Friday, April 17, 2015

Maintaining Balance

Lately I've been so caught up in life's situations, that I've fallen out of balance. When I ask myself what I'm truly needing from life, it's balance.

Before I started this creative constraints project, my life centered around work. I felt like I got enough time to my self, but it didn't seem like there was a lot of room for creativity, (which is the reason why I started this project in the first place). But now, I'm finding it hard to do all of it. Work is getting busier, yet my external pursuits are gaining more and more momentum. While I would love to do all of it, something has to fall off.

Because I have the tendancy to overload my schedule, my health (both mental and physical) tend to dwindle first. I'd rather sit here and work on this blog post for my audience (because I want to maintain consistency and follow through), than go to the gym. But for someone who's health is the most important thing, I can't let that happen.

It doesn't mean I'm stopping this project altogether, though. The unexpected outpour of incredible feedback from each of you has provided me with enough fuel and momentum to continue with the twice a week painting, but I need to pull back on my writing.

I miss writing for the sake of writing, and I hope that within that, I'll feel inspired again to share some of those insights with my audience. But for now, I'm going to stick to posting just the paintings (along with their back-story), via the blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

This isn't easy, but I want you all to know how much fun it's been for me to share my creative insights with you. Your feedback has been incredibly powerful at fueling my own creativity and consistency, and I look forward to sharing my writing with you again very soon!

But for now, here's painting #15: Pebble Beach (4x4 inches, watercolor).

I created this painting as a birthday present for my dad, Keith. We visited this spot about a year ago (hence the Instagram post below). It was a really hard one to get the scale right (I'm not used to these small canvases), but I always love the challenge of a landscape.

It's such an exquisite location. It's no surprise that it's home to one of the best golf courses in the world. 

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Fear of Letting Go

I'm a dreamer. I like to dream big. I always have. But lately, I've been feeling overwhelmed by the massive amount of time and energy required to make my dreams come true. It's so much easier to dream than it is to try and not achieve what we've always wanted.

To me, failure and falling are two separate things. When we choose to settle for mediocracy and familiarity, that's failure. Success requires letting go of that familiarity, and falling a few times in order to get there.

When we first learn how to ride a bike, we start out using training wheels. But they only serve us for a short period of time. There comes a point at which you must take them off. Sure, you can continue using training wheels for the rest of your life. It's easy and comfortable, but you're not going to be able to fully ride if you don't evolve to a regular bike.

Once we remove them, it's a known fact that we will fall over and skin up our knees. It's an inevitable part of learning. But once we've fallen a few times, we start to get the hang of it, and soon enough, we're riding farther, faster, and with more confidence than we ever thought possible. Oh, and we never need to go back to using those training wheels. They're long gone.

That's how I like to think of moving from mediocracy to success. We have to let go of what's no longer serving us in order to evolve.

We have to.

Letting go of what's safe and comfortable is actually more terrifying (and therefore debilitating) than the fear of not achieving what we've set out to achieve, or the fear of success (reaching our dreams).

I'll admit, my biggest fear is letting go. I even have an art print by Katie Daisy on my desk that says 'Let Go', because I have to constantly remind myself to do so.

Deep down, we know we have what it takes to be wildly successful. But the road that we must travel down in order to get there is dark and treacherous. The road of mediocracy that we're currently on is light and fluffy - like a hot stack of pancakes. While delicious, it may not be serving us anymore. We may not feel challenged or happy on this soft and cozy road, but it's familiar, so we have trouble letting it go.

In order to achieve the greatness that lurks within us, we have to make the conscious choice to journey down the road less traveled. Think about the last time you went on a hike. Did you ever venture off the beaten path to a place that was far more beautiful and captivating than anything you would have seen otherwise? That's how we have to approach chasing our dreams. Our dreams don't exist on the road to mediocracy. They're just beyond the bend, close enough that we can feel them, taste them, even hear them, but we won't be able to see them until we take the risk and blaze our own trail.

Letting go requires trust. It requires faith. It requires staying aligned with what you truly desire in life. Just like riding a bike, as soon as you make the choice to evolve from training wheels, you're going to fall a few times and skin up your knees, but you'll never need to retreat back to where you once were. Your trail won't be easy to travel down, but the rewards of what's waiting for you at your destination far outweigh what you would have gotten had you played it safe.

So go ahead, take the jump.

Painting #14: Close Encounters (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram post, inspired by a sign I saw on the side of a telescope through which I was observing a solar eclipse. I found it pretty profound...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Taking One Step At a Time

Slowing down is no longer a part of our culture. We've become accustomed to doing things quickly and efficiently. While I'm not a proponent of wasting time, I'm starting to realize the importance of slowing down and paying attention to the step I'm taking right now.

There's so much I want to do. I want to spend time investing in my job and career. I want to get out of debt, get healthier, lose weight, spend more time painting and working on my blog. I want to spend time traveling, seeing friends, riding my horse, shooting photos, and more.

If I try to do all of those things at once (which usually happens), I'll burn out. Even if I'm doing things I love, if I'm not taking each step slowly and deliberately, I can run myself into the ground. Not good.

Lately, when I try focusing on achieving my goals, I feel like I can't gain any traction. As soon as I start working on getting myself healthy, I end up spending more money than I want to. If I shift my focus to getting out of debt, my health declines. Clearly something isn't working.

There's got to be a way to balance everything and still succeed in the end. I did learn, though, (from listening to Dave Ramsey for the past 3 years), that a person can't pay off debt and build wealth at the same time and gain much traction. One has to slow down and do one thing at a time. He's even laid out 7 'Baby Steps' to help his listeners and readers stay on track. This principle has helped me with staying on a budget and getting rid of my credit card debt (for the first time in my life). While I still have additional debt to pay down (and a ways to go), what if I applied this same principle to the other areas of my life?

Focusing on what I have to do right now, while embracing and enjoying it, is the only way I'm going to achieve my goals, whether they be heath, career, financial, creative, or spiritual.

When it comes to my creative goals, there's a lot of exciting things I want to accomplish. I want to create more art. I want to blog more. I want to start a video series. I want to open an online shop. But right now, I can't do all of those things. I have to start small. My first and foremost goal is to get through my 'Creative Constraint' project (serving up 100 paintings over the course of a year).

The truth is, when it comes to achieving a goal, I'll never be able to climb the mountain if I have too many other things distracting me from reaching my destination. It's survival. The only thing that matters is whether or not I make it out alive. In that moment, nothing else is important.

If I approach each goal one at a time head on, as if it's the most important thing in my life, there's no reason why I can't achieve it. But if I try to climb a mountain while distracted by all of the other 'shoulds' in my life, I'll never reach the pinnacle. Dave Ramsey always refers to the Momentum Theorem: "Focused intensity, over time, multiplied by God, equals unstoppable momentum".

It all comes down to priority. We have to ask ourselves what the most important thing in our lives is right now. Is it getting out of debt, or shedding the extra 20 pounds you've been carrying around for the past 15 years? Both are important, but what's more important to you right now? You can't work on both equally at the same time, because there's always going to be a give and take. If you choose one, let that be the priority first and foremost. Use the momentum theorem to knock it out, and move on to the next.

Once you've chosen the path you're going to walk down, you have to take it slow. Making changes in your life that are outside of your 'status quo' will never be easy to adjust to. But if that's all you're having to focus on, then you won't be as likely to be distracted by another path that presents itself to you.

Travel slowly enough to actually recognize and appreciate what it is you're going through at that moment. There will be a lot to take in, and at times you may get distracted, or feel like you're not gaining any traction, or that the path isn't leading you in the right direction. You must trust your intentions, and keep your focus on the goal. It's the only way to achieve what you truly desire.

Painting #13: A Snail's Journey (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram Photo:

I noticed this little guy making its way across the pavement leading up to my building at work. I couldn't help but find wonder in how it clearly and deliberately took one step at a time; the evenness of its pattern bewildering to me. It was such a clear metaphor of how important it is to slow down and put one foot in front of the other. It may seem like it's taking forever to reach your destination, but if it's the one thing you're focusing on, you're bound to get there.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Writing for Your Own Sake

I've noticed that my primary reason for sitting down to write lately is to share some fantastical piece of wisdom that had been circulating around within me for the few days prior. Some days, the material does not pour out as easily. Today was one of those days.

Instead of trying to write something heady and grandiose, I decided to just write about what was on my mind. I wouldn't put it on a blog, I would just get my thoughts out. So that's what I did. I wrote about what had been weighing me down lately. When I feel overwhelmed by a lot of things, this approach to releasing the thoughts that continue to swirl around in my head seems to help.

Then I thought (in addition to all the other things I was thinking), why don't I write about writing? So that's what I'm doing now.

I started writing for my own sake last summer. I'd get up early, and spend the first 30 minutes of my day just brain dumping. It was so much more therapeutic than I had anticipated, so I continued doing it. While I prefer to write that way, I've noticed that it's more effective for me to get my thoughts out toward the end of the day, so they won't bother me while I sleep. My writing isn't always coherant in the evenings, but it definitely helps me work through the issues of the day.

But if you can write in the morning (before you check your facebook feed), do. There's something really special about getting up and creating something. We so quickly and easily move into consumption-mode, that by the time we sit down to write or draw or whatever, we've lost the energy needed to produce. There's more science behind it, of course, but that's the gist of it. I've noticed a huge difference in the work I produce in the mornings vs. the evenings. So play around with it, and see what works best for you.

Writing, regardless of the time of day, helps bring clarity to whatever issue I'm facing. If I'm able to write about it, and actually see the words on the page (or in this case, on the screen), I'm able to see just how insigificant (or monumental) those thoughts, feelings, and insecurites are. I've unlocked so much about myself just by writing. While most of it is nonsensical (and should avoid a social platform by any and all means), I'm able to uncover the key pieces that I would like to share publicly. Most of my blog posts were derived this way.

Regardless of whether or not you publish your work, however, it's critical to write or journal in some way. Sharing your thoughts (even if it's just with your computer), is essential to understanding them. If you let them roll around in your mind for too long, they'll end up all lumpy and out of balance. Or, they'll end up perfectly round, and then there's no chance in breaking them apart.

Okay, I'm getting philosophical again. Basically, if you feel yourself getting too heady - or where you're trying to create something out of nothing, write about what IS happening. Write for your own sake, and soon enough, your idea for your next blog post, painting, or design will present itself.

Introducing, Painting #12: Cloud Study (4x4 inches, watercolor) - I wanted to give it some awesome name like 'Get Your Head Back in the Clouds', but sometimes it's just fun to paint something for no reason other than to simply enjoy the process. :)

Original Instagram Photo:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pulling Back the Curtain: A Closer Look At My Process

Recently, a lot of people have been asking me about my process. Having just finished my 11th painting, I think it's the perfect time to pull back the curtain and show how I get from point A to B.

Here goes...

It's 7:30 on a Wednesday night. I've just clocked 9 hours at work and I'm beat. All I want to do when I get home is gorge on corn chips and hummus (my go-to comfort food). I haven't written a blog post yet, or chosen the image that I plan on painting that night. Dishes are piling up in the sink. My gym bag stares at me from across the room, asking to be unloaded and packed again for the next morning.

The things that I am pulled to 'tend to' linger, but I know there is an audience that will expect my work to post online that following morning. This is something I've committed to, and I have no choice but to show up and do the work.

I wolf something down, switch into my pajamas and plant myself at my desk. I browse through my gallery of pre-selected Instagram photos (the ones that I determined were appropriate for watercolor paintings), and land on one that has some sort of resonance with what I'm going through at the moment. Because I include a blog post with each painting, I want to write and paint about something relevant. It amazes me that each time I sit down to do this, there's always an image that fits within the topic of choosing. Funny how their purpose is manifesting in this way...

I then turn on an audiobook or podcast to occupy my left brain. I've discovered over the years that I produce much better work when I'm not constantly judging it along the way. If I'm listening to an audiobook or podcast (not music), my left brain has something to analyze and think about, while my right brain is freed up to simply create. It's a crazy unscientific phenomenon, but it works. And I can't produce without doing it. When it comes to writing, however, I have to play instrumental-only music. It's just easier to come up with my own words when I'm not listening to someone else's. (Lately, I've been listening to the Steve Jobs biography and After the Jump when I'm painting).

Once all that's going, I fill a jar with water and get to work.

1. I start by quickly 'blocking in' my painting area using a coaster and masking tape. It's roughly 4x4 inches, and an easy way of measuring it. It doesn't have to be perfect. Again, this is a project of producing work, not perfection.

2. Using a basic mechanical pencil, I then sketch in the image I've chosen. I use a gummy eraser to extract any graphite I don't want in my final painting. I try to keep my sketches light enough that it doesn't stain the page if I try to erase, but dark enough that I'll be able to see certain outlines once I start laying down the paint.

3. I then prep my paint colors. I use two cheap plastic palettes to do my mixing. When I first started, I was much better about cleaning off my paint palettes after finishing a project. Now, I just leave them be on my desk. I need to start washing them off right away, to make it easier to start the next project. It's so much better having a clean surface on which to mix paint. What a concept!

4. Once I've landed on a matching color, I start to lay it in. I'm no watercolor expert, but I've noticed that by starting with lighter colors (and reserving spots on the page for extreme white), it's always easier to go back in and apply the dark. (How to paint with watercolors is an entirely different blog topic, so I'll keep this part short.) The entire painting process takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on the complexity of the image. I've made a point of keeping my paintings small so I can stay within these time constraints. Some paintings have taken me longer than that, but it's a good parameter to try to stay within.

5. After the painting has dried, I peel back the tape to reveal the final image, and sign it with a pen.

6. I then start photographing the image. I have to prop it up in such a way that my desk lamp shines on it evenly, in order to get the best representation possible. I could go crazy here, and I probably should, but I at this point, I just want to get my work out there. It doesn't have to be perfect.

7. I upload the photo to my computer, and do any minor tweaks in iPhoto. My iPhone's color calibrator is pretty crappy, so I choose to make adjustments in order to get it back to it's original look and feel. I then re-export the image to my phone for Instagram.

8. After the painting and photographing process is over, I get to work on my blog post. Ideally, I would have been jotting ideas down during the past couple days, but I've been so busy, that most of the time I'm starting from scratch. (By this time, it's closer to 10pm). What usually ends up happening is me starting half-lidded at my computer screen typing whatever makes sense at the time out onto the page.

9. As soon as I get all of my ideas out, I break away from my computer, clean my brushes and my workspace, wash my face, and crawl into bed. Working this late at night is not preferable, but it's the only time I have right now, so I'm making it work. Ideally, I'd spread out the work over a few days, so I'm not trying to cram it all in the night before (or morning of) posting.

10. I go back in the morning and have trouble deciphering what I had intended the night before, but it's a good time to edit work. In the morning I'm always more refreshed and clear-minded. I upload my work to blogger, and continue editing, switching from preview to edit modes until it's just right.  Once the post makes (enough) sense, I upload my painting, along with the original Instagram photo, and publish it.

11. I like to post my work to Instagram first. I feel like my followers there just want to see the image as quickly as possible. I also like to use Instagram to share some behind-the-scenes photos during my process. It helps bring transparency to my work.

12. I then go and share the blog post on Twitter. I've learned to leave a nugget of information - a tag line, if you will - to represent what my post is about. I don't usually use this platform to share the painting, however. Just a cool, quick message, and the post link, and I'm out.

13. Finally, I post to Facebook. I like to include whatever insight I had during the writing process, and share that along with my painting, and link to my blog. This platform gets all three. I've chosen to limit viewing access to just my friends, but if this blog/following grows enough, I'll create a separate Facebook feed for anyone to follow.

And that's it! That's my process, start to finish. Not glamorous, just simple. The hardest part is letting go of all the other things I feel like I 'should' be doing, and let myself create artwork. It easily fell off my priority list, but when I started putting it at the top, I realized that everything else got done, too. And I'm so much more happy, content, balanced and satisfied as a result.

I hope this helps bring some clarity to what I do and how I do it. :)

Introducing Painting #11: The Red Curtain (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram photo:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Act of Setting Bigger Goals

This concept of reaching for the stars isn't new. It's as old as the day is long. So why don't more of us do it? Do we assume that because the stars are out of reach that we can't catch anything? What if the stars were within our grasp, would we go for them then?

If you know me, then you know that I like to set huge lofty goals - and reach them. There are few things that I feel are beyond my grasp, and if I believe they'll happen, they usually do. Obviously, the journey in which I got there was not so cut and dry (I was tempted to give up several times), but trusting that I'd end up at my destination was the reason why I ultimately arrived.

Over the past few years, I've been inspired to start a blog of my own. Currently, I have this existing blogger platform, which is a great starting point, but I have dreams of turning it into something bigger: a brand; a business -something that serves others by consistently delivering high-quality content.

Not only have I set big goals with regards to my career, I have embarked on other so-called-impossible journeys, such as getting out of debt and living with out credit cards. As a vegan (or, as my friends call, vague-an, when I sway and have eggs or fish), I've tried numerous kinds of diets, avoiding meat and dairy, and now soy. From managing my checkbook to regulating the foods I'm consuming, my life has become more and more restrictive.

It's within these boundaries that I've often felt stifled and frustrated, but as a result, I've become more passionate and creative. Okay, so I only have 'x' amount of dollars coming in? If that's all I get to spend this month, what are my priorities? What can I cut out that I no longer need? Okay, I can't eat meat or dairy? Time to experiment with all the other kinds of foods out there (and there's a lot!).

Having started this most recent 'creative constraints' painting project, the lightbulb went off. I finally made the connection with just how easy it is to produce work when there are restrictions at play. When we set up boundaries and constraints, we're forced to think outside the box. Sometimes, without even realizing it.

In addition to craving more areas of creative expression, I've also been struggling with maintaining a healthy work/life balance. During my day job, I work between 45 and 50 hours per week, so the time in which I have to work on outside 'projects' (or even cooking dinner at home) is minimal. I want to change that. I want to break down the barriers between a busy life and a healthy lifestyle.

Naturally, my mind has started wandering to new possibilities. Where could my project and blog go from here? What else can I produce and share each week? What are my followers craving? How can I serve them, while still working towards my bigger goal?

I envision my blog expanding to not only sharing my thoughts on creativity, but on living a balanced life on all fronts. From managing a budget each week, to picking affordable, healthy recipes that can be prepared at home for the week. I've been trying to live this way for the past few years, and it's time to pass on the wisdom and the knowledge I've gained thus far.

Just because I've been doing this for a while, doesn't mean it's easy for me to stick to, though. Living within restrictions is hard, and I struggle with it on a daily basis. Though, if I turn my attention to helping others through their own frustrations, I, too, will feel inspired and motivated to stay on track.

I'm planning on rolling out these changes slowly. I want to take the time and energy necessary to really create a space that will allow me to share high-quality work, as well provide a top-notch user experience. Making these ideas and philosophies (as well as failures) public is extremely important to me, and I plan on letting it grow at its own pace.

If you're excited to hear more about this next step in my journey, please let me know what areas you'd like for me to touch on. This is about helping you, the reader, and I want this experience to be valueable and uplifting. I need your help in getting me there.

Introducing Painting #10: Dinner for One (4x4 inches, watercolor) - Also known as 'healthy living on a budget'.

Original Instagram Photo:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Staying Motivated by Recognizing Your Audience

This week, it's been hard for me to stay motivated.

• Am I doing something that people actually like?
• Am I resonating with an audience?
• Do I even have an audience?
• Does any of this even matter?

The truth is, I should be doing this regardless of whether or not I have an audience. My goal in starting this project was to produce more content, to get myself back on a creative routine, and to actually stick to something. So far, I've been pretty proud of myself. The work I've done has been humbling, yet solidifying in the fact that I need to continue.

There have been days when it was clear that I was making a difference. That I did, in fact, have an audience, that they were paying attention, and that they were inspired by the work I was doing. This by-product of a somewhat selfish goal is actually the most rewarding part. But when the days come that my work doesn't seem to have an impact, I can't help but feel let down and unmotivated.

But what's truly in my control and what isn't? I can't force anyone to like my work. I can't force it to be inspiring. I can, however, continue to create it. I can continue to publish it, to write about it, and to keep doing it over and over again, because it's true to me. It feels in alignment with what I should be doing now, whether or not it resonates with anyone else. If it does, then wonderful! But if it doesn't, I have to ask myself if the work resonated with me at all. If it did, then I succeeded. If it didn't, then I need to re-evaluate why it is I'm doing the work, and how I can dive deeper into it.

On the flip side, the amount of 'likes' I get on facebook or instagram can actually keep me motivated to create work. Any lack of responses, while at first can be crushing, ultimately gets me fired up to create something even better. If my audience didn't respond to something, then I just have to make something that will. But it's important to remember, though, that even if it rings true for me, doesn't mean it'll ring true for others.

It's also important not to get caught up in the 'like' cycle. This can be rather addicting, and posting work simply to see how many people 'like' it, isn't a healthy intention. The 'likes' can be a gauge, but it's relative. The more followers you have may provide more likes, but percentage-wise, there won't be that much of a difference.

When you create work that's true to you, your audience will grow naturally. Instead of focusing on gaining followers, focus on the ones who are already following. They're following you because your work or voice resonates with them. Earn their loyalty by consistently showing up and providing high-quality content. The more you focus on the ones who are already 'sold', you're staying true to your artistic voice. When you create work simply because you think someone else will like it, you're selling yourself short. Be true and honest not only with your audience, but with yourself.

The work is derived from passion; from the need to create and produce based on your own voice and perspective. But to stay motivated, you must remember that the people who are inspired by your work, are counting on your consistency. You may not touch or reach everyone you know, but the 4 or 5 or 500 people that are influenced in some way by it, those are the ones you are creating for. Think about them when you're producing your work, and your motivation will manifest from there. Think of your audience and the words of admiration and appreciation they've expressed. Think of the ones who have followed you from the beginning. Think of how you feel when you follow the work of artists you admire. You get up in the morning to see the work they've published, simply because you know it will brighten your day. Your work can brighten someone else's day, too. Someone you may not even know, or may ever know.

Again, you can't control how people will feel about your work. But, if you create from a place of truth, honesty and passion, you will attract those that are longing it. You will naturally inspire and influence others in ways you never thought possible. You are doing this for you, but you're doing this for them, too. It's as if both parties are sharing in a dance of motivation, inspiration and creation.

Introducing Painting #9: 'Repurposed' (4x4 inches, watercolor).

The earrings featured in this piece were ones I created out of vintage beads, found amidst my grandmother's costume jewelry. I love how retro, yet glamorous, they look. 

I've decided to donate this pair, along with several others I had designed over the past year or so, to a work-sanctioned silent auction, supporting a colleague's daughter, who's fighting a rare disease. You can read more here:

Original Instagram photo:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Appreciating Where You Are in Your Journey

It's important for us to slow down and take stock in where we are in our lives now. 

There's a lot that I want to adjust in my life right now, causing me to be completely consumed with growing and expanding and reaching and dreaming. All are great experiences to have, and necessary for evolution, but the need for these things has clouded my thoughts. My mind has been racing, jumping from thought to thought, but in reality, nothing was changing. I'm still here. Still in my life situation. 

One recent night, I sat at my kitchen table, typing away on my laptop. I felt compelled to write, a new outlet for me, and the words just poured out onto the screen, uncontrollably, like a fire hose. There was so much thought that needed to manifest into something, anything, really. It didn't matter what it was, it just needed a release. 

It was in that moment that I realized how far removed my mind had gotten from my body - from my present situation. It was reeling and turning and twisting and growing - expanding so fast I could hardly keep up with the typing. And the second I realized this, I it all came right back to me - sitting at that table. I took inventory of my surroundings. There were so many ideas I had about my future, so many things I wanted to try, and places I wanted to go. I wanted and wanted and wanted. But looking around me, I realized that my life is most certainly here and now. While I believe it's absolutely critical to know what we want out of life - our dreams, desires, hopes, and aspirations - it's also just as important to recognize and appreciate what we have available to us now. 

If I want to achieve x, y, or z, it may not be possible right this second, with the resources I have, but it could be possible a year from now, or in 10 years. If I'm certain about where I want to 'end up', but choose to honor where I'm at in my life currently, it changes my perspective. I look at my situation in a way that allows me to see what opportunities I do have, that can foster growth and prosperity. There may very well be true obstacles standing in my way, but if I've actually taken account of what they are, chances are, there's a solution available that can help me work with them. It's all about creative constraints, right?

Ever since that moment in my kitchen, I've realized that my present situation is quite a blessing. I have so much to be grateful for, even in the areas that seem less 'fortunate'. Each limitation is an opportunity to problem-solve and therefore, evolve. Whether it be time, finances, energy, etc, it's about how we choose to use those resources, that shapes who we become, and how we get from point A to point B. 

For example, it's taken a while for me to warm up to living in Oakland. Having moved from Walnut Creek, where everything is beautiful, safe, and secluded, I'm now in a more urban setting. It's not as luxurious as I'm used to, but there are definitely some wonderful attributes to acknowledge. I'm closer to work, closer to friends, and closer to just about everything in the bay area. I feel like I can take advantage of so many more things that I've wanted to experience while living out here. I look forward to the day when I can move back to Walnut Creek, though, but I can't get caught up in that need. It's not in the cards for me right now. But when the time is right, you can bet your breeches that I'll be back there. In the meantime, though, it's critical that I stop, take a deep breath, and really appreciate what I have in my life right now. There's much to enjoy and be thankful for. I get to live in an incredible part of the country, in my own little apartment, and commute to a super cool job that I love going to each and every day. 

This realization helped calm my mind. It doesn't mean it hasn't taken control and gone reeling again, but now I can recognize when it's happening, and stop and experience my life in the present moment. I can say to myself, 'Okay, you're excited about x, y, or z, but what's going on in your life right now that you can apply this to? What changes can you make today? What is in your control, and what do you get to relinquish?' 

Trusting that we're right where we need to be - always - is the key to reaching the bigger goal. We have to appreciate where we are right now in our journey, or else we'll never make it to our destination. Our 'why' is our driving force, but our direct experience with life is what allows us to realize just how far we've come, and how much more traveling we get to do. 

While we're here, let's stop and take some photos, eat some food, and just soak it all in. We'll get to where we want to be, but this moment is our only opportunity to experience, appreciate, and enjoy where we are right now. 

Introducing Painting #8: The Golden Gate (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram Photo:

Monday, March 9, 2015

In Memory of a Loving Friend

This weekend, my family had to say goodbye to one of its members. Charlie had joined us in early 2000, after a sudden loss of one of our former goldens. He hailed from Phoenix, and was the sweetest dog we had ever encountered. He never complained, and always come to our side if he sensed unhappiness or distraught. He always wanted us to be happy, and took it upon himself to make sure of it. He never once wanted to be a burden or inconvenient. He internalized so much so as to make us pleased with him. Of course, we loved him no matter what, and his ongoing health issues (triggered by our emotional fluxuations), were a constant struggle. Regardless, we'd do anything for him, but as time wore on, so did his body. He lasted over 15 years, unheard of for most golden retrievers, and definitely longer than any of our prior ones.

We learned so much about dogs over the years with Charlie, mainly regarding how tied they are to their owners emotionally. Their loyalty is unparalleled to that of humans', and our emotional state has such an impact on theirs. As a dog who never made a peep, never once fussed about anything, even in his later years when he couldn't go on walks anymore, and had to stay home, Charlie never once complained.

On his last day, a giant tumor was discovered occupying his gut, pushing all of his other organs out of the way, and hoarding blood. He was acting spacey and lightheaded, and was so lethargic, he had to be carried out of the house. The tumor had been growing for years, unbenounced to any of us. He seemed to act normally, never in pain. He had trouble standing, but we assumed it was from old age, not due to a suffering abdomen.

The devastating diagnosis came as a surprise, but also provided relief. Knowing what pain he was enduring could finally come to an end allowed us to make the call. There was little chance he'd even survive a surgery, so the answer was clear. Charlie's suffering was brought to an end Saturday afternoon, and was released to run free with his late friend, Bucky, who passed away almost six years ago.

What's ironic, is that the tumor that brought Charlie's life to an end, also caused his successee, Molly, to be put down. It's a common cancer that golden retrievers face - their one and only flaw. What's more interesting, though, is that both dogs shared a similar personality. They internalized. They didn't want us to be unhappy, so they would take it upon themselves to be by our side, never complaining about their own pain, their own suffering. They held it in, and it manifested in their gut.

It's an important lesson for us all. We have to be vocal. We can't internalize for the sake of making someone else happy. We have no control over someone else's emotions. Their reactions to us are rooted in their own experience, not our actions. We have to complain, we have to express our feelings, even if it's inconvenient for someone else. The body alone cannot digest these powerful emotions.

Let us also recognize the ones in our life that are less likely to be vocal. Just because they aren't complaining, doesn't mean they aren't suffering. Ususally they're the ones who are suffering more, but don't want to displease us by talking about it. I know I have these tendencies. I am much more likely to internalize (and get sick), than to confront the issue head on. I've noticed that when I get sick, it's because I haven't dealt with some deeper issue, and it isn't until I recognize and honor what's going on below the surface, that I begin to heal.

Our animals can teach us so much about ourselves: how to live and love unconditionally, how to live in the present moment, and how to face the emotions that our evironment evokes. The joy brought on by having dogs in our lives has far outweighed the hardest moments when we have to say goodbye; when we have to unclip the leash and release them to God. There isn't a day that goes by where we aren't more alivened, awakened, and present, as when we're in the presence of dogs. They are a gift, that each person should have the opportunity to experience. We should remember, too, that a heart broken by the loss of a dog, is quickly healed by the love of another.

Goodbye Charlie, may you run wild and free through the fields of heaven.

Painting #6: Baby Charlie (3x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram Photo (original photo taken Jan, 2000):

Friday, March 6, 2015

Do the Work Anyway

There's nothing harder than muscling through work that you just don't feel like doing. When you get home, and the domestic responsibilities scream out your name, like laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc, there's no left-over energy to devote to your creative commitments.

At least that's how it was for me this week. After returning home from my vacation in Las Vegas, where I proudly produced work despite of my busy schedule there, I found it really hard to get back into my routine. I was still pulling clothes from the suitcase that I had yet to unpack, and last night was finally a time when I could get sorted and do my housechores. Painting was the farthest from my mind.

And then I turned on the Seanwes Podcast, and listened to episode 154, called 'Perseverance and Sticking with Commitments'. As I was folding laundry, what he said reminded me of how important it is to just do the work, regardless of what excuses I'd laid out in front of me (literally, and figuratively). 

So I put my clothes away, and pulled out my paints. It was 9:30 at this point, usually when I start get ting ready for bed, but that didn't matter anymore. I had to follow through with what I set out to do. I was a day late at this point (I wanted to post every Monday and Thursday), so I was ready to throw in the towel. Do people even look at what I do? Will they even know the difference? Does it even matter?

The answer, of course, is YES. It does matter! It matters to be consistent and to show up with quality work, as much as possible. If I feel like doing two paintings a week is overkill, that I really don't have enough time or energy, that's fair. I can scale back. But I truly believe that I can do it. It's just a matter of making it a priority. 

So I started painting, and here it is:

Painting #5: Rainbow Sprinkles (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram Photo:

I probably picked an image that was way too hard for me, especially when it was so late in the day, and I was frustrated already, but maybe it wasn't by accident. Maybe it represented something greater. Maybe it meant muscling through even the toughest challenges, when I could have easily selected something easier.

It's about putting ourselves out there, despite the complexity of what we're doing. It's not going to be easy. There will be times when it lets up, but it's going to take a lot of time and practice to get to a point when it is easy. I look back on the days when I was training my late horse Tucker, and it was  so easy to get frustrated. Neither of us really knew what we were doing. He was young and learning things for the first time, and I was learning how to cope with that. I wanted to give up so many times with him. I had no more to give, but I kept showing up anyway. I knew I had no other choice. So, we muscled our way through the tough parts, and slowly we began to understand each other. When we finally 'clicked', there was nothing we couldn't do. I no longer needed anyone else's help with him. What we had was so powerful, that we accomplished things I never dreamed of. 

Looking back on those moments will help me overcome the struggles I face today. And I don't even have a 1000 pound animal to work against. This is all me. My energy, my impostor, my insecurities, and my stubbornness. I can't improve if I don't continuously show up, despite the circumstances I'm facing. 

Sweat it out. Cry it out. Punch it out. It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it. Do the work, anyway.

Oh, and remember, you're painting. Or riding a horse. It's not that bad... 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Your 'When' and 'Where' Are Not Excuses

Choose to work from anywhere, be it an airplane, or your mother's dining room table. 

As I embarked on a weekend trip to Las Vegas, I was worried about getting my posts out on schedule. I knew that I was going to be pressed for time, and I started to get overwhelmed. I was preparing for a talk I was giving at my mom's school about the inner-workings of animation production, which left me little time and energy to work on my painting project, (or anything else, for that matter). I didn't want to delay 'showing up' altogether, though, so I made a quick sketch of me and my friend Kirsten, holding playing cards (an image I had shared last spring during her birthday party), to commemorate our upcoming weekend in Vegas. But I had yet to make a post or create a painting, despite my public announcement of posting twice a week. 

Staying consistent is hard, and creating quality work in a short time-frame is even harder, but I didn't want to sacrifice the quality of my work for the sake of getting something out on time. I knew it would be a challenge to get something I was proud of sharing out into the world, especially since I enjoy coupling my painting posts with a thought-out blog post.

Visits at my mom's house, while usually low key and fun, are not always conducive to creating original content. We usually fill our time with going to the movies, walking the dog, vegging out on the sofa, etc., but I wanted this experience to be different. There was an hour where I knew I could just sit and check social media, or I could whip out my mom's water colors, and make a quick painting. I usually only give myself an hour anyway, so I knew I could (and would) turn something around quickly.

I chose an image I had taken about a year ago of her dog, George. He's allowed on her leather sofas, and chooses to perch on them almost all the time. He'll typically fall asleep on them when she's out of the house, or home watching tv. It's quite amusing, and I try to capture as many pictures of it as I can. You can see a lot of these by searching #georgeisgolden on Instagram.
It was also my mom's birthday this weekend, and I wanted to use one of my weekly paintings as a gift for her. I chose to create this one of George because he had yet to be a subject of fine art, and plus I figured she'd love it. I was right. :)
Here's painting #4: Couch Potato (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram photo:

I'm proud of myself for sitting down and just doing it. Setting the goal of producing two paintings a week has helped me make it a priority, even when I'm on 'vacation'. It's proof that you can make it work wherever you are, whatever you're doing, using whatever resources you have. I lucked out, because my mom had watercolor supplies (she's a high school art teacher), but I would have brought them with me had she not been equipped.

When we set goals, declare them publicly, and choose to show up (while maintaining quality), amazing things happen. We create work we wouldn't have otherwise created. The images I'm choosing for my project aren't what I would consider 'easy', which is why only giving myself an hour to paint them is actually thrilling. I don't have the luxury of perfectionism (in high school, it would have taken me two months to finish a painting). I can't over-obsess about how hard the image is to paint, because there is no time for it. I've made the decision to show up and create, so that's what I'm going to do.

Even with this blog post, I'm using my flight back from Las Vegas to Oakland to write it. I've got my iPad out on the tray table, intermittently typing in between bouts of turbulence. This is my time, sans distractions, and I'm choosing to use it this way. It's important to me to consistently produce quality content and to share it with my followers. 

This is a process for me - a new experience - and I get excited by new ideas and 'aha' moments, primarily because I get to write about them. I'm choosing to show up and create, regardless of where I am and what my circumstances are. It's never going to be easy, but it's a challenge to take seriously enough to follow through. And you know what? I'm having a ton of fun! It's a purpose I never thought I'd have, and I'm truly enjoying the process, especially when I'm on vacation. 

Who knew?! :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Creative Constraints Revisited, and the Act of Showing Up

So, I've set on this journey to create constraints for myself. So far, I like what's happening. I'm actually creating art. I'm doing it. I'm proving to myself that I can create, curate and share. That I can set a schedule and stick to it. Is it easy? No. Is it worth being able to share my creations with the world? Absofriggenlutely! Am I getting a lot out of inspiring others to do the same? More than I ever imagined! That's actually the best part! My decision to do this was really to get me out of my creative rut, and to hold myself publicly accountable. But I wasn't really thinking about how it would inspire others to uncover their creative abilities as well. That's what it's all about, right?

The constraints I made have kept choice out of the equation. The hardest part is choosing an image to paint from, so I should remove that as well. Because I currently have this choice, I'm picking and choosing based on what I think might be easier or less time consuming. I thought the hibiscus would be a simple one, but it turned out to be way more complex than I thought. And some of the ones that I think will be hard may not be at all.

What's happening is I'm retraining my brain to look at things differently - to break what I'm seeing down to its parts: where the shadows are falling, how the object is shaped, where it falls compositionally, and more. It's tuning my eye, as well as my eye-to-hand coordination. I also feel like my handwriting has improved drastically! Too bad you can't see it with all this typing...

This has also opened me up to realize that if I do want to create something, all I have to do is schedule the regular time for it. Consistency and limitations are key. If I want to write a screenplay, or shoot a video, or paint a picture off my Instagram feed, all I have to do is be deliberate with my goal, and my time. Right now, it's just about breaking through my creative block. It's also about recognizing this process, and the importance of constraints, as well as the effectiveness of showing up.

Showing up is half the battle. Once I've decided that Wednesday night is my night to paint, Wednesday night is my night to paint. But if I'm going to be busy on Wednesday (queue Flight of the Conchords' Business Time song here), then I'm going to MAKE time on another night to make up for it. Tuesday night will be painting night, so that I can still hit my Thursday morning deadline. 

It's about showing up. It's about being consistent, not only for the audience with which you're sharing your work, but with yourself. The more constistent and routine we are with our output, the harder it is to fall out of habit. I've been making my bed every single morning for a year. Prior to that, it'd maybe happen once a week, if that. But to better prepare me for each day, I decided that it was going to become a part of my morning routine, once and for all. Now, it's the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning, because I know that if I don't do it then, it'll never happen. But I've also noticed that when I do make my bed, I am less likely to leave messes in other parts of my home. I feel a sense of order and balance, like I'm ready for anything. It also makes crawling into bed at the end of a long day all the more enticing.

Showing up creatively has also helped me with staying consistent with my exercise regime. I am much more likely to get up and go to the gym, because that's my morning hours are for. Nothing else. I know that I feel better and have more mental clarity and energy after working out than days when I choose not to. It's as simple and obvious as that. Working out means that I do better at my job, eat better foods, drink more water, and get more sleep. (Although I am up kinda late working on this post...) I find myself much more in tune now with how I'm feeling, physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

Showing up is not just important for our creativity, our brand, or our following, it's critical to our overall well-being. I speak from experience, because it wasn't until I started making time for myself, that I started to see the trickle effect in my life. It isn't living life by rules, it's living life by choice, rooted in what we know to be true about ourselves. Realizing what works and what doesn't is half the battle. Making a change to last a lifetime is a completely different story.

And it all starts with making the time, showing up, and doing the work. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Painting #3: The Hibiscus of Poipu

Today's painting is based on a photo that was taken during my most recent visit to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Staying on the south side in Poipu, my dad, his wife, and I would walk the mile down the road to the local shopping plaza. Along the path, we'd see sea turtles, bobbing up and down among the waves as they crashed up against the rocky shore, cactus sprinkled along the terrain, and ridiculously vibrant and mesmerizing hibiscus flowers.

There's nothing quite like the fragrance that emulates from the landscape of Hawaii. I remember it distinctively as a little girl, when my family surprised me with a trip to the island. I held onto that memory as long as I possibly could. Returning to the island several years later, it all came back to me. The locale was just as beautiful and pungent as I had remembered, if not more, especially since I was of an age where I was truly able to embrace and appreciate that powerful energy. When I was young, it was nothing short of magical. Today, it's more along the lines of divine.

I have a few other photos that I'll be using during this project, so I can go into more detail about my experiences then, but it's safe to say that Kauai is without a doubt my favorite place on the planet. Even though I have yet to travel off of this continent, I already know that nothing will come close to the beauty and awe that is Kauai.

#3: The Hibiscus of Poipu (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram photo:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Art of Making Time

Painting #2: Central California Sunset (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram photo:

This photo was taken during a trip to Central California to see my horse, Uno. My mom and I had stopped for dinner at Chipotle (our regular vegan-friendly spot when we're on the road), and the sunset was just too beautiful to pass up. This was taken from the parking lot, so you can see some of the lights in the picture. I took creative license, though, and left them out of the painting.

What I love so much about Instagram, and taking photos with an iPhone, is that you just never know where you're going to be when beauty strikes you. Having the ability to capture the moment (and then paint it a year later), is indeed, priceless. 

But I can't just post a photo of my next watercolor painting and then call it a day. I need some meaty content to serve up with it. So today, I want to talk about creating time. 

Wait, creating time? Doesn't everyone have the same 24 hours in a day? Yep. Which is why we have to be intentional with setting it aside for the things that truly matter to us.

I could use time to clean up my apartment (and most definitely should), but it ain't happening unless it's important to me in some way. If having a clean living space, that's organized and ready for me to be creative and spontaneous and relaxed in, well that's a different story. I can take time to go to the gym, but that treadmill won't see the likes of me unless it's going to serve a greater purpose. By realizing that exercising actually makes me a happier, more productive person, I no longer need to rely on the number of calories I'll burn as motivation.

So, if I've determined that cleaning my aparment and working out are important to me, then I must MAKE the time to do them. 

I spend most of my day managing calendars for other people. It's my job to make sure the colleagues I support are having the right conversations, at the right time, with the right people. Their time is valueable, and hard to comeby, so unless we MAKE time for them to meet about an important issue, it simply won't happen. 

This concept of setting aside time seems super rudamentary. Like, Duh! Then why don't we do this with the things that really REALLY matter to us? Like living our dream, taking risks, creating art, taking that trip, etc?

It's easy to get caught up in the things that we think are important to us, or what we think we're supposed to do. If you're simply doing it because you think you should, you aren't making time for yourself. You're letting your life situation take control. 

If we stopped and asked ourselves what we would REALLY prefer to be doing right now, chances are, it's not this. I'm flattered by the fact that you are actually taking the time to read it, but let's face it, there's definitely something deep within you that would rather be brought to fruition than this. It's okay that you're choosing to not do it right now, but it's important - critical, rather - that you recognize what it is, and why you're avoiding it. 

When it came to starting this art project, of painting/drawing two of my instagram photos per week, and publishing them online, I had to start by setting aside time. Well, first, I needed to determine my WHY. I came to terms with the fact that I just needed some sort of creative routine. I needed to remind myself that I am, in fact, very capable of being an artist. Of drawing, painting, and writing about it. But the only way I was going to prove that to myself and the world was to actually MAKE the time to show up and do the work. 

I had to treat MY schedule with the same level of importance as everyone else's. 

We make time by making a choice. When we choose to do the things that matter the most to us, we find a way to make them happen.

All images Copyright ® 2015 by Samantha Samuels

Monday, February 16, 2015

An Exercise in Creative Constraint

I owe a lot of things to the Seanwes Podcast, the main one being the fact that I'm completely inspired to get myself back on track creatively. 

If you know me, then you know that I grew up an artist. I loved to draw. I wasn't one of those kids who carried their sketchbook around with them, though. I liked too many other things for art to be all-encompassing, but, when it came time to draw, I excelled at it. Drawing allowed me to be who I was, fully, and I never remember a time when I wasn't thinking about the next thing I would create.

Over the years, the time I committed to creating diminished, and I became less and less 'interested'. My brain, now stronger in other areas such as customer service, project management, and business, made the thought of doing something creative (or what is typically considered creative) completely overwhelming to me. I missed that part of me, though. I still had the muscle, it was just greatly underused. I hadn't lost the craving to be an artist, I just lost the strength. I felt so far removed from it, that I had lost my way back.

In Sean's most recent episode, cleverly titled "6 Ways to Stay Motivated (and How to Find Drive in the First Place", he talked about the importance of setting aside specific time to be creative. That means actually scheduling it on the calendar, so that it holds just as much weight as anything and everything else. In a prior episode, "Boosting Creativity by Reducing Choice", he stressed the importance of creating constraints to work within. 

This notion of creating limitation stuck me at my core. I had never approached creativity this way before, but it's so true. When we're given constraints, we can't help but be creative. I know this to be true in other areas of my life, like living on a written budget, since I don't use credit cards, or eating off of a plant-based diet. There are natural limitations with both, and I seem to have no problem living within them.

But when it came to producing artwork, I always assumed that more choice meant more creativity, but that left me creating next to nothing. In the rare occurrence when I was called upon to draw or paint something, however, you bet your breeches that what I produced was awesome. Not because I had a stroke of genius, heck no! It was simply because there were restrictions and guidelines in place that naturally sparked creative problem solving.

So that brings me to my new personal challenge. I wanted to test this theory for myself. I wanted to see if creating constraints actually worked in this area of my life. I started brainstorming projects I could work on. What if I only had 4x4 inches of workspace? What if my tool was a marker? What if...? 

I then decided that maybe I would post a picture on Instagram, and then later that night, do a painting of that picture. Interesting. Then I realized that I've already taken hundreds of Instagram photos, many of which I'd like to turn into paintings. So why start taking more? Why not go back and retrieve ones that have been long forgotten? 

It was settled, then. I'd set my restrictions. Here they are:

1. I have to use an Instagram photo (that I had already taken) as inspiration.
2. I can only use watercolor (although, I might switch up the medium later).
3. I can only use a 4x4 inch surface area.
4. I will only give myself an hour to paint the image.
5. I must carve out time (on my calendar) on Sunday and Wednesday evenings to do the painting, posting it on my blog the following morning.
6. I will produce 2 paintings a week, for a year. GULP! But I have over 100 images in my 'favorites' folder, that are just dying to get out onto the page, so I might as well go big!

My goal with this challenge is to get me past my creative block and to build momentum. By intentionally dedicating time during the week to paint, I can already tell that I'll feel more inclined to carve out other chunks of time for other endeavors, like writing or animating. It's a snowball effect, really. And by making my creativity a priority, it's going to open up the channels in ways I have yet to imagine.

Here is painting #1: 

Bonsai Tree at the Huntington (4"x4"; watercolor)

Original Instagram photo:

I took this photo during a recent visit to the Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA in November, 2014. There are so many areas of the grounds to explore, one being an amazing Bonsai tree exhibit in the 'Japanese Gardens'. This particular tree was positioned at the entrance to the exhibit. It was a warm afternoon, and the haze of the sky was settling in. The peacefulness of the garden was both enchanting and grounding. I chose this photograph to be the first one I painted, primarily because of its balance and zen-like simplicity, as well as it's representation of exercising constraint. The trees used in these types of exhibits naturally grow to be massive, but are instead formed into a truly unique works of art. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what comes of this. I hope you tag along!


Images Copyright ® 2015 by Samantha Samuels

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Power of Breaking Habits

Lately, it's been so easy for me to fall into the same patterns I always have. Over-eating, over-spending, over-analyzing. I'm less relaxed, less free, less creative. From what I hear, when we break our routines, we're more likely to free ourselves from our daily bonds. I hadn't really experienced this first hand until yesterday.

But before I get to that, about a year ago, I joined an amazing program called the Skinny Dip Society. During the 12-week immersion program, I learned how to alter my morning routines so I could start the day fresh and equipped to take on anything. From making my bed daily, to taking probiotics, to listening to a theme song, each new thing I added seemed to ground me even more. 

Unfortunately, I tend to rely heavily on those routines. They're great, but I'm less likely to mix things up. If I'm comfortable where I am, I'm not going to change it. I'm sure it's quite a common reoccurrence.

The issue lately is that I haven't been super comfortable. I've been uncomfortable. I keep looking at various things to change, but nothing seems to help. The problem isn't my environment. The problem lies in my perspective. And in order to change habits, you must change your perspective. At least I think that's how you do it...

This particular morning, I woke up immensly groggy. I had spent the night before crouched on the bathroom floor, waiting for my dinner to make an encore. It wasn't the food per-se, it was the fact that I had eaten way too much the day before. I was upset and stressed and I had been turning to the only cure I found useful in my darkened mind: snacking. 

Luckily, not only did I wake up in a sleepy haze, I woke with a lighter heart. I realized I had been carrying so much burden, that it was finally time to just take things easy. I planned on staying in my apartment futzing around (maybe putting stuff away or clearing out crap I no longer needed) while listening to a podcast. A typical morning, if I chose to stay in. 

Instead, my phone dinged. It was my friend Cristina. We met at work a few years ago, and couldn't stop conversing about God, spirituality, relationships, and reaching our highest potential. We can always sense when the other is out of alignment, and try everything in our power to help get them back on course.

"Do you want to go to a movie this morning?" She said. Sitting in a 2-hour movie that started at 9am wasn't really the morning I was aiming for, but I did want to spend time with her, so we agreed to grabbing breakfast in our neighborhood. 

I had pre-determined that I needed to consume more green-juice, so I suggested we hit up a new place that specialized in whipping up fruits and veggies into liquid form. It was just what the doctor ordered. I would do it every day if I could...

Then we strolled down the thoroughfare to another favorite coffee shop, where we swapped inspirational quotes and stories about our love life. We're both in the dating stage, in which we feel challenged (frustrated, yet determined) each and every day. We share ideas, philosophies, successes, and failures. She introduced me to relationship guru Alison Armstrong a couple years ago, who's work has changed both of our lives. (I couldn't recommend her work enough, however, you must be ready for a huge shift, because her way of thinking is completely different than most women's).

We then decided that I needed to get outside and do something creative and uplifting. Cristina suggested the Emeryville Marina, a quiet spot along the San Francisco Bay. It was a destination I had yet to visit, but we arrived in a flash, my 'real' camera in hand. She encouraged me to take some photos, knowing how much I love photography, and how much it brings me to life. 

The weather was unusually hot for the last day in January. Hardly a breeze, yet you could see for miles. It was, in my opinion, perfect. We strolled around the pier and snapped photos, met one of the sailors who lives in the marina, who delighted in showing how his dog, Scotty, could jump up and down from trash cans. We listened to a saxaphone player practicing against the rocks. We saw a seal popping it's head out from the water. We skipped, like school girls, laughing and completely out of breath, and were cheered on by walkers passing by. 

We broke our routine. 

We then found a somewhat-comfortable spot to sit amongst the pile of jagged rocks that ran along the water front, facing downtown San Francisco. The skyline was so immensly beautiful, that I needed  at least a few weeks to soak it all in. 

I longed to be across the water and in the city. The guy I had been recently dating lived there, and I could practically see his neighborhood from our spot on the rocks. I hadn't heard from him in what seemed like an eternity, so I was left assuming we were no longer going to see each other, which made this apparent separation even more acute. All I wanted was to be in the city with him. 

These feelings rushed through me as I sat there in the warm January sun. And then I realized that I was holding on too hard. I was clinging to old thoughts, old feelings, old needs. The 'aha' moment that I had there on those rocks hit me hard. I was longing for a relationship; a reason to love,  but I had to let go. I had to allow that bay to be where it was. I had to release the 'catch', and if it was meant to be, it would come back, but if not, then something greater will. 

I had to trust. 

The blessing of that moment in the marina was quite apparent. Had it not been for Cristina's determination to get me out of the house and out of my funk, I would have never ended up there. I wouldn't have taken photos, I wouldn't have skipped like a 7 year old (which by the way, is impossible to do and stay miserable at the same time), I wouldn't have had a green juice instead of coffee, and I wouldn't have looked out across that water and realized that I had to let go. 

Breaking habits, at least for me - on that morning, unlocked so much. Having made that realization, I was able to go through the rest of the day without the heavy burden of rejection. I could feel the bruise that it had left behind, but I no longer felt the weight. 

Or maybe I was just sore from all that skipping...

Here are some of the photos I captured during our visit:

All photos Copyright ® 2015 by Samantha Samuels