Wishing Revisited: Same Message, Different Voice

Wishing Revisited: Same Message, Different Voice

by Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Pelléas and Mélisande by the well - Painting by Edmund Blair Leighton
Pelléas and Mélisande by the well – Edmund Blair Leighton

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.” 
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

My last post dealt with the concept of wishing; how easily it can take over our lives if we let it, stopping us from actually doing what is necessary to make our wishes reality, as I had been doing with my garden – wishing it were neat and trim while watching it grow out of control.

The story I relayed about The Girl Who was Quite Fond of Wishing is the story of me in grammar school. The revelation that I was wishing my life away came upon me suddenly, in a moment when I heard myself whining that I couldn’t skate like the other girls in class. I finally saw that the other girls in class just went out and tried to do what the instructor showed us. They did not spend their time afraid that they would fail, or fall, or hurt themselves. The other girls in class tried, failed, fell, hurt themselves, and eventually succeeded – attaining their dreams, fulfilling their wishes of becoming figure skaters while I stood back and watched my wishes stagnate. In that moment when reality confronted me, I let go of my fears, tried, failed, fell, hurt myself, and worked hard to fulfill my wish to become a figure skater.

There is always a danger in unchecked wishing. Tragic love stories the world over – those ancient and contemporary, those of legend and those of people we know – are riddled with examples of one or more parties in the relationship wishing they had someone else’s special someone. Tristan and Isolde, Pelléas and Mélisande, Anna Karenina, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are a micro-sampling of the fictional and real-life instances of the devastation of unchecked wishing. Rather than focusing on living the life he or she was meant to have, he or she focuses on the wish of a life that the other person’s life and possessions represent, thinking that one must possess exactly what someone else has in order for the wish to be fulfilled.

It’s easy to get lost in the wish, to forget or never realize that the wish represents a potential reality that we can make real, on terms and conditions that are best for us. Trying to replicate someone else’s dream and expecting it to make us happy or fulfill us in any sense is like Cinderella’s step-sisters trying to cram their feet into the glass slipper that was custom-made to fit Cinderella. The slipper will shatter, leaving the false wearer in pain and confusion. We get lost in the passive part of wishing, forgetting – or perhaps never knowing – that there is an active part of wishing, the part that we must do to attain the reality. In the process of getting lost in the wish, we begin to confuse the model, the representation of our ideal, our Long-Hoped-For with the True One meant only for us.

Wishing can become a way of giving up too soon, of turning away too soon because we do not see our ship of dreams landing on shore. Like the miner who tires of swinging his pick-axe, walking away dragging his axe in dejection, when he is only two axe swings away from his mother lode, we also tire, often turning to wishing at the moment we stop swinging our pick axes, often only steps from our goal.

Wishing is a good thing. It helps us to see what’s possible which leads to a plan of action. Today I vow to keep swinging my pick-axe until I reach my mother lode, to not turn away in resignation but to “act and do things accordingly”.

Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Second Lesson

Four Lessons I Learned from Antonio Vivaldi: Spring’s Second Lesson

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

(As this is part of a series and it may be helpful to see where it all began, here is the link to catch up on the reason for and start of my endeavor to learn something new from repeated exposure to a single work of art).


Portrait of a Chess Player - Marcel Duchamp
Portrait of  a Chess Player – Marcel Duchamp


“What seems mundane and trivial is the very stuff that discovery is made of. The only difference is our perspective, our readiness to put the pieces together in an entirely different way and to see patterns where only shadows appeared just a moment before.”

 – Edward B. Lindaman –


In my adventures with Signore Vivaldi this week, I have come to appreciate the power of pattern. Vivaldi composed the Four Seasons around a pattern of fast-slow-fast or, in musical terms, allegro-largo-allegro, tweaking the pace to match the season in question.

Belonging to the Baroque era in music, which focused on bringing the communicative powers of music to the forefront, Vivaldi saw the untold potential to paint masterpieces of sound that evoked a feeling and expression in the hearer allowing the hearer to become part of the scene himself. Hence, his experimentation with the Program Music form – finding the right combinations of rigid and supple, fast and slow, high and low, loud and soft – allowed him to develop not only the benchmark of the form of music, but to develop into the benchmark for how to execute the form. Through the development of the pattern of program music, Signor Vivaldi gave every musician henceforward the tools needed to be able to speak through music.

Patterns fill our lives. Sometimes these patterns are beneficial – think of the calendar with its daily and seasonal repetition, or of the tidal patterns. Other times our patterns are detrimental, particularly when it comes to the patterns we fall into of filling our days with too many things to accomplish, giving no regard for our physical and emotional capacity; or of repeatedly pursuing a course of action that fails us every time. In fact, every fiber of our lives exists in a pattern (D.N.A.), functions according to a pattern (our intellect, nervous system, digestive system, sleep patterns), and is part of a larger pattern of patterns (the body as a whole which functions within an ever-widening community of other bodies).

As it happens, and as many of you who expected this posting last week know, my pattern of posting Art Life Connection every Thursday was interrupted. This particular interruption was due to illness. Other interruptions have been self-imposed for sundry reasons.  Still others were beyond my control. The fact remains that in spite of our efforts to break patterns (a good thing if breaking a harmful pattern) and escape the routine, patterns are here to stay. For good or for bad, we cannot live without patterns. Thankfully, Signor Vivaldi has shown us how to create beautiful music with the patterns of our lives.


2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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When It Comes to Our Artistic Judgements, We’re All Freshmen

When It Comes to Our Artistic Judgements, We’re All Freshmen

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter


The Freshman

Clark Kellogg: I don’t want to go to Palermo Sicily!

Victor Ray: Have you ever been there?

Clark Kellogg: No, of course not!

Victor Ray: Then you really can’t make an informed judgment, can you, Rodolfo?

 – The Freshman, TriStar Pictures 1990, written by Andrew Bergman –

 A not-so-long time ago, in a land quite near, my brother went off to college – a young freshman heading to a tiny island off the coast of New York City. Coincidently, that same year, Matthew Broderick did the same thing – on the big screen at least. Shortly before my brother headed south for his orientation, we jokingly purchased the movie The Freshman, starring the aforementioned Mr. Broderick, and watched it as a family to show my mother that she had nothing to worry about (insert filial giggles, nudges, and winks here).

One of my favorite scenes from the movie is the scene when Cousin Vic surreptitiously hands Clark Kellogg a fake Italian passport – a Plan B in the event that the evening’s escapades go awry. I come back to this scene often, particularly when I feel myself becoming closed-minded in the safety of my cocoon-of-the-moment.

In the realm of the creative endeavors of others, our cocoons-of-the-moment wrap themselves around us readily, and often, without notice. We become so caught up in our interior universes, which we rule with the withering authority and dry wit of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, seeing all from the lofty heights upon which Superiority perches. We echo the sentiments of Clark Kellogg when faced with art that challenges us, our way of thinking, our superiority, our surety in life-as-we-know-it, “I don’t want to go to Palermo Sicily!” Like Mr. Kellogg, we have never been to the place to which this confrontational work of art begs us to go. Yet, we think, if we admit that this new world may be worth a visit, may have something positive to offer, we jeopardize the very foundation upon we have established our claim, thereby ceding our rule and authority, our superiority.

Vulnerability is never an easy territory to occupy, yet those who do so reveal their true strength and greatness. Opening ourselves to the possibilities and wonders of new worlds reveals just how confident we are in our abilities to hold onto our homeland by expanding its borders. Opening ourselves up to new ways of seeing familiar things allows us to take in the wider view, the fuller picture to be certain that we are proceeding in the best manner possible for the situation, to be certain that we are making informed judgments.

Even if that judgment is the determination that we honestly do not like the artistic version of Palermo Sicily presented to us, we may move forward, confident in our decision. Remembering that with every artistic encounter we have, we are seeing it anew; that we are the freshman on campus, not the graduating senior, helps to keep our perspective and our minds open to the message we need to hear at that moment. The same artistic work seen at another moment will have another message to give us. As long as we venture forth into the land of vulnerability with a mind open to listening, we will hear the message every time, expanding and enriching our universes along the way.


2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise

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Art Inspiring Artists: A Literary Idea

Art Inspiring Artists: A Literary Idea

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Lines of Vision - Irish Writers on Art - large

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle –

 Of the great artists of the world, the community of the uninitiated would immediately bring to mind names of artists or works of art from countries such as France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. Some slightly more initiated may recall the names of artists from North or South America and England. The one country that surprises in its abundance of truly great artists, lush with talent, skill, and influence, is Ireland.

People generally remember Ireland for her wealth of literary geniuses – Joyce, McCourt, Banville, Behan, Wilde, Enright, Swift et al – as well as her plethora of musical prodigies, of which new ones spring forth regularly. Upon further investigation, Ireland is the birthplace of tremendous artists of the painting, sculpting, even stained-glass-making variety.

Ireland is a country, like others, with a storied history; one of tremendous hardship and struggle to survive. The difference with Ireland is that, as an island, cut off from the masses, she has had to look inward for her strength, she has had to use her wits and her wit to survive and thrive under inhospitable conditions. This constant inward gaze acts as an incubator for creative thought as a means of finding and making sense of the truth, which ultimately needs to express itself in some form.

In 2014, in celebration of the museum’s 150th anniversary, the National Gallery of Ireland invited fifty-six Irish writers to spend time in the gallery, choose a work of art for inspiration, and write. The book Lines of Vision: Irish Writers on Art, documents the results. Simultaneously to the release of the book, the NGI held an exhibition along with a full program of events centered on the theme of art as inspiration, a theme chosen because of the tremendous link that the museum has been in the lives of Irish writers since its opening in 1864.

This book and exhibition exemplify the core message of Art Life Connection – that art in all its forms reaches into our souls, touches us in some meaningful way, and leaves behind a better person, inspiring that person to reflect and create his or her own art. One person’s tangible, creative expression of his or her own inner truth/pain/struggle/joy has meaning to every other person who sees the artwork. The beauty of it all is that none of us has to be an expert or professional in order to create art, to express our inner truths/pains/struggles/joys. We simply have to look for the connections as we go about our daily lives, taking time to reflect, then apply what we learn in whatever form it takes.

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise


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Facing Facts About Art I Don’t Like

Facing Facts About Art I Don’t Like

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

BDRT Mech.indd

“Look, it’s my misery that I have to paint this kind of painting, it’s your misery that you have to love it, and the price of the misery is thirteen hundred and fifty dollars.”
Mark Rothko

In my journey to discovering the art that I enjoy – art that has something to say to me about my life, life in general, mankind, or what-have-you – I invariably encounter art that has the opposite effect on me. Not being one blessed with an effective Poker Face, my impression of the art in front of me is quite clear by my expression. Although I always try to be diplomatic (“my Mamma taught me right,” as my friend Nancy always says), the writer in me who simply must describe the precise reason or reasons why the art repulses me too often wins out – to the chagrin of those in my party (“Who’s she? Is she with you? NOT ME!”).

My high-mindedness regarding art began in grammar school with my first official visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston Massachusetts. I was completely in awe of the art that surrounded me. Everything else that came along simply had to meet the same standards. It wasn’t until I began writing Art Life Connection and embarked on a quest to learn all I could from the art that crossed my path – no exceptions – that I began to appreciate whatever form or quality of art I encountered.

What I have come to understand is although the product of an artist’s expression is the tangible result of said expression; the thing (music, painting, poem) that communicates the artist’s message, the essential component of the act of communicating the message is the effort and the personal condition that the artist pours into the product. The quality of the result is not important – helpful in making the message more easily digestible, but not important.

Some would say that art exists to bring beauty to our lives. They are not wrong. What often is overlooked or misunderstood is that beauty can come in the form of a poignant message delivered through an off-key tuba rendition of Amazing Grace played with the gusto, love, and conviction of an eight-year-old during his first parents’ concert; or the Portrait of a pug dog painted with the unsteady hands and failing eyesight of a doting, elderly owner with no other family.  I am learning that the beauty we derive from the creative expressions of others comes from the artist’s person that he or she pours into the finished work rather than from the quality of the work.

Art is a means of communication above all. The artist creates because he or she needs to tell the world a truth. This truth can no longer remain untold so it wells up inside the artist until it comes out on paper, canvas, or through an instrument or dance, or any means necessary as appropriate to the message. Let me be always open to the message, regardless of the vehicle.


2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise


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Fried? Scrambled? Baked?: What Julia Roberts Taught Me About Art

Fried? Scrambled? Baked?: What Julia Roberts Taught Me About Art

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

MFA Exterior 2

“I love Eggs Benedict, I hate every other kind.” – Julia Roberts as Maggie Carpenter in Runaway Bride –


In many ways, art can be intimidating. I remember my first visit to an official museum (as an eight-year-old, the various living history museums we regularly visited were too much fun to be seen as a museum to which sophisticated adults went). We left early that late spring Saturday morning for the trip into Boston. It was Family Day at the Museum of Fine Arts.

We found a parking spot on Hemenway Street, a stroke of rather good luck as we had only a short walk to the museum and the parking garage was full. Everything about the visit was larger-than-life; the 500-foot-long granite façade that would swallow my whole neighborhood,  the front stairs cascading into the circular entry drive like rapids over the Merrimac River’s fish ladders, enveloping an oval lawn the size of my yard at home.

Appeal to the Great Spirit is a 1909 equestrian statue by Cyrus Dallin

Towering over all who approached the museum, standing watch, arms outstretched, head tilted heavenward was a bronze statue of a Native American man on horseback. This ten-foot tall man and his horse seemed to me so real, so welcoming that I kept waiting for them to wake up, lead us inside, and show us around.

That day in the museum, I remember being mesmerized by the grandness, the greater-than-one-person-ness of the art from every age and culture as well as the building that housed and protected it all. Even this monumental structure was decorated elaborately, grandly, yet the decoration never competed with the art within it. I just knew that I would want to do the same if I were part of building something to protect and display the artwork I saw.

The overriding feeling of that day, for me, is one of being swallowed by greatness, beauty, and the souls of the people who created everything around me. I could not tell you the specifics of which pieces were my favorites, although I do remember wanting to make friends with the daughters of Edward Darley Boit, because I could not process the specifics. I was too in awe of the experience. I was too in awe of being allowed the privilege of the experience, I mean, this was serious stuff for adults, and sophisticated ones at that.

Runaway Bride
(c) Paramount Pictures

As a result, I went for years not having the courage to admit to myself whether or not I liked
a particular piece of art because it felt as though I was betraying the privilege of entrance into the world of art. I felt as if I was spitting on the souls of the people who put the best of themselves into work that did not speak to me. Therefore, like Maggie Carpenter in Runaway Bride, I adjusted my tastes and opinions to suit the people I was with at any given moment.

It wasn’t until I finally realized that just because I am not drawn to a particular work of art (pardon the pun) does not mean that the artist cannot speak to me through that particular piece. All I have to do is listen and look for the message to me in the moment and I will honor the artist as well as the work itself. I still don’t have to like the piece but I will have chosen to walk away a better person because of it.

2016 Copyright - Cathleen Elise




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Balancing Act: Balancing Your Individual Identity While Developing a Relationship


Balancing Act: Balancing Your Individual Identity While Developing a Relationship

By Cathleen Elise Rossiter

Jane Eyre - detail
Jane Eyre, 2011

“I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me – for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.” 
― Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre

As an independent sort, I have never been one to follow the crowd. Belonging to the In Group never made sense to me, since in my eyes, everyone is the same, we are all in the same group. It hurts at times, not belonging, but I was never willing to pay the price of admission – my Me.

As a business owner who struggles like every other business owner to find one’s place – what the best way to structure, run, and market the business is -, I find that as much as I rely on the experience and expertise of those who have gone before me and succeeded, their way does not suit me, does not work in my business as it does in theirs. Similarly, what works for others in their personal relationships does not work for me in mine.

Each of us struggles to find our way in the world, to get to know who we are at our core. Some struggle harder than others to unearth the treasure of our Me, the treasure of our true self that we seem so afraid to display. Oftentimes it is easier to become what others say we should be because experience has shown us that others cannot be trusted to value our treasure properly. So, we never take it out, we bury it under someone else’s vision of who we are.

When developing a relationship of any kind, it is critical (if one intends on developing a solid, healthy relationship) to know yourself solidly, to be so comfortable with your real self that no one has the power to determine your value, your worth, or your happiness. If you place that power and responsibility into someone else’s hands, they will always get it wrong and you will always be unhappy. The relationship will never be healthy because you will have given up responsibility for the outcome and thrown the balance off kilter.

Many people fail to make the distinction between asserting one’s individuality as an equal partner and becoming a dictator. Too often I see relationships that fall apart because one or more parties are caught in the trap of rigidly dictating how the relationship will run, leaving no room for movement, stifling natural growth, overcompensating out of fear of being a victim that the offending party becomes what he or she sought to avoid.

This month, take the time to get to know yourself. Get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly as it were. Know what you want from yourself, from life, from others. Know where you draw the line on different issues and what the consequences are for stepping over these lines. Learn how to set limits and expectations while allowing for the humanness that will inevitably rear its head.

Solid relationships require hard work. Anything worthwhile always does.