How to look at a painting

I’m not sure if this book “How To Look At A Painting” is a ‘stand with your knees slightly bent, arms by your sides, eyes relaxed and feet shoulder width apart’ kind of book or a ‘the reason Impressionists love blue is…’ kind of book – I’ll let you know.

What I do know is that being at the library, picking out another armful of books about art makes me happy.

Here’s the thing I’m reflecting on today…

This week there was a horrifying siege in a Sydney coffee shop, where people going about ordinary, everyday, mundane things – like buying a cup of coffee on their way to work, or working in a coffee shop, got caught up in some lunatic’s attempt to… well, we don’t know…. and then after a long day and night of communal anguish, he died, and two of his hostages died too. They went to work, they stopped to buy coffee or some chocolates, and now they are gone. Forever.

Within 24 hours of that horror unfolding in Sydney, we heard the news of a horrific mass shooting in a school in Pakistan… 132 dead children… they went to school and never came home. Just unfathomable.

People respond to these tragedies in different ways – with fear, with anger, with tears and tributes, with trending hashtags like #IllRideWithYou, with recriminations about how the authorities handled things (already!). Editorials are written, bloggers/mothers cry in supermarkets, we are urged to hold our children a little longer.

We are reminded how fragile we are.

We feel ourselves looking over our shoulders. It makes us jumpy that such evil acts can happen so close to home, and so far from home. We have no answers.

Here’s what we have. We have this moment. That’s it. Just this moment.

I am spending it writing a blog, at the library, someone is sniffing and it is driving me a bit spare…

Last week I had a job, this week I don’t.

So if it is all about that, I am in trouble. Thankfully it isn’t all about that!

What do we have, really?

Special people get taken from us, jobs too. Health falters, friends move away, the kids grow up and move out, eventually.

Whether things feel solid as a rock, or completely untethered, we still only have this moment.

I am not writing this from a perspective of wringing my hands, woe is me, but I am mindful of how much stock we put into the status quo, into just expecting safe, cocooned, “not in our backyard” stability.

When I go home, I expect it to still be there, that there will be water and electricity, that I will sleep soundly tonight, feeling safe and secure.

I expect to enjoy the next week, and to consider my options for finding a job. I want to sit around with my family on Christmas Day and maybe share a few laughs.

I expect that pretty soon though, we will forget how fragile we are. Again. That’s kind of incredible, isn’t it?Is it a survival mechanism or the simply denial about our fragile place in the world? I’m not sure – perhaps it is a little of both.

I want to remain mindful of my fragility, but not in a doomsday prepper kind of way.

I want to paint, and to look for and find another job. I want to write, and watch my nieces and nephews open their gifts on Christmas Day, this year and the next and the next and the next and the next and the next. I want eat my mum’s pavlova, and give my sister the crunchy parts of it that set my teeth on edge. I want to hear my dad laugh. I want my mum to enjoy her family being together, and not to stress out about the plates and potentially spilled drinks.

Drinks get spilled, jobs come and go… it is the LIVING that matters. And I don’t mean the momentous things, but the every day things. How do we treat others, how do we treat ourselves, are we kind?

So, I’ll press publish, borrow these books, smile at the librarian, and head for home.

How are you? What are you doing with your moment?

Big hugs, friends. Big hugs.

Annette x

8 thoughts on “How to look at a painting

  1. I am dreaming. Of another day, life, and time. Of new goals, of old ambitions and of summer evenings that are yet to come. I’m also smiling that small, genuine smile that comes upon me when I’ve read something that is beautiful, poignant, honest, simple, and profound all at the same time.
    Big hugs x


  2. Thank you for this heartfelt post Annette. I’m sorry about things on the job front. I was just thinking about you today and how great your persistence and positive approach was in your job hunt this year. Those qualities remain with you. As does empathy and the ability to connect. These things matter and travel with you beyond this job. Truly appreciating the moment can be tough. Sometimes I find hanging out with uncertainty uncomfortable, but so necessary (for me at least!) Many warm wishes for a wonderful and happy Christmas with family and loved ones x


    • Pia, thank you so much. I am so much more interested in developing those qualities, than in just working for a wage. Both would be nice though! I wish the same things for you, joy, togetherness with the people who are closest to your heart, and the ability to appreciate the moments, whether they’re easy or tough ones x


  3. Right now I am enjoying the good clouds in the sky out the window of our apartment. My husband is off at a nerd social night (oxymoron?) and I am thankful for our safe home, the little work I have keeping me busy, friends who I hope to see (maybe tomorrow?) and family who I am excited about sharing Christmas with. So many things to be thankful for. So much life to enjoy and yes our vulnerability is pushed aside while we live out our precious lives and hope, hope for so much more. Love you dear, thank you for being a wonderful example of what it is to live gracefully. x


  4. You have a wonderful outlook Annette. I really enjoyed this post – it made me pause, reflect and remind myself that, yes, it is the moment right now which is important (currently enjoying a cup of tea and piece of chocolate in bed, reading some great posts and hoping that sleep comes easily given my 4.40am wake up hour in the morn). This can sometimes be hard for a worry wart like myself. Have a great christmas and I am looking forward to more from you next year x ps I hope that 2015 brings you a great job !


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