And I’m watching you now, I see you building a castle with one hand while tearing down another with the other. - - Lyric from Me in You, Kings of Convenience
I recently ran into a friend who is in her seventies, is a vibrant artist who has lived a rich and adventurous life, and who continues to adventure through each day painting, celebrating nature, moving her body and doing whatever the hell she wants. I met Linda when I was working as a barista. At the time, I occasionally toted my young daughter to work with me, setting her up on the cozy coffee house couch with her favorite books and activities for a few hours. It wasn’t ideal, but sometimes that was just our day. Linda had also been a single mother with one child. She and I would chat about the realities, the challenges and the amazing gifts, and she would remind me to enjoy it because it was so fleeting.
When I saw her most recently, I informed her that my young daughter had moved out and could now legally drink booze. What?? I introduced her to my husband and we shared our awe at the ways life has been changing for us as our two daughters have already left the house and now it is just us and one son left in the house.
Linda's face lit up to hear that we are both creatives, and she said three things that we have reflected on quite a few times since that meeting.
1. Every ten years, you may find that you have reinvented your purpose.
“If you have children, this applies once they have started their own adult lives because when you have children at home, life is very centered on family life... But once you begin the years beyond raising the children, your life’s purpose may shift, and every ten years or so, you may find that you have reinvented yourself. You find a project or purpose that touches something inside, and you work that until you move into other purposes and projects. Your art will transform and evolve, and you have the opportunity to explore any medium you can get your hands on - and those things can change the direction of your life. I think I have reinvented myself every decade since my forties”
Lee and I both felt that on such a deep level, as we are literally celebrating being together for a decade - in our forties. Our first decade has been focused on family, supporting kids the best we can, and carving out together time whenever we can. The decades following this one will have a very different tone, and I think there is a bitter sweetness to that. The sweetness is in the possibilities, the freedom, the adventure, the learning and the art of creating. The bitterness is in the emptiness that is filling so many evenings where there once was quite a bustling life. Our 17 year old still hangs out a little bit with us, and sometimes brings friends. I’ve found myself more and more appreciative of the bursting energy of teens blowing through the house and snacks. I’ve even tried to bring home good snacks to encourage the hanging out.
2. Go to the places you have been dreaming of, you won't regret it!
This is great to hear, because we are already scoping out places to begin spending time in the summers in an effort to learn about the places where we may want to relocate in the future. Living in the high desert, we are surrounded by beauty so stark it has made up for the sweltering summer heat for many years. However, now that life is opening up and both of us are able to do our creative work remotely, a brisk summer morning on the the Puget Sound in a jacket sounds like a blissful change of pace, and this is the most perfect way we can imagine to start learning about areas we would really like to live in.
3. Explore new mediums -and venture out of your comfort zone!
For Linda, immersing herself in stained glass and then bold acrylic nature paintings, and then bold abstract painting seemed to follow the theme of the bold expressions of a woman determined to bring beauty into the world. But to embrace such different mediums and then such contrasting styles is a bold move - and I want to make more of those! Bold moves in new artistic directions are a bit more difficult for me. I am very routine oriented, and it takes a bit for me to even open up packages that come in the mail, as change is something I need to absorb very slowly. But this is a piece of advice I don't want to forget. One of the things I am most excited to explore in this new space is what kind of artist I am.
Practicing new styles is something I do in private mostly. But part of my transition from full nest to empty nest, from graphic design to illustration - is to isolate less and connect more; to create more of the art I want to create; to share the good and the weird - and to shift in a gentle way from production design to eventually creating my own picture books and being contacted for my mad lettering and illustration skills. The messy periods in between these stages are the spaces I want to learn more about, as they seem to allow the deepest transitions..
I like the simplicity of these three pieces of wisdom from one feisty, sassy woman who has spent her life creating art and learning. In celebration of Linda's artistic journey and example of a strong woman who belongs to herself, I leave you with this illustration of this bee I like to call Honey Boss. She's a lot like Linda... Creative, determined, sharp - and she's got a sting. Boss on, friends. Reinvent your purpose, go where you wanna go, explore new mediums and boss on! ✌🏽