breath again and you will have taken action. That's how things happen in life: we move our energy out of a cul-de-sac of despair, anger, even petty insult, and suddenly we have balance again. Our step is lighter.

On this day, after a horrendous trip with the in-laws to the ear doctor (horrendous for them because it was their appointment) I was exhausted and stressed, sure I would never get back to the studio in time to meet a pressing deadline. I pulled up to the post office to mail an insurance form for the folks. It was job number one that had to be done, regardless of other tasks. My shoulders sagged, and I know I wasn't breathing with more than the top third of my lungs.

And then I saw her, black and white and graphic and full of joy and earnest goodwill—a Border Collie leashed to a bike stand, waiting for her owner to come out and join her. She waited with polite patience, and every so often she would turn her head away from the door to watch other people and animals, but her mind was focused and ready for the return of her owner.

"She'll move in a minute," my mind said, beginning an argument against drawing. I countered with, "that's just enough time." I whipped out my notepad and pen. I scribbled. I just let the frustration of my day escape through my hand as I felt around her energy, her face, her body.

And because I was watching her and not my paper, when her owner did emerge two minutes later I got to see the full explosion of joy on the dog's face as her tail wagged, her body shook—but she maintained that sit as her owner approached to greet her.

It only took a moment, those two minutes, to brighten my day, to open my heart, to shift my mood, and most importantly, to get me breathing again.

I mailed the form, had a pleasant exchange with the postal clerk who was having a rough day (so I got to pass on some of that sustaining energy), and had no trouble meeting that deadline because my energy was moving forward.

The next time you're grumbling, tense, and about to pass out from lack of breath, take a moment to look around. Let something you love catch your eye. And draw it. It's as important an exercise as moving your body every day. Practice saying, "A moment's just enough time."

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  1. Reply

    When you draw you can do nothing more than live in the NOW, it is a gift. You described this moment so beautiful. Thanks.

  2. Reply

    Oh yes, how true that is! A few minutes with a pencil and paper does wonders for my mood. There’s nothing better.

  3. So often, we let a small irritation “ruin” our day. Why not let a momentary happiness “make” our day instead? Thanks for the great advice!

  4. Reply

    Boekwrm, that’s exactly right, drawing keeps us in the now. I’m glad you liked the post.

  5. Reply

    Kim, Maggie, and Jeanette, thank you all for your comments on this post. I’m glad that it struck a chord. The only thing that’s better than drawing for me Maggie, is drawing a DOG! And Jeanette, I’m taking my own advice today after a topsy turvy work effort. Kim, I hope you and your pen find something wonderful to sketch!

    • Carolyn
    • November 29, 2010

    “A moment’s just enough time.” So true! Some folks would take a quick picture with their cell phone, but sketching is simply transmogrifying. And priceless, especially for moments of puppy joy!

    • Trece
    • November 29, 2010

    Thank you so much for “Practice saying, “A moment’s just enough time”. It blessed me enormously.

  6. Reply

    This was just what I needed to read today. Our dog just got a diagnosis of significant cardiac disorder and a prognosis of not long. After reading this I took a moment to draw her, again. Suddenly I understand the Daily Dot compulsion. Thanks for this blog entry!

    • E-J
    • November 30, 2010

    Your posts never fail to motivate me, Roz. My sketchjournal would be much emptier if I didn’t make a visit to your blog a regular part of my day!

  7. Reply

    Beautiful post, lovely sketch, excellent reminder (and right on time, I might add).

  8. Reply

    Carolyn, transmorgifying, one of my favorite words (just to say even), and there is a strangeness to the change drawing brings, but it’s simply too bad that it is strange and not normal, i.e., not something everyone experiences every day.

  9. Reply

    Karen, I’m glad it was a useful reminder. This has been a doosy (sp?) of a week for me so I’m on constant reminder mode!

  10. Reply

    E-J, filling up journals, you know I like that! I’m glad you stop by. Keep drawing.

  11. Reply

    Carol, I’m truly sorry that you’ve had such dreadful news. I hope you can spend many moments sitting, sketching, and breathing with your pup.

    One thing I know about sketching a dying dog is that you realize (in the most positive of ways) that we all are dying.

    The Daily Dots, which began when she was healthy and which I was motivated to start in part because of a heavy dose of melancholic nostalgia brought on by the death of her aunt, were my effort to focus on and capture her, a guard, so to speak, against more loss of the type I’d just experienced. But such a guard is impossible in life.

    By the end of the process I realized, as I said, that what I’d been drawing all along was a dying dog, because we are all dying, we are all changing, sometimes infintesimally. The noticing of those changes over time made me aware of several things—the health of my dog at any given moment, and the great good gift dogs bring—living in the present moment.

    The practice also freed me from any excessive or compulsive concern for her, any fretting.

    And ultimately, when it was time to let her go, it was possible for me to cope with the inevitability as simply a transition, with no regrets.

    I think that often we live our lives too fast, too quick, too jammed with stuff, with events. Even though I spent 4 hours or more a day on dog-focused activities such as tracking and walking and other training, it was easy to let the rest of life take me away from the pack. (We do have to make a living; we do have to interact with the humans in the pack; and intent focus on one part of the pack isn’t healthy for any part of it.)

    Drawing always brought me back to the core of the moment, the breath which feeds our life.

    I hope you have a long time yet to tap into that with your pup, because it does one more powerful thing, it releases us from fear, regret, and ultimately from grief.

    Draw away.

  12. Reply

    Trece, I’m so glad the post touched you. I hope you follow your sketching impulse.

    • Christina Trevino.
    • July 21, 2011

    Roz, I am always finding some positive and profound thoughts in your posts. Unlike most people, you touch parts of my life that need touching. Or should I say “parts of my mind?”
    Thanks for that.

  13. Reply

    Christina, thank you for your kind note—especially because it came on a day when I was not remembering to breathe (who can when it’s so hot, though happily not as humid as the past two days!). Your note caused me to reread the post and now I’m off to do some sketching for my lunch break.

    Thank you!

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