“[…] nothing that you love is your very own.” Epictetus, Discourses III.24.
July has been an odd sort of month, in some ways. Progress on the boat, unexpected time to do DIY (I’d forgotten for ages that Holly would be on holiday, so hadn’t factored in a couple more free days), a personal health issue (nothing too alarming, just a bit TMI to share here), and an overall struggle in focussing and keeping energy up for all the things I have to do.
I did start taking evening primrose oil a month ago (it was in my cod liver oil capsules, only type they had in the shop and I figured it couldn’t hurt), which might be a factor. Have been feeling a bit down compared to usual (with bad skin, too!), with no discernible reason for it. Perhaps the evening primrose has levelled my moods too effectively?! Unsure. Going to ditch it for a while and see what happens.
I feel like it need a holiday. Despite having had a little break as recently as June! So what does that mean though, to want a holiday…? It means I want a break from pressure. And you know, I’m not under a lot of pressure by any means, just perhaps a mite more than I am personally comfortable with right now. Because I’ve been doing really well this past year and would like it to continue! Perhaps it’s a self-employed or artist cliché, but I’m one of those who, when things are a bit much, let’s the ball drop on self-care. Recently I’ve been trying to change my habits so that my own well-being isn’t the thing I let slide, but all that’s meant is that other things have had to slide instead. Not ideal. I perhaps need to adjust my expectations.
I’ve been thinking about primary senses. If I’m in conversation and some words appear in front of me (a text or something), speech fails because I can’t not begin reading. If John’s doing something and some music starts playing, he can’t help but stop what he’s doing and listen and sing. I’m the visual artist (who likes to write) and he’s the musician. We annoy each other by drifting off mid conversation, but we drift for different reasons. Whether this is an innate thing or a result of habitual work/practice, I don’t know. Presumably it’s a combination of the two. The innate thing becomes the habitual thing, if given the chance. And you become so well practiced in it that it becomes hard to switch off at times. This was one of the reasons we embarked on boat life, to minimise our ability to have work-type distractions at home.
Of course, with my “year off” coming up I am going to be doing probably a day of embellishment each week, from home. Ideally I’d like to take our work to the library or a cafe, but one has to assume that there will be times when I’m sat on my boat sewing down lace and crystals. So the plan was always to build/buy some storage for all my year off stuff so that it would be “out of sight and out of mind” whenever we aren’t actually embellishing.
But last night I had a new idea for the storage, which would make it all more visible, but rather pretty. Is that what I want?
We built some shelves yesterday, which may end up housing all my beads and pearls and such like. But there is also another area in which I could build something similar but more substantial. Here are the shelves (in progress):
So, imagine something like this but wider/taller and with a cupboard beneath. None of the shelves would go the full width. Instead, they describe the shape of a mannequin. Ie: my raw papiér mâché Eqwardian mannequin sits in the middle with small (but deep) shelves all around it for glass jars full of crystals and lace and beads, etc. etc.
It could be a very pretty thing. Rough and ready, but all sinuous and organic, whilst also being a good backdrop for photographing each new one-of-a-kind design as it emerges. But… the mannequin would be right there, on show, all the time. Plus the jars and such. (The pre-made, ready-for-embellishment, corsets themselves would be tucked away in the cupboard beneath.) Would this end up overwhelming? Would seeing this stuff each day become a stressor, a constant nagging reminder to “do work”? Something that made it harder to switch off and enjoy the recently found peace of my home life? Or would it just be pretty background stuff, no pressure whatsoever? Hard to know.
Aside from feeling a bit mediocre this month, as already mentioned, I am actually very happy and feeling very lucky and fortunate. The other day I was doing some DIY and I had Fairground Attraction playing in the background. This is an album that I used to listen to as a new teenager, singing along with Eddie as she spoke about romantic notions of love in a free-spirited way. I could find it twee and naive now, as an adult, but I found that I loved it all the same as ever before. Possibly now more so. Ideas of affection and connection that I had daydreamed about as a child now made more sense. I was singing along with fresh air blowing through the whole boat, whereas before I would have been singing along with all my bedroom windows open. It wasn’t nostalgia that I felt, it was comfort, or a sense of place, or a sort of time travel almost. I felt as safe and content as I did back then, before I really learned that life has sadness… only now I was a more fully realised human being, with agency and confidence. John kissed me on the head on his way out to the studio and I realised that I now had what I wanted when I was a daydreaming child listening to those same silly songs. Some of it by design, perhaps, but most of it by chance.
“Nothing that you love is your very own”, it’s all a gift.