A Pep Talk for Creative Types

Hey you artsy soul, trying to make an impression on the world…

a pep talk for creative types

You’ve picked a hell of a path, haven’t you? People think it’s crazy to spend so many waking hours living with your imagination once you’ve hit age eleven or so, but you just can’t help yourself, can you? I’ll bet there are days you think it’s crazy too.

Sure, you have a job that pays the bills. Sometimes you probably even like it. You and I both know there isn’t a single second when you aren’t thinking about your other work. That creative work that doesn’t pay you a dime most of the time, but fills your soul until it’s near to bursting. Except when it doesn’t.

You know those moments where you take a good long look at yourself and say “Seriously, why are you still doing this?” When you stop and count the hours you’ve devoted to your creativity and measure that against the financial dividends of that time investment, do you feel a little sick sometimes? Is there a niggling voice inside your head telling you that it’s time to ‘grow up’? Is that voice telling you that your art isn’t going anywhere?

Well, guess what? I feel the exact same way. Especially right now as I’m typing this. My nay-saying inner monologue is practically screaming, but I know with certainty that as sure as I will not make a cent from my writing this month, I will also come back to it again and again. I will write until my dying day, and it’s not because I have some delusion that I’m poised to become the next bestselling novelist, it’s because I have to write. Even if my stories are absurd, even if I never quite master this craft, I know that when I am not writing I am slowly dying inside.

I’ve had a lot of creative pursuits that I’ve left by the wayside. You’ve probably done the same. There are other avenues I’d like to explore (like pottery!) before I leave this life, but writing is in my blood. You know the feeling. Even in your most frustrated moments you can’t walk away from something that is so much a part of you.

And you shouldn’t.

If your art does nothing more than feed your soul and give you a reason to keep moving through your days, that is a gift worth more than any pay check. If your art helps you contextualize the insanity of the world and seek out the beauty in any situation, you are armed with a power few possess. Build your life carefully around your gifts so you can support your creative space and keep enjoying those personal rewards. I have total faith that if you invest so deeply and create from a place of personal pleasure and power you will make exactly the kind of mark you hope to leave on the world. You probably already have.

xoxo

cat skinner

 

 

They Even Have a Sandbox

So today was a pretty exciting day for the Noodle (my nick name for my three-and-a-half year old son) and I. He had been looking forward to this day for months, in a way that surprised me – I didn’t know a kid that age could track time this way. Today was kindergarten orientation. He caught a glimpse of the excitement waiting for him in September, and I caught a glimpse of just how many boxes of tissue it was going to take to get through the first day of school.

They Even Have a Sandbox

The kindergarten classroom was everything I wanted it to be: clean, bright, filled with natural materials, lots of hands-on play opportunities, a solid house corner, water table, and as Noodle breathlessly declared “They even have a sandbox!”. To him, it was a little dude paradise. The teachers seemed lovely, and switched on to the importance of things like one-on-one attention, affection, and outdoor play time. Noodle even had a pair of his buddies from daycare to bond with. The highlight however was the practice bus ride. Oh my heart.

Watching how his big head and little body bounced and lurched on the bus made me realize just how little an almost-four-year-old still is. Sure, he’ll be on that bus with his ten and nearly thirteen-year-old sisters. Sure he’s beyond thrilled about the whole thing. Still, I saw The Sweet Hereafter, well before I had kids, and the idea of a little body on a huge school bus simply makes me want to barf. I kept my cool though. I know it’s dumb to download those illogical anxieties on your kids. The world’s his oyster, and I want him to feel that way just as long as he can.

But here’s thing…No matter how vast the universe of possibility and opportunity I want for him, it aches deep down into my very atoms (another Sweet Hereafter reference?) when I think of him growing up. Obviously I want him to grow and thrive, but there’s always going to be a part of me that wants to keep him as close as I can. Like, on a cellular level. I guess that’s what you get for growing a person in your body. Though hell, I get those pangs for my non-bio daughters too, and I didn’t even get to meet them until they were three and five.

Watching my twelve-year-old’s sharp angles slowly morph into softer curves is the sweetest form of heartbreak. I know she’s going to blow minds and take names, but I also know that the sweet little bubble we have built up around our tadpoles, with spit and love and tenacity won’t hold forever. Eventually it will burst because the world is just like that. It’s a bubble bursting, bubble blowing party.

And as long as they aren’t dating, playing injury-causing team sports, blowing auditions, taking school buses, having adventures without us, basically, we get to keep that bubble in tact. Kind of. Not really. Sigh.

The greater your love, the greater your fear of loss. The greater your loss, the greater your fear of love. I can’t shut it down, no matter which end I tackle. I feel the magnitude of my fear just as deeply as I’m filled with the depth of all this love in my heart.

So, I’ll keep my shit together on that first day of school until he’s safely inside his classroom. (Because I’m driving him there on the first day. The bus will have to wait until day two, damn it) Then, after I get into my mom-mobile I will shed those tears and say goodbye to the sweet stickiness of the toddler years. Goodbye to our carefree Fridays off, playing zoo and enjoying day trips together. It won’t be as bad as the first day of daycare. I know this, because leaving him sobbing in the arms of a stranger was the worst parenting experience I’ve had thus far. He’s excited about Kindergarten (or JK/SK as he calls it) in a way that he never was about daycare. Maybe he had a premonition of all of the colds he would be destined to bring home from such an unsophisticated place. Or, maybe even he knows he’s growing up and hitting the big leagues. Even he knows this is a great big deal in the department of milestones.

Thrive on little man. Play with all of the plastic animals. Sift your pudgy fingers through all the sand. Make all the macaroni art. I’ll spare you my tears, just know that I want you to drink up every moment that JK/SK lays at your feet. And please, for the love of God, be careful.

 

 

Tasting My Own Medicine

You know how I’m always saying how important our passions are, and how we all deserve to make more time for them in our lives? Well, I’ve kind of been a jerk about this in my own world. It’s a kind of ‘do as I say’ situation around here right now, but I think I may have had a break through this weekend in tasting my own medicine.
Tasting My Own Medicine PIN

On Friday I packed up my computer, my huge printed copy of my manuscript, and very little else and drove about four hours north of where I live for my first ever writing retreat experience. It was a a small gathering of totally inspiring, encouraging super women and I felt so very lucky that this opportunity kind of fell in my lap.

You’ll notice I haven’t written much lately. I did that thing again, where I decide that money-earning work is more important than soul-satisfying work, and while sometimes they are the same, the two don’t always co-exist. My writing found its way onto the chopping block again. No blog posts. No novel revisions.

At this retreat, I had a LOT of silent time to work on my revisions, and I ate it all up. I skipped out on swimming in the lake despite the gorgeous weather. I only indulged in one short walk. If you tried to find me, I would nearly always be on the screened porch, overlooking the water and the trees, typing FURIOUSLY. It just didn’t feel like enough time.

We broke the day up with delicious meals we prepared for each other and with thoughtful and beautifully facilitated writing workshops. These were amazing, but I found there was an angry beast inside me that just wanted to keep pounding away at the novel, so painfully aware that there was a real risk it would start collecting dust again as soon as I made it back to the city. I felt guilty, because I wasn’t totally present for the other stuff, even though it was important, and fun. I was a bit singular in my focus and I fear that I came off disinterested and detached. Maybe the other stuff helped feed the monster inside me who just couldn’t stop writing? The beautiful little sign beside my bed let me know every night that ‘there is no wrong way to do this’.

Never mind that guilt business. I don’t want that feeling to be my takeaway, not when there were so many other feels: inspiration, admiration, love, peace, purpose, excitement, wonder, fear. My goal was accomplished. I got to revise about nine chapters, which feels good. I also created two new scenes. And, most importantly, I woke up an hour early this morning to keep the momentum going. I need to write. Every day. Or else all of the other ducks in my life start to quack out of their rows. Or else I’m not living the life I want myself to live.

Beyond the still silence of the lake, the chilling morning call of the loons and the musky/damp riches of the trees, one of the stand out impressions from my weekend were the forget-me-nots. Their cheery little periwinkle heads popped up everywhere, lining every path, arranged with little fern fronds for dinner table decor. It was a constant reminder to myself of how important this kind of space is.

Here’s a little sample of my workshop writing. It’s not from my novel, just a little poetry exercise. It’s rough, but I wanted to share a little bit from the weekend.

 

I wanted love.

I got more than I could ever imagine.

I wanted a family.

I found one ready-made, and made just for me.

I wanted to experience the heights and depths of life.

Then I looked at death as many times as it takes

to touch the finger tips on both of my hands.

 

I wanted to create life.

First I created worlds,

then I created an institution.

Now I’m creating a tiny legacy with words.

 

I wanted a child,

And three humbling wonders reached

for my unworthy hands with sticky digits

They showed me that I knew exactly nothing about myself.

 

Now all I want is to deserve it all.

To show up for it over and over again.

Open, unafraid of my newly discovered softness,

Yielding to the splendor of just simply being here

With my heart in my sometimes steady hands.

How To Start Loving What You See In The Mirror

Oh, my heart. Today’s post is a beautiful and raw look at body image from our incredibly radiant holistic nutritionist Jackie McCaffrey. What’s more, Jackie includes another gift at the end of this post with her FREE e-book of her latest gluten free, vegan mason jar recipes! Read on as Jackie shares her tips for how to start loving what you see in the mirror.

How to Start Loving What You See in the Mirror PIN

Body image is a subject that just never seems to get old, no matter how tired we get of hearing about it. More and more, those who are considered plus sized models are being featured in the media and the call for super thin bodies is less pronounced. Conversations about bodies are very important to have, however they are still placing emphasis on the need to define a body type in the first place. For me, this is okay if the conversation is around the health implications associated with a particular body type, thin or overweight. What I find difficult however; is when the focus around bodies is simply about the way we see each other.

It may surprise you to know that I struggle with my own body. I always have. I’m not sure what, if any one thing, has contributed to this. I have no doubt that years of gymnastics, dance and well, high school, where the shape of a body seems to have such massive importance, had some influence on this. I can’t remember a time in my life where I was completely comfortable and happy with what I saw in the mirror. There is a constant feeling of room for improvement that gnaws at me. The ritualistic ‘untagging’ of photos of me on Facebook because you can see a little cellulite is exhausting.

I’m a nutritionist but I’m also a performer who has worked in the burlesque industry which celebrates all body types. My comfort on stage is why many are surprised when I open up about my struggle. And believe me, it doesn’t mean that because I can’t seem to look at myself without judgement, that I am judging others. I truly love all the forms the body takes. I covet the curves as much as the long legs or ripped back muscles of those I see around me. A close friend was part of an interview of women in their 30’s for a Canadian magazine and was asked if she likes the way she looks naked. She answered with an enthusiastic yes, which I’m sure she assumed I would have done as well, but the sad truth is while I may have said yes because it is what I should say, internally I would have been screaming NO!

My background in nutrition allows me to be more logical about why my body is different than it was even five years ago. I started training in aerial silks during that time, which has greatly increased my muscle mass and thus the number staring back at me on the scale is the highest it has ever been. So while I can reason why I weigh more it doesn’t explain why my clothes fit a little tighter or heck, why my breasts have become a cup size bigger. What does explain this is my age. I’m on the cusp of 40 and our metabolism changes because our energy expenditure tends to decrease, as we get older. In fact, the volume of skeletal muscle in the body decreases and the percentage of fat tissue increases with age thanks to age-related decreases in basal metabolic rate. What does this mean? It means that I am normal. It means that I eat really well, I get regular exercise including weight bearing and cardiovascular activities, and I add supplements and superfoods to help keep my body working optimally. I am doing everything I should be doing. (Check out this post to learn more about metabolism.)

My logical self can look in the mirror and say, you are 38 and you look great! You have no physical barriers that stop you from doing anything you want! So why, can’t the rest of me look in the mirror and LOVE what I see? A friend of mine recently posted this to Facebook: I have a rare mental disorder. It causes me to look in the mirror every day and think – This is the best I’ve ever looked. Hope I’m never cured. How you perceive yourself (inside and out) is one of the few things you have control over. You might run out of lipstick on any given day, but self love can be a bottomless resource.

I love this so much and want so badly to have this rare disorder as she puts it and I am sad that she is right, it likely is a rare disorder. How wonderful for all of us to look in the mirror and see ourselves as the best we’ve ever looked – every damn day. How amazing to have that bottomless well of self-love to draw from.

I want it! Do you want it? What can we do to help us find acceptance and self-love?

Meditation

A chance to find space to focus on only yourself. Time to look inward and work through the important questions and issues that you may face. There are a number of great guided meditations online like this one from Louise Hay or look within your local community to find a mediation center to join.

Check Yourself

Change the conversation with your inner voice. Each time you begin to criticize or ‘if only’ yourself, stop and force yourself to think instead about the things you love. For me, I like to flex my badass biceps and remember that I worked hard to have those pipes! That helps to quiet the naysayer hidden within.

Journal

Writing in any form can be cathartic but I find allowing myself to sit in my cosiest chair and put down in writing 3 things I am thankful for can be a great help. I can then go back on days when I am feeling down and read what I have written. Putting the judgemental and critical thoughts down on paper can also be a good way to get them out of your head – and then I like to rip the page of the journal out and do a good old fashioned burning, dancing in my underwear with sage, ritually cleansing away those thoughts. Away with you!

My intention for spring is to work on my own body image issues. I want the blooming of the flowers to inspire openness within myself that will celebrate my body and I want to spend all that critical energy on the amazing and positive ideas and plans I have brewing in my pretty little head.

References:

http://www.louisehay.com/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8361073

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Jackie McCaffrey
Jackie McCaffreyHolistic Nutritionist
Jackie is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and runs her own holistic nutrition practice online, focusing on the needs of artists. She works to help her community find balance and understanding about which foods and supplements can help them with injury prevention and repair, stamina and overall longevity in the arts world. Jackie also works with clients who are looking for more general health and wellness help along with those who are looking for some more intensive protocols to help manage chronic disease.

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Sometimes Bad Things Are Good

Exactly one week ago, I thought my world had collapsed. I made a discovery that blew the roof off the mausoleum where I thought I had laid my trust issues to rest. There they were, alive and well, dancing before me and taunting me with the prospect that I would never be good enough to land the kind of life that I dream of. The secure, happy kind where home is the safest place you can know. It was a shitty way to start the week, but sometimes bad things are good.

Sometimes Bad Things Are GoodPIN

Now, I’m looking out at my garden and the sun is shining on a perfect spring day. Fresh air and breathing space have changed my perspective enough to realize that I don’t have to run for the hills. I can stay in this and see how it plays out. I’ve never really been good at that sticking around stuff. It’s amazing what having kids will do. And therapy. We can’t forget to respect those years of therapy.

Even the people you choose to honor with your trust make mistakes. It’s inevitable that these mistakes will hurt you the most, and sometimes these mistakes feel pretty fucking personal. This doesn’t mean your people don’t love you, or can’t love you the way you need to be loved. In my case, I’m not sure what it means yet. What I did realize, drifting through this latest storm, was that I just had to make sure I was safe. I can’t control other people, but I can control me. I can make myself secure. Nobody else should be tasked with that. That’s just asking for trouble.

Even the people you choose to honor with your trust make mistakes. Click To Tweet

So now, mama needs to get paid. My time has to be spent making money, first and foremost. It’s no coincidence that all of this personal stuff happened at a “what am I doing with my life” kind of moment.  I hadn’t been blogging here because I was feeling discouraged about this blog, about my book, about writing in general. I took a lot of other stuff on, half of which wasn’t paying me any more money than my writing has (which is basically nothing). Writing can happen in the spaces left after the bills are paid. Isn’t that what writers do anyway? If I want this writer’s life bad enough, I will make it happen.

And so Universe, I’ve taken my power back. I’m open to new opportunity, especially the money-generating kind. I want to be self-sufficient and I want to earn the money I’m worth. Money is such a big, crazy energy, and I’m making all kinds of peace with it. Every time I take it for granted, or ignore it, that money energy bites me in the ass.

Don’t we all need to talk about this money stuff more? With each other? With our kids? Why is it so private? Why are we so ashamed when we ‘get it wrong’? Aren’t most of us getting it wrong, most of the time? It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

I have money shit. I’m owning it. If you have money shit, I won’t judge you. If you want to talk about it, I’m listening. Empower yourself, even if you aren’t in it alone. Learn everything you can. Get good advice. Follow it. Rely on yourself to clean up the money shit, because nobody else will do it for you.

Last week I thought I’d have to start over. This week, I’m staying and I’m taking a new and proactive approach to MY life. Sometimes bad things are good.