Monday, August 16, 2010


There is a message on my answering machine from an internationally recognized radio and television personality. I won't say who, because I'd like to protect their privacy, but I will acknowledge that this person cottages just across the street from me, and that 9 out of 10 of my friends would immediately recognize the voice if I replayed the message for them.

The message is about the Georgina Arts Centre and Gallery's Dinah Christie Celebrity Challenge. The Celebrity Challenge is a fundraiser for children's art programs at the gallery, which raises money by auctioning off small paintings by celebrities.

I am not a celebrity. Certainly, not like my neighbour. But the gallery is nearby and a few years ago when they were initiating the idea, and my first book had just been published, a friend nominated me as a bit of a local celebrity. They were desperate, I got in.

Anyway, this year I asked my oh-so-much-more-famous neighbour to participate. And the response on my answering machine is "thank you, but no - I haven't got an artistic bone in my body and it would just cause me too much angst."

Angst? Angst??? How could this simple thing cause angst? I wondered. All you have to do is paint a picture...

(This is my 2010 submission. It's called "Contemplation," and you can buy it at the auction this Saturday night, August 21st, at the auction described above.)

All you have to do is paint a picture.

And yet. And yet if it was a celebrity softball tournament, I wouldn't consider it for a second. I can't catch flying objects, and I barely run fast enough to catch a cold! I don't do sports. My neighbour doesn't do art.

All of which got me thinking about a conversation I had with my aunt a few weeks ago. I was telling her about a friend of mine who, back in high school, had marks that averaged in the 90's, held a part time job, and still always made time for other people. (Later, she skipped her master's degree and went straight into a doctoral program, giving birth to her first child while preparing her doctoral thesis because - what the heck - she was off anyway!) "I think that's one of the things I really liked best about her," I explained. "She just does all these great things and makes it look easy, but I never have the sense that she's bragging or putting anyone else down," I said to my aunt.

"Although," I admitted, "sometimes I feel really pathetic in comparison. Like when I called to tell her I'd been accepted into teacher's college, and found out that she had just accepted a job as a univerity professor. I just don't personally feel that I can ever measure up to her."

"You know," my aunt said gently, "there are probably people who look at you, and the fact that you work full time and teach other teachers for the school board and write books, and think you're pretty accomplished, too."

She may be right, but I hadn't thought about it that way, because I -- like many people -- tend to compare myself to others who seem more accomplished, and focus on what I haven't yet achieved. It's probably okay to think that way if it keeps me humble or drives me try new things, but maybe we all need to believe in ourselves, and our abilities, a little more often.