Sunday, April 12, 2015

Shifting Focus

I have come to the realization that I have been in quite a funk the last few years. I wouldn’t call it a full blown depression, but I have definitely not been myself. I have been anxious, angry, and frustrated because my life hasn't been what I was expecting - what I was hoping it would be.

When David and I first got into visual journals, we had no idea where it would all lead. We were just two artists looking for a way to stay connected to our own art since our jobs as art educators often pulled us away from the studio and away from our art. For me, the journal was a way to connect with myself and to connect with my art making. It got me back into creating, and I grew in ways I could have never imagined.

After a few years of immersing ourselves in the journal, we saw a need to share our journals and our process with people, and things quickly began to take off. We went from sharing informally with fellow educators and artists, to sharing at conferences, workshops, and seminars. The Journal Junkies Workshop grew out of those presentations and hands-on workshops, and it was an amazing thing to see so many people respond so positively to the book. It seemed like we were poised for things to take off even more - ready for something even bigger, and with the publication of our second book, Journal Fodder 365, my focus began to shift. I started thinking about how much I enjoyed the conferences and the workshops, and conventions, and there seemed to be a growing demand for what we had to offer. I began to consider the possibility of stepping away from teaching public school and into the world of a full time artist that taught workshops around the country, sold books and art, and gave talks motivating and inspiring others.

I was starting to see this as a way to make a living - a way to pay bills - a way to make a buck. I lost track of the reason why I was doing all of this in the first place. All those years ago, I had begun sharing the journal as a way to connect with other people - as a way to help them with their artistic and personal growth, but my focus shifted to wanting to make a living - wanting to make money. My aim became how can I step away from my career as a public school art educator and be a full time artist, presenter, workshop instructor. I became more and more dissatisfied with teaching, and plotted and schemed harder and harder trying to make my “dream” happen. But the more I tried, the further away it seemed. Things popped up that got in the way draining me emotionally and financially. No matter what, I was still were I was and not moving any closer to what I thought that I wanted. Actually, things seemed to back sliding. I became miserable at school feeling trapped and unappreciated - feeling angry and lost - feeling like I was treading water barely keeping my head above the surface.

I got lost in thoughts of “One of these days…” and I begin to despise where I was constantly feeling like I was not moving any closer to my dream. I got lost in the whole ego of the situation feeling that I wanted to be somewhere else - to be someone else. I looked at others who I felt were making it, and I made excuses why they had been successful, and why I hadn’t. It became me against the world. I was a victim of circumstances, and if circumstances were different, then it would be me that had the success. But a realization dawned on me - an awakening that finally made me see that the misery - the dissatisfaction was just a story that I was telling myself - the sad, poor me story that made people into enemies and situations into hopeless circumstances.

I realized that I had lost my way and my reason. I hadn’t written the books with Dave to make money or to make a living. I wrote them to share what I did with people knowing that there were many like me who want to make and create - who wanted to change their lives. I knew what power the visual journal held, and that’s why I wrote the books and presented at conferences and art retreats. I wanted to share and to connect. As I lost sight of that, I had stopped connecting. I had stopped so many things and isolated myself and shut part of myself off. I didn’t want to be shut down and closed off anymore.

One of my big revelations recently has been that we are always where we need to be. If we needed to be somewhere else, we would be there and not here. We might not exactly like where we are, but we are where we are because there is something we need to do - something we need to learn. We can’t ignore our present reliving the past and hoping for a certain future. We have to be in the moment that is NOW. By becoming present and by realizing that it was the thoughts about the future that were making me miserable, I realized that now is the only time that I have, and I can choose to be happy and choose to make of my life what I want now.

So I dedicating myself to reconnecting - reconnecting with myself - reconnecting with my art - and reconnecting with people. That is why I am here - to connect and share. I can’t do that in a future that will never come. I must do that now. Now is the only time I have. So, I have decided to stop withholding myself and what I have to offer from the world wallowing around in my sad, woe-is-me stories of lack. I have decided to stop living for a future that will never come. I have decided that in the here and now I will lay myself out there for others and try in every way to connect. I have decided to stop making the present an enemy and accept that I am where I need to be, and if I can truly hold that space for others, I will experience such abundance and happiness no matter where I am. I have decided that I am no longer waiting for that one day when everything is right with the world. I have decided that day is now - today - this very moment.

If I can live fully in the present moment, the universe will take care of me. The misery, anger, frustration have eased. I still have my moments when I catch myself conjuring the negative self-talk, feeling the frustration, but then I remind myself that I can only be where I am - HERE and NOW. There is no other place. I will stop trying to force something to happen, and simply abide in the now without resisting, and the universe will take care of the rest.


steve said...

Excellent, thoughtful post Eric. yes, we all definitely get to that place you described - not a good mental space to be in. I'm so glad you're finding purpose and peace in the present, the NOW. It takes work, but getting to a certain realization such as this is a huge step.

Monica said...

Mid life crisis. Fame is a gamble, work is a certainty for sustainability. The less time to create the more you will create. the "Who am I now" looks back. What a wonderful life. Work defines us to be an artist and teacher is a great gift. Use it for the the great life ahead.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that already are successful and you are indeed living your dream. You are spreading the joy and power of visual journaling to others and making a difference in the lives of many people and the world. Teaching art, lecturing at conferences and helping others find a way to enjoy or cope with their lives is a success. You may not be traveling or doing conferences fulltime but you are making a difference in the lives of others. And I think that is what a truly successful life is. Thanks for your inspiration and many hopes that you continue to find your success and satisfaction.

Eric said...

Thank you all for the encouraging comments. It's so easy to get caught up with the negative running commentary in your head wishing and wanting things to be different and feeling miserable that things are not, that it's easy to lose sight of the positive impact that I have had. I am always so grateful for the positive feedback and words of encouragement.

Fran Rees said...

Eric, your beautifully written post resounds with me. I have had similar thoughts and struggles. Your conclusion is inspiring, and your honest sharing conects You to others in more ways than you will ever know - beneficial ways. Your classes have shown me the power of visual journaling to have the courage to explore and honor my life as it is. I am enjoying your blog. Thanks!

Eric said...

Fran, Thank so much. It is always uplifting to here that what I do connects with people, and that is why I do all that I do. It's easy, though, to forget that. I'm hoping that by saying more present, I can keep sight of what really matters. I like your thought "honor my life as it is." That's something I am very much working on and finding gratitude in. Thank you again.

Maria said...

You took the words right out of my mouth! :) Thanks for the reminder.