Failure at Fifteen

Stuck Energy from Teen Angst Blocks Our Success, Until We Clear It

One of the hardest exercises for me to master in my high school art class was drawing an egg. Every aspect of the still life was meant to be developed through the subtle art of shading. EFT Helps Mother Slim Down It was an excruciating experience for me. You see, I had my preferred way of drawing and I relied on that technique heavily for all my pieces. My teacher pushed me to “explore other techniques” but I resisted in every way possible. It wasn’t that I was a rebellious or difficult kid. In fact I hardly ever got in trouble in school. It was my stuck energy that was the problem.

Meant to develop the ability to create a drawing by building tones and shadows, instead this one exercise heralded my complete failure as a human being before I even graduated. Hey, what can I say, we artists are pretty emotional creatures. But as overly dramatic as this sounds it’s exactly what I felt. And sadly, for a really long time that’s exactly what I experienced.

What I didn’t know then was that I was afraid of failing, a pretty common fear. My fear kept me from reaching my potential as it kept me from trying, reaching, doing. Energetically this fear of failure actually aligned me with failing as a final outcome! Over and over again I just kept failing and believing that was the end point. But failure is only an endpoint if you allow it to stop you.

My teachers and parents were never able to convey just how important failure is not only in terms of our development but more important to the artist in me,
failure is an essential component of creating genius.

As a kid it never dawned on me that the masters started just as I was. Sure we saw their sketches and preliminary drawings for some of their masterpieces, but even those roughs were masterful. What we didn’t see, because they don’t exist, are the many sketches and paintings the masters attempted and hated, scribbled over or torn apart in a fit of frustration.

My real challenge was – as many kids of all ages experience – not understanding the process of learning until you embody something new. Each new technique attempted that didn’t come naturally, left me feeling like a failure and assuming I just would never master it. So creating a drawing of an egg sitting on a piece of velvet using only shading techniques – a method I had not yet mastered – was agonizing.

My productions were horrid. I know this because my teacher told me, in those exact words. She may or may not have meant well. She used to tell me she was “only trying to spur me on”. Instead of helping me actually learn helpful art and life lessons, her harassing simply confirmed I was incapable of honing this talent with which I’d been “blessed.” She needn’t have bothered though, I knew they weren’t any good because I’d already decided…I wasn’t any good.

Every time I attempted this piece and I “couldn’t get it” I was angry, confused, frustrated and worried. It didn’t matter that even at this early age I was an award-winning artist, I was a failure each time I couldn’t make the pen, pencil or brush do what I needed it to do. The many awards I’d earned meant nothing. Actually, sometimes they actually mocked me as I struggled and suffered.

My teacher, parents and even friends would comment on how incredibly talented I was. But every compliment seemed to contain a bit of disappointment. If I could do “this” then why hadn’t I done “that”, they seemed to say. And I wondered along with them all. If indeed I was so astoundingly talented then why, why, why couldn’t I do a simple sketch or make clay form to the shape I wanted? And don’t even get me started on watercolors! The truth was – is – that I am a talented artist. But talent doesn’t mean one can execute with adept skill or refined artistry.

It’s said that practice makes perfect. But practice while suffering with stuck energy generally makes for more suffering!

For a long time I attempted practicing under the bulk of all my stuck energy. As I grew into adulthood, I knew that even Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci practiced. I longed to create a sketchbook filled with gorgeous drawings, rough and completed, just as they had. My sketchpads revealed how stuck and blocked I was.

Determined to practice until perfect, a few years after high school I produced the version of the egg exercise you see here. For a young child it would be a good effort. For a talented artist with over a decade of practical art education, it is lacking in execution as well as heart. Expert shading would have no discernible pencil strokes, a few areas are too light while others are heavy-handed. Still, it was a small bit of progress so I tucked it away. Perhaps someday…

Pinecone Pencil Drawing by Cathleen Campbell Stone Sitting in those hot classes in I longed to return up north, so I frequently drew images that reminded me of my happy childhood. And then I would be sad some more because I couldn’t be there for the snow and the colorful fall leaves. I dreamed of moving back to New York, giddily enjoying a spectacular life of art and fashion. This is one of my favorite sketches from that time. Without having mastered shading it’s a pretty piece. Of course I wasn’t satisfied. No matter how big my dreams there were just a few glitches –

– I couldn’t draw (so my pain and stuck energy told me – obviously these drawings tell a different story)

– I wasn’t “good enough” (so my unhelpful art teacher told me over and over again)

and I’d just never be happy (the worry resulting from all this stuck energy.)

What happened to this sad, talented, confused girl
and her dreams of glamour and fashion?

I used all my willpower – that’s the physical force and gritty determination we westerners prize so much – to get to New York and get into the fashion industry. But no matter how hard I tried, all that stuck energy kept me from realizing my real dreams.

Without the correct perspective for my art skills – and life in general for that matter – I spent decades lamenting what I couldn’t be, do or have and settling for working for other people making their dreams their reality. To the outside world I was busily making my mark in fashion. But no matter what my accomplishments or how exciting my life was, inside I felt like the failure I’d been since high school.

If I’d had EFT and some other energy tools available to me in high school…

I’d have simply released those painful and blocking feelings as they arose to allow my neural pathways to easily absorb instruction. In a calm way, I would have simply practiced my new skills until mastery was the only possible conclusion. With each release my perceptions would have shifted more and more to a supportive position. And from that different perspective, I’d have been able to take that skill with me wherever my artist tools and creative soul wanted to go – with my art, my career and my life.

Instead, it took me many painful decades before I would learn powerful tools to help me release pains, past and present. From my now clear, calm, happy, and yes adult perspective I easily see what all these lessons were helping me learn. And in this clear state I’ve learned these lessons and so much more!

With my clear heart and open mind, now
I love the entire process of creation!

From the giddy excitement when an idea first hits to the exasperating frustration as execution isn’t Pencil Sketch Water Drop by Cathleen Campbell Stone quite right to the spectacular moment when everything magically comes together. Of course it looks and feels like magic, but just as in conscious manifesting when an art creation comes together it is the fullness of our focused skills and energy. When we know how creation is no longer something that happens sometimes, it’s the natural outcome of the competent use of all our powers and we can trust this process, because we are trusting ourselves.

Finally it’s a pleasure to just practice my skills. Often I’ll just prop myself up with pillows while watching tv or a movie and sketch, whatever. It doesn’t matter if I’m working on a larger piece or a small exercise like this one, single drop of water that I sketched entirely with shading. And I can take pride and pleasure in my outcomes even while assessing for things I need to refine or learn.

How grateful I am now that I have energy tools to help me not only release painful blocks…but to support my enjoyment of all my talents fully and artfully. My parents wished they had these tools to help their talented but sadly blocked daughter. Thankfully they got to witness me heal myself and create beautiful works. I’m grateful to experience my artistry just for myself and to share with others, equally.

Whether you are a parent of an artistic student or an artist yourself, the truth is art is all about energy. It might be time for you to learn how to master your artistic energies too…in Living Harmony.

A few months into high school our bright, clever, well-liked daughter became someone else. She shifted so fast I feared the worst, drugs or clinical depression. We tried everything including giving her space, letting her have her way, the more we tried the more sullen she got. One day cleaning her room I realized she’d not done any crafts lately. I guess I assumed she was trying to grow up, but I realized in that moment something was very wrong. I sat her down and asked Julie why she wasn’t drawing, painting, sewing or any of the other things she used to love to do. She smirked and said it was stupid. Pressing further I discovered that one of the popular kids had made fun of her binder, the one she’d spent a few weeks decorating with flowers and paints before starting school. That one comment had belittled her in such deep ways my heart ached for her. A friend suggested we work with Cathleen and I’m so very grateful, we all are. In our very first session my daughter’s face lit up! We left with a tool that we used that night, together, as a family. Within a few weeks Julie was herself both in and out of school, and her teachers commented on how she’d blossomed. She also won an art competition! It’s been two years and Julie is a confident, happy student well-liked by teachers and classmates. She’s not best friends with that student who hurt her, but they get along just fine. Nobody makes fun of her but she says that if someone does make a nasty comment she can tap it out. Every parent hopes they give their children what they need to be successful in life. What a relief and blessing to know we have given our beautiful daughter tools and wisdom she’ll carry with her, always.

Cathy L.

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