Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Post-Revelation High

Last week, I had a little revelation that turned out to be a big giant revelation that pretty much changed my entire life.  I think this is kind of like bringing home a tiny puppy who becomes a GIANT DOG, except that I don't have to follow my revelation around with a poop bag or buy it squeaky toys. Still, it really and truly has changed my life, because once I realized why I was yelling at myself all the time inside my head, I stopped, almost instantaneously.  I feel like I've been racing around my whole life with talk radio blaring in my frontal lobe, and I just managed to turn it off.  It's so much easier to think with it off!  And it's so much more pleasant inside my head!  In this very odd and liberating way, it's also bigger, like moving out of a shitty little studio into - I don't know - the land mass of Asia.

The sense of peace I've felt since the yelling stopped is almost indescribable.  I'm less stressed.  I'm less panicked.  I'm just . . . content.  I keep joking that I feel emotionally stoned. 

In this weirdly contented state, I've not only been incredibly productive (check my wonderstrange blog for pics of all the things I finished this week), but I've also managed to accomplish something that I've been trying to get done for a good year and a half: I've carved out time for skill development.  At 10:00 PM promptly, each and every day this week, I have stopped working so that I can either do an acrylic painting workshop or practice drawing.  I am several pages into a sketch pad, but I also created these Artist Trading Cards for a "Fancy Dress" swap - which is not meant in the British sense, but in the sense of fancy historical costumes:

This one will have more added to the background before I'm finished:

 This one isn't finished either.  I am bothered by the floor - but certainly not too bothered to post it.  A week and a half ago, I wouldn't have dared.  Man, I like this revelation thing!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Shambling toward Self-Acceptance

Like many people I have come to know, I am kind of an asshole.  Really, I am demanding, merciless, nasty, short-tempered, unforgiving, and on the darker days, downright psychologically abusive. The reason people keep me around is that I would never knowingly treat another human being this way.  These are just the goodies I give to myself.  It's like a spa package dreamed up by Satan, complete with a citrus honey soul shred and a rejuvenating rubber cement enema.

The reason I'm bloggervating about this is that I know I'm not alone.  Lots of us do it.  At the age of 42, however, I am absolutely and utterly sick of it.  Aren't you sick of it?  God, it's ridiculous.  If I could, I'd kick myself out of the house, throw all of my own clothes on the street, get terrifically drunk, and then start looking for other prospective selves, ones who are nicer, who like me for me.  With a brand new self - one who didn't treat me like shit - surely I would get more done.

Of course, I can't do any of that.  I have to stop being a person I want to throw out of the house.  How to stop, though.  That's the tricky part: Breaking a habit that feels uncontrollable, that's been ingrained over decades.  I've been working on that, trying to become consciously aware of the negative behavior and replacing it with positive blah blah sounds easy is hard heavy sigh. 

Tonight, I finally had a serious (if involuntary) face-to-face with myself, one that might help me take bigger steps on this whole journey.  On one of the sites where I trade art, my friend Sal revived a thread called "A[rtist Trading Cards] through the Years."  The idea is that you post a progression of your work, sort of like this:

When I went back to the very first Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) that I drew in 2010, I just about died.  Granted, when I picked up that pencil in 2010, I hadn't drawn anything since 1985, but I assure you that was not my first thought.  My first thought was an incoherent combination of swearing, gasping, shame, and horror.  This web site where I trade is juried, for God's sake.  No one else on that entire site ever drew anything that looked as bad as those 2010 cards.

Worse yet, I knew that the point of the exercise wasn't to feel bad; it was to feel good, to marvel at the transformations we can't see with our noses pressed to the glass of daily life.  I couldn't feel good, though.  I couldn't feel anything but shame and horror.

But why shame?  I hadn't done anything wrong.  Why on earth would I expect to pick up a pencil after all those years and be awesome?  I wouldn't expect that, and more important still, I couldn't expect that.  The shame made no sense.

That's when it hit me:  I wasn't feeling shame and horror; I was feeling one emotion with two expressions.  I was horrified by the bad cards because I was nervous that people on the site would be horrified.  And somehow, if I was sufficiently horrified - if I was stabbing myself in the eyes with 37 knives - then I wouldn't be hurt by someone else's spear flying into my spleen.

It made me think that maybe I yell at myself because I'm convinced that if I don't, someone else will.  And honestly, I hate it when someone yells at me, lectures me, disapproves of me.  Apparently, I hate it so much that I would rather do it myself, just to be safe.

This is huge, by the way.

I'm figuring this out more or less as I'm typing it, and it feels huge to me.  I yell at myself because I'm afraid of being yelled at.  It's just fear.

I can't fight amorphous frustration with myself for being an asshole.  I can fight fear.  I can talk to fear.  I can pop fear like a balloon.  I can.

Now you'll excuse me, but I'm off to savor this moment, pin in hand.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I Wonder as I Wander . . . Or Maybe Just Sing

Well, hi there! All week, I've been working on ornament tutorials that will be appearing on Wonderstrange in December. I almost asked my husband if we could set up our Christmas tree in the living room, just so I could take good pictures of the ornaments when they're finished, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Because he would totally set it up. And then I'd feel like one of those people who wants to walk around the store singing "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on November 1.

He did fetch a tiny tree for me, though.  It's about a 16" tall.  I think that means I'm still in the clear, right?  You still respect me?  We're cool?

Speaking of singing along to Christmas carols in the store, the other day I got busted singing along to the music in the antique mall. I don't remember the exact song, but I do know it was some piece of 70s pop that I adore and almost never get to hear, so I was singing with great gusto when an employee rounded the corner on me. He had a suppressed, smug, squinchy little grin on his face, and I said (shoring up what was left of my dignity), "I bet you bust people singing like that all the time." He said, "Nope. Not really!"  Good Lord.  Give a girl a break - and quit looking so pleased with yourself, Mr. Man!


At any rate, all of my ornaments will be upcycled creations that started life in an antique mall like that one, or possibly a Goodwill. I hope you'll follow along, or better yet, play along, starting December 2!