Updated: Dec 30, 2022
When you enter a well curated exhibit, you bring your own set of expectations and excitement. Looking around, your initial thoughts may be confirmed, contradicted, or confused as you sense at a macro level what awaits you. Exploring more closely, you may be surprised by the artist's and the curator's interpretation of the theme. New ideas may expand and perhaps redefine your prior constructs. As you wander through, some paintings pull you in and others don't speak to you at all. But even those which don't resonate have something to offer - if only in the question of why it doesn't appeal to you when it clearly did to the artist and the curator. The best shows leave you a little startled at the end, like waking up from a dream or leaving a darkened theater to discover the real world anew. When you leave a well-curated show, you have the satisfaction of completing an interesting and worthwhile journey.
I have begun to wonder if we might curate our lives in a similar way. It would start with determining your life's overarching theme. As the curator of my own life, I have chosen a lofty/simplistic/easily-mocked (so don't) theme: Love. I know, right?! But if I sum up all that's important to me, and what ultimately resonates most for me, it's love. I used to think it was love and contribution, but I've come to recognize that contribution is simply an expression of love. So I've simplified it: Love! What's your life's theme?
Having selected the theme, the next job is as curator to determine what pieces will hang in the gallery. Each experience is like a painting submitted to the show. The submitting artist might be my husband, a sibling, a friend, a ghost from the past, some random stranger, the monkey, the muse, or not a person at all but an accident of fate. My goal as curator of my life is to then to decide: Am I accepting this experience into my show as is, or rejecting it (kindly or curtly, depending). Sometimes, when I am handed a "painting" that I don't like at first glance, I take a second look. I think creatively. Maybe if I tip it upside down, or view at it through a different lens I can see how it may fit into the show after all.This process gives me some distance and a strange kind of power I don't have when I experience life as merely the viewer rather than the curator my life's gallery.
One thing I've noticed is that the days which end with a warm feeling of satisfaction are less the result of how many things I've checked off my to-do list but are instead more a measure of the love I have experienced, explored, or expressed during that day. Like a well-curated art show, I can look back and think about how different moments of the day reflect and impact my ideas of Love. Knowing these things, I'm focusing less on my to-do list and more on creating opportunities to experience and express love.
As anyone who knows me can attest, walking in the woods with a friend is one of my favorite activities. Now I know why. I experience love in the beauty of nature and sharing that love with a friend creates a deeper connection - a double hit of of love and always a high juror's score. Love can also be experienced and expressed at the dinner table, at work, in volunteer groups, and even in conversations with near strangers. Importantly, it can happen when I am alone simply by calling love to myself. There are so many portraits of love to hang in my gallery: time, attention, lending a hand, an ear, a shoulder, sharing a joke, a hug, a smile...
Creating beauty is another expression of love. It may be done through a painting on canvas, or a bouquet of flowers thoughtfully arranged, a well-made bed, counters cleaned after a messy meal preparation, lawn furniture tucked away for the winter. The Italians have an name for it: Bella Figura!
As the curators of our lives we can choose to a large extent what we want to feature. Life will inevitably throw us the unexpected, unwanted piece, but it's up to us to figure out whether and how to feature that particular image in our show. My goal for 2023 will be to be a more thoughtful and creative curator of this crazy exhibition we call life!
May your New Year be filled with love and beauty and may you find interesting ways to explore and express it!