• daybook

    The rails of routine…

    I feel that I have bad writing habits carried over from school years; the most egregious, of course, is trying to force my writing to a close, wrap it up in a bow by the end of the show sort of closing. End on a high note! End on a call to action! Close with a hook! I can hear my old professors whispering in my ears. I had this argument with them then, and I have it with myself now–life just doesn’t tie up neatly in a thousand words or less. It doesn’t wrap up in hundreds of thousands of words, else why would we have libraries and libraries of books full of people wrestling with the human existence?

    Such is the argument in my head as I consider what I wrote last week.

    Perhaps my second egregious habit is to constantly and consistently self-censor, and not speak the whole truth, for fear of offending someone or being disliked or be called out- whatever the reason might be that day. I am heavily resisting the urge to delete what I wrote. It feels a bit too much like a ‘essay for a grade’ writing, but I will let it stand.

    A reader’s comment jogged my memory as to what I really wanted to say, and so here, I will attempt to reconstruct my inner dialogue instead and leave the editing for another day.

    How do you keep your sense of self when everything that defines you keeps rapidly changing?

    How do you hold on to the dreams you have when you’ve almost forgotten how to dream?

    I’m not really sure.

    I have watched many aspects of myself die- aspects that I never would have dreamed I’d be forced to let go of, that I thought would have to be pried out of my cold dead hands. And oh, how I’ve grieved.

    Sometimes I just feel completely hollowed out.

    I have an extremely odd sense of time dilation now, and it makes me not trust my memory of situations (a common side affect of trauma, I’ve come to learn). I mean, yeah, we all joke that the 90s were only ten years ago, but my memory of time is really distorted. Things that I swear happened a year ago happened four, five, six years ago. I will look up from a situation I’ve been dealing with thinking days have gone by, only to discover it has been weeks or months. (I apologize publicly here for so many emails that have sat unanswered- I’ll get to it tomorrow-only to realize that when tomorrow came, a month or two later, the whole need for a reply has long gone past. )

    You can imagine the affect on my relationships. So many friendships have fallen away over the years, and I don’t particularly blame the friend; I blame the fact that my attention has been so diverted by what we’ve been going through. It is the rare, patient person that can continue to keep checking in on me when I go utterly quiet and understand the reason I’ve disappeared has nothing to do with them and everything to do with the weight of our life.

    So when it comes to dreams and goals…gosh. I don’t fit in your standard paradigm at all. I’ve found a lot of standard advice about goal setting to be utterly useless. And that is only worsened since I’ve been diagnosed. I will complete XYZ by X date just does.not.work. at all for me. What I have come to realize though, is that the process is the goal, at least for me. It’s the routines. Prior to all this, I tended to be both very free-spirited and whimsical, but also very perfectionistic. I’d probably not start on something if I couldn’t do it the way I wanted to, right then, from start to finish. So so many things languished under this paradigm, and projects and goals never, ever got accomplished.

    When all the medical stuff cascaded in, there was just a period of desperately trying to keep head above water. There’s nothing left for anything else. But now, farther down the road from all that, I’m realizing my dreams and goals happen in God’s own timing so long as I just show up. And when I gaze back over the last two to three years, I am honestly amazed at some of the things I’ve managed to accomplish, at least as pertains to creating art, because not one of them happened because I said “I’m going to make THIS.” with intention. They happened in tiny bits and pieces over days and weeks, one mark at a time, a journey of- ‘well what happens if I do this next?’

    This has taught me to trust the rhythm and routine, which my formerly free-spirited self still balks at, to be honest. I want to just dance in and out with the muse and not be tied down. But every single thing I’ve produced lately hasn’t been like that at all- it’s this- I’ve got ten minutes, I’m going to do this one thing and if it works, great. Walk away. It doesn’t. Oh well. Walk away. Interestingly, some of the stuff I walked away from swearing it wasn’t working, I’ll come back to in the next pocket of time and go now wait a minute, what if… and something wholly new and wonderful emerges.

    I guess what I’m saying- because I think this is a pretty widely held feeling right now as the pandemic shifts and we return to ‘normal’, but nothing feels even the slightest bit normal and it’s leaving us feeling disconnected and discombobulated, maybe even dis-integrated- ONE, that’s a normal feeling after such an experience (at least from where I’m standing, after what I’ve gone through)- and TWO- trust the process of who you are to pull all those pieces back to you. They are going to be very different, and you might not even remotely resemble the person you were before, but that’s okay. Trust the process. Trust the discipline of routine. Keep making the bed. Keep drinking that favorite drink. Keep lighting a candle every time you get to work. Keep your prayer rule. Whatever it may be, lay your goals down on the rails of that routine, and I can attest that you will be mighty surprised just how far down the track they might carry you, even when you swore you weren’t accomplishing anything. This becomes that much more true if you are ill for any length of time. Energy becomes such a precious commodity and it is so hard to spend energy if you can’t see a return. How I know this feeling! But trust that whatever you can spend will pay off. But it won’t pay at all if you never start it or you wait for the world to stop changing around you or the storm to pass- if you do that, you’ll be waiting a very, very long time, and you’ll be even farther from that dream.

    How about you? Are you a big goal-setter and list- maker? Free spirit? What have you learned in your own life? I’d love to hear.

  • Art

    Swimming through mud…

    These are two recent shares from the sketchbook on Insta. The gnomes are from almost a year ago, June 2020, and the house hidden in the trees is from June 2021. It’s very appropriate to put these two side by side in my mind. When I drew the gnome friends, I had very recently been diagnosed. A medicine they were trying me on made my hands shake so badly that I could barely hold the pen correctly, and my hand-eye coordination was frustratingly awful. (I can’t tell you how many things got broken in the early months- my ability to grip, to tell where my hand was, where the object was, and connect the two resulted in a very rough case of butter fingers. Thankfully most of my favorite coffee cups survived! The French press didn’t, though, alas, alack.) If you look closely, you can see that all of the straight and curved lines almost vibrate in tight squiggles. Getting these little guys out on the paper was an incredible fight, and there was a point that I just wanted to throw in the towel and stop, utterly despairing that they’d ever make their way from my head to crawl out on the page. But they made it. Ever since, when I pass these two as I flip through the sketch book, I just feel an incredible sense of accomplishment and hope. They are there, and I am here, and together we somehow figured out the new skills I needed to keep making art.

    The house in the trees is a full year later. In somewhat similar fashion, it had been almost six months from my last foray in making art (the folktale pieces I shared here earlier). That week, I had been told that I was having an allergic reaction to one of my medications, and because it wasn’t clear which medication it was (as I had been on all of them for nearly ten months)- I’d have to come off every single one to see which one was causing the reaction. Now, my friends, the medications are what have slowly, slowly been returning me to a more functional state, and as I mentioned above, every addition to the medication regimen were hard fought adjustments. I am just getting to the point that I can conduct my days somewhat normally thanks to these meds. And now I will lose every single one until we figure it out. I remember sitting down to the page- angry, frustrated, feeling betrayed by my body yet again- and quite worried what would happen to me as all the medications made their way out of my system. Would I just crater? Or would I be able to function somewhat? I remember being quite angry that of course I would be hitting the time of year that I’d finally be able to paint and draw more, and of course everything would be flipping upside down again, and fiddlesticks! I just wanted to make art!

    As if that wasn’t enough, I think every artist struggles with imposter syndrome and blank-page-itis, and it’s really bad when you’ve been away from the desk for awhile. Do I even know how to do this anymore? was ricocheting around my head. I remembered the gnome friends though, and the lesson they taught me. Just make a mark on the page. Any mark. The rest will come. And it did. Trees appeared, and grass, and then a little yellow cottage informed me it needed to be tucked in between. And there it was.

    Now, are either of these my best work? Not particularly. Are they valuable work? Yes! Absolutely priceless. Hard earned lessons, both.

    I don’t really like the pat cliché answers anymore, especially when it comes to disability or making art, and I really abhor the whole just try harder, pray harder and you’ll heal attitude, the fake it till you make it, pull yourself up by the bootstraps way of thinking. I really do. I can’t tell you how much hearing any of those attitudes just makes me want to spit nails. Don’t mistake what I’m saying next for this toxic way of looking at life.

    Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes…

    You just have to start. And start again, and start again. One mark and then two. One step, and then another. One drag of the paintbrush, and then another.

    Even when the world is turning upside down, whether that’s your own inner private world or the world at large, spinning on its axis or tilting off of it, its okay to take a deep breath and trust the process. Just one step. And when you’re ready, one step more. Even if it literally feels like swimming through mud. You’ll be amazed at where you end up, and they might just smile up from the page at you and remind you to hope when you need it most.

  • daybook,  link love

    Bits and bobs…

    I am trying to remember to come over to the blog and post the recent ruminations from Instagram, as I know many are leaving the service. (I myself left Facebook, yet again, last week.) I don’t think I really have a grasp on how I want to use social media anymore. I know parts of it just leave me feeling absolutely awful. I have been trying to be more intentional in whatever I post, returning to the things that really brought me joy waaaay back when in blogging dinosaur time, which means books, beautiful things, thoughtful words, and art.

    The above quote, which I illustrated last week, really hit home that week. I had been wrestling with a ton of miscommunication and unkindness directed my way, and I needed to unpack it and let it go. It has ever struck me, when it comes to forgiveness, that is a life long journey. Christ was quite serious when He said “seventy times seven”- there have been incidences and people in my life that I very much thought I had healed from and had forgiven, and then something twinges, pain in the wound, and I find myself having to work through the process again, and again, and again.

    As to the recent reads, I’ll just copy my Instagram post here. I do very much feel a deep post coming on about disability. I think I’ve been dancing around it for a long time, and I think I’m going to work on it privately and then bring what’s fruitful here to the blog.

    From Insta:

    A small library stack this week. I just finished Sitting Pretty by Rebekah Taussig (@sitting_pretty ) yesterday and tucked my thoughts into Stories. I saved it as a Highlight under Disability. I feel a blog post marinating in my brain lately. There’s stuff that I’ve been wrestling with ever since my first child got diagnosed with a life-long disease, (and then, and then!) and it’s only recently that I’ve begun to understand why it was so difficult to begin with and why there has been so much wrestling. When I read writers who are disabled or are exploring disability, there’s been a lot of “you too?!” moments that have granted a lot of clarity. Anyways, far too much for a little IG caption to explore.

    I haven’t started the Austen Years by Rachel Cohen, but I think it’s going to be good. Part of the fly leaf blurb reads “Through Austen’s works, she reckoned with difficult questions about mourning, memorializing, living in a household, attending to the world, reading, writing, and imagining.” Definitely something I can relate to at the moment.

    We tend to use the summer to test run new recipes for the family to tuck into the routines for the school year, and so far we haven’t hit a bad one from Instant Family Meals. There’s one for Italian Wedding Soup that is blissfully easy and oh so good.

    Around the web:

    I have really been enjoying Rebecca Green’s monthly newsletters, and her last two are just chock full of good stuff for creatives and artists. Check them out here and here. I’ve also been greatly enjoying Aimee Kollmansberger’s substack, Homely. Just quiet little notes each day about what’s on her heart: home keeping, homeschooling, rhythms, routines, what she’s learning. They are just little balm bouquets every day and they’ve been really encouraging and inspiring to me.

  • Books

    The current stack…

    My current stack of reads. I used to swallow books whole in one or two sittings (I still do that for fiction sometimes), but now I find myself reading much slower, savoring, thinking, scribbling things down. The running thread through these, I think, is the question of culture care- how do I care for my neighbors, here, across the street, around the world? How do I engage with the world now as a disabled person with a chronic illness?

    What have you been reading lately?

  • beautiful things

    Job description…

    You know, social media is such a weird place, but then there are days when something just steps out of the ether, grabs your hands, and doesn’t let go. So it is with these words from @desireedallagiacomo , which I just HAD to write down. If there was ever a ‘job description’ for me in my creative endeavors as writer and artist, mama, teacher, lover of life, this is it.