To Infinity — And Beyond

the-arrival

I’m an artist. Well, at least I’ve been masquerading as one for a long time. If the creative awards that dot my office shelves mean anything, I’ve pretty much gotten away with it, too. For most of my adult life, I’ve worked as an illustrator and graphic designer both at in-house in ad agencies as well as in my own house, partnered with my husband in an agency of our own. Shockingly, people actually paid me well for my work, which is kind of handy when it’s your livelihood. Yet, having been completely self taught, I’ve never felt like I fully stuck the landing. In a world where college degrees are your admission ticket and even proof that you are relevant, my lack of educational credentials was always my Achilles heel. Still, somewhere along the way I graduated the school of hard knocks, leaving behind old insecurities about not being good enough. Now, I figure that my website, and all it contains, speaks for itself, thank you, so love it or leave it.

That being said, I still regularly get serious crushes on those authentic, passionate artists who live their art on their own terms. I have a healthy envy for the badass artists who bring it, delivering their passion in everything they do. They are the ones who allow the craft to drive them and not the other way around.

I’ve never been that artist. Continue reading

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Velveteen Human

mr-bunny-lost

To love at all is to be vulnerable.   C.S. Lewis

From the time we emerge, wrinkled, red and screaming our heads off in the delivery room, we begin to grow. We bravely take first steps, say first words and train daily for life as a fully realized human. We get skinned knees, scrapes, spills and tears along the way to all the good stuff and then we realize – it might not be all good stuff.

Pinocchio got a crash course in what it means to be ‘real’ when he became a human boy. Suddenly, he had all the best and worst of being real.  He also had to choose not to lie, not only to everyone else, but also to himself. We’re all a little like that wooden boy.  As we grow, we learn to embrace true selves including all the splintered, broken pieces because it’s in those pieces we learn to be kind, genuinely, and sincerely kind. We learn to say what we mean and mean what we say, trying not to hurt others but empower them. We learn, we learn, we learn. . . if we’re lucky, if we’re aware, we become ‘real’.

Part of being real is being authentic, broken parts and all. It can be really tough to dive deep inside ourselves for our truest feelings but those are the only ones that count. We all get broken in different ways in this thing we call life and need to be mindful of what we experience to stay connected to ourselves. Maybe we could take a page from The Velveteen Rabbit’s playbook; as plush toys go, those guys were pretty evolved. “You become. It takes a long time.” the Skin Horse explained to the Velveteen Rabbit. Real “doesn’t happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges or have to be carefully kept.”
Continue reading

We Need To Talk

conversation

What a concept. In this day of uber technology, just good ol’ fashioned talking. Few of us are not connected to text, email, Facebook or Twitter — a lot.  (I admit, I’m guilty as charged) That ease of communication can be a double edged sword, though. It can be such an easy go-to that face-to-face talking is becoming the last, not first resort.

My kids, who are busy parents, really hate talking on the phone. In fact, two of the three will do almost anything to avoid answering a ringing phone yet they message with speed and ease. There’s really no talking on the phone to my older grandchildren either yet I can discover pretty much anything from their texts or Facebook timelines. And they are not alone. Studies show that 32% of people would rather text than talk to you. But, boy, don’t you miss the prehistoric days when people talked in real time?

While IM’ing is quick and responsive, it leaves a lot to be desired sometimes. All those nonverbal quirks that can sway a conversation are absent. We have no idea if a short answer is in context or abrupt, part of a larger, more expansive thought or protected in anger or fear of judgement. A simple smile, tear or smirk changes the temperature of the conversation. Your own thoughts are conveyed without benefit or warmth or meaning other than the stark letters on a screen.

Things go best when you pay close attention to what is being said and that’s a little difficult in text time. In email, we have a delete button which saves a lot of oops messaging, assuming we use it before pushing send. Yet, there’s still something to be said about face-to-face contact. It’s in that place that we learn, through each other’s facial expressions, posture and tone, who, we are.

Without communication, we are all together in this big world – alone. We can’t have our needs met without the help of others; nor can they. Sure, we can say that we walk and chew gum at the same time but can we really? I’m a pretty good multi-tasker and can pay bills, read the newspaper, text and watch tv at the same time but which of them am I doing well? Ah, good question. Continue reading

Spring Forward; Fall Back

barefoot-hikeLast October, the calendar said I graduated. No cap and gown necessary. Completing a year of ‘firsts’ after my husband died was the only requisite for graduation. A friend who reached that mark herself not long before, warned me that the ‘second year’ can feel even worse than the first. Good talk. Seriously, this year wasn’t bad enough? How hard could the second year be?

Let’s just say I hate when people are right, don’t you?

Last year I put all my energies into ‘doing’, not being. And all the distractions worked fairly well to push me through those hellish 12 months. Gradually though, all the ‘first’ holidays, birthdays, big and small family events were put away, like that bulky down coat when spring finally settles in. And then you wake up with a thud in the real’ zone, loudly reminded that the one you love is Not. Ever. Coming. Back. I realize that’s not exactly breaking news but in the first year you shoved that little fact up on the shelf until you can handle it better. Spoiler alert: When the smoke finally clears, it’s still there — grief 2.0.

You found out the hard way, that there’s no short cut, or quick path through grief. Yet, you pushed through, cuts, scrapes and thorny brush because when you’re in the real zone you have no other choice and no GPS to help you navigate.  Richard Branson quipped that “If you find yourself stuck in the middle, there’s only one way to go – forward.” Good plan.

Things will never be what they were – neither will you. That’s what the ‘real zone’ is all about. Once the last shreds of the smokescreen are stripped away, the reality of the missing is exposed. The emotional and physical connection we had with the one no longer here is starkly visible. Continue reading