Artist in residency in motherhood

Artist in residency in motherhood

A power year is about intention and exploration. It’s a way to structure life so that the questions “Where do I begin?” and “What do I do next?” shrink to a manageable size. I’m thrilled to have found a similar tool to reframe parenthood. I start my artist residency in motherhood today. And because the tool is adaptable and I consider myself more of a creative than an artist, I’m calling it a creative residency in motherhood. Here is my statement, if you’d like to watch the process unfold follow my blog or see what I share on Instagram.

Creative’s Statement

Adapted from Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood Statement

I became a mother on April 28, 2018. Right now this aspect of my identity is priority. However, I believe it’s possible and necessary for me to continue writing, thinking and collaborating in a focused, disciplined way. I aim to shape my shifting identity into a form that uses parenthood as a well of abundance instead of viewing it as an energy sucking burden that eats time more voraciously than the very hungry caterpillar.

I will undergo this self-imposed creative residency in order to fully experience and explore the fragmented focus, nap-length office/studio time, limited mobility and resources, and general upheaval that parenthood brings and allow it to shape the direction of my work, rather than try to work “despite it.”

Got analysis paralysis?

One of the clients I started working with recently mentioned how they tend to get analysis paralysis when they are thinking of starting something new. This concept of thinking more than doing, is so common and one of the main obstacles individuals must face when embarking on something like a Power Year.

start-a-journeysThere can be a tendency to want to start out excellent or perfect at something. This desire can hijack our ability to try new things that stretch us and make us grow. I imagine Dr. Carol Dweck would say that this challenge is rooted in the fixed mindset mentality.

When I’m working with clients who slip into the groove of analysis paralysis, one thing I emphasize is that experience rewires the brain. Yay plasticity! Each of us has the ability to reframe how we approach problems and our ability to make change in our lives. It takes work, but is possible.

I am always impressed when I see a client who is willing to do heavy cognitive lifting during their Power Year. It’s so essential and beneficial, I have no doubt that the client who shared their tendency of analysis paralysis will shift that habitual thinking by the end of our time working together.

Joyful living

How do we allow more joy into our lives? Is there armor to dismantle? Are there relationships to renew? Is it time to stop turning to the news to be entertained? Can we let go of judgement; both doing it and fearing others are judging us?

The beauty of joy is that it’s accessible to everyone. And although it may be tempting to feel guilty about experiencing joy, when it feels like humanity has lost its collective mind, it’s times like these when harnessing joy in our lives is so important. Joy is pure, and can be found in the most ordinary of moments. When’s the last time you experienced joy?

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Endowment effect is killing us

I’ve been getting rid of a lot of stuff lately. Practicing what I preach when it comes to understanding that the things we have don’t define us—we define ourselves. One of the challenges of getting rid of something like a pair of cute shoes that I haven’t worn in over a year is that the endowment effect kicks into gear.

Basically, the endowment effect says that you value something more because you own it. This is why the question, “If I didn’t already have this item, how much would I pay for it?” helps when purging clothes that don’t fit or haven’t been worn in years. I’ve been thinking about the endowment effect and how it seems like it’s at play with all the horrendous gun related terror that’s been weighing heavy on my mind lately.

It feels like our country’s gun politics are a box full of wires that have accumulated over the years: old cell phone chargers, speaker wire, USB cords, extra ear buds, phone chargers for the car, wires that go with the t.v., wires that go with the computer. They’re all tangled up and doing nothing except for frustrating the hell out of us because to untangle and get rid of them seems impossible. Yet, we hold on to the mess because it’s familiar to us. We own it. It’s ours. The Second Amendment and all its semiautomatic outcomes are literally killing us.

We cling to the right to bear arms like it defines us. As if by letting go of it, we let go of our autonomy, our identity, ourselves.

From where I’m standing, our world looks like a mess. A complicated tangle of policies that don’t serve people, institutionalized racism, consumer madness that trashes the planet, and so on. It’s overwhelming and heartbreaking when you start to think about it, so our tendency is to either ignore it or be paralyzed by it. It’s time to declusterf%*! our world, one outdated thought//system//policy at a time.

Connecting the dots

I like themes because they’re fun and help me be intentional. Jim Henson themed party? Yes, please! Toilet themed picture series? Of course. Theme years? A must.

I turn 36 today and decided that the theme for this year is connecting the dots. Last year was personal development, which consisted of devouring all kinds of books from the library, turning the eye inward and living my purpose every day. Letting go of last year’s theme is proving more painful than I would have imagined; as if letting go means I don’t value personal development anymore. That’s not true. Letting go just means making space to focus on connecting the dots!

If every impactful person//book//speech//experience in my life is a dot, what picture is formed if I connect them all? That is what I hope to discover this year.

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Hard habit to break

For the past 10 days I’ve limited my time on Instagram and Facebook to 10 minutes total each day; I literally set an alarm and close everything out when it goes off. Limiting my time online is something I’m doing as part of the creativity challenge I’m participating in this month—the idea is that in order to make space for creativity to bloom, my day needs to be free of distractions (which abound online) and habits that eat up time that could be used creating. For the first few days of my self-inflicted limit, 10 minutes flew by and I found myself habitually reaching for my phone to check-in on what each of the apps’ feeds had to offer me.

IMG_9069My awareness of the reach made me able to stop it; almost like I was able to watch my hand reach for my phone in slow motion, and my brain redirected my hand, reminding it, “We’re replacing phone time with reflection or creation, remember?!”

I started thinking about habits in general—how pervasive and powerful they are, which makes sense because they work on a neurological level. I’ve been in awe of our human brains for as long as I can remember; I posted the John Milton quote on my bedroom door when I was in high school, “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” It’s so expansive and complex! The reptilian part of our brain is mighty and essential—it keeps us alive, but can also hijack our thoughts, causing us to fear the simple act of being separated from our loved ones (catastrophe thoughts, anyone?). The basal ganglia is a part of the reptilian brain and stores habits. This small golf ball sized oval of cells is where my habit of reaching for my phone is stored, along with other automatic behaviors I don’t have to think about (tying my shoes, brushing my teeth, pouring water from a pitcher, etc.). I suppose I’m working on dismantling some old habits and forming new ones this month. Sure, habits are powerful, but they can also be reshaped. And I’m a firm believer that any habit that isn’t serving you is a habit worth changing.

A key to changing a habit is identifying the trigger or cue that initiates it. In the case of me reaching for my phone, the cue is a lull in activity or a transition from one activity to another. Next, replacing the habit with a more desirable behavior is needed. Instead of reaching for my phone, I reach for my journal and spend a few minutes jotting ideas down or reflecting. Lastly, the replacement activity must be satisfying to me, I must identify the benefit and view it as a reward, for the new habit to stick.

So much of our lives are made up of habits! By definition, a habit is something we don’t have to think about when we do it. What habitual thoughts or behaviors of yours are no longer serving you?

Clients: Do you have a specific habit you’d like to change? If so, bring it up during our next call or email connect.

Small talk

While the nation shakes its collective fist at TSA for failing to get passengers through security in a timely fashion, I found myself staring down one TSA man in particular during my most recent travel. In what was most likely an attempt to seem charming and personal, this TSA worker was greeting travelers as they waited for their IDs and boarding passes to be checked. “Where are you headed?” was his opener, and then small talk ensued, based on the traveler’s answer.

He asked a little girl in front of me where she was going, and when she said “Florida,” he replied, “Well then you should be smiling.” Okay, so this response might seem innocent and like no big deal (it’s just small talk, right?), but I happen to believe that nobody has the right to tell another how they SHOULD be feeling or expressing themselves.

A potential lesson the little girl learned from this interaction filled with subtle shaming (any time “should” is used, there’s a degree of shame involved):

How you actually feel doesn’t matter, it’s important to appear happy and pleasant.

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The small talk we choose can make the skies friendly for young people to soar

Many of us might be guilty of saying something similar to a young person; “Smile!”; “This is fun, stop taking yourself so seriously!”; “This is not the end of the world, get over it.”; “When I was your age, I loved making new friends,” and so on. The thing is, what seems like small talk to us has the potential to make a lasting impression on a young person. I propose we stop being lazy small talkers and take the time and energy to really see and listen to the young people in our lives. I’m confident that if we do this, it will benefit their mental health and sense of self.