March 26, 2014

Spring, Where Are You?

Winter weary. Frost fatigued. Ice impatient. It's interesting how the very people who look forward to winter's first magical snowfall can be the same ones who don't want to see one more single snowflake at the season's end. Count me in. I am tired of wearing boots, hats and mittens. I don't want to scrape ice off the car's windshield one more time or shovel the front steps. I'm finding it hard seeing photos of blossoming trees and plants in others' blogs and Instagram feeds. I am aching to see my garden.

Although the calendar says spring arrived here about a week ago, this is still very much winter weather.

And yet, once temperatures rise, Meeko and I will no longer be able to take our daily forest walks. The little forest at our street's end will be too wet and swampy in a matter of days or weeks to walk in. So, I realized that instead of hating the last few days of this long, long winter, I should be cherishing its final moments. So I shifted my focus and my mood followed. Interesting. A recipe perhaps for other areas of my life?

I took these photos near the end of the day two days ago while trying to drink in the beauty of the snow, shadows and light. I thought about the freedom and joy that these forest walks give Meeko several months a year. I thought about the times I laugh out loud at Meeko's crazy antics in the snow or his goofy expression as he runs back to my side on the path. I thought about the welcome break these walks give me in my day and the peacefulness they provide to my spirit.

Oh spring, I can't wait for you to come but do you know what winter, I'm actually going to miss you.

The sun goes down and one season slowly concedes to another.

“It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” 
― Mark Twain

March 12, 2014

My Awkward Social Life

I guess I really mean my awkward social media life but I’m not sure that they’re so different. The other evening, I asked my husband if he would go to a meeting coming up at one of our daughter’s schools, saying that I really didn’t enjoy doing things like that. He said to me: “You’re not very sociable, are you?” I actually burst out laughing and said to him “You’re just figuring this out after being married to me for 20 years?”

I wouldn't describe myself as anti-social but I tend to be shy and have always been sensitive. Maybe that makes me careful around people. I’m not unfriendly. I like people very much but I’m not naturally gregarious. I like spending time by myself. I can always count my close friends on one hand and they have changed over the years.

Here’s some inside information. If you want to torture me, tell me to go into a huge crowd of strangers and mingle. If I think of the least favorite places I’ve been in my life, the high school cafeteria comes to mind. That’s a long time ago but I still remember that horrible sense that everyone was looking at me as I walked in (I know! They weren’t!) and knowing that I would never be one of the cool kids yet really wishing that I was (I wasn’t!).

What does this all have to do with social media?

When I first launched my blog, I never would have predicted that I would also be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and sometimes Pinterest and Flickr. Me, have a social media presence? What am I doing mingling in a gargantuan crowd of strangers?

One of the very best parts of social media is being able to connect with like-minded people around the world. I have found that there is a beautiful creative community online. I am grateful for the friends I have here at this blog as well as the other sites I frequent. I have met some wonderful online companions, connected with their hearts and minds, and found sources of creative inspiration and personal strength. 

So on a good day, everything social-media-wise is great. I like to encourage other people and it feels good when others do that for me. I enjoy seeing the art that others are producing. I am a curious person and like learning new things. I love seeing the beautiful commonality of our days (the sunrises, the sunsets, treasures from nature, our gardens, our studios, our kitchens, our pets). Because I work on my own, it’s nice to have the camaraderie of others online who lead similar lives--someone to share a joke with, a frustration, a disappointment. I’m grateful that people in all sorts of countries have found me and my paintings through my social media accounts. And of course Meeko now has adoring fans around the globe!

But on those other days, the web can be a source of self-doubt and comparison. I can feel like I’m back in that high school cafeteria. I worry way too much if people like what I post. After each post (here and elsewhere), I watch to see who likes it and worry about those who didn’t. It’s not rational because I don’t see everything that everyone else posts so I don’t like everything of theirs. Plus, it’s not normal to like everything! Every now and then, a comment will hurt my feelings (like the person who posted the backhanded compliment under one of my paintings on Facebook 'I didn't know you could paint that well!'). Or I will follow someone I find interesting but it is obvious that they don't find me interesting at all. Following other artists' feeds is a wonderful source of creative inspiration but during slow periods for my Etsy shop, if others’ streams are filled with photos of the stacks of orders they are sending out, it’s easy to compare myself and feel discouraged no matter how happy I am for their success.

My solution is sometimes to take a little break from it all. That’s probably a healthy thing to do. These past two weeks, I haven’t followed my normal routines. ChloĆ© was on her March school break last week and Emma is on her break this week. When others are in the house, my concentration goes haywire. So I’ve been posting much less on my different social media accounts. I miss it and yet I don’t. It doesn’t make sense to focus outward to the detriment of what’s inside, constantly being a cheerleader for others if I’m not always feeling some sort of benefit in return. Or to be photographing things more than I am living them. Like in anything, balance is required. With social media, I find it’s a delicate balance—I want to participate because of the many good and positive things it offers and that I enjoy, while making sure it doesn’t eat up my self-esteem, painting time, and creative energy. Balance. Moderation. Constant challenges of my awkward social media life. 



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