Being your best self: 5 things you can start doing today

Where I am now

 

I have not been my best self. I am going through a contentious divorce. All divorce is painful, mine has punitive circumstances. The last year and a half, if my husband wasn’t feeding our daughter, I didn’t get fed. I’ve had no access to the family finances, so to say it was difficult would be an understatement (and there are many details I won’t share here as too many would be affected). I came back to a home in disarray and with very little support or material the house became a safer, happier place for my children and pets. People made it to where they needed to be on time and started thriving and laughing again. Everyone but my husband, who believed I didn’t work. Despite 4-6 hours of chauffeuring time, walking the dogs every two hours,  child care so my elder daughter could work, meals, dishes, sweeping as well as writing and illustrating, learning new technology, formatting books for and illustrating books for others, he was convinced I am a slacker. I think what he meant is I didn’t get paid. He refused to acknowledge or value the contributions I did make to our family, and now a court will end up deciding much of it.

illustration, Cinderyella left behind markers and water on Bristol
illustration, Cinderyella left behind markers and water on Bristol

 

In the course of the last few days, I was thrown out of my home and landed in a softer spot. It is by no means easy, I left my child and pets. But I’m in a place I can concentrate on my work, what I want, and not be beholden other than what I do for my friend, who is BRILLIANT but a bit of a pack rat (truth be told I can be that way as well). In thinking  how we are going to be moving forward, not only helping myself but my friend, these are the simple mantras I will try to practice daily.  I share because I know many struggle, often to get a bit of it of what they used to love into their lives, but also to maintain the joy and the best pieces, the things they love about themselves.

 

My Process

  • Believe in yourself first

This is a period of introspection for me. Prior to having children, I really had no regrets. I lived my life on my terms, and was as honest as a human could be. Some found it off-putting, I found it freeing, for the most part. But that changed when I had kids. Looking back on the regrets I have, I realized they were often when I didn’t listen to myself. Someone suggested something or worse coerced something, and I went along.

Just because someone believes something or says something of you, does not make it true. What makes it true is if you agree with them. If you agree with them, you still have decisions to make. You may think that something is a bad habit and when someone else points it out, tacitly agree. You don’t have to endure the bad habit. You have the power to change. On the other hand, if someone says things like. “You won’t make it, you’re wasting your time,” or “You aren’t any good at this,” (or in my case, “you don’t work”)  that only matters if you think they’re correct. You’ll need to examine why you would take their word over your own, when you know yourself best. Do realize that doing something simply for the enjoyment, is a valid thing as well.

  • Incorporate joy, fun, creativity, what you LOVE into your life

I like to keep bits and pieces I love around for inspiration. A clump of moss, a twined branch a beautiful piece of cloth (especially if it’s got sequins or embroidery). The don’t have to be large, I enjoy them being tiny and something nearby so I can look at my secret joy and just breathe a bit. I listen to New Age music when I work… I think Lindsey Stirling, Enya, Loreena McKennitt, R. Carlos Nakai and of course ANY bit of the soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans gives me bliss. I purposefully look for something to smile at, or laugh at.

I know quite a few people who are caretakers of one or another. Some are sandwiched, taking care of children and elderly parents or people with disabilities. When that happens it’s easy to get into a slog and forget pieces of yourself. That is when you must hang on tighter. Find community, and make room for it. Include those you love in this as much as you can, and it not only makes everyone’s life a bit fuller, but shared interests not only build bonding but adds TIME to all it and it becomes a rich experience. Listen to your inner voice about when to joke or empathize. Whether it’s with yourself or with those around you. A real laugh goes a long way to easing real pain.

A few years ago, I had to relearn how I loved to draw. It was different, my eyes had diminished and I couldn’t seem to learn Photoshop. I found Will Terry’s very reasonably priced course on folioacademy.com (he’s since created SVS- School of Visual Storytelling, along with Folio).  He spoke of Photoshop, a computer, techie program in painterly terms, and voila! I’ve been working and learning about Photoshop ever since. Think about what it is you understand and find interfaces and concepts that overlap if you’re trying to learn something new.

Baby faery Lily, Photoshop, I learned to use Photoshop by painting things I love, flowers, babies, bubbles, fae. I can be tricked.... so can you!
Baby faery Lily, Photoshop, I learned to use Photoshop by painting things I love, flowers, babies, bubbles, fae. I can be tricked…. so can you!
  • Allow for the “new” and “mistakes”

Fear kills joy and moving forward quicker than a knife. At least with a knife you have to bleed out, with fear, you don’t take that step. Or you do, and then stop in your tracks with all the negative. There is NOTHING in this life you’ve learned, that wasn’t a process, and took time. It took effort and sucking sometimes at it. We often just want to “have done”, and have been trained out of the joy of doing.

If you’re doing something new, you can do it for yourself alone. Share when you’re ready. You’re under no obligation to share at all, but people do better when they do and learn more, so don’t fear sharing too much. I’ve been mentored by some of the best in the fields of endeavors, from calligraphy to creating adult coloring books, to writing and illustrating for children. They wouldn’t have helped if I didn’t share and show my dedication and heart.  Some of the very best things I’ve learned from mistakes and failure. I don’t have to be the best. I have to be the best I can be. My competition is with myself. And yes there are times I’m envious. What I’ve learned is that person has something—an ability, a piece of work, an ethic, that I would like in my life. Instead of focussing on what I lack, I focus on how to get more of THAT into my life.

  • Do what you love religiously

The only way to improve is to do it. Chinese calligraphers when they study spend an entire year, crushing ink and preparing paper for the master. The first year is one stroke. I don’t have that patience or discipline. But it takes dedication and practice to have anything come naturally. I’ve drawn my entire life, so my brain, eye, and hand are fused into one big hardwire. I don’t even know how I get the proportions usually because it’s second nature to me (though certain depths are not. If you have an overfull life, carve five minutes, 1/2 hour an hour or two a day. You may have to eliminate something else to make room for the new thing, that’s true whether it’s time, space or just what’s in your head. All of this creates a word I’ve come to love… “Discipline”. Many see this as a punishment. It is not. It is how you build the life you want, and be the person you want to be.

  • And finally, organize yourself

Whether it’s your space, or time make the things that are around you, SERVE you. If you don’t use it, or won’t use it, why keep it? “In case” is not a good enough excuse, unless it’s medical supplies. Keeping things you use a lot near and in easily accessible places will cut down time looking or getting to, and save it for DOING.  Four questions to ask yourself:

  1.  Have I used it in the last 12 months?
  2. Will I use it in the next 12 months?
  3. Do I have a deep-seated emotional connection to this thing? And 
  4. Does it serve the person I want to be?

IF the answer is no, find someone who wants it, give it to G00dwill, recycle it, or if necessary THROW it away. Develop small habits, that feeds what you want to be. Often writers and artists carry small notebooks or pads that when they have five, ten minutes, they can access ideas or other bits. Having all of your materials in one place that you can easily access will make it easier to learn that embroidery project, paint that painting, create that drawing.

Feel free to check out my books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Agy-Wilson/e/B007JRPH5U/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1454048441&sr=8-1 and my Facebook fanpage: http://www.facebook.com/agywilsonwork 

Dream Kanji. Found in my shops, based upon my rubberstamp design, rendered in Photoshop copyright Agy Wilson
Dream Kanji. Found in my shops, based upon my rubberstamp design, rendered in Photoshop copyright Agy Wilson

 

 

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