mistakes by the lake

sit down. let me tell you a story about ohmygod what am I doing?

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10 things from a week named OPEN

This week, I felt like an exposed nerve and an empty bowl under a faucet and the theme could have been OPEN if I was going to name my week. Maybe next week will be named CLOSED, but either way is OK. We have seasons.

My friend Danielle makes the best lists and sells things I like over here. I am having that kind of week/season where I find it hard to organize my thoughts. So, here we are with a list. About the week. Written on a Sunday night, under a pile of pets and anxieties and joyful memories from the last 7 days. Here are some:

  1. I was social. And I tiptoed into it. And then I opened up. And I realized that it’s OK to hide when you need to hide. People will wait. They might even wait a little longer than you think they will. We all have seasons.
  2. I got up early. I did hard workouts that made me feel good and clean some days and exhausted and gross other days.
  3. I slept in. I felt manic and woke up wired and some days woke up zombie-tired.
  4. I learned that someone important from my past was sober and had been for almost as long as I had been. We exchanged a small handful of words about this, they were all peaceful, and I felt, for the first time really genuinely, that our past selves, the ones that loved each other and were intertwined so fiercely, and unkind to each other at times, were dead. I felt free. I was happy for our new selves.
  5. I spent a lot of time with kids and felt like maybe I didn’t want to have kids because holy shit they require so much energy.
  6. I spent a lot of time with kids and felt the weight of sadness over not having kids and feeling like I had majorly fucked up by not having them yet. I have these two conflicting feelings on a daily basis and this week was just more of each.
  7. I had hard conversations and felt really good about them one day and then felt awful about them the next . I doubt myself when I least expect it.
  8. I ate so much ice cream this week. I feel really good about that choice. It’s the end of July. This is like the holiday season of ice cream eating.
  9. I went out to my car tonight, to get my laundry, because I do my laundry at my boyfriend’s house. I was standing next to the car, getting ready to hike the basket up on my hip when I heard a scratching sound. I thought it was a cricket and I thought that maybe there was a cricket on this branch right by my head, resting on top of the car. And I stared at the branch. And I listened. And I realized that the noise was the light scratching of the leaf against the roof. A breeze would come, and lift it up for a moment, and then bring it back down to resume the uneven scratching noise. I felt the message “breathe, and just keep breathing when you feel too heavy” and that was perhaps god and perhaps not. And I don’t mind if that sounds nuts.
  10.  Sometimes editing is good and other times, it feels like starting to clean for your friends who are coming over and then saying “you know what my house looks like, fuck it” and putting the lint roller down. I’m glad that you’re reading about this season, and that you don’t mind the mess.

The shadow side to all this light

Starting out with an aside: In the most chill and non-obsessed way I would like to commit to writing every day and posting a thing I’ve written once a week. So there you have that. Let’s carry on.

I’ve always been a fan of telling stories. Today I’m wondering about the timing. As in, when do we feel like we “can” tell our story? The only story I’ve got is my own, so I’ll use that as an example here.

A story about quitting drinking. When did I feel like it was safe to talk about it? After I had quit, for sure. I’m just starting to feel OK about telling this story because it’s been a year since I made the move. My reasons to not tell the story are the same reasons I hate telling people that I don’t drink and are the same reasons I didn’t quit until I did:

  • I didn’t drink as much as other people drank
  • I never drank in the shower like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas
  • Nobody ever sat me down and told me, in a gravely serious tone, that I had a drinking problem
  • My therapist didn’t tell me to quit drinking
  • When I first quit drinking I would take sips of other people’s beer so it doesn’t count as sobriety
  • People will think I’m a gross weirdo
  • I never got a DUI or got arrested or had someone break up with me because of my drinking
  • This will make dating impossible
  • Nobody wants to hear this story
  • I don’t want this to be my story

Those reasons are basically all “this is not how it’s supposed to be” and that is a phrase I don’t use anymore. What is supposed to be what? I got engaged and felt lonely. I was the skinniest I’ve ever been and I felt empty. I fell in love and we didn’t go out to bars or spend days on end laying in bed because he has four kids and I don’t drink and guess what? It was still falling in love, but it didn’t look like it was supposed to, based on the stories I had going in my head.

I think that if we wait until it’s time to write a memoir, we’ve missed some of the good stuff, unless you’re sure to tell everything, even the not so glamorous stuff.

I needed people’s raw, in the thick of it stories. In the months leading up to finally quitting, I would sit at work, hungover and numb, and devour essays people had written about quitting drinking. I would read about their binges, I would read about their anxiety, and their tight chest alarm clocks at 4am. I would read it and rewrite a story in my head that was telling me that until I was a certain kind of alcoholic, I didn’t need to quit. I find this mindset that I had, this narrative that I should be able to drink, and that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t, to be so destructive. Slowly, I read one story after another, of women who were simply sick of feeling shitty. They were sick of being scared of what they had done and what they might do. And I heard this tiny voice inside myself saying “yes, me too”.

In some ways, writing this story feels like one I have to tell. It feels like I’m writing it to myself, but myself when I wasn’t ready to quit. The me that needed a story, about how it could be better. A story where you can fall in love even when you’re not drinking. A story where the girl goes to Paris, and walks through the streets, and feels the breeze, and doesn’t feel like she’s missing out because this story doesn’t include little bistro tables covered in glasses of rosé.

I’m learning new things about right now, but while I write about that, I need to write about the before, and the beginning of all of this. Before I forget. Before it feels like someone else’s story. Now is so bright, and so much better than I thought it would be, and I would talk about it all day if you asked. But, if you need the darker story, like I did, if you need the shadow side to all this light, then that’s the one I will gladly tell.

This being human is a guest house and mine is a mess (and it’s fine).

Things have fallen into place, compared to the way they have been for the last couple of years. Not the perfect place, but a place that is at least on the ground and not on fire. It’s a place I like. Some major wounds have closed up, and I don’t think too many germs were trapped inside, at least not enough to cause an infection. I’ve found this place that I didn’t know about. It’s a place I’ve landed that is on the other side of quitting drinking. It’s on the other side of thinking my body sucks. It’s on the other side of giving my time to the wrong people. So here I am, having removed some trash, to make space for good things. And there are so many good things. Letting go of crap really does make room for non-crap and it’s amazing and magical. In this new uncharted territory, where things feel new and fresh, imagine my disdain at running into a very unwelcome guest: My Own Shit. As it turns out My Own Shit is the stuff that quitting drinking and quitting calorie counting and trusting myself did not get rid of. In fact, in a terribly unfair manner, getting rid of that shit only uncovered My Own Shit. What kind of shit am I talking about? Super cute stuff, like insecurities and fear and jealousy. The stuff we hide, especially when everything else seems so damn nice.

When this stuff pops up, I feel very Fuck this shit! How dare you? How dare you come at me when I’m almost perfect? I’m finally good. I’m finally “good enough”. It’s crazy to me that I can forget, so easily that perfection isn’t a thing and that I’m enough. Even with the cute plaques on my desk, and the writing on the front of my journal and the mantras that I repeat on my yoga mat, that stuff is so damn hard to know, like really know, when you need it.

The interesting and dumb thing about clearing away crap is that the new things that take that space can be mirrors you don’t want to look into.  For example, I’m in yoga teacher training. I thought it was so cool that I was finally healthy and responsible enough to do something like that. Now that I’m in class, I’m learning that yoga is not about being skinny and wearing expensive pants, but instead about looking at all of your light and all of your dark. So, I get to look at the dark. That is not what I signed up for, and I hate it sometimes, but it’s mine and it’s real.

Other example: I have a really wonderful partner who loves me and treats me like I want to be treated. Guess what? That does not erase My Own Shit. I still feel blind rage behind my eyes when they mention a past relationship and do you know why? Because that is what I feel sometimes. That is a reaction I have. That is a trigger if you want to call it that, when I think about a life that didn’t include me, about attention I’ll never get to have, and all sorts of other things that make me feel dumb. These triggers feel like a box of those snapper things you throw on the sidewalk have been dropped at my feet. AGH! Where the hell? What just happened? Why do I feel threatened? Because this person might realize I’m nuts? And leave? Because I’m not good enough? Or something? Everything? Insecurity. Fear. IT’S. STILL. THERE. Which begs the question: What is the point of all of this self-inquiry and care if I’m just going to come back to this familiar pile of crap that I carry around? Can’t I let that go yet?

I think this is true: How you react to yourself and your shit is where you find your power and your peace. I reacted in frantic ways to clear space for myself and that’s ok. I made changes, and moves and decisions. I’m used to reacting in a kind of panicky way. I’m trying something different now, as I try to stay on this safe ground, where there is no fire and no reason to run.

The other night I felt insecure and lonely and the feelings just swooped in like a hawk out of nowhere. I don’t hide from it anymore, by drinking or doing other destructive things so all that was left was being present. Sitting there with this crap and being like “Oh hey, it’s you. You’re so annoying, but what do you really want? Why are you here right now?”– I’m trying that. It’s not fun, just to forewarn you. Drinking is way more fun. But last night, I had to have that conversation with My Own Shit, and look at it and roll my eyes, and find some truth behind it, and then go to bed. Today, when I woke up, I was not hungover. I didn’t feel guilty, or lost. The nice thing about My Own Shit is that I’m getting to know it, and so, when it pops up, I don’t feel like I need to hide from it. I would prefer that it disappear, but it’s possible to think of it without all the judgement. Maybe it’s just a teacher. Like, a really annoying teacher. Here’s what makes you jealous, Alexis. Here’s what makes you feel insecure. OH MY GOD GO AWAY was not a response that worked, so now I’m trying “Ugh, fine, come in. I’ll make coffee” because that is how you treat a guest. Welcoming someone in doesn’t always mean you love it, right? Or that you want them to stay for hours. I’m an inexperienced host here for sure, and don’t always react the way I want to when this shit creeps in. But I try to let it in, because I have space now, and it’s not as scary as it was, and it’s coming in anyway. Like Rumi writes, “this being human is a guest house, every day a new beginning…”. It’s exciting and hard all at once. All of this space, all of these rooms, safely planted on the ground, to fill with my own imperfection.

Things I did when I had a panic attack at work.

I am sitting at work and I can’t breathe and keep imagining smashing my laptop screen onto my desk. These are not feelings I like, words I want to share or thoughts I enjoy. I’m trying to observe them though, because mindfulness is a nice concept. It’s a challenge, because my inclination is to judge those feelings, and tell myself that healthy, sober, yogis-in-training do not want to scream at the top of their lungs at their cubicle walls because they feel raw and un-tethered. But here we are, friends.

You know that feeling when you see someone out of the corner of your eye and you jump, because you didn’t think anyone was there? That is how I feel sometimes when anxiety shows up. Where did you come from? You weren’t here, 5 minutes ago. Suddenly, I am certain that my body has forgotten to take inhales on its own.  So what do you do? Like, in that exact moment? Here’s what I’ve tried today:

  1. Tea. This resulted in a long conversation with a coworker who wanted to argue that herbal tea is not tea. Not today, man. Thankfully, I had thrown a bunch of chamomile tea in my bag last week. Thanks, last-week-me.

Did this help? Yes. Hot water is magic. I would prefer a bath, but will settle for tea.

  1. A scone. I’m trying a new thing. I’m all about quitting stuff (I’ll write all about uCalorie counting may be fine for some people, but for people like me, who cling to things that they can control, it isn’t great. When I’m stressed, I don’t eat. Being healthy is fine, while basing your self-worth on your caloric intake is not. Eating food is good and nourishing your body is good. Equating constant low-level hunger with a positive body image is, what’s the term? Fucked up? Yeah. That’s the one. So, after weeks of planning and doubting, I stopped counting. I’m trying this whole new thing where I just trust myself and eat when I’m hungry. It makes me feel extra vulnerable, like I’m riding on top of a helicopter, hanging onto whatever piece of helicopter sticks out and could serve as a handle. So I tried eating because I felt like I might need a scone.

Verdict: Yeah, I needed a scone.

  1. Breathing. Here’s what I just learned about breathing exercises: Sometimes they don’t work after 1, 2 or 5 minutes. There are special times (i.e. real freakouts) when you have to keep doing it, focusing on your breath, riding that anxiety out. Patience isn’t exactly easy in these moments, but maybe I can keep that in mind for next time.

Verdit: Yes. But it was annoying because it didn’t work right away. Just being honest.

  1. Writing. Oh, well this helped. I feel antsy still, but I feel like I can get back to work, and get through the day. Maybe I’ll try this first, the next time.

That’s all I’ve got.

xo

 

PS: The new Run the Jewels album, a touch too loud, in my headphones also helps.

Ride the wave, trash queen.

I just fell down an entire set of stairs, carrying a trash bag full of cat shit and old fridge garbage. After assuring my neighbors that yes, that sound was just my body, and my body is fine, I went upstairs and aggressively performed a ritual. I threw on the tea pot. I said some swears. I cranked the faucet on in the bathtub, swore again when the shower turned on instead, and chucked Epsom salt at the scalding water. I stomped into my freezing cold closet, and pulled soft clothes out of a pile of soft clothes. The self-care, it was there. It was waiting. Self-care is magic on good days. It feels like getting dragged to church on bad days.

I am going to tell you that I’ve been very happy lately, which is hard for me, because I’m a human and we are strange about admitting that stuff is good. I got over this hump with quitting drinking (that is a thing that happened, maybe 6ish months ago) where things were fun again, and I didn’t feel like a boring weirdy pants. I’m doing things I want to do. I met new magical people. I got a kitten. I learned to sew. In some ways, all of the good stuff came from taking care of myself. Like I said, self-care feels amazing on good days.

Today, however, was a crappy day.

I felt anxious about work stuff, battling that feeling that I’m fooling everyone into thinking I can do the things I say I can. I felt generally scared of fucking up all the good things I’ve found. I got mad at my dog for eating cat food again (which makes her barf at 4am, always, always, always on the rug) and I slapped her in the face. Like, super light slap, but she did this squinty thing with her eyes and my heart broke. I fought with the insurance lady on the phone about a bill.  I went to yoga. And it was good. And I was calm. And then I came home, and I fell down the damn stairs.

Is it possible, that the self-care, and the patience with ourselves is for these bad times specifically? Practicing it is good, all the time, on the good days, when a hot bath and tea sound lovely. But it’s different when you need it to save you.  It’s not there to shut you up. Like, I had a bad day, and doing yoga and writing about gratitude does not need to change that. For me, knowing how to take care of myself, to soothe myself like a cranky baby, keeps my chest from hurting. It keeps me breathing. It keeps me doing most of the stuff that I know keeps me sane, like not drinking and allowing myself to eat Hershey’s kisses for dinner if I need to, and going to yoga and taking long walks with my dog, unless it’s 11 degrees out, like it is now. In that case, it means not taking her on a long walk, and instead, hugging her too tight and apologizing repeatedly for the slapping.  I don’t need to be happy all the time. I just need to be able to be alone with myself and feel like we’re not in a fight.

As I sit here, bruised from the fall and pruned from excessive bath time, I feel that I don’t have a choice but to ride this wave. Not a wave as in surfing down the stairs like a crazy trash queen. Wave as in, the ups and downs. Self-care your damn face off. It’s not selfish. Figure out what makes you feel sane and practice that. Like a musical instrument. Practice. Don’t stop when you’re happy. Don’t’ stop when you’re sad. Just do it, so that when you’re not ready, and you fall, your mind will kick in and take care of you. Or at least it will know enough to draw a bath and pour tea into your mouth until you surrender.

xo

Work in progress: I see islands

If you are wondering what this work in progress business is all about, take a peek at my last post, where I give a little explanation. Then come back here, ok? xo

I see islands when I close my eyes and when I am waking up, like a secret message, one that I can barely hear. We’re our own little islands, little ecosystems, but we send out boats, to gather and deliver, and see what discoveries have been made. My small island is floating, through water, behind my eyes, as I begin to anchor it back to the shore we share, to anchor myself back to a shared safe place. Some days I don’t want to leave the island. Some days I do.

We’re our own little islands, small land masses, bumping into each other’s shores. Sometimes we come very close, so we appear to have formed a new continent.

This image, of islands, helps me to understand who I am without my body.

Sometimes there is a log jam of islands, and we love that or we hate it, and we push off, and away, to find some quiet. On my island, I’m floating out at sea, bumping into the other islands some days. I’m setting sail for your island to drink coffee where the water meets your shore, because I’m hungry for more than my own thoughts and words. Some days what I need is to hear someone else’s breath. The smell of another human and a “yes, I know what you mean” from their lips is a piece of magic, is a whole wrapped gift. That smell and those words can feel like home, a place where I want to live, or at least rest for a while.

I suspect that the more I love my own island, the more I can love yours. There’s enough to go around, I’m learning. The more time I want to spend on this island, sitting in the grass, and staring out to sea and wondering and remembering, the more strength I have to listen when I set sail again, when I’m sitting on your shore. The more energy I have when we’re all bumping up against each other’s island, when we’re sending our boats out, when we’re discovering how far we can sail away and still find our way back.

If it looks like your island is on fire, and you’re throwing everything into the water, including yourself, I want to be able to see you, and I want you to feel seen. I’ve been there, and I know a distress sign when I see one. I would send a boat out, just in case. You don’t need to jump in, especially if you have more burning bits to chuck into the sea. Sometimes we need to let it all burn down, to clean off the island. Maybe we go to the edge for a bit, while the interior forests smolder and the beasts who call this island home, nurse their wounds. Even if I can’t put the fire out, maybe you can see that, in this moment, I have mine contained to just one candle. I keep it at the center of my kitchen table, so that I can see, and remember fires I’ve had.

These fires and these small islands, they look different from person to person, and they change. I close my eyes and feel safe, like my island is wrapping up around me. I love this body of mine, I really do, but sometimes it needs to be still, and I need to escape to my island, to check the fires, pet the beasts, to ready myself, for you and for me.

Work in progress: A poem I wrote while I was waking up

I love to look at pictures of other people’s artistic process, or creation process. Messy studios, a whiteboard covered in ideas, a rough sketch before it’s turned into a painting– yes please. The pencil marks that you see when you get close to a painting just feel so honest. With that in mind, I’m trying something this week, and I hope you’ll keep reading and watching.
As I wrote yesterday, with no purpose other than getting my thoughts out of my mind, I made a total mess. Super messy first draft. So much may get deleted, or changed, or expanded on. I don’t know yet. Instead of doing that work in private, and then presenting you with the finished piece, I’m going to treat it a bit more like an open studio. Every day, I’ll post the piece just as it is, wherever I’ve gotten in the editing process. Please leave comments Tell me what you think, or what you like or what you want to hear more about. While my writing is my own, I love the idea of it being more of conversation between me and the people reading. So, it’s Day One, and this is my unedited, straight from the source, run-on sentence laden post, that is not sure if it wants to be a poem or prose, for you.


I wrote a poem in my dream, and recited it to myself, as I was waking up. I wish I could remember it.

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Listening to what your body and mind need requires a little more quieting down of the other sounds. Don’t fight the seasons. When you see people, tell them you are happy to be seeing them if you’ve missed them.  I need to stop apologizing for needing to be alone so often.

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I went to the farmer’s market, and felt guilty for spending money on flowers because they’re just for me. I remembered, almost instantly, that the flowers were as important as the fruit. Fed my eyes, fed my body, because I was hungry.

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The world feels so noisy. I don’t need to listen to everyone who wants to tell me about myself. I don’t need everyone’s input. This is not a group project, but I am asking for help. This is not a team effort, but I do need support. We’re our own little islands, little ecosystems, but we send out boats, to gather and deliver, and see what discoveries you have made, and to share ours. To give you art and to bring yours back home. This small island is floating, it is floating through my mind when I am waking up, as I begin to anchor it back to the shore we share, to anchor myself back to a shared safe place. Some days I don’t want to leave the island. Some days I do.

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I’ve been thinking about what control means, and why it isn’t necessarily bad to want. I don’t want to control you, and I don’t want you to control me. I want to control what I can. There are things I can’t control, and that’s fine. Sometimes, when I don’t know how to move forward in some area of my life, I control little things, like the way the furniture is arranged, or the way the cups sit in the cupboard. I don’t have a person who tries to control my life, or if I do, I don’t know who they are, and they’re not doing a very good job. I feel the ways that society is trying to control me though, and it reminds me to keep sharing that with others. It’s like a light I need to keep on. I keep the light on in the lighthouse, to help the other islands make their way, to see what they’re doing over there.

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I have to keep things quiet to be able to pick out the noises that I need to hear. When I’m mad, it’s too loud, and I need to walk away, or at least look away, look inside, duck inside, for a moment. I need to take a look around, to see the pieces, to hear the voices, and to decide if and when I need to react. Do I need to pick up my anchor, do I need to move? Do I need to stay, do I need to call my mom, do I need to run around the block, do I need to hug my dog, do I need to be held, do I need to be sleeping. Do I have a need, or can I sit still and wait. I need people to listen to me, and I need people who want me to listen to them.

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 On my island, floating out at sea, bumping into the other islands some days, setting sail for your island to drink coffee where the water meets your shore, because we need more than our thoughts and words. Some days what I need is to hear someone else’s breath. The smell of another human and a “yes, I know what you mean” from their lips is a piece of magic, is a whole wrapped gift. Watching someone else smile at something you’re smiling at too, is the place where I want to live, or at least have a house. The deeper in love I fall with my own island, the deeper in love I fall with others. I always forget that love is not finite, and because you have some for someone else, it doesn’t mean you don’t have enough for me. The more I love myself, the more I have for everyone else. The more time I want to spend on this island, sitting in the garden, and writing and taking a nap because the sun is perfect against the bed right now, the more strength I have to listen when I set sail again, when I’m sitting on your shore. The more energy I have when we’re all bumping up against each other’s island, when we’re sending our boats out, when we’re discovering how far we can sail away and still find our way back. If it looks like your island is on fire, and you’re throwing everything into the water, including yourself, I want to be able to see you, and I want you to feel seen. Even if I can’t put the fire out, maybe you can see that I have my fire contained to just one candle, that I keep at the center of my kitchen table, and it would give you hope.

A case for quiet

I am not a natural at things that involve physical grace or balance. I practiced shoulder stands almost every day last summer just because I wanted to know what it felt like to hold myself upside down. It feels really good, by the way. Perhaps I was too enthusiastic about my balancing skills the other day when I fell out of a headstand and landed in a crunchy, awkward way. For the last 3 days, I have been icing and heating and whining a moderate amount. It hurts constantly, unless I remain completely still. Walking around like a robot has been annoying, but it did bring up some thoughts on stillness and listening that I’ve been noticing.

I recently found a picture from four summers ago. It was of my sister and I and my dog, hot, sweaty, maybe drunk, definitely giggling, on the porch of my studio apartment in Chicago. We lived together that summer. I feel like I was usually kind of dirty and sandy. I hated my job. I was desperately fighting for the attention of people who didn’t deserve it. I drank more than I could handle. I smoked more cigarettes than I wanted to. I had more than one instance of crying under streetlights with lovers who weren’t ready. I was a lover who wasn’t ready. I was a friend who wasn’t present. When I looked at that picture, I kind of missed how alive I felt then. That photo looked like it was pulsating. The things that matter are still true—I will still always want to be in a sweaty giggle pile on the floor with my sister and my dog. However, I don’t feel more alive when I’m fighting to be seen by people who can’t see me. I don’t feel more alive when I’m drunk and fighting under street lights. I do feel more alive when I feel balance. I had to think about it, because losing that level of energy can honestly feel like a loss of life. Like, oh, I am growing up and therefore life will never been as amazing as it was when I was a bunch of exploding fireworks, feeling everything to the extreme. I would argue that being still and listening more can make you feel just as alive.

I feel like I was fighting myself for the last 18 months or so, kicking and screaming through the transitions that I chose. Lately, I feel like I’m just watching the pieces falling around me. Like little pieces of paper, from some explosion, are blowing around, sunlight shining through. It’s a quiet place. It’s not scary, even though I have no idea what’s coming. I would go so far as to say this part feels like magic.  This is just the part where I listen. I can be gentle with myself here, but not because I feel fragile. Slow movements can be a way to take care. These are quiet realizations. I let my head slide under the water in the bathtub and realize that I’ve just let something go. I’m walking up a hill, and there’s a breeze, and I let something go. These are the quietest realizations that I always expected would be more dramatic. They do not make me burst into tears, or scream, or decide I need to pack up my things and move out of the state. Like that summer three years ago, I feel like there’s a lit pack of sparklers in my chest, but it no longer feels like an emergency. Just like, I lit these, and they’re beautiful, and it’s fine. There is nothing to scream about. Nothing is on fire. This is not an emergency. This is grace and balance, and it just slipped in the door when I wasn’t looking.

xo

4 Lessons Learned When I Tried Selling My Art

I’m going to do something wild and crazy here, and combine my writing with my other favorite thing, which is drawing robots. I’ll let you read about that here, on my website.

Last weekend, I tried something new: I sat behind a booth, at a couple of art fair/craft markets and attempted to sell my robot art. It was 90 degrees, but it felt slightly cooler under the tent I purchased at 6am the day of the market. Me and my lovely booth partner managed to set this tent up with a bit of assistance from those in neighboring booths. For the next 8 hours, we chatted with each other, chatted with customers, and folded and refolded our screen printed shirts about 100 times. We did the same thing the next day, but without the 90 degree heat. We did, however, learn how to block our wares from the rain and wind. Over the course of these 2 days, I learned a few things, which I have narrowed down to 4 Lessons I Learned When I Tried Selling My Art.

  1. Some people do not want my art. This is because they do not like how it looks, they don’t think it’s priced appropriately, they don’t have the money to buy it, it reminds them of their first heartbreak, divorce, dog, etc. Basically, I have no idea why they are not running up throwing cash at me, but they are not. If I was selling, say, coffee that I had not roasted, picked or purchased, I don’t know if this would bother me so much. When I draw or paint, it feels like the distillation of my little heart being spread onto paper, and when someone is all “I will pass” on that, it is easy to get crushed. Thankfully, just one single person liking my art can often override that shitty feeling. There was a boy, on day 2, who came up to our booth with the word “weird” written on his little 9 year old hand. His Mom made a comment about this being “the robot lady from yesterday” and then she told me that after they had seen my stuff the day before, the boy went home and drew his own robots. There. Heart repaired. I inspired one person. Can that carry over into other things? Can I focus on the positives and the people who do care and do love me and stop focusing on the ones who just don’t care or even dislike me, knowing that their opinion might be out of my control anyway?
  2. I can let go of insecurity.  I carry around a bunch of insecurity about my decision to work in a corporate setting after graduating from art school. There are so many different paths, and I had romanticized the path of creating art to support myself. I have felt, often, that I’m not a real artist, because my art is too literal (i.e. these are my robots. they mean..well that they are robots?) or because I work 9 to 5 and when asked what I do for a living I tell people what I do to pay my bills. There was a time, in the last year or so, as I was getting to know some amazing artists locally, where I starting thinking about quitting my job and trying to survive on art alone. Then I found a job that I liked. It’s corporate. I wear business casual attire and work in the HR department at a hospital. And I love it. And I love making art. And that’s fine. If one thing pays the bills and helps me to build a career that can support me for years to come (hopefully), then I feel like I’ve created an environment for myself where I can make art. I didn’t even realize that I had been working towards that until it was there. I can afford a little corner of a studio. I can afford art supplies. And if nobody buys my robot t-shirts and prints all weekend, I can still pay rent. That is good for me. The balance of security and freedom is good for me. We’re all so different, and that might not be the formula for you. It might be for my friends, and I will be there to listen and learn from then as long as possible, but that doesn’t mean one is “right”. Your path doesn’t make you an artist. Making art makes you an artist. What you look like does’t make you an artist. How you look at things does. In my opinion. Art is subjective, y’all.
  3. Feeling disappointed means that I tried something. I was disappointed in the way the markets went. Why? Because I put myself into something and created something and it didn’t sell, which was the intention. Ways to avoid this situation would include: not trying or trying harder next time. OK. So not trying? I did that for the first 7  years after I graduated. That did not make me feel good. That leaves trying harder, which is inherently hopeful. That market didn’t work out? Or, that run sucked? That relationship didn’t work out the way you wanted? That presentation, etc. etc…On a basic level, the option to try again is so often present. Yes, you have to build yourself back up first, which leads to the next lesson which is….
  4. Failure is a massive opportunity for practicing self-love. After the first market day, when it was 90 degrees out and everyone melted and became zombies, I went home and went to bed. I had the opportunity to go out with people I love and drink and rehash the day. This might be self-care for some people. Last month, I started a practice of not drinking alcohol and going home when I wanted to. Yes, my practice is  wild, I know. My body told me that was what it needed to heal from certain things, so I listened to that. When I notice that I feel fragile or frustrated, I listen to that. It’s like magic. It works every time. I don’t know what your body or mind are telling you, but I bet there’s something. I ignored so many things for so long and then I sort of gave up and listened. It turns out that my mind is actually pretty smart, and if I just listen, I can get some pretty helpful tips. Like, go eat food and get in bed. OK, mind. I hear you. Don’t text them. Don’t drink that. Drink this instead. Talk to this person. Don’t talk. Just listen. Listen to this person. You know so much more than you think you do. It’s amazing.

That’s what I learned. I also learned that my supportive female friends are my secret weapon, but that’s another story for another post.

Do you have thoughts on selling your art? Tips for new people like me? Questions that I will try my best to answer? Please please please leave them in the comments. I dream of this blog being a place for conversation. You’re all the very best.

xo

 

Boo! A story about ghosts.

ghost

ɡōst/

noun

  1. an apparition of a dead person that is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.

There’s been a ghost in my house, y’all. A “nebulous image” that’s been chasing me like a shadow. Let me tell you a story.

In the last year and a half, I have tried to deal with a bunch of change and grief in so many fun ways, most of which I’ve mentioned here already: running from it (figuratively and literally), drinking too much, dieting too much, dating too much and generally pretending that everything was ok when it wasn’t. Like, here is a hole…I will fill it with all of the things except more me. 

I reached a point of exhaustion with it all the other day, and something amazing happened. All of the too much-ness washed over me like a wave, and I felt like I had been knocked down. When I got up, I was alone on a shore of sorts (ok, it was my sister’s bed in Chicago), feeling dehydrated and sore, and could clearly see that I was holding onto a ghost in my mind. The ghost wasn’t just the past relationship. It was my old house and my old job. It was old habits. It was good things and bad things that had made up a home. I had spent the last 18 months trying to pretend that the ghost didn’t matter, until it all mattered too much to move. It was time to let the ghost go. It was dead. I couldn’t breathe anymore life into it. I suddenly felt like I had been sad enough.  I had cried and screamed enough. I had wondered “what if I had…” exactly enough. After wringing all that sadness out, I was left with a choice, as I saw it: I could let go and move, or cling and stay.

In the last 18 months, I’ve learned so much as I’ve stripped away the things that I no longer needed and added on new layers that were completely my own. In the end, it was me and the ghost on the shore. I forgave it enough, but I didn’t fall down at it’s feet. I looked it in the eyes and said goodbye. Now I’m walking away. It’s the most grateful I’ve been for a revelation in almost exactly 18 months.

Sometimes walking away is coming home.

xo