Freedom.

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It happened.

I’m free.

As of last week, I’m no longer bound to a 9-to-5 schedule, pretending to care about paperwork and administration.

As of last week, I’m a full-time artist.

*inhale*

*exhale*

Life is AMAZING!

I mean, part of me had hoped to leave corporate life by quitting on my own terms (throwing up a peace sign on my way out of my boss’s office, letting her know I would rather make $0 and create art rather than continue to revolve my life around pushing paper) but I have to say that getting laid off has its perks.  For starters if I had quit, I would have zero financial buffer for this transition, but now I have a bit of severance to cushion the financial blow.

As much as I didn’t expect my corporate life to end quite so abruptly, I am ready to dive in to the next chapter of my life… whatever the heck that’s going to look like…

And that’s really the next question.  What will this new chapter look like?

I imagine a life without an alarm clock and to me it looks like lollypop light posts and streets made out of chocolate bars.  Add a dash of getting to see my mom and puppy during the week and getting to be 100% myself at all times, and I can’t imagine anything better!

It’s apparently obvious to others too.  I asked my husband if he’s noticed any changes in me since my last day at work, and he gave me an emphatic “YES!” – he went on to say that if he had known how different and happy I would be when untethered to my corporate job, he would have told me to quit working a year ago.  He said he finally realized at least part of how much work weighed me down after seeing the lightness in my steps on the other side.

Whoa.

Sure, we want to have kids and this next chapter will bring its own challenges (I’m consciously choosing to not jump directly into another similar job, which would be so easy and come with so much less risk…and two people on one salary is a bit daunting!) but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to move forward into life after the financial services industry.

My 5-year-goal to be my own boss happened in only 4.5 years.  A HUGE answered prayer.

Cheers to a new adventure!

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2012 was all about love

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I’ve been wanting to write a year-end post all month but haven’t been clear on what I wanted to say. I saw a friend at church a couple weeks ago who reminded me again about grace, love, and hope.  And when it all comes down to it, the thing I’ve learned over and over and over again this year is this: love works.

That’s it.

Love works.

When you give love freely – especially to those who haven’t earned it – it can will change your life and theirs for the better.  Even if you don’t get to see change firsthand, your acts of love are not wasted.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Overused as it may be, there’s a reason this passage gets so much airtime – everyone wants to be loved this way.  Unfortunately, everyone is not willing to (doesn’t know how to?) love others this way.  It’s certainly not easy, but God can make it possible.

Among other things, in 2012 I saw God’s love give hope to someone who was hopeless.

Love is transformative.

Love is healing.

Love is powerful.

Love is real.

Love is necessary.

Love works.

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What a difference a walk in the woods makes…

I went for a walk in the woods Sunday afternoon with a fabulous friend.  We had no destination in mind, just meandered down the path and made decisions about which way to turn as the path forked here and there.  We didn’t worry about where we were going to end up, nor did we plan in advance which way we would turn next – just took each turn as it came.  As if it was the only one.  As if the turns coming up didn’t matter yet.  Because they didn’t.  There was no worrying about taking the “right” path or the fastest path to get where we were going.  We just went where we felt lead.  We just enjoyed each other’s company, took photos, pulled off the path to see things that caught our eye.  Before we knew it, we had walked and wandered and laughed for nearly 3 hours.

It was so easy.  So free.  So unlike how my life has been feeling for a looong time.

Looking back at our walk in the woods, I see the metaphor.  I see the lesson.

I have put so much emphasis on the destination and how *I* want the next few turns of my life to go – marriage, kids, amazing job, etc.  It’s time to let it go.

I still want those things.

I still believe I will get married.

I still believe I’ll have children.

I still believe I’ll find meaningful work.

But I’m letting my (perceived) sense of control over those things go.

Shocking as it may seem, I don’t actually have control of all that much of my life.  None of us do.  But I do have control of putting my right foot in front of my left foot.  I have control of how much time I spend listening to the messages of scarcity that tv, radio, internet, and magazines put in front of our eyes – the messages that we’re not (fast, effective, thin, smart, clean, talented, educated, serious, jovial, proper, slutty, professional, rich, poor…) enough to be okay unless we buy whatever they’re selling.  No thanks.  I’m tired of the messages that I’m not good enough as I am.  Those messages are lies.

God made each of us to be uniquely ourselves.  We are not designed to be identical in talent, size, intelligence, personality, or anything in between.  I answer to God, not other people (okay, God and my mom…) but me and God (and my mom and I) are all good, so I’m good.

I’m still very much a work in progress.  I’m still in the beginning of my walk down the path.  I’m still learning to take one turn at a time and to let the path unfold before me on its own time, but I’m up and walking.  And you know what, everything around me – my friends, the bunnies and squirrels, the fire-orange tree leaves, the rotting trees, the streams and rivers, the muddy puddles, and the flowers growing out of the moss – everything around me (whether it makes my walk easier or harder) is beautiful in its own way.

No exceptions.

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Back to Jack(ie)

Immersing myself back into art over the past few years brought me back to myself again.  Each piece of art I create is another piece of myself.  I know it’s true, but I haven’t been able to visualize exactly what that means… until now.  Last night I got it.

I pictured a little army of my artwork coming over a hill – each new painting increasing my strength and protecting me.  But the art didn’t shield me from the world.  It didn’t keep me from connecting with what’s happening around me either.  It’s not intended to.  It allows me to keep true to myself and free from harm without separating me from the hurt and pain and joy and light of the world.

Instead of hiding behind it, I stand in front of my art.  Vulnerable.  Exposed.  Knowing it’s with me empowers me and encourages me to keep going.  It gives me courage to be vulnerable and speak honestly from my heart.  It translates the emotions I’m feeling and explains them all to me. It has my back.

Every piece of art I create empowers me a little bit more.  It lets me dream a little bigger.  It fills me with a little more hope.  I have an army of art army behind me and every time I create a new recruit it’s incredibly satisfying – my art supports me being 100% me.

No compromises. No watered down, corporate-approved, politically correct version of myself.  100% pure me.  Me doing what I was created to do.

Each piece of art I make is beautiful to me.  Each piece of art is also a part of me.  Each piece of art I make reminds that I can create beauty and that even when I start to negate it (as I keep attempting to do as I’m writing and re-writing this sentence…), my art is tangible proof of the beauty that lives inside me.  That I am beautiful.

That still feels really awkward to write – I am beautiful – but I’m believing it more these days.  FINALLY.

My art knows me better than I know myself.  It sits in front of my face, looks me straight in the eye, and demands to be seen.  It demands for me to hear what it has to teach me.

As I re-read what I just wrote it occurs to me that everything above also applies to God.  I see God through art.  I worship God through art.  God speaks to me through art.

I get it now.

I trust my art.

I trust my God.

I trust myself.

I’m ready.

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Learning to let go

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I read this quote from Melody Beattie’s “More Language of Letting Go”, realized it was my own prayer, and drew it out in my new journal.

When it comes down to it, I struggle with trusting God completely and I struggle with trusting myself too. Even after all of the things I’ve seen this year that have demonstrated God’s closeness and protection, I still doubt. It’s as if I instantly forget everything that just happened and project my own rational and irrational fears onto my future – instead of using the past greatness of God to trust that he will provide an amazing life for my future. I’m learning to trust more and let go of my own (perceived) control over the universe more too… But there are setbacks along the way.

Much like recovering addicts have to decide every day (and hour… and minute…) that they’re not going to use drugs, I need to decide everyday (and hour… and minute…) that I’m going to hold on loosely to my plans for my immediate and distant future.

Baby steps…

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World Domination Indeed

Maybe it’s the timing of all of this summer’s drama mixed with inspiration and motivation from attending the World Domination Summit two weeks ago (more on the WDS conference itself in a future post), but I’m officially done selling myself short.

Screw modesty.  Screw insecurity.  Screw imperfection.  Screw my unfinished, yet-to-be-solidified plans for the future.

The future is now.

I have so much to offer the world.

I have so many ways I want to love people who are lonely and hurt and brokenhearted.

I’m going to channel it into my art somehow – not sure what that’s going to look like yet or how it will play out, but it’s coming.

Because as of today, I KNOW I can change the world.

I’m already doing it.

Mark Twain said “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”  It occurred to me about 10 minutes ago, that I know why now.  Not just because of events this year, but because of everything that’s brought me to this point and all I’ve learned to get here.

  • I’ve learned that I am the friend I hoped I would be in dire and not-so-dire circumstances
  • I’ve learned that I place love as the top priority on my list of values
  • I’ve learned that loving and respecting myself enough to take care of myself isn’t a luxury, it’s necessary for my own survival
  • I’ve learned that compassion and mercy are two of my greatest strengths (and areas of myself I need to protect)
  • I’ve learned that believing in other people and having faith in them blesses both of us, even if they fall short
  • I’m more convinced than ever that love is the most important gift to give – to others and to ourselves.  We simply cannot be whole without it.
  • I’ve learned that love has the greatest impact on those who haven’t earned it
  • I’ve confirmed that running from a person or situation because of fear of being hurt isn’t what I do.  It’s not in me.  Sure I might get hurt, but might also get to love someone who hasn’t felt real love before. What a gift to be able to share.
  • I’m starting to realize how much of an impact my life has had (and continues to have) on the world – even just this year – because of the way God has loved others through me.  We ALL have the potential to change lives by loving the people around us.

I can easily say that I am a different person than who I was last year at this time.  I liked myself last year too, but I’m a better woman and have become more aware of my place in life as a direct result of the people I’ve spent time with and the roller coaster of experiences I’ve had this year.

It’s all prepared me for today and I’m thankful to be exactly where I am right now.

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Two down, three to go – Year 2 of my countdown to self-employment

Two years ago on the 4th of July, I gave myself a self-employment deadline of July 4, 2015 – five years from that day.  Two years later, I’m still feeling far from my goal, but I’m gaining momentum.  I surpassed some huge milestones since last year at this time and I’m celebrating each and every win as it comes.  Here are some of the things I’m celebrating this year:

  • Started writing intentions and drawing in my sketchbook on my train commute to and from work
  • Completed and sold the FOUR custom paintings I was hired to do last summer(!!)
  • Made prints of the above paintings for my portfolio
  • Displayed my art at Starbucks during the month of March
  • Donated a print of my Derrick Rose drawing to the Project Music silent auction to support Lydia Home and was on the Board for the event itself
  • Designed new Mighty Panda business cards and finally committed to calling myself an artist.  My new cards actually say: Artist, Creative Mastermind (go big or go home, right?)
  • Designed and sold a 2012 Mighty Panda calendar
  • Renewed my website domain and hosting for 5 more years!
  • Started the Open Studio Project Facilitator Training Program at OSP and have another weekend of authentic, comforting art making coming up later this month
  • Commissioned to paint a custom panda painting this summer (currently in progress)
  • Completed new multimedia art work including my sad little girl  and my thankful tree pictured above.
  • And I have 4 paintings currently in progress

I have work to do to continue prioritizing my artwork and taking care of myself, but I’ve made some major personal breakthroughs this year that have already served me well.

I’ve learned that I have codependent tendencies.  I thought codependency was when you *had* to be in a relationship to feel good about yourself and since I quite enjoy my own company regardless of my relationship status I never saw the connection.  But after learning that codependency is more about being willing to help other people too much – too much that it becomes unhealthy for myself and interferes with my own health and life.  And ultimately, helping someone too much isn’t good for them either.  After reading up on the subject I’m sure that this is a major reason why I’m not married.  I told you… HUGE breakthroughs.  I’ve recognized patterns before in subtle ways, but now I can explain where my thoughts, feelings, behavior comes from and why.  Now I understand why I’ve gotten into some past relationships and why some past relationships have failed.  Learning is tough, but so worth it.  Now I can start healing in those areas.  Now I know where to focus.

In some ways, I’ve had a rough year so far in 2012, but in other ways it’s been the most blessed year I can remember.  I’ve seen God move this year.  I’ve heard him.  I’ve felt his presence.  I’ve seen him move others around me.  I’ve seen how quickly things that look impossible can become easily accomplished.  I’ve felt supernatural peace when I knew I shouldn’t be, and wouldn’t normally be calm.  God has been working around the clock in my life this year and I’m thankful.  I’m so thankful for my friends and family who continue to support me and love me without restrictions.  I’m thankful for my new friends who have provided me with love and wisdom and continue to hold my hand through some tough decisions.  There is so much love around me.  Around all of us.  I’ve also learned that loving other people where they’re at is never the wrong decision.  No matter what, love is the answer.  Sure that might mean tough love sometimes (allowing someone to walk all over you isn’t loving yourself well or loving them well either), but loving people makes a positive impact in their life and in yours.  I hope that shows through in my art.  That’s my wish for this next year – that my art makes people feel loved and that they are beautiful and worthy and *enough* just as they are.

Sometimes it takes getting knocked in the head (or the heart) to remember that who and where and why we love is not just coincidence.  It’s not just luck.  It’s a blessing.

Speaking of blessings… my family also welcomed a tiny adorable (and unwittingly ferocious!) puppy into our lives this year.  Miss Gracie is a little well spring of love and laughter.  We didn’t know that we had to wait for her to be born before we were ready for a new puppy.  Now that she’s here, it makes perfect sense and it was worth the wait.

I’m learning to let go of the things I try so hard to control in my life.  I’m learning that once I get to wherever it is I’m supposed to be and whoever I’m supposed to spend my life with, it’ll be worth the wait.

This weekend is WDS 2 – perfect timing for a new beginning.  Perfect kick off to year 3 of 5…

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