Category Archives: Makin' Stuff

Welcome to Reality

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I struggle with having realistic expectations of myself.

I am either the best person – EVER! – or I’m a miserable failure. The bizarre part is that I seem to have found some magical portal that gets me from one side of this chasm to the other in rapid succession. I was keenly aware of this when I was exploring the role of being a worship leader in high school. I had deranged fantasies about being some sort of worship superstar. Said fantasies came back to haunt me whenever I did something normal and silly, like dropping my pick or breaking a string or completely forgetting an entire verse of a song. I never was able to just see myself for what I was – a young musician with lots of room for growth, but also someone who had a lot of passion and good intentions.

I still jump back and forth. I’m better about it now in the sense that I recognize myself doing it more often and can do my best to correct my behavior or thoughts. But it still sneaks up to bite me in the butt. And oh, it’s a nasty, tricky cycle. I run around with my over-inflated ego bulldozing everyone around me for their controlling, manipulative, or sometimes just contrary behavior. And then when I slow down and realize that I’m acting like a maniac, I have a hard time admitting that I did wrong. Because, you know, admitting that you were wrong translates into “You are an epic failure” in my brain.

The continual dilemma of being a part-time artist is that I never have time for everything that I want to create. I’ve written just over half of the blog posts for our trip, and I’m stuck somewhere in the wilds of County Donegal because the inspiration to write a story that’s been rattling around in my brain for five years hit and when inspiration hits, you absolutely should go with it. So I have twelve chapters of said story and somewhere around eight days of blog posts.

I stopped going to pottery cold-turkey back in April when the soil woke up and my life launched into all things gardening and seed-sowing. Oh, and speaking of that, our yard is literally changing on a weekly basis and as much as I would like to share more about that process on my other blog…well, I just haven’t.

When November hits, there will be Christmas merry-making to contend with. And I’m nowhere near ready for that.

My husband graciously bought me two very nice violin books a couple of years ago, right around the time I decided that playing the violin well required more hours than I had to give. Every time I see those books hanging out in our music room, I think about cracking them open and tuning the violin, just to keep my fingers nimble. However, I never actually get that far.

The desire to create combined with the limited amount of minutes in my day plus the constant ebb and flow of inspiration sometimes makes me feel like I’m failing as an artist. I wasn’t really trying to get anywhere in particular in the first place, and I’m still failing.

So, when I get like this, one thing I find helpful is to just sit down and write out two things: what I’m feeling and what the truth is. And no, they aren’t always the same thing (mind blowing, I know). I usually walk away from this exercise with a very clear head and a good plan to get through the day.

What is truth? The truth, for me, is factual stuff. Things that don’t move around too much or that aren’t dependant on temporary circumstances. For me, this is some truth:

I have worth and value completely separate from any relationships, career choices, roles, or creative endeavors.

I’ve spent the past two years making healthy choices for myself and working through my crap in pretty in-depth ways. This pleasantly resulted in a better relationship with God, my husband, and many of my friends. Heck, I would say it even resulted in me having more friends and not being so isolated.

I am fully capable of continually making responsible choices in my lifestyle, and I often do. I take care of my body. I enjoy my vices in moderation and don’t let them control me. I intentionally seek out wise council when I’m feeling confused. I allow the limbs of my faith to be stretched and pushed, because I have roots that I know I can trust in.

My husband and I have a better relationship than I ever thought we would. We are affectionate, honest, respectful, and kind towards one another. We do our best to honor our own needs and wants and still be giving towards the other person. We support one another. We are actively and intentionally doing things to improve our marriage and not let it stagnate. It it’s God’s will for us to have a family that extends beyond the two of us, I’m convinced that we will do an awesome job and be able to eventually laugh at our mistakes (because Lord knows, we will make them).

I have an amazing community of friends that are constantly showing me more about what the face of God looks like. How He expresses himself in so many different ways. How His arms are big enough to encircle all of us in our searching and shifting.

I’m a creative person, and I produce beautiful and imperfect things. I’m not really an expert in any field, but I create first of all because I enjoy it, and that’s the important part.

In the past few months alone, I took a risk and started drawing and writing fiction again. Both of these are things I haven’t had enough confidence to do in many years. Regardless of what comes from these endeavors (a novel? The complete illustrated version of the day that Jason and I met?), it was healing to start them nonetheless.

On Friday, we had another musician in our house and we shared songs together. Most of them were covers of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, but I did share one of my original songs and this person was so gracious in their praise. Not only that, but I heard myself singing lyrics that I had written and thinking, “Oh, wow. I did OK!” It’s not a song to save the world but it’s a song that contains parts of who I am. Therefore, it’s a beautiful song.

I am moving forward. Sometimes it’s in violent bursts of creative energy, and sometimes it’s a slow plodding that involves lots of e-mails to Horticultural program coordinators, editing chapters, and eraser marks.

These are the things that ground me in reality. These are the things that are true.

 

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Tuesday Evenings

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This is the time of year that my fingers become magical. I am amazed at the response of my tools, my materials and how things take shape. Tuesday evenings are pottery nights; the last bout of creativity before Saturday rolls around again and I spend my weekend in the sewing room or in the kitchen. Monday nights are for creating nourishment – which in and of itself is a magical act. But Tuesdays, I drive through Milwaukee to the pottery studio and marvel at what happens between my two hands. I feel the strain in my shoulders as I use my stringy arms to shove the clay into the center of the wheel until it stops shaking and passes smoothly against my cupped fingers, ready for lifting and pulling and shaping into something beautiful.

I drive home through the middle of Milwaukee, past all of the storybook brick houses of Wauwatosa, past the dingy restaurants serving fried food, pass the six-way intersections crisscrossing one another, past the empty eeriness of the scarcely-used cemetery, and finally past the warehouses and plots of vacant land that distinguish the north side of my city. And at every bus stop, every intersection, I love the people and I hope that they are happy, they are safe and they are given dignity.

My home welcomes me with warm cider, with my husband’s company and piles of wool and jersey to cut and measure and tame into warmth. I make a secret wish for snow and the incredible cleansing cold that follows. I am totally content and yet feel the longing for a true transition into winter. This is a new feeling for me – contentedness and longing coexisting happily with one another.

I discovered that Pete Seeger did a Christmas album, once upon a time. That makes me really happy.