Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Hollow Muse, or: Rebuilding Penelope

This post started out being about the teaching plans I have for this year and the direction this blog would be taking. But as I wrote, it became more obvious that what I was really doing was delivering a personal story on my own creative journey - and what I want to learn and work toward.

This won't be a post about the mysteries of Etsy (thank goodness, I've had enough of their mysteries for now!) but it will be a heartfelt and hopefully not too long exploration of where I have lately been in my life, where I find myself and where I intend to go.

So if you're reading for the business... sorry! This one's a personal post. If you're interested in what business stuff I'll be offering I'll talk about that toward the end. For those of you who are interested... I want to briefly share my creative journey over the last few years in the hope that it might help others in a similar situation. And because it's my blog and it's what it's for.


I hope this post will be useful to people -  not least of all because it's honest. There is far too much 'cheerful façade' in the blogging world which leads us all to think everyone is motoring along on their own steam and perfectly happy with it too. Blogging the shadows is critical - after all we are here to help and share, and what help is it to pretend what you do is working when in fact it is not?

So, first a little background of the last 5 years. Most of my 'old' readers know about my car accident in 2011, in which my mother died and I almost did too. I've been fairly quiet about the lasting effects of that moment in time but I'm sure it doesn't take Sherlock to guess what sort of time it's been. Apart from the trauma, grief and healing difficulties, the accident became something of a catalyst to my life playing out as a country music song.

As a direct result of that event, I lost the house I was living in, my cat died and my parrot died. I underwent extensive therapy, wherein the true nature of some friendships was revealed and in order to heal, I had to let them go. This in turn meant I lost good mutual friends as well. Therapy also revealed a lot of pre-accident stuff that had been affecting me my entire adult life, and though pre-accident me had always been able to get a handle on it (read 'repress like a boss'), post-accident me had in addition so much more to deal with, and I crumbled under the weight.

I eventually became so worn down by the decimation of my life that I wound up living in my father's spare room in the town where I grew up. It was supposed to be temporary, but ended up being 3 years. I love my Dad and we get on well so I had no great trouble living with him, but the cottage is small and I took up space I knew he needed. I was just 'camping' in the spare room, and it felt transient.

I tried to move out once during that time - keen to 'get on with life' and regain my independence, but I was so unable to function in daily life and so riddled with anxiety and paranoia that I broke the lease and moved back to the spare room, fearing I'd never be able to live 'out in the world' ever again.

This then was my lowest point. The accident had come at a time where I had finally felt I was getting my shit together and creating a life I actually wanted. I was officially 'grown up'. Then my world was ripped apart; the more I fought, the more it crumbled. I felt the universe had dumped me in the gutter. Stripped of my home, my mother, my pets, my friends and my independence, there was little spirit left in me to care and I became numb from the effort.



Amazingly that's the short version, but as much as you need to know to understand that at the same time I was going through all this, my creativity was eroding rapidly. I kept up with Sparrow Salvage in the first couple of years just by going through the motions and doing what I knew. I didn't do it for creativity's sake, I didn't really even do it because I enjoyed it. I did it because it was virtually the only thing I retained from life before the accident. Perhaps in still making jewelry and still 'being sparrow salvage' I at least had one recognisable element of my reality, and I clung to it.

Eventually I got to a point where I had no energy to even go through the motions. Though I have tinkered with jewelry now and then in the last few years, it has never held my passion long enough for me to want to do it for a living. And that's a critical thing about earning a living with your art; you not only need to be passionate about it, but you need to be able to keep that passion when things become about the plain practicalities of retail. At that point I had passion for neither.I cut the cord and left behind the last vestiges of my old world, drifting in the void.

After a fair amount of void-drifting and a ridiculously huge amount of inner work, this year my natural fighting spirit was finally able to beat off the Dementors. Recently while reading the tarot (an invaluable psychological tool) I was struck with the realisation that because I had so much taken from me in these short years, there was a lot of empty space inside me.

And the upside of empty spaces is they can be filled with anything you want.

Slowly over the next few days I turned that concept over in my mind. I felt the excitement of possibility. That week marked the moment I was out of the woods, out of the darkness. I turned my face to the sun and I began to re-build myself.  I moved out of Dad's and this time into a sharehouse with someone highly compatible to me. (This was an extraordinary event in itself - you just don't get share houses in this regional area, let alone with my kind of people. Usually you have to go to the city for that!)I fought hard to reclaim my life, dragging back the jungle in my mind; revealing problems and dragging them out by the roots.

My time in this house has been critically important in healing. I have since purged much 'dead wood' from my spirit and cleared the ground to plant and good things are starting to show themselves. For the first time since the accident I feel like I'm 'back in the saddle' and on a path I want to pursue. I love this house and am content to be here until my journey to England is at last a reality. I am a grown up again, and this time I'm a grown up I want to be, rather than the one circumstance had made me.

The only thing that's remained firmly 'desolate' is my creativity, which I had thought best as left to it's own devices while I got on with my foundation stuff. But this past month, being an Aries, I figured if it hadn't done it's own thing by now it was never going to, and it was time to draw up a battleplan and force some kind of forward action.


source unknown


I'm a big fan of making lists and building strategies - heck I'm not just a fan of it, I'm a total nerd for it. I can build a strategy for anything. (Again, Aries.) I had a lot of stuff to consider but when it came to the subject of my creativity (or more pragmatically 'what am I going to do for money') and had what felt like 100 ideas.

When I say 'ideas' I mean 'things I'm capable of and won't run screaming from if I have to do it on a daily basis'. My ptsd means I can't work outside the home (unless conditions are dreamland perfect which we all know the real world is soooo good at...) so if I was going to get any closer to that light at the end of the tunnel, I had to build a boat and sail there myself.

I wrote out all the ideas I had - as detailed as possible - jewelry, print-making, photography, writing/coaching, doll making, fashion design, candlemaking, illustration, graphics...

Then went through them and crossed out everything that took too much energy, time or resources I couldn't easily obtain. I also got rid of anything that just didn't make me feel excited - in fact with ptsd rewarding me with a serious case of apathy, anything that did make me feel excited was such an event that I gave it extra points and moved it up the list of 'likely stuff'.

Some of the ideas didn't make it very far through analysis for me to know they weren't viable. Things like doll making and fashion design are nice ideas, but I don't know if I'll ever do them on a level more than hobbies. Print-making, illustration and graphic design are all calling me again, but it'll be some time before I'm ready to answer.

I discovered this week (after what feels like an eternity of mind-changing!) that I am entirely finished with jewelry, especially in the Sparrow Salvage incarnation but in any form generally. I have a totally different aesthetic in myself now and it does not include anything rusty, crusty, worn out or overly rustic. This is a complete 180 turn-around for me; I now find myself attracted to clean, colourful, elegant things, and anything that represents the old sparrow aesthetic actually makes me uncomfortable to look at. No doubt there's some really juicy psychology in there, but the gist of it is that Sparrow Salvage is an old world to me now, and other shores are calling.

 source unknown - he's no relation, by the way. ;)

But Sparrow Salvage is not destined to go quietly into the night. I want to leave something of a legacy, and here's where the teaching comes in.

I still want to teach the business of handmade, mostly because I've built up so much useful information that I feel so many people can benefit from. But I've been putting the whole thing on the back burner for a while now because it seems that in order to do these things, one has to become a full-time 24/7 guru, and I don't really want to do that. I have knowledge I have built up, wisdom I have attained... but I just want to pass it on and leave it at that. In addition there just isn't much mental space for it right now with all the other rebuilding going on.

It will happen, I just don't know when. It might be in 3 or 4 weeks, it might be next year. I have books 'almost done' (as they have been for years) and am thinking of offering an online course that we do via email and a private etsy team or facebook group... I will keep you up to date on that via the newsletter so if you're interested in knowing when that part of my brain kicks in, make sure you're on it.

It caused me a bit of anxiety to put the teaching on the backburner. I have a fairly good mailing list for the blog now and every time I look at it, I'm filled with the knowledge of all those people expecting me to guide them. The more time elapses, the more guilty I feel that I haven't, and further that I don't have the energy to. I also feel a little fake teaching the nature of handmade when I don't do it any more.

So now we come to what I want to be doing with the rest of 2016. First to the future of this blog; I mentioned that sparrow salvage is an old world to me and that includes this blog. I don't know when I'll stop posting here; maybe this will be my penultimate post, maybe not. I do know I have other things to focus on. My teaching will have it's own blog and I'll be sharing that when it's time. I do have blogging in my future, I enjoy doing it as long as the subject motivates and inspires me.

See, what I really want to focus on is vintage. Specifically pre-1960s, specifically home décor which has been a life-long passion of mine. I've been working on a new website, a new blog and a new shopfront (to be revealed when there's something to reveal) and the whole thing is ripe with 'this is it' excitement. I have an idea this will lead me back to handmade, because as much as I'm focusing on vintage homewares I'm already having ideas about creating my own line of vintage inspired homewares.

I am still running Fagin - in fact Fagin has become the major influence in choosing to focus on antiques. I noticed one afternoon that all the things I'd written on my analysis were all art/creative... I hadn't bothered questioning Fagin because it was something I have continually loved since the day it started. There was simply no question of it being under review, but I was so focused on the loss of my creativity I hadn't stopped to consider it as the vehicle to my future.

And that was a bolt to the brain.

I love vintage and antiques and if there is any creativity left in me, Fagin gets it all. I am currently making a huge, wonderful, purging mess of my house in sorting out all my left over Sparrow Salvage supplies, purging everything. Coming regularly to Fagin is antique and vintage beads, findings, found objects, dyed textiles, scruffy old bits of paper and anything else I think might be useful to the assemblage artist.I have an Instagram you can follow to keep up with the new listings.


Once I have everything listed  - hopefully by December - Fagin will take a back seat (with a view to retiring) so I can devote all my time to a new antique shop I am building, one that is located primarily as a standalone but will have an Etsy outlet. I want to get away from Etsy because I feel it keeps me thinking of my businesses as borderline hobbies; a standalone is more real to me. I also don't want to have to apply for manufacturing should I design my own homewares, and frankly in my moral opinion manufacturing (while perfectly fine) should not be on Etsy at all. Let's save that rant for another time!

When January 2017 hits, hopefully my world will be a different place. Out with the old Sparrow, in with the new Penelope. I've made plans like this before, but more through the necessary flexibility you need when life dictates circumstance. Never really with such conviction that it is the right path. And that's because there's such an enormous amount of baggage I have unpacked, sorted out and tossed out. My load is lighter and my choices are easier for it. If you're travelling to the New World, you don't need old ways.

So there we have it - I hope that wasn't too boring! It's a little self-indulgent but this is a personal blog after all,  and it will hopefully help you understand why I've not been around and where I will be in the future, if you choose to be there with me. At the very least perhaps my 'life crisis walkthrough' has helped you realise some things yourself about where you are in your life, and if it's where you want to be. 

Rebuilding yourself after total decimation isn't something many people do and it's hard to understand, especially if you've never really felt you're on the wrong trajectory. It's not just a matter of gathering a few things together, sorting out some issues, laying it all out neatly and getting on with life. It's not like doing a jigsaw puzzle or making dinner, where you get the stuff you need, apply it how it needs to be applied and then you're done and you move on. It is long, it is very difficult, it is messy and complicated; there are issues within issues, you often have to double back or just 'sit' and wait for answers to reveal themselves. This requires patience and dedicated focus, both of which I have been forced to become good friends with.

But perhaps that is my creative outlet now, and for who knows how long. If it is, for the time being, am happy with it.

10 comments:

Susan Rivera said...

Absolutely FABULOUS post Penny!
Please accept my heartfelt condolences over your multiple losses of love.
I applaud you "rising from the ashes" and being willing to articulate your process here.
You probably wouldn't be surprised to know that others - possibly many - of your readers are on similar paths of total decimation and rebirth- like attracts like.
I predict (Rider tarot) that your interesting life will continue to evolve in ways that would have astounded you before 2011.
I hope to hear more from you in the future, but if that does not fit into your new life, I understand that too.
BTW, 2014 was my year.... wish there was a way to leave a photo - my re-birth process included walking into a gym - I currently leg press 300 lb.s (57 yr.s) and have muscles the size of Popeye's, lol!
Love and hugs,
Susan Rivera

fancylinda said...

What an honestly wonderful post! I am wishing you all the best with whatever you decide to do. Please know that as someone else with PTSD, I am always in the background somewhere cheering you on. Woooo!!!

Judy A Merashoff said...

Penelope,

I've read your post and will keep coming back to read more. I admire you for diving into the blogging business again...I want to do this, but think I would be over my head in trying...You GO girl...

Stacey said...

Hi Penelope,
Thank you for sharing your journey - I think it is extremely amazing how you're getting back on your feet and planning the next part of your life. I hope it all goes well!

Mrs. A. said...

Thanks for sharing your journey and your heart, Penny. Wishing you well in your new endeavor.

stregata said...

I continue to wish you the very best on your journey. Kudos to you for taking it all apart and putting it back together in a way that works for you now. Life is change, after all. And it is often painful. But the beauty of it... well, you know. xo

Highly Strung Creations said...

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Penelope. You are such a wonderfully creative person so will excel at anything you turn your hand to. And am so proud of where you are at as knowing what it's like to rebuild from the bottom up! Looking forward to read more and wish you all the best!

Beth P said...

Oh my gosh, Penelope! I never knew. When I came to you, in my own broken way about my Etsy shop, your insights and support were all I needed to rethink, rebalance and generate a new spirit within me. I never knew that at the time you were undergoing such a life change. I once wrote a memoir entitled "Sunday Clothes" and it was based on my feelings from a friend's suicide. Your "Sunday Clothes" were much better than mine as you had more to hide, and were able to pull it off very well.

Your challenges, as listed here, were enormous and I should gain inspiration from your comments. The insights you have shared in such an open way are an inspiration to those of us who are struggling with whatever challenges we must face.

I'd be very much interested in continuing through whatever you have planned. I love your style, your candidness, and most all your experience. Thank you for sharing.

CraftyHope said...

You've definitely been through a ton, and it sounds like you're coming out on the other side just fine. . .headed in the right direction. If it makes you excited, go for it! Wishing you ALL THE BEST! Enjoy whatever the future holds!

Margaret Zipkin said...

Deep thanks to you for your honesty in sharing your journey. I wish you joy and peace in the next step.