Being Happy Is A Creative Job

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the beginning of a new year, maybe it’s because I’ve been feeling under the weather the last couple weeks, or maybe it is because its been gloomy all day, but I’ve been thinking about happiness.

Rafi and Klee Nerds

I figured that happiness is all about creativity. What I mean is you create your own happiness. You can’t really find it in your pocket or in the glove box. So, here are the Three things I came up with today that allow me to be happy. I figured I would share, and see if you can enjoy them as well.

Define Happiness.

Come up with your own definition of what it means to be happy. Make sure it is your definition. I like this one, I borrow it from time to time.

Rafi Talking About Philosophy and Art

Happiness is being the creator of your experience, choosing to take pleasure in what you have, right now, regardless of the circumstances, while being the best you that you can be.

~Alex Shalman

Appreciate Now.

Whenever I’m in the moment, and I’m really present to what I’m feeling, seeing, hearing, or doing, I allow myself to experience a sense of euphoria. It isn’t often that in our fast paced society we are able to stop ourselves from thinking about the future, or dwelling over the past, so a nice dose of now is a refreshing change.

Rafi With Klee Art

Don’t Become, Just Be.

If you’re constantly thinking into some future where you can be happy, you’ll be in the habit of trying to be happy. If you are trying to do happy, you aren’t doing it, you’re just trying. Instead, if you just become happy with your current situation, you can be happy any time and place.

Rafi and Klee Art

When you’re working on being happy, you are the type of person that created the possibility that you are not currently happy.

~Roger Smith

And that’s it… I know that hardly covers what it takes to be happy, but it is definitely a start… Besides, I have art to create. 🙂

#NationalSmileDay

As some of you know, I am a big supporter of smiling. In fact I’m all about inspiring a smile where ever I go with my #inspireasmile campaign.

Right now, you are either nodding your head or rolling your eyes, but do you know why smiling is so important? Let’s break it down.

Rafi and Klee Photography
Klee Smiling

Obviously, smiling has well-documented social benefits, you aren’t going to be invited to many parties if you constantly wear resting-bitch-face. A genuine smile and positive attitude can make you seem more likable, attractive, intelligent, trustworthy or outgoing.

But did you know that smiling more often—regardless of your mood—can improve your health and help you live longer?

1. Improved Mood
Smiling can boost your mood when you’re feeling blue, and may be beneficial for people struggling with anxiety and depression. A 2010 study found that making yourself smile when you’re feeling down helps improve your mood and increases positive thoughts. So, if you’re having a bad day, try smiling anyway—it may lead to a genuine smile and lift your spirits.

Recycled Art By Rafi Perez
Recycled Art By Rafi Perez

2. Lower Blood Pressure
Smiling and laughing more appear to help lower your blood pressure, which is good news for your heart health. A 2009 review explains that laughter causes an initial increase in heart rate, followed by a period of muscle relaxation and a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, which helps reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

3. Stress Relief
Did you know that smiling more often, whether you’re feeling happy or not, helps your body deal with stressful situations more effectively? A 2015 study published in Psychological Science found that smiling can result in a lower heart rate during stressful tasks. Stress generally causes increases in heart rate and blood pressure. So, maintaining a smile when stressed provides you with both psychological and physical health benefits.

Rafi-Perez

4. Better Relationships
Have you noticed that you’re drawn to people who smile a lot? People who smile are perceived as being more likable than people who don’t smile, according to one 2014 study. Being likable makes it easier to build and maintain better relationships with people, which is important for your overall health and well-being. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions have more stable marriages and better interpersonal skills than people with negative emotions. So, keep a smile on your face to help create stronger, healthier social bonds.

5. Stronger Immune Function
Believe it or not, laughter (which often begins with a smile) appears to help boost your body’s immune system. Mayo Clinic reports that laughter and positive thoughts release signaling molecules in your brain that fight stress and illnesses, while negative thoughts decrease your body’s immunity. One 2015 study found that laughter therapy increases immune responses in women who have just had babies. So, maybe laughter really is the best medicine.

rafi-perez-art-show-28

6. Pain Relief
Pain relief might be the last thing you’d associate with smiling and laughter, but there are, indeed, links. Mayo Clinic reports that laughter causes your body to release its own natural painkillers. And a 2012 study found that social laughter increases your pain threshold, creating a higher pain tolerance. So, if you’re in pain due to an injury, illness or chronic disease, watch a funny movie, attend a comedy show or hang out with friends and family who make you smile.

7. Longer Life
It turns out that the fountain of youth might be right under your nose. A 2010 study found that smiling and positive emotions are associated with increased life spans. Talk about a reason to smile!

So, Happy National Smile Day!! Go ahead and give us a smile!

Thank you   for this list. 

Winning Is Always An Option If You Don’t Quit

As I approached the gallery I found myself wondering how in the world I was going to get the massive sculpture I constructed up the stairs. I had somehow managed to squeeze it into my car without damaging it, which I attributed to dumb luck.

Luck seemed to be on my side that morning, considering I had pulled into a parking spot right in front of the shiny and unending staircase into the gallery.

Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez
Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez

I’ve entered the juried art competitions at Artel Gallery a handful of times with varying results. I still remember the first piece I entered, which was rejected with no particular pomp and circumstance. It was laid off to the side with the other rejects waiting for me to glumly collect it, like picking up a child from detention.

That rejection had a devastating impact on my self esteem as an artist for some time. I had just started selling my art and gaining some traction with local collectors, and it caused me to feel like I wasn’t good enough to continue masquerading as an artist.

It wasn’t until several years later that I decided to enter another piece, which didn’t get rejected.

Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery
Rafi Perez Artel Gallery

The marble steps to the gallery blazed white in the hot sun, daring me to make a move. I had managed to get the sculpture out of the car without damaging it, knocking myself in the head only once.

The only idea that my mind could seem to muster that morning was to pick up the sculpture and maneuver the stairs as quickly as possible. The sculpture isn’t necessarily heavy, it’s just awkward to carry around, because like most sculptures, I didn’t design it to be carried around.

I prepared myself at the bottom of the mountainous stairs, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and steadied my breath. One false move and all the work and effort that went into my art would be laying in pieces on the forbidding marble steps.

Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery
Rafi Perez Best In Show Artel Gallery

After deciding to enter my art again, I got pieces into four separate shows, won best of show, and had a solo show in their alcove. I also got rejected two more times, but it didn’t have an impact on my self esteem as an artist. Some might attribute the lack of feeling dejected to the fact that I had a couple years as a career artist under my belt, but I know plenty of seasoned artists who have a difficult time with any rejection.

I don’t have difficulty with rejection because after two years of avoiding art competitions, I finally realized that you can’t win if you don’t enter; and your art is not being rejected, it simply didn’t match the taste of the juror. The thing is, that art competitions don’t matter, but if you want to win one, you are going to have to face rejection. In fact, if you want to do anything awesome or important with your art career, you are probably going to face a lot of rejection and criticism.

If you want to be safe from rejection, then don’t put yourself out there, don’t do anything different from the norm, don’t try to have a voice, and definitely don’t become an artist.

Rafi Perez Solo Art Show 2017
Rafi Perez Solo Art Show 2017

Simply because someone rejects your artwork (or whatever it may be) doesn’t mean that you are worthless. It doesn’t have anything to do with you, and never will. A lot of people avoid thinking about being rejected or losing, but in my opinion it’s a good idea to think about that worst case scenario, and face the fear in your mind.

What if my piece gets rejected? How will I feel? What does it mean?

These could be hard questions, but until you ask yourself and question the validity of your answers, you are going to keep reacting in misery to rejection. The really cool thing about exploring these questions is that you don’t have to react at all, you can respond to the situation however you like.

My answers are less dramatic and devastating since I’ve had a chance to explore this topic and really decide how I want to respond to these questions and this particular type of rejection.

What if my piece gets rejected?

Then it get’s rejected. I pick it up, bring it home and probably sell it at some point in my lifetime. Who knows, it may win a prize at some other art competition… just didn’t suit the juror this time I guess.

How will I feel?

Fine, I have other more important things to focus on.

What does this mean?

Only what I think it means. If I think I’m a failure or a reject, that’s on me. This is an opportunity for me to show myself who I am, by the way I respond. I choose to respond by saying “Well, maybe next time… I got shit to do right now.”

Chasing Fairies By Rafi Perez
Chasing Fairies By Rafi Perez

I glanced around one more time, held my breath, and made a run for it. I verbally counted every step as I ascended the stairs with the agility of sloth in running shoes.

Out of breath and elated that I made it to the top, I stood there gleaming in victory. I then proceeded to scrape and bang my way awkwardly through the front door, hitting my head one more time for good measure. I placed the sculpture safely in the gallery lobby, signed it in, and breathed a sigh of relief.

By the way, it was number 13 in the roster… talk about dumb luck.

I had done it. I achieved something I thought was impossible to do on my own, willing to face humiliation and rejection for something I love and believe in… my art, my sense of fun, my freedom to be me.

Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez
Nature Of Being Sculpture By Rafi Perez

Had I given up, after that first rejection it would have controlled me. I would have spent the rest of my life being afraid to face rejection, and I would have been filled with “what ifs”.

I don’t believe you actually fail, even if your art doesn’t get in. Even if you get rejected, or lose… I think you only fail if you give up… because that’s the one thing you have control over.

It’s sometimes easy to give up because things might seem hopeless or hard. I didn’t think I could possibly get the sculpture to the gallery on my own, but my belief in dumb luck took over, and I decided to try.

Good thing too, I won Best Of Show.

Recycled Art By Rafi Perez
Best Of Show Recycled Art By Rafi Perez

A Letter To Myself In A Moment Of Darkness vs Light

I wanted to let you guys in on a process that I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed or dark. I write a letter to myself and then respond from a different point of view. This isn’t something that someone typically shares with folks, but I know I’m not typical, so here it is.

Warning, you may read things that concern you, don’t worry, I’m fine, this is just a way to get the feelings out in their rawest form.

“Dear self,

This week has been a tough week for me. I’ve been wading through an emotional cesspool of insecurities and old painful memories. As a result my environment has lost some of it’s vibrant color. I am walking around in a world that I recognize, yet haven’t visited in a long time. It is a dark grey world in which the sunlight is nonexistent. For a person such as myself, an artist who thrives on vibrant colors and light, this is what I imagine hell would feel like.

Rafi Stressed

It’s interesting to me that when your mind takes you to a dark place, it seems like the entire world has conspired against you. It’s like you’re in a movie and the set design is based on the overall feeling of the main character. You watch yourself on the silver screen of life following an old dramatic script that you have rehearsed so many times that it seems like it all comes so naturally. You are the main character, yet no one else is experiencing what you are experiencing, feeling isolated and alone, surrounded by smiling faces, yet totally by yourself.

So, my question is this, what do I do now?”

Rafi in a messy art studio

After a short pause… I read the letter, take a deep breath and respond as best I can.

“Dear Dramatic Self,

Good question! Well, you get off your ass and out of your head. Listen, I understand that sometimes shit happens. You are going through a point in your life that might be transitional. Maybe you feel like you lost a sense of direction, maybe you are going through something emotionally taxing, maybe some button got pushed that hasn’t been pushed for a long time, maybe things just suck right now. No matter what it is, you have every excuse to feel the way you do, but that’s the thing, they’re just excuses.

In my opinion, things that people call emotionally chronic are simply practiced. You’ve spent years practicing how to be dramatic and respond to certain thoughts or situations in a certain way. That dramatic script you mentioned is a real thing, people can follow the same script over and over in their lives without even wondering if they can change it. They can feel like their thoughts are thinking them, instead of them thinking their thoughts. 

Do What You Can Rafi Perez

You find yourself in a rut and what do you do? You sit, slump, cry, withdraw, and replay events over and over in your mind, and repeat. You find something or someone to blame for what you are feeling. Maybe you even pull yourself momentarily out of your funk by putting all your energy into being angry at this person or situation. Yet, nothing changes, this just keeps replaying over and over in your life. So much so, that you think this is just the way it is, “this is my life”.

You believe your story, you shape the world after your story, and discount anything that challenges that story. The story has to be true, if it wasn’t true, then it means you are torturing yourself for nothing.

Well, guess what? It is true. It’s true because you think it’s true, and your brilliant mind is going to do everything in it’s power to make it the truest thing you have ever experienced. Your doubt is going to punch you in the face, your insecurities about yourself are going to knock you down, your judgments and fear about people will come true, and everything you surround yourself with will be a constant reminder of your misery and fear. 

Rafi Perez

Do you know what else is true? That your courage will destroy anything doubt can throw at you. Your determination will pick you up when you fall, stronger and better equipped than ever before. Your hope and unconditional love will present itself to you in overwhelming love and kindness, and everything around you will glow with vibrancy and light, this being a constant reminder of your sense of optimism and hope.

It’s ALL true… Every last bit. The question isn’t who is right or wrong, or what is true or untrue, or what you should or should not do… but simply, what would you rather do? How would you rather feel? What would you rather think? What do you want to focus on? Who do you want to be? And what do you want to believe, right now… in this moment?

Office Decorated By Rafi Perez

We don’t carry feelings in our pocket, or find them in a box buried somewhere. We produce those feelings based on our perspectives and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. You can believe what ever it is you want to believe about yourself and what is possible for you, and you can do that right now.

Honestly, this moment is all we really ever have, this moment, right now. So make a choice, despite the script you have been rehearsing all your life. Just make a choice.

Now quit whining and pick yourself up like the awesome person I know you to be.

With Much Love, -Rafi”

And that’s it! Welcome to my world of crazy 🙂

 

 

 

 

#INSPIREASMILE Art Hunt March 12th In Pensacola

The date has been announced, we will be releasing 80 small art trees and 100 empowering happy magnets around downtown Pensacola on March 12th, 2018. Klee and I will go out in the cover of darkness and #INSPIREASMILE with art.

2018 Pensacola Art Hunt By Rafi And Klee
2018 Pensacola Art Hunt By Rafi And Klee

There is something special about the mystery and the covert nature of bringing joy to people that totally gets me pumped. It’s a very rogue and unexpected way to bring happiness and I hope people will be inspired to smile by the gesture.

In the past, I have left small art trees around town, this year in addition to the art I’ll also have small sketches that say empowering things, meant to brighten someones day.

2018 Pensacola Art Hunt By Rafi And Klee
2018 Pensacola Art Hunt By Rafi And Klee

After doing this art hunt for about four years, we realized it needed a name. We asked our awesome fans on YouTube for help and they did not disappoint.

#inspireasmile captures the essence of why we do these art hunts. Also, it helps us try and collaborate with artists who are interested in doing something similar in their town.

The idea is to spread around some happy, positive, empowering messages, and try to inspire a smile from the world. It seems sometimes, that the world could use it… I know I could use it sometimes.

Rafi art hunt

If you are an artist, or just a person who wants to #INSPIREASMILE feel free to join the movement, use the hashtag, and send us pictures of your art hunt along with information on who you are, where you are, and why you did.

If you are in Pensacola, mark your calendars. Pieces will be hidden in plain sight and some will be a little harder to find, but all will be just for you! I’ll be making some more announcements and releasing clues leading up to and the day of.

Thank you so much for being awesome Pensacola!

-Rafi

The Substance Of Reality And Balloons

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

Recently I created a painting titled “The Substance Of The Real.” It shows a rather stoic, old century style, statue of a man struggling to hold on to a big red balloon on a string.

The statement for this piece is as follows:

 ABOUT THIS PAINTING
So many things that we hold near and dear… thoughts, beliefs, or habits, we hardly ever question. Yet, many of those hold no substance. This piece is meant to be a daily reminder to question everything, to look closely at your own motivations, and to determine what is true for you… Not to ferociously hold on to something that you don’t quite understand. 

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

Now, I wanted to clarify something about this piece and my belief in what is real in the world. I know that a lot of spiritual beliefs state that the world is an illusion, and a lot of people will be surprised to hear that I don’t believe that.

I do believe that we live in a delusion… I know, let me explain.

I don’t believe that the world is unreal in of itself. It becomes an illusion when we look at it. We look at the world through our filter of understanding, through the eyes of our knowledge, understanding, prejudices, judgments, love, ideas, opinions, and current circumstances.

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

That world is unreal in the same way that a dream is unreal, because it’s based on delusion. The world is just there minding it’s own business, open for interpretation, it is our interpretation that is the illusion, and thus the way we see the world is an illusion based on our own beliefs.

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

You take two people to see a symphony, they sit in similar seats, have the same physical experience, and yet they will have a completely unique experience. One person tells you it was terrible, the other will say it was amazing… who’s right? who’s wrong?

Whoever you agree with the most will be right, and the other person will be wrong.

I like the idea of questioning the whole delusion… Cause, you know, I can’t be right ALL the time, and chances are a lot of what I believe has the substance of a red balloon.

Balloon Man By Rafi Perez
Balloon Man By Rafi Perez

In my opinion, you get to choose how you feel about the world, people, politics, religion, love, relationships, anything and everything.

If you ever find yourself repeating some crappy saying that you’ve just never thought about, I suggest you look at that. Where did it come from, some older generation that maybe didn’t have their shit together yet? Maybe an old racist uncle? A victimized mother? A womanizing father? A corrupt grandfather? A jealous aunt? A hypochondriac grandmother? All people that love me, all good people, just screwed up.

I say question everything, remember that the world you see is your delusion, and that you get to decide how you feel about the world you see. You can choose love, and not hold on so vehemently to those beliefs that are outdated.

Don’t Forget To Just Have Fun

I know that a lot of people out there assume that I spend my days blissfully ignorant to the real world, carefree as I float on my cloud across my studio painting feverishly. I assume that when they think this, they are either hopeful that one may chose to live that way, or spiteful that I don’t take life seriously enough to grow up.

Office Decorated By Rafi Perez

Yet, as much as I would love to live that way, I don’t have a cloud that can support my weight.

Here’s the thing, us human beings doing what ever it is that we are doing in our short yet miraculous lives, tend to take ourselves seriously.

Even as a guy who spends his days mixing paint and finger painting, I can easily play the adult.

Rafi Painting Bird Series

Have you ever watched kids when they play a grown up? They get all stern and furrow brow as they shake their pointed finger angrily… and guess what, we never stop pretending, we just actually believe it’s true.

I think that growing up and watching the adults around us stress out over the things in their lives, causes us to believe that is the way you act when you are an adult. Responsibility equals stress, or at least that’s what we think it’s supposed to mean.

Rafi in front of his turtle

I’ve found myself stressing out every once in a while when I have commissions and deadlines, which then causes me to become devoid of creativity, which then causes more stress.

I’ve found that in an attempt to have ourselves taken seriously we tend to complicate our lives by pretending to be serious adults. We stress out over things and try to figure out the solutions while focused on the problem.

I could tell you two things from experience, it doesn’t work, and it’s killing your body.

Rafi and Klee Silly In Art Studio

My solution, or at least what I attempt to do every day (which I can easily fail miserably at) is to simply have fun and not give a rip whether ANYONE takes you seriously or not.

Just do you, your way, the way that you want to, in the most funnest way…

Life is going to happen anyway, you are going to solve your problems, or not. Either way, stressing out about it isn’t doing you or anyone else, any good.

You might as well remember and practice how to have fun.

Because Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright

A few years ago, I had gone through a pretty difficult time and I honestly wasn’t sure that I would make it. It was during this that I discovered the power of reassurance and three little birds.

Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

Bob Marley repeated simple words in my mind with imagery of three little birds to remind me that no matter how difficult things seemed to get, that everything was going to work out for me.

Let me tell you in his words:

 Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
Singing’ don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

Rise up this mornin’
Smiled with the risin’ sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Saying’, (this is my message to you)

Singing’ don’t worry ’bout a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright
Singing’ don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

Rise up this mornin’
Smiled with the risin’ sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true
Sayin’, this is my message to you

Singin’ don’t worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh
Every little thing gonna be alright, don’t worry
Singin’ don’t worry about a thing, I won’t worry
“‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Singin’ don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright, I won’t worry

Singin’, don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Singin’ don’t worry about a thing, oh no
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright

Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

If you’ve ever wondered “Hmmmm, I wonder why Rafi paints birds?” now you know.

Ever changed and ever inspired by the beauty, simplicity, and love in that song.

Why Do I Paint Birds?

I seem to have always been fascinated by birds, from the pigeons in Chicago with the iridescent neck feathers, to the occasional happy bright red cardinal.

Recently someone asked me “So, why do you paint birds?”

rafi painting birds

I though about the question for a moment and said “Overwhelming fascination.”

When I was a wee little artist, my mother who was young and dangerously overprotective, didn’t let me go outside much. For years, my entire world was from a large third floor picture window that looked down on a busy street.

I spent hours a day looking out at the people going about their day, the different birds roosting and flying about, the abstract landscape over the buildings, the little bit of greenery that would emerge from fascinating places in the concrete. I also gave everyone personalities and stories, people would have daily novellas play out in front of me, and so did the birds.

Why I Paint Birds By Rafi Perez
Love Birds By Rafi Perez

But, although I felt that the humans had dramatic stories of heartbreak, turmoil, and moments of happiness, the birds symbolized something powerful.

Birds symbolized freedom and perspective. Because they fly high into the sky, I believed they were messengers who provide humans with a bridge between the mundane daily routine and powerful spiritual life.

I know, I know… I was a weird kid.

Why I Paint Birds By Rafi Perez
Three Little Birds By Rafi Perez

Every once in a while I would see someone at a bench feeding bits of bread to the pigeons. From my third floor window I could see a powerful dance taking place between the person throwing the bread and the birds. I could see something beautiful, a powerful connection to something greater, a brief moment of stillness among the chaos of daily life. No one else seemed to notice, they just hurriedly went about their day, barely glancing up or interacting with one another.

Years later, with no window barrier between me and the world, I was part of that chaos. I hurried importantly past people to get to work, or anywhere for that matter. I pounded my fist and certain index fingers at people who drove too slow. I was an adult, I was busy, I had things to do, I was responsible, I didn’t have enough time, and I was miserable.

Flight Of The Hummingbird By Rafi Perez
Flight Of The Hummingbird By Rafi Perez

One day, the overwhelm hit a fever pitch. As I was barreling down the road cursing in my mind at the lady in the car directly in front of me, my heart started to beat out of my chest. I loosened my tie and found that my forehead was soaked in sweat. It was so bad, that I pulled over.

I stepped out of my car to get some air and walked over to a bench.

As I was sitting there, wondering if I was going to die in my stupid suit, on a dirty bench, in a strange part of town, I noticed an old man walking towards me with a crinkled up paper bag.

Rafi Perez Art 2016
Rafi Perez Art 2016

“Great, he’s gonna ask me for money, just look away.” I thought to myself.

The man sat down, opened his bag, and started to sprinkle little bits of bread on the ground in front of us. Like a scene out of the movie “The Birds” a hoard of pigeons and other birds descended on us.

Didn’t he see that I am an important person? I was appalled at how rude this man was, surely a bird was going to shit on my suit.

Then, my heart started up again, and I breathed in deep… and just relaxed.

Rafi-Perez-Art-92
Fun Bird By Rafi Perez

Suddenly, amidst the gaggle of birds was a pop of bright color. A cardinal flew on to my armrest merely inches from my hand. I found myself mesmerized and just stared at it, we stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. It then jumped down, grabbed a scrap of bread and flew away.

I’m not sure how long I was on that bench. I just sat there and time seemed to slow down. I could see the world hurrying past me, people waving their fists in their cars, and others looking at their watches every five minutes. I felt like they looked so… so… stupid.

At that point the old man looked at me, I could feel him studying me.

“Taking time to do nothing often puts everything into perspective. Remember that, young man.”

Why I Paint Birds By Rafi Perez
Be Different By Rafi Perez

Then he got up and left.

I get visited by that cardinal every once in a while, when I get caught up in hurrying through life. I sound like a crazy person, but it’s true.

And that is one reason why I paint birds.

 

The Man And His Shadow

Hi guys, here is a short story I wrote a while back, I wanted to share this with you. It seems a little dark in the beginning, but I promise the ending is pretty bright.

man-and-his-shadow-5

 

The Man And His Shadow

One day, a man was walking down the street on his way to work. His thoughts were on his life as he looked into his passing image in the store windows.

“What has happened to you, you look horrible.” He thought as he turned away
from his reflection.

His stomach rumbled a bit in passing the faint smell of delicious coffee and pastries emanating from the small café on the corner.

“If only you had woken up earlier, maybe you would have time to eat, not that it
matters, you don’t have a dime to your name. You’re such a loser, you know that?”

The man’s expression soured and his shoulders slumped a bit. He made his way to the bus stop and stood next to a group of people, none looked up from what they were doing.

man-and-his-shadow-4

“You don’t even exist, you could die tomorrow and no one would notice. You are
worthless.”

He looked out at the passing cars as people made their way to work. Some were talking on their cell phones, others seemed barely awake, and some were applying make up.

Just then, a man in a beautiful expensive car drove up. He had a smile on his face and exuded a confident warmth.

“Look at that, if you actually had done something right in your life, maybe you would drive your own car instead of taking the bus with all the other losers.”

The man looked up briefly at the crowd and then back at the crack in the cement by his feet. The bus arrived and he fumbled with his change, and felt slightly embarrassed that he had taken as long as he did.

“You do this every morning, you make yourself look like an ass everywhere you go. You are such an idiot.”

Not looking at people, he made his way to the handrail and stood there quietly as the bus took off. A beautiful woman stood at the other end of a group of commuters. The man always looked forward to seeing her, but had never had the nerve to talk to her.

“Are you kidding me, what the hell do you have to offer her? She would laugh in your face, or vomit. If you talk to her you’re just going to make yourself look stupid again.”

He looked away disappointed, and wondered if he would ever meet someone. He glanced at his reflection on the bus windows and noticed something on his shoulder.

man-and-his-shadow-2

When he looked down at his shoulder, there was nothing there. Looking back at his reflection, he could distinctly make out a form of a small person sitting on his slumped shoulders. It bent down and whispered in his ear.

“Not only are you an idiot and a loser but now you’re going crazy too. You should just end your meaningless life now and put everyone who knows you out of their misery.”

He blinked his eyes and the image was gone.

Maybe it was just the fact that he was hungry, he couldn’t afford to start going crazy now on top of everything else that sucked in his life. 

After getting off the bus, he watched the beautiful woman walking away, a dream that would never come true. Suddenly, a cab honked it’s horn, startling the man. 

man-and-his-shadow-3

“Watch where you’re going you idiot!” Screamed the cab driver.

The man jumped out of the street and looked around, embarrassed.

“Even the cab drivers know you’re an idiot. You might as well walk around with a sign that says “I’m an idiot”.

The rest of the day pretty much went the same for him. He avoided talking to people, and just kind of kept to himself. The conversations he had were either about work or mindless small talk.

That night as he was getting ready for bed, he looked into the mirror and saw the shadowy form sitting on his shoulder again.

man-and-his-shadow-1

Frightened, he looked away. After a few seconds, he felt himself compelled to
look again, and the shadow was still there.

“Who are you?” The man asked.

“I am you. A form of you anyway.” The shadow said.

“What does that mean? Why are you here? Am I going insane?” The man questioned.

“It means” The shadow shrugged “that I am the voice that tells you what you think you should hear. I am you, telling you what you can’t do, in order to keep you safely where you are most comfortable.”

“I have been conditioned by you all your life.” The shadow continued “You have told me what to think, what to say, and how to remind you.”

“My whole life?” The man asked.

“Yeah, but our relationship was much different when we were young. I was much brighter then. Our world was one of wonder, exploration, and imagination. We played for hours and loved openly. There was nothing we couldn’t do, and we did everything our hearts desired.”

“What happened?” The man asked.

“We were introduced to fear, limitations, intimidation, by words or actions. You started to tell me to remind you of these things so you wouldn’t get yourself into trouble. All of these fears and limitations were based on other people’s opinions. We believed them as our own because they would keep us safe.

After a while we were just not good enough. We believed we had to be something other than we are in order to be worthy, worth it, or good enough. We consoled ourselves by saying nobody was perfect, but everyone else seemed so much more perfect than we could ever be. So a shadow filled my light, and I became darker. It became my job to remind you of your imperfection.”

“Why does it have to be this way?” The man asked.

“It doesn’t. I am tired of telling you horrible things based in lies. The truth is, you are perfect, you are the most perfect and beautiful version of you that exists in this universe. You are a unique gift to the world.”

The man looked deep in the mirror, and tears swelled in his eyes. He saw that the shadow was actually him. The shadow was the smoke that had prevented the light from shining within him.

The shadow was a lie that hid the truth from him. In that moment he caught a glimpse of his perfection. He realized that almost everything he believed to be true about himself was a lie he believed. The light shone within him, the light that was always so familiar.

man-and-his-shadow-6

He made a choice at that moment based on what he wanted out of life. A choice based on fearlessness and limitless potential. He made a choice, looked at the person in the mirror and said…

“I love you.”