Espresso and a pastry in Attigliano, Italy, in 2016

When I was perhaps in around fifth or sixth grade, my dad, Alonso Tirado, an offset printer who owned and operated a small print shop for decades, and my mom, Linda Tirado, who occasionally did typesetting for him, created a small mailer of sorts intended to sell ads for local Colorado Springs businesses. If it contained some straightforward, informative stuff, I don’t recall it. Perhaps my artistically gifted older brother, Gijo, a graphic designer in San Diego these days, contributed a comic and some other illustrations.

The two things I do recall from the mailer had to do with a spoof of a typewritten soap opera that my mom wrote for it, chock full of the oddball humor I inherited from her. One was the name my mom gave a Scottish chicken farmer, the piece’s provincial poultry protagonist: “Farquhar McLaughlin”. I imagine her sitting at the kitchen table at her IBM Selectric typewriter, smiling to herself and maybe even LOL’ing as her fingers typed his peculiar name and commensurately wacky life. The other was the title she gave the piece, which hearkened to One Life To Live, the four decades long ABC soap opera: One Life To Live It Up.

I can imagine unsuspecting readers of the mailer, with more conventional humor, scanning my mom’s soap opera with faces more confused than bemused. It’s probable that the businesses that paid for the ads decided to distance themselves from the venture due to One Life To Live It Up like my wife does from the room whenever I watch my all time favorite acquired taste of a cockamamie comedy, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Anyway, whether due to that or, just as likely, due to the time and effort it took to create such a side venture, it fizzled out after only one or two editions.

Speaking of side ventures that take time and effort and do little to nothing for the bottom line, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been mulling a topic relating to my life at the moment on this art-related, non-monetized blog of mine.

On the one hand, I’m beginning to feel a bit sheepish about calling myself a full-time artist, since, for the past few months and for the next two or so, give or take, my work weeks have been fairly consumed by a couple other side projects and little to no time has been spent furthering my art career, at least not directly. (The side projects, two new rental units we’re building on our downtown Colorado Springs block, are intended to provide additional passive income, doubling our rentals count to four, so they should help cushion the famine side of the feast-or-famine equation; times when I’m making art, say, for an exhibition that is months or further out, and hence, not making regular income.)

On the other hand, I’ve found the projects creatively engaging, and easy enough, physically and mentally, for me to focus much of my mental attention on what I’m listening to. While I work on the units, as per usual when I’m in my studio, I often employ sound cancelling earbuds or headphones to both protect my hearing from the loud bang of the pneumatic nailer or high pitched whine of the multitool and to enable me to listen to music, podcasts, or books on tape.

Most of what I intentionally fill my mind with these days centers around the broad topic of personal development and psychology, and it runs the gamut. While some of what I listen to gets filed into the mental trash can, if it hits home, I’ll often replay the book or podcast over and over again, in order to more deeply embed it in my mind. Topics range from improving one’s finances, relating to others, creating one’s future, goal setting, improving communication skills, developing the growth mindset, rediscovering creativity, ad infinitum. As I’ve found happens whenever I’m improving my surroundings, such as washing windows or installing wood on my studio ceiling, it’s as if my internal outlook mirrors what’s happening in my external reality. Obscurity to clarity. Ugliness to beauty. Currently, it’s chaos to order: transforming a patch of weedy, unused ground into what will be two well designed, constructed, and appointed studio apartments. It’s very gratifying and optimistic work and the resulting state of flow spills over onto the virtual page many early mornings, such as now, 2:54 am, one of my favorite times of day.

If I could funnel the wide ranging topics I’ve been soaking in into one thought, it would have to be something akin to the title of my mom’s soap opera spoof. We’ve one life to live. Let’s live it up.

We’ve been given talents and abilities. Been entrusted with minds that can form thoughts, which can create pictures. Pictures which create habits, which produce who you are. And you, transformed, produce a transformed world. Thoughts become things. Good things, assuming we’re thinking good thoughts. Things extending well beyond our current concepts of who we are and what it’s possible for us to do. I recently heard that some people who study the mind believe that the percentage of our brains that we use is closer to 1% than it is to the often repeated 10%. In other words, for all we know, our abilities, and consequently the possibilities for our lives, are nearly limitless.

We’ve been given bodies that can, in time, with practice, become stronger, become more skilled. Strength and skill that can open doors to new opportunities, result in new friendships. New vistas. To a more abundant life. A more fulfilling one. More enjoyable. More useful. More creative.

I’ve re-read the last bit of what I’ve written this morning and find that I haven’t really expressed what I’m feeling. But they say that the most common end-of-life regrets have to do with not going for enough. Not living one’s life of dreams enough. Not loving enough. Not forgiving enough. Not watching enough Netflix. Goes without saying that one of those things is not like the others…

In short, the regrets center around not living fully. Coasting. I didn’t ask my mom any questions related to this at a time when she would have been able to reply in a meaningful way, but had I, I’m pretty sure that she would have expressed regrets along these lines.

I’m a couple of decades older than my mom would have been at the time she conjured up Mr. McLaughlin, and I’m preaching to myself here, along with whoever else has read this far. It doesn’t matter what your age is. We can live as consumers/competitors or creators. We can view the world through a fixed, scarcity mindset, or through a growth, abundance mindset – through the creative lens.

I wrote a post years ago called An Unforeseen Course, in which I related the way I was feeling, having returned to creating art in my mid 40’s after a decades-long hiatus of my own making. I related it to a high country water reservoir like some of the ones my wife and I, typically with our friend Kathy, will explore in our kayaks each summer. I said that it felt like whereas in my early 20’s, when I expected my art to “fill me up”; to provide the meaning in my life, now, my art was free to be like the excess water flowing off the spillway of a full reservoir and traveling downstream. It could go wherever it needed to, in whatever form seems best. I wasn’t looking for it to “fill me up” or provide my life with meaning. No, rather, my art was the overflow of a life full of meaning.

Some of that meaning can come in the form of visual reminders. The other night while I was playing pickleball with three guys, one of them, Brian, an elementary school principal, was wearing a t shirt made by the “Life Is Good” company. On the front of the shirt was an illustration of a glass of water, either half empty or half full, depending on one’s point of view, pessimistic or optimistic. Below it, the company’s, as well as Brian’s outlook: the words “half-full”. Sometime prior to my drilling the ball squarely at his chest which, were it an actual glass, would’ve resulted in its becoming fully empty, I related to Brian something that I’d heard recently. I thought I’d share it with you.

Are you a glass half empty type of person or a glass half full one? Mentally, do you assume the best or the worst?

Well, there’s a third, outside-the-box option, when you think about it, and one that squares with my mood this morning as well as the growth mindset. It’s the one my wife and I usually utilize on weekends, when we have more time to sit over our morning lattes before the more active parts of our days begin.

There’s refillable.

That’s what I’m hoping my words, this morning, help to engender – the encouragement that there’s so much more available for all of us. Not more at someone else’s expense. More in a way that can benefit everyone.

Let’s engage. Let’s lean into life. If we’ve been coasting, let’s get it in gear, chart a new course. Climb higher. Explore more of what we can do creatively as well as explore more of this wide world of possibilities and beauty.

We’ve one life to live it up.