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
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When that goal was superceded by the financial goals of the company, I knew it was time to go.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.
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.
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.