Art is Hard

In high school, I gravitated toward the creative kids.  I took ceramics and creative writing; I found myself in drama class doing a poor version of Monty Python’s silly walk. (I just couldn’t loosen up enough to be that silly.)  No matter what class I was sitting in, I suffered from imposter syndrome.  I was just the average teen admiring the output of kids destined for fancy art schools, exhibits, and Broadway musicals.

Fast forward a few years later, one of these artistic peeps I grew up with came home from RIT to visit family and friends.  We were at a mutual gathering and I saw her cute little VW in the driveway with a bumper sticker that read “ART IS HARD”.  This bumper sticker mentally glued itself to my brain and over a decade later, it still kicks around.

Art is hard. 

Yup, art really is fucking hard.

On a much larger scale, this bumper sticker is necessary because so many people undervalue the arts.  I’m not writing a dissertation here, but I think we all know that art education programs are either non-existent or underfunded.  Combined with the pressure to teach to standardized tests and an emphasis on STEM education, art fades into the background.  Let’s also be brutally honest and raw:  there’s still the starving artist stigma.  Parents are fearful that if their kids purse artistic endeavors, they will fail to be successful as defined by our culture’s limited definition of what success actually entails.  Anecdotally, I can’t tell you how many disparaging comments I have received for majoring in the liberal arts and for wasting my time blogging and doodling.

Just like a painting, this bumper sticker also lends itself to a different perspective.  Not only is it a reminder to others, but it also serves the artist.  I still have a hard time identifying as “writer” or “artist”, but for all intents and purposes, I am part of the club.  I have all of the emotional baggage and unreasonable expectations that come with the title:

  • My expectations for are unreasonable.
  • I want it to be perfect on the first try.
  • I believe that it comes easy to other artists and I lack the intrinsic talent necessary to succeed.

A glimpse into my private journal illustrates the point succinctly:

 

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The reminder is necessary.  Art is hard.  This isn’t supposed to be easy.  From start to finish.  As Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book Outliers, the people that we perceive as naturally talented have practiced intensively – at least an estimated 10,000 hours.  That means that they set aside time to perfect their craft and they don’t give up when the first attempt sucks.  The creator must be resilient to continue onwards.

This brings me to the present moment:

I’ve been creatively blocked in a major way.  A few weeks ago, I realized that I wasn’t even allowing myself freedom to privately journal without censorship.  I changed that course of action, which inspired some movement.

Then I bought a sketch kit at Target (designed for kids) and decided to get back into drawing.  I spent my morning in the throes of frustration and near tears.  It has been so long since I had exercised this muscle and I felt the strain.  I started with the instruction booklets simple exercises and then decided to sketch a picture of an Eastern Casque-Headed Iguana.  Somewhere between the sketching and shading, I felt a release.

Iguana Pic.jpg

Subject: Eastern Casque-Headed Iguana

 

Iguana.jpg

Artist’s rendering

 

Does it look like a picture? Duh, no.  It doesn’t even closely resemble the picture.  If I were to start critiquing, I could find a dozen inconsistencies.

It doesn’t really matter though.  It’s mine and it made me feel something good wonderful.  It brought me back to where I want to be and also reminded me that it’s supposed to be hard.  Process, not product.

Millennial Malaise

I am fairly positive that at this very moment there is someone who is feeling like I am tonight.  Not only do I have my very first toothache (and potentially my very first root canal on the horizon), but I also feel depleted.  Emotionally and spiritually depleted.  Lost in the woods. Aimless, wandering and wondering.  I am sitting at my writing desk contemplating a question which many of my fellow millennials continue to grapple with despite our best efforts:

What the fuck am I doing with my life?

All these feelings may be a dangerous by-product of consuming too much Radiohead and Tori Amos.

Or…

Maybe I am having my own Hannah Horvath moment.  “I think that I may be the voice of my generation.  Or at least a voice.  Of a generation”.

Hannah.gif

 

Unicorn

I’m at the point in my life where I’ve checked off a few things on the collective checklist of (arguably) successful adulting: Educated.  Married.  Homeowner.  3.5 household pets.  Retirement accounts.  Job.

I’m self-sufficient.  Responsible.  I’m paying back my student loans and very rarely make late payments on my other bills. Except Comcast.  Curse you, Comcast. Yes, I drink Polar seltzer’s “Unicorn Kisses” and regularly read children’s literature. But I also have my ish together.

Still, there is something about my life that’s as dull and nagging as the pain in my lower jaw.  It is a common malaise: I’m unfulfilled.  Comfortable.  Too comfortable.  My daily existence = shampoo instructions.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I can hear my husband’s voice in my head, nagging me to sit at my desk and write.  At least once a week, if not more, he nags me about writing.  Write anything.  Just write.  He’s right about the writing.  It is the thing that makes my heart pitter patter.  It simultaneously scares and challenges me.  Writing pleads for my attention, and I treat her like a unworthy mistress.

Instead of pursing the thing which fulfills me, I flip through my mental OCD Rolodex:

Card One:  I should go to graduate school.  If I take up a profession, I’ll be able to exercise my intellectual abilities.  This will lead to greater fulfillment.

Nope.  It really won’t.  Graduate school may be intellectually stimulating, but there are plenty of unsatisfied graduates.  MFA. MBA. LCSW.  Doesn’t matter unless you really want it.  Plus, student loans.

Card Two:  It’s time to move.  I’ve lived in South Florida my ENTIRE life.  There’s nothing that moss covered trees and southern hospitality won’t cure.  It’s time to downsize and join the tiny house movement.

While a change of scenery might inspire, it could also be extremely disruptive.  I’m fragile in that way.  Am I really ready to be uprooted to a new state?  And: “Wherever you go, there you are.”  Thanks, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Card Three: (Disclaimer: This is a deeply personal share.)  Mark and I should have a baby.  I am nurturing and motherly.  I care for my animals as if they emerged from my own uterus.  I love gummy, baby smiles.  A child’s perspective tends to cheer me up on a bad day.  I am 100% certain that we would have a beautiful and sensitive child.

All of the above may be true, but I also don’t function well without sleep.  We both work so much and our family support systems are not intact.  On my side, my child would never know their grandparents and this saddens me deeply.  I don’t have siblings.  I would feel a fierce and unforgiving isolation from the generational happiness which often occurs when one procreates.

Around and around I go. We all have these myths and misconceptions about how our lives would improve if we could only accomplish x, y, or z.

As always, wisdom and shares are welcome.  Also, if anyone can tell me the meaning to “Cornflake Girl”, drop me a line.

 

Spiritual and Linguistic Explorations

I typically avoid making New Year’s resolutions.  I am suspicious of calendar-based and time sensitive life inventories.  We are creatures of habit; it takes more than a hyped-up holiday to make effecting changes.

Yet, hineni.  Here I am.

Everywhere I go lately, there seems to be something or someone pushing me towards setting an intention.  When I see a common theme popping up in my life (or in literature), I really like to ponder it.  So, here it goes….

Intention| noun |  in·ten·tion

:  a determination to act in a certain way: resolve

or

a thing intended; an aim or plan

 

And since I am kind of bilingual:

The Hebrew root for intention is kaf-vav-nun.  (Hebrew 101: All Hebrew words are derivatives of three letter roots, which are the building blocks for the Hebrew language.)  I pulled out my handy dandy 501 Hebrew Verbs to look up the root and discovered the following associations:

Prepare, provide, be prepared/furnished, prepare oneself, get ready, mean, intend, direct, aim, adjust, calibrate

Such an expanded meaning.  I find myself wondering: “Am I ready for my intention?”  Have I prepared myself?  Sure, I can list off a whole bunch of intentions. That’s what we all seem to do just before the new year. But what work have I done to prepare myself for my intentions?

The Hebrew word for intention is kavanah.  A fully loaded Hebrew word.  It’s not merely a dictionary definition, but a spiritual undertaking.  In order to carry out our intentions, we must be prepared.  Our hearts must be adjusted.  Similar to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his most beloved Isaac, we must be ready for our own sacrifices.  In a quiet whisper or a dramatic shout, we find ourselves saying, “Hineni”.  Here I am.

This blog post tickles me because I had a completely different intention, but once I started to really explore the meaning of the word “intention”, I found myself in new terrain.  I was going to jump on the NYE bandwagon and publicly list off all my intentions for the coming year.  And now I find myself exploring the spiritual facet of intention making.

I wish I had a how-to for defining this process.  I don’t.  I’m still on the path myself, and if I am allowing myself to be completely vulnerable, I am deep in the woods.  Instead, I offer this up:

Hineni

Vidui (Confessions)

Today is the holiest of holidays in Judaism, Yom KippurYom Kippur is the Day of Atonement.  On this day, we repent (teshuvah) and confess (vidui).  We beat our chests as we utter each transgression.  We deny ourselves earthly pleasures: food and drink; bathing;  lotions and perfumes; feeling the softness of leather on our skin; and sex.  Repentance, prayer, and charity combined will save us from God’s judgment.  Unlike other religious traditions, there is no one to repent for our sins except ourselves.  We ask for forgiveness to all we have harmed.  We pray that God forgives us.  We hope our names are added to the Book of Life.  We remember the dead.

I will start with my first confession: Yom Kippur rattles me.  Ever since I was a child, the imagery of my name being inscribed into the Book of Life has caused anxiety.  What if I don’t make it?  What if I wasn’t good enough?  One year, I stole stickers from a classmate.  I had asked her where she had purchased them (with every intention of getting my own) and she refused to tell me.  This wasn’t the first time I was refused information.  I was incensed.  When she wasn’t looking, I took them.  I remember trembling when it was time to face my own actions.

Growing up, I was perplexed as to why  Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) came before Yom Kippur.  I could still taste the sweetness of honey-dipped apples while imagining worst case scenarios.  Why couldn’t we reflect, apologize, and then celebrate?

My relationship with Yom Kippur only grew more complex as time passed.  As I grew older, it wasn’t just about stolen stickers.  My concerns became more philosophically complex.  Some sins are black and white, while others exist in the gray.  I struggled with ideas of theodicy and judgment.  How is a judgmental God compatible with a loving God?  How can a just God allow evil to exist?  Why are good people punished?

As my own nuclear family started to deteriorate, I tried harder.  I became more observant.  More thoughtful.  I prayed.  I bargained.  I simultaneously was angry.  If I was doing everything I could, why was this happening?  Was it about the fucking stickers?  Honestly, I thought this for awhile.  And then I had my own awakening and realized the irrationality of this thought.

As I studied Judaism from an academic perspective, I was able to take a step back and develop a healthier perspective on what this time can mean to me.  I still wasn’t there yet, though.  The tipping point was finding my own recovery through a 12 step program (Al-Anon).  I came in at my lowest point, still fearing God and believing that I was being punished.  But then I came to understand God on my own terms, or “as we understood Him.”  My 12 step work wasn’t just recovery from addiction and other “-isms”, it was also a spiritual recovery.

The steps also reinforce the idea of personal accountability in a healthy, manageable way.  We look at our own character defects and make direct amends.  Step 10 asks us to take personal inventory.  It is a continual process of reflection, connection, and growth.  My program also helps me weed out what belongs to me and what belongs to others.

I have fallen in love with Judaism countless times in my life, but it also takes courage to be critical of your own religion.  I realized that my relationship with Yom Kippur was dysfunctional.  I still get those nagging worries, but I also remind myself to be gentle.  Making amends doesn’t happen in a week or a day.  It is a continual process of self-reflection.

On this Yom Kippur, I am not observing in the traditional sense.  I’m not a synagogue nor do I have a grumbling tummy.  However, the traditions which I choose to observe compliment other parts of my life.  I believe strongly in making direct amends and taking personal inventory.  I am sorry to anyone I may have harmed, knowingly or otherwise.

Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art: to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice and admit when what we expected to happen did not happen.  We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.

Maya Angelou

I don’t have a lot of space in my life for harsh judgments.  Instead, I pray for openness, new experiences, understanding, compassion, flexibility and acceptance.

 

 

 

BlogHer17: A Reluctant Attendee’s Perspective

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If you know me personally, then you are intimately aware of my ability to deliberate ad nauseam.  Whether it’s buying a pair of pajamas or scheduling a surgery (both are true events), I have the tendency to contemplate the pros and cons to the point where they start bleeding into each other, leaving me with nothing but a muddled mess that once resembled a decision. 

I started to feel curious about attending a blogging conference after my good friend and former coworker, Asia, wrote about her own experience at TBEX.  (By the way, Asia’s blog, Navigable World, is filled with beautiful pictures, inspiring posts, and awesomeness.)  I knew that I wanted something that was local, substantive, and relevant to my blogging interests.  After a straightforward Google search, I discovered BlogHer17

Orlando? You’ve got my attention. 

Workshops about storytelling and professional development? Yep, that’s what I need in my life.

Amazing keynote speakers? Stop.  Seriously, JUST STOP.  Now you’re just showing off…

I had the perfect (for me) blogging conference staring me in the face, but I still was reluctant to commit.  Reasons started swirling in my head: my poodle is dependent on my company, the tabby cat has had a bad cough, it’s too expensive, I have never traveled alone, my threshold for socialization is low, etc.  The list was already taking shape in my head and I was leaning towards a solid “NO”. 

Yet……despite all of the cons and my inner fears of leaving my comfort zone, a small whisper inside of me said, “Yassss.”  So I clicked on the registration, booked the hotel, and was on my merry way to my first blogging conference.

It really wouldn’t be fair to you, dear reader, to bore you with the minutiae of the conference.  My personal goals for attending included:

  1. Networking and picking the minds of fellow writers/bloggers
  2. Learning more about developing my platform professionally (branding, monetizing, etc)
  3. Strengthening my storytelling skills

It was a challenge to pick out which workshops to attend, but the ones I ended up going with included:

  • Storytelling Your Way to Healing and Support
  • Best Practices for Creating Multiple Online Income Streams
  • Powering Up Your Business For Success: A Discussion on Becoming a Business Magnate
  • Activism for the Part-Time Revolutionary: How to Make a Real Impact
  • Book Publishing Today: Self- Publishing and Hybrid Publishing Are the New Normal

All of the workshops I attended included knowledgable and impactful speakers.  I was busy taking notes (btw, I totally take great notes).  I learned about some great tools and platforms to enhance my blog, and my own list of takeaways from the conference included:

  1. I am totally entrepreneurial and I need to embrace this part of myself.  I am a #girlboss. If I harness that power for good, I can do amazing things.
  2. Diversify your income streams.  There are so many ways to build your blog and earn income, but the trick is not to get stuck on only one idea.  If something doesn’t work, keep on moving.
  3. Build relationships.  Seems like a no brainer, right?  Yet, we often are too busy doing our own thing to notice the people around us (or online).  We get so busy being the content producers that we forget to connect.  Take time to notice what others are working on.  Be present.
  4. Self-publishing shouldn’t be stigmatized.  Traditional publishing methods are extremely competitive and don’t always guarantee the best outcome.  Self-publishing allows authors to retain control and often means higher revenue. 
  5. Editors are your friend.  Invest in someone who can proofread your work.

I came home buzzing with excitement from all of the wonderful people that I met and the amazing workshops I attended.  Plus, Chelsea Clinton.

Chelsea

Taken on my inadequate phone, but I was really this close.  Seriously.  It was great.

Without any hesitation, I am excited to say that I am looking forward to attending BlogHer18. : )

33/3

Birthday Post

It’s my birthday.  Specifically, my 33rd birthday.  It looks a little strange in print.  My twenties have sailed away, but I feel more inspired and focused as each year passes.  Since 33 is a fun number to divide, I thought I would write a little post divided in threes.

1/3 (Eleven Facts About Me)

  1. I am a native Floridian, born in West Palm Beach and transplanted to Boca Raton at the age of four.  Things I like about Florida: the sun, great birds, my house, and the friends and family that live here.  Otherwise, I hope to move within the next 15-20 years.
  2. I’m a southern girl at heart.  If I won the lotto, I would pick up and move to Savannah in a heartbeat.  I love Savannah’s diversity, intimate feel, and architecture.  Plus, I’m a sucker for moss-covered trees.
  3. My educational background is pretty unique.  I have a bachelor’s degree in Jewish Studies, a certificate in Women’s Studies, and almost enough credits for an English degree.  My original intention was to become a rabbi.  My professors then encouraged me to become a professor in those fields.  None of those things ended up happening, but I love my studies.  My heart still skips a beat when I immerse myself in any of those subjects.
  4. Poodles.  If you know me, you know my poodle obsession.  Poodles have been a constant in my life.  Coco, Teddy, Princess, and now my Bobbi.  #dogmom #pawlife

    Poodle Love

    Bobbi

  5. I’m late to the cat game, but my husband’s passion for animals of the feline persuasion rubbed off on me.
  6. My favorite color is purple, which also is the color of the women’s movement.
  7. I have a love/hate relationship with clothes.  I like being clothed, but my style leans more towards matching coordinates which your grandma might have worn.  I love crazy prints, tie dye, and jeans.  I hate pants with buttons, shorts, and the current trend of shirts with shoulder cut-outs.
  8. Tea is for me.  Love herbals, greens, and blacks.  I start every morning off with a cuppa.  Nothing is more refreshing than unsweetened iced tea with lemon.
  9. My Starbucks drink is venti green tea lemonade with two pumps of classic, shaken by my husband.  (He looks so cute in his apron, btw.)
  10. My wedding anniversary is 11-11.  It wasn’t intentionally planned – it just worked for everyone.
  11. I am 95% certain that I don’t want to have children.  I love (LOVE) children – their perspectives and playfulness.  I also love (LOVE) my alone time.  I felt societal pressure for a long time, but it takes more courage to step back and recognize what you are able to give to another person (and what you can’t).

Favorite Movies

3/3 (Goats, Goals)

  1. Write my heart out.
  2. Start my own freelancing and editing service.  I would offer assistance with copy, editing, resume services, academic endeavors, etc.  Basically, I would start charging for all the services that I tend to give away. ; )
  3. Blog consistently and connect with other bloggers.
  4. Enhance my skills in marketing, PR, content strategy, and graphic design.
  5. Own a silkie chicken.

    Silkie

    Look at that face!

  6. Eat less sugar.  Really, it’s a problem.  I love healthy, natural foods.  I also love ginger ale and Coke.  Chocolate and OJ.
  7. Learn how to garden.
  8. Cultivate a creative life.  I have made a lot of progress toward this goal.  AND…I am starting watercolor classes (this week).
  9. Pay down my debt.
  10. Learn new vegetarian recipes.
  11. Let the good in more often.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accidental Blogger

It’s been a minute, folks.  I’ve had many post ideas, but found myself lacking in either time or motivation.  I intend to make improvements in this area, with plans to write with more consistency.  Even though I haven’t posted much, I have continued to make my way through some amazing books, including Eating in the Light of the Moon and The Handmaid’s Tale.  In another blog post, I want to explore the theme of female autonomy from both fiction and non-fiction perspectives.  But…..that’s not this post.

This post has more of a back-to-basics kinda theme.  Why do I blog?  How did it all start? My personality leans toward enigmatic, so I thought I would share how I fell down the rabbit hole.

AccidentalBlogger

How did I become a blogger?

To answer this question, I have to elaborate on my views on blogging versus writing.  Wait…you might be thinking that they are the same thing, right?

I draw a distinction between blogging and writing.  I am a writer and blogging is just another tool which I use to promote self-expression and/or ideas.  I am minimally interested in all of the typical blogging ventures: SEO, growing audiences, trends, branding, etc.  Perhaps I should have more of an interest, but at this moment, my blog is still primarily a creative tool.  And that is really how it all started.

I have always kept paper journals.  Somewhere in a box lives my hot pink Mead spiral from first grade, a collection of haiku from fifth grade, and lots of paper journals filled with bad poetry and teenage angst.  I became an accidental blogger sometime during the New Millennium, joining the LiveJournal wave.  It probably started out of a pathetic attempt to keep track of the three friends I had in high school, but it soon became a regular habit.

LJ was actually a magical community.  I connected with people close and far.  We had an LJ meet-up at Barnes & Noble.  We were opinionated and argumentative; supportive, kind, and intelligent.  My LJ timeline included starting college while overcoming personal tragedy.  In a blink of an eye, my world had fallen apart.  LJ was a place where I felt less lonely.  It also served as distraction as I read about other peoples’ lives.  I had the freedom to explore deeper ideas and join communities of like-minded people.

As we all know, nothing stays the same.  Newer technologies emerged and people started to spend less time on LJ.  It still exists, but it isn’t the same.  (Honestly, I haven’t been on the site in years).  Myspace happened.  Facebook emerged.  Everyone wanted to be friends of Tom or Mark.  Instead of reading words, audiences were more interested in pictures with brief captions.  I hopped on the Myspace bandwagon and tried blogging – it was awful. I have already shared my thoughts about Facebook.

I stopped blogging.  My community had disappeared and I was really busy with school and work.  I wrote some pretty badass Amazon book reviews, but my online writing presence was diminished.  A particularly intense bout of depression brought me back to blogging, and Seferlover was born.  I started to use this blog to help me express myself and distract.  I have had one loyal reader (shout out to Dayle!).  Honestly, it didn’t matter if I had a gaggle of readers.  The words just needed to pour out of me.

As I have grown as a person, I find that I also have a desire for my blog to undergo transformations.  It will always be personal, but I really have the desire to focus on book reviews and analysis.  My future blog self would like to contribute more to other sites, exploring our current social and political climate through the stuff that I read.  That’s my jam.

Speaking of jam, I always listen to music when I blog.  LJ days included a lot of Ms. DiFranco, Tori Amos, and Nine Inch Nails.  I still am pretty emo: I love me some Sufjan Stevens, Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, Simon & Garfunkel, and any rendition of the song “Shady Grove”.