Life lessons

Autumn Birds by Ko Kil-Ja

Autumn Birds by Ko Kil-Ja

My mother, Ko Kil-Ja, discovered her talent and passion for Korean brush painting when she took up the art while recovering from breast cancer.  Today, she is a prolific artist who has had her work showcased in several exhibitions. In honour of her 70th birthday, I decided to post some important life lessons that I learned from her.

1. The world owes us nothing.

The reality that is my mother’s life – war, immigration, illnesses – suggests that the world can be a battlefield of obstacles and challenges. Conflicts can come at all levels: societal to personal, and everything in between. Watching my mother navigate through hardships has taught me the importance of being independent and self-reliant, especially as a woman. This is one of the most crucial lessons that I feel all women must learn if they are to achieve true self- fulfillment.

 2. We must give and give freely.

Whether it is through her charity work, her art or her teaching, my mother’s commitment to the world around her shows her belief that we should live life for a purpose greater than ourselves. Throughout history, all the great people have embraced this way of thinking and lived for a strong purpose. More than just a responsibility or obligation, this belief allows us to develop a sense of connectedness with others and opens our hearts and our minds.

3. Our passion can become our sunlight.

Finding her passion for meditation and painting, I believe, has changed my mother’s life. It has allowed her to embrace life fully and become the person she was meant to be. There is purpose and fulfillment in each day. There is beauty.

The wonderful thing about pursuing passions such as painting and writing is that they allow us to keep learning and growing as we move toward mastery.  We can not only enjoy the sunshine but can bask in its warmth and glow.

Creative waiting

I’ve never been good at waiting. It often leaves me feeling restless, impatient, and even anxious. I used to do a lot more waiting in the past – when I had to actually go into a bank to do my banking, when I took public transit everywhere, and when I used to hand-write letters, mail them off, and wait weeks or even months for a response.

I resented waiting because I didn’t have a choice but to endure it.

Most recently though, I’ve come to realize that as a writer I should appreciate the opportunities that come as a result of waiting. It’s the bald-headed cashier with the purple lipstick who will spark a story idea. Give her a name. A few idiosyncrasies. A temper. What would she do if she was forced to wait 40 minutes in a supermarket line, a crying baby and a mother who refuses to get off her cell phone behind her?

Creative confidence

I watched a great TEDtalks video entitled, “How to build your creative confidence.” David Kelly provides some interesting insights on developing creative confidence, overcoming phobias and achieving self-efficacy (the belief that we can deal with any challenges that life presents us).

I especially appreciated his comment that we are all “naturally creative” in our own unique way. Unfortunately, that belief is too often quashed by others, even if unintended. I once worked in a daycare where the teacher insisted that clouds could not be purple and had a four-year old re-colour all of them.