Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Adventures in Selling, Part Three: Dreams and Shadows

Last week was Halloween - a time to bring the skeletons out of the closet and wear them on your skin. For a few brief hours, I became a tiger. It feels good to look and act differently than normal. It's fun to see the beautiful, horrible, and fantastic out on the sidewalks - dancing, collecting treats, and reveling in the night.

Me and Dozer. He wasn't fooled by my cattish-ness.

Which brings me to the subject of dreams and shadows..

It's easy to have a dream and feel longing for it because you "just didn't try" or "life got in the way." The dream can remain glow-y and beautiful in the distance, something that "could have been" but just wasn't. Sometimes it's great to have certain dreams stay in the distance, because maybe they really are more beautiful that way. But some dreams are worth the challenge.

The real question for the unfulfilled dreams is, "What keeps you from trying?"

One thing I've been learning these days is that grasping onto a dream and shaping it into an achievable goal will open a can of worms that may be difficult to face. Achieving your dreams can alter important relationships in your life (for good or ill), make you face personal demons, and reveal parts of yourself and your life that, once inspected, MUST change. Deep down, I think that most people are unconsciously aware that this can happen.

Change is scary. But Change can also be very good.

A Halloween-y display at my friend Sarah Hand's house

In my last posting about how I made a breakthrough with my own attitudes toward money, I mentioned that there were other issues holding me back from being able to make a living. While the dough hasn't been flowing in like a raging river (it's more like a trickling creek, hopefully gathering strength!) I feel relatively more calm and trusting these days that it'll keep growing bit by bit. But my feelings have run the gamut from spazz-y to peaceful.

By the beginning of October, I had contacted over 100 stores asking if they'd like to carry my cards. I added 13 new stores through my efforts (22 total stores so far!) which I am proud of. But after the small slew of orders, there was a dry spell, and I decided to take a break from contacting stores so I could work on other projects. I was frankly sick of thinking about my notecard business.

I have mixed attitudes towards freedom and responsibility. I will never be a 9-5 kind of person - it's just not in my nature. Throughout my life, I have always wanted to be free with my art, to do only what I enjoy. But running my card business is showing me that no one is totally "free." In fact, running my own business is harder in some ways because I face full responsibility for every decision I make. There isn't a boss to manage me. I am still not sure how this business will grow, and sometimes I wonder if I should quit because it can be overwhelming and too hard at times. On the other hand, going back to what I was used to would be frustrating and unsatisfying.

What is freedom? Was I really free when I was barely making enough money and worried about it all the time? Was I free when I was doing what was familiar to me, and my dreams were beautiful and distant? Can I always just do what I want to do, and will that make me happy?

The answer for me is "No." I've got to compromise if I want to be happy. That means bending my brain into different shapes and looking at the long-term. Rather than striving to have all the answers now, I can grow to be the capable person I want to be. This means learning the legalities of running my business (that alone is nerve-wracking!), being adaptable to change, and getting help when I need it.

Hot cider and treats from a Fire Ceremony party that I attended in October.

In the last couple of months, I took a creative writing class called "Writing the Shadow," taught by Douglas Jones at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond. In Jungian terms, the Shadow is the part of ourselves that we find unacceptable, the part that haunts us or that we try to hide from others. Through writing and thinking consciously about how to see and integrate the shadow side of myself, I realized that there is someone in my life who I greatly admire but who haunts me in many ways both positive and negative - my dad. Throughout my life, my dad has demonstrated, through words and actions, a trust in life and in his abilities that I have never fully embodied. Even when he's told me about his struggles, I still see my dad as being magical. But by striving to be like him, I have lived in his shadow.

I can see now that trying to conduct life like my dad doesn't allow me to be the self that I am. I want to free the part of me that never feels good enough for my own standards. I want to accept that I will always be a bit doubtful and fearful, and that's okay. It hasn't kept me from doing things that are brave, if my heart says they're worth doing. I don't have to feel declarative and confident about everything. Sometimes just muddling through is good enough - and I suspect that's how many seemingly-confident people do it, too!

After taking my shadow writing class, I learned that the parts of ourselves that we are afraid to look at are the parts that make us human. And these things are beautiful in their own way. They make us complex, layered, imperfect. We cannot have strengths without weaknesses, and we cannot have weaknesses without strengths.

True change occurs within. True change comes from looking at yourself more clearly through a process of heartbreaks and triumphs, and what follows - whether that takes days, months, or years - is a "symptom" of change, not the change itself. It's the fruit that grows from the seed. I look at all that I've done in the past as building towards my dreams and informing what I decide to do each step of the way. Looking at my life as an accumulation of thoughts, actions, and creations is much more healthy than judging whether I have succeeded or failed at any given moment - as if I or anyone else has the right to decide that!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a wonderful "Fire Ceremony" hosted by my artist friends Sarah Hand and Suzanne Vinson. Sarah makes dreamy paper-mache dolls, sculptures and whimsical paper collages. Her work just makes you feel happy.

Shadow box by Sarah Hand

Suzanne is a minister and artist who makes art and hosts art & spiritual retreats and creativity circles. She makes fantastically colorful paintings, mixed media art, and wonderful wisdom cards. During our ceremony, I picked out her "Soar" card to focus my intentions for the night because I am ready for my art, business, and life to truly soar and thrive.

Wisdom card by Suzanne Vinson


For the ceremony, Suzanne helped us focus on the aspects that fire brings to us - it's focus, warmth, and also destructive power. I won't share all of the ceremony here because it just seems more powerful to keep some of it to myself, but it involved thinking about things we wanted to let go of in our lives and other parts that we wanted to bring in. One of my intentions was to make peace with my shadows and to integrate them into my life, among other things. There was percussion, a bonfire, and sparklers involved - such fun! 


Dear Readers, I'm sure you have felt conflicted about your dreams and have faced plenty of shadows mixed in with your sunny days. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!