Independence Day, individual-style

Jun 27, 2013 By Betty Starks Case

Whatever path you choose, don't expect results to be like anyone else's.

How shall we celebrate our nation's independence 237 years after the American Revolution of 1776?

First, we give thanks to our military protectors who've made our many freedoms possible.

Then we celebrate our independence in more ways and for more days than there are people to count them. And then, just maybe, we turn the word "independence" inward. What about our own self-reliance?

My parents must have had a clue that something was different in our family. Why else would they assign me, the middle child, responsibility for my younger sibling's safety, and for my older sibling when health problems surfaced?

Had they already seen signs of an independent spirit? Or was I just a departure from the norm in their expectations?

Not that they didn't try to curb some of the enthusiasm. At the time, it was generally perceived by parents that if you displayed an inclination to do things with imagination and some sign of independence, or heaven forbid, a hint of self-confidence, you may be a little out of control.

But "Confidence," declares American actress and comedian Tina Fey, "is 10 percent hard work and 90 percent delusion."

I'm not sure about her percentages, but delusion may be useful if you can convince yourself and those you work with that it's not. Delusion, that is.

The creative arts bear an independence of their own design that can be helpful to those who lack confidence. The arts take you away from the commonplace to a freedom where rule breakers often win awards.

Most of us need some of this. And some of us need mostly this.

A recent newspaper article speaks of Wyoming Indian School students who'd been struggling with routine subjects, even thinking of quitting school.

Upon being introduced to and allowed to express themselves in art, many of these at-risk students began to produce works that not only elevated self-esteem, but stimulated their interest in other subjects as well. Within their creations, they found connection to other subjects, a wider reason and need to learn.

I believe all branches of the arts nourish a part of ourselves that we often don't know or acknowledge needs to be fed. An extension of the energy that created this planet, the arts lend a power we should feel ever so privileged to tap into in some manner. Even if it is another's expression, it can be ours to share and enjoy.

In my case, my childhood urge to create caused me to carefully lift and ease all the fly leaves from my mother's college textbooks.

We couldn't afford art supplies. And what purpose did all those clean, naked pages serve where they were? They could fill a great need in my pencil drawings of animals, child actress Shirley Temple, the Dionne quintuplets, and others.

In later years I asked, "Mother, didn't you wonder where I got the paper for my art?"

Her answer, without looking me in the eye, was, "Never thought of it."

But can you imagine trying to draw five babies, basically identical, yet each different in her own way? It was a challenge I couldn't resist.

Yet sometimes we don't see what we see when observing ourselves.

Our daughter-in-law insists that she possesses no artistic leanings, that her husband is the best one to select art to decorate their homes.

And yet - when she reported on her dream trip to France last spring, she spoke in wonder of the awesome structures, statuary, and artistic gardens everywhere.

Maybe we simply don't realize how much the arts call to us, how much independence of spirit they offer.

A prime example is small children at a music performance, drawn like hummingbirds to a trumpet vine. When allowed to respond freely to music, the small bodies sway as if spellbound, yet totally freed by the sound that pulses through them, soft hair flying, eyes a-sparkle, chubby arms reaching to the skies. It's a performance in itself.

At the other end of the spectrum, esteemed American entrepreneur and inventor Steve Jobs reminds us, "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."

Doesn't that sound like an invitation to declare your independence? To write your own book? Paint your own picture? Dance your own dance?

Whatever path you choose, don't expect results to be like anyone else's.

This one is yours. Independently original.

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