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I used to spend nearly every weekend celebrating someone’s wedding. I’d paint, and they’d dance. I’d mix colors, and they’d clink glasses. I’d watch happy couples dance and relatives tilt their heads to the side as they looked on and smiled. 

Most of the weddings I paint are big, beautiful celebrations– they take place in ballrooms or resorts or country clubs. The flowers are decadent. The food is never ending. I like these spaces. Everyone at a wedding is happy. I think it is nearly impossible not to be. 

In the last six months, I’ve not been to any big gatherings. Without celebration being ever-present and with the added stress of all things 2020, I’ve had to really look for ways and things to celebrate. Less in your face and more soul searching. 

So the other day I celebrated my breakfast. It doesn’t sound like much, but I sat down to eat. I didn’t bring my phone. I actually took the time to cut a lemon and squeezed a wedge of it onto my avocado toast– something I’ve only ever done for other people. I tasted it. Really tasted it. I took my time. I enjoyed it. 

A week or so ago I celebrated my son by buying us a sweet little book I’d been eyeing for a while at our local coffee shop– “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.” At first it was Charlie Mackesy’s lovely line drawings that pulled me in, and then, as we made our way through the pages (almost nightly), it became the words which seemed to speak directly to both our hearts. At one point the mole says, “we often wait for kindness…but being kind to yourself can start now.” 

I’d honestly not ever really thought about being kind to myself. Gentle, sure. Patient, yes. Tolerant and forgiving, all the time. But real kindness? What would that look like? 

I decided it could look like sitting down to eat breakfast, cutting a lemon only for myself, or buying a just-because book for myself and my son. It could look like two baths in one day or skipping laundry or enjoying some fresh flowers. It could look like affirming self talk after a hard day of being home with kids. It could look like a walk or asking for help or doing a little bit less. It could look like replacing “You aren’t doing enough” or “you didn’t get enough done” with “you are enough”. 

These, in many ways, are trying times. And in the “hard,” I’ve discovered so much to celebrate, especially the small kindnesses I can show myself and share with others. I am finding myself to be quite generous in a way I never felt when I wasn’t the benefactor of any of my kindnesses.

I’m calling my new collection of paintings “Celebration” not because I’m dancing in the streets or second lining at weddings, and not because I’m so desperate for those things to return (I am, maybe just a little). I’m calling it that because celebration is more than the really big moments. And it’s more than that which comes from outside of us. These paintings remind me to celebrate and sometimes they are their own act of celebrating. 

As I wrap up this group of paintings for the September 29 website release, would you consider sharing with me one thing (big or small) you have celebrated recently? Or one kindness you have shown yourself that is worth celebrating? I’d love to cheer you on and reflect on your stories as I finish up the last few paintings in this collection. 

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

September 18, 2020

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