tapping the force

There are good days, and there are GREAT days, and some days are SO good, SO great, they really give you moment to pause and reflect. Today was one of those days.

It’s been a pretty steady run lately of things going right creatively, and that always helps immensely in terms of boosting the happiness quotient. I think part of it is that I’ve been forcing (or, really, allowing) myself to spend some time each day to do something new, different, experimental, untested. Since I’ve started doing this my feelings of achievement and satisfaction, really, have gone through the roof. As a creative person, time to play is a gift you MUST give yourself, and yet, so often it’s so easy to forget. So anyway, that’s my ‘me’ time, and we all know that me time is happy time.

I woke up today looking forward to my morning coffee, to catching up on stuff online, to turning the Christmas lights on and getting some tunes going. All that good morning stuff that in truth, I look forward to every morning. When I checked in on Facebook, I was greeted with three different jewelry artists’ posts having to do with my work. Two totally beautiful creations made with my beads, and an excited post about the arrival of some of my beads overseas. I say often that my greatest pleasure as an artist is making things that become part of someone else’s creative journey – in whatever way. It’s very special and I never take it for granted.

Maybe that’s what got me going this morning. In any case, by 10:30 AM, I was worked up into a positively incandescent state of bliss.

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The day had established itself as a freakishly fabulous day, and it wasn’t even noon. How often does that even happen? Some days I’m not even up by noon! As the day wore on, I kept thinking about how lucky it was that I was having such a great day, and how thankful I am to be doing what I do every day.

And then it got deep.

I realized that a year ago today, more than likely, I was lying in bed in the dark, wishing and hoping that I could fall asleep again so I wouldn’t have to think or feel anything. I was firmly in the grip of a very serious, deep depression that had been going on for a while. Quite a while. For months and months and months on end I’d been trying to sleep my life away – it was the only thing that brought me any relief. When I was awake, I was wrapped up in blankets reading a book when I could concentrate, or watching my 16th hour of TV that day. I was alive, but I felt dead. My greatest fear, and something that I thought about over and over and over again during that time, was that my creativity would never come back. That I would never paint, or draw, or write, or make beads again.

But I did. And I am. And as I type this, tears are welling up when I think about how much things can change in a year. How much we can survive before we begin to thrive again. It is in us, that ability to withstand. Strength and resilience have been my constant companions throughout life, mostly out of necessity. I know a thing or two about it. And I know, with every fiber of my being, that just when something looks like it will never EVER be good again, it will.

It really will.

The other day I was thinking about what I was like as a person, as an artist, back in the early 2000’s – a decade or so ago. Before a lot of life happened. Before a lot of sadness, a lot of suffering, a lot of loss. I was different then. I know I was. It makes me a little sad to think of it, because when I do, I know that somewhere along the way, I lost some of my magic. Some of that sparkly energy I used to be able to share with the world is gone. Old artist me was a colorful bright happy plant that bloomed without effort, and new artist me has grown gnarled roots and some of my leaves have dropped off. But I still see beauty in everything, and I guess that is a kind of magic in itself.

I will have to think about this more, but I do know that whatever I am now, I am happy. I’m here. I’m creating stuff. And life really is good.

You will love this interview with Caroline Casey, which just resonated in so many ways with all I was thinking and feeling today.


“Handmade things will feed your ancient soul because everything has a story, the story of the maker and then the story of the person who receives the work. By making handmade things, we’re tapping a force that says we’re not destined to accept what fate has assigned us. We want to make things because it’s a way of changing our lives.” – Caroline Casey


free to be

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Sometimes there’s a lot to say. And sometimes there isn’t. I find myself cycling through phases. The talkative, writing, word-spewing phase is full of analyzing, pondering, and reflecting. I’ve always felt that self-reflection is an integral part of being a creative person – heck, any kind of person – but a creative person especially. Writing is always a reliable reflecting pool. You write, and occasionally, you see your soul revealed on the page. It’s a good habit, writing. I’d like to do it more. But sometimes, for me, there are silent phases. Mostly, those phases are just about doing. No talking, no writing, just doing. Planning, working, growing, changing, but above all, doing. I’ve been there lately. The words ran dry for a while.

That’s ok.

They always come back.

I find the Facebook / Blog balance a difficult one, and I’m sure many artists who inhabit both spaces struggle in the same way. Sometimes you have a long-winded thing that is clearly blog territory, but most days you think of a little tidbit to share on Facebook as you go about your day, you post it, and you carry on. You could say more, maybe, but it’s so easy to just post and run. The problem, I find, is that by the time you’ve done a week of Facebook updates, the well has run dry. A blog post is the last thing on your mind.

I feel a little sad sometimes that artists have mostly moved over to sharing their stuff on Facebook instead of on their blogs. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE Facebook – for the ease of communication, the wonderful connections I’ve made with bead lovers, friends, far-away family, and other makers. It’s also been a wonderful, friendly, super easy place to sell beads. The thing is, I find that you see a different side of someone on their blog. Facebook isn’t the place for sharing your struggles, your doubts, your insecurities, your vulnerabilities. Nobody likes a sadsack beadmaker/artist/jewelry designer. Mostly, people come to see pretty photos of your work, to gain a little insight into what you do, and maybe read your incredibly inspiring thoughts (ha!).

But how do we connect with each other? I mean, really connect? We find ourselves in others’ stories. We take comfort and solace in knowing that other people survive the things we go through too. It’s reassuring. It means that we’re normal, we’re human. Those struggles, those challenges, that IS life. Real life. Nobody’s life is always shiny and happy and filled with tropical vacations. But on Facebook we all try to be the best, most photogenic, entertaining versions of ourselves. And that’s why I feel much more comfortable leaving the rough edges exposed on my blog. It’s my own little place. A place where people actively come to seek me out, to find out what kind of person I am, to read what I have to say. It’s a place where I can bare my soul and not worry that someone is going to ‘Unlike’ me for it.

Being ‘unliked’ is a phenomenon that I’m somewhat familiar with… I mean, in Grade school I was bullied… When I was a teacher, some disgruntled student wrote ‘BITCH’ in big, bold scrawly letters on my mailbox in the hallway. But before I started my Uglibeads Facebook page, I’d never been exposed to the idea of being ‘Unliked’ in such a literal and graphic sense.

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yes, I can chart my ‘Unlikes’ on a graph.

On a Facebook business page, you can see how many ‘Likes’ the page has. And whenever I’m on my own page, so can I. I see the number so often, I know when it goes up. Or horror of horrors, DOWN. Which means that someone has ‘Unliked’ my page. They actually visited my page for the express purpose of unliking it. How’s that for an ego boost? I know, I know! There are so many reasons why people ‘Unlike’ pages, and really, it is 100% ridiculous to take it personally. But when you put a little bit of yourself into everything you do, it does sting. It is, after all, a teeny, tiny, anonymous rejection. Sometimes, despite my best efforts to focus on the positive, when I see that someone has Unliked my page, I have one of those miserable days filled with self-doubt. Artists really are the absolute best at crippling self-doubt. That little voice inside keeps repeating, “You must have done something wrong! What did you do wrong?” It’s the same nauseating carnival ride every time –

self-doubt…
self-criticism….
self-pity…
self-soothing…

I suppose the key is that the end of the cycle is always, once again, self-respect.

I think it’s healthy to check in with yourself from time to time to make sure you’re happy with what you put out there into the world. But second-guessing never led anyone to a good creative place. It stops the flow, closes you off, puts up little walls around the most interesting parts of who you are.

On the ‘Unlike’ days, I always end up thinking the same thing: I can’t be anything other than myself. And really, truly, I want to be surrounded with people who ‘get’ me, who understand me, who ‘Like’ me, just the way I am.

Yeah.

Don’t we all?