We don’t ever really know how long we have with people we love. And while we know this, somehow illness or loss can throw it violently in our faces.
Recently a loved one came sick. And while none of us ever know how long we have with people in our lives, this kind of event makes it poignant, puts us in fresh reminder of how short our time can really feel.
It’s made me more distracted, I can’t seem to find the right words and I’m enjoying a fraction of my productivity.
If I know anything, it’s that especially during these times I need to make art.
Every hardship in my life has led to something in my art.
When I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I had my art. Through the end of high school and all of my college experience, I could make art any time I was in pain or frustrated. That time was integral for my skill development. It was also when a college professor pulled me aside and suggested I major in art.
When I had brain surgery, I made a painting that ended up exhibited at The Smithsonian. Any time I had breakups or loss in relationships, I created art projects to help me keep focused and channel my energy in a positive way. In fact, in hindsight, my project of 52 Artworks in 52 Weeks was inspired by a moment of grieving.
Hardship can take over the brain. I find that making even 5-10 minutes of time for my art helps me stop fixating on the problem and offers some relief. The problem I have, is even allowing myself those 5-10 minutes during hard times. And then in other times, I can’t bring myself to leave the studio. Routine isn’t quite the same for me.
Here are three strategies that I use when times are tough:
Be aware of your limitations.
I’m accepting that I can only expect to achieve 3-4 tasks of my Ivy Lee Method rather than the normal 6-7 tasks. This means some days my list may include art, sometimes it can’t. And that is OKAY. This isn’t the time for big goals and even bigger art ambitions. Not for me. It’s time for making art in a way that resonates with me, without any other agenda.
Ask for help.
Communicate to your partner, friends, or family your needs. What about when someone asks to help instead of saying no, you ask them to pick up a few groceries? What about company and a nice walk on the beach? People want to help but don’t know how. Offer specific ideas and know this helps you focus on self-care. Remember: loved ones want to help. Don’t feel guilty that you are finally enjoying a free moment to do some drawing because a friend knows you need some time to take care of YOU.
Be Forgiving and Patient. With Yourself.
The other day I almost left the frame shop without paying. And then, at the airport, I went to the wrong gate. I’m more prone to missing details or steps when I’m stressed. Being hard on myself will only make more mistakes. Making more time for tasks helps me feel less harried and be a bit more mindful.
I’m not making art as much as I want to right now. And right now my lesson is: forgiveness. It’s okay. Life has ebb and flow and I have other focuses at the moment. I am trying to squeeze in some drawing or painting fun when I feel like it. Somedays this may mean I create a simple contour drawing. Other days I could work on a still life or a doodle. I do know: this is not the time to push myself to some new crazy, ambitious goal. And that’s an important part of our creative journey.
I had a great conversation with a B-School Art Alumni group where people shared how they use their art during this time. Many said they don’t make art, or when they do, it’s on a smaller scale without big goals in mind. Some said that even giving themselves 15 minutes a day or a couple times a week could really help. Everyone talked about being self-compassionate and forgiving that art may be on the shelf for a short while.
While we don’t know how long we have left with the ones we love, time with them and actions of self-care, like art, make room for you to be present, mindful, connected. It’s a healthy coping mechanism for stressful times. Time to get out that coloring book or your sketchbook and get stARTed.
Be Creatively Courageous: What do you have in your art arsenal that could be a conscious tool for self-care?