The past three months kind of sucked.
It was absolutely a first-world problem kind of suck, but they sucked nonetheless.
At the start of September, I had scheduled a contractor to repair some things and renovate others, mostly in our kitchen, for what was supposed to be two weeks. The job started with the contractor getting Covid and not telling me until the night before he was scheduled to start, when we had already cleared the entire kitchen and removed all the appliances. Six weeks later his work ended when, after coming close to firing him multiple times, he finally quit rather than having to deal with repairing all his and his subcontractors’ mistakes.
I then had to find someone dependable to fix it, get all the repairs managed, etc. For some of it my husband and I just did the work ourselves.
All the chaos, and disruptive people constantly in the flat, blew my studio schedule out of the water for a good while. And I felt too overwhelmed and embarrassed to write about it. Embarrassed because I wanted to be writing about my resilient schedule and amazing progress, my creative breakthroughs and professional accomplishments. I kept thinking I would get back on top of it…and then I didn’t.
Instead, I found I didn’t have much to say art-wise beyond expletives, and fun things like “having to wash my dishes in the bathtub again this week, with no end in sight, has sapped all my motivation.”
Of course, we did eventually emerge victorious, and I am happy to report that I am washing my dishes in a kitchen sink again (and writing to you from my now well-lit and functional kitchen).
I have also been able to get back into the studio on a regular schedule. I even finished some pieces this week that I was struggling with, so cue the orchestral fanfare on that one.
But my hiatus, and its attendant embarrassment, reminded me of the purpose of this blog: I am not writing to be popular; I am writing because I want to connect with you.
And connecting isn’t about reporting back when things are perfect, bragging about yourself or your accomplishments; it’s really about sharing your authentic self, including at times when you’re not at your best. I’d say most of all when you’re not at your best.
So let me be clear: I have lots and lots of days when I’m not at my best. I have lots of days when I wonder if I’m actually accomplishing anything at all and days when I feel I’ve let myself down, not doing enough. And while being in a field where there is no objective bar does set you up for a bit extra when it comes to self-doubt (I always think of Leonardo da Vinci writing in his notebooks over and over: “Tell me if anything ever was done. Tell me…tell me.”), I also think as humans we are uniquely wired for this concern. It’s an integral part of the lovely package of consciousness.
It can be hard to remember that being far from perfect is more than enough.
When I was struggling with this recently, especially with the sense of having to start again after having let myself down, I found it invaluable to go to a few tried and true (for me) sources for realignment. They helped me hit the ground running – or at least walking.
First, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – I can pretty much always crack it and find something valuable and timely, which is funny considering he was a Roman emperor from the second century.
Then Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman – I’ve read this for thirty years or so. His work is truly transcendent and undeniable, and he has that unique cadence. There are also some that strike me flat, so it’s a great example of exceptional work with a bit of not perfect for seasoning. And he had to self-publish that sucker! Really.
Recently I enjoyed rediscovering his Song of the Rolling Earth.
And though it may seem a bit odd as I am not vegan and not trying to lose weight, I love listening to Lean with Plants by Chelsea Cullen, because even though it’s for vegan weight loss, she talks a lot about general behavioral change, building habits, overcoming setbacks, seeing yourself as the hero in your story, etc. Plus she’s funny and authentic.
So if you happen to run into one of those difficult and disheartening times, I hope one of these might be useful for you too. Either way, you can picture me over here, still being far from perfect, but rooting for you.