Blog Archives

Easing Into Change

I’m back! I hope you all had a wonderful week. I had a great time at Lake Powell! I got plenty of swimming, paddle boarding, and hiking done. I even got some sun color. I don’t actually tan, I just get slightly less ghostly. We got caught in some crazy storms, I ate way too much, I caught a giant catfish, and I slept under the stars on the top deck of the houseboat.

Though I had a great week, I always hate that flat, disappointing feeling of coming home after a great vacation. This time is particularly nasty for some reason. Maybe it’s all the chocolate ice cream I ate, but I feel a bit low. When we left, I felt excited to take some time away from responsibility and just play in the turquoise waters of Lake Powell, and I figured I’d come back all refreshed and feel ready to hit the ground running.

Unsurprisingly, I don’t.

I’ve noticed that I tend to expect a lot of myself sometimes, especially if I ever allow myself to “slack off”. I figure, “well, I’ve been on vacation, so now I should be able to go double time”. It’s as if I feel like I have to pay for resting. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I need a break, no strings attached.

So, instead of diving headfirst into a massive to-do list that I could compile for the week, instead of plunging into a new workout routine I’d promise myself I’d start when I got back, I’ll ease back into my daily life. No boot camp, no cleaning marathons or major lifestyle overhauls right out of the gate. I can take a vacation without paying penance later.

I think we all struggle with this sometimes. It’s like eating dessert and telling ourselves we have to run it off on the treadmill tomorrow. That’s no way to live.

So, though I have plenty to do this week, I am refusing to fill up each slot in my planner with activities I should feel up to now that I’ve had a week off. Sometimes it’s the white space on the calendar that really feeds us and moves us forward. We need time to think, dream, process, and take mini-vacations periodically to avoid burnout and stoke our creative fires.

I do have some new paintings in the works, so I hope to reveal those soon! Have a wonderful week!

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Roots

So much is going on in my life right now. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing at the bottom of a mountain looking up and feeling overwhelmed by the humongous climb, or like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff looking down and feeling terrified of the leap I’m about to take.

This is good though. It mean I’m growing, or at least that I have the opportunity for growth.

I’m 2 pages away from filling a 300 page journal. I always feel like a big change is on it’s way when I get close to finishing a journal. My new art site is in progress, I’m preparing to apply to a big art show, I’m readjusting a lot of things in my life right now, and some other huge changes might be just around the corner. With all this going on around me, sometimes the best thing I can do it be still and feel my feet on the ground. I like to pretend I have roots and that no matter how crazy my life gets, I have stability and peace built into my soul. I can find peace in my roots.

“Roots” 24X48 Mixed-Media on Canvas $500

I tried something new with this piece. For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about incorporating 3-D elements into my paintings and sculpting right on the canvas. It took a few tries and tests to find the right product and technique, but I finally settled on a special non-contracting, self-drying clay for the roots. I also mixed dirt with the brown paint for the underground area around the roots.

Creating this was an interesting experience. It took me around a month and at times, I wanted to throw the hole thing in the dumpster. Sometimes I didn’t like the way it looked, sometimes my back hurt from working with such a tall canvas (I don’t use an easel. I usually work on the floor or sitting with the canvas propped up), and the emotions that inspired this feeling were difficult to sit with for that long. I think this is what I needed to work through some fears and scary thoughts.

I don’t think I’ll be with Etsy much longer (stay tuned on that one), so I’m not going to post this is in the shop just yet. If you are interested in purchasing it, send me a convo or email me at mckella11@yahoo.com so I can create a listing for you!

Best wishes for a wonderful week!

Creative Funks

So, I know I’ve been pretty absent around her for the past few weeks. A lot has happened. I’ve sold a couple of small paintings, had strep throat, met a rattlesnake on a hike, and turned 24. My domain even expired while I wasn’t looking! I haven’t been online much at all, and I’m actually ok with that. Sometimes we need to unplug.

Most of the reason I’ve been gone is because I’ve been in a serious creative funk lately. I’ve started a few new paintings but I’ve run into some walls with both of them. Nothing a little modeling paste and rethinking can’t fix, but walls nonetheless. I haven’t worked on my novel much, I haven’t been very active on Etsy, and my studio is such a disaster that I can barely fit in there.

It happens.

I figured I could either hide behind some fluffy posts or just take a break. I chose the latter, because I knew I’d be in the mood to post again soon.

So, about creative funks. I don’t like to call them “blocks” because it sounds like something outside of ourselves that’s causing us to avoid creating, but it’s really not. Nothing that has happened over the last few months could have inevitably blocked me, but a funk, now that feels more like the sticky, mucky, internal mess that this really is. I picture it as getting stuck in molasses or tar; the gunk that clogs up our creative channels if we don’t clear it out in time. That gunk will always come, but it can either get stuck or pass through fairly painlessly.

In the past few months, I’ve uncovered and run into rejection, shock, the possibility of major change, shame, anxiety, guilt, regret, and all kinds of stuff that loves to gunk up our creativity like a giant hairball in a drain. This all came on fairly quickly and I didn’t really allow myself the time or means to move it out before it congealed. I avoided talking or thinking about it and instead read a bunch of (amazing) books, busied myself with household chores (my apartment is still a mess somehow), organized my ever-growing Pinterest boards so I can access my inspiration easier, and taking lots of walks. I knew that funk was there, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I’d let myself think about it in passing moments, tiny bites at a time because the whole elephant just seemed like too much.

I haven’t nailed down a surefire way to get out of these creative funks, but I do know that our spirits and therefore creativity are an ecosystem as delicate and complex as any rainforest, and all the little elements need to be there and working together in order for the whole to function properly. The extinction of one insect, the absence of one seemingly trivial ritual can potentially throw the whole system out of whack. Life is far too messy to balance properly, but we can make sure that the necessary things get taken care of. Creativity is a delicate little creature that needs proper care to survive. ”

Real” artists aren’t exempt from this. All creators struggle to keep their systems balanced, though some may have themselves figured out more than others. So, my solution for my creative funk is to do what I can to restore the environment in which my creativity can thrive. This means different things for different people, but for me it means making space for “creative playtime”, reading inspirational things like Laura Hollick’s blog or The Artist’s Way, and making sure to connect with myself by journaling and daydreaming instead of filling every free second with other reading or Minesweeper.

This morning, I’m planning to take myself shopping for art supplies with the rest of my birthday money and then having some creative playtime before I go to work. The thought of artmaking actually terrifies me at the moment, but I know that bribing myself with some new toys from the art supply store will coax me out of my shell. Whatever happens in the studio today will be ok, even if I completely ruin whatever I’m working on, make something wonderful, discover that I want to go in a completely different direction, bawl my eyes out, whatever. It’s all ok.

What to do when you don’t know what to do

We’ve all been there, and a lot of us never seem to leave. Life seems overwhelming, scary, or confusing, or maybe all of the above.

This isn’t a gloomy post. Feeling like this sometimes is just part of life and it usually means we’re on the verge of something important. The longer we stay stuck here though, the longer it takes to get that shiny prize at the end of the tunnel.

So when my head is spinning and I have no idea what to do or which path to take, here’s what I do:

  1. Cling to truth: When you’re confused, nothing feels better than to anchor yourself with things that you know to be true. List them. They can be as simple as “My husband loves me” or “I am a good person”. Confusion is to not know, but having truth is to know. Once you have a grip on that, you can figure the rest out.
  2. Realize that everything is ok: I tend to get caught up in my own little maelstrom of emotion, but sometimes I need to step back and notice that the sun is shining, the cat is sleeping, the world is still turning, and nothing is really wrong. Not in the grand scheme of things. The drama is all inside me. I don’t have to listen to it.
  3. Do a tiny thing that scares you: If you’ve been cleaning the house with a Q-tip to avoid working on your novel, sit down and write a page. Set a timer. If you’ve been putting something off, do a tiny bit of it. Bribe yourself. Set a timer. Whatever gets you going, do it.

I actually did all three of these things today, and I feel a million times better. If you feel confused or overwhelmed at all, I highly recommend it.

Have a great week!

What do you want to do today?

Sometimes when I feel like I’m moving too fast or running on autopilot, I like to stop and get back on track. One of my favorite ways to reawaken myself to my own life and purpose is to get out my journal and write about what I would do that day if I didn’t have to do anything. I might also write about my ideal day, or maybe just list 20 or so things that I love to do and remind myself to build my life around those.

A lot of people think they’d lay around and watch TV all day if they didn’t have to do anything, and that may be true, but everyone is passionate about something. People need to actually do things to be happy. If you don’t know what you like to do, you might want to start there.

My day usually involves reading, writing, making art, taking walks, and spending time with my husband. Pretty simple. Some days I feel like going on an adventure and some days I’d rather curl up with a blanket and a Tracy Chevalier novel. Still, playing this little game helps me reassess what I’m doing and whether it’s getting me where I need to go. We should enjoy our lives. It’s not all fun and games; we all have things that need to get done that we’d rather not do, but the bulk of our lives should be enjoyable.

Find out what you love most and build your life around that. Use your “ideal day” writing as a compass.

Today, if I didn’t have to go to work, I’d go for a walk, work on some new paintings, prepare two of my paintings for an upcoming juried show, read a little, write in my journal, and go for a walk in the evening. Maybe a picnic with my husband. That’s actually what I’m planning to do today, more or less, just with my regular workday in the middle.

What would you do today, or on your ideal day? What do you love to do more than anything?

Acceptance or Resignation?

 

A lot of us aren’t happy with where we are in our lives at the moment. We aren’t satisfied with what we’re doing or where we happen to be or what we are. We here so often that we need to accept ourselves as we are and where we are. Most of us fight this notion. I sure do.

I reread Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth last week (one big long string of Aha! moments. Read it.) and she mentioned that accepting is not the same as resigning yourself to a situation. It doesn’t mean that you give up and tell yourself that things will never change, or even worse, that you can’t change things. I think most of us think that acceptance involves giving up, so no wonder we resist it!

Accepting is acknowledging where you are and realizing that it’s ok for now. You may still want to change, especially if you don’t like your current situation. By all means, work hard to change if that’s what you really want, just don’t beat yourself up for where you are.

Acceptance is a change of attitude, that’s all. It’s not quitting. It took me awhile to let this sink in, but I realized that it’s something that I’ve always known on some level. I’ve never created significant change in my life until I accepted where I was first.I had to love myself the way I was and realize that I had to be where I was, because that’s where I happened to be. That situation had something to teach me. I accepted that knowledge, but I still wanted to change. Change happened pretty spontaneously after that.

Whenever I my situation and struggled against it, I got even more stuck. It’s like struggling when you’re sinking in quicksand (the movies always say that’s a bad idea) and sinking even faster.

What do you want to change in your life? What do you need to accept?

I’ll go first.

  • I accept that I need to have a job right now when I’d rather be a full-time artist and writer. Luckily, I enjoy my job, but I’d still rather do my own thing. It’s ok though. This job takes care of me, and I’m glad to have it. I’ll still work toward my goal, but I’m happy with what I’m doing right now.
  • I accept that I don’t have the money to travel the world right now, but obviously, world travel isn’t what I need at the moment or I’d have it. I can love my life anyway. I’d still like to travel and I’ll work toward that goal, but I won’t snub the joys of home.
  • I accept that I have about 10 extra pounds of “winter coat” around my hips and thighs. This is a little heavier than what I’m comfortable with, but it’s ok for now. I’ll still love and take care of my body and I’ll trust it to even things out on its own.
  • I accept that it’s still winter even though I’d really like it to be spring. We’ve had a lovely springy week and now there’s about six inches of snow on the ground and temperatures have dropped. I’ll take whatever moisture we can get for a nice green summer, and I’ll embrace a few more weeks of layers and hot soup.

I’ll accept these things, but I also expect change. I think the distinction here is simply attitude, because forcing change does not work. One cannot reach their natural weight by hating his or her body now. One can’t create a thriving career by refusing to acknowledge the starting point, where she is now.

How about you? What are you accepting right now? What does acceptance mean to you?

Noticing-The First Step to Change

 

Over this winter, I’ve fallen back into a bad habit that I’ve been trying to kick for years.

Stressing out over little things. Everything feels like an emergency to me.

Part of this may have to do with tired adrenals, which I suspect I’m experiencing, but I believe that 90% of our health starts in our minds.  If anything is wrong with my body right now, it started in my head.

I mentioned earlier this week that I’ve been holding a lot of tension in my shoulders, neck, and face lately. I’ve also noticed that I’ve been doing things like I’m in a race. You should see me wash dishes. I move quickly, my heart rate seems to be elevated more often than not, my thoughts fly around my head like a swarm of bees, and sometimes I feel powerless to stop it.

Then I remind myself that the first step to change is noticing.

I know plenty of people who run on full throttle all day long and never realize it. Sometimes I compare myself to them and feel bad because they seem so much stronger than me, but I’m glad that I can notice what is going on and why it doesn’t serve me. Stress wears me out. When I notice that feeling, I can go into it and find out why it’s there. I can ask myself why I feel that way. 9 times of out of 10, its’ something that really isn’t a big deal.

I don’t beat myself up for stressing over little things. Instead, I ask myself a few more questions. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Even if it did happen, it’s never the end of the world. Will this matter in a few years? Probably not. Am I thinking realistically, or am I letting my imagination run amok? (The downside to having an active imagination is that it can take any situation and run off in any direction without looking back)

I’m getting better at reining myself back in a few times a day. It takes practice, but it’s getting easier.

How do you handle stress? Do you stay calm or do you tend to be a stress case like me? Do you notice before it runs you into the ground?

10 Nice Things to Do for Yourself, Just Because

Source

It’s Tuesday. Do something nice for yourself.

  1. Leave a treat or dollar bill in a coat pocket for your future self to find.
  2. Keep some healthy snacks at work, in the car, and any other place where you spend a lot of time.
  3. Leave encouraging notes or funny pictures in book pages for your future self to find.
  4. Buy clothes and underwear that fit and feel good.
  5. Make “white space” in your day, or some time between commitments.
  6. Wear your favorite outfit. Today is special.
  7. Think about a goal you’d like to accomplish and take a baby step to get there.
  8. Do one thing that makes you really happy.
  9. If you start hearing negative self-talk going on in your head, stop yourself. Instead, tell yourself that you’re awesome, and that you’re doing the best you can with what you have.
  10. Draw a boundary, and commit to honoring it.

Let me know how your day goes 🙂

Limiting Ideas, Intuitive Eating, and the Gym

First of all, check out this funny gym picture:

Source

I love how everyone is smiling. I don’t know about you, but my gym looks a whole lot different 🙂

Several months ago, I posted a piece I wrote in college about why I hate the gym. I meant every word. Yesterday though, Sam and I decided to get a gym membership at our local fitness center, which is actually a really nice facility with really reasonable prices.

I usually can’t stand exercise machines because I feel like a hamster on a wheel. I don’t like “artificial” feeling exercise. I’d much rather walk or run outside, do yoga, go for a bike ride, or go hiking.

It’s kinda hard to keep that up in the winter though.

I resisted the idea for awhile. The main reason was that it seemed silly to pay to exercise when I have a few perfectly good workout dvds at home, a yoga mat, and walking shoes. The other reason is that the gym didn’t fit with my idea of living as an intuitive eater/exerciser. It liked it to counting calories and measuring portions rather than listening to what my body needs.

Over the past few months though, I’ve realized that there’s no one way to live intuitively. For some people, this looks like a daily walk and three square meals a day. For others, it’s a gym membership and nibbling all day without set meals. Others may eliminate certain foods from their diet for health reasons. Some might use calories or measuring as a way to gain consciousness of their eating before they’re comfortable to fly on their own. For me, intuitive living is different at different times of year. During the summer, it’s little meals and snacks all day long and lots of walking with a little running and yoga thrown in. During the winter though, I’ve realized that I need something different. I’ve had to change my ideas about my lifestyle, which I was surprised to find were a little rigid despite flexibility being the whole point of intuitive eating.

Here are a few reasons why I no longer hate the gym and why I feel it’s necessary right now:

  • My body has been asking for more intense exercise than I’ve been giving it lately, and though I can bundle up and walk in the cold or do one of the exercise DVD’s that I have memorized, but it gets old. The gym has lots of different options like classes, the pool, plenty of machines, a track, free weights, and sports if for some reason I decided to experiment with that.
  • My knees have been hurting like they always do when I start sitting at a desk for most of the day. I really don’t have a low to no impact cardio option at home, but at the gym I have the pool, a stationary bike, or an elliptical. Any of those are a great way to build strength without taxing my knees further.
  • Sam and I barely see each other with both of us working weird hours and him going to school. He’s been wanting to exercise, so this might be a way to spend some time together in a healthier way than going to Buffalo Wild Wings at 9pm.
  • I’ve been wanting to build a little muscle because I have very little upper body strength (I can’t even do one full-on push up. Not even close.) and I’ve noticed that my abs are feeling a little weak as well. I could certainly do this with yoga or just with old school body weight exercises at home, but I hate the body weight exercises, I don’t really push myself with yoga at home, and I’d rather  do gentler yoga at home. The gym does have a Saturday yoga class I could go to, but weights offer a lot more variety and they’re faster. I even had fun even though years ago I likened the weight room to a torture chamber.
  • This might be a better way to blow off stress after work than munching. I don’t tend to be hungry in the evenings, but I often snack when I get home just because I feel like I should because it’s dinner time or something, and also because I usually feel spun out. Going to the gym after work a few days a week might help me regulate work stress and eating a little better as well as giving me an energy boost, because I tend to come home and crash until bedtime. Sometimes I paint in the evenings, but I’m a morning person and I do most of my artmaking in the morning before I leave. Going to the gym won’t give me more time for my art, but my body needs it. I could use a little more energy to push through these last few weeks of winter.

Flexibility isn’t about rebellion or avoiding things that you think don’t fit in your flexible lifestyle. It’s about adjusting your ideas according to what your body and spirit actually need. Rethink some of your limiting ideas such as “intuitive eaters don’t go to the gym” or “artists don’t worry about what they eat.” Yes, these are kind of silly ideas, but our subconscious can hold a death grip on silly things like these. Pay attention to your limiting thoughts. We all have them. Examine them. Question them. Are they serving you, or do you need something different right now? Do you need rest, or would a short trip to the gym make you feel amazing?

There are no rules, only consciousness, caring, and a little humility.

Are you hanging on to any limiting ideas?

What Feeds You?

If you’ve been reading Handprint Soul for awhile, you know that I’ve had problems with compulsive eating in the past. I’m not one of those people who wastes away when I’m upset; quite the opposite in fact. While I’ve spent lots of time researching the various genetic, nutritional, hormonal, emotional, and cognitive reasons for this and have taken steps to balance them, this tendency still pops up from time to time.

For most of the past year, I’ve had a good handle on eating intuitively. I lost 30 pounds last summer and felt free from any kind of food obsession. I felt fabulous.

I’ve been pretty munchy for the past couple months, especially the last few weeks, and I have a little bit of a “winter coat,” though I’m pretty confident it will go away in the spring. In the meantime, the couple extra pounds don’t really bother me, but the thoughts do. I don’t like thinking about food all the time. I’d rather think about art, writing, Sam, my friends, or just have a clear head sometimes. I don’t like it when food seems like the most comforting, exciting thing in my life. In the week before a party or planned dinner out, the thoughts of food keep popping in my head and don’t go away. I know this isn’t entirely under my control and that certain parts of my brain tend to be overactive, which is why I get “stuck” on certain thoughts (I’ve put lots of research into this.)

To a certain extent though, I can observe this happening and even talk back to these thoughts. One tactic I’ve been using lately is to think “What is feeding me today?”

If the only enjoyable parts of my day revolved around food, I know one of two things. Either I’m experiencing fear and avoiding thinking about something, or I’m not caring for my spirit.

This is tricky, because it changes every day. I love walks most days, but some days I’d rather paint, or read a book. Sometimes I just need to snuggle with my cat and write in my journal. Once in awhile I want to go out with friends, or be spontaneous. Sometimes, I’m just sad and need some comfort from something other than cookies. The other day, a snap of beautiful weather filled me like nothing I’ve felt in months.

If you struggle with food or any other compulsion, ask yourself what you get out of it and what you’re really missing. Can you give yourself what you really need? Is something off with your mood? Do you need more excitement or challenges in your life? Have you taken time to pursue your own interests? Do you take time for rest?

I’m still getting the hang of this, and I’m learning to eat intuitively during the winter and deal with low moods authentically rather than numbing them. This is a useful tool that I’m learning to use. I feed my body when it needs it, but I also try to feed my spirit just as often, with spiritual “meals” of walking outside, connecting with others, creating, and a little dash of adventure now and again.

Has anyone else had experience with this?