Arts & Crafts And Self-Actualization

2009 September 4

In my defense, it was suggested by two friends in the span of one week and I do love collages. That (and the fact I figured it would yield excellent anecdote material for some future purpose) would explain why I spent a quiet Sunday afternoon about six months ago half-heartedly paging through my old mags (hint: Atlantic Monthly, Utne and Harper’s are probably not ideal choices for this exercise) looking for images that “spoke” to me and represented my vision of my ideal life and self. Insert patented JMH eye roll here.

vision boardPhoto by deb robey

If my gut-level distrust of anything New Agey didn’t do it, I should have known vision boarding (not to be confused with waterboarding, natch) wasn’t my scene when I couldn’t find the glue and had to resort to crudely taping all of the cutouts in place (Did I mention I was hands-down the worst cutter in my first grade class and that my scissor skills haven’t improved much in the intervening years?). The final product actually wasn’t bad looking and it more or less projected generic desires that any twentysomething might possess- career, travel, love, adventure, family, etc. All very vague high-level stuff, badly trimmed and imprecisely taped.

I propped up my vision board on top of what had been the tv stand (looking at it frequently is recommended) and impatiently waited  for the universe to send me the experiences, attributes and European vacation I had diligently mocked up. No dice. The thing just collected dust until I eventually moved it to a closet, so I no longer had to be confronted with visual evidence of my failure to” turn intention into manifestation” (or something equally Secret-y) every time I cleaned. I’d be lying if I said I was particularly surprised at the (lack of) outcome.

Perhaps it was my skepticism that did me in. Maybe I should have been more open-minded about the vision board concept, but passivity has never been my game and leaving one’s future fulfillment up to the capricious whim of the universe strikes a born overthinker and hands-dirty tinkerer as not only milquetoast, but downright anti-feminist. It’s a very short skip from staring at glossy pictures of the bikini you want to wear on The Riviera this winter and visualizing yourself frolicking in the waves to lying in your four-poster bed fantasizing about Prince Charming coming to sweep your 12 year-old self away (except, it’s 2009, so Prince Charming would apparently be played by that kid with the busted face from Twilight). And despite the fact that the “believing makes it so” mantra is parroted by  pseudo-inspirational “teachers” of both sexes, I don’t even need to bet the pair of Louboutins I don’t aspire to own to know that this self help phenomenon targeted squarely at women. Now it’s not simply that you weren’t pretty or charming or smart enough to be rewarded with happiness, you can add to it the fact that you were undone by a pessimistic unconscious mind that kept expecting (and thus conjured into reality) your personal worst case scenario. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t (but just wish you did). Seems awfully convenient, doesn’t it?

And the idea of waiting around for your wishes to be granted simply because you had the temerity to wish them? Everything you’ve ever dreamed of and you don’t even have to worry about chipping your manicure? How boring is that? I choose not to accept that the universe really prefer sops who’d opt for that approach over people who turn over a few apple carts, get their manic single-minded focus on, work the phones, knock on doors, etc. And what about fortune favoring the brave or God helping those who help themselves or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps or whatever other Horatio Alger-esque cliche you wanna toss out there? Apparently, we should replace autonomy and self-determination with …. images of beautifully-landscaped Hamptons estates we tore out of Better Homes and Gardens? Please. I’ll pass on that. Maybe it’s my verbose inner voice talking, but a thousand words (backed up with actions and elbow grease) strike me as a much better value than a single picture.

I still dig collages, though.

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