I’m Still Here!

 A single act of kindess,

Like a stone thrown in a pond,

Sends rings of ripples outward

That travel far beyond;

And joining other ripples

Flow outward to the sea;

A single act of kindness

Affects eternity.

–author unknown

 

I never thought that life AFTER the worst of the pandemic would be just as weird as DURING it. But here I am, having a rough summer and a crisis of faith.

Earlier this year, I walked away from my longest paid writing gig, 12 years of writing for FineArtViews.com. It wasn’t my highest paying gig by a long shot. But the weekly deadlines encouraged me to get regular in my writing habits, and my goal was my highest purpose:

  • To encourage creative people to keep making the work that brings them joy/solace/restoration rather than focusing on fame and money.
  • To not let others judge them on their medium, their process, their skill, etc. To embrace what helps them deal with everything else in life, whether they earn a living by it or not.
  • To persevere no matter how much, nor how little recognition they receive from it.

Because like a pebble in a pond, when we share our work with the world,  someone else’s heart might be lifted, too, though we may never have the privilege of knowing that. I also know that the most powerful connections created through my artwork, come from in-person contact (shows, studio visits, etc.)

When that goal was superceded by the financial goals of the company, I knew it was time to go. Yes, I believe in social media and social media marketing, for many reasons. It allows ANY creative person to share their work with the world, whether that leads to fame, fortune, or simply recognition for the work they do. As my favorite comic strip put it so powerfully, making the work of our heart isn’t about having an audience. It’s about having a voice.

It’s not about having an audience, it’s about having a voice.

 

But I cannot let someone else stifle my voice, either. (In their defense, that’s a normal practice in almost every biz, and they still support my website.)

Walking away from that gig felt like I’d lost both my audience and my voice.

And of course, knee replacement surgery in late June, complicated by a debilitating fall in my studio just before my surgery, has resulted in chronic pain and discomfort for months.

It didn’t help that I’d finished my year-long shrine-making series just before. Or rather, I reached a place where the next step was rather daunting, and I still haven’t figured out how to move forward. It had gotten me through the entire pandemic, but now I’m stuck again.

So I’ve been mopey, tired, constantly uncomfortable physically, whiney, and lazy for months now.

But now I can see a little light at the end of my tunnel.

What started the light was making “thank you” pearl earrings. It’s been a thing with me for years. I LOVE real pearls, and I LOVE making pearl earrings. But they hardly ever sell. So I usually give them as thank you gifts to people who are doing good work in the world, or as a thank you for something someone has done for me. I’ve donated three dozen pairs to volunteers who work at a local art center’s gallery shop, folks who work at a wonderful coffee shop back in New Hampshire (because we still mail-order coffee from them, and one person always sends a lovely, uplifting handwritten note in our package), etc.

A few months ago, I went on a pearl earring-making rampage. And it’s not gonna end anytime soon.

First, I checked in with a homeless shelter a few hundred yards down the street from my art studio. Their shelter, the largest in Northern California, is the first step towards getting a homeless person into permanent shelter and supportive services.  I asked what kind of donations suited the needs of their clients. (Now that I think about it, THAT inquiry began when I offered some food and medical supplies left over after we lost our dog Tuck a couple years ago, and offered it to a vet. They said they couldn’t take them, but that there are plenty of homeless folks with dogs who could use them. And this shelter actually lets their clients keep their dogs, an issue that’s often a deal-breaker for homeless people.)

Turns out their greatest need is individual personal hygiene items: Small packets of shampoo and conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste. This was harder to accomplish than I’d thought, as individually packets are being banned in some states due to massive use of non-reuseable plastics. They suggested a work-around for the former, which worked. But I was stumped by the dental care thing.

So I reached out to our family dentist, asking where they purchase their toothbrushes/toothpaste sets we get at our appointments, and could I piggy-back an order (paid) on their next order.

Their response? They donated…DONATED…a bundle of them.

So I made earrings for the dentist and their staff.

After delivering the items to the shelter, I realized I could also make thank-you for the shelter staff. A few days later, I delivered a few dozen earrings for the staff and volunteers there.

I shared this with a fellow artist. (I’d made several pairs for them, because they’d done something very kind for another artist.) They said, “OH, I have a friend who’s a dentist, I’ll see if he can donate that stuff, too!” (I just realized I should let her know I can make earrings for that office, too!)

We also rescued not one, but two oppossums this spring, and delivered them to a county wildlife rescue shelter. (One survived it, one didn’t.) It was so wonderful to find an organization dedicated to this, and it turns out they are overwhelmed with injured/abandoned baby critters this year.

So I also delivered several dozen pearl earrings to them, enough for the entire staff, interns, and their volunteers. (We also donated $$$ because that’s just as important as pearl earrings!)

Then the fall, then surgery, and now, major ennui.  I’ve been in physical therapy for my knee for almost a month, but I still have to wait several weeks for physical therapy for my fall. I’ve been achy-breaky, down in my mood, not-so-hopeful, and totally uninspired.

And yet….

I realize I really, really like recognizing our unsung heroes in life.

Recently, I learned a friend back in NH was going through a terrible loss of a loved one, and it broke my heart. On an impulse, I reached out and offered to make them something, a small fiber piece, and they reacted with great enthusiasm.

So I’ve been in the my studio several days this week, almost 3 hours a day. (That’s a record-breaker since my surgery!)

As I worked on it, I realized they were one of the folks who showed up during a very hard time in my life. Yes, I’d gifted them something back then. But it still felt great to be able to alleviate their pain in a tiny, tiny way.

As I worked, I realized I’ve also been in a position to help another good friend back there, who was also there for me during that time.

Ironically, this particular person also had great words of wisdom for me during that time.

There were people I’d gone above and beyond for, in our almost 30 years in NH. But there were a few who were NOT there for me during that difficult period, even as I had been there for them. I complained about that to this friend. And they told this powerful thought:

When we help others during their hard times, the universe sees it.

When we need help, it may come from those we helped. But it may not.

The universe, however, will provide that help, through other people, and other means.

I’ve learned over the years that hard times are….well, HARD. And when we’re in them, it’s not easy to see the good things, the gifts.

It’s only when I look back that I can see the people who did show up, the passing acquaintance, or even complete strangers  who crossed my path with a story that helped me take one step forward. The people whose wisdom helped me stay grounded, if only for a day, or even just an hour.

They are the people who helped me make a tiny shift in perspective, what I now know is an effin’ miracle.

And today, I had to share that with you.

Being grateful for the people who help us move forward. Other people being grateful for us helping THEM move forward. Others joining in. It’s a beautiful cycle that restores me to my better self.

Rambling, I know. It’s how I roll. I could shorten this, but as I wrote, more and more insights popped up.  Plus I write to get MYSELF to a better place, and this is how I do it. For example, I can’t wait to get to my studio today, because I’m am THIS CLOSE to finishing my friend’s project.

If this helps YOU today, well, that’s a gift, too! If not, no worries, I’ll be back soon with useful info, good strategies, and thoughts for hosting a successful open studio event.

But I feel a little bit better today, and I am grateful. And Garfield supports my theory that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get our 100% out there.

UPDATE: I just found out this condition of “blah” is called languishing! And here’s a good article about it in the New York Times.

One day, or ten days…It’s ALL good

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

55 thoughts on “I’m Still Here!”

  1. Luann, This is just lovely. I fell 9 months ago and fractured my left wrist and face. Recovery has been challenging! I appreciate your insights on your (our!) issues so much, and especially your posting the Garfield cartoon. 10% will do—at least for now.

    Thanks!

    Carol H. Dotin 16 Inwood Point Drive San Antonio, TX. 78248 210.408.1954 (h) 210.415.1991 (c)

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holy cow, Carol, YOU WIN!! That’s so much worse, and my heart goes out to you. And if me writing about how I’m finding my way back has helped you even a little, then YOU are my biggest reward! Thank you for letting me know, and sending good thoughts for your healing. Hugs, Luann

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  2. Thank you for this Luann. I alway read your posts and you bring me back to reality. You always find your way and help me to see better to find my own way. Be safe heal and recover. Kind wishes Kerrie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kerrie, your words are the very pebbles-in-the-pond that poem mentions, and I am grateful to hear this from you today! THANK YOU for taking the time to comment, it means so much. And I’m glad you are finding your way home, too.

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    1. I hesitated to even publish this, it felt like whining after what other people have been through this last year. But I’m glad I did, because I felt better after posting it. Proof of my own mantra: Making the work of our heart lifts us up enough to deal with other stuff in life. Thank you for reaching out, Gail, much appreciated!

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  3. HEY LUANNE…..TRY VISUALIZATION AND SELF HYPNOSIS TECHIQUE FOR YOUR KNEE.I ALSO AM A GRAPHITE ARTIST AS WELL AS HYPNOTIST………GO TO A NICE QUITE PLACE…….SIT OR RELAX IN A COMFORTABLE POSITION.BREATHE NORMALLY…….THEN CLOSE YOUR EYES…..AND THE TAKE A NICE DEEP BREATH AD RELAX DEEPER……THE DO IT AGAIN.YOUR IN A LEVEL OF ALPHA BRAINWAVE……..THEN JUST BREATHE. NOW…..YOUR GOING O VISUALISE YOUR INJURY………SEE IT IN YOUR MIDS EYE…….FEEL IT……..AD THE YOUR GOING TO PROJECT THIS IMAGE ONTO A SCRREEN THAT’S IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE .NOW YOUR GOING TO IMAGINE IT HEALING ITSELF.YOU WILL SEE THIS……FEEL THIS AS IT HAPPEN.SEE THIS……FEEL THIS AND BE THIS..DO THIS FOR THIRTY DAYS……EITHER IN THE MORING OR NIGHT…. AND YOU ARE ….YOU IMAGINE YOU ARE HEALED…..AS IF YOU ARE HEALED…..AND ACT AS IF YOU ARE HEALED. I USE THIS WITH MY ARTHRITIS IN MY HANDS..AS A RESULT I HAVE FULL MANUAL DEXTERITY……..NO PAIN OR SWELLING ……AND MY HANDS FEEL GRET………JUST TRY THIS FOR HIRTY DAYS AD LET ME KOW WHAT HAPPENS. SINCERELY, STEVE CORRIVEAU ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aww, Luann. I can’t comment on wordpress anymore…I closed my account with them because I didn’t blog anymore, but now they won’t let me comment there, so I am returning the email here. Not sure it will work. Just wishing you a speedy recovery and thanks for the reminder that gratitude is a huge healer! Love, Carla

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so happy to see you pop up in my mail box again — I’m sorry you’ve had such a tough year, and hearing about your struggle gives me renewed energy to carry on through my own — thinking that the end of 2020 and being able to go out into the world again would be the be all, end all answer was oversimplified — the real answer for me has been just to get up every day and put one foot in front of another — easier some days than others — thank you for reminding me that the universe is watching

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bev, thank you for your comments, and I’m glad you liked this post! I was talking to a neighbor recently, and they confessed they are feeling down and out-of-sorts and couldn’t figure out WHY. I said something similar to what you just said–that it feels like we SHOULD feel better, but that things are still complicated. Our new normal is not really “normal” yet. They said that helped! So simply knowing that others are “in the same boat” though on a different lake can be powerful. And I’m uplifted hearing from YOU, that what I’m feeling is okay.

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    1. I am not that wise! 🥴 But sometimes when I share where I am, it resonates with someone else who’s going through something similar. And that is the power of sharing our creative work in the world. Thank you for “hearing” me today! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Aw, LuAnn, I love you so much! I didn’t realize I’d missed you till your letter arrived just now. Thank you SOOO much for this today. Ive had a scary diagnosis and need to find a new way to paint or whatever it is that my Divine Muse has us up its sleeve for me. I too, have made some decisions re: recommendations for ‘marketing’, after taking from my snailmail box a handful of paper ads and requests for donations ,….. And I completely agree with you about the direction your prior employer had taken. Thanks for the idea for gifts for those to whom gifts are appropriate. I’m making teeny tiny paintings!

    You are a game changer, girl, and the best always follows the best!
    Your adoring fan, Andre

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andre, you cannot imagine how powerful your words are for me today. Let’s just leave it at “A LOT!!!” I got to the point where I realized hunkering down was not helping, yet still hesitated to publish this yesterday. But something told me that if I were feeling this way, maybe someone else was, too. And maybe sharing this would help them a little, too. I am so sorry to hear about your diagnosis, and I’m thrilled you are looking forward to the path your Muse may send you. That takes courage when we are surrounded by fear and doubt. U R doing it right! (Thank you re: FAV, too! They are a good company, they just get lost in the money thing sometimes.) (Don’t they all?!)

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  7. I got goosebumps reading your post. Very heartwarming and so real. I love all your writings even though I rarely comment. Looking forward to your future writings as I was missing them! Here’s to a safe and speedy recovery!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh, I got goosebumps reading YOUR comment! Proof that we matter, we ALL matter, and we all have something to “say” that can uplifet the hearts of others. I’m so grateful you shared this today, thank you!!

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  8. Luann, I had no idea you were going through so much, we sold our home in Florida and moved to the country in Georgia, so I have been out of touch for a few months. I will keep you in my prayers for complete recovery and renewed energy – I know its hard at times and have had a number of ups and downs in my life also, but your writing and beautiful art has lifted my spirits numerous times – words reach out and touch souls as much as art and music, and what you are doing for so many touches hearts and souls. Take care, hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara, what a lovely note, thank you for your thoughts! And I just read your post on Georgia O’Keeffe, from 2015. It was the perfect thing for me to read today! Moves are just as hard as surgeries, even when they are for good reasons. But as you say, we will get through them. Big hugs to you!!

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  9. Hi Luann,

    I have read your writings for years and enjoyed them so much! BUT this piece is the BEST… just so hopeful and inspiring!! I am scheduled for a hip replacement this Monday and never having had surgery before, I am just petrified. I haven’t been working in my studio or really doing much of anything except giving into my fears. A really good friend of mine sent me a meditation tape that I have been listening too and that seems to help a bit. At the end of the meditation it instructs one to ask for a “sign” that the universe understands and acknowledges whatever you are working on releasing (fear).

    When I finished your article, it felt like that sign as well as instructions on how to move forward…giving to and thinking of others.

    Wishing you a healthy body free from pain….and more wonderful ideas for recovery.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
    Marsha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha, first, let me reassure you, hip replacements are the BEST! (From what I hear, shoulders are the worst. Knees? Right in the middle!) 🙂 But I’m not here to diminish your pain. Because you have shown exactly why we need to keep our creative work somewhere in our life, no matter how little space we have for it. As you’ve proven here today, whatever we’re going through, someone else in the world needs to “see” it, if only to realize they are not alone in their pain. I worried about this article so much: Was it too whiny? Is my privilege showing?? Does anyone even care? But I felt so much better after publishing it, and that’s what mattered. You are the proof that when we share what lifts OUR heart, someone else’s heart may be lifted, too. So I’m honored to be placed right up there with your meditation tape (that is a wonderful friend, btw!) And thank you for letting me know this helped YOU today, just as much as it helped me. That is the beauty of our creative work. Big big big hugs to you, best wishes for a successful surgery, and know that I am thinking of you.

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    2. Such a lovely article about overcoming pandemic and post-pandemic challenges. I’ve been ricocheting between creative flow and complete blocks since about January. I’ve crocheted several baby blankets and lots of scarves for charity because it’s soothing and keeps me creative, but doesn’t require the amount of real creativity that my art needs. It’s a win-win when I’m feeling down. Thank you for posting about your challenges – it is validating! Hugs and wishing you a speedy recovery and lots of creative juices.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You just summarized what I wrote into one paragraph–good on you! I’m glad that me simply sharing what I’m going through, and what helped, resonated and helped YOU. You nailed it that these activities don’t demand our “best”. Just our love. Thank you, Roberta!

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    1. I’m sorry you got cut off! I can sometimes “edit” comments, so if there’s something you’d like to add, you can email it to me and I can add it to your post. But it was FABULOUS even though you couldn’t finish your thoughts! ❤

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    1. Marie, thank you for your good thoughts and wishes, I’m glad you liked the article! So far, two steps forward and one step back. But that’s still progress! 🥰

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  10. I was also wondering where you were as I always looked forward to getting your posts. I had lumbar back surgery in April and my life has changed for the better. Still having trouble in the studio but I know at some point I will be back in there. Maybe working on a gift of love would take me to the place I need to be. Thank you for all that you are doing and for setting an example. Wishing you the best in your healing journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Candice, good to hear your surgery went well and has improved your life! I think what “gifts of love” does for us is, there’s no pressure to make something “new” or something we hope will sell, or even to do our very very best. It’s just about making something that might make someone else a little happier. And that might be all we need to get our creative juices flowing again.

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  11. Thank you. Thank you for being brave, writing your truth, and sharing it. I really needed to read this today. 💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Your voice, your insights, the authenticity of your openness about this bumpy period—Luann, these are priceless gifts. No matter how many people respond in writing, I’m betting there are many more whose hearts respond. Less lonely, less stuck, better able to take that next breath, step, or maybe even figure out something that would help someone else…

    I’m grateful to you, for you; the honest, humanness of you:-)
    Hugs,
    Nicole

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I loved reading what you had to share! Sending good vibes that your body pains go away, sooner rather than later. I always enjoy reading your posts. A highlight of each day when it pops in my box.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  14. You don’t know me but I’m a long time subscriber who really appreciates what you do. Having health challenges is so depressing. I’m glad you’re beginning to do better. Knees take a long time. If you need a deadline just think of me and the rest of us struggling artists out here who benefit from your insights. I’m glad you’re still here. All good thoughts and prayers coming your way. Jean

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean, your voice made a difference for me today! I’m honored by your words, and it’s wonderful to know you “hear” me. ❤️❤️❤️❤️ Thank you for letting me know! 🤗

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  15. Keep Rambling! Thank you for reminding me that I am not a failure, because I am not selling a million dollars worth of art from
    my website (from your former employer). I am a people- person and so are my clients that like the personal touch.
    Being a giving person, as you point out, is important and makes us better artists. Instead of spending the day in my studio
    yesterday, I was privileged to be with a friend for her cancer treatment. She is a jeweler and deserving of many pearls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marty, I am SO GRATEFUL for your comments today! And your generosity with your friend speaks volumes about who you are in the world. Good on you, and thank you for sharing your thoughts today, much appreciated!!

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    2. Marty, you are EXACTLY who I am writing for! (After myself, that is…) 😀 “Is money the only measure of your success?” was a question a dear friend asked me years ago, and I have never forgotten their words. Good on you for being there for a friend in their time of need. That….is worth MILLIONS. Big hugs to you!

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  16. Glad you are still here. 🙂

    My mom has dementia and I have a great group of friends who have supported me for years – a little bit here, a little bit there. Last year I made them all sterling silver wire woven hearts as a thank you. They did not expect anything for their generosity but my friendship. I am blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

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