December 24 – Everything’s OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?
I keep thinking there isn’t really a moment, but then realize it’s only because non-okay things have happened after such moments of clarity, and for some reason, was holding onto the idea that such things instantly negated the okay moment.
For example, when my second workshop of this year, True to You, was open for registration, and I saw how many people were signing up, I thought, “Okay. I can do this full-time artist thing.” And then, two months later, the money was gone and I was back to having panic attacks all the time over things like being able to afford medications and pay simple bills.
But then things were okay again, and something else came along, and my spirits were lifted.
This is were most of the stress in my life comes from, and it’s really my own fault, isn’t it? I set out to accomplish something, then skate on by for awhile until I absolutely must be spurred into action. Like waves crashing into shore, I enjoy the beach until the next one smashes into the sand, the storm on the horizon always threatening to make landfall. Sure, I transitioned from making what I thought people wanted into making what I enjoyed, but for some reason, always saw things like making classes or doing broadcasts as chores to be performed before I could have fun.
This isn’t a healthy mindset, and yet I spent most of the year dwelling in it.
If I’m honest with myself, brutally this-may-hurt-you honest, I know my moment was back in March after I’d put together my first journal-making mini-workshop. There was a lot of insanity happening in my life at the time, things I had no control over and yet was forced to coexist with; I was miserable in life but excited in art. I poured myself into anything in my studio I could, and went from being sociable to spending hours at a time in the studio, sometimes doing no more than playing on the computer. It became my safe haven in a storm whirling around me, a special place untouched by anyone else. In fact, I rarely let anyone else enter, and almost always had the door closed.
But at that same time, I realized I’d be okay. Sure, I’d go through droughts, as I no longer received a steady paycheck. I’d have ideas and those interested in learning things I’d crafted. I’d have fun and do something more with all I had in my mind. And I think I knew, somewhere deep inside, that even though things were going downhill all around me, as long as I knew myself and had my art, I’d be just fine.
This is a bit related to an experience I had a few years ago. My best friend was planning on going to Los Angeles for her final semester of school, and had really been planning it all along. About a week before applications were due, I was suddenly struck by the notion that I, too, was supposed to go. So what if it was for comedy writing and I was a drama person? I could broaden my horizons, have an amazing experience, and try out something new.
And so I went into that meeting with all these comedy people I only knew from production and business classes with, and turned in my application. Got more money from my student loans to cover expenses. There came a point, though, when the complex we’d be staying in called to say I needed a co-signer to guarantee I’d pay my share. I didn’t have anyone in my life to do that for me except my best friend, and she could hardly back me since she, too, would be staying in the same place.
Dejected, I called the girl who would ultimately be on record as the one who rented the apartment, and told her I could positively pay the money, had it coming via student aide, and swore I’d never screw her. Amazingly, she said she trusted me.
(On a side note, we didn’t really hang out or talk until the second to last day, and it was then we realized how much we had in common; in fact, the reason we didn’t chat much is because we were both in our rooms relaxing or working diligently on our coursework!)
I was frightened to leave my home for such a long time, and be clear across the country. But I’d also been working on myself, on my self-esteem and identity and all those bits that make up a truly amazing life. I knew I had to let go of fear and just do it — go with what my heart was telling me.
My time out there was one of the best times of my life. And the first time I sobbed from overwhelming happiness.
So I knew, back in March, when I had that moment again — that moment filled with fear and yet there was such certainty in my soul, I knew I couldn’t do anything else, or else I’d always wonder:
So that’s my gift to you today. Sit down. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and let the world simply fall away around you. Listen to yourself, your heart. And follow it. Or else you may be working one day and find yourself paralyzed by the sadness that comes with wondering what if… what if I’d only done the scary, unusual, adventurous thing I knew with my heart I should have jumped for?
December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself
Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.
Unless I’m out with a group of people, I never take a “naked” picture of myself. And before you get all weirded out, I mean without make-up or my hair done. That was always a principle part of preparing for videos or photo shoots (like my younger brother, I love staging photo shoots by myself, using the timer on my camera to grab the shots). Actually, even when I’m with a group of people, I’ve put on my face, as my grandmother called it. I used to think I wasn’t good looking, that my face had too many scars, so would be embarrassed to be seen without a nice layer of foundation and powder on my face.
(I still am, actually, but have grown comfortable with wearing less make-up.)
Looking through my shots, I found myself thinking on this prompt, looking for someone I truly am or want to be. And while my photos are lovely, they already have meaning behind them. A thought or idea I kept in mind while shooting them.
Or they were of me out with friends, enjoying myself. Which, sure, could have a good shot to use, but it just didn’t feel right.
By chance, I stumbled on this shot. I was working on a prompt from Liz Lamoreaux’s book Inner Excavation, about documenting a day through photos. I’d resolved myself the night before to keep my camera close by and take photos of ordinary, amazing moments throughout the next day.
While I only made it about an hour (and then forgot to bring my camera with and missed some stuff), this shot survived.
When I was little, I used to love climbing onto the school bus early in the morning. People’s eyes, right after they wake up, have a sparkle to them. They’re softer, more open, and amazingly beautiful. Every day, I’d love looking at my classmates and their sublime early day eyes before their shields or masks went up and things became sharp edges.
That’s why I love this photo. There’s no pretense. I had just woke up and was heading out to walk the dogs when I snapped this photo of me in the mirror (which is why it’s blurry — I have shaky hands!). No make-up, with my hair thrown up in a quick ponytail.
And I think I’m radiant in it.
(Even though I do look half-asleep. I imagine this is how my face would look were I to turn into a zombie.)