Making bad art

Poorly drawn image of rabbits, one white with spots and dainty and one reddish-brown with crooked eyes and a monkey face

I had the intention, like a lot of people, at the beginning of quarantine to do so many things. I typically have a to-do list, organized by day, that runs into next week or sometimes a month out. Not to mention all of the “when I have time” projects that I have recorded elsewhere that stay in my head like a steady hum, telling me constantly that there’s no time to rest and I should be achieving, creating, cleaning, doing, progressing, and so many other verbs. One of my intentions was to write in this blog more often, to process my grief around all of the losses and the changes to my life and to hopefully write something that either helped me or someone else.

I didn’t do those things. I didn’t clean out the apartment or get all of the wood scraps out of my yard or lose weight or bake anything because there isn’t any more flour at the stores now apparently. I did sit for two or three weeks ordering takeout, watching trash TV, staring at my rabbits, crying, making bad art, and having a few virtual happy hours where I drank more than I’d ever drink at a bar. I’ve thankfully been able to work during these last few weeks and I’ve felt guilty and happy about that. I’ve been earning and saving money which I also have many feelings about. As I’ve been working, I’ve needed to be there and listen to my clients who are going through a whole range of struggles, some which are like mine and some which are very different. I don’t delude myself to think that I am the thing that keeps anyone ok. I believe that people have their own reservoirs of resilience and skills that they’ve tapped into, and I am hopefully one of many factors that has helped in some way. undefined

So where I have come to, one month into the quarantine, is that I am actually not that important and that’s ok. The idea that all of my to-do list was urgent, that all of it “had” to get done, is kind of ridiculous because none of it did and everyone still lived. I rescheduled my wedding and I cried about it and got upset with a few insensitive people, but I’m ok and my fiance is still here. I missed a lot of opportunities and yes, maybe I could have done more or better but I think I needed the time to detoxify my stress in life to come to a point where I could actually be effective. I stopped focusing on what I think I need so much because I actually got what I really needed – rest. Rest is a luxury that I got to have from this experience and I know there are many people who don’t get this, so I’m able now to do what I can to give back.

One thing I’ve learned from my clients, is that you can find rest and purpose in small places. For the moms who are struggling with screaming kids all day, rest can be going outside when they nap, sitting in silence in the shower for a few extra minutes, or watching TV after they go to bed. For the people who are laid off and feel there is nothing to do or get out of bed for, purpose can come in small ways like caring for a pet, finding a way to express themselves, or feeding their body with food it wants. The parameters have changed now, and whatever reference point was had previously for productivity or meaning in life do not necessarily apply. There is growth and peace to be found in that.

A few months ago I was driving and I remembered several years ago, when I couldn’t afford a car and was working at an amusement park. Those from the Twin Cities will know it, Como Town. The stories from that place are epic – cleaning so much vomit, pushing the roller coaster by hand when it got stuck countless times, and for some reason it was common for park guests to think they could smoke cigars wherever they felt like. I graduated in 2010 and so even though I had a degree there seemed to be nothing hiring and it was the worst job I ever had. The place was full of screaming kids, I barely got breaks to go to the bathroom or refill my water bottle, and they played the SAME. DAMN. SOUNDTRACK. every single day. I knew what time it was based on what song was playing, and I used to make up words to the songs about hating my job. One of the songs that came up right before close was “Fireflies” and I’d sing to myself “I like to make myself believe, that Como Town is…. clooooooooosing.”

Anyway, I remember that job I used to structure my entire day around just being able to have the shift pass. I figured out things I could do before work to put myself in a better state of mind so I had a little bit of happiness to start out the shift. I would bike to work early, listening to my music at full blast and then wait in a field nearby and read or just sit still and watch the animals. I saw muskrats, rabbits, raccoons, deer, and I would sometimes sit and draw them. That sense of peace and warmth, sitting in the sun and being still with the sound of cicadas and birds is still something I can draw into memory. I can remember what I used to eat for lunch because I used to draw out eating every single piece of it for as long as possible to extend my breaks.

I was thinking to myself about all the horrible things I went through in my life and what they felt like, and honestly that job didn’t even come up in my Top 10 Worst Moments Ever. Drawing on those memories and realizing that during every single one of them I felt like the sky was falling and then it didn’t, that helped. A few months ago I was trying to think about things that I miss in my life and I immediately remembered the time I used to sit outside and do nothing. I felt like that was so out of reach that I could never do that in my busy adult life now with having a real job and so many commitments. So there is something out of this that I think I needed, as well as something in this that I know I can get through.

My mom always tells me “You can do hard things.” I know we all can. But we an also do boring things, stupid things, and fun things. I’ve been making some pretty bad art and it was fun to do. I found a bunch of junk in the house and tried to make things out of it and they look horrible, but there’s no reason for me to be a master artist. The pressure that we all feel about being everything is just stupid. For most of us, we only have to be moderately good at one or two things to get through life just fine. We don’t have to have the perfect body, be the perfect friend, be a good artist and a Pinterest Mom at the same time as a super coworker and a marathon runner. Those expectations are made by companies that want us to feel bad so we spend money on things to make ourselves feel better. It’s trash and I’m refusing to do it to myself anymore. I’m going to go on being an ok person and feeling ok about it.

Here is a workbook on COVID-19 anxiety for those who can benefit from it!

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