My vision board started out as an empty canvas as they always do. I was at a visioning event hosted by the Temple Isaiah Women’s Group. Amy Phillips, an artist, a communications specialist and the founder of Girl Empowerment LA., was our facilitator. In preparation, we were asked to write our response to seven prompts that Amy had sent in advance of the get-together. Our paragraph would act as our guide through the exercise.
I came up empty.
How do you envision this new year? What will your transformation be this year? What will be your purpose and how will you achieve it? How will you be intentional? How can you overcome a fear? How will you find your innate talents? How will you find your voice?
Became a list in my journal:
I was surprised to find a mantra to live by, not just for the next year, but a roadmap for a good life. Envision transformation by having a purpose and a plan to achieve it with intention and without fear by using your talent so that your voice can be heard.
It was an overwhelming call to personal growth. The last art class I had attended was WaterColors & Tequila. I was missing the guiding inspiration of slight inebriation!
Amy began by reading us a paragraph her twenty-one-year-old daughter had written envisioning life at twenty-nine. The board Amy held up was intricate and detailed with moving parts. Amy dissected each piece on the board drawing a direct connection to something written in the paragraph.
I still had nothing.
Scattered on tables around the room were all sorts of found objects Amy had collected and collated. There were magazines from her day job of communications specialist. I found one called Print, a thick and oversized glossy journal with an exuberance for color and image that was both inspiring and daunting. I picked up a few other things that caught my eye. Mostly curiosities, like a plastic circled frame with a metal clip hanging from a chain and a blue transparent plastic shape that reminded me of the blue haze from which I sometimes wake.
And then I began. Without a roadmap or tequila.
What I found was that it was difficult to begin a vision board when so much of my vision is besotted with past failures and the threat of future landmines.
I mulled over the pieces I had pulled from the piles. I flipped through the magazine tearing pages that I particularly liked for no discernible reason other than the font or graphics. I cut out some fabric and a backdrop from flowered paper.
From inside my journal I was surprised to find an unused greeting card. It was a hard stock card with a vivid block print of T.S. Elliot’s quote: “The end is where we start from.”
The word S T A R T jumped from the page as if it were commanding me to just get out of my head and begin. So I began. I cut out the word S T A R T followed by three individual letters.
I shredded the green fabric to represent grass and the idea of growth within the coolness of nature. I put the word start behind the blue transparent circle because the way to start is never clear. Below that, I glued the letters N O W into the grass. Ideas can only grow if they are planted and take root. START NOW. Plant an idea, let it grow, let it become something.
I may have found an in-road.
I grabbed a black plastic W from a box of other plastic letters. Possibly part of a package of changeable sign letters. I chose the W for the word “Write” that is my purpose and perhaps my talent. It was poignant, then, that the W had small nubs on it (hooks for the sign in which it might have otherwise fit). Writing is never a smooth ride, it’s bumpy and uncomfortable. It can be blood on the page and tears on your face, it can make you laugh and cry and jump from your computer as if you just saw a ghost. Writing a page can make you never want to write again. But you do.
Below the W, I placed a twig that I loosely wrapped in a blue-gray fuzzy yarn. The stick pencil; the fuzz around ideas until they become clear. Underneath the twig is a line of print I cut out from one of the magazines – “twist of creative thought” because creative thought is never a straight line. Upon starting out you have no idea where you might end. The single die glued to the edge of the frame, the number 6 showing, to remind myself that in this year, the year I turn fifty-six, I need to roll with the dice, take a chance. Roll with life and what it might bring if I focus and work with intention.
Above the W, I glued the word noise. I fashioned the number 86 out of rubber circles and game pieces and glued it hovering over the noise. It is the only way I can overcome a fear: 86 the noise. Not just the noise from outside but my own internal negative editor must be 86’ed, disregarded, ignored.
I cut out three teardrops from a colorfully striped paper. These were glued onto my board over and inside an unused negative frame. I am a crier. I would not want to give up my tears. Crying is cathartic, from that catharsis comes joy, hence the wild colors. I wanted one of the teardrops to be fully contained by the frame to remind myself that crying, though good, should be contained and not let to run rampant throughout any given day.
I used metal pieces, nuts, and other fittings, to fashion a barbell. From that, I hung three robust cherries and on the edge of the frame I glued the top of a tin box that has pictures of grapefruits or oranges. These were to remind me that fitness and eating well are more than a passion but a guiding principle for strong mental health. I understand, particularly post fifty, that I cannot act intentional or with purpose if I am stuck behind a one pound box of Wilbur Chocolate Buds, or if I give up my daily walk to someone else’s schedule. There is always an alternative snack. There is always a moment in any given day to find the space to take a brisk walk.
These pieces are my private flight attendant’s reprimand: Put on your own mask first. Remember to breath. It’s impossible to take care of others without taking care of yourself – physically and spiritually. It’s something I try to remember every day without the noise of feeling selfish or self-centered.
The magazine cut-outs on the bottom edge are to remind me of goals. This is the piece about finding my voice and about letting my voice be heard. For a writer that means publishing, which means submitting, which means recognizing rejection does not equal failure. It’s a tall order and falls into another fear to overcome.
I seemed to be rocking this vision board thing.
Finally, I returned to the round frame with the metal clip. That first piece I retrieved from the supply table. The piece had spoken to me. It wasn’t until the afternoon was almost over that I understood how I would use it. I wanted to include something from my journal. A piece of my own writing to frame my intention. While in Spain this past summer, I spent a lot of time writing (and drinking and eating). I wrote to find an answer to this question: why am I not doing the things I should be doing?
Even in a red wine haze, I understood that all that I wanted to achieve was there, right behind the excuses and the justifications. If only. So I found the quote that I had been looking for, something I had written this summer, the line “Begin by making a list…” This idea of Start Now is the theme for this next year. And what better way to start now, right now, than by making a list of what needs to get done. And what better place to hang that list than from the metal clip under my own quote?
So it turns out on a random Sunday in the midst of a women’s group, rummaging through bits of found objects, I found a roadmap. I rolled with the opportunity in front of me and took a chance to see where an empty canvas may take me. It took me to a beginning.
Our Facilitator for the Day’s Visioning:
Amy Phillips has had an extensive communications career in the non-profit arts community in Los Angeles. After serving as Arts Education Senior Communications Manager for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, she founded Girl Empowerment LA, a program for middle and high school girls that explores issues of identity, self-esteem and role models through the lens of the visual arts. Amy implemented the program in the Beverly Hills Unified School District three years ago. Amy worked with the Dance Company at Beverly Hills High School where the students choreographed short pieces based on the Girl Empowerment LA curriculum. Amy has also been a teaching artist with artworxLA where she worked with students in LAUSD continuation high schools.
Amy is a member of Congresswoman Karen Bass’ Congressional Art Committee and is on the planning committee for the Congresswoman’s PAC known as Sea Change. Standing idle on the sidelines was not an option for Amy. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Amy got involved with Moms Demand Action and is now the California State Communications Lead for the organization. Amy is also involved in social action at Temple Isaiah where she introduced religious school students to advocacy through the arts.
She is the proud mother of a 21-year old college senior who is majoring in communications with a minor in women and gender studies.