Monthly Archives: November 2011

Making Peace with Winter Blues

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”

Henry David Thoreau

It’s that time of year again. Since I was a child, I’ve had winter blues. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but I know that my moods, energy levels, appetites, and creativity are very seasonal. Even my art is seasonal.

I usually dread this time of year and pretend it isn’t happening. I curse the snowfalls, the darkness and the cold and I retreat into my little turtle shell until spring. I always pretend that this year will be different. I will eat the right foods, exercise a ton to keep my serotonin up, take all the supplements I need, somehow find the money for a light box, etcetera etcetera etcetera. Has it ever worked? Nope.

This year though, I’ve decided to stop fighting it. Call a truce. Make peace with winter. I’ve accepted that I’m entering my low-key, quiet, contemplative time of year. I need to allow myself to be slower, quieter, and to even…enjoy the change of pace.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like a slug all winter, so I wanted to share some ideas of how we can embrace this time and stay healthy.

  • Do what you can to stay healthy, but don’t be militant. Simple carbs like sugar and white flour can raise serotonin levels briefly, but often leave you craving more. Get enough protein to keep your blood sugar stable. Exercise helps boost your mood, but be compassionate on the days where you really need a rest. Make it easy to stay healthy. Stock up on healthy staples and if you have a freezer, try preparing a bunch of healthy meals in advance like soups, casserole or stir-fry and crock-pot meal ingredients that you just have to open and dump into the cooking apparatus. Pick up some fun exercise videos. I’m a fan of belly dance, kundalini yoga and kickboxing videos.
  • Keep warm. I’m a frugal person, but I’ve found that one of the nicest things I can do for myself during the winter is to shell out the extra money on the gas bill to keep my apartment warm and to take lots of hot baths. Also, I notice that I’m a lot more likely to exercise if I’m not freezing. Invest in an electric blanket and cute, warm clothes to layer. Get some warm exercise clothes if you plan on trying to exercise outside.
  • Remove as many stressors as possible before your energy starts to sink. Do your holiday shopping early and/or online. Do a deep “Fall cleaning” so you don’t have to be as vigilant with housekeeping in the winter. Prepare Christmas cards early. Take on less responsibility if possible so you can create “white space” in your schedule, and give yourself plenty of “transition time” instead of rushing from obligation to obligation. Take care of as many nasty chores as you can before the temperature drops. For me, this means car maintenance. Blegh.
  • Take advantage of sunny days. Get as much sun as you can. Decorate your home with candles and lights. The lack of light is a huge factor of winter blues. It’s no accident that many winter celebrations that take place at the darkest time of year include light as a major part of their traditions. Think Hanukah candles and Christmas lights.
  • Make your home beautiful all winter. I hate taking down Christmas decorations, because then my home looks so drab and depressing after a month of lights and glittering ornaments and beautiful colors. This year after I take down my little tree, I want to put up some other beautiful winter decorations so I won’t have to look around at the newly dreary walls and feel sad after I put the Christmas décor back in the closet.
  • Find things to celebrate, but don’t try to overdo it.My November Gratitude Project is a good example.  Perhaps you could spend the evening of the winter solstice taking a candle lit bath, or read a special book. This gives you things to look forward to and ways to make peace with  the season rather than fighting it.
  • Acceptance, compassion, and gentleness. You probably won’t be the Energizer Bunny during the winter. It’s ok. There is a season for everything. I get some good thinking done in the winter. Read good books, think, write in your journal, learn to knit. This is the season for slowness. Nature takes a rest, and you can too.  You will have rough days, but this is also a time to exercise patience. Spring will come. It always does.

Happy winter!

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Wise Words: We are Meant to Shine

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.


Marianne Williamson (emphasis added)

Stagnation and Creativity

I grew up in Ogden, Utah. More specifically, on the outskirts in a little town called West Haven. 17 years I lived here, from when we moved from Pasedena when I was five, to when I moved away at 22. I miss it every day. I miss the monthly gallery stroll on 25th street, the wide-open fields of cows and horses, the canal behind my parents’ house where I probably spent half of my childhood. The foothills trails and the duck park where I used to walk, my favorite restaurant that serves the most amazing stuffed pastas and infused oils with dippy bread, the salvage grocery store where I shopped in college, and the university campus where I struggled and thrived.

I visit my family here at least once a month, and I try to visit my old haunts as well. I miss Ogden every day, (especially in the height of Orem rush hour) but this weekend I realized that I don’t belong here anymore. My creativity feels stagnant. It’s too comfortable, too familiar, too loaded with memories, old patterns and energy that clouds my creativity now. I know that there are plenty of places around here that I haven’t been. There’s always more to explore, but I know these streets too well. I’ve tried every restaurant around here that I care to try. I can walk down any of the main streets like a tour guide.

“That’s where I had my first date with my ex-boyfriend who now hates my guts. I showed my first collage at that gallery. I used to think that building was haunted. That burger joint has the most amazing fry sauce. My car spun into that yard when they didn’t plow the roads one day.”  On and on and on.

I’m a nostalgic person. I love reminiscing and mining my memories for inspiration, but I feel like my hometown has reached a saturation point. I can’t look at it with fresh, curious eyes anymore. My current town is still new to me. I’m in the sweet spot, where I have my favorite places, a close friend and I can find my way around, but I’m still exploring. The landscape is still different. I couldn’t draw the shapes of the mountains in my sleep. My new town has just the right balance of memory and mystery.

I can’t be stagnant.  I’ve always suspected that I’d move around a lot once I grew up, but now I realize why. I need fresh places and things to explore. I need new trees to look at; a blank canvas, an empty page. Staying in the same place for too long is like trying to draw in a full sketchbook, erasing the old drawings or drawing right over the top of them. There’s a saturation point where you can’t make any new marks because they get lost in the old ones.

That’s when it’s time to get a new sketchbook, a new landscape, a new mindset.

If y0u feel stagnant, find something new.

Allowing Inspiration

Most of my blog post start out as journal entries. Unfortunately, this means a lot of them end up sitting on paper for awhile until I get around to typing them up and polishing them to show you. 

I just found this entry, and even though it’s a little out of season, I really wanted to share it with you. I wrote this on my trip to Lake Powell this last summer. 

One of my greatest struggles in life is allowing things; letting things happen naturally instead of forcing them, being taught instead of plowing through experiences with a machete as if they were tangled jungles.

I’m an artist and a writer, and I used to think that everything should inspire me to write or create art. Too often I wouldn’t even do that because I was too busy waiting for the urge to strike instead of accepting what the situation gifted to me.

This trip to Lake Powell for instance. Most of the time I sit on the deck and read. I expected to write here, to be moved to sketch the beauty of the landscape or capture its grace in a poem. Instead, I’ve been hiking and swimming and kayaking, paddle surfing and wave running and cliff jumping. Neglecting my body’s hunger and fullness cues a little but sleeping like the dead at night. I feel alive. Amazing. Despite the sore shoulders and arms floppy with exhaustion, I’m invigorated.

This landscape inspires me to connect with my body, to physically explore the space around me and my own body and mind. I’m connected to my child-self, to uncover the long-buried imagination like an ancient artifact from a place I lived in another life. Were I here as a child I would have climbed rocks pretending I was a Native American, swam like a mermaid in my magical realm, that this houseboat is a ship taking us to a magical place to search for an unknown treasure, something I’d recognize once I found it. I build on this story each day I’m here.

I know this will inspire me to write or make art later, but now, in the moment of being here it inspires me to be and explore, and that’s just as beautiful and creative as art and poetry. I don’t think I’ll ever be the type of artist who’s inspired to draw every beautiful thing I see, or to write an essay about every sunset as it happens, but I’d rather watch them, be there with them and store those feelings and images in my treasure box, the well deep inside my soul that I dip into each time I create. The feelings will come out eventually in some form. They’re never lost.

I promise I’ll try to be more prompt with turning my journal entries into posts. The summery post is kind of nice while it’s cold outside though. 

Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving Handprint Soul readers!

I am so thankful for all of you, your wonderful comments and your readership. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you have much to be thankful for.

The Magic Hour and Creative Cycles

I’m writing this at one in the morning. I just woke up and felt wide awake for some reason. I’ve read that our bodies tend to do this naturally-sleep for a few hours at night, and then wake up for what is traditionally revered as the most creative time of day, when the mind is calm and clear. The existence of this phenomenon used to be common knowledge, and many tribal cultures around the world still allow themselves to get up in the middle of the night for an hour of quiet reflection.

I don’t have to be anywhere in the morning, so I’m not stressing about getting up at any certain time. In fact, I’ve deliberately left my mornings free by seeking a part-time afternoon/evening job. Mornings are my most productive time of day, when I have the most energy. I like to wake up early and journal, work on writing projects, exercise and do my errands.

Our bodies have natural rhythms, and everyone’s body is different. Those rhythms are there for a reason, not to just be annoying when you have a 7AM  class or the early shift. Sometimes it’s not always possible, but I find that my creativity flows best when I understand and respect my own rhythm. I’m a morning person, so I found a supplementary job that leaves my mornings open for creative work. I make sure to get to bed at a decent hour every night so I can wake up early and make the most of my mornings, and so I can allow this “magic hour” to happen if it decides to visit me.

I don’t feel like busting out the paint right now, so I think I’m going to sit and think or write for the rest of this time. When I start feeling tired again, I’ll return to bed and let myself wake up naturally. I’m glad I planned my schedule the way I did so things like this can be possible.

I encourage you to observe your body and mind and find out what your creative rhythms are. You probably already have a good idea, because I’m sure you know whether you’re a morning lark or a night owl. Just notice how you think and feel at certain times of day, and do what you can to take advantage of your productive times.

See you in the morning.

-McKella

Wise Words: The Awakening Woman

“The awakening woman works on her emotional processes. She clears her emotional debris and sheds her armour. She faces her issues and unconscious patterns heart on. She calls herself out on her self-avoidant tendencies and honours the wisdom at the heart of her pain. She communicates her feelings in a way that is respectful to others. She learns and speaks the language of the heart.”

Jeff Brown

Autumn Walks

One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is walk. I usually walk pretty fast, but sometimes I just take my camera for a nice, long, slow walk. Fall is so pretty.

Then, of course, I feel inspired to come home and paint.

Three wishes…

I usually don’t like to wish. I used to think that wishes were a waste of energy, and that goals were the only things that matter.

 

“Don’t wish. Don’t start. Wishing only wounds the heart.”

-From Wicked

 

Bologna. Baloney. However you want to spell it.

I love Wicked, I even have a $75 snow globe from the show to prove it, but wishes are brain candy. Goals and dreams start with wishes.

Wishes are the seeds that grow into our dreams.

However, some of my wishes are just that. Wishes. I can’t control them. But they’re amusing to think about sometimes. Like playing “what if.”

If I had three wishes, here’s what they would be:

  1. I wish my hair would grow faster so I wouldn’t be so scared to do fun things with it. Get layers. Blue streaks. I’ve never had a fun cut, I’ve never dyed it because it grows so slowly that I’ll be stuck with whatever I do to it for about eight years.  I’m kind of tired of straight brown blunt boring.
2. I wish I could have pets in my apartment. I miss my kitty, Louka. I want to get a little doggy to keep me company on all my long walks. I’m also sure that my neighbors think I’m a little creepy because I know all their cats by name and stop to pet them every chance I get.
3. I wish my teeth weren’t so wimpy. They hurt when I eat anything cold or sweet. No, it doesn’t stop me. I brush religiously, but I still get cavities. My husband can bite through pop cans, but I have a hard time with really crusty bread in restaurants.

It’s fun to wish sometimes.

If you had three wishes, what would they be? And no wishing for more wishes. That’s not fun.

Artist and Writer

I’m sitting in the lobby of the Kimball Art Center right now at one of the café tables where I used to do homework and eat dark Dove chocolate bars during class breaks or sip mandarin orange Tazo tea on cold days. I think of the time I eavesdropped on a group of professors discussing an article on nudity in art and how pompous they sounded. I love eavesdropping.

I remember the ceiling three stories up and how I used to scare myself by looking down from the top floor.  Footsteps echo off the concrete walls and no one speaks above a whisper, but somehow this space is as comforting as my own living room. I remember the ache of my tailbone grinding into the floor as I drew crumpled cardboard sculptures and the men in the African totem sculptures, and how amazing I felt when I completed a drawing.

That drawing class. The teacher required a paper pad and clipboard so big I used it as a lean-to to ward off sunburn when we spent the afternoon the sculpture garden drawing the lights. The professor told me I’d produced the best work in the class that day, that my work had “soul”, that mysterious, elusive quality that I didn’t quite understand at the time. He often made us draw the same light switches and doorknobs four times across the page, which I found agonizing. I loved it and hated it at the same time.

Even though I loved being an English major, my art experiences are what I really remember when I think of my college days. My year as an art major awakened me to so much; I’d always been an artist, but I was eighteen and the world of “serious” art was completely foreign to me.

I changed my major because I couldn’t learn art as a science, trading emotion for hard parameters and judgment. I always missed it though. I felt comfortable with English, but for the rest of my college career, I’d visit the building with a sense of longing, feel something ache inside of me as I looked over the student work on the walls or the BFA exhibits. When registration rolled around, I’d flip through the catalog and mourn the classes I’d have no room to take. It’s ironic, because I that first year as an art major, I missed writing so badly, it hurt. I loved English, but something was always missing. I left art behind. I made the mistake of choosing my writer identity over my artist, believing one was more important than the other and not realizing that I need both in large amounts. They’re both me, and I’m not just one or the other. I’m not half and half either, but completely both at the same time. Without them both, I am not me. I wasn’t truly happy, because I let the artist in me starve.

It’s hard to wrap my brain around this; how I am two seemingly different things simultaneously. I tend to think differently in “artist mode” or “writer mode”, but I never produce my best work if I only use one or the other at a time. Lately, I’ve consciously tried to maintain both mindsets, even while painting or writing.

I am simultaneously artist and writer, completely encompassed by both.  Though I can’t really comprehend the logic of that,  I know that it’s true and it feels right, and I am learning to embody both at all times, in everything I do.

Embody who and what you are, and live authentically.