For this reflection, I was asked to write about my work as an art facilitator with adult artists with disabilities. But I’m having trouble focusing on this topic. Why? It could very well be because of the pandemic, because of my age (menopausal), because I became burnt out from my ‘day job’ of 30 years, and because I found something I’m more interested in talking about.
My Soul’s Desire
I think, like many people experienced, being furloughed and confined to my home during the pandemic caused me to look at my work differently. Instead of enabling others to create their art and also tending to their mental and physical needs and then coming home, too tired to create my own art, I was able to spend full days in my studio and have the energy to create MY art! And I was reminded that making art is my soul’s desire.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE working with intellectually and physically disabled artists and encouraging them in their creativity. They are an inspiration, truly. It is so important that all people are given the opportunity to create and thus connect to the world around them. But it was the healthcare, the physical and mental support I was expected to provide, and even more so during the pandemic due to a shortage of staff, that did me in. And I’ve discovered over time, my body tends to absorb stress rather than deflect it. Compounded with PTSD sustained from unrelated traumatic life events, I realized I couldn’t sustain this job full-time anymore.
Almost exactly a year ago, I joined an online program for artists called The Becoming Artist with Jessica Serran. At age 53, I finally found the courage to put my art first. In the program Jessica asks us what the Object Of our Desire is (OOD) as it relates to our art. This concept is originally from Havi Brook. It felt luxurious to even contemplate this question! I have been making art all along, for the most part. But in bits and spurts, except for when I was in art school and graduate school. I never thought of my art as being a full-time job, I’ve always had day jobs. Mostly teaching art. Helping others make art. So when I was encouraged to look at what would give me the most joy, there was no question. I wanted to quit my job teaching others art and make my own art full time. At first, this felt like a selfish thing to do. But then I realized that setting aside gifts God has given me to share is irresponsible.
The universe responds
Luckily, I have a husband who is extremely supportive and has similar goals and ambitions. Not long after I made the decision of putting my art practice first in my life, we decided to act on a long thought-of plan to live in France for a few months. My job could not allow a 3 month sabbatical, so I quit! At the end of the school year, my husband, son and I packed up our bags and headed for central France. Friends in the village helped us find a place to stay, a studio for me, and a school and French tutor for our son. My husband played in music festivals in different parts of France, I made art and our son learned French!
It’s amazing, since I decided to make my art my priority, the Universe has responded. Gradually, I’m selling work, building a supportive team that serves as inspiration, and finding new opportunities for showing and performing my work. When I state what I want and leave myself open to possibilities, they show up!
I am back at my old day job, but part-time. Going cold turkey financially won’t work for us. Also, I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and in it there’s a chapter called “Your Day Job”. She said “I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills … you must be smart about providing for yourself.” So I will have day jobs. But I’ll be careful to make sure they don’t take me away from my art, only feed it and support it. Just like Gilbert says, “it may be the case that there are seasons when you can live off your art and seasons when you cannot.”
Share the love
So where is my Christian faith in all this? My faith in God, in the example of Jesus, has always been with me. But, just like with my art, I’ve been setting it aside and not putting it front and center. I know that my creativity is something that God has given me as a gift and as a necessary tool for surviving and thriving in this world. As I make this shift back to my true calling, my art becomes my prayer and my way of connecting to the world and sharing Love.
Questions for reflection
What is your Object Of Desire, that God has instilled in you? Are you paying attention to it? How can it help you connect to the world and share the Love?
Can you identify seasons when you re-opened your life to some of your God-given gifts? What happened?
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Penguin, 2015)
Sincero, Jen. You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living and Awesome Life (Running Press Adult, 2013)