I will defend my position with the gusto of a hummingbird claiming her spot at a busy feeder: the currently popular sentiment (as evidenced by mugs at every home goods store and tank tops on instagram), “good vibes only” is not only unrealistic but also irresponsible. I know my cheery demeanor, my flowery art, and my proclivity for wearing bright prints might fool you, but my inner world is often highlighted by metaphorical thick black eyeliner and a “sad songs” playlist. I mean, have ya’ll even watched the news?
That’s why when my therapist suggested I start considering the good in the many frustrating situations I bring to her sofa, I held back an eye roll.
But she got to me. She really did. And I remembered this artist I heard on a podcast a year or so ago, Jennifer Drinkwater, who started a project she calls “What’s Good” where she goes to different communities, asks the folks there what’s good and then does a painting. She donates some of the sale back to that community. The words “what’s good” from her project kind of hummed in my mind for days until I finally said enough already, and I got out a journal and started making a list under the bold, all caps words WHAT IS GOOD?
My first list included things like smoked paprika, the plant I saved by drowning it, sage advice from a mom who knows everything about small things: buttons, stains, gardenias. I tried (and failed) to be poetic about a drizzle of olive oil which was “precisely what the toast was missing.”
Later my list seemed to always feature the breeze or the objects it was stirring to life with movement. Porches make several appearances in my lists as do expressions on my family’s faces.
The daily lists helped. I’m as shocked as anyone, really. So now that’s how I start my days, using it not as a way to deny or downplay the sadness and frustration that are very much a part of any human life, but to acknowledge that goodness, wouldn’t you know, always exists right there beside it. When I am blind to it, life is just less truthful. And if I had to get a mug with some word art on it, I think I’d opt for “tell the truth” or some cuter version of that. I’d also just settle for replacing “only” with “also”: good vibes also.
So, my friends, will you tell me, specifically, not in general, what is good today? Can you zoom in on something for me? For whatever reason saying “my family and friends” isn’t as transformative as a particular freckle or a sudden gust of wind on a certain color flower.
I’m looking for some studio inspiration and I think this might just be the thing. Can’t wait to hear from you.
Written by Denise Hopkins
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