Every Moment

In each and every moment we have the power to determine the outcome, what happens next. This thought is not only scary as it causes us to take a careful look at our past and subsequently analyze how we arrived at this present moment but grants us the power to determine the next. There is a lot riding on this idea, and it can become too much for some to handle. There are days where I just push forward, jumping from task to task without ever taking a step back and thinking, and there are days (which are much more few and far between) where I make a conscious effort to slow down and be purposeful. Since my mind is almost always in an anxious state, these latter days are harder to pursue but I always feel better about myself at the end. In the search for peacefulness and happiness (which I often put hand in hand) I feel as though things in my life need to be perfect, always in order and in control at all times. I get overwhelmed by overthinking about how my life should be, rather than how it is at the present moment.

We are all dealt a hand of cards that we must play over the course of our lives, and no matter how terrible that hand appears to be, we must figure out a way of navigating what we are given. I often find myself complaining inwardly about what I must overcome on a daily basis but often neglect to look at what is working, or the things I could highlight and use for the better. If I hold the power to be the author of each and every next moment, why wouldn't I choose a positive outcome, one that benefited me in the best possible way? It seems simple to think about, but definitely not the easiest to accomplish in the real world. I often find myself going along for the ride with things that are happening to me but in no way being present or mindful. It's like I am moving forward in a trance, just allowing events to happen to me rather than having a voice in their outcome. Then I look back hours, or days, or weeks later and wonder how I ended up like I did. I want to change this but I know it requires a lot of hard work and mindfulness that I sometimes I wish I could avoid because it involves me actually feeling and expressing things-things like  deeper emotions and ideas. These emotions and ideas are ones that often cause me shame or guilt because I am embarrassed to claim them as my own, and would rather stuff them down and placate them to the outside world with a stoic "I'm fine". Yet, I'm not fine, and how am I moving forward or accomplishing anything from this? I am certainly not consciously choosing to be happy, wielding the power I have within myself to respond to events with intention. Every moment presents us with an opportunity to act  in whatever way we choose.


What is Grace?

Lately I have been feeling uncertain in many aspects of my life, and to feel more grounded and at peace with my situation have been trying to take a step back and identify what I need to work on. I am working up in Maine for another few weeks but then things are unknown and just that thought terrifies me. I am a planner, someone who is always calculating next steps and working on the next "big idea". But for right now, I find myself in this place of uncertainty and not knowing. In a way, it's exciting as the entire world is literally there for the taking and you could move down any path that seems inviting. But that's also part of the problem: too many paths. Which one do you choose? How do you know that the one you choose won't lead you astray? You don't. How do you trust that the universe has a plan and you should go with the flow? It's a lot to ask for and sit at peace with.

I started an online course that I was gifted  a year ago in hopes of understanding more about myself and my creative process called 30 Days of Grace taught by Alena Hennessy. I had looked at it briefly when I downloaded it but never truly took the time to devote my full attention to it. I came across it again today and figured its exactly what I need in this moment. I won't be able to work on it when I'm up north these next few weeks but its something I can come back to and finish when I have time, which I probably have lots of in the near future.

The first task the class raises is to set your intentions for what you want to get out the course in relation to "What is Grace?" I had never really thought about it before so it took some soul searching. I think grace to me is finding beauty in the everyday and taking whatever is in your life right in the present moment and finding peace within it. I wrote statements based on my intentions to clarify what I needed to work on and I figured I would share them here as well.

I am calm and present with how I am feeling.

I do what's best for my soul.

I love myself and I am enough just how I am.

I speak my truth.

I see beauty in everyday moments and appreciate them fully.

I understand that the universe has a plan for me.

One quote I took from the first part of the class is "We become what we think about" by Earl Nightingale. This really rings true for me as I can relate to my mind being filled with anxiety and having it spill outwards into my life at times. It's a good thing to keep in mind moving forward.


You Are Not Your Mind

I have been trying to work on separating myself from my mind-often I feel as though I have a million thoughts racing and swirling around in my head, and 99% of them are not helpful in the slightest. They are often judgmental, critical, and demeaning of my life and keep me stuck in a rut of unhappiness and misery. I have noticed that in times when I am fully present or make a conscious effort to be in "the now" a gap is created in my mind and the thought patterns cease, or at least lessen a bit. I wouldn't go as far as to say I am truly, utterly happy and free from any other emotions in those moments but I get a sense of relief. The gap most most commonly occurs when I am cooking, knitting, painting or cross country skiing-all activities that I strive to do on a regular, daily basis but wouldn't think of as particularly "special". They are just part of my day, but I guess I have made a habit to allow myself to become so involved in what I am doing that the thoughts I normally have cluttering up my mind are a little less present and don't take up center stage.

The hard thing I am facing now is that sometimes, particularly when I am home from work and have several days off with no structure in place, it's hard to initiate these activities when my days seem like big empty voids of space. It seems at times so much easier just to turn on Netflix or scroll through Instagram mindlessly and I end up feeling worse about myself. I know things like being creative and exercising are good for me, but getting over that initial first step of starting them can truly be a challenge sometimes. I haven't painted in a while which is ok since I am unable to bring all my supplies with me up north to Maine, but I thought I would be painting on my days off when I have more free time and access to all the materials. For some reason I have been avoiding it-maybe fear of not being good enough, giving myself a hard time for not painting at all in the recent past-I'm not entirely sure. Last night, despite all the excuses running through my head, I picked up a paintbrush and went for it. My mind quieted and I was able to focus just like in the past. It felt good to produce something but I don't think that was the ultimate point. I was able to find stillness and focus on the present moment, which felt like a welcome relief. Through this I learned a valuable lesson-that despite what my mind is saying and taunting me with at the moment, I can overcome these thoughts and I am not my mind.

Observing your mind rather than trying to judge what you see there going on in there or analyze it is an essential (though terribly difficult) skill to have in order to attain peace. I found an affirmation I read somewhere a long time ago and want to share it: "In stillness I find my true self"


Gratitude

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude over the past few days. The idea of being grateful seems so easy-make a list of things you are thankful for and call it a day. Though, I think the real power of this notion resides in the ability to pull this list out when you are facing an obstacle or difficult situation in the following day or even month. Recalling the thin silver lining within all the dark clouds is definitely not an easy task. It’s one I struggle with when I begin to lose my patience or feel like I cannot speak my truth.

I have begun to get into the habit of writing down three things I am grateful for at the end of each day and begin a collection of good thoughts, despite how terrible the day may of been. In the beginning, I wrote mostly materialistic things, those that came first to mind. But as the days have progressed, they have become more spiritual and aerial-less focused on “things”. I have tried to pair these ideas with affirmations to repeat throughout the day. One that I have always found particularly meaningful is “I am a radiant being filled with light and love.”


Setting Intentions

It’s been several months since I last posted and I feel like I have been neglecting my blog! I’ve had a tough time lately trying to get started on projects that seem to be looming in the distance. The hardest part for me is actually picking up the paintbrush or pencil when it would be much easier on rough days just to lie in bed and watch Netflix or to go back to sleep. I know that I will feel 10x better if I feed my creative spirit but during those moments I am opening myself up to vulnerability and that’s a tough place to be if you are already feeling low. So…I’m trying something different. For the first time I actually painted a work of art for myself. I put all my other projects on hold despite my mind desperately trying to resist saying I “wasn’t being productive enough” and practiced self care in the exploration of what was going on inside my head. The result was a painting that I now have hanging above my bed that is deeply personal and holds a lot of meaning. It felt good to work on something that I wasn’t trying to impress anyone with, I just had the goal of expressing what I was feeling at the time. I found that after I had finished, I was able to focus more clearly on my other projects and had more self confidence in my abilities. While the feeling of elation and joy doesn’t last forever, I have to make note of the lesson learned in this accomplishment and apply it to future moments when things seem to be at odds in my life.

A lot of the time I also feel scattered and all over the place, unable to focus my attention on one task or another. I find this is when I feel most anxious. I have learned over the years that once I begin painting, it is often only a matter of time before I am completely absorbed in what I am doing and become more relaxed and at ease. I am able to pour myself into what I am doing and that sense of accomplishment is that much greater. I think the idea of being grounded and fully connected to the physical earth when your head seems to be floating in the clouds is essential. I have been trying to accomplish this a little more each day through reading for enjoyment (which I had stopped doing almost completely because I thought it was not productive, when in fact, self care is hugely important) and meditation. I try to do a yoga nidra meditation before I go to bed at night and set an intention for sleep and allowing my body to rest. I find that these nights are always more peaceful and calm and I go into sleeping with a routine my body recognizes. The hard part will be trying to stay consistent with these routines I have set up for myself and know that although it might seem “not productive” or silly at the time, it really does make a difference in the long run for how I see myself and my body. I can’t take care of others, which I love doing unless I take the time to take care of myself.

Keeping with this train of thought, I adopted a cat named Piper! It’s funny how much we have grown to know each other over the past few weeks and although she isn’t the most cuddly cat, she shows her affection in following me around and keeping me company when I am doing various activities. She also has the most beautiful green eyes-I feel at times she must know what I am thinking.  


Speak Your Truth

It’s been an interesting few weeks since I last posted. Art has taken somewhat of a backseat as I’m slowly trying to figure out next steps in my life. In the past, I have been faulty of not putting myself first and neglecting self care, which, in theory sounds like it would be easy, but in reality is extremely difficult. I have also not spoken my “truth” in situations because I didn’t feel my opinion had value. Yet, slowly my confidence is beginning to find its way out. I’m surprising myself at this new found courage, and at times I don’t recognize (or even understand) who I am.

As for trying to accomplish things, I believe it’s a delicate balance between pushing yourself to achieve to be happy and overdoing it for the sake of other people. I need to keep reminding myself that I am enough. I don’t need to be perfect, and what I bring to the world is exactly what it needs at the moment. It’s hard to keep that in mind when up against everyday obstacles and the seemingly constant need to compare yourself to other people. Through art I have found I am able to express myself and work through things that a lot of the time would otherwise just be “stuck” in my head, playing loops over and over again. I have planned out some goals for the upcoming months, some of which include applying for various summer fairs/festivals to show my work, complete a few commissions, as well as getting some of my pieces on display in local restaurants and cafes. I’m hoping through this I will be able to exercise my confidence and gain insight into how my art can resonate with others.

Some of my recent art has included smaller pieces for trades and in preparations for fairs.


Our True Self

What happens when we cut away the labels and all that extra “stuff” that seems to endlessly fill up our minds and being? What happens when we present our true self to the world, vulnerable to criticism and judgment? What if we simply observe what is going on around us rather than pass judgement? This year I am interested in finding the peace the comes with accepting who I am for who I truly am. As hard as this sounds, I am willing and able to literally rip away what is holding me back and go forth speaking my truth, no matter who is, or isn’t, listening. While this may sound a little out there, I am determined to find out what my purpose is. Along the way, I want to spend more time practicing self care and compassion, despite how hard I have found it is to put myself first. So many people have told me that you are unable to fully love anyone else unless you first love yourself. The more I think about it, I understand the reasoning behind this, though I know it will be hard to implement. It’s hard to break away from that feeling of being “egotistical”, the black and white belief that you are either selfless or selfish. Seeing and believing in the grey is what I need to work on.  How to arrive at this belief will be the hard part and to practice it on a daily basis will be a whole other obstacle.

I decided to start working on a painting a series of 10×10″ moths that all carry the same message…coming closer to light, unpeeling layers to get to the core. Finding the balance between hovering between the rational/intellectual side of my being and emotional/spiritual side. Connecting these two separate halves and merging their completely different ideas together is a huge undertaking. I am hoping as I move through each day I can begin to collect experiences that help guide me in the right direction.


Looking North

I have been working on a landscape over the past few weeks as a commissioned piece. It's a big one, 4 feet by 3 feet and I have to admit, I was a little intimidated at first, staring at the blank canvas before me.  A white sheet of paper, the first page in a new sketchbook, a blank (huge) canvas....the potential they all possess is outstanding. Literally anything could happen....there is so. much. possibility. Not only is that fact scary, but almost in and on itself sets you up for failure. Not failure in the way you feel when you lose a race or get a F on a math test. More like failure to live up to your own standards, failure to compete successfully against yourself.

When I am trying to visualize what the end product of a painting or drawing will be, I have a certain image in mind. The fun, and often interesting part of the journey trying to reach that destination. I can have the entire piece planned out to a "t" and something invariably will veer me off course. Perhaps it's a mistake, an added medium or a new discovery along the way. The painting changes drastically to accommodate whatever happened and this results in a piece of work that doesn't compare to the image you painted in your mind. I am slowly learning to let this idea go, that I will never achieve perfection...in any facet of my life. It's a hard lesson to learn and I have been facing it my entire life. It is also something that is constantly creeping into all parts of my day. Seeping in between conversations, oozing through cracks when you look in the mirror, creeping up on your own thoughts. I am trying to embrace imperfection, and have realized that something can be so delicately beautiful even with flaws...in fact its the flaws that actually make it beautiful. Mistakes make us human, more approachable, more ourselves. I will keep trying at this (and probably make a million more mistakes) and I don't think I will ever completely master it, but I'm ok with that. I ended up covering the entire canvas with random marks and colors, and let these peek through here and there to add some intrigue.

This landscape is the northern view from Mt. Washington, NH up in the White Mountains.


Ancient Wisdom

As 2016 winds down (1 day left!!) I am taking time to reflect on things that have happened over the past year and what I want to accomplish in 2017. I have been working to make art a more purposeful and meaningful part of my life, carving out the time each day to sit down and be creative, despite how busy or tired I might be feeling. I have found that I feel more centered and at peace with myself, even through tough times during the day when I am working at my more traditional job. This sense of peace brings comfort and reminds me that there is a possibility to expand upon my love of painting and drawing into something more. Maybe not as a full time profession, but as a venture that I could use to express myself and my ideas to the world, sharing how I see life and all its intricacies with others. I would love to be able to connect with people on a deeper level, having my art tell a story that resonates with something they have experienced or gone through. This connection would enable me to become a small but maybe meaningful part of someone else’s life. Perhaps it could even help to get me out of my own head, as often I have so many ideas that I am unable to process them in an efficient way.

I painted a whale the other day for a friend and decided to do some more research about what they represent in a spiritual way. The whale is a symbol of profound peace and the desire to delve deeper into oneself. It is not afraid to express emotion and communicate hardships as it has most likely travelled bumpy terrain in the past and these experiences lend themselves to a greater understanding of oneself. I think this message is especially pertinent now in my life as I feel like I am on the brink of new things, not all of them being easy to navigate. Figuring out where I should go from here is important as an end goal, but how I will get there will be the true lesson. Hopefully it won’t be all obstacles to get from here to there (where is there? Who knows?) but I am willing to put forth the energy to see where it might lead.


The Holidaze

The holidays are upon us. There are Christmas carols blaring through the speakers at the mall and on almost every station on the radio. We cut down a little spruce tree from down the street and decorated it with lights (and then we realized we were missing a topper, so I made a star out of cardboard and glitter…super fancy, I know). I love this time of year but there is always so. much. to. do. I decided that this year I am going to make the majority of the gifts on my list and have been planning out ideas for the past few weeks. Slowly but surely I am checking things off my list. There are also a lot of birthdays this time of year! Who knew?

I still have several more large projects to start on but earlier this morning I finished creating, packaging and mailing out a gift for another artist I am doing a Secret Santa present for. It is part of a swap on atcsforall.com (the artist trading card site I am a part of) called The Calm After the Holidaze. It was a lot of fun to think up gifts that would be hardy enough to withstand being mailed in a bubble envelope but still exciting to receive. I decided upon a bunch of little gifts wrapped in interesting ways. I found a metal tin with a blank accordion book inside at Michael’s (my all time favorite place to shop these days) that I figured would be fun to alter in different ways. I ended up using Tenseconds Studio Verday Paints and Patina to turn the tin from silver in color to copper and patina. It was a two step process that took an overnight waiting period, and I typically hate to wait but the results were worth it. You can check out the before and after pictures below. I painted a flying fish on the cover which added a little whimsy!

I also made three wooden magnets out of birch tree rounds. I first gessoed the surface, and then painted over with a bright color in acrylic paint. Next I added details in white with a tiny brush…either a repeating pattern or a mandala. I used E6000 glue to attach the ceramic magnets to the back (though I’m not entirely sold on this type of glue. I think wood glue has worked better in the past…the verdict is still out to see if they last….) I then added a coat of glitter (who can resist?) and packaged them up in a resealable bag with a stamped background insert.

For the other gifts, I packaged up a variety of patterned paper, book text, and other ephemera with ribbon and twine and then I painted a small abstract 2×2 inch canvas. I tile stamped the bubble mailer with a hand carved stamp and ink that I hadn’t used in a while just to spice things up on the outside. I really hope she enjoys opening the package as much as I had making it!

If you are still in need of gifts for family and friends and are looking for something “different” or with an artistic flair, let me know…I would love to help you out! 🙂