In the final part of my Artist in Lockdown series, I look at how acceptance can lead us to embrace new opportunities.
(Listen or read the transcript, as you prefer.)
Transcript: Notes From an Artist in Lockdown - Week 6
Hi there everyone, this is Cherry. It's week six of lockdown - unbelievably!
This week I found myself reaching a level of acceptance of the situation that I'm in and just getting on with things.
The Five Stages of Grief
It was interesting that I had this experience precisely this week because a fellow coach Samuel Hatton - of the Courageous Self-confidence podcast - had posted a series of podcasts on the Five Stages of Grief. And, interestingly, acceptance is one of those five stages.
I really recommend that you take a listen. He's talking with his coach and some of the things they talked about are not a complete fit for us as artists and creatives. But there is an awful lot of really useful insight in there. So definitely worth a listen.
To mention briefly those five stages of grief, they are:
I'm not going to go into detail talking about those right now - although it might be an interesting subject for another week.
I must say that I did recognise all of those as something that I'd experienced over the last six weeks.
So, as I said, definitely worth a listen and some consideration to help you understand where you might be. But also to know that these are emotions that we can experience concurrently. They don't necessarily go in any strict order. It's not like we're going to work our way from 1 to 5 and then it'll be finished. We're going to zigzag backwards and forwards between these different emotions at different times.
Acceptance as a catalyst for change
So back to the idea of acceptance.
Acceptance is a key concept that I got to grips with quite a long time ago when I was suffering from a severe repetitive strain injury. I still have the injury but to a much lesser degree because I've learned to manage it. And the first stage in learning to manage it was ...Acceptance!
As some of you will know, I got my repetitive strain injury as a result of my work as a jewellery designer-maker. I used to make a lot of jewellery. And a lot of that was work with pliers. That was what gave me the problem.
When I first started to feel his symptoms I carried on working regardless. I was definitely in the mindset of,
"I haven't got time to deal with this. This is my livelihood. I've got to keep working through the pain."
It was only when it got to the point of being completely unbearable - my whole arm was going numb - that I finally stopped and realised I had to do something about it.
And that that something was a drastic something.
It wasn't a modification of where I was before. It was a complete redesign of my life.
So as you can see that's got some parallels with where we are now.
Understanding the paradigm of the 'New Normal'
We hear the phrase a lot 'the new normal'.
Well, the new normal - when you make a significant change - it doesn't resemble the old normal.
And that's the hardest part of it.
Because it's accepting that we're not going back to where we were before. This is probably the toughest bit of this whole experience.
When this began, most of us thought a few weeks and everything will open up again; the virus will be under control and things will go back to normal. Things will go back to the way that they were.
But as the pandemic took a grip on the world, and lockdown measures got more severe, we began to realize that we weren't going back to that old normal. Ever.
So I wanted to share what I learned from that experience of repetitive strain injury. And how I reached an epiphany with it.
As I say, I was in denial. I was carrying on trying to do the work that I was doing before; suffering a lot of pain. And not knowing what to do. Feeling very traumatised both physically and mentally.
One day I reached that point where I realised,
"No, I can't carry on anymore. I have to change. I have to do things differently. I have to look at a new life from this point on."
And, although that was massive - that looking at a whole new life from from that day. It was also a huge relief.
I didn't have to try to continue in the same way.
I didn't have to live up to what I'd been doing before.
I was wiping the slate clean and I was beginning from zero. I could decide exactly what I was going to put on that slate from that day forward.
And that was actually the moment that I began to carve out my career as a fine artist - which was something that I had always wanted to do and which I had suppressed over a very long period of time.
It was that wiping of the slate clean that allowed me to put that front and centre, which I'd never done before.
So that's one of the things that acceptance of our situation brings: That knowing that we're not going back. And so, in a sense, we have this opportunity to design a new future.
Even though that future might be scary, uncertain and downright shaky. Downright difficult to imagine.
We don't know what's going to underpin it.
We don't know what society is going to look like.
We don't know what opportunities we're going to have.
We don't know how we're going to earn our living necessarily.
So it's scary. I'm not saying it's not.
But just that possibility that maybe we can put into place some things that we've always wanted to put into place... that we haven't prioritised... should be a little bit of comfort right now.
And even if it's not that. Even if it's just accepting that this is where we are and we need to carve out new habits, new ways of being, new approaches. That in itself is empowering.
Change = the potential for new opportunities
So one other thing that I wanted to talk about today - related to that idea of accepting where we are - is that there may be opportunities for us now that didn't exist before.
It's very tempting to think that all that's happened is that doors are closed, and forget that perhaps some have opened. But we need to find them. And we need to be extremely creative in finding them.
Something happened to me recently that's made me think in this way:
I'm subscribed to a newsletter for makers of artists books and a lot of the time I don't get time to read that newsletter.
I'm so busy with everything else going on in my normal life that maybe I read every third newsletter. Or every fifth newsletter.
But, because in the current situation I have more time on my hands, I have more time to read my email. And I do try to consciously spend time first thing in the morning reading things that are useful and fill my well.
So I have been prioritizing reading this this newsletter.
Last week, in the newsletter, there was a call for videos of Artist's Books by one of the biggest museums and collectors of Artist's Books in the world - the Jaffe Center in Florida.
This is a this is a collection that I've had on my radar for a while now. But normally my access to getting visibility in the Jaffe Center would be severely limited.
Being based in Europe, whenever there's calls for submissions in the US, it's hugely problematic: I have to weigh up, first of all, the submission cost. I need to consider how much it would cost to ship to the US if the work is accepted. And then how much the insurance for that would be. And then how much it would cost to ship it back if it's not sold or bought by the collection.
So normally I look longingly at submitting my work to lots of places in the US, but I don't do it
However, right now - obviously - the museum is closed. And all they can do is focus on online exhibitions. So this proposal to share Artist's Book videos was something that was as open to me as to any artists in the US.
So this is a new opportunity that wouldn't have been open to me if it wasn't for the pandemic.
And of course it's not an opportunity that I'm going to pass up! I've submitted my proposal. Now I'm preparing a video and I hope that it will get featured. (Later note: I did get chosen!)
This is a small indication that sometimes there will be opportunities that come out of this that wouldn't have come out of a normal situation.
So the new normal - just occasionally - might bring us some benefits.
And we need to be on the lookout for those. We need to search them out. We need to be actively engaged and prepared for those opportunities to appear.
So I hope that's given you some food for thought this week - whichever stage of the Five Stages of Grief you find yourself in. Or not!
I hope that you can reach a level of acceptance. And start looking for some new opportunities that might not normally present themselves
Okay! Take care. Be well. Wear your mask.
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