Lots of fun stuff and moi at the Lowcountry Artist Market July 20th. See you at The Music Farm on Ann Street - Charleston, SC. For those of you outside of the Holy City (that's a real thing), yes - I am working on online shopping on FindyThings. Stand by.
The nature of my job means I can work from anywhere in the world. I never work from anywhere but my house, though, because right now when I vacation, I vacation. For example, if we're in Paris I don't want to be stuck somewhere writing a whitepaper when I could be at the Louvre because I'm only able to travel for a week or two at a time right now. But I have big plans to change that. If I were to live in Paris for a few months, I could easily find time to write and go to the museum. N'est-ce pas?
For that reason, for the last two years I've been disciplining myself to work only with a laptop so I can be entirely mobile when the time comes to fulfill my dream of living abroad for a year. This weekend I declared that, after two years, I was sufficiently trained to be fully mobile and as such it was time for a decent workspace at home.
This space has to serve many functions. It has to accommodate yards of spread-out research, be comfortable enough for long (long) days of writing, it also has to house the non-messy part of the found-object art studio and finished art storage. It also is the laboratory in which the cat conducts her sleep research projects.
I needed lots of shelving.
I came up with this DIY project from Brick House and convinced my husband to help me build it. Else-wise I was staging a coup for the dining room.
The original Brick House unit - 8’8″ wide by roughly 7’6″ tall and 11 1/4″ deep
He got how he usually gets when I want to build furniture out of materials from the plumbing department, but rallied when I produced a materials list and instructions from the Brick House website. I guess this was a welcome departure from me just throwing interesting things and vague notions in a cart.
Our supplies ended up costing $400 at Lowe's, which is about twice what Brick House said they spent. That made me nervous about trusting their installation instructions and measurements - but everything went together and went up perfectly. Only later did I read the extensive comments section where people ask reasonable questions that I didn't even think about. Here are some answers:
Once it was all ready, it only took about 30 minutes to finish.
The desk is an old four leaf dining room table I salvaged from Page's Thieves Market. I gave it a coat of flat blue spray paint with built-in primer then sanded it past the polyurethane with course grit sandpaper. (The type of paint that has built-in primer leaves white paint under the blue so you get another layer of paint with one shot. I love that stuff.)
The Ukwala supermarket in Eldoret, Kenya is a fantastic jumble of everything you never knew you wanted. Many of the found objects in this piece are from my trip to Africa, but the whole thing brought back fond memories of shopping at the Ukwala. See more about it on FindyThings.
About ten years ago I noticed that I was wrestling with sadness and depression on a fairly regular basis. Depressive diseases can be genetic so I knew that it was possible I was facing something I couldn't fix on my own. I promised myself that if I couldn't figure it out in three months, I would get medical help.
To start, I created my own "Happiness Scale" and made an Excel spreadsheet to track how I felt the majority of every day. After a few weeks I could see that I wasn't seriously, terminally depressed, I just never really felt...happy. So I started studying happiness. I read every book I could find, I studied and compared the principles of major religions and philosophies, I read books about marriage and relationships, I read about career changes. I rudely grilled happy people. Then, I analyzed every area of my life to see where I could make changes.
The one thing I did to get freakishly happier
It worked. Ten years later (on most days) I am a vastly happier person than I was when I started experimenting on myself. The entire story of that (ongoing) journey is enough to fill a book, and I sort of wrote an abbreviated version in Happy Sutra. However, one of the major changes I made is the main focus of this post:
I vowed to stop saying negative things about other people.
At first it was hard, sometimes I wouldn't even realize what was coming out of my mouth until it was already out. I slipped a lot (and still do). However, once the habit started to drop off I'd feel so contaminated when I did slip that I would ask myself why I cared if someone did this or that or looked like this or that. After all, if they weren't hurting anybody it was none of my damn business. Right?
Mean friends aren't really friends
I actually lost some friends because I wouldn't partake in snarkfests, but it turned out that without all that negativity, I got a little happiness bonus. It proved the wisdom of this principle: Be uplifting to other people so it nurtures their happiness. Surround yourself with uplifting people so they nurture yours.
I'm not going to preach.
I won't preach about sisterhood and how we should be supporting each other, though that's true and it's enough of a reason to take up this challenge. What I really want to convey is that when you stop saying mean things about other people, you automatically include yourself in the peace treaty. You can't not get happier without that ugly little voice in your head. (I call her Snarla.)
Okay, I'm going to preach.
I will preach about how today's young girls, even little tiny girls, have to push the boulder up the hill every freaking day. And if we, that's you and me, don't help them, I don't know how they're going to survive adulthood. Some of them already aren't. Between the far-reaching, ever-present tentacles of social media, a generation of appearance-obsessed parents and billion dollar ad agencies, girls (and boys) without confidence are sitting ducks. Dead meat. Prey.
Parents today better be dang sure their little girls (and boys) have rock solid confidence in their uniqueness so they can withstand the barrage. I think parents can do that by living some hard examples.
Like, don't be a Snarla.
A right to your own path
When we say mean things about other people we're saying they don't have a right to their uniqueness or their own journey. Kids hear "fit in or you won't be happy". However, most adults who have worked very hard to fit in find out the hard way and too late that the only way to really feel fulfilled is to hack your own path through the jungle. It's already grueling work so you don't need a bunch of people telling you you're holding the machete the wrong way and you look fat in your khakis.
Protecting the high calling
Recently Jada Pinkett Smith's daughter Willow cut her hair very short. People asked Jada why she would "let" her daughter do that, implying that Willow wasn't pretty anymore. I would have just punched people in the head but Jada is wiser than I am, so she used it as a platform to talk about this exact topic. About once every three months somebody will ask me why a pretty girl like me would get such a big tattoo. I used to try to patiently explain my theory on beauty but now I just say "so I can quickly identify the people I don't want to hang out with". Then I go have fun with other happy people who don't care if I am tattooed or have a horn sticking out of my forehead as long as I'm nice, positive and enthusiastic about life. (Being obviously different is a great people sorter.) Kids don't need protection in the form of same-ness, they need to figure out and express who they are and what they're made of so they're strong enough to find deep, fulfilling happiness in their high calling when the time comes.
Back to it being about you.
Anyway, when I stopped saying mean things about other people my happiness instantly went up by orders of magnitude because I finally felt compassion for myself and I could finally feel compassion for other people. As a by-product, I became very aware of messages from people or advertising that implied that I wasn't good enough or that I wasn't the same enough. And, I realized that most criticism is backhanded and loaded with the insecurities or greedy intentions of the other party. Yuck.
So it's not going to kill you to stop talking about people for a month. Try it. If it doesn't change your life you can go back to being Snarla. But it will change your life. And then your strong example will change or save someone else's life, and thusly the world is transformed by a Happy Revolution.
Read about the very first thing I did to get happier here.