As we approach Valentine’s Day, many of us will be thinking about and celebrating the people we love. It’s often our loved ones that are our greatest inspiration: inspiring us to be better, to work harder, to become the best person we can be. But usually, we need other things in our lives to love, so that we can be the person who is capable of loving another human being. So this year, as a Valentine’s gift to yourself, why not also remember the other things you love: the things you love to do the things that inspire you and the things that make you feel most alive.
How often do you take the time to do the things you love? If you’re like me, you find a way to fit them around your day job and other commitments. You snatch slivers of time that are never enough and procrastinate because you know you’ll never achieve all the things you want to achieve. Or are you lucky enough to do the thing you love as your day job – and if this is the case, do you still love it as much as you used to, or does having to do it take away some of the pleasure?
I spent my childhood with a sketch pad and pencil in hand and wherever I went, I would draw portraits. My love of art continued until high school, but at that point it became work. To carry on, I had no choice but to take a qualification in graphic art, but I didn’t want to draw advertisements or design product packaging. And eventually, I fell out of love with art.
When I was young, I also loved horses. In those days, there seemed to be many fields with resident horses, before collections of new houses sprang up on every green corner. I could stroke and feed the horses on my way to school. Despite the fact that I couldn’t afford to learn to ride a horse, let alone have any chance of owning one, I took every opportunity to be around them and read endless books on horse care, horse breeds and collections of horsey stories. And it’s not so much that I fell out of love with horses, as that I seemed to forget about them.
But when my mother was dying, I rediscovered both my love for art and my love for horses. Almost all of the paintings I created depicted horses. I made an effort to visit places where horses would be. The timing of these rediscoveries seems odd to me, as though perhaps having my mother die somehow took me back to childhood. During this period, as I regained two of my passions, I lost others – my ability to write and to concentrate on reading. But now that I have all of those things, my life is richer than ever with creativity and inspiration.
But why do we give up the things we once loved? I suspect that it many cases it takes an enormous amount of will and passion to hang on to them. Other things become more important. Or life is such that we forget the things that are important. Perhaps we forget that life is meant to be enjoyed as well as endured. We realise that only the few are able to make a living from creative pursuits and accept (whether it’s true or not) that we aren’t one of them. Or we conclude that we just aren’t good enough. It seems wasteful of so much talent and inspiration that if writing or painting are the things that we love, there doesn’t appear to be enough success to go around. It suggests that creativity isn’t valued in the way that other jobs are, that often, it isn’t viewed as a ‘job’ at all.
So how do we recapture the joy in the things we once loved to do and lost? For me, it was accidental. I didn’t consciously choose to paint, or to revisit my obsession with horses. It was, in fact, a very difficult period in my life that brought them back to me. I think, ultimately, that life made me re-prioritise and I realised that the career I’d spent so much energy on wasn’t actually very important to me at all. And for me, this only underlines the value of my ability to write or to paint – that in the worst of times, I could find comfort and inspiration from being able to create. I needed practical support from social workers and doctors, but without art and writing I wouldn’t have been able to get back to myself.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I hope that you’ll celebrate the things, as well as the people, that you love. And if you’ve forgotten what they are, take some time to remember them. If you recapture a lost love or you’ve found a way never to lose it, please share it with me.