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Excerpted from Being Black by Angel Kyodo Williams. Copyright © 2000 by Angel Kyodo Williams. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Every art requires practice, even if you are a natural."

  Angel Kyodo WilliamsBeing Black, Part 2

Because it seems way too hard to confront, and because we were never taught differently, we put many of these feelings in our back pockets. Our coping mechanism of choice is to ignore. To say "’sall good!" or "That's alright ... whatever," when really we do not feel alright. We learn to turn and look the other direction whenever something uncomfortable or negative comes our way. As a result we live with these small, nagging sensations of inner dissatisfaction and inadequacy without rest. This internal discomfort plagues us on a daily basis. From time to time it reveals itself as a questioning of the meaning of our lives. We want to know why we cannot be happier than we are, feel better than we feel, get more of what we want, and enjoy life more than we do.

On the surface, in full view of the world, we are working our jobs and paying our bills (or trying to, anyway). We are trying hard to manage our existence. But many of us feel lost, out of place. We describe this feeling in many ways. We say, "I don't know, I'm just not happy." "I know I should be doing something more with my life." "I feel as if I haven't found my purpose." Often we are not only unable to express how we feel, we do not even know what these feelings are about. Instead, we just feel ill at ease and move through our lives with a sense of agitation and irritability. We may even treat other people with disregard be-cause we don't know how else to express our inner dissatisfaction.

This feeling of being out of place is particularly disturbing to us because we usually feel as if we are experiencing it alone. Everyone else seems to belong to this life, to this universe, more than we do. We feel powerless because we believe we do not have the skills we need to master our lives.

Life is truly an art form. It is like any art form – painting, sculpting, playing an instrument or a sport – in that you have to develop your skills in order to be masterful. Even though you may not think of it this way, no matter how excellent you get at whatever your art is, you started out with the basic ingredients for that skillfulness right from the beginning. When we watch Michael Jordan soar high above the rim, hear a Miles Davis riff, or look at a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, it seems amazing that they could be so good at their arts. Ifs as if they were just born that way. And ifs true, they were. So were you and I.

We have all the basic skills we need to master the art that we call life. But usually, we forget this. Either we are not reminded of it enough or we were simply never told. So we go around in life feeling as if we don't really know what we are doing. Or we spend a lot of time pretending that we're in control when deep down, we feel exactly the opposite. Either way, we end up wishing someone would give us a cheat-sheet that we could use to find a quick fix to everything that bothers us. We want to know how we can just get everything right, fast.

There are lots of things I don't know, but the one thing I know for sure is that there is no quick fix for our lives. The first reason that the quick fix doesn't exist is because nothing truly valuable happens quickly. Every art requires practice, even if you are a natural. Michael lived in his backyard basketball court. Miles played relentlessly and constantly. Basquiat studied the masters.

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