Butterflies (of the shy variety)

So often, things that you might think would be outside of my comfort zone actually aren’t outside of it at all. There are plenty of things that I’m uncertain of, things that I might try that might not work, things that I’ve no prior experience with… but none of this necessarily makes the thing uncomfortable. 

Through Sparklewren, I’ve gotten pretty good at doing new things (walking into experiences with no guarantees of the outcome) without feeling it too deeply, if you see what I mean. Stuff happens around you, but it doesn’t always have to touch you. The little I know of stoicism seems to term this life-stuff “indifferent” and indifferents can be preferred or otherwise but are of little true consequence. People teach themselves to cultivate indifference. A sort of apathy for the insignificant so that your energies are focused on the important (virtue, ethics, morality, nature, duty…). Or the way I often think of it, “choose your battles.” I don’t spend much time cultivating indifference as I already have it in many regards (whether through early upbringing or life experience, doesn’t really matter). So it’s sometimes a surprise when I find myself considering a situation in which my natural calm is disrupted! 

One of the things I would like to do in my adult life is have a horse again. That’s no secret. Having gotten back into ponies over the past two years I realise it’s like drawing or corsetmaking or writing… It’s just part of my nature. And if you can let your nature flourish without injury to others then you should. Life is too short to shuffle around in uncertainty and fear. Volunteering and helping with ponies is an absolute joy and I’m so lucky and privileged to be involved, but it would be like having access to paper and pen (and a subject to study) only at someone else’s say so. It’s completely wonderful but oh, you want to pursue more and know more and experience more and make your own mistakes and triumphs. 

The thought of actually doing it gives me butterflies. A vibration around my heart because buying an animal is outside of my comfort zone, in so much as whenever I’ve become a pet owner in the past it’s been by accident or through the parents. Stuff can happen, good or bad, and I cope fine. But to go out and choose for something to happen, something that matters to you, that’s scarier. 

I used to have that feeling when I first began Sparklewren. Choosing to share work made me vulnerable, and for the first couple of years I could be greatly encouraged or hurt by the feedback of my peers. It’s why I try to always be encouraging to new/other makers, as I know how fragile you can feel at the beginning. And though fragility is beautiful in art and personality, it can’t be allowed to consume you. So many people talking about their years of expertise, how difficult and skilled it all is, deliberately or accidentally making you feel incapable in comparison… But you are capable of learning, improving, and excelling. Everyone is. An excess of fear just gets in the way and slows you down. 

These days presenting my work to the world is a familiar thing and therefore no real source of nerves or butterflies. You generally do the scary thing and then think, “well that wasn’t so scary after all.” (As an aside the next step, for me, is then to remember that lesson so that I can be a calming presence/voice for others who are still at the, “it’s scary, I can’t!” phase.) 

I thought we couldn’t have a pet in the city, but the Cat found us and made himself at home and all was well. All was better, in fact. Such a small, tiny thing, but it often is the small things you get hung up on isn’t it? And if the lady who has loaned my childhood pony Fred for the past decade suddenly needed us to look after him, or if mum was taken I’ll and needed me to look after her bonkers dog for a while, I’d do it without even thinking and without worrying about whether I was capable, because underneath the butterflies I know I am. I’d figure it out and trust myself. But to go out and choose an animal, choose the responsibility, arrange viewings, meet assorted new people and deal with their opinions… that’s exciting and scary! Because it truly is the human beings that make this occasionally scary to me, not the beasties or the finances or anything else… And since I am determined to do it at some point over the next year or so, I really need to cultivate some more self-confidence and calm about it. Be excited, but in an almost disinterested way. Let it happen or not happen. Not rush the process, or create stress, or place too much importance on it, or get shy of new people and new situations. And just crack on with it before it becomes a bigger deal than it deserves to be. 

So, this blog post was brought to you by a brief moment of, “who… me?” which, through writing, is now out of my system. It’ll flare up again, maybe in a couple months, but it’s thankfully not my default setting.

Anyway, as I’ve spent the weekend studying equine biomechanics, I’ll close with a line from classical dressage writing. It specifically refers to the appearance of a well-schooled, well-managed horse, but I quite like it as a broader description of art and life. 

“Beauty ultimately looks like the manifestation of happiness.” – Charles de Kunffy.  


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