OK. I love that movie. And I cry every year around this time when I catch it on TV in the middle of the night — because I have insomnia or indigestion or a worry eating away at the edge of my serenity. It’s not like I don’t know what’s coming. I see it every year. And every time, the sentiment of it does its magic on my poor heart. And you know what? It is a wonderful life.
If you are a bitter realist, prone to negativity, biting sarcasm and mean spiritedness, stop reading now.
I am not saying I don’t have bouts of those qualities myself at the end of a pay period when I have 5 bucks and no gas in the car, or in the cold night of winter when I wake up with a turmoil in my head — its just that I am of a mind these days to stop those negative things in myself and to counterattack them with positive thoughts, deeds and feelings. Because that is my true power in this life — to manage my own way of being.
On that note, and in the spirit of the movie, here are 15 profound things that people have said to me through the years in my personal and work life that were pivotal in making me who I am here and now. Some of them seemed totally random at the time, but luckily I have an incredible memory, and I have internalized them into the way I exist on this earth. Lives touch other lives. Read them. Laugh about them. Maybe they will help you too.
1. “Helen, don’t hammer like a girl — and get that damn nail out of your mouth!” — my Dad, who I miss every day.
2. “Oh, honey, you are beautiful no matter what those mean girls say. They are ugly inside — and one day, they will be ugly outside too — and you will still be beautiful.” — from my beautiful mother, who left this place too soon.
3. “Helen, you don’t need a metals degree. Are you crazy? You have been earning a living with your art for 20 years. Why do you need another piece of paper that shows you know what you already know how to do?” — Sara Olson, my CE metals teacher.
4. “Those are the words of a poet. Only poets notice things like that. Why don’t you try to write more?” — Kitta MacPherson, science editor at the Newark Star Ledger.
5. “Oh, don’t give that free rent in your brain!” — my dear friend Pat Wood, who left this world too soon.
6. “Holy crap, mom! Are you sure you know what the hell you’re doing?” — my son Kyle, who reluctantly helped me — as we discovered that yes, I do know how to put together and fire up an acetylene torch.
7. “It’s just a piece of metal.” — Jim Dailing, my stone setting instructor at Peter’s Valley Craft Center.
8. “Helen — you give everything, everything to a job. But it won’t ever give back. And here you are — in anguish. Stop. Your gifts as an artist are for you. You are not obligated to give them to the job. Just work here. Keep what is yours.” — George Frederick, a great art director who can paint like hell.
9. “You really have no idea how wonderful you are, do you?” — my closest metalhead friend Lexi Erickson
10. “My beautiful Helencita, do not worry over that. They are just those little things of the life. Do not worry over that. We have only one life. Everything es todo bien.” — Jaimito Carvajal.
11. “Oh stop. It’s not like you have to wear a bikini on the cover of the magazine!” — Linda Ligon, founder of Interweave Press, dismissing my discomfort over appearing in an instructional DVD.
12. “Try to find an environment where you can manifest who you truly are.” — Albert Paley, CoMA Conference, 2010
13. “Insight comes when the mind is not in charge.” — Michael Good, in a metals workshop, Denver, 2010
14. “Art for me is the product of the creative process. That product can be ugly, beautiful, it can be conceptual or a narrative, or evoke an emotion. So, what is art? The first time you do something, it is art. The second time, it is work.” — Michael Boyd, my best brother — who isn’t.
15. “Oh stop worrying about making art. We’re getting paid, right?” — Andre Malok, a brilliantly talented illustrator.
Have a wonderful day.