spilling open

and it may be a little honest and raw for some....

I've grappled with a number of issues lately regarding my future. 

When I got so sick again last year, I couldn't have known what impact it would have on my day-to-day life. I hoped the impact would, once the hard yards were done, be minimal. In some ways they have been. I've been lucky to not have chemotherapy and so not be sick in th way chemo makes one. I'm still upright and mobile and have most of my faculties. These are good things.

I have not bounced back the way I'd hoped though. I struggle with fatigue. I have B12 injections and I've had one iron infusion - no doubt more to come since I don't really absorb iron through diet. The perils of not having the inside parts to absorb vitamins! 

I've suffered chronic depression since I was 18, although not truly diagnosed until I was 25. There are any number of reasons why, including chemical and emotional. But I take medication, I try to put a smile on my face and regularly remind myself of a basic truth: I am lucky

All of these things do not lend themselves well to regular employment - it is simply unfair to expect any boss to work around my health to the extent they would need to. I hope as I continue to recover, that might improve enough to change. Until then, I continue doing what I've been doing. Writing and creating art. But they don't pay the bills.

I'm not really notivated by money, insofar as I don't ever feel envy of other people's money and can live off only a little when I need to. I have a roof over my head, bills paid and food on my table. That puts me ahead of many and I am very grateful and mindful of that. 

But I am in my mid 30s and I want more self satisfaction. I love making art and writing, but the reality is I don't make much from it and I really struggle with the idea that my work has to be satisfying to others in order to be successful. I love what I do but I can't pay myself. People are loving Zentangle Untangled but anyone in publishing knows that authors don't make a lot - unless you're JK Rowling of course - and there needs to be other income streams.

Some days - maybe more at the moment because of some of the above mentioned issues and others - I wonder if I am dreaming. If a life of art, writing and creativity can be enough. I want to contribute to our home - my husband takes responsibility for our income and I adore him for that. But I want to be part of it, I want to share that load and feel like I am worthwhile.

People keep telling me they think I do not realise how major it is to publish a book. I do. When friends' books come out, I get VERY excited for them and really recognise the value of what they've done. It's not that I don't feel that way about Zentangle Untangled, it's that I am not one to celebrate myself in that way. I come from a family of hard work, humility and serving others before ourselves. And I think that, because I sent my book to my publisher the night before I had my surgery last year, it feels like a lifetime ago - in some ways I don't remember writing the text (which I wrote after completing the artwork). I do feel some disconnect from it, still. I'm proud of what I did. I still can't believe I even sent that first email to Tonia at F+W even suggesting my idea. I am grateful for the opportunity. But I don't feel a lot of ownership of it. It's a confounding feeling to have.

I took the criticism (that has now been removed from Amazon) personally. I shouldn't - the first rule of writing is not to take reviews personally. And I hadn't so far - what I do wont be for everyone and I am not setting out to please everyone. My book found it's audience and that makes it a success in itself. But the criticism of my writing about my illness as part of the book cut deeply and personally. My mother told me to ignore it (I'll decline to say what else she said for fear of incrimination but let's just say she was a Mother Bear protective of her cub!). Normally I could and would, had it not been so cruel. I don't think people on the internet always remember that there is a human being at the other end, reading their remarks. When you attack a person for having cancer and writing about it as part of a book about art as meditation and relaxation, it's kind of confronting to read. I've had my fair share of pretty atrocious things said to me over the years, some regarding my illness. Those are the things that stay with me, that continue to cut my heart open. I'm often told I am strong. I'm not so strong actually and I take on board stuff more than people see from the outside. 

It may not be the done thing or the right thing for an author to admit to hurt or weaknesses, but I've always tried to be honest in my writing and I think it's important to remain so on this issue.

What this is all leading to is a very large questioning of whether it is realistic for me to live as an artist professionally, or whether I take my art back to being mine, being personal, for my own satisfaction. That's not to say I wouldn't share it here on my blog, but whether or not it becomes a hobby again and just part of what I do and who I am, rather than a defining factor. I appreciate every single email and message I get from kind people saying they love my book, they love my work. You have no idea how often people's kindness reduces me to tears! And I do not want to focus on the negatives because that is just NOT who I am - my gratitude for being alive knows no boundaries, regardless of the challenges. But I do wonder some days if opening myself to the opinions thoughts and sometimes criticism of others is something I can maintain long term. I want to be the happiest, healthiest version of me I can be. 

I also am questioning the conduct and thinking of others in all of this, some direct, some indirect. The way other people do things that are out of my control but which cause hurt and difficulty. I can't change what people do or say, I can only control how I react to it. Sometimes that's to not react at all. Sometimes it means cutting ties. That's all in my mind too - making decisions that are right for me. For my husband and I and OUR future.

So there is a lot of thinking, navel gazing, reflecting happening here. Thanks for letting me spill open.