End of the August Blogging Challenge

So I’ve done it. I’ve blogged everyday for a month. I have enjoyed it but I daresay that the quality of my posts (and topics) has gone down a bit. Especially this past week when I’ve been rushing out posts before bed. Everyone chooses to visit in August, why do I always forget this? So I think that everyone would benefit if I didn’t blog everyday, I need more time to think and construct. But it served its purpose and I am definitely less precious and tentative about writing.

I had many plans for this month, and most haven’t happened. I have, however, stuck to my blogging goal and that is now done done done.

Tomorrow I’m going away for the weekend! Happy September everyone!

Anonymity

WordPress has just told me that I have had 4 views today from my home country… the very last place I would want any views at all. I am sincerely hoping it was just registering me but I don’t tend to visit my own blog.

It does scare me because anonymity is important to me. Not because I write anything incriminating but because I didn’t want to feel inhibited by wondering if people who google my name to look for my paintings also find this blog. This is my recovery blog, my outreach into the world from a time when I was just trying to find my voice.

This month it’s been challenging to write everyday (kinda why I called it the August Blogging Challenge) but it’s also been very rewarding. I don’t think I will be keeping up the writing everyday because even though I’m not exactly running out of things to write about I do find it hard to find the time to devote to each topic to give it enough substance. And elegant sentences.

One day I do hope to make this blog non-anonymous. Maybe when I’m teaching. But not for now, I like my safety.

Hopes for August

And thus starts my August Blogging Challenge. I had hoped to finish my reflections on reflections as an introvert but I have been feeling under the weather (appropriate because it’s pouring down, again) so I am instead going to set out some structure for this month.

I think it is appropriate for me to have something to focus on at this time because August has always been a lost month for me. I love the light and hope in spring and I love the green warmth of summer (not that there has been much warmth for us in the Irish Sea this year, it has rained for 2 months straight) but August has always meant the end of summer and the beginning of the dreaded autumn. Aimless, formless summer holidays in my school and university days haven’t helped.

This month I find myself… I don’t know… a bit unsure? I want something to work on, to aim for. At times like this only a clear, concise bullet-pointed list can help.

  • Blogging: I want to write a blog post everyday, as previously mentioned. I also want to devote more time to the design aspect. Which is what I said last August too so don’t hold your breath.
  • Yoga: I want to increase my general fitness in order to prepare myself for the intensive teacher training. Also I want to devote some time each week to read the many many yoga books I have accumulated. Anatomy, philosophy, communicating ideas effectively… I have so much to learn.
  • Meditation: I want to recommit. Inevitably my formal practice has declined as I have recovered from depression. This I do not like but I can sort it before meditation stops being part of my life.
  • Pranayama: Keep up with the daily practice I have started (and again let lapse since I’ve been ill)
  • Painting: I have to bolster up my self-esteem. This deserves a post in itself but briefly, since the major highs of my first exhibition I have been experiencing terrible holes in my confidence, doubts in my ability and a whole host of “why should I bother?” I have to weed out my insecurities and find ways to carry on with my practices when I am going through lows like this.
  • Cleaning and sorting: Erm, yeah, I should do it more. I am the messiest person ever, a reformed hoarder. I think I need to write about that too!

Lots to write about.

August Blogging Challenge

I have found myself missing blogging recently. Wanting to write more, wanting to finish the many drafts I have started. I may be setting myself up for a fall here but I have decided to set myself a little challenge… I am going to post every single day in August. It doesn’t have to be long or particularly profound. Sometimes it is just best to not think too much and just do.

Here goes.

Doing the Right Thing

Here is the story of my working life until early this year: After leaving school at 18 with ‘good’ qualifications I spent 4 days on an art course before leaving the course and working 4 days a week at a bookshop (the other day was supposed to give me more time for painting but I never did any). I applied to do art and philosophy at various different universities in England and Wales (philosophy purely because a teacher on the art course suggested that if I wasn’t doing art I would be doing philosophy and I then decided that philosophy was sufficiently academic so as to be completely different from that art course where I was expected to find stimulation constructing things out of cardboard with people who talked about “Jack Pollockson” and knew nothing about art, or art history, or themselves. Also I admit that I liked the idea in a lecture based course I wouldn’t have to interact with the other students, and I’ve never got on with art students anyway) I fell in love with a place in Wales where I’d applied to do art history and fine art, and I got accepted but I was too scared to take this place (that art course had put me off, I thought if I was forced to study art I would end up hating it) For various bizarre reasons I ended up on a prestigious philosophy course (read: full of pretentious Southern English posh kids who talked waaaay too much for my introverted island-self) in a city that I hated. I hated it but I stayed because I was doing the Right Thing. I didn’t want to be one of those people who people talked about who “went away to university but didn’t like it and didn’t finish their degree”. The contempt that people talk about vulnerable young people like that is awful to hear, like their lives are public property to manhandle all they want. I was miserable enough without anything like that thank you very much.

I graduated with a ‘good’ degree. A major in depression and a minor in philosophy. I sat shell shocked in my parents house for months, wondering what to do. Before I fell asleep I’d panic; I was depressed, I was unemployed, I had no friends, I lived in my parents attic, I had no plans, I had no future. A few months later I took a temporary Christmas job in the same bookshop. Everyone around me visibly relaxed, including myself. I was doing the Right Thing again. But then I started to fantasise about running away, started to cry uncontrollably upon waking, started to use the till in such a-verrrrrry-slow way as to look strange (but no one noticed). I left.

Over the next 4 years I was unemployed. I have been supported by my parents and my boyfriend. I have learned yoga, I have developed my painting, I have had counselling, I have reconnected with old friends and miraculously I have recovered from depression. These past 4 years have been so rich and transformative for me. I think they will be some of the most valuable years of my whole life. But I have been doing the WRONG thing this whole time. I have earned next to nothing. Teaching yourself yoga and meditation, painting and running and learning to live with (and now without) depression doesn’t count for anything in a lot of society’s viewpoint. At least not without an income.

It became very important to me that I was doing the Right Thing For Me. That I wasn’t wasting my life, or “rotting away in this house” as I was wont to scream at my boyfriend on a couple of memorable occasions. I’d need near constant reassurance some days from my boyfriend. I always got it.

Last month, after an exhibition where I had 46 paintings for sale (“you must have worked hard” was a common statement) I registered as self-employed. I am no longer unemployed. It was funny trying to explain to the man at the tax department (I live in a tax haven… moneymoneymoneymoney) that even though I said I wasn’t expected to make any profit, I do intend to.

Hey I’m a fucking artist! I’m allowed to not earn money now!

Sitting on my hands

Thanks to Persephone for nominating me as a Beautiful Blogger. I’d like to nominate you straight back! Unfortunately the combination of not posting for 2 months and the internet being a bit wonky today means that just posting this is difficult. I hope that is enough.

I have been unsure of what to do with this blog, because 1) I’m not depressed anymore by most people’s definitions, or my own (although the repercussions will stay with me for a long time, possibly forever) and 2) I feel I have more to lose if I was to be “unmasked”. I deliberately have not tried to post too much on other people’s blogs for fear of losing my anonymity. This leads me to question what the point of having a blog is. I got a bit of a shock when I realised that a teacher at my yoga studio had a blog and used the same tags as I did. That scared me.

Ideally I’d like to blog and for it to not really matter who reads it. I am starting my yoga teacher training in January and the thought of having a yoga/mindfuless/nice things blog appeals. I’m already on my way to having a completely unanonymous painting blog which is more professional, but I like to nourish the personal too.

So yes I’m hopefully going to be a yoga teacher! Add that to the 7 or so exhibitions I’ve signed up for (including a joint one) and I’m heading for a very busy 12 months. I only found out about this yesterday and at first I was excited, then I was petrified, then I was just stressed worrying about it all. After 4 years of being able to completely fill my days with running, yoga and painting (and with always having the option to drop any of these with no repercussions) and no responsibilites at all, I now have deadlines, I will sign my days over to the care of someone else. I could tell that my old depression demons were rearing their heads when I started to get a terrible guilt induced anxiety about the amount of wood, paper and glass my paintings use. Does my making art justify the use of these resources? These thoughts have cropped up a couple of times before bed recently, a sure sign of old anxieties. Today I was sad upon waking so made sure to take care of myself, only painting a bit, going for a run and meditating.

I’m still meditating, I ended up not doing the Sally Kempton course. My life got more busy after the exhibition, not less so after a few days of trying her meditation techniques I realised I needed and craved my mindfulness meditation. So I went back to focussing on my breath, my body and thoughts and calming myself. It’s very important for me to take care of myself like this, to be aware of how I am coping with all these changes. To not run away with “what ifs” and worries of spreading myself too thin. To be aware and to be confident in my ability to adapt to whatever happens to me. And this blog!

Stable Roots?

I’m at a crossroads with my blog. My life is changing and my blog needs to change with it, it needs to serve me or I need to let it go. I need to look back at why I started the blog and whether I still want to carry on despite my changing circumstances.

I started this blog to talk about my experiences in recovering from a depression that completely derailed the first part of my 20s. I wanted to talk about my life: my yoga, meditation, my art career. But I needed to feel safe doing it (hence the pseudonym). I wanted an outlet, to have a voice because I had so few people in my life to talk to. I wanted to say something, not just read and be silent all the time. I wanted to order my thoughts and observations. I wanted to record my recovery. I wanted to have a little space on the internet to speak. This blog gave me that.

At the moment I’m busy: I’m working towards my first exhibition and I have an interview to be artist in residence at the gallery down the road. I don’t know my chances but I’m giving it the best shot (safely, with my mental health in mind) I never would have imagined this last year when I started this blog. When I was waking up 2 days out of 5 weekdays so sad I couldn’t function. But things change, amazing isn’t it? 3 years of the same old gradual recovery and then I’m pretty much depression free, with an exhibition, with a job interview (the only job I’ve ever wanted) and the promise of a yoga teacher training this year too.

With all these changes I suppose we’ll see how stable these roots of mine are hey?

Blog like No One’s reading

This isn’t meant to be a whiny or self-indulgent post so I apologise if it comes out that way.

Ever since I’ve started this blog I’ve been questioning why I started it but over the past few days those voices have been getting louder and more insistent: why aren’t you writing better? why aren’t you making your posts prettier? why are you still not trying to get more readers? why did you even bother in the first place?

So I think it’s time to step back and detach myself from that critical voice (Julia Cameron calls it “the Censor” in her book the Artist’s Way) and address why I wanted to blog in the first place.

As I’ve mentioned before on my very first post, I had a blog when I was 14 and Blogger was just starting up (I’m not joking) But I had nothing to talk about because I was so terrified of being found out at school. Also I have a problem with self-promotion due to extreme embarrassment and modesty and I was unwilling to do the advertising trawl through everyone elses blogs. Back in those days it was more about the coding anyway, you designed a site and it had literally nothing on it except the music and films you liked. Me and my little crowd thought that those who just had blogs were cheating. Where was the fun in that?

So fast forward 10 or so years and I had something to say. I’ve been suffering from depression but I’ve been recovering. I’ve been recovering using these tools I’ve found, using the yoga and the meditation and the running and the reading of books and blogs. I wanted to talk about it, I had something to give, I wanted to give it. I knew that the blog world hadn’t changed from my teenaged blogging years but I wanted in.

It’s hard to put yourself out there, to indifference and to criticism but I know that’s what I want to do. I’m reminded of a man who was on my degree course whose blog I used to follow. He didn’t fit into any particular blogging niche, he just wrote what he felt like. He wanted to be a writer and it was good practice. Month after month he wrote, not getting much feedback, perhaps with only me has his regular reader. He wrote about his social fears, reviews of books, fears of the future, philosophy with never a comment to encourage him to keep going. But he kept going. For years.

That’s the important thing to remember both in this blog and in my painting: no one cares if I do it or not. Once you’ve realised that, do you still want to do it? What do you do it for? Acceptance? Because a teacher once said you were a talented writer/painter and you’ll be disappointing them if you don’t try? These things will only take you so far. You have to do things because you love them and you have to carry on in spite of the deafening silence or the hurtful comments you receive in return.

So I’ve decided: I’ll carry on. Because I’m stubborn and because I want to. I won’t feel inadequate about it anymore. Because really, who is it hurting?

That critical voice is yelling at me about other things too. I had my first commission recently and I painted, painted, painted all through last week completely disregarding my total and utter sadness the whole week. I did it but now I don’t even want to look at paint. The voice is yelling: call yourself a painter? why aren’t you doing more? why aren’t you trying to push your paintings? Until I took a step back and thought, hang on, someone sought me out to paint a picture for their husband’s birthday. She didn’t want anyone else to do it, she wanted me because of the work I did. The work that I didn’t get much acknowledgement and encouragement for but I did anyway.

So the lesson here is: Blog like No One’s reading.

By the way that boy whose blog I used to read? I checked it recently, he now writes about his career on his blog and it is in a thriving blogger community. I’m glad.