Last October, a friend posted on Instagram that she was having an amazing time at a place called Artscape Gibraltar Point. I looked it up, and found that they had all kinds of programmed residencies, where you pay a fee and go work on a specific project with a group and a facilitator. And one of the programs involved learning timber framing and collectively building a structure. One of my main goals this year was to learn more about building and materials so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I applied and was super excited to be accepted.
In the first part of this series, I talked about how social anxiety has impacted my life, and the things I did that made it worse. The second post was about all the ways that I've been working on changing my mindset from fear to openness, and the last post was about the things I've done to push my boundaries and leave my comfort zone. Today is the final post in the series and I'm going to share where I'm at with the process right now and where I see myself going.
This week I'm covering some of the actions, behaviors and situations that have pushed me outside my comfort zone, and helped me become stronger and less fearful. If you haven't already, make sure you read last week's post on mindset shifts, since I've found that pushing myself to do scary things without bringing a ton of mindfulness, softness, and self-care to the table just makes me feel worse about myself.
In my last post I wrote about my struggles with social anxiety and all the things I did that made it worse: obsessing over what was wrong with me, trying to fix myself, reading endless books about communication and social skills, putting my tale of woe on repeat, and letting other people define me. In this post and the next one, I want to share what I've done that has helped, and how you can apply what I've learned to your own life.
With the holiday season descending, it's easy to start feeling overwhelmed by everything going on. With the sparse daylight at this time of year, it often seems like my days are compressing and I feel tight and rigid rather than open and free. I start to feel ruled by the calendar, thinking constantly about what needs to be done and what event is coming up, rather than appreciating the moments as they come and go. I've since realized that space is a mindset, and a choice. All the pressure, heaviness and constriction is in my head. I get to decide how I feel and I've decided I want to live a life that's full to bursting, while still staying open and finding ways to expand.
Have you ever noticed how powerful it can be to make a decision? How focused you become when you go from the uncertainty of multiple options to the clarity of one single choice? It can happen with decisions as simple as where to go for dinner or which art project to start on first, to as complex as what city to live in or whether to have kids or not. Once you make the decision, all the other options fall away and you can focus on enjoying your meal, or packing your bags.
I just spent my weekend doing what I love more than almost anything: creating a piece of art that inspired wonder and joy in the people who saw it. I worked with my friend, Kristi Gurski, to create an art installation on a lamppost as part of Kaleido Family Arts Festival's '24-Hour Deck Out a Lamppost Competition.' It was a lot of work but I was so happy with how it turned out and I would do it all again to see the way peoples' faces lit up when they caught sight of it.
Tomorrow a yearlong project comes to a close. Last September I started sending out weekly emails to a small group of people who agreed to join me in an experiment. I wanted to see if I could confront my inner critic and my fear of drawing and find a way to make drawing feel fun again. I've spent the last twelve months reading drawing books and blogs, obsessively searching for drawing quotes, writing about drawing, and, of course, drawing. It has been quite an adventure. This last year I've tried new materials, visited new places, and drawn subjects that I probably never would have otherwise. I've dealt with frustration, boredom, and disappointment and I've enjoyed wonder, delight, and a sense of flow.
Years ago I read the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. In it, she made two lists of statements, of truths, that she lived by. She called them the "Twelve Commandments" and the "Secrets of Adulthood." They contained things like, "Be Gretchen", "Enjoy the process", and "Bring a sweater." These lists felt really important to me, so ever since then, I've been compiling my own lists of learnings to remind myself of what works in life, and what doesn't.
A lot of people I know who got Bachelors of Arts were kicking themselves after they graduated because they didn't get a more "useful" degree. I didn't have that problem - I knew that studying drama wouldn't put me on a fast track to mega-success, but it was what I most wanted to do. I had always planned on going to university (all learning, all the time? You couldn't keep me away if you tried). And drama was what I was most passionate about at the time. Afterwards I decided not to pursue work in theatre and there are times when I wonder if I wasted those 4 (okay 5) years.