Middle Adulthood and Beyond

Adulthood (Current Age: 26 years)

“The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes. ” - Pema Chodron

My Current Stage of Life

Since I approached middle adulthood at 26, I have yet to discover more about my creative self. From entering in graduate school to being diagnosed with three tumors, I now realize that these events are a part of my story, which has been reflected in my art. While I was interested in creating experimental artwork during adolescence, I have now become inclined towards photo realistic art, which involves detailed sketching and painting, resembling as closely to the reference image as possible. In contrast, I have also been interested in minimalism, a form of art that was widely used in the avante-garde culture in New York City, which involves simplifying art work to allow others to partake in the artistic process.

Me at 26

In addition to the avante-garde culture, my inspiration for my work has stemmed from notable healers such as Pema Chodron and Louise Hay. In Pema Chodron’s Practicing Peace in Times of War, I discovered that I can have compassion to others by understanding my own flaws. By opening myself to accept these flaws, I can be open to others, thereby creating a space for peace and equilibrium. Louise Hay further expands on this concept of compassion by suggesting that my thought patterns are the hidden drivers to my destiny. She states that for me to free myself and become centered to work with others, I would have to challenge and confront these thoughts by replacing them with new thoughts.

One of Louise Hay's workshops
Pema Chodron's influential book

Thus, with these two influences, I decided to represent this “compassionate freedom” by creating a clay molding of a bird with shimmering gold paint. Although the bird is not appealing, the purpose of me making this piece is to convey a strong message through its simplicity.

This bird painting also exemplifies my need to use my creativity in a way that would satisfy myself without the need for aesthetic approval. I can recall numerous times where I have stalled in pursing my artistic dreams out of fear of not creating a “pretty picture” and desiring perfection. Bayles & Orland describe this need of perfectionism to be a major obstacle in creativity: “To require perfection is to invite paralysis. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do-away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart” (28). Thus, I have decided to delve and explore my creative self by allowing myself to make as many imperfect, “dull” art projects as possible. In the role of arts in medicine, I would implement this when working with patients by reminding them to harness their inner creativity by letting go of any conventions or myths that they have learned about being an artist.

In continuing with Piaget’s developmental theory, I would be in the advanced formal operational stage. I am at a place where I can create complex ideas and would continuously go through pruning and myelination although perhaps less frequent as in adolescence. This complexity is illustrated in a lot of my art work, which I have not only been able to reproduce effectively, but also quickly. For example, I can now create 2 major works that are highly advanced in skill level every 2-3 months instead of 1 work within 6 months. This progression indicates the level of cognitive growth and advancement, which I believe will continue throughout my middle adulthood.

"The Shimmering Bird" composed of clay and glitter by Reema

Older Adulthood: Looking to the Future

Although I haven't reached this stage of my life, I do hope that I continue to evolve my artistry in other modalities as well. For example, I would like to try learning how to play a guitar or designing a few clothes. Perhaps, I would try learning classical East Indian dance through ashrams in India. What all of these artistic endeavors have in common is that they fulfill my purpose which is to bring a positive environment to others by using my artistic skills for creative participation. I formulated this purpose while facilitating art engagement with patients and their family members in a palliative care facility.

Seeing older adults transition to end-of-life has really enlightened me to understand my purpose while I make most of my time. This purpose has been translated into my art work. For example, in my practicum at the Haven Hospice, I collaborated with a hand photographer in producing charcoal sketches for "The Haven Legacy Project." The photographer, Joyce, and I would have the family members extend their hands to the patient in an embracing manner, which we would take pictures of. In undertaking the photography/sketching process, I began to realize the importance of quality over quantity of life. Thus, my participation at Haven has been a significant influence in my artistry, which I hope would continue as I age.

The following image is a photo-realistic charcoal work of mine which I replicated from the original photograph taken by Joyce. In this sketch, an infant is holding on to her dying grandmother, which depicts the inter-generational love between two people. I intentionally highlighted the fingertips, the diamond ring and the infant's hand to emphasize the touch and the jewelry piece.

"Compassionate Touch"-By Reema Basha, charcoal rendition. Original Photo by Joyce Pearson

I found this art work to reflect my own life, which represents me integrating my past and my future self. I too would hope to pass my "legacy baton" to my offspring by contributing what I am passionate about to others, which is art. Based on my current trajectory, I will most likely be professionalizing my paintings.

In application to the course, I think that art is extremely important in this stage of life. Literature has shown that arts (in this context, visual arts) provide many benefits to older individuals such as "increased social engagement, sense of empowerment, and psychological health" (Noice, Noice & Kramer). In my case, I would like to bring art to others in health care facilities, where most people tend to experience loneliness and isolation due to illness. By helping others, I would be able to feel a sense of empowerment and fulfillment prior to my transition to death.

References

Bayles, D., & Orland, T. (1993). Art and fear: Observations on the perils (and awards) of art-making. Santa Cruz, CA: Image Continuum Press

Noice, T., Noice, H., & Kramer, A.F. (2013). Participatory arts for older adults: A review of benefits and challenges. The Gerontologist n.v. (n.d.), 1-13. Http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnt138

Credits:

Created with images by Alyssa L. Miller - "Girl Clown Searching" • bburky - "Grass" • Libertarian Girl - "@louise_hay_affirmations #icandoit"

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