Trying to get back into artist mode

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For a while, I lose my balance. There is too much nesting & not enough artist-ing. My life often feels like it is about avoiding extremes. I am a libra in the truest sense – the symbol: the scales, always seeking a happy medium. I try to get everyday things done while also trying to make something that will last. I try to avoid the extremes of depression and mania. I try to keep my blood sugar from being too high or too low.

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I am diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease & now my thyroid becomes another thing that needs to be monitored. It’s not a bad blow – I figure that compared to the seemingly endless attention that my type 1 diabetes requires, even with the new insulin pump & CGM, taking a pill once a day & letting my doctor add another test to my lab work every three months is small potatos. My mother also has Hashimoto’s. There are many autoimmune disorders that can be co-morbid with type 1 diabetes & I’d rather have Hashimoto’s like my mother than Celiac like my grandmother.

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I realize I am doing too much nester work and not enough artist work so I come up with a sort-of routine. Put the clothes in the laundry – if it gets full, run it. Pick things up off the floor and run my little robot vacuum. Throw any forgotten garbage away – if the bin is full then take the bag outside. Clean up the kitchen, wipe down the counters, sweep the laundry room & kitchen floors with the broom. Wash the bedding as needed. Water some of the indoor plants (there are too many to reasonably water all of them in one go) & the outdoor plants if it’s been dry weather recently. This is my little routine. I usually get it done early in the day, then I have plenty of day left to spend in my artist studio where I am either absorbed in a book, trying to create something or planning the creation of something. My little dog, Lena, is always in her bed in my studio when I’m in here. When I’m elsewhere in the house, she’s there. She’s my little shadow. I project onto her. Edward has learned that when I ask him if he thinks Lena looks anxious it means my anxiety is beginning but I am not aware of it yet.

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I have to go to the ER twice in two weeks. Infection – angry, painful, red, spreading. I finally find a doctor who specializes in breasts & she is the coolest. She tries to teach Edward how to read a breast sonogram while she does mine because she knows he is in medical school. Edward is 6’4″ tall & she is about his height. I joke with her & adore her because she is so friendly. I didn’t used to understand why most doctors tended to be so cold to their patients most of the time but after hearing about Edward’s interactions with patients during his third year rotations, I have a better idea. They just get burnt out on people being stupid & causing themselves health trouble with bad decision making, stubbornness and/or stupidity. I have a new second-favorite doctor. No one is going to top my psychiatrist. No one at the ER can tell me why I’ve gotten mastitis twice in two weeks despite antibiotics. It’s strange for a non-breastfeeding woman to develop this infection in the first place. I make a few jokes about how my maternal insects for my dogs have apparently gotten out of control. The cool doctor I see tells me she doesn’t have an answer either, sometimes this just happens. I can accept that answer.

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My therapist and I set a goal for myself for the time between one weekly appointment & the next: I am to drive around Montgomery alone in the car, no Lena with me, and see how I do. My anxiety/panic disorder makes agoraphobia crop up sometimes and I am surprised when I realize I haven’t left the house without Edward, Lena or a friend in almost two months. Something about being out in the world alone feels wrong – unsafe, frightening, my body telling me to flee back to the place it assumes is safest, “go home, child.” I ace my homework. I get extra credit. Three times during the week I drive somewhere entirely on my own BUT I even go into stores by myself. I manage to go into WALMART alone, which is a huge challenge for me even when my anxiety is at a lower hum instead of the raging storm it’s been. The storm is starting to subside & it’s wonderful, liberating, a massive sigh of relief.

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A new friend turns out to be crazier than I thought and rips me apart for saying her boyfriend “needs to get his shit together” despite the fact that she complains about him not respecting her almost constantly to me. She sends me such a long tirade via text message about how awful I am that it takes me 5 minutes to read. Good riddance, I suppose. I keep in mind that’s she’s only 22, she’s mentally ill, most of her ideas about the world are totally batshit (she thought the government-illuminati were stealing money from her that she could get back) & she’s unmedicated. This is what I tell myself so I am not as sad about losing the only friend I’ve really made in my new city since moving here in May.

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I take to playing a 10 hour long soundtrack of thunderstorms when I am anxious, home alone or both. The thunder & rain sounds soothe me. I don’t know why exactly. They just make home feel cozier – call me a little bit hygge.

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Again I have the desire to branch out into new mediums of art. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything besides take photographs or write. I turned the storage room into a universe for a ritual but other than that I’ve been pretty creatively dry. I want to start doing collages again. I want to learn to paint (even if I turn out not to have any talent for it) & to draw. One night I buy watercolor pencils for Edward & I to play with on a free evening. I buy a little urquoise sketchbook for $5 so I can keep my doodles in one place. I hope I’ll see some progress as the pages become filled front-to-back. I want to start knitting again – you’d be surprised how much knitting you can get done during a phone call or while listening to a good mystery novel. I don’t know how to knit anything fancier than a tiny blanket or a scarf, and even then only using one stitch, but it’s relaxing.

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Thanks to my new medication, it’s been over 3 weeks since I’ve had a panic attack. Right now is a happy time & I’m doing my best to enjoy it. My painting supplies are supposed to arrive today (including 12 little canvases) so I can begin that. On Wednesday I get to go into Birmingham with Edward (he has to do a presentation) & see Mackenzie & I am very excited about that – it’s been way to long. Edward will mostly be studying for his shelf exam when he’s home until it’s over on Friday so I’m especially grateful for these creativity I’ve been feeling. I hope it lasts for a while.

Labor Day Weekend

Things are looking up, but it might just be because it’s Labor Day weekend and I get Edward home for three days straight! We’ll see how I’m feeling on Tuesday when it’s back to real life. Here are a few more photographs from the safari park Mackenzie & I visited a few weekends back.

Yesterday my mother-in-law visited and we were ALL so happy to see her! Sam & Lena when nuts when she showed up! Also she & Beatrice were instant friends – I started jokingly calling her the cat whisperer because Beatrice took to her so quickly. We went to the Montgomery Art Museum & ate a lot of vegetarian sushi & went to the dog park so she could see what it was like to run around with Sam & 20 other friendly pups. It was a wonderful day. I was sad when she left to go back to Birmingham, I hope she comes back soon. I got to show her Edward & my wedding photos, which was a really wonderful moment become when we first kind of “eloped” she was not thrilled about it. But we’ve been married for almost 2 years now & I think she has grown to love me.

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A Room To Be An Artist

After experiencing having my first designated “studio” room as an artist, I don’t think I can ever go back. Having a designated & private place to work & create makes my artistic practices feel more legitimate – it makes me feel more like an artist. Before I had a studio, when I’d just work in bed or on the couch or on the floor, I was always distracted by other things that needed to be done. While I was trying to write a post or edit images or collage or whatever my artistic practice entailed that day, I’d be constantly reminded of the other responsibilities I had. I could see the dirty dishes in the kitchen, the laundry on the floor, the floors that needed to be swept, the bedding that needed to be washed.

I’ve gotten a lot more done creatively since having a studio room in our little rented house. To be fair, I often photograph other places than inside my studio & my recent installation-kinda-art project (“A Universe For Us”) was built in the room next to my studio. Yesterday I was away from my studio for 6 hours because I was shooting for a grant I received recently from Advocates For Youth to be part of their 1-in-3 Photography Project.

But my studio is my home-base. I’ve taken great care in decorating it. I have two fish tanks on my desk – one filled with a rainbow of tetras & guppies, the other home to my beta fish, Ghost, who has to live alone because he is highly aggressive. I have a freckled, dark purple orchid, a succulent that has grown to look like a bonsai tree & a bella palm Beatrice (our cat) took way too much interest in before I moved it up on the shelves. I have shelves that look like honeycomb that hold little paintings, crystals, a book & framed polaroid images. I regularly add new things to the walls. I have a shelf full of photo albums & books (mostly to do with art) that I’ve already read or been meaning to read. I have a monstera plant in a white pot by the french doors that lead out onto the back deck. 

In the morning when I wake up, my studio is the first place I go. I spend most of my days in here when Edward is working at the hospital. I drag Sam’s massive dog bed in so I have even more canine company while I work. 

I often do non-artist things in here like paying bills, listening to a novel while knitting, cleaning my aquariums, watching Sharp Objects on Mondays or another show I’m into when a new episode or season is out. Sometimes I watch movies. Sometimes I accidentally drink too much coffee in here and it makes me jittery & anxious. I change my insulin pump infusion sets in here. I check my blood sugar 2 or 3 times a day. I keep my tripod, my camera equipment & a box that still needs to be unpacked from the move in the corner.

A Universe For Us / A Ritual Completed

We did the recommitment-style ritual in the little “universe” I created for us on Saturday. We repeated our vows from our wedding, we read each other things we’d written for each other about our love, each other, the struggles & surprises our marriage has survived so far – it was all very sweet & full of love & made me so giddy. I wish it had lasted longer.

At the very end Edward put an opal ring on my finger. I still love my original engagement ring but it’s rather delicate & I wanted something sturdier I could wear around without worrying about losing something emotionally irreplaceable if a stone fell out. Here’s what Edward had to say about my idea to use opal as the stone for this new ring:

“Opal is the perfect stone for recommitment because it is ever-changing in different lights and perspectives. Yet there is still a constancy to its appearance. The differences are great enough to be enchanting but minor enough to keep an easily recognizable form. The night sky also changes every night and over time but keeps its recognizable form. So to with the universe itself. String theory predicts that tiny universes are springing forth from all of space every second. Dimensions within dimensions ad infinitum. Before your very eves a new cosmos may be born without your awareness. Within this paradoxic consistent chaos let us create our own universe. We can’t do away with the chaos but we can temper it with our love and commitment. This is my ultra Edward way of saying that your creative mind hit upon a brilliant emblem for our love that my stilted hyper educated mind is still appreciating. As I said, you continue to amaze me.”

Here are some photographs I took of us after the ritual:

“I take you to be no other than yourself.  Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, with respect for your integrity and faith in your love for me.  Through all years and all that life may bring us, I will strive everyday to make our relationship stronger.  My promise to you today is to be your friend, your love and your partner for all the days of our lives – in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, in anger and in peace, in success and in failure.”

Those were the vows at our wedding. As Edward said during the ritual, the vows of a wedding are, in a way, easier to make than the vows of recommitment because when you get married you don’t really know what’s going to happen. With recommitment vows, you’ve gotten to know each other on a deeper level, the wonderful parts of each other & the less than wonderful parts.

All I can say is I love this man to death & back. I am super lucky to have him & I don’t care what the future brings for him and I, I’ll be wherever he is.

A Universe For Us / Process: Part 3

Yesterday was a victory-frustration-victory-frustration day of creating a universe. I started out by hanging the lights, creating the stars, behind the center of the universe. It took me much trial and error to get that part to look how I wanted. It actually didn’t end up being how I envisioned – creative endeavors almost never do – but it turned out better than my original idea would have turned out. It’s the part of the universe I am most proud of so far: the constellations.

Then came lots of trial and error with fabric & clothespins. I almost started a fire… oops. Luckily I caught it in time though. At first my own perfectionism was really getting in my way with creating but then I got more into the flow of it & had fun. These pictures are what I have so far. But the universe won’t be used by us (or seen by Edward) until Saturday so there is plenty of time to add more. I have a few more ideas.

I’m anxious to show it to Edward, this universe I am creating, because I really want him to like it. I still need to write the script for the ritual. But it’s only Tuesday morning & I have plenty of time. Probably more time than is good for me.

A Universe For Us / Process: Part 2

I had to make a space for the creation of this universe – so the storage/litter box room was cleared out, cleaned & cleansed with incense. I was happy because I thought this part of the process would take longer than it actually did.

Then the basic structure for the universe, the central piece, had to be built.

I accidentally stabbed my finger on a staple while building the first archway. That part was no fun. I’d been unable to find the exact size/shape I was envisioning so I got the extra large ones and built them how I wanted them to be by not using all of the pieces/improvising a bit with the process of putting them together.

The skeleton DNA of a universe being created/born…

A Universe For Us / Process: Part 1

I had the idea that, since we’d been going through a rough patch, Edward & I should do some kind of re-commitment or vow renewal ceremony. Edward was open & responsive to the idea – though he’s virtually always exhausted from being overworked at the hospital these days, so most of the planning & ideas were going to be coming from me.
The first day I spent time thinking about what we should do, how we should celebrate our love in a ritual once more & celebrate it’s endurance through the rough times, I felt overwhelmed by my own lack of creative ideas. I knew it was a stupid thing to beat myself up over, but I used it as another weapon against myself. I thought, “If I were more like this person I admire, I’d be coming up with something wonderful…” I thought, “If I were a real artist, a truly creative person, I would have more ideas about this.”

I talked with Edward about it that night & he suggested we go to a cabin in the woods for it. This sparked ideas! I spent the next morning searching for the perfect cabin to rent & found one only 15 minutes from us. It was a renovated A-Frame cabin – we’d have the ceremony/ritual upstairs & then go take photographs together in the woods. I knew what I was going to wear. I tried it on to make sure it still fit.

I started a mood board in my studio with photographs of the cabin & some of the nature surrounding it. I included a photograph of me in the dress I would wear, some handwritten notes about a script I was working on for the ritual & about being barefoot in the woods. I pinned up the golden leaf earrings I wore when Edward & I originally got married in December of 2016.

I texted him the ad for the cabin while he was at work and he said it looked perfect. I showed him my mood board when he got home. I’d scheduled our weekend for August 10-12th. But then we looked at his work schedule – the weekend wasn’t going to work. He would have to work way too many consecutive days at the hospital to make the weekend away possible. I felt rather devastated.

I took the photographs of the cabin off of the mood board.

I decided to follow in someone’s footsteps that I’d witnessed from afar. I would create a universe for us here, in a room of our own little rented house. I spent a lot of time searching for supplies & things we could use. How does one create a little universe to hold a little ritual in? It would be just the two of us, like our wedding, like we like it.

I created a new mood board. It’s still a work in progress. I’ve spent a lot of time online searching for a new ring to wear on my finger, to honor this re-commitment. I still haven’t found one. We haven’t set an exact date for this secret ritual in a secret universe yet.

At first I was disappointed that Edward didn’t have the extra time/energy to collaborate with me in planning this. Then I changed my perspective. I decided I would create a world and invite him to join me in it. I sent him an actual invitation.

Here is a photograph of the original very beginnings of the “cabin in the woods” ritual mood board:

Here is another photograph of the one I am working on now. I’m writing a script for us. We are going to get intergallactic style glitter EVERYWHERE & it’ll take forever to get cleaned up & it’ll be a ball.

This is the beginning of the invitation I made for him. The invitation was quite long but the rest is just for him, not for the internet.

“To My Love, My Edward, My Muse,

Join me in an (admittedly cheesy) world I am creating for us, a secret universe within our real lives, within one part of one room of one rented house in Montgomery, AL.

It’s meant to be a brief shelter from the struggles that life & being human inevitably create for two people who are crazy about each other. We will be safe there. We can be one again – two people looking into each other’s eyes while also hopefully seeing into the future & seeing no end to their togetherness. We can feel safe in the illusion that this little pause will last forever, that we will never have to leave the warm & cozy universe I am creating. I can pretend, for that bit of time, that life will always feel this way.”