The February Cure

My daughter and her 8 year old cohorts are very interested in defining mother nature, gods, the universe and things like that. What does mother nature do? What does she look like? Where does the universe end? What if I am dreaming my life? I can't help but wonder if February's imposing nature is helping to cultivate these thoughts. oh and yeah, these kids are thinking my 15-year-old self's thoughts: evolution? I believe so.

My friends and I have also been musing on February --I mean, what else can you do? We are stuck inside 99% of the time right now:

How do we release ourselves from February's clutches? Can we really outsmart it? February is the month when things that need to die, die. It takes no prisoners. It also holds Valentine's day in its very middle. It's loaded and it's short. But, thankfully, it's predictable.

Lets look at its tactics: Boredom- the kind that makes your fingernails itch. Dryness- there's a humidifier in every corner, wet towels draped on the radiators, hand lotion and chapstick stashed in every drawer and pocket. Coldness- the type that produces the feeling of trapped because you can't stay outside for any length of time, and if you do venture out, you are so... bundled. Scheduled Snow- who knew Mother Nature had a snow schedule? I always took her for more of a "go with the flow" sorta gal. I am sure February probably imposed this weekly snow schedule on her.

I have had my rows with February. Full, drag-out brawls. In the past, it has brought out the VERY worst in me and my loved ones. I am realizing I have lived most of my Februaries as a 28 day-long Groundhog Day. It's been my broken record month- me on autopilot repeating the same unfulfilling patterns. You see, no matter how hard I've tried to outwit it, my destiny seemed to be ending up under its thumb.

It's not like I have blindly gone along with it. I have made plans for myself and even carried them out.

These have been some of my go to's: • clean the house • make cookies • organize the underwear drawer • read a book • start a project • get a pedicure • have a potluck • sleep even though I am not tired

Problem is it feels like something I'd read in REAL SIMPLE, do it, and still feel empty. My actions had no heart. These are all superficial cures in relationship to a month like February. A bandaid just isn't going to sooth it. What to do?

This February I am starting to feel different. Don't get me wrong, I have been pissy, itchy, caged animal-y like the lot, but I decided to rise above and take a bird's eye view for a moment. Instead of expecting February to change I have made a change. I have changed my reaction to a response. (Why didn't I think of this sooner? This is like basic psych 101)

February is begging for conscious action done with heart. Could it be this simple? REAL SIMPLE? ahem.

This change in my attitude has allowed me to dig deep and look at the things that are essential to me. What a gift!

Thank you, February? (it feels like thanking an abuser)

This weekend I went to The New Britain Museum of American Art with a dear friend. She and I have made art together, free-ranged our kids together and all the while we exchange lots of ideas. I just love her. Because of this, I knew we could go to a museum to experience art together.

We got to the museum and as luck would have it there wasn't a soul in the place. Thank you, February.

Only in this type of quiet and well-curated museum could vulnerabilities fly around like fireflies- completely undisturbed. An invisible display. I felt it. Could it be the art is so much more alive than any other time of the year, completely unencumbered and free inside this perfect climate- controlled capsule? I hope so. It's like the art doesn't even know February is happening! It is so good in this place. It causes me to pause. I feel so welcome. I feel like I can breathe. There is a path. Negative space. This is a luxury.

This experience was my wish for the Matisse exhibit- one week later I've manifested it. I am amazed. Thank you, February.

So there is all of that. Then there is being with my friend in this special place. My cup runneth over. It was our gallery. Our private gallery. We didn't even have to pay because the front desk gave us a visitor's pass. Sharing impressions, excitement, distaste, etc-- all of the human responses are available to express and then you can just walk away. No attachment. It was a perfect day for any month of the year. Not for measuring against. Not to try and recreate. It was for taking in. It was our medicine, with the longest lasting effects and complete with with drowsiness upon returning home.

And now I know in my bones experiencing art with dear friends essential for me. Thank you, February.

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all images are from Nobu Fukui's Incredulity, 2012 at the New Britain Museum of Art

Quiet is a luxury, Matisse, Bob Dylan + other musings

Part 1 Are you inspired? How was NYC? What did you think of Matisse?

I often feel a little guilty when asked these questions after a much anticipated trip or well-known event, because my answer can never just be: Good! I loved it! NYC was the BEST!

There are many times I wish my answer could be one of those. Wouldn't it be easier?-- I often fantasize.

The truth is yesterday's Matisse + NYC left me feeling like I need quiet.  MoMA's Matisse exhibit was shoulder to shoulder and groups of children sitting crisscross applesauce watching videos of Matisse creating-- all set on the stage that is NYC.  It was a sensory overload and hard for me to respond to his art in the moment-- I found it frustrating.  I spent a good deal of my energy in NYC fantasizing about quiet or being up several floors from street-level which produces that lovely soothing muffled noise of traffic, creating the feeling of insulation.

For me, quiet is a luxury.

I've met people who are surprised that I choose to live in this plain jane of a town. (sometimes one of these people is me). In my town, I have managed to make and maintain a quiet space for myself. Right now, I am upstairs in my bed listening to the muffled sounds of my family as I type: Heaven.

And on the topic of sound, I feel it's important to share that I rarely listen to music and when I do it's alone.  The music I tend to enjoy usually has a singer who is hard to understand- think Bob Dylan, except I don't really care for his music... so maybe think artists who are heavily influenced by Bob Dylan.

Can you imagine that? I suppose this is a little elusive. Like a slippery bar of soap you try to hold by squeezing your hands together- it slips out from your grip, but if you hold your hand still it will stay put.

The feeling I get from listening to music like this IS somehow synonymous to how I feel when I experience nourishing quiet and good design.

For me the junction between chaos and organization is the point where good design, music & art happen.

Part 2

Matisse felt he "painted with scissors" as he made his cut-outs.  He blurred the lines between the canvas and the wall by removing the canvas altogether.  The canvas was never big enough, the walls were never big enough, the house was never big enough to contain Matisse's essence that he expressed in his cut-outs.  His cut-outs that became his "wall-paper" seemed to be the only way he could make peace with having to be contained by the shelter he had to live in.  Being human demands we contain ourselves for our own protection.  I believe because of his drive to reconcile this basic human need of shelter with his essence, that these cut-outs were created. The cut-outs were primarily created in the later years of his life when he was not well . He relied on his assistants to help execute his art: energy and vision. He created beautiful works from his bed or chair with their able bodies-- many works being larger than my living room floor! He trusted other people to help carry out his vision. He collaborated.

Is his art any less impactful because he had others help him physically create it? No.

This makes me think of the design work I do -helping people get clear on how they want to decorate and giving them the easy steps to do it.

Does it make your home any less an expression of who you are if you seek and employ the guidance of someone like me? No.

What also strikes me is the myth that colors our idea of how beautiful, meaningful things are created. The myth that beautiful & meaningful things are created alone – void of input from others.  Either you're creative or you're not. That even though you may pine to create art or make a beautiful space to call home, if you don't know how, or are not able to do it all by yourself somehow it's inauthentic and doesn't reflect you.

Are you telling yourself some version of this myth?  Is there a project in your home that has been stunted because you're afraid to ask for help?  What is it?  I'd love to know!

I hate the word decorating

I hate the word decorating. It's so June Cleaver. And while there are some attributes I love about her, she's filled with a quiet rage. I don't relate.

Decorating reminds me of the word hobby. Another word I hate.

Decorating feels so limiting. Who does it anyway? Not me. It conjures up images of tiny movements that make no impact, organization porn on Pinterest and falling victim to someone else's idea of what you should be.

CREEPY.

and most of all it's repellant to people who want to make a kick-ass space.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Pinterest. But like any tool it can used for evil or just plain mediocrity (evil). Making a great space doesn't come from buying the whole room collection from pottery barn or correctly executing that Pin from Pinterest. If you ask me, those over-curated rooms and Pins are just versions of the 1990's bed-in-a-bag. Once attained, it feels like stiff shirt -looks crisp but feels like you can't relax. GET ME OUT!

Creating a space you love takes time-- but before I lose you, not THAT much time.

Comment with a picture of room that keeps stumping you and I'll give you some quick ideas.

Thanks for the image, pixie.com! http://pyxie.com/trends/hair/mom-hair-through-the-years/