There’s been a lot going on around here lately. With visitors gone and birthdays over for another year, we’re heading off to Inverness at the weekend to stock up on essentials. It’s a long drive so an early start is necessary but I’m looking forward to the change of scene and seeing a bit of life, even if it’s just for a day. We’re hoping to visit the Botanic Gardens there and maybe explore the area near the castle and river.
My artwork has been selling well - to the point where I really need to make a lot more - so that’s high on the to-do list. The list that never ends…
And that’s what inspired this post.
I’ve had to do a lot of evaluating and reflecting recently. Because despite our move here, and all those intentions of slowing down and simplifying our lives, I’ve fallen into the Busyness Trap again. Juggling, spinning seemingly endless plates. I’m trying to grow a small business - a creative business. That takes a lot of time and energy, a big investment of not just money but mental endeavour. A creative business requires thought, research, inspiration. And as I just mentioned, the big one: Time. For those who are interested, by the way, there’s a great post here on just what goes into this type of work and career.
You can’t switch the creative process on and off to fit in with housework, childcare, household admin, friends, family. I’m writing and printmaking and running workshops and selling at fairs and Deputy Editing a magazine. My website needs updating. I need to do product photography and shop listings and (that thing I never seem to do) marketing and promotion. I have to arrange meetings with local business owners to arrange group sessions for their clients. And, having signed up for Lightroom, I want to set time aside to get to grips with it.
We just moved house after relocating far from home. Joe turned six a few weeks ago. He’s still very little and I’m the one who cares for him whilst Jay works long hours: school runs, swimming lessons, trips out, homework, snacks, activities, adventures, even the simple stuff like teeth brushing and getting dressed.
People who know me are aware that I have CFS amongst other niggling and long-term health issues. The standard advice is to slow down, pace yourself etc. But that’s not easy without family support up here. We made the decision and were aware of this when we made the move, but I need to find some balance.
Joe is, of course, non-negotiable. I know I’m a perfectionist and a slave to Mummy Guilt, feeling the need to be constantly ‘on’ as entertainer and comforter, provider of emotional security, education, experiences. But I get so much back from all that and it’s well worth the frustrations and occasional dramas. He’s growing fast and we make the most of these days of childhood wonderment where he still automatically reaches for my hand, and truly believes that the Tooth Fairy phoned me on Monday…
However. I can’t be all these things if I’m too tired or unwell. I’ve been developing more and more allergies. Sleepless nights are, at the moment, the norm. And whilst I can’t control all aspects of my health, I can try and lower my stress levels. Stress is, for me, something which can and does make me physically ill so I may as well try my best to keep it manageable.
I’ve been talking to someone who knows about these things. And she inspired me to make changes. So I did.
I stepped down from my position at Creative Countryside. This was a tough one for me, having been on board since the very beginning. I love working with Eleanor and the team, and I love the magazine. But I felt I wasn’t doing it justice in terms of social media, content, commissioning pieces. So I’m going to still be a regular contributor and be part of the community, just in a less official capacity.
I also looked at the craft market I’ve been doing on Tuesdays. It just isn’t worth the time and effort. Financially it doesn’t add up either and dropping Joe off at school before loading up the car and driving almost 8 miles along a single-track road to set up in time, then rushing to get back in time to collect him again at the end of the day… So, no. I tried it and it isn’t the way forward for me.
I also made a big decision about the studio out in the back garden.
It needs either pulling down and rebuilding or stripping back and renovating. Either way, it’s going to cost. And the thought of that meant we’d put it on the back burner. But after a long discussion, we’ve decided to go ahead with it and not wait those few years. It’s going to be an investment. A local builder came over and suggested we renovate rather than knock it all down (although the asbestos roof needs to go). It’ll cost roughly half what it would to start over again, so the work will happen next year. It’s a very big space and the plan is to use it as a printmaking studio, somewhere to teach my workshops, and to perhaps incorporate a little retail area.
I’d really love to have somewhere for local creatives to gather socially, particularly through the winter, to swap skills and relax together and get inspired. Who knows - maybe we’ll end up hosting the odd retreat. And if all else fails then we’ll always have the option of converting it into holiday accommodation.
So, the journey.
I read somewhere that depressed people live in the past and anxious people live in the future. I’m definitely a worrier, and when you add those perfectionist tendencies and that near constant critical self-talk: well, I’m the one putting the most pressure on myself, the one with impossibly high standards. Wanting to have the house renovated in places, redecorated all over, right now. Trying to have a successful business which is growing and making a good amount of money within a year or so of starting a new life in a new country, all fitted in around childcare and other commitments. Beating myself up for never being ‘enough’ as a parent.
I need to slow down and enjoy the journey. It’s not some race to the finish. We’re not lottery winners with the money to do everything immediately. We have to live in this house and get to know it, become properly familiar with it and the garden and the village.
So I’m simplifying things and noticing more.
Like that the by-products of the printmaking process, the ‘scrap’, is actually really interesting and beautiful in itself. And I want to explore that further. Or that taking the longer route to school to collect Joe is filled with lovely things (see the sneaky photo I took of one of the skier bookends: they live in the porch of a little cottage and I’ve been coveting them for months). And yes, I know I’m a total hypocrite re. photographing through other people’s windows :/
We go to the castle a lot to watch the seasons change and spot all the different fungi: again, the Fly Agarics and other unusual ones, like the little pink toadstools resembling Japanese cherry blossoms. We look at insects and read about the poisonous plants (Joe’s favourites) in the new Plants with Purpose garden.
At the weekend we lit the stove in the studio and just stayed at home, pottering about in the garden and warming ourselves and acknowledging how lucky we are to live here, to have this great space with so much potential and a cosy woodburner to enjoy. Jay was busy renovating an old wardrobe (to become a bookcase); Joe was working on some little project of his own, the door into the garden was open and we could hear the stream rushing past and the wind in the trees.
As for the house: the main living areas will get a coat of white paint over the coming weeks. Everything else can wait. We already have books and furniture, art and beautiful things.
And I’ve started planning out my weeks in a notebook, timetabling (although nothing is set in stone). It’s been a useful thing to do in that I realised just how much I was trying to cram in and how impossible it was to get it all done. Underestimating how long things actually take to do properly, to complete things and not end up with so many half-finished tasks (which is stressful in itself).
So now life should get a bit simpler. Doing things one at a time, mindfully and thoroughly. Printmaking can be done in stages - a session doesn’t have to end with reams of finished prints. They can dry and be set aside for further layers if I want, on a different day.
The house doesn’t need to be Insta-perfect. Nothing does, really.
This will be an ongoing project for me with my ingrained perfectionism, but I’m going to really try not to get mired in the should-dos and instead focus more on the what abouts and the why nots.