When Life Gets in the Way (Pt. 2)

F**K. I keep waiting for my life to be…less. Less Stressful. Less Hectic. Less Drama. But the thing is, it’s just not going to be. At least not for the foreseeable future.

For awhile there, we were just running screaming and crying through life. Everything was changing moment to moment. Shit was hard and raw and real. Things were mentally and physically exhausting. Things change though and you find yourself getting used to a new kind of normal where the tiredness is a quiet hum on the edge of your brain, the hypervigilance feels like that itchy jumper your Mum used to make you wear and the grief for what should have been and now is not is an ache you can’t describe and are weary of talking about.

My Mother in Law was moved from hospital to respite while we were away on a holiday we planned months before anything had happened. We arranged it, it happened and we thought when we came back that we would be able to bring my Mother in Law home. Long story short, that didn’t happen. It won’t happen. This is not what any of us wanted but it just turns out that sometimes plans go astray, health and dignity and care and compassion need to come first and you have to accept things you never thought you would have to accept. Listen…this sucks. And it is hard. But we still have some time left and I was reminded recently by someone that it’s ok, we can do hard things.

Slowly we are rebuilding a new normal. But my life is still in the way. I factor visits to the aged care home and various errands for one mother and shopping, bills and banking trips, medication reminders, life reminders and visits “just to check” for the other mother into my days. I still have family at home and friends who I neglect too often and chores. It’s a lot. Everyone has stuff like this. It’s ALWAYS there. One day I was thinking about time and how I was going to fit my new life into a schedule when I barely seem to have enough time now and I thought back to something my partner said when we were discussing whether I should take on a new career responsibility or not (ok, so it wasn’t that calm, it was more like me a crying mess on the couch sobbing through a discussion about how I felt like I wasn’t sure I could cope with the added pressure on top of everything I needed to do with the mothers and at home and him pouring me a glass of wine and and wondering how the hell he gets into these situations). Basically he reminded me that if I was currently in that job, I would just have to work my way around these things because life happens whether you are in a new job or not. So he suggested to place myself into that space where I am in that job and try to visualise how I would actually do that and what that would look like for me.

So I did. The first thing I did was work out what my ideal work week would look like. Then I worked out what my ideal day would look like. I tried to fit in all the things that were important to me. Equal amounts of time for art and business on business days plus an extra studio day. Time with my family and friends. Time just for myself. And also, time to sleep. I made my own diary. I have kept bullet journals for years but I needed something a bit more this year so I made my own diary. I downloaded templates for A4 sized pages and put it all together in a binder along with pages that were important to me, like pages for doodling or notes.

I have to say, it really helped. Looking at my day calmly, deciding what I wanted to do with the time I have. Ordering my mind to understand how long tasks take and that some things can be moved. Some days work, some days do not. I can accept that because it is so much less chaotic than it all was and I see progress. When I am really stuck, I refer back to some videos by Struthless who is an artist who does a lot of artist mental health and life advice. I find this video particularly helpful when thinking about goal setting but he has heaps of really helpful videos on his page. Also, this video by the wonderful Jess Karp about creative habits for artists is a filled with fantastic advice from herself and other artists.

Last but not least, making goals for my art weekly and daily. Treating it like it actually IS my job (because it is) and blocking artworks and merchandise into my days and weeks like they are projects with deadlines that have to be met (because they are). This forces me to get my art work done, to keep drawing and sketching out ideas and to get things ticked off my lists.

It seems pretty regimented, but for me, I find comfort in that. When life gets in my way, I think it’s a sign to pay attention to what I need to do and what I want to do and to find a way to make my time work for me as best I can. Not every day is a perfect day. Mostly they are, “You are doing OK!” days. Sometimes they are screaming, crying, my life is a dumpster fire days. But you know what? My life is no longer IN the way, it is simply a matter of finding my way.

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