Day 1/30: Don’t Fly the Coop

rooster painting

“Rebekah” 24×24, oil on canvas $400.00 [creativ_button url=”″ icon=”” label=”Buy Now” colour=”blue” colour_custom=”” size=”medium” edge=”straight” target=”_self”]

When I decided to do another 30 paintings in 30 days, I wasn’t sure exactly where it would go. I asked for story submissions because my last attempt at this whole idea of painting-as-story two years ago was nothing short of magical. Sometimes when you try to repeat a meaningful experience, it can be underwhelming the second time around. That is, if you don’t allow it to take a new direction, go its own way.

I’m stubborn. I tell people I never paint the same painting twice. Even when a buyer is looking me in the eyes saying, “paint that” about a painting that’s already been sold. Not even the promise of cold, hard cash breaks my obstinacy. I don’t paint the same painting because I’m not the same painter. I’ve learned things. I dare say I’ve grown.

Just as I don’t paint the same painting twice, I cannot do the same painting a day challenge twice. I’m a different painter now. So, I’m leafing through the stories you’ve submitted (yes, I still need more!), and I realize all these instances of bravery of “standing your holy ground” are snapshots of strength, humility, and oftentimes grace.

I can’t really pull a specific image from them. This thirty days is an attempt to visualize that strength and power the best way I know how. Of course, quite often this will take the shape of a bird. Because birds, as we all know, are bad-asses– grounded, soaring, strutting, waiting, chirping, looking. Each painting this month will be named after the person whose story of bravery I will share.

Leave it to my first story, Rebekah’s, to describe bravery and use not one but two bird references– fight or “flight” and “fly the coop”. God, I love that. This was a painting I started last week when I got Rebekah’s story and put the final touches on it today. I think (I hope) it, however humbly, shows some of the strength you’ll read in Rebekah’s story.

I’m repeatedly amazed at the ways in which bravery and confidence are often rooted in what seems their opposite– humility. Real courage, I have found, is always humble, concerned more with truth than with pride or stability. It offers meager gifts rather than hoarding flashy ones.


I’ve been thinking about this bravery thing a lot since you first sent your email, and I’ve struggled with it.  When have I been most brave? I’ve asked myself. Was it the time when I traveled alone at 18 to a country where I barely spoke the language and knew no one?  Was it the time I organized an important meeting with co-workers, despite the likelihood that the tension and conflict swarming other hallways would make its way to me?  Was is the time I walked across a rope bridge a hundred feet above a river even though my heart was beating out of my chest?  What IS bravery? I keep wondering.  Is it tangible?  Is it a lifestyle?  Is it a journey?

I’m going through something of a rough spot with the guy that I’m dating.  We didn’t see each other as much this past week as I wanted, and instead of explaining how that made me feel and calmly talking about our expectations of one another, I tail-spun a little and made things more serious than they needed to be.  And now, things are heavy between us, and I’m doing everything I can to resist “flight” mode.

Five years ago, I would’ve already flown the coop.  I would’ve dumped him for vague reasons.  Or sabotaged the relationship enough that it was irredeemable.  I would’ve blamed him for it all.  Anything to avoid the hurt.  But four years ago, I did a brave thing.  I started therapy.  It’s not a great story, and there’s no thrill to the action.  I sent an email, and it was done.  But I still think it’s the bravest thing I’ve ever done because it was something I really needed for myself, and I had the courage to take it despite all the excuses I’d formed in my head.

To this day, I tell people that therapy is the best thing I’ve ever spent money on, and it’s true.  Self-care is so important.  It takes courage to step aside and do something for yourself.

Obviously, it isn’t a cure-all.  If it were, I probably wouldn’t have let my mouth run like a faucet this morning and drowned both of us in idle talk and sighs and unfinished sentences.  But each time I sit on that couch, I get a little closer to knowing how to be the best version of myself, a little closer to finding the stable, loving relationship I’ve been craving.

I don’t know if this guy will last.  It’s so early in the game, and it feels like I really messed it up bad this weekend.  But like kindness, bravery gets easier with each act.  So I’ll put on my big girl pants and go to this boil he invited me to this afternoon and find a way to get back to where we were just a week ago: carefree and supportive, full of laughter, full of tenderness.  Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t.  But that’s the thing about bravery, right?  You jump because it’s right, not because you can see where you’ll land.

If you know someone whose story would make a great addition to this thirty days, please tell me about him/her. [email protected]

Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

November 1, 2016

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