I am back on the subject of self-care – and hopefully this will be a shorter post.
As I stated, I’m trying to go back to basics, re-establish habits that keep my day on track.
|Hostas & Bleeding Hearts at Bush House|
Most importantly I am trying to re-insert my passions back into my life – art, poetry & writing, gardening, theater, home, my friends. I have been having a small success with that – but it is significant success.
This full-tilt chase after the daily coin isn’t my preferred modus operandi; Money to me has never been as important as the people around me. I have always thought of it as a means to the end, not the end itself … until it’s inflow muddied and ended, leaving me unable to care for the people around me and for myself.
As highly skilled in the office as I am, the traditional job search has not netted me a job (read: stable income) quickly. So, since mid-December, most of my waking hours are a “shotgun approach” for nickel & dimes; and my new MO does not allow myself to “break” or rest the mind. When I have attempted to, there have been notices of “dire consequence” (someone at the door to turn off the electricity, an immediate need to replace hygiene products without money to buy a replacement: reminders that my situations is desperate). So rather than take 15 minutes to Zentangle – I take 45 instead to write a listing for yet another thing to sell on eBay, I take 60 for “studio” pictures of more book to place on Amazon. Take 120 to professionally frame and wire yet another of my paintings to offer on Etsy. Hunker down to brainstorm yet other ways to market my talents & possessions to bring some money, any money in.
In Debtors Anonymous (yep, I joined as soon as I realized 0% income = 100% debt) the suggested spending plan format places one’s own needs in the first category – starting with spiritual. This isn’t necessarily “religious” spiritual; it is whatever you need to nourish your own soul, whether it be religion, education, etc – we refer to it as “the cost of BEING you”. For me – that would be art, both written and visual. And I consistently been skipping over that category – not just financially but mentally, skipping over it to go to the second (physical needs) category of expenses” utilities, food, shelter. (I’m not even really doing shelter either; I owe lots of property taxes, living my home vulnerable).
No – I haven’t allowed myself the luxury of being “me,” It’s no wonder I did not feel like myself, did not recognize myself. No wonder I was getting morassed in my efforts by the limits of my body and pain.
I have long known that I use poetry to process life. I’m not sure how I expected myself to process the current situation while I was unconsciously denying myself poetry; but depression does mess up one’s reasoning! I even tried talking myself out of participating in one of my favorite activities – April’s Poem-A-Day challenges; since Feb 1, I kept hearing a voice saying that April needs to be better spent “keeping” the lights on”. Yet deep inside, where my poems were silent, I knew I needed to write. So I started strategizing against that dangerous whisper; I set up commitments and promises that I HAD to write. I made myself as accountable to that as I did to job-hunting. (In spirit of honesty, I did let two fall through my fingers; there just wasn’t enough hours in the day) …
There was even that hope – if I got Patreon sponsors for the challenges as if for a jog-a-thon – the challenges may even help keep the lights on. That part didn’t work out, no one signed up as sponsor and mid-month I had a three day scramble to pay past-due electricity. On those days, I didn’t let myself poem until about 10-11 at night. And yes – I still got hit with the “dire consequences” of taking that time to write, I just factored in the unexpected punches. Got more resilient and dug my feet in on my poet time.
And “lo and behold” – even as my reasoning continued to erode, my mind felt better. National Poetry Writing Month challenges always blast through my writers block by forcing me to consciously thinking and re-think about an outside subject (daily prompt). I was starting to see Depression’s lies as lies. I started bathing more often again, started dressing for myself again and not for the Interview That Hadn’t Materialized Yet. While my appetite hadn’t returned, I started eating again. And my brain-storming sessions weren’t just resulting in a poor self-image – I was starting to see some possibilities. Progress!
I knew summer was coming – and with that – my artists group’s Paint The Town program, many en plein air events from May until September. I could not see how I could afford it – money-wise or time-wise. Yet – it is only a $20 one-time participation fee and I learn a lot with my networking with other artists. Coincidently – my artists group (Artists in Action) has teamed up with my local poets chapter (Mid Willamette Poets Society) on this event – resulting in it becoming Paint The Town/Write the Town this year.
How could I not participate? This seemed an engraved invitation. I have been as blocked on art as I had on poetry; silencing myself. As both A POET and AN Artist, this is torture. And PTT/WTT is basically a Paint-A-Day challenge – making me climb over that mental block.
When my tenant paid part of his rent, I took $20 out and placed it in my purse. Felt like a thief doing so, as if I was betraying my son and or pets for denying them something basic – but I told myself it was a “Cost of Being Me”. I made the commitment!
The first event ended up being Mother’s Day … oh, oh, I already had a commitment – to myself! I was going to get some social time with my family and make an al fresco lunch for us. I didn’t want to sacrifice that necessity for the necessity of painting. Both were “self-care” - and my only Mother Day gifts. How could I fit both? And work them into my siblings’ schedule? Son announces a two days beforehand he needs to drive our tenant to Vancouver on Mother’s Day; “when will MD Lunch be” and no, he won’t be able to drive me to PTT event that day. My brother in Portland wanted to catch a movie with family while he was down for the day. I was frustrated, I was feeling all kinds of obstacles coming up again, making my wants & needs seem impossible and unreasonable. You know – Depression’s lies yet again.
What happened to my vaulted and dependable skill of trouble-shooting obstacles? Did it only work in offices and production shoots? No. I would not capitulate YET again … as I had the past four months. It wasn’t me; I hated myself when I did so. I sat down and thought about the tools I developed in my Leadership program last year, the tools I refined on the job: THERE was a way to make it possible – impossible equals I’m Possible, right? – just had to re-think the situation. Lunch became early family picnic at PTT location, two cars instead of one so son could leave after eating, Sibling Movie Time planned after three hours scheduled paint time. We had a plan …
Then another – West Salem brother could not miss his morning church – an important announcement was expected . He could only make afternoon & evening. PTT was only afternoon. Portland brother could only afford to treat his siblings if we got matinee (read “afternoon”) prices. And son and I got a late start on making the lunch due to a miscommunication – I thought he insisted on cooking it (his M Day gift to me), he thought I counter-insisted on cooking it as it needed to hit my brother’s restricted diet. By 11 am we were both in the kitchen, working in tandem.
Revised day – making sure my needs were just as important as anyone else’s that day – Son, Ptld brother & I had a lovely al fresco, very “heart healthy” lunch on my patio – no time for that packing, commuting, unpacking shtuff. FYI – The day was GORGEOUS and I had our view of the back yard mowed and weeded earlier in the week! Before son left, he packed up a lunch plate for W Salem brother. When he & housemate left for Vancouver, Ptld brother and I headed for a movie-snack run and then PTT at the Bush House & Conservatory. Looking for art inspiration, he & I did the House tour after I signed in with AiA. Then, following my muse, we headed to the woodland walk near the greenhouse. Settling a bench, we spent some companionable time; he on his computer doing his work, and I sketching and beginning a watercolor of hostas and bleeding heart blossoms (pix of them above). We knew our departure time for the movies – but needed to revise it forwarded with new demands on W Salem Brother; 3 hours paint time became only two. After the first hour, my brother hurt too much and headed back to the car graciously to wait. After the second hour I headed back & joined him. We got to Lancaster Cinema in time for the first Avengers’ movie; W Salem brother still had some conflicts he was navigating, so we rescheduled with him for an early evening show (we WERE going to spend sibling time together somehow) and we caught an Ratchet & Clank to kill the time. Not one I would have considered seeing – but it was good very enjoyable. That ended just as we got a text from W Salem brother; he had our seats for Captain America: Civil War in the next theater. We joined him, and finally broke out our ”movie snacks” to share. After the late movie, W Salem’s brother’s “lunch” got passed over to him.
All in all, despite obstacles we had to navigate, it was one of the best days I have had since Christmas. No one suggested I “not paint”, to make a doable schedule; it was the schedule instead that needed to compromise. And we all made compromises to make time to spend together. Son got “Uncle time” with one, prepped a meal for the other. Keith enjoyed some quality Salem time at my place and outdoors, got to witness more of my “art process” (he’s always been proud of my growth as artist, he is the one who has stated the best Christmas gifts I can give are those of my own art.) And Lee got time with Keth and I in our common dual hobbies of comic books/movies.
After that day – which gave me so much more than I had planned – my sleep schedule has reverted back to “office mode”. I am falling asleep before midnight and waking up before my morning alarm goes off. Some of the brain fog is lifting.
|Mission Mill Museum and Mall, Salem, Oregon|
This last Saturday was PTT #2 (morning and rainy this time). I needed to be at Mission Mill 2 hours early to accommodate a ride’s schedule, which blessed me with two extra morning hours of art. The afternoon I made it to my poetry meetings (that I have been absent from) The rest of the day was the business of poetry – details we were hammering out on Write The Town, recruiting other poets for WTT, debriefing and sharing of April’s poetry efforts. In fact, all through this weekend I have had Art & poetry dovetail and demand my attention. I felt I was back in my own skin for the first time in a while. Yesterday’s creativity segued into a scheduling / prioritization of my tasks for this week. My mind felt clear, decisions no longer felt like land-mines and mazes – more like choices.
Am I still depressed? Yes, very; I’m still in a precarious situation and my disabilities are rearing their ugly heads making it more desperate. . Am I suicidal today? No. I can rationally see there will be light at the end of the tunnel. This is a journey; not a destination. And I have my game-plan for the week – back to more familiar footing of being competent. I can see some progress in the steps I have taken.
And as for DA’s insistence of placing my daily life in the hands of my “Higher Power”, my God. … I had a minor miracle this weekend. All the times the past month, I prayed for a last minute miracle to pay a pending bill and despite overtime effort to earn the money, had come up with “nil”. This weekend, I didn’t “work” – I created instead. And my only online sales this month happened the past two days, enough to cover the auto payment that hit my account this morning, with a little left over. Enough to meet my needs for today.
So factoring myself into the equation “paid” off.
I will be spending more time, not just marketing my art and poetry, but also creating it. I am also a gardener – I will stop denying myself “cultivating” time. I’m a Literary - tonight I will pick up a book – not to prep it to sell on Amazon but to start reading it. Today, Monday, is “Boxwood Cottage” work day and it has been productive. Tomorrow is “CC Willow” work day. Wednesday … “Ariel” work day … Except for shipping orders, I will try to keep weekends free for just creating – art, poetry, sense of my life.
No – this wasn’t a shorter post at all … And BTW, I could still use Patreon sponsors for my chapbooks …