New year, different challenges

And I started the new year with a break from blogging and so closely managing my life. Which was good, because work is super busy right now and I think I would be way overwhelmed if I was also trying to *do* something every day. I’m feeling overwhelmed as it is.

I have been incorporating different things into my downtime and my daily habits from last year’s experiment, though, when I can. I think that the experiment broke some of the road blocks in my head about the amount of time needed to do The Things, or maybe just loosened up my approach to them. It funny because I remember spending more time working on something on-and-off in my student days. Maybe someone convinced me somewhere along the line that I didn’t have enough time to work on things in the evening.

This weekend, I’ve been painting again, which is nice. I’m working on a sunrise over the Mediterranean from December. And I’ve been having tickles of writing urges – poetry or thoughts about a couple of my existing stories. I’m thinking I’ll take my laptop into the living room in a moment and work on something (I’m currently waiting for a layer of colour to dry on my canvas so I can build on it).

I’m looking at my journaling exercise writing and trying not to lose that plan. I have to keep doing my self-care so I can continue to move forward and build toward my goal of taking a new chance and reshaping my career.

I took some exciting training last week at work that made me remember one of my potential options for career reshaping – knowledge translation. I might look into getting more involved with it, and practicing it, so that I have a solid basis. I feel like it’s one of the things I’ve been working towards without really realizing it – communicating appropriately for appropriate audiences to help people access more knowledge.

But first, I have a big project to see through, which is stretching me in uncomfortable ways, and I have another big task to do by the end of the month. I will be asking for at least day off at the beginning of March to maintain my self-care.

Just a quick update with some hope, some struggle, and a reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves. Especially this winter with the cold and the snow, which can wear on the psyche, especially in the dark months. Keep looking for the light, and incorporate some hygge to see you through. I’ll be putting on a stew this afternoon, and maybe some fresh beer bread. :) Happy Sunday!

So long, September

In a nutshell, I’d say that sugarless and sober was a success. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the month was so stressful. But I think I’ve proved to myself that the discipline isn’t what I lack.

Sober was easy. In my life, I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like I “needed” a drink (unless I’m forgetting something). When I’ve been stressed or grieving, alcohol hasn’t been my vice of choice.

Sugarless was a bit more challenging, but again, the discipline was there. Even if I was going for a coffee with a friend, I’d opt for the straight milk and coffee latte, rather than the fancy one with syrups and whatnot.

But during the power outage aftermath of the tornado, I did stop being strict about it. It was just so that I wouldn’t be avoiding perfectly edible food that otherwise would be fine, except for there being sugar as one of the ingredients.

Also, I was tired. This month was a lot. There was a lot going on, and a lot of exhaustion, stress, and then having to throw out everything in my fridge and freezer after 53 hours without power. That sort of just broke it for me. I decided that Sugarless September was done last week. And I enjoyed that Blossoming Rose tea latte.

But again, funnily enough, as I’ve come to realize at the end of most every month – the change had felt good. I will probably maintain a fairly sugar free diet, focused on fresh fruit and vegs, with good protein sources, and light on the breads and pastas.

What’s on tap for October? I had been toying with the idea of Educational October, where I’d sign up for those courses I had planned on doing (and finish the one that has been languishing for years). Except I’m still tired and there are still two weeks to go on a big deadline at work. So I think I’m going to go with Optional October.

Optional October will mean that every day, I will choose one thing to do – yoga, meditation, reading, art, journaling, gratitude exercise, heavy workout, staying off social media, sugarless, sober, and yes, even working on a course or two. This way, I’ll be able to work in some of the things I’ve learned this year about what makes me feel better, and I’ll still have a goal, it just won’t be as strict.

Another month theme done?!

And so ends Artistic April. I wasn’t able to rouse any creativity while I was ill, so I lost a week, sadly.

But even so, I got a short story finished, another one almost done, and some writing done on two existing long stories as well.

I also worked on my one canvas and made some good progress that I’m happy with. That was what I did on this final evening. I did four sketches, and attempted a fifth while I was feeling ill that didn’t really get very far.

And lastly, something that I did count towards creativity was building some Sylvaneth miniatures – my Spirit of Durthu and some dryads. Although I didn’t entirely make them myself, I did choose which bits went where so there was some creativity associated with it.

So, all in all, this month seemed more challenging, surprisingly. I think because I was fighting against my normal deprioritizing of doing my art, and because it is work to create things. It takes energy, and sometimes I didn’t have much. It helped that I mostly had a plan for what I wanted to do, so I didn’t have to think things up on the fly too often. The couple of times I didn’t have a plan were tougher to get through, and I wasn’t as happy with the results.

And May? I’m going to do a Mindfulness May. No, not every month has to alliterate. But I’d like to challenge myself to incorporate meditation into my daily life. It’s another one of those things that I have been deprioritizing.

One of my sketches, inked and cleaned up – a replica of one of the pages in a quest item from Skyrim. I really enjoy the designs they developed for the game.

Painting and preparing

I’m back in the studio/office tonight. I had a lovely visit over a lovely sushi dinner with a lovely friend, which usually ends fairly early because we meet up right after work. So now I’ve finished my chores and I’m reaching for the blue and white paint to work on the painting with the cirrus clouds again. But I thought I’d blurt out a quick blog post first.

My boss and I had a good chat today that actually encouraged me to do more painting. He’s also an artist and he told me the number of paintings he’d made/sold in the past couple of years, and I thought “Jeez, I need to paint more…”

Also, in a few days, I’ll be boarding yet another trans-Atlantic jet to go to a meeting for work. It’s going to be a quick trip, but I’m hoping to post a few pictures and impressions. This time, we’re headed to Denmark. I’ve never been, so that should be fun. I have to pick up some Danish krone tomorrow, and set out my clothes. Luckily, it looks like the temperature there is essentially the same is it is here now – between 8 and 11C – so my current coat setup and shoes should be appropriate.

Okay, just a quick one. I’m going to see how many canvases I can add to tonight. :) And still get a decent amount of sleep. ;)

Canvas prep is messy work

  
Outside again, on my comfy blanket in the shade and the gorgeous breeze. Finished a weird chapter that will likely change significantly after editing but that is for later. Starting a new chapter to try to get them to their next destination and thought I’d give myself some time outside before my social evening #2 starts.

One week left in my eight wandering weeks. This time has flown by. I’ve gotten through almost 50 pages in my novel, written a short story that will be followed up with another, and started what I thought was a short story that is apparently another book. Plus, I finished and delivered a painting, and started a new one. Just today, I completed a doodle canvas and prepped six more smaller canvases. One will be a painting and the other five will be doodles.

I still have lots of other things I’d love to do (enumerated to my friend last night, it seemed suddenly like a tsunami of creativity). But reality does have to be acknowledged at some point. My job does still need to be done. ;)

More plans

Sorry for the long silence. Usually when that happens it either means that I haven’t learned and all my blog post ideas are falling out of my head, or that I have been so busy, I haven’t even thought about what I could blog about. This time, it was mostly the latter.

It was a busy December at work, which included nights of overtime, up until 12:30pm on Christmas Eve. At this point I was “finished”, hit Send and I ran away to enjoy a week of vacation time and try not to think about work.

The week of vacation was a bit hectic, busy, filled with family and travelling and social things. So, it wasn’t really downtime. Which I came to realize on my first week back to work, when I was hit with some extreme exhaustion and I’m not sure what. So I was sick the first week of January.

But somewhere in all of that busy-ness, I was able to sit down with my boss and talk about what this year is going to look like.

And it looks like I will be able to do another leave without pay period.

While last time (what started this whole blog), it was to pursue training for my yoga, this time it will be space to work on all of that stuff that I wanted to develop. I may take some yoga courses, but because of the busy-ness otherwise planned for this year, I decided against doing another 100+ hour training. I will spend the time writing, painting, and other things, but I want to give myself the space to focus on them.

I have the paperwork on my kitchen table. I just have to discuss timing with my partner to see whether we have preferences for when I am free, for example if we want to take a trip.

So another set of wandering weeks will be planned for me. It won’t be nine this time, though. But maybe eight?

And I’ll just keep on ramblin’. ;)

 

This is the end…

Happy July, Happy Canada Day, and Happy Monday…

Tomorrow I must leave this cocoon of time off and rejoin my colleagues at work. I have already started packing my bag to go back with my water bottle and travel mug (that may permanently smell of Bengal Spice tea…), my calendar etc. I haven’t gone so far as to plan what I’m wearing tomorrow. I just know it probably won’t be yoga pants… *sigh*. ;) Oh, and I have to pack my knitting as well.

I was painting yesterday and I got my first layer of deep space black-blue down on Heavenly Bodies 2, and I roughed in more of my next Phoenix, a request from a different friend. My boyfriend thinks this one is going to be really good. I’ve finished three little Doodles recently and have two more to do. They’ll need the UV protectant soon.

I did not do as much writing, I have to say, as I wanted to or expected to. I suppose you could consider blogging to be writing. But if I claimed to have added a page to my novel, that would probably be me rounding up.

I was surprised by how the pup responded to my being here, which is to say poorly. I think the coming and going, strangers in the house (contractors) and lack of routine really exacerbated her separation anxiety. I’m hoping my going back to work will settle it down but it’s making me think.

And me? I think I responded quite well to having this space to be creative, to travel and to learn. As I said before when I was setting this up, I wish that everyone had this opportunity. Not just in terms of the leeway with their employer, but also leeway with themselves. Too many people would not, but more frighteningly *could not* absorb a 20% pay cut in order to have 20% of their normal work year free for their own use and edification. I won’t mislead you – I am budgeting for this, and there are things that I know I will forgo this year. But the longer I go without a TV, the less I want to replace it. I’m buying my music through iTunes and just buying single songs rather than buying a whole physical album at a “record store”. But that doesn’t diminish my life.

I think that this opportunity has really emphasized for me how important my painting is to me, and even my writing (that I didn’t do because I was absorbed by my painting.) I hope I will remember that and be able to convince myself to overcome tiredness to go into the studio or open my file and put something down “on paper”. I think we can convince ourselves of a lack of energy far too easily and then we slip into existing rather than living. It’s only catastrophic when you hamper your own personal development, I think, in favour of existing in a land of just needing to rest and “turn my brain off”. That’s a disservice to your brain – it’s never off and why should it be? It’s a magnificent lump of protein and nerves that is capable of so many other things than watching crap TV.

All that to say – I hope I can continue to use my time well to do things that matter to me while I get back into work. My daily yoga practice will have to happen and I need to keep reading my course material.

Onward!

Sad news

I found out yesterday that one of my friends died on the weekend.  She was 36.

She was an amazing and vibrant woman, one of those people who really shows you what it means to live every single moment of your life rather than just existing.  I looked up to her because she seemed so brave.  She was the one who told me, “Life is too short to put up with shit.  If you don’t like something, change it.”  I don’t know if this was her personal philosophy because of her personality or because of her brain tumour.

Yes, she lived with a brain tumour, probably since she was a teen.  They found it in her twenties when she finally, in order to humour a friend, went to an optometrist to get her eyes checked, after years of headaches and other things.  The optometrist barred her from leaving her office until she had made an appointment to get an MRI, and that’s when they found her tumour.  Oligodendroglioma.

The other details of her story I won’t relate here.  It’s not my story and she shared it sparingly.  It wasn’t who she was, it was something she had to deal with.  She married her best friend (and partner in crime, I’m sure).  They got their black belts in karate.  They partied and *lived*.  They had a lovely, kick-ass daughter.

In recent years, she had been fighting the brain tumour more, as the pregnancy hormones had not done any favours for it.  When I heard she was going in for brain surgery to try to remove part of it, I started a painting, inspired by her.

I finished that painting on Monday, June 17th.  Something kicked me in the butt and made me take each of the unfinished paintings off the wall, grab a new palette, mix the specific colours necessary and just finish-them-already.  They’re all signed now, and hanging.  I finished “Phoenix Reborn” and contacted our mutual friend to see if she’d gotten any news on how she was doing and whether I would be able to see her to give her the painting.

She had died on June 16th after having spent her last months in palliative care.  A part of me would like to think that it was her spirit who kicked me in the butt, and that was her final gift to me.  Another push past a bit of lethargy and inertia.  She was like that.

Image 

Phoenix Reborn, 2013, J.Gibson

 

 

Flying time

Wow, I can’t believe that I’m in my second last week of my leave.  The last week of my unstructured time.  And then I’m into my second unit of my yoga teacher training starting Saturday.

I got out my yoga books today and they’ve moved from the kitchen table to the coffee table, with good intentions.  But I also played some Diablo 3 (my monk is now in Nightmare level, and my barbarian is in Caldeum).  And I finished off all the little “I just have to do such-and-such” details on all the paintings that I have hanging in my apartment and signed them (a real sign that they are Done).  Now, all I have to do is work on new ones (and Sharpie the painting name, date and my name on the backs of the canvases, once they’re dry).  Actually, it just occurred to me that I have another canvas just waiting for a final detail on one of my shelves.  I’ll have to pull that out.  I’m not sure it has a hanger on it yet.

But yes, I have an actually-in-progress painting on my easel right now, plus a sketched in concept on my wall (on the biggest canvas I’ve ever painted to date – 30″ x 40″).  And I just tapped in a hanger on the back on my next canvas, which will be another space scene.  I’m tempted to go pick up a couple more 22 x 28 canvases, and I will be downtown on Wednesday… We’ll see if I can manage it.  I’d like to sketch in a concept for a series of paintings that I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

I have my one Nanowrimo novel open behind this browser (on page 148).  I started to re-read what I’d last written, but then I realized that I’d also planned on doing a blog post this morning (at 7am while walking the dog).  So here it is.

Time is flying.  And it really flies when you plan activities to fill the time.  For goodness sake’s – I didn’t really have nine weeks off.  Well, I did.  I had nine weeks that I didn’t have to go to work.  I didn’t have to balance work and all these interesting things.  But let’s face it – I planned a lot of things for these nine weeks.

Two weeks were dedicated to school.  Twenty days were dedicated to travel.  As of tomorrow, I will have had seven days taken up by contractors coming in to my house to do work on my bathroom fan (a project long anticipated).  Two afternoons involved me happily volunteering to help two of my friends by using my skills – in photography, and then doing country/gardening work.  I’m hoping to add a second day for the country/gardening work, but I have to see how the contractor work goes tomorrow…  Plus there were appointments – for me, the car and for the pets.  And I got to take in some of Westfest one night – my boyfriend and I wandered over to see one of my favourite bands – Elliott Brood.  (Here’s a taste – Elliott Brood – Second Son).  There have been dinner dates, long philosophical talks and hand-holding walks with my boyfriend, family time and some friend time.  Not nearly as much time in “my local” pub as I’d expected.

But I’ve taken so many photos during my travels.  And I’ve painted quite a bit.  And I’ve written a little – not as much as I’d hoped.  Maybe I can catch up on that this week.  I didn’t go have lunch with friends nearly as much as I thought I would.

There is still time, and my wandering won’t end at the beginning of July.  I’ll be back at work, but I still have projects and plans.  I still have another week of yoga teacher training to be done in the autumn.  The adventure continues!

The Breeders – Drivin’ On 9  (just because I started humming it as I finished up this post – it has also been ages since I listened to this album!)