There is a saying I learned in my hospice training awhile back: Hospice is full of recovering fixers.
The premise is, death is something that can’t be “fixed” or cured. But conditions, including the state of mind for our clients, and hopefully, for family members, too, can be healed.
I would forget this, from time to time. But my amazing supervisor was always there to walk me through the swamp of good intentions back to solid ground.
I recently read about a scientific study on happiness. To paraphrase, it said most of us hold a major goal (or two, or many) in our life, and believe we will be totally happy when we attain it.
But it turns out our happiness is increased in a big way by embracing the steps we take to get there.
If we stop to consider our journey, then the “arrival” feels even richer, and deeper.
That stopped me in my tracks.
I realized that from January 2018 to January 2019, my life has been a hot mess. Despair, sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, and uncertainty, all had SO MUCH FUN WITH ME for thirteen long, harsh months. (I used to discount this stuff by saying, “Hey, nobody died!” until that was no longer true at all.)
In addition to all the drama, my studio on South A Street went from “I have lost my desire to create” to “Geez, this is hard” to “Dang, they sure are noisy, glad it’s ending soon!” to “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME??” to jackhammers, sawing, smog in my studio (yep, you read that right), and demolition, to “Now what?!” to “This is really really hard!!” to “Hallelujah, I can’t believe what just happened!!” (In a good way.)
In between were tiny moments of “I am slowly but surely dealing with this move”. Of course, I started out packing with great care, but by the last day, I was just throwing stuff into boxes. Every box from this stage is a huge “Surprise!!!” moment….
Two examples of how things usually “just work out” in the end:
I’ve already written how, in his desire to have me out of there, my landlord offered a truck and two of his employees to get me moved. This saved us the expense of renting a truck ourselves, doing all the heavy lifting ourselves, and cut almost a week off the end of my move.
I had worried for weeks on how this was ever going to possibly work out. I couldn’t imagine how it could happen. I could not even visualize what I wanted, let alone expect any help.
And in two minutes, the entire problem was solved. (Well. The next 24 hours were full of chaos and mayhem, but again, it was just 24 hours!)
The second thing is more subtle.
All my furniture was now in my studio, and I had a vision of how to lay things out. All I needed was three bookcases: One very tall and skinny, one that was tall and very sturdy, and a third that was narrow-ish (under 29” wide), with two bottom shelves that were at least 15” tall. Hopefully, something that would fit in with the rest of my storage/display furniture. And it definitely had to be affordable. I also realized a table we already had that I thought would work for that third workstation was not suitable at all. Dang.
I also needed a wheeled office chair, but I didn’t think that would be hard. (Ha!)
Now, it gets complicated from here, so if you don’t have the patience, skip to the end…..
I couldn’t find any of the five pieces I needed, not even a wheeled office chair. (Was there a run on them in January??)
I searched every thrift shop and antique store around. I looked online: Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor, Craigslist. Nada.
In one thrift store known for its huge furniture collection, I found two candidates for the book shelf. But they were literally the only two items that were not for sale. One was being used for displaying shoes, the other (though it had a price tag) was being used by the staff. What are the chances?!
Fortunately, I doubled-back a day later, to my favorite thrift shop again, and found two perfect candidates for the first two bookcases. Yippee!!
But that third one was just too crazy, and much harder to find.
I finally researched “used office furniture” online, and came up with some stores that might work. But most of them were closed until Monday.
On a hunch, and in desperation, I went back to the thrift store that had the first “perfect” candidates that weren’t for sale. Maybe there was something I overlooked?
There was. Off in the book section was a medium-height cupboard with one shelf. It looked a little like my printer’s type tray drawers, but no drawers. It looked wide, but I thought what the heck? I could use it for something else. And the price? $10. (Yes, you read that right, too!) While I was there, I found a desk that might work for my last workstation. It was $15. What luck! I would come back and pick it up later.
I had to wait for the store to open on Monday. I was there ten minutes after they opened. I brought the cupboard back to the studio and it was EXACTLY THE RIGHT WIDTH. (I am now feeling “heard” by the universe.)
But the desk….. I realized it had no “overhang” to clamp on my two wonderful work-lamps. Was that a deal-breaker??
Sure enough, while dropping off a donation at another thrift store, I found a) an office chair for $5 (sensing a theme here??) and the perfect table, in the perfect color, with the perfect overhang, and extremely sturdy. It was big. It might mean rearranging my space yet again. So I reluctantly left it.
And realized that night that YES IT WAS THE PERFECT TABLE. The first choice was not only two small, using tabletop lamps would take up even more room.
So I called the store the next morning, before they were even officially open, thinking I could leave a message to please please please hold the table for me until I could get there after another engagement.
Someone answered the phone! (What are the chances??) And they said, “We usually won’t do that, but we will!”
After my meeting, we picked it up and took it out to the new studio. It fit! I simply put it in sideways to the wall, rather than up against it. It broke up the space nicely, with plenty of room to spare. (I “donated” the first table at the first store back to them. They serve a wonderful cause, and I was only out $15, after all.)
So here I am today, almost done with the set-up. (Yes, I’ll try to get some pics.)
I even found the perfect place for the dolls and puppets so critical for making my art. (Not really, but I love ’em.)
Everything fell into place. Everything I needed, I found. Everything I found, was hugely affordable. Everything worked out even better than I had hoped.
Today I realized how wonderful I’m feeling again.
It was a year where I, I felt so drained of energy, I did not even go to my studio for weeks at a time. Even working on my art could not restore me to my happy place. That was hard.
And here I am today, realizing that this week in February is the most amazing week I’ve had in a loooooong time. (YES, successful shopping helps!)
I am restored to my better self. My studio is lookin’ good! Yesterday I set up some of my artwork for the first time in ages. I have an extra work station. I can’t believe how cohesive all the bits and pieces look, too. I can still hardly believe I found the five perfect components to complete my studio layout, within three days.
It’s starting to come together! I’ve actually got artwork up! And bottles. Old crusty bottles…
Yesterday, my new art community had a meeting about a major event we’re having in a couple months. It sounds full of promise, and I got to watch how folks participated and interacted. It sure looks like a roomful of grown-ups!
Today the sun is out, and cherry trees are blooming. Today I realized I don’t need any more infrastructure/ or furniture. Today I realized with a bit of luck, I can be back to work by the end of the week.
As I write this, I marvel at all the things that simply fell into place, beginning with that second offer of studio space from Julian and Anna those first few days in 2019. I see the “change in perspective” that constitutes a miracle, a change that lets me breathe, and relax (figuratively speaking!). I can finally let go of the anger, angst, resentment, and fear. I am ready to embrace my new situation and my new community.
I am focused on enjoying every minute of unpacking and setting up, even those boxes full of haphazard stuff I threw together in panic. It feels good to realize not everything has to be “forced” into working. Sometimes it all just falls into place, despite our worst fears and doubts.
Today feels full of promise, and hope.
And today, I hope for you, when times are harsh and dark, to find your own beautiful moments of light and grace. Somewhere, someone wishes you well, someone or someplace has exactly what you need, and something will remind you of how beautiful life can be. Embrace it!
There is never really an end to “the journey”. But I am back to enjoying the steps along the way.
Do you have stories of things that worked out better than you could have ever hoped or dreamed? Or a goal you set that you savored all along the way? Please share! We all need to be reminded of the possibilities. Someone may simply need to hear your story today!