So this one day I went out to my car near my apartment building and saw this. And so, upon seeing this, I captured this.
So here’s this.
If I were give this photo series a message, it would be
“Don’t put your dreams on Ice.”
“CAPTURE the moment– even if it’s absurd!”
I always think of that one scene in Garden State, where Natalie Portman’s character says:
You know, back in High School I was a clown. I was in theatre, I was big (in spirit) and loud! I laughed, I danced, and I made weird noises… a lot like Natalie Portman in this scene. These days, I recognize how timid I am in comparison.
With fears centered around “don’t get fired”, “Make that money!” “be grateful, or else suffer!” It’s hard to live a life free, loose. It’s easy to fall into thinking about pleasing others first, because you have internalized society’s fears. It’s hard not to! We’re surrounded by it!
I miss those good old days though. Cliche’? I remind myself often that it’s a state of mind though. I am still technically that loud, slightly obnoxious teen who loved and lived life with open arms. Admittedly, I conked out in College. Depression and Anxiety set in, I missed my family and friends from high school dearly, and my sadness swept away my vibrato. I was lost for a few years, 8 to be exact. Then, I found the light again after years of therapy and realizing the light was always there, it had just gotten overshadowed for a bit.
I learned a lot from those dark years, and it deepened my understanding of the human condition for sure. My “empathy bone” (as I like to call it) grew, and I slowly learned the lost art of compassion. The biggest way to be compassionate is to first start with yourself. And every moment that I find myself thinking ‘I miss that lively girl I used to be” is every moment I could be living as the beautiful, matured, compassionate person I’ve grown into being. Yeah, Teen-me was a LOT of fun, and hilarious! And I still embody those traits, though they may be more subtle. I don’t need to beat myself up for NOT being the young, somewhat blissfully ignorant me. I can embrace this new chick; she’s pretty dope too.
And Ah, the memories! I have so many great memories to be proud of and so many more to create. Feeling sad missing the past robs me of the beautiful moments now, that will be just as memorable in 5 years.
Do not lament me, for I am still kickin’.
When I was 15,
I snuck out of the house with my older sister one night to enjoy a full moon.
I believe it was Summer, and I had never done that before.
We were both good girls, obeyed our parents, didn’t do drugs, drink, and other shenangins. I didn’t even swear! But one night, my older sister came up with a fun idea for us, and I couldn’t say no. It seemed like innocent fun. We lived in a good neighborhood, surrounded by farms. We often left the door unlocked. The skies there were amazing, though I didn’t know to appreciate the view as much as I do now.
Now, I live in a city where the night sky is polluted by street lights and commercial signs. You can squint to try and make out a dot or two, but you rarely see the cascading array of individual stars that make up the milkyway like you can in the country.
God, I miss the country.
I appreciate the manmade lights for what they are, for who created them, but it’s all known. I know a person made lightbulbs. I know a person designed the shape of the sign. I might even know the cousin of whoever put the darned thing up!
But as much as I try, as much as I assume, preach, I don’t KNOW how the stars, the sky, the balls of gas, the infitinte galaxies out there popped into existence.
Aliens? God? Yamaha – er wait, Yaweh? Allah? Gaia? The Force?
Call it many things, it is all the same thing: Unknown.
Usually I hate the unknown. HATE. IT.
HATE! UGH! It’s terrifying!
But when I look at the night sky, I can’t hate it. I can only marvel.
This photo was taken with a sucky camera, on a night with very little light, but it doesn’t matter. It still captures that relationship, that moment of human marveling the unknown.
I’m a Virgo. No, seriously I am. If you’re creepy, you may know my birthdate and try to correct me
“Nah-uh Susie, you’re a Libra! ‘Says so in my Glamour/Marie Claire/Cosmo/Whatever I read!!”
And then I would counter and tell you the grand story of how my grandfather was an astrologer, and there are two systems of astrology, Sidereal (where I’m a Virgo) and Tropical (the hazy, non-specific version that is in magazines and newspapers because it’s easier to lump people all together). I could interest you (or bore you) explaining how there are “cusps” and I happen to be on one. I could tell you how there are ascendants and descendants, a moon and sun sign, a this and a that. But just take my word for it: I’m a Virgo.
Now, that being said, I’m incredibly judge-mental and critical. This can suck- as I tend to be harshest on myself. And this can uber-suck when I aim my powers on others. Catch me in a funk and I am sure to nit-pick! Thankfully, I am well aware of my detail-oriented state, and I have grown very accustomed to breathing instead of blurting out statements like:
“He’s doing it wrong”
“She sucks at kerning”
“Are they completely blind?!”
Instead, I’ve decided to become a master of manipulation. The good kind. The kind in which I manipulate myself! It’s called….
I’m currently reading a book called… wait for it…
the power of PATIENCE
and it’s about, you guessed it:
It’s pretty darn good so far. I find when I pick it up and read a short chapter, it resonates with what I’m going through- or perhaps that just means I lack patience all the time!
I used to be a lot worse. I’m definitely improving. Gotta’ give myself some credit!
But as you may be able to tell, I’m interested in the New-Agey hullabaloo.
(As in, yeah, I have a Level 1 certificate for Reiki! And I keep crystals by my computer at work to suck the bad juju and negative complaints up around me)
I’m all for understanding the subconscious, releasing my motha-fuckin’-ego, and embracing the noooooowwww (Eckhart Tolle style). That nit-picking part of me does not go away when I’m meditating, forgiving past shiznit, or wondering what pretzel sandwich I want at the gas station. It’s all me. All the time, it’s all me. I can decide one moment “Hey! I’m being patient and listening and breathing and letting the other person talk without overreacting to their unbuttoned middle button! Go me!” or I could still be me and say
“UGHHH! What kind of slob are you?? Can you not feel that your button is undone?? UGHHH my life is so affected by your nonchalance!!!”
Either way I react, it’s all me. So what “me” do I want to be? The boastful (*coughTRUMP*) version of me? Who doesn’t stop to listen to herself before she nitpicks? Or the slow, patient, thought out (*coughOBAMA*) me who’s relaxed as fuq’.
I made this post because tonight I was in a funk, and feeling nit-picky. I was on facebook- which can be the worst place to be when you’re feeling this way, because you want to share your opinion (very strongly) on everybody’s lives! So, I thought I would vent, learn, grow, and write about my personality flaw? strength? feature? To better come to an understanding.
Recently, I decided to enter my first juried art show since college. I’m talkin’, it’s been almost 5 years! Admittedly (understandably?) I’m a bit nervous! I looked through all my work, trying to find the “perfect” entries. Hah. Perfect. What a concept!
I decided to print a photo I took of my most recent photoshoot (so recent I haven’t even shared them yet!). At first I thought I would paint this photo I was printing, perhaps oil paint since it’s been just as long since I used those.
Welp, things changed. Life surprises you.
My printer was running low on ink, and instead of letting me know and refusing to print (how it usually handles the issue) it went on ahead and printed my photo out, sans magenta. I was instantly in love. Who needs magenta anyway??? I scanned the imperfect beauty in. Printer lines, no magenta! Chaos! But it’s like I remembered my old artsy self again. I loved the imperfect! Thanked the imperfect! I, at one point, held a crusade against perfection, because I saw how much it had a grip on people’s lives- including my own…
So yes. This, in being imperfect, is perfect. (mind ‘splosion?) And I’ve decided this is a good move on my part. If it doesn’t make it into the show, Ah well! It was a stepping stone, helping lead me back to the vision I had years ago. I’m all for looking at it that way.
You could say Sarah Bennett, of Bennett Trails blog, is my tutee (hah! Funny word, right?) Months ago, she asked me to tutor her in graphic design and photography. She has big dreams to start her own Etsy shop and loves the process of learning as much as possible. Honestly though, Sarah has become one of my closest friends here in Erie and I learn so much from her. We’ve taken sewing classes together, gone on photo-adventures, and scoured Salvation Army’s and Goodwills for vintage finds. Meeting with her weekly has been a breath of fresh air. Not only do our mutual interests stop at artistic pursuits- but she’s my soul sister! We encourage each other to follow our hearts, have guts, and to NEVER forget to love! So, in this edition of Share Your Spark, I introduce:
Sarah Bennett, age 31: Multi-Passionate Soul currently living in Erie, PA.
I was born in California,
grew up in Salem, Oregon
went to college in Spokane, Washington
moved back to Oregon for a few years
then moved out to Vermont for a few years
and have been living in Erie, PA for the past four years now.
I think living so many places has shaped me to be a more flexible/adaptable individual and stronger in knowing who I am and what I value in life. I feel fortunate to have lived (in my opinion) in the prettiest regions in our country. I love New England and I also love the Northwest; both areas feel like home to me. I am drawn to green, 4 seasons, and living an active, creative life. I believe the areas I have lived in made me realize these things mean a lot to me.
What activities do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy going on hikes or runs with my husband and our dog Odin. I love going on country drives and exploring back roads with some good tunes playing. I really enjoy singing/playing music with my husband, taking it easy in the morning with a cup of coffee, snuggling, and practicing yoga. Above all, I mostly just love getting deep into my creative work with no restrictions or interruptions.
In what ways are you involved in the community?
My situation is a bit different. We are preparing for a big move back to Oregon in the beginning of June so quite honestly I haven’t felt completely invested in the community lately! I did get pretty involved with the Erie Art Museum last year; I took quite a few classes and volunteered to take photos for an event. It was nice getting involved there– I definitely felt like I was around my people, which is good to know for the next place we are moving to! I also feel like I have been involved at Asbury Woods during my time here, just by being such a frequent visitor there. That place is a gem in this community; it has been my go-to for recharging and reconnecting over the past four years. I’m extremely grateful for Asbury Woods!
Where do you go to find peace in the world?
I go to nature to find peace. I always feel revived and renewed after taking time to get lost in the woods or even just taking a short walk to get fresh air, away from the rat race. Also, a hot bath with a candle lights is my other place to find peace.
What inspires you the most?
That’s a hard question… so many things really inspire me, it’s hard to say what most inspires. Music, traveling, interactions, colors, seasons, experiences, reflection… I guess just life in general inspires me most. There is always something that pops up in one way or another that will spark an “Aha!” moment.
Creative women taking risks, following their heart, and doing things their own way are my role models; Women who are wildly successful in their specific path and living their truth, inspire me.
What challenges have you faced in life?
I have struggled with self-confidence and pretty bad anxiety. I have also struggled with finding my place in this world. It can be hard being a multi-passionate soul because you can see yourself doing many different things and you have lots of ideas and passions. It has been hard to dig deep on that front and get clear. But also, coming to terms with being a multi-passionate and being okay with that has been a struggle. Honestly, when I heard the term “multi-passionate creative” it felt like a diagnosis! When I started hearing that other people like me were out there, I felt a little more at ease with who I am naturally. We all are here for a reason. I like the visual of seeing us all as individual puzzle pieces that are needed to complete the big puzzle-picture. It’s taken a long time for me to see what gifts I have to offer, where my place is, and where I feel most connected and understood– But man I have come a loooong way.
What advice would you give others who are going through similar experiences?
I would say dig deep and be kind to yourself in the process. Find yourself a counselor you connect with and do the work to ask yourself the important questions:
Who am I?
What lights me up?
What are the things that make me nervous?
What can I do to dampen my anxiousness?
Above all, I must stress just be kind to yourself, listen to what YOU need. We’re all uniquely different and we each have our own path. Take the time to get quiet, feel all your feelings and let the healing begin.
What current obstacles would you like to overcome?
I still struggle with some fear and self-doubt. I think it’s important to have a healthy dose of fear but I’m working on making sure fear only comes up when extremely necessary. I’ve come a long way in overcoming self-doubt and I am still continuing to work on that in life! I’m proud of where I am today and see that all my struggles are actually my biggest successes.
How do you think you can overcome them?
I think by just continuing to be present, practicing positive self-talk and staying committed to my meditation practice I can overcome future obstacles. My spiritual practice has gone through ups and downs but it is the one thing that keeps me grounded. I devoted a year to a yoga teacher training in Vermont in 2010 and that year was the beginning of my personal spiritual path. I’m so extremely grateful for that program and the time I gave myself to devote to a yoga practice; it was my gateway.
Also, I know this isn’t for everyone– but therapy has proven to be very helpful to me. It’s just nice to have someone who listens to you, who is neutral. Therapy is my time to talk fully about me without feeling like I’m over-stepping any boundaries in the relationship.
What is the one thing you want people to know about you when they first meet you?
I may come off quiet and reserved at first, but really I’m just taking in my surroundings and listening. I take a while to get to know. My personality has always been: if I open up to you and let you in, you must be pretty special to me. I tend to be more private and more introverted than extroverted. I have always had a few close friends I know would always be there for me rather than a ton of friends that are at a surface level. I take my relationships to heart. I care a lot and put great energy into important connections.
How do you wish people saw you?
I wish people saw me as a woman who is driven to live a life from her creative heart. I wish people saw me as loving, devoted, and a caring person who just wants to live a light-filled life and exudes light and love!
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the life I have built with my husband. We started dating rather young, at age 21, but marrying him at age 26 was hands down the easiest decision for me. I love living our life together. He has been such a support in my journey; we both support each other’s dreams and are committed to living our dreams together. We truly enjoy each other and it’s been a joy to see us grow both individually and together.
I also am really proud of all my struggles I have gone through personally: The anxiety, the feeling lost, all the jobs I’ve held that left me feeling empty inside. These struggles have made me stronger and made me do the important work I am here to do: to ask myself the big questions and grow in my personhood. I am proud of these struggles because it’s brought me to the woman I am today. I know myself and love myself more and more because of these struggles.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
We’ll be living in Oregon, my husband will be finishing up residency. I see myself as a Mom to either one or two babies within the next five years. I see myself living my dream; getting paid to do creative work I love– specifically running an online shop and doing freelance design and photography work– and growing in my creative profession. I see myself working from home in a light-filled office space and enjoying a flexible schedule, loving every moment of this precious life with the people I love.
What is a quote you wish to live by that motivates you? Why does it impact you so much?
Ohh geez this is hard! I am a quote fanatic. Quotes are the majority of my pins on Pinterest currently! Here are three of my current favorites that inspire and motivate me. All three motivate and speak to me in a different ways. Mostly, they each motivate me to just be ME, have faith and be grateful. A grateful heart brings abundance; I have experienced this time and time again.
“The things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling.” –Fabienne Fredrickson
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”– John Lennon
“No matter what the situation is…close your eyes and think of all the things you could be grateful for in your life right now.” -Deepak Chopra
How can people connect with you?
Stay tuned to recent blog posts to come here on Her Art is HEART! Sarah and I took many photos at our last shoot have many exciting images to share!
I had the great opportunity to photograph my crafty-pal, talented designer, photographer, and multi-passionate grllll: Sarah Bennett. She is the author over at Bennetttrails.com , and always a joy to hang with, taking sewing classes with, or just shootin’ the shit about vintage clothes. She is a sweetie but a BOSS– as I’m sure you’ll be able to see from these photos of her, owning the streets with one of her favorite creative tools!
So I wasn’t always this way.
I wasn’t always easy to laugh, easy to forgive, nurturing and patient. I didn’t always have the ability to laugh at myself for the mistakes I make, or even to allow myself a Big Ole’ FAT ugly cry when I was upset. In essence, I used to be young. I used to be 21.
Maybe you’d assume I was a victim of the drink’, being the age at which I can consume alcohol. But no, actually everything got rough when I was 18. By age 21 though, I realized I needed to change something up: I realized I needed to start loving myself. That first step I took? I wrote myself a letter.
Dec 12, 2009. Not any kind of remarkable day with a remarkable story, just a day I chose to sit down and talk to myself. The catch was this letter I wrote? I couldn’t just look at it willy-nilly as I liked. I made myself wait until Dec 12th, 2015 to reveal it’s original contents. I guess even then I realized my overwhelming sense of urgency and noticed I lacked the patience I desired. So I made myself wait. I guess I was also trying to give myself something to look forward to, something personal: A secret- just for me, to myself. I guess that made it pretty special… I needed that.
Yeah… well… about that letter: I had forgotten about it! Dec 12th came and went, and I had the letter openly sitting out, ready for the BIG DAY. But it wasn’t until a good week and a half after the date when I happened to remember,
“That friggin’ letter!”
I wasn’t doing anything remarkable at the time.
You know how sometimes making a space, making something a “thing”, a ritual or tradition, giving it this air of significance makes a moment more momentous?
It was an off hand realization. I was running around my room, as usual, cleaning, hanging up clothes, and I remembered…
“The friggin’ letter!”
I believe my exercise playlist on iTunes was playing, bumping out some high-octane fuel. I didn’t switch it to low key, emotional music. I didn’t try to set the stage, center my emotions.
I didn’t make it a thing.
I opened the letter, and read it.
Now, back in 2009, my life was pretty damn different! I was a lonely, severely depressed, highly anxious college student with no free time because I overbooked myself with classes. I was stressed and decided I was to blame for that stress. I treated my body like it was public enemy #1 because I was the determined bounty hunter. Not an ideal person to be attached to! Every chance I got, I attacked myself, blamed myself, and tore myself apart with the guilt: Guilt on top of guilt, on top of guilt. I had so much anger but was so depressed and lost that I didn’t know where it was coming from. I blamed others and was a very, very difficult person to be around sometimes… especially if you were someone I loved and truly cared about. They took the hardest and most hits. Some stayed with me, some got the hell outta there. I never blamed them, although outwardly it would seem I did. Inwardly, I knew it was all me- but I was the queen of denial, queen of unhappiness, and queen of “I’m a freakin’ loser, woe is meeeEEEE!!!!”
But despite the terror that was I, I always had a spark. I knew what happiness had felt like. I knew I wanted to learn how to love myself better, and to treat everyone with love and respect.
So yeah, I knew vaguely what to expect from this letter. My past has been pretty well recorded. I’ve kept a personal blog since I was 14 and during 2009 in particular I wrote in it up to 9 times a day to relieve my mind of the destructive, obsessive thoughts that were morphing my mind into an all encompassing black hole of BLAH and AHH! And although throughout the blog I would curse myself, blame myself, tear myself apart- I knew it was because deep down, somewhere in the great abyss, I KNEW I had it within me to be better and find the light again. I just had no idea whether I was supposed to go right, left, – wait, did I pass go? I had never been lost before. And I had yet to find a working compass.
Alright, so I didn’t allow myself to think about all this the morning I remembered,
“That friggin’ letter!”
I just did it. I jumped in and didn’t have time to be a judgey-McJudgerson to my past and myself. “I’m sorry Mam’am, the baggage claim is on the wayyy other side of the building.” I was leaving my suitcase behind. All I needed was my ID and wallet: aka identity and abundance!
And so I read:
You know how you can be. You’re unbelievably talented and ambitious. I know you’re probably killing yourself right now to make things “perfect” or “just right” in your life. Just think like Eckhart Tolle- and think in the NOW- not the future.
You’re so smart and beautiful. You have so much going for you- so why create extra stress? I hope you’re still writing in your online journal- that’s good therapy. I hope you are where you didn’t expect to be in life- but in a good way. I’m only 21, young, naïve- you’re an uber adult now! What’s that about? Haha
I feel like I’m writing a letter to my older sister- because I just want things to work out for you/me. I hope you can make it happen- and you DID make it happen.
I think that’s all I’m going to say…
I’ll keep it short because I know it’s hard to read my own handwriting.
I hope everything worked out
your younger self.
As soon as I read it, I wanted to write about my reaction, get my thoughts on it out. But life had other plans. Life reminded me that we’re constantly moving forward and not to focus on the past too much. As my mom always told me (especially back in 2009!) Rumination leads to Ruination.
So, I moved on. I didn’t make it a thing.
This morning I wrote a new letter. I won’t say what’s in it- that would spoil the fun for Dec 2020! But I wanted to keep the tradition going: I wanted to have a reminder in the future of what it was like, and what I was thinking here in 2016.
It’s fun thinking how different I was in 2009, how much I’ve grown within that time: What I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced, who I cared for. And I no longer harbor resentment for the pain I caused. I have learned from my mistakes, forgiven myself and I believe that is why I went through this ordeal: to strengthen myself.
And yeah, everything did work out. It’s still working out. I have much to be grateful for. When I was 21, I didn’t know these words: Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Abundance… I didn’t even know
Now I’m pretty confident I know what love is. I see it all around me, am able to connect with it, I feel it within me. Before, I would feel “love” but couldn’t communicate it, wanted to understand it and analyze it, ultimately stripping it of it’s magic. Now I just let it happen, I go with it. I can cherish others and especially myself.
I no longer need a letter to give myself something to look forward to. I look forward to everyday- but there’s something powerful about getting a glimpse of the past and recognizing the growth you have undergone, subtle or bold. It’s pretty remarkable.
So I’m making it a thing.