When I came upon the term "ikigai" during one of my periodic searches for terms and ideas and concepts that speak to the human soul and spirit, my little world paused....and I knew the day's research had found its mark.
The term is not a new one, not a coined modern term, but rather an ancient Japanese concept that translates to "a reason to wake up in the morning, a reason to enjoy life."
And according to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai.
One's ikigai lies at the center of four interconnecting circles:
Vocation -- that which the world needs.
Profession -- that which you can be paid for.
Mission -- that which you love.
Passion -- that which you are good at.
When those four circles interconnect, you experience the chance to live a a long and happy life. If one is lacking in any one area, they are missing out on their life's potential.
After diving deep into the writings about ikigai, I knew that I had come upon the title for my one woman exhibit--my maiden exhibit upon returning HOME to Texas after 4 years in the Western New York art scene. A handful of the works in this exhibit were painted prior to discovering this term, but each work was the end result of me having reached a point in my life where every morning I had a reason to wake up, to enjoy life. I had found my ikigai. I had given my Self permission to paint. And I have not looked back. But...it is in the "looking back" at my life that I now embrace my ikigai with peacefulness and mindfulness.
My daddy was a painter before life and family demands led him to put his paint brushes and canvases away. As a little girl, I remember staring at his etchings and oil paintings and watercolors for hours. As that little girl, I remember asking him why he stopped painting. In keeping with his quiet nature, he just said he was too busy working to paint any longer. That was it. His art file was closed. For him, his ikigai shifted from painting to engineering, and he had his reason to get up every morning.
My mother was a strong and courageous woman. Her life was filled with peaks and valleys. Our mother-daughter relationship was marked by ins and outs. But it was by the grace of the Universe, that when my mama died at the age of 59, her life was on the rise, happy, fulfilled. I was a young woman, a young mother and wife, when my mama died after a battle with lung cancer. In my mind, I convinced myself that she had lived a good life, a long life. In my heart, I convinced myself that she was content to have achieved all she had achieved. Oh, how I wish I had not been so shallow.
As years passed following her death, the clarity of how young she actually was began to hit home. With that understanding, as painful as it was, I began to look at life from a new angle. I revved up my love for life that had carried me throughout my childhood into womanhood. With even more fervor and intention, I treasured every passing day, every passing month, every passing year. Why? Because somewhere in this little room in my soul where I store my hurt and loss and pain, I believed that her story might be my story. I contemplated the idea that I might repeat her story and die at the age of 59 as she had done. I held my breath and worked to make every day and week and month and year as vibrant as possible. I promised myself, that when I turned 59, if I was not sick and dying, then I would pursue my desire, my passion to paint.
Fast forward to my 59th birthday. My husband and I had left Texas (my home, my heart) and moved to Western New York for his family. It was a difficult move for me--leaving me feeling lost and like a stranger in a strange land. But that move also opened up my world to new acquaintances, to new friends, to new adventures. And it was for my 59th birthday that a dear friend, Kathy Thomas, gave me the most magical birthday gifts of all--an evening at one of those "wine and paint" classes. It was on the night of the super full moon in March of 2011 that she and I attended the class, sipped on wine, and followed the instructor's directions on how to paint the image he was teaching. It set me free. I felt alive with the paintbrush in my hand. I didn't actually follow all of his directions (my bad) and allowed my creative self to paint what my energy wanted to paint. At one point, Kathy and I excused ourselves so that we could run outside and howl at the super full moon. And howl we did.
Since that day, I continue to howl with a sense of freedom and permission...at the moon...in my adventures...in my family relationships...in my friendships...in my paintings. With good fortune, my husband and I have returned back to my heart home, TEXAS. I am grateful. I am humbled. And I embrace each day. My soul is on fire as I create, as I paint.
On September 11th, from noon to 2 pm, I will have the blessing of sharing my art in a one woman exhibit at The Vineyard at Florence (Texas) with guests. We will howl. We will celebrate. I hope you will join us. Ikigai.