September 21, 2015

what a difference 4 months makes.

I had a really good day yesterday!

The details aren't super important- or even that remarkable. I've had a string of challenging days coordinating parenthood and work (especially while Ben has been traveling for work), but yesterday a lot of things happened that felt like wins. 

This brings to mind 2 things:

#1- For the love of everything, celebrate your wins. Stop being humble about it, stop spending your energy anticipating that things are going to get worse again. CELEBRATE. Give yourself a high five and drink some wine. Do a happy dance. Tell someone about it that isn't Facebook. We actually could all use being surrounded by more people that are celebrating the good stuff. (Let's also have the common sense to know that this doesn't mean that their lives are peachy easy 100% of the time.)

#2- Change happens. Though at times it's really challenging to remember, it's literally impossible for change not to happen (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). If you're feeling stuck, hang tight. Also: it's not 100% on us to force a change to happen. Sometimes all we have to do is show up fully- that's our job. Sometimes the things around us change: babies get older and trade one crazy phase for another, opportunities open up, transitions get more comfortable, the universe throws us a bone. Life happens in cycles, and these are always fluctuating. We can have fresh starts and do-overs and make tweaks to the things that are driving us crazy. THANK GOODNESS. I've been realizing that it's not healthy to feel so responsible for making things work perfectly (says the person who obsessively googles advice for babies who won't nap). Let go. It will happen. There are more good days in store.

I Like You | 1

September 3, 2015

A few things I've read/listened to lately that I want to hang onto & think about & share:

+ There are just a few hours left in midwife/postpartum coach Rebecca Egbert's kickstarter for Little Mother's Helper, a deck of cards designed to help women through the postpartum months. It's really cool- exactly what I would have liked to have had available to me during this time.

+ Speaking of motherhood, I loved this article from Amanda Palmer about the mix of motherhood and art-making, and Austin Kleon's list of books on this topic

+ I have been listening to a lot of podcasts- handy when folding diapers and going on walks and when your brain is too overstimulated for television. Sometimes I like podcasts where I'm learning something, but mostly I'm into empathy and things that make me cry while cleaning. It's like free therapy!

+ Brené Brown has a new book, and it's about getting up after you fall. RESILIENCE, baby! It was my birthday gift to myself. So far, so awesome.

+ If you're a local and like supporting arty things, come to our Twin Cities Producers Circle season preview party on September 25! It's free! Wine and snacks! Art-like things made by myself and Candy Simmons and Julie Johnson. You can find out more on our Facebook page as the date approaches.

+ I really love this print, and think it belongs in my house. Support a local artist!

+ Maker/performer Emily Gastineau writes about Art in the Attention Economy for I've been thinking on many of these things for the piece I'm making for February. Emily is a super smart writer. 

+ People ask me all the time for tips on making your own website. I think these common website-making mistakes shared in this piece are really helpful.

Tell me about something hopeful and/or useful and/or inspiring you've found in the world! (I like emails, too: LMholway[at]gmail[dot]com.)


August 18, 2015

This week I got an email from a friend that started with something along the lines of "Congratulations! From what I see on social media, it appears that life with a kid is going swimmingly." It was a quick reminder to me that I want to tell an honest story when I put things out into the world- not something that is manicured and neat and happy, happy, happy. Because there are lots of different ways that I could craft the story of this time in my life. Yes, I have a kid that is making my heart burst, and there's a whole lot of intense love flying around my house right now. But equally true is the fact that I feel a bit insane from all of this change. And that's what, exactly, makes this time so tricky: all of these contradictory things living in the same room together. I feel the most vulnerable I've ever felt in my life- heart on sleeve, and that's exhausting actually. I feel the happiest and most ambitious I have in a very long time, but the highs are so high and the lows are so low. I also feel anxious and tired and my nervous system is absolutely fried. I have about 30 tasks and projects that are half-finished at any given time, and it seems like a cruel trick to be a person who thrives on getting things done but can't seem to finish any one thing. And now, at 12 weeks postpartum, I'm supposed to figure out how to fit work into the equation...I want to figure out how to fit work into the equation...and that seems particularly insane. 

So I was thinking about all of these things today, while I ate a second breakfast in my breastmilk-stained t-shirt and Fox finally napped (!!!!!). I started listening to this episode of Being Boss Podcast, which happened to be with maternal health expert Rebecca Egbert and had a good cry because it seemed like she was speaking right to me. The episode is a gold mine of smart information for women reconfiguring their lives and healing their bodies after having a baby, but the part that stuck with me the most were these words from Rebecca:

"Get out of your head and into your body, because our heads are exhausting."

Boy, are they. My lists are exhausting. Trying to figure things out is exhausting. Googling that strange thing that my baby just started doing is exhausting. Oh, and worrying... 

But bodies? I know something about those. Yeah, I have one, but I also study the body as a dance maker. It's pretty smart- way smarter than my mind. I haven't been fully in my body lately. But the body is really the key to making everything work. When I feel calm and nourished and embodied, my life makes so much more sense. But somehow taking care of my body always seems to come last.

I've written a lot about foundations. We all have two or three things that we need set in place in order for our lives to work. One thing I'm loving about this change in my life is that it absolutely requires that I make sure my foundation is in place- no excuses. I have a lot of shit I want to make happen and time is limited. I'm more efficient when I feel healthy. I'm more efficient when I feel happy. I can be a better parent when I don't feel certifiably insane. It feels counterintuitive to take care of myself before I take care of my to-do list, but I'm pretty sure that's all backwards. 

So that's the story right now: figuring out how to prioritize self-care and get rid of any guilt I have surrounding that, or any ideas I have in my head about what I should be able to accomplish at twelve weeks postpartum. Because I strongly believe that, regardless of how confusing and challenging something appears, we aren't ever stuck. Things are always changing- it's literally impossible for things to not change. It's good news!

An Experiment

August 5, 2015

"I think of artists like scientists. Just like scientists, we begin with a question, something we don’t know. We go into our studio and research that question. Like scientists, at the end of our research,
we share the results with the public and with our peers... Just as in science, a negative result is as
important as a positive result... Failure in science and art is a sign that the process is working."

I still identify as an artist, even though I sometimes go months without getting into a dance studio. Like I've written, these days I'm making small art. There is lots of talk and argument about the difference between being an artist and a hobbyist. I think Andrew Simonet sums it up quite nicely in the quote above: artists are researchers. Regardless of medium, artists research questions. 

I've been thinking about this a lot as I'm moving daily things around to make space for our new family member- and soon, work. Approaching all of this as an experiment lowers the stakes and makes it more fun. For instance, I'm still figuring out Fox's preferred schedule. He's a baby, so every day he's changing and what he needs shifts a little. Some nights we wonder: will he sleep longer if we put him to bed later? Will he sleep better swaddled or does he prefer to have his hands free? I wonder about myself: will I function better if I get some exercise in the morning or is it a better to get my most challenging work done first thing? Etc, etc, etc... 

Framing life as an experiment makes me feel less stuck if things aren't working out. I remember that I can always shift them- a little here, a little there. I remember that nothing is absolute and there's a certain freedom in that. I remember that I can take something that feels hard and make it work from me.

3 Things

July 30, 2015

I read 3 things in the past week that I particularly loved:

For starters, this interview with my former boss lady Sarah Schultz conducted by writer Lightsey Darst for Lightsey- one of my favorite arts critics- is, per usual, amazing at asking great questions and offering insightful observations. Sarah's responses are smart and funny and thoughtful- because she is. Her thoughts on work particularly resonate with me: "I'm feeling a pull to figure out what my 'work' should look like-- you work at a job but you also work in the garden. You work at problems. You work in a studio. You 'work-it-out'."

I love this onbeing blog post called Where the Earth is Most Torn: On Staying with Discomfort. This year I've been thinking a lot about how to get comfortable with discomfort, because, let's face it, we probably all spend a lot of time in this state. Transitions are uncomfortable, growth is often uncomfortable, the best things in life are uncomfortable. I particularly like this quote: "I give myself this advice as a resource: become intimate with discomfort. Pull it closer. Mend nothing first. Don’t say, 'I will allow discomfort to teach me when I have finally done XYZ.' Take to discomfort now and feel the sensations in the body that correspond and feel how alive you are." I'm going to practice.

And finally, an email newsletter from Sarah J. Bray, one of my favorite people from the internet. I spend a lot of time deleting mass mailing from my inbox, but Sarah's is delightful. Last week she discussed reading Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things for the first time- one of my favorite books, of course. Here's part of what Sarah wrote: 

"I was struck by how Strayed can take any horrendous, gut-wrenching human problem and apply empathy and wisdom to make you feel like even this is something you can deal with, and even use to make you a better person. 

I thought, how amazing. And then, I want someone to do that for me. And then, maybe I can be Dear Sugar to myself. 

So I did. I wrote a long letter to Dear Sugar about all the things that are bothering me, and then I wrote Dear Sugar's response back to me. 

It was amazing. Exactly what I needed to hear. Because you know what? Everything we need, we've already got. We just need to give ourselves the empathy and wisdom that we are so willing to give to others."

Everything we need, we've already got- I'm hanging onto that thought this week.


July 24, 2015

I've been thinking about this article, awesomely titled Everything's Awful and I'm Not OK: questions to ask before giving up. Everything in my life is certainly not awful, but I am still adjusting to some pretty significant life changes that sometimes leave me feeling confused and even panicky. I get worried that I haven't found my new normal yet. I start to think that there's something really wrong.

Then it turns out that I just need to eat something and get more sleep (and be patient). This is why these questions are so helpful. Don't give up, just drink a glass of water. You know, Maslow's hierarchy of needs: you have to make sure that you have food and shelter and sleep before worrying about the more nuanced aspects of life.

This is probably key for every life transition. Sometimes feeling more even-keeled comes down to the basics.

So, this week I went to bed a little earlier. I did a few things that reminded me I can still be productive. I bought a few shirts so that I can wear something that isn't stained with breastmilk. I ate more frequently. I took a few deep breaths.

I felt a whole lot better.

Related: Peter.

In the Body

July 22, 2015

photo by Gene Pittman for the Walker Art Center
I'm very interested in body...interested in how my body and other people's bodies are in the world, and I have been since I was a kid. There can be a purity to [dance] in that it's this tactile thing. It's just feels like in our world, where everything is fighting against the body, it's a statement. It's like being an anarchist or something. --Angharad Davies on making dances via Justin Jones' podcast TALK DANCE

Lately I've been convinced that most of the smarts we need for pretty much every challenge in our life reside in our bodies. I don't mean brains (yeah, those are important too). I mean body wisdom: the memories and intuition that live in our bodies, that can't be accessed unless we slow down and breathe and listen. I've realized that I can go days without any real awareness of my body, other than knowing that I'm hungry or tired. I can go days without fully feeling or paying attention. 

I listened to this podcast interview with badass local choreographer Angharad Davies, and have to agree with her sentiment: there's something rebellious about focusing on the body. There's something necessary about it, too, which is why I continue to be curious about making and watching dance. Making dance forces me to tune into my body and its needs and emotional intelligence in a way that little else does. 

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