The Art of Adaptation

"The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.”
—Kakuzō Okakura, The Book of Tea

This year, I’ve had to do a lot of adapting. Adaptation of schedules, designs, processes, priorities and even my philosophies and ideals. This adaptation has not come easily. I hate change. It makes me feel completely out of control and if you’ve been following me for a while, you know I like to be in control. It’s a personal flaw I’m working on….

Instead of looking at adaptation and change as a bad thing, I’ve been trying to change my mindset so that I see it more as an art. Why? Well, because after watching others and looking back on my own adjustments, it really is a thing of beauty...an art. It takes a tremendous amount of creativity and innovation.

Consider the story of a local artist I met this past spring. He was in a terrible car accident that resulted in immobility for months. He’s finally able to walk again, but he’s had to adapt his art business and his way of life to meet his new physical challenges. He started pursuing new showing opportunities that would require less energy and money.

I have another artist friend who found herself horribly allergic to her favorite medium of oil paint. Rather than throw in the towel, she discovered water mixable oils and she has adapted her style beautifully to fit this amazing medium.

How about my friends who have found themselves struggling financially after the downfall of the economy in 2008. Their current business strategies weren’t going to work anymore and they were becoming bitter and angry regarding their struggle. They are currently adapting to focus more on their love of teaching rather than pursuing sales through gallery work, which has been proving more and more difficult. This change wouldn’t have happened unless necessity would have forced it, and I have to say that these two folks are amazing teachers and are going to change people through their art school.

And then there’s me….I’ve had so many unexpected challenges with a current project I’m working on. It’s all new artistic processes. I thought I had a handle on what needed to happen to produce the work I promised, but as I proceeded, I quickly found out that there were a lot of things I didn’t anticipate. This need to adapt has made me angry, frustrated, and has often brought me to tears. I've wanted to quit so many times. Adaptation is never easy, but I will admit that I’m learning things I never would have learned otherwise and all the process and materials information I’m gaining will be so valuable in the future. As I continue to adapt, I’m trying to remember the positive outcome of the past adaptations I’ve had to make. I’m growing and learning. My life of adaptation is mimicking art because adaptation is art.

I hope you remember that adaptation can be a beautiful thing. Yes, it is hard and it will make you want to scream, but remember that often the result of adaptation is a new form of beauty you never imagined in yourself.

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