Be an Enthusiast

Since landing face first into reality upon returning from an amazing vacation and going back to work full-time after nearly a year of a sweet part-time schedule with Little Man, I haven’t had much time to blog, and frankly, haven’t felt like I had much to contribute since I was in a bit of a funk. It’s hard to leave your baby with somebody else. It’s hard to spend your time doing something to earn money rather than being with this little person who has become the center of your universe. That said, I’m coming out of grieving, counting my blessings because there are a lot more difficult things people have to go through, and refocusing on how to make the most of the situation I’m in. Part of that is remembering to be an enthusiast. I don’t have the time right now to read all the books I want to or travel as much as I’d like or to make much art, but instead of feeling frustrated about that, I am trying to find things I can get excited about all around me.

When I was an art teacher, I had a quote by Henry Miller hanging in the room. “Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” I moved to San Francisco to experience interesting, throbbing culture. Nine years later, it’s easy to be numb to it as I go about my business. Why live here if I am not engaged in exploring my enthusiasms? So, lately, I have been trying to do things that wake me up, that get my pulse racing, and wouldn’t you know it, I feel positive, have ideas, and am ready to create again (in whatever small chunks of time I can piece together, usually late at night like this, which means I’m not getting much sleep lately, but c’est la vie).

Things that have been getting me going:

-Changing my routine: Since going back to walking dogs everyday, I try to drive down alternative streets while I’m picking them up, take them to various parks, choose the path less trodden, anything to keep me out of the autopilot mode I so easily fall into. If I can be present in the moment, like dogs always are, I enjoy the walks on a visceral level. I can feel strength flow through my body as it moves. I remember what an ardent admirer I am of trees and how grateful I am for fresh air and open spaces. All it takes is a conscious shift in my awareness.

-Noticing things: Have you seen the amazingly large new statue in front of City Hall? How about the beautiful mural in progress on Fell and Pierce? What about the crazy 80s outfits people are wearing and they aren’t even joking (seriously, Hammer/I Dream of Genie pants, ladies? Really?!)?  People are out there creating art and expressing themselves and making dreadful fashion mistakes and taking risks and living fascinating lives. Yes! Inspiration around every corner. Even hanging out at the park with Little Man and seeing how he notices every leaf on the ground and wants to inspect it helps me be enamored with the world again.

-Listening to Public Radio – Since I am stuck in my car for much of the day, my iPod plugged into the car stereo has been my umbilical cord to the source of nutrients I need to stimulate the growth of my mind (I get this almost nowhere else since I am not able to read much or take classes or meet up with fascinating people these days). My regular subscriptions are: The Sound of Young America, This American Life, Fresh Air, The Moth, To the Best of Our Knowlege, PRI: Arts and Entertainment, Radio Lab and Freakonomics (the latter only has a few episodes so far, but very interesting ones). Let me know what other great ones are out there!

-Music – I can’t really call myself a true music enthusiast because I don’t make time to search out new stuff, but when I remember to listen to the stuff I have that I love, it does wonders for my soul. Currently my favorite playlist includes Ida Maria, A Fine Frenzy, Matt Costa, Regina Spektor, OK Go, and the Black-Eyed Peas. If you have any new favorites I should check out, please share!

-my iPad – Again, I haven’t had much time to even scratch the surface of what it can do, but this gadget really is one of the coolest things ever. My favorite apps are NPR, Pandora, Zinio, ABC Player (yay, Modern Family!), NY Times Crosswords, and of course, since I’m a mama, the Craft Finder, Fish School, and I just downloaded Puppet Pals last night and can’t wait to play with it (especially when Little Man gets older). And I’m inspired to create my own app from a children’s book I’ve been working on. So hopefully I’ll be telling you all to download that soon. Until then, let me know what other must-have apps I need.

Please leave comments. I would love to hear what you are enthusiastic about!


Inspired (finally!)

Ah, the muse is back. The fog has lifted. The juices are flowing. Insert whatever mixed metaphor here that works for saying I feel like my old creative self again. My son is almost eight months old, and on a great sleep schedule, and suddenly my brain is functioning again. For awhile there it was touch and go; there was a period when the Twilight series was the only thing that I read, and any writing consisted of notes scribbled down about how often said son was napping and pooping. At last, I am beyond that newborn haze, and my mind has a few brain cells that can be occupied with creative things.

At first, when my wits returned to me, I didn’t know what to do with them. I could look around and see with new clarity that a few things had been neglected in their absence – my household, my husband, and my wardrobe, to name a few. But I’d also been forgetting to feed my soul, which leads to despair for me and renders me incapable of taking care of those other aspects of my life. To regain my creativity, I needed to “fill the well”, to borrow a concept from Julia Cameron’s, The Artist Way. I needed to do things that sparked interest in life, that got my ideas churning again, that made me feel engaged and present, instead of merely getting through the days and craving escape to vampire land (or werewolf-ville, since I am for Team Jacob).

Here are some ways my well is filled:

  • Listening to stories: The Moth, NPR and PRI have some of the best- Great stories get me going, mostly about people who are pursuing their passions, but really learning anything new can get me high on ideas right now. Here are some that excited me recently: Bootlegger Blues: L.Gabrielle Penebaz’ obsession with trying absinthe turns into a serious creative pursuit (anything can be your art!).   Change Over Time – Carl Honore talks about the Slow Movement (I will blog later about how this got me interested in “slow parenting” and “slow travel”) and Amy Gorman decides to interview older women artists to see how they keep at it. Very inspiring! (Makes me want to go get the book she wrote about it.)
  • Looking for role models – If I just bumbled through life with what I know and what I learned from my parents or my limited experiences, I wouldn’t have much to work with. It’s hard to create in a vacuum, to make something from not very much, so by looking around and seeing how others are fashioning interesting lives for themselves, I get ideas for how to dream bigger in my own. The documentary Who Does She Think She Is? is a recent example of this, my new heroes being those women who pursue their artistic life while also choosing motherhood. It helps me be more creative about how I spend my days to ask myself “who do I want to be like?” and “how do I start taking steps to become more like that now?”.
  • Reading – Just finished Nurture Shock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Very interesting studies, deserving of its own post later.
  • Planning things to look forward to – It’s easy to get into a rut of just going through the motions one day after another while childrearing. It can feel like Groundhog Day. But we’ve just planned a three-week trip to Taiwan in April, and the anticipation has been a tremendous boon to my energy level.

It really is amazing how different life feels with a little sleep and some inspiration. By taking care of my own spirit’s needs, I have so much more to give to my family. And maybe that will even trickle down to this blog. I might actually have some interesting things to share with you soon!