On asking and adventure

Amanda Palmer is to blame, and I’m so thankful.
Allow me to explain…
Her book, The Art of Asking (which is subtitled: “or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help” – based in part on her TED talk) is on my nightstand. I’m half through it, and will read the rest when my focus allows, but the book has had a profound impact on me. You see, I’m a giver – to a fault. I volunteer, I take on projects I shouldn’t, I donate, I put others first nearly every chance I get. This sounds like the makings of a good person, but it’s damaging when done as I do.

Here’s the problem: I love helping people. I love teaching, doing, giving, and all that warm fuzzy stuff that goes along with it. I say yes too often. I’m not proud, but I will nearly always do what I can to avoid asking for help. And yet, I’ll always give to the point of making myself ill, physically or mentally. This is something I’m working to correct, or to at least achieve a healthier balance.

So, Amanda… I plucked up the courage and asked for something I wanted, just for me, that seemed so unattainable in my current situation. What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary…

I contacted Origin Paddleboards about their Ugly Duckling boards. I had already researched paddle boards and knew that this was the company and product I wanted. They are ethical, UK produced, and everything about their website made them stand out in a crowded iSUP space. I contacted them knowing that I would love to have one of their boards one day, but why not tell them my story now and see what happens. (Thank you, Amanda!)

Origin emailed me back, and in a flurry of words back and forth, I was offered and accepted the last place on their micro-adventure for that very weekend. I had around 24 hours to gather equipment and join the group. And so I did.

One – really dumb – reason I haven’t been camping in a very long time is down to my hair. I am trying really hard to get over the fact that I have a large, bald patch on top that never grew back after I beat cancer. I have never been a girly-girl, and I love mud, dirt, adventure, but for some reason this hair thing makes me feel terrible. Even when I bodyboard, I have a buff attached to my head with barrettes, or use a neoprene hood. I don’t know why I feel so ashamed or self-concious, but I’m working to get over it. I hate that it prevents me from doing things I enjoy because of the anxiety it causes.
One neat thing about this past weekend is that although I still kept a bandana on the whole time, I got over my issue with camping. The only person who holds me back is me, so I’m trying to do that less.

Gosh, this is turning out to be a long post. Hang in there. Photos soon.

So, Friday evening arrived and I was meeting new people and setting up a tent for our first night together. There was laughter, a pub meal by the sea, campfire, and the buzz of anticipation from a group of mostly newcomers to stand up paddleboarding. Everyone I met is awesome.

We headed off the next morning to inflate our boards and learn to paddle. Starting at St Anthony, the journey eventually took us from the sea to up the Helford River, and a bit back again to finish at The Ferry Boat Inn. According to the plotting on Google Maps, we paddled about 12km during the weekend. Not bad for newbies!
SUP Adventure
SUP Adventure

I have now paddled in wind, rain, sun, harbours, shorelines, and some of the most stunning scenery I’ve seen in awhile. And you know what? I have a bit of a knack for paddleboarding. All my years of skateboarding and yoga have given me balance confidence, and that translated perfectly to being on the water. I didn’t fall off once. I will soon, I’m sure, but I was shocked how well I managed during my first time on a SUP. (It helps tremendously to have excellent instruction and quality gear. Thank you Dave, Rita, Neil, and Ian.)

The majority of my thoughts since returning from the adventure have been about and processing the events of the weekend. I slept beneath the stars in a tent. Made new friends. Learned a new skill or two. Built confidence. Laughed a lot. Cried a little (thank you for listening and hugging, Dave). There was wonderful silliness and there was pure wonderfulness. I miss it already.

I could easily write about the activities of each hour of the weekend and fill numerous blog posts about it all, but I’m already struggling to gain traction in my work tasks, so I need to focus on that. There are fifteen, beautiful people who know what happened over the weekend, and so I’ll leave it to live in those hearts and minds.
I am not the only person who experienced something magical – and for me, life-changing – during 3 – 5 July 2015.
I am so very grateful.

What’s next? Well, I have an Ugly Duckling now, thanks to a trade with Origin. I’ve got plans to paddleboard next week – showing a friend how to do it! – but I think I may get out and get wet before this week is done. I’ve been itching to get back on the water for days…

If you ever get a chance to go on one of these mini-adventures with Dave Cornthwaite and/or Origin, don’t hesitate. Do it. Dave has a motto: Say Yes More, and although I’m learning to say yes less, it’s all about what you say yes to that matters.
Experience more. Adventure more.
My best friend and I have tattoos on our arms that say “cicatrices et fabulis” which is Latin for “Scars and Stories.” It’s about time we say yes to more of that.
SUP Adventure

The happiness quest

I’m about to write something new today about a life-changing adventure I experienced over this past weekend. I opened up my blog and saw this rambling, unfinished post from 13th June. This was written during one of my many and frequent depression lows, and as I sit here thinking about the incredibly positive things I have recently experienced, I feel even more driven to have fewer posts about my mental health battles, and more about the things that create a better existence.
So, before I write about my iSUP adventure, I offer this unedited, unfinished post from a desperately unhappy me, nearly one month ago. At the time, I had no idea I would go on my adventure…

——v— from 13 June 2015 —v———–
I’ve tried starting this post several times over and not managed to get past the first sentence. Happiness. I have a tricky relationship with happiness. Depression and ADHD are forever throwing stones at my happiness. My general upbeat, optimistic attitude helps to keep me afloat, but there are times the stones gather and

Ugh. I could start this post again, but I’m wearing out my delete key. Writing about happiness is hard to do, not just because of the elusive nature of happy, but it’s difficult to avoid sounding like a world-class turd on the topic.

I’m on a happiness quest, of sorts. I know it’s within me already and it’s the external events and experiences that hide it, bruise it, or temporarily squash it into a sad blob on the floor, but there are some fundamental things I can put into place to help make my happiness a little stronger and more resilient.

Letting go of the past is hard, for even the strongest person, and I’m not one who dwells much in the past. It’s pointless to replay and present new what-ifs; the results are in and the past doesn’t change no matter how many ways you rehash it. I used to feel terribly guilty about a few events and sometimes they still come to mind when I least expect it, but I recognise the futility of replaying these moments and can typically regain my present moment control. I’m anxious enough about the future without ganging up on myself with a past I can’t change as well.

I find happiness in success. Money doesn’t equal success, in fact all successes are welcome, for example: I consider it a success remembering to take my pills in the morning. When I have plenty of clean underwear to choose from. After a shower. When I get through my email inbox (that sucker causes me anxiety regularly). Making a sale – no matter how large or small – of my work. I’m happy when I don’t break the yoke of a fried egg before it lands on my toast. All of these make me happy. All are successes that most people think nothing of unless they go wrong. I prefer to be thankful for these little victories and when they go wrong – as sometimes they do – accept it and move on. During depression lows, it can be difficult to do that, but I try.

Increasing my happiness is the current quest. I’ve started yoga again, which is something I know I can do very well with practice. I’m determined to feel better about myself and function better in my body.

Where’d April go? I think I know.

Hi again. Whoosh! April came and went, though I seem to remember it feeling like an eternity when experiencing it. My solo exhibition nearly doubled in size at the last minute and if I hadn’t been spending months organising things, the offer to suddenly take on the second gallery room space due to a cancellation would have floored me. As it was, I was able to tell the venue yes, no problem, easy-peasy and I went home and chose another 15 paintings to display, began updating inventory sheets, labels, pricing, etc.

I’m not typically good with curve balls in life; I derail, I get flustered, panic, get anxious. I had been planning my exhibition since November 2014 and so this time, I was ok. Granted, my planning was somewhat excessive, and not full-time, but nonetheless, I had promotional materials ordered way back then and the rest of the ducks forming an orderly queue from there. I’ve learned that despite my ADHD and depression issues, give me enough warning and – crucially – it must be a thing/task/job/whatever that I WANT to do, and I can plan and deliver with military levels of professionalism. Catch me off guard or trap me into saying yes to a thing I don’t want to do, and I’m back to last minute, procrastination blitz mode.

This exhibition of mine is still going for another handful of days and I’m pleased it’s nearly over. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and people are really loving my work. I’ve sold a few paintings, dozens of postcards, and a couple drawings. (Perhaps even more now, I can’t be certain, but I’ll check figures again tomorrow.) Saying that, I’m ready for the next thing. I’ll have a couple weeks between the close of the exhibition and the opening of my home studio to the public for Cornwall Open Studios 2015. OS will last for nine days straight and it’s going to be its own set of challenges. I have been casually planning it alongside the exhibition since last year.

April also saw a few deep, dark and desperate mood crashes. My housemate and I both suffer depression and attention issues. We’re both working through professional and personal frustrations grinding us down, and it’s been tough keeping on top of surviving, let alone the thriving in normal life. We’re both picking up our pieces and doing our best to be supportive to one another.

I’m several months late with a rebuild and launch of an online shop for my art. There is a simple reason for this: I can’t do it all, at least not all at the same time. I’m picking it up again now after too long away and I mean to have it live soon. I’ll be soft-launching with a range of works and adding to that catalogue regularly. I’m past the point of beating myself up over getting behind on things because it does me no good. I have had my first ever solo exhibition in a reputable venue and it has been a roaring success, however, it has been a fairly all-consuming event, despite one rather exciting distraction…

The Big Easel. I needed a project alongside the exhibition beast and I needed a personal win. I also needed a bigger easel for the work I want to do as an artist. Crowdfunding is a strange and wonderful thing and I managed to whip together an engaging campaign that people cared about and ultimately, I got funded for the purchase of a huge, new easel which will last my lifetime and then some. Grateful is too mild a word for what I feel. I’m astonished, humbled, and – if I were religious I’d say ‘blessed’ – that people supported me in my quest to get the right tool for my job. The Big Easel project became the success that helped keep me buoyant during the lead-up to the exhibition launch. It kept me sane. It helped me to remember that there is life – and CRUCIALLY – more art to make after the exhibition finishes. The psychological impact of the experience is still something I’m processing.

So, I’ve got until Thursday afternoon before the exhibition finishes and the prep for Open Studios gets its into full gear. I’m overlapping the new shop site into this time and will continue it during the OS, I’m sure. I’m not going to announce launch dates because of the volatile nature of my time and mood lately, but it’s coming. April in particular was about learning new ways to work with myself, not against, and overall it was a very positive month. Professional respect and acceptance is higher than ever for me as a self-employed artist and it feels genuinely possible that I can be successful at it.
Guess that’s a good place to end this post.

sharing too much since 2003