Below are reflections on a challenging time and the years (and lessons) to follow. After a failure, someone criticized me, “Joanne, you are always learning!” I took it as a compliment. “Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live!” Alfred Adler. Thankfully, I’ve learned a ton and the lessons are getting more interesting.
1. Find your circle
Creating some distance from a few negative people (the drama queens, the self-absorbed or doubters) was an instant priority. It wasn’t my job to comfort others in that difficult time. Small amounts of negative energy can chip away at wellness, like water carving stone. Do not underestimate its power. Because it seemed my survival counted on a super-tribe, it became clear that I needed to do some weeding and cherry-picking to tighten my circle. My clan of uplifting, caring, supportive peeps has helped make my life possible, enjoyable and fruitful. I’m so grateful. By cultivating strong, collaborative communities, such as female arts collective THRIVE Art Studio, I hope to empower others. Together we go farther!
2. Seize the moment
Facing mortality seems to increase appreciation of everything. I waste less time on activities that I don’t align with. I choose carefully, freeing all involved for more valuable interactions. Goals are intentional and less fear-based. Each day is a bonus, underlined by a feeling of abundance instead of scarcity. It took a while, but my life is now simpler yet more impactful and joyous. As I opened to alternative healing modalities, I met amazing people who introduced me to new ways of being. Some of these healing journeys have inspired my paintings or guided my practice. While teaching therapeutic art for over eight years, I helped others heal and develop their voice. These days, I’m fully dedicated to sharing my own expressions. I wake up grateful and work hard to share my vision. My practice is rooted in joy, love and service.
3. Practice self-care
Health and wellness are a focus. I drink less alcohol (goodbye wine blog) and exercise more (hello yoga). My love of eating whatever I wanted to turned into a passion for nourishing foods and sustainability. By launching a successful bean-to-bar chocolate company, I have helped get powerful antioxidants into many bodies. I care for myself and others by growing organic vegetables and kombucha. When out of balance (‘cause life happens, right?!), I ramp up self-care in whatever way time allows. Giving my all means different things at different times; it’s the same in the art studio…some days I create, other days I organize. By accepting my imperfections, I channel more energy towards wellness, love and creation. These themes find their way into my art, like kintsugi-inspired gold. I don’t subscribe to the tormented, struggling artist myth. When I’m well, I’m consistent. In short, I do everything I can to secure a long, fabulous, love- and art-filled life! Yet, everything in moderation; sometimes, I “cake for breakfast”! 😉
4. The truth will set you free
Growth has strengthened my voice. I have learned that only love is real, everything else is an illusion (A Course in Miracles). Knowing my truth and speaking it boldly is a kind of success for me. Fear, guilt, shame…all carry negative energy that I believe have the potential to become the seeds of distraction, disease—and bad art. Thankfully, meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices have deepened my connection to mind-body and my ability to create healthier boundaries. That might means protecting my time or the tender, new ideas of art itself. Ultimately, this clarity has helped me make values- and heart-based decisions with faith and conviction, such as forgiving quickly or releasing expectations. Art based in truth communicates successfully, has lasting power and leaves a great impact on many as we are all human.
5. Be grateful
Always. Period. “As long you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter how ill or despairing you may be feeling in a given moment.” Jon Kabat-Zinn. Sure, I still have bad days periodically. Nonetheless, I try to never loose sight of my good luck. Luckiness begins with a choice to see ourselves as lucky, regardless of our situation. This productive perception can begin (or be renewed) at any time. I believe gratitude and acceptance foster love while easing pain. My conclusion “why not me?” (vs. “why me?!) released my desire to find answers that weren’t really available anyway. Further, this helped me avoid unhelpful comments by those who struggled to make sense of my cancer diagnosis. Selectively inviting feedback creates a foundation for authenticity in art and life. I tried to heal with focused intentions, faith and compassion–without attachment to outcome. This attitude strengthened the very traits needed in any successful art practice.