Conversation With My Body

 
Rachel Loewen Photography

Rachel Loewen Photography

 
 
 

Hello body.

I love you. I love your arms, chest, tummy, butt, thighs. I love your hands, face, hair, legs, feet. I love the way you work. All the ways you’ve helped me and carried me through this life. Thank you for the 3 people you made; for how you created and fed them. I’m eternally grateful and can’t express how amazed I am and always will be with this phenomenon. Thank you for protecting and healing, for all the hard work.

You’ve done a great job. You’ve even saved the extra calories I gave you, in case of emergency. In case we ever had a lack. Thank you.

I’m going to take good care of you. I won’t abuse you, with food or lack of it, with alcohol to deal with my emotions, with unchecked anxiety, with too much or too little exercise, with my words and my thoughts.

We are safe now. We have enough. The babies are happy and independent of our calories. We have no lack. I’m going to give you good fuel, and I want you to use up the extra you’ve been saving.

I know! We don’t want to have a lack. We don’t want to abuse in order to achieve cultural status. We’ll never be perfect in their eyes. I want you to know that I accept you, fully. Even the hair you grow that I constantly remove because my culture believes women should appear prepubescent. I want us to be strong and healthy for the long haul. I want to use those extra calories with love. We will always have ways to get more if we need them. But even if you want to hang on to them tightly (and it seems you do), I love you just the way you are. I’m so, eternally grateful to you, body.

xo,

mind and spirit

 

Sustain

 
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You are capable of a level of hustle that isn’t sustainable without sacrificing other things that are important.

I’m excited about my work every single day. But the last while I’ve found myself resisting the return to the cold basement floor after I put my kids to bed. Instead, I’ve been parking on the couch and soaking up the Netflix with my computer on my lap, relatively ignored. And it’s been so good. My work has still expanded and grown anyway, or maybe as a result.

I listened to a teacher talking about self-sabotage today (I listened to it 3 times to really marinate on the ideas). One thing I was mulling over was her recommendation, when you just don’t “feel like” doing what you need to do in order to be or have or accomplish something, is to ask yourself, “How can I help you feel like it?”.. I really like that.

So, I was asking myself, “How can I help you feel like working at night again?”. And you know, I was surprised by the answer. At first I thought okay, if I make tea, sit on a cozy pillow, have something streaming on my laptop- that sounds nice! I could feel like that!”. But what I realized after that is that a long term lifestyle of work at night might not actually be what’s best for the longevity and joy of my practice long term. It is doable and sustainable- for a time. In seasons. But I think for me, I will allow those seasons to come and go, and not expect it to happen all the time.

To be honest, I feel like my work has been getting better since I’ve relaxed into it a bit. To be honest, some stuff I’ve made out of pressure to perform and achieve has been shitty.

In 2011/2012 I hit a wall and fell hard- ER visits, colonoscopy to try to determine why I was spontaneously vomiting, insomnia, panic attacks, headaches….I have no interest in returning to that state. Since then, I’ve been working on building a life that is sustainable. I want to build a lifestyle that leaves me whole, better every year, growing.

In an emergency, you are capable of incredible feats. Hunger, staying awake, physical and mental challenge. But that emergency state is not meant to be sustained. In order for anything to create, to reproduce, it has to be out of that emergency state, and in place of calm, safety, rest and nourishment. I really think one of the ultimate experiences in life is a regular rhythm of work and play. I’m still taking it day by day to find out what that looks like for me. What does that look like for you? What does the position of ultimate creation look like for you? If one were to design a greenhouse just for you to grow and fruit, what would need to be in it?

 

Love Isn't Making Sure Other People Feel Loved

 
 

The most important thing I have learned in a long time is this: I am not responsible for other people’s feelings.

This goes four ways:

1. I am not responsible for other people feeling badly.

2. I am not responsible for other people feeling good.

3. I am responsible for my feelings, good and bad.

4. Other people are not responsible for how I feel, good or bad.

Lambie thinks she can control other people’s feelings.

Lambie thinks she can control other people’s feelings.

For my entire life I have felt it was my responsibility to make sure people felt good- loved, cared about, seen, understood, happy. If they weren’t happy, I felt responsible and was miserable and tried to fix it. I felt especially responsible for people who were especially challenged with their feelings. This individual doesn’t feel loved- I can fix that. This individual feels left out- I can change that. This person feels sad- I can make it better by showing them I love them. Likewise, I thought real love and healthy relationship meant other people took care of my feelings. If I was sad, they sought to cheer me up. If I was angry, they listened and validated. I held them responsible for my feelings about their actions and words or lack of them toward me. I did not think of myself as holding the power for creating my feelings. I gave all of that power to others.

 
The mouse in this bullshit library book believes that kindness is giving away the entire birthday cake he spent all morning and used up all his materials to make, so he shows up at his friend’s house with nothing.

The mouse in this bullshit library book believes that kindness is giving away the entire birthday cake he spent all morning and used up all his materials to make, so he shows up at his friend’s house with nothing.

I wasted a lot of time and made a lot of decisions in my day to day life trying to manage how other people felt- and almost no time managing how I felt without seeking someone else’s intervention. And I was miserable, and tired. While I was working myself to the bone to control something I couldn’t control (other people’s feelings) believing that’s what real love looks like, I wasn’t taking care of myself and I was pissed with other people for not recognizing that and letting me off the hook. While trying to create good feelings in other people (because that’s what love is, right?) I wasn’t creating the things that I was really capable of and talented at creating. I thought the path to my success in life was to love other people genuinely and with self- sacrifice, and that meant making sure they felt loved. I was wasting my time, embittered at them for not seeing me and reciprocating “love”, and holding others responsible for my feelings. My marriage, parenting, family relationships and friendships suffered under the weight of my exhaustion of trying to manage to make sure everyone around me felt loved.

Getting out of this was difficult. I was in over my head, doing a lot of things I didn’t want to do in order to try to “help” others feel good. When I stopped doing those things, I lost the relationships that were built on the expectation that I would do those things out of love. But my understanding of love had changed. Love wasn’t making sure other people felt love. I could only be responsible for my loving actions, not for how someone felt or interpreted me. I didn’t need to fulfill all of someone else’s desires for me in order to make sure they were loved. I could love them without doing everything they wanted me to do. This may sound obvious to you, but to me it was not.

So now, for example, I could see that going to someone’s event in order to make sure they felt loved and didn’t see me as cruel, would not in fact be loving. It was dishonest, dishonoring to myself, and would deteriorate the relationship. Being loving was to bring my whole honest self to my relationships, not holding back the things I was pretty sure the other person wouldn’t like or the things they might interpret as unloving or the things they would assign a meaning to that meant I looked mean or rude in their eyes and created unsavory feelings in them. Being loving was not trying to control another person’s emotions or make sure they never felt bad about me. That’s not love.

I learned that consenting to anything in order to control someone else’s feelings is not love, even if they feel unloved by your “no”. I still believe we have to do things we don’t want to do sometimes. I just don’t think that those things should be done in an attempt to ensure a feeling in someone else. I experienced that some people, like I had myself, hold everyone else accountable for their feelings, and are a victim of everyone else’s decisions, instead of empowering themselves to create the feelings they want. Even this, I had to learn I can’t control. Sure, it may be loving to share with a friend how you’ve grown and how they can be freed from this mentality too. But I’ve seen that it’s not loving to try to control where someone else is on their journey in life. The most loving thing may be to walk away, letting them feel however they’re going to feel, and let them have their own journey.

Love isn’t controlling other people’s feelings. Love is letting them have their feelings, and being honest and responsible for your own.





 
 
 

Current Art Influences

 

These are people whose work I’ve been looking at, thinking about, sometimes gasping over. Intentionally or not, they’re likely influencing my work and decisions I make in the studio. They all directly influence my belief that art is an acheivable occupation, and for that alone I’m grateful. Putting them all together, I notice a theme of my interest in color palettes with bright pops of color surrounded by earth tones, repurposed materials, emotive process, and connections between past and future.

 

Emily Fox King

A fellow mom and cold basement studio artist, I spend a lot of time staring at her thick, heavy, gestural florals and studying the color palettes. I finally bought this print on the right after screenshotting it 5 times and going to the website that sells her prints to think about it 10 times.

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Anne-Sophie Tschiegg

If prints of this work ever become available I will absolutely purchase one. The color palettes, movement, and depth of the paintings stick out to me in an ocean of abstract paintings. This is not just a hobbyist taking advantage of the mainstream adoration of Abstract Expressionist color splashes, pours and mark making. The work is beautiful but not pretty; it has a shadow side. I especially love the figurative work- faces in shapes and colors fresh and unfamiliar, somehow looking like they’re in motion. Someone made a sweater from one of the paintings and I am both impressed and jealous.

 
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Lisa Congdon

I’m not a huge fan of displaying art with words in interior spaces (I feel like I would tire of it too quickly, or the words would get stuck in my head in an annoying way), but there are plenty of other uses and Lisa Congdon makes finding those options something I want to do.

 
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Manish Nai

I’m totally invigorated by his use of throw away clothing mashed in shapes that recreate them into colorful art objects. The squared off shapes are reminiscent of Wall-E (yes, the cartoon robot from the movie), who is a role model of mine with his creative use and appreciation of a trashed environment.

 
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Roderick Kiracofe

Historic quilts, appreciated as art, as they should be. The quilts he posts are not beautiful for their perfection, but for the ingenuity and creative expression you can find in their details- materials, methods, interesting use of color.

 
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Jess Feury

Since coming across her apparel work, I’ve been in love with the way she’s able to weave sudden bursts of bright color into otherwise earthy palettes in a way that enhances every color. I keep trying to imitate it and it’s much harder than it looks.

 
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Margery Amdur

These are makeup applicator sponges. As usual, I’m fascinated and obsessed with straight up garbage used in such a way as to showcase and value its retained beauty of texture, color palette, and size.

 
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Diana Weymar

My hero. She is leading a project called Tiny Pricks in which she welcomes anyone who wants to stitch the words of the current President onto heirloom fabrics in order to give them greater permanence and attention as tweets and interviews pass away in our memory. The often outrageous words in the form of embroidery on treasured materials is meant to highlight this contrast and provoke a sense of shock in us that gets dulled by the sheer volume and frequency of his absurdity. Once again, I love when anyone can take trash and make it meaningful.

Encouraging Creativity At Home

 
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This week I have a second opportunity to work with the Chicago Children’s Museum, and my first time to work with kids in the new art studio space. We will be showing them different ways to weave at home using repurposed materials. As a part of the workshop for the smaller age groups, I wanted to offer parents some ideas that have worked really well for our family to encourage our kids to create on their own (without unmanageable mess!). I made this list of a few tips that I feel have made a real difference for us, and a shopping list of some basics for stocking and all-ages creative space.

These things can easily translate to encouraging yourself to create in new ways on the regular! So whether your home has kids or not, here’s some things to try.

5 Ways To Encourage Creativity At Home

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  1. Create A Designated Space-- Find a permanent spot in your home where your kids can have regular access to supplies that you’ll be okay with a moderate amount of mess, and they can leave an unfinished project out. A table top, a small shelf or space for storage, and a floor that is wipeable are all you need.

  2. Make Something Yourself-- Tapping into your own creative space not only models this habit for your kids, it can create some quiet quality time that you both enjoy.

  3. Let Go- Try to keep your guidance minimal. There will be plenty of people in your kids life to give them rules and structure when it comes to creating. Their home art space can be the place they play and think outside of any boxes, a skill as important to foster as any other.

  4. Get Easy To Use And Easy To Keep Supplies-- but not too many or it will be too hard to clean up and organize! The basics are best. Use this handy Supply List I made on Amazon with some of the basics that my kids are always using. Follow their curiosity and get different or better things based on what attracts them to create most often.

  5. Take An Interest In What They’ve Made-- Instead of asking if that’s a tree or a dog and accidentally assigning meaning or completely misreading it, you can say, “Tell me about this part!” and then follow up with questions. Hang it on a designated wall with sticky tack or tape, or frame it with a small poster frame above their beds.

Check out this printable version of a shopping list to take with you to shop locally. I also made up an Amazon idea list here if you want to get some basics online. And of course, don’t forget to shop your recycling and the back of your closet for materials!

 

How To Do What You Say You Want To Do // Studio Before & After

 
 

I did not expect improving my basement studio to give me a mental and emotional battle.  

Here’s how it started. Last summer, while I was working, I got a hammer and started hacking away at the tile that framed out our basement window. I thought, if I just get started, then I’ll have to keep going because it will be a huge mess. If I just get started I can work on this a little at a time, in phases, and I won’t have to work in this ugly place anymore. So I began Phase 1: Get rid of the copious tile, paint the part of the basement where we work the most, and (ask Nate to) build the shared desk we’ve been wanting. We finished Phase 1 in a few days. And that was nice, for a while.

 
 
First Draft

First Draft

Second Draft

Second Draft

 
 

Come November I was getting real sick of looking at the blue ceilings (every ceiling in our house was blue when we moved in), the unfinished everything, the dark paneled wood of the staircase and the relative dysfunction of our undesigned space. I wanted a place I could invite people. I wanted a place I could feel good, a place I could take pretty pictures. So I started again. I’ll just do a little at a time, I thought. I painted, and painted, and painted, an hour or so at a time over several weeks...and did not seem to get very far. I told myself I'd finish it by the end of the year, and I didn't. 

 
 
That staircase. 

That staircase. 

Much better. 

Much better. 

 
 

Then in January, I had a pivotal moment reading You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.  Here's the revelation that made the whole book worth reading for me: 

“The moment it gets hard or expensive or puts you at risk of looking like a moron, if you haven’t made the decision, you’ll quit. So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable”.

Woah. These 2 sentences shifted something in me so powerfully.  She called me out. I realized that I wasn’t honoring my decisions. I wasn’t following through, and I was calling it responsible. I was second guessing so much in my decision making as a business owner and artist that I wasn't producing what I actually wanted to produce. And I was jealous of the people who were making the exact things they wanted to. I had no idea how they were doing that-- how they were ALLOWING themselves to do that. I realized that if I made some real decisions and stuck through without stopping when my mind started to question things, I would see some real results that I wasn’t seeing. I had already written down what I want to do this year and why- or rather what I had decided to try to do until it got uncomfortable. One of those things was finishing my studio space. When I asked myself why I wanted that, the answers were clear to me and I truly liked my reasons. I could see the value of a better space. But I still wasn’t really making the decision to actually do it. I was getting held up by discomfort.

So, I decided to make the decision. I would really and truly for real real finish this space. I set right to work- adjusting my calendar, telling people I wasn’t going to be available for this and that, making space, getting the supplies I'd need. Right away, I was shocked by how hard and uncomfortable it was for me. Here are some of the thoughts that kept challenging my decision: 

 
 
I should be doing things that will make money.

This isn’t really important.

Other people don’t have this privilege.

There are people suffering in the world with nothing.

My friends will think I should be doing more important things.

It doesn’t need to be perfect/finished.

It does need to be perfect/finished and I’ll never get there.

I can’t have nice things.

It’s still a basement.

I can’t make a big deal out of this because other people will think it’s not a big deal because it’s still a basement.

I can’t make a big deal about this because other people have a lot less and might feel jealousy or see that I’m privileged.
 
 
Worse. 

Worse. 

Better. (Same view)

Better. (Same view)

 
 

There were moments where these thoughts took all the energy out of me, and sucked away my vision so I couldn’t see where I was going or why. I was so surprised noticing how often these things were slowing me down, like hurdles in my path. One day, close to tears and at that point of fixing up a space where it’s worse than when you started, I was feeling stupid and defeated. I felt like I was spending time Nate could be using to generate income for our family, and he would make so much more money with this time. I felt like he didn’t see the importance. I felt like quitting, but instead I tried on some new thoughts. “That’s okay if no one else sees this as important. I don’t need them to, because I see it. I know this is important, and I made a decision, and that's enough for me.”  I stopped with the paint roller in the air and said out loud, “I promise myself, I’m going to finish this. I promise I’m going to finish this to the place where I can look around and not see a bunch of things that I want to change. I’m going to finish this until it’s complete in my eyes.”

 
 
Just after moving in. 

Just after moving in. 

After photos by  Rachel Loewen Photography .

After photos by Rachel Loewen Photography.

 
 

As I got closer and closer to finishing, I still battled those thoughts about wasting time, but I started to notice the power of those thoughts diminishing, and being replaced with a new nemesis: Comparison. I could see that this basement studio of mine, that I love and that feels like luxury to me, would be nothing compared to some of what I saw on Instagram: Photos of a basement that looks nothing like a basement, with wood flooring and detailed moulding. Another of someone’s studio with floor to ceiling black steel-framed windows facing tree covered hills. I felt defeated by comparisons. What’s the use? I can’t show this space to any interior designer, or people who work in high-end spaces. This space is embarrassing.

But then Instagram, always a complex character, gave me some gifts to restore my vision. First, Jersey Ice Cream Co. I discovered them years ago via Design Sponge but hadn’t seen their work in a while. Their style consistently resonates with me. It’s creative and eclectic but thoughtful, intentional. They appreciate old things and imperfect things and texture but still use some minimal and modern touches. Their style feels connected to the past and not overworked.

 
 
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The second gift was Grace Bonney’s couch, posted right on her IG feed with a giant rip from her dog in the background. I respect her design eye and business practices so much, and that couch rip felt like validation that I can be myself. If Grace and Tara and Percy can show the beauty in imperfections, so can I. If they can be free to like what they like, so can I. And I like imperfect, down to earth stuff. Don't get me wrong, high end finishes and luxury elements are amazing too. But they're not right for the house I live in, or my family, or me. I like my studio with the patchworked lumber the previous owner used as a baseboard around only half the basement. I like that there are some splatters of paint and stain I can’t get off the floor, and a basketball hoop for my kids. 

These tiny examples of imperfect spaces were enough to get me out of my funk and so I could push to the finish line. When my deadline came and I called it finished, I was so happy with the results. My family loves the space and our use of it has increased. My husband raves about how much the environment has changed his day to day work experience, how he feels more professional. And I feel like I know better than ever how to actually do the things I want to do. This whole thing was another exercise in my life of building trust in my own ability to make decisions that bring life, even if no one else can see it at the time. 

What about you? Do you wait for other people to validate your decisions? Is there something you really want to do and see the value of, but you've been stopped by the discomfort it causes? Give yourself permission to really decide. Don't waste your time going half way. Go get the best "Afters" your life is capable of creating.