Monday, February 24, 2014

The Everything Studio

Don't be fooled. These are mostly empty....
On the neat little calendar of my imagination, January is for organizing the studio. And in my head the process is more of a cheery, relaxing lark than the Herculean task it really is.

I imagine opening the door on a spacious, sun-filled room with space to MOVE; full of cute shelves and neat cubbies and color-coordinated baskets. Like more of a Mary Engelbreit studio than what it's currently become: a dreary, dusty, catch-all room filled with unrelated crap stuffed into boxes. A place where things go when Fest (and then Halloween and then Christmas) is over and I just want my life back again.... 

So weeks ago when I realized that January was nearly over and My Mess was still there and not going anywhere, I decided to get off my butt already and get to it.

It sounded so do-able. But soon the contents of that little room were all over the house. In piles. BIG piles. Piles that were blocking the exits, the windows, the TV. Just looking at them made me want to poke my eyes out with a sharp stick.... What was I thinking??

There was the drawing pile, the resin pile, the jewelry-making pile, the polymer clay pile. There was the science pile and the collage-making pile, the painting pile and the writing pile. There were grocery bags full of sewing patterns, boxes full of colored pencils, stacks of drawing paper, a heap of canvases, and about a million little bags of crimp beads and head pins and toggles and charms....

Oh. My.

*Sigh*.... But you already know this because I've talked about it here. And early on in the process, when a friend responded to one of my many comments about this neverending overhaul with a terse "So DO it already!", I felt like I should apologize to you for all my woe-is-me-I'm-such-a-mess ravings.

I know that organizing that one tiny room would be so much easier if there was a single theme. But how do you organize an Everything Studio?.... Back when drawing was my Big Thing (I was a little boring then, but definitely neater) what I referred to as my 'studio' was nothing more than my dad's old drawing table pushed into a corner, with maybe a pile of art magazines on the side. It was all pretty portable then. And when I eventually took over an upstairs attic space, I was able to add a comfy reading chair and some bookshelves.

Then I took possession of a fabulous find -- an antique drawing table with cast-iron legs and some industrial bells and whistles. Huge, sturdy, and heavy as hell. There was room on it for multiple drawings at a time (as well as a cup of coffee, which turned out to be more of a problem than anything else....). The old thing took up the majority of any room I put it into, but I loved it! Yet, Dad's old wooden table had to come along as well, of course. It was like the 'bike I learned to ride on,' and occasionally I'd pull it out for old time's sake.

So, bottom line, drawing is what I do. It's what I've always done. And it's what I go back to over and over again. My studio has to be set up, first and foremost, for drawing. Sounds simple enough, right?

But apparently not, as over the years I've met dashing new mediums, sensed their potential, and let them run away with me for shameless, passionate flings.

I'm so dang fickle. Every new medium feels like The One until I've lost interest for the moment and have moved on to the next. And afterward all that STUFF needs STUFFING. Somewhere. And there's where the little snowball is made, all ready to roll down the hill and bury me in the avalanche.

I'll admit that one day into the current overhaul I wanted nothing more than to shovel everything into a dumpster and set it aflame. I didn't know where to start! It made me CRY.

In response to all my Overwhelm a friend wrote: "Two words: Ray Bradbury. If you ever watched his TV series and saw his "study" you have to realize you're in good company. An imagination without creative fuel is just madness." (Ray Bradbury! I can't imagine better company.)

Another friend commented: "Perhaps the gathering of materials is simply so you will create for the rest of your life. You do not see the world the way an accountant or an actuary does (thank the STARS!) and so, you live in an outward example of the creativity within. Potential is everywhere in the pencils and paints and bits of found things ... all waiting to be brought into being by your artistic brilliance. Artists with sparse surroundings kind of scare me." (Me too, actually. More brilliant thoughts to consider....)

So I've been soldiering on. What began a handful of weeks ago is still underway. It's not going as fast as I'd like, but it IS inching forward in little bits. The piles that were once filling my living room have been whittled down enough to go back into the studio from which they came. The room's not and never will be a page out of Where Women Create (gawd, I WISH!). Nor will the overhaul ever be finished (I realize this now). But the room is better than it's been in ages, and I can be proud of myself for that.

And I go in that room now and putter the day away, sorting bits-and-bobs, doodads and flotsam. Only now long hours go by and I discover I've spent them sorting less and playing more, as that almost-empty drawing table and those bouquets of colorful pencils and markers have a way of distracting me. (They have voices, did you know? Like children on a playground....)

And that's not SO bad, is it?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Great While it Lasted

I should've knocked on wood. I should've waited for the other shoe. I should've known better, suspected something was UP.


When I wrote last I was feeling amazingly invincible. Absolutely super-hero-ish! Impossibly painfree. And it was that last part that was probably the most surreal thing about my day. It's hard to explain. Maybe it's that you don't know just how uncomfortable you've been -- for so long -- until suddenly you're not. Then the absence of pain is so monumental that you just go around all day waiting for it to find you again. Because you know it will.

That day -- the day I wrote last -- was one of those days, those 'dipped-in-gold' days. A switch had been thrown and I wanted it to stay that way forever....

I was tempted to write down every little thing I'd done, every change I'd made, just so I could hopefully recreate the circumstances and feel That Dang Good again, whenever I wanted. Was it the way I made my coffee? Was it because I had peanut butter on rice bread instead of wheat? Was it because I went straight to the shower after getting up instead of immediately feeding the Zoo? Nothing I'd done seemed out of the ordinary....

Yet the absence of pain was like being in an impossible dream. I was focused; living in the moment instead of fractured in pieces as usual, a victim of sensory overload. My joints didn't feel like rusty coat hangers. The feet didn't hurt, the side didn't burn, the wrist didn't cramp. There was a pleasant peace inside my head and a silly smile on my face. My bus ride was a joy; the sun beaming through the window onto my face felt like I'd been transported to Paradise. My lunch was sublime; my tummy was so happy for it that I literally danced in my restaurant seat, James laughing at my ridiculousness. No negativity invaded my bubble. My head was quiet, my body weightless, my thoughts serene and sparkly and one-at-a-time instead of all rapid fire.....

I'm sure I've written here before about Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia and being old enough now to feel some arthritis, blahdy blah. And I'm sure I've bored you silly about what it's like to be me, feeling uncomfortable so many days/weeks/months in a row that pain is the new normal. And with that pain comes limitations, and with those limitations comes depression, and it all works together to disturb my sleep and wreck my life and pack on the pounds, etc. Poor me. (Poor YOU, more like it, reading about my aches and pains....)

So when a day dawns that's not normal, it's noticed in spades. James even noticed it. He'd laugh out loud for no reason and when I asked him what was so funny he'd say, "It's nothing. It's just that you're so happy." Was it that unusual? Apparently. All day long I felt like I was stuck in a Disney cartoon, with little bluebirds on my shoulders and everything.

But then later that night? BOOM! Serious sore throat. Sniffles, coughs, chills. Maybe it was all the pre-cold symptoms that had me dancing earlier. Maybe I was drunk with fever.... Or maybe I'd tempted Fate.... All I know is pain had found me again.

And since then it's been doing the Happydance....


Granted, it all could be worse -- I've got some tricks up my sleeve now to deal with things like this that lay me low. And to my credit I've been able to continue the Neverending Studio Overhaul, allbeit in slow little bits.

But it still surprises me how hard it is, how different it is to recover from stuff now that I'm older. Now there are naps involved. Plural. And a lot of plain old shutting-down-and-taking-care-of-myself. It's not like the Old Days when I could just knock back some Dayquil and soldier on.

And just because I stop doesn't mean everything else does. Valentine's Day (one of my fave holidays) came and went and I did my best under the circumstances. And messages continue to pile up and go unanswered. Work remains undone. There are comments to acknowledge and 'belated happy birthdays' to wish. I look around and there are still boxes to unpack and sort. Cages to clean. Dishes to be put away. Olympic games to catch up on.... Bummer.

But all that will have to wait a bit longer. Because for right now it's tea and a book and a quilt and a cat.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Who IS This Girl??

I'm interrupting the neverending studio overhaul today to go on an adventure. It's one I've gone on multiple times before so it's not like I'm stepping completely out of my comfort zone. Still, today's adventure is Twilight Zone surreal. And only because I'm experiencing no worrisome thoughts, no physical pain, no crazy ADD, no unnecessary stress, no head-all-over-the-map, no usual fill-in-the-blank.

So who IS this perfectly peaceful creature? This contented character? And what has she done with me?? And how can I get her to stick around long enough to show me how to bottle this moment??

Because this. NEVER. Happens. #LovingLifeAndFeelingPerfect

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chaos Reigns (as Usual)

This old, buried-in-the-mess pic pretty much sums up how I feel....
Oh, the self loathing....

Since I wrote last I've been up to my earholes in what was supposed to be a quick studio clean-up. But it's now Day 6 and the room's nowhere near being functional.

It's my own fault; I let it get this way. And I know now that I can't help it. Still, understanding this doesn't make me like the situation (or myself) any better....

Although I'm proud of myself for taking this on and (so far) hanging in there, I hate that I'm the type of person who doesn't know how to keep things from getting to this point in the first place. And it disheartens me to realize that I live in a whole HOUSE that's like this now, with someone who is my equal in the Magpie Department. Not a win/win, I'm afraid. But I'm hoping that this first step will somehow set the snowball in motion. (Here's hoping the avalanche doesn't bury us both.)

I've always been this way. I was a messy and unorganized child, quiet and still on the outside but with a head full of Tasmanian devils. The mess in my wake must've been how I sorted them out? I dunno.... I do know that at any given moment my bedroom/school desk/locker/backpack/notebook/sketchpad looked like the aftermath of a cataclysmic disaster.

Just ask my mom. Out of anger and frustration she'd occasionally take a shovel to my room and gut it down to its bare bones. I'd go in there after the fact, see the newly unburied carpet and horizontal surfaces, and feel an odd combination of heartbreaking dismay and fierce gratitude. (I might've been in shock....;->) The picture perfectness of it took my breath away. Who lived HERE, I wondered! This girl has it all together, she's in control! But what did I know about her, really? Everything about her had been erased....

I swear all the pleasure of having an organized space lasted for about a minute. And then I'd begin to fill it up again.... And it's not like I even saw what I was doing either, until things were back the way they were. I'm guessing now that the clutter was 'safe,' somehow. It must've been necessary.

I know my mom probably attributed my frustrating messiness to 'laziness' on my part. But I think it had -- and still has -- something to do with how my head works. In my Mind Palace it's like a surreal episode of 'Hoarders' (x about a hundred....). No neat files for ME. Still, although it might take me a moment or more to find what I'm looking for, it's there.

Sometimes I dream of paring things down to a crazy minimum. Have a single set of clothes with a single set of pockets.... Art supplies? Forget it -- give me a stick so I can draw in the sand. Nothing to save, nothing to store, nothing to take care of.... Don't anyone let me near a cardboard box! I'd just fill it up.

But I would die from the simplicity of it all, I know it. The boredom would kill me. And before that happened, I suspect my thoughts would dry up and vanish until eventually my Mind Palace was empty -- no longer palatial but a single little room, until that, too, was gone. And then it'd be like I never was....



Well, huh....

Something tells me there's a big, invisible Triceratops somewhere in all this mess, and I've just stubbed my toe on it.

Guess it's back to work for me.