3 Ways That Painting Nature Calms My Type A Tendencies
May 18, 2023
We just returned from a weekend camping trip with friends. The weather was iffy with wind, periods of rain and chilly temps. There was mud, ticks, and running noses. But it was so healing and nurturing for my soul. It was exactly what I needed.
I’m convinced that I am so drawn to nature as an artist because my Maker knew just how much I would need it to battle and calm my type A tendencies toward hustle, stifling control, and constant stress. He knew I would want to help everyone, fix everything, and do it all yesterday and I wouldn’t feel “whole” until I felt like I had contributed to society. He knew I would have very unrealistic expectations of myself and others. I would be impatient and anxious in seasons of waiting. I would tend toward perfectionism and get completely derailed by moments of failure.
And to help with this, to draw me away from things that would hurt me, He gave me an innate desire to be outdoors and capture it through paint and paper. A lot of artists talk about how their art has saved them. I don’t think my art has saved me so much as God has used it to heal me and help me. He could use anything, really, but he has used art and nature for me. We all have tendencies toward the harmful. Leanings toward addiction, obsession, complacency, unnecessary restriction and control or all out abandon and recklessness. I bet you can name yours pretty easily. And there are all sorts of different things and people that God puts in our paths to help direct us toward what is good and what helps us grow. Here’s three things I love capturing in nature that help calm my need for control and other type A tendencies.
Beauty and Order (issues with control) I am not ok with change unless I’m completely in control of the transition and the outcome. I have always struggled with group projects because it requires me to delegate and trust. I don’t like following other people’s rules. If any of this resonates with you, just know you are not alone, but in very good company with every recovering control addict on the planet. Is there a group for that? There should be. So how does painting nature and being in nature heal this tendency within me? How could it help you? When I am outside, I am in the presence of a sense of order and beauty that is beyond anything I can imagine. The consistency of the seasons, the meticulous placement of our planet in conjunction with the sun and moon. The intricate patterns of design and behavior in nature…. It’s so much bigger than you and I. And this is precisely what control addicts need. They need to know that there is someone who absolutely controls the things that are out of our reach. Hanging on to this truth calms my fears and my anxiety when I come to the end of my control because I’m reminded that I don’t need to be in control. Everything will be perfectly fine without my tight, white knuckle grip on every blasted detail. And the beauty of the order I see gives me hints as to the heart of the maker that is in control. The beauty denotes creativity, love, and goodness that I can wholly trust. When I am outside or when I am capturing the outside world through paint, my shoulders relax, my heart lightens, I’m reminded of what matters in my life, and I start breathing again.
Presence of Growth and Decay (battle with perfection in performance) Naturally, I expect perfection. Naturally, there is no such thing. And nature is the best reminder to me that just like complete control, perfection is not really what I am after in this life. It will not provide what I’m looking for, which is a sense of wholeness and satisfaction. Nature reminds me that growth and life parallels death and decay. They will be present at the same time in the world around me, in my closest relationships, and in myself too. This doesn’t need to alarm me or cause despair to arise. It is the reality of our existence and rather than live in fear or disgust, I can harken back to the previous truth of a Maker that finds a way to bring goodness and beauty out of such a mixed bag. Every time I paint and experience the process of moving from nothing to completion, I relive the parallel movement of the death of something and the growth of something. They are forever together in the making of something brand new. This parallel and often intertwined presence of both beauty and decay whispers to my heart that imperfection is enough and it is ok. Perfection isn’t needed for beautiful things to be present or for wholeness to be experienced.
Organic Form and the Softness of Growth (embracing the non-linear life) I so wish that there were formulas to parenting, running a business and creating art. When I do A and I say B, I will get C….the ultimate outcome/result. Alas, I know you are chuckling, because you and I both know that’s not at all how life works.
The organic forms of nature remind me to embrace the non-linear path my life takes and rather than fight against it, lean into and see it for the masterpiece that it is. It also teaches me to enjoy the process rather than the end result.
I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been so drawn to early spring buds lately. Training my eyes to engage in the details and subtle messages of nature has calmed my frantic hunt for the next “thing” or next big “accomplishment” because I can see how small instances of new growth on a tree is beautiful and meaningful, perhaps even more stunning than the full grown leaf it is working toward. It’s changed my perspective. Shifted my paradigms and I’m so thankful for that.
If you are like me and struggle with perfectionism, hustle, workaholism, people pleasing, and control, go outside. Let nature and the God who created it all mend those broken parts and quietly whisper love to you as you sit in the masterpiece He made for you.
Yes, for you.