I'm half-way through my summer art class and my creative space has seen more action in the past 3 weeks than the whole year prior! For that I am thankful.While the whole process of how this visual journal is suppose to work still has me a bit confused (at least how our instructor is teaching the process), I have enjoyed simply playing with a wide variety of art supplies to create a variety of background foundations on which to build my journal. I'm making good use of the gesso and acrylic paints that were left over from my canvas painting adventure a couple summers back.
I've dug out some old stamping supplies that were purchased many years ago when Scott's family went through their Stampin' Up craze. I've melted old crayons. I've torn paper. I've stenciled. I've experimented with creating color with coffee and tea. I've pressed leaves from around our yard to use as printing items and stencils. I've purchased some fun new watercolor inks, markers, and bleeding tissue and have had lots of fun playing with water and watching colors run and blend. I've paint smeared a few new articles of clothing and have spent days with fingers stained from watercolor inks. And it has all been lovely AND has taken more of my time than I expected it would when I signed up for class.
We were required to pick a theme for our journal, something I had not planned on doing, and I have decided to focus my theme on the emotion/feelings of joy/happiness. There were a couple of reasons for that decisions. Somewhat by accident, I am currently reading 2 books on the subject. I've almost finished The Book of Joy, which has been an incredible read featuring 2 of my favorite spiritual guides, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I most likely will read it, or at least parts of it, again. And I will endlessly recommend it to others, much as I have other books that have touch my heart deeply. Then a few months ago I picked up The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin from the super value table at Half Priced Books. Wanting a light-hearted book to celebrate the start of summer break, I grabbed it to start reading during our first camping weekend of the summer. It's been just an okay read. Not good enough to love, not terrible enough to abandon.
Secondly, summer break is an interesting thing for me emotionally. I love, love, LOVE the freedom of schedule that summer break allows. I love being able to spend most of my days outside in the yard gardening or building or just hanging out. I love being able to take little day adventures to meet Scott for lunch, or to visit a new funky shop, or to take a hike. I love the lack of morning alarms and evening bedtimes and the flexibility of whether a shower is needed for the day or not. And even though it sometimes breaks up the day in weird ways, I don't even mind providing mommy taxi service for the girls to be able to hang out with friends or attend summer camps and events. Summer, generally, is my happy season.
But summer can also be a little complicated, emotionally speaking. It's kind of a lonely time for me. During the week Scott is at work, and when he is at home it seems we have little to talk about, I'm sure in part to the very different ways we are spending our days. We also have totally different schedules. He's up in the morning hours before me, and therefore also ready to end the day hours before I am. The girls have activities and wishes to hang out with friends, so I've found myself spending more and more of my summer time without them in tow the past couple of years. I do like being able to work on projects during the day without feeling like I'm neglecting any of my loves, something I couldn't do are easily when the girls were younger and needed my mom services more. The dogs are my constant shadows so rarely am I truly alone when I am at home, which is a comforting feeling in and of itself. (I'm glad they can't retell others about the number of conversations "we" have during the day since they are normally the only ones around to listen.) But every once in a while I get a little emotional over the realization that I don't have many social connections in my life when I'm not at work. I simply feel lonely. (And admittedly, social media plays a roll in my feelings, even though it's kinda embarrassing at 42 to admit you got a little sad seeing that so-and-so did such-and-such with so-and-so and you weren't there.)
During the school year I am constantly around people. Little people. Big people. My days are spend interacting with all sorts of people and when the school day is done, I need some time away from people to recharge for the next day of constant interaction. Home is my sanctuary at the end of the work day and I love nothing more than returning there without the need to leave after a long day away. But in the summer, my scheduled opportunity for social interaction is gone, and because I am not good at fostering connections outside of my school day during the school year, I am left with a lot of time to spend with my family (when they are not busy) and me, myself, and I. It's hard not to get down on myself for my horrible relationship fostering skills during these months. It's hard not to wonder what is wrong with me that I don't have more social engagements. It's also hard not to feel like I'm a round peg living in world of square holes knowing I used to live this more flexible schedule year round for the years I taught yoga in Grinnell, a schedule I REALLY do prefer, and rarely did I ever feel anything less than part of a community.
So, the idea of visually journaling about happiness and joy is an easy concept on one hand because there is so much in my life during summer break, and in my life in general, that fills my soul with warmth and joy. At the same time it has highlighted a void that can cast a shadow on these bright and sunny days of summer. It's made me face the very real fact that only I can make a change to shine additional light or accept the shadow for what it is and move forward. Interestingly enough, the little community that comes together every Tuesday night for my art class brings much joy to my heart. Rarely have I stepped into a group of strangers and felt so immediately at home. Because we are a small group, working in a confined space, our weekly classes have a very intimate feeling where we can encourage, feed off of, and connected with each other as we work. I look forward to going to class each week and it makes me sad to know we only have 3 more weeks to share our time together before class is over. I'm already wondering what fun things others will have to share with class tonight as we come together to work and what we might learn new to help us build our pages in the weeks to come.
Related side note: I have some time to journal with words because B is going to art camp at the DSM Art Center this week. Since it's a 30 minute drive one way, I'm just hanging out in one of the many coffee shops in the downtown area each morning for the 2 hours while she is in class. Even though most mornings this week I will be alone as I do so, I will never feel alone. Because that is the magic of a coffee shop, and really the magic of spending time in the city I have found, for a social introvert like myself. You are technically alone but you really don't feel like you're alone and you don't have to spend energy on social interactions except casual friendly interactions with the staff and sometimes fellow customers. I know, it's complicated, and one of the many examples of why my brain is sometimes hard to be friends with, but coffee shops are oh so comforting to my soul.