I called my husband once again, this time laying down in the middle of the hallway. “I need you to come home. I can’t move and I don’t know if the kids are playing inside or outside at this point.”
He raced home and after we determined they were ok, he tucked me into bed with some Advil and a heating pad. Sitting down and looking straight into my tear-filled eyes, he said, “I know you think you can, but you can’t do this anymore. We have to get some help.” I knew he was right. I just was having a hard time admitting I was no longer in control.
Getting a nanny/care-taker was the best decision we made up to that point with my illness. The more I pushed through the disease and ignored it instead of taking care of my body, the worse I became. Over the course of the next two years we hired two 19 year old girls excited for the possibilties ahead of them, and each head over heels in love with their boyfriends.
They reminded me of my younger self: full of joy and life and creativity. One girl was ahead on her college credits and working on big life goals, living out her future exactly as she planned it. The other was more of a fly-by-the-seat of her pants adventure type, jumping from one creative endeavor to the next.
I was inspired both by the girl who knew exactly what she wanted out of life and the spontaneity of the other. They didn’t just let life happen to them, they lived it. If they wanted to travel, they traveled. If they wanted to get a tattoo, they got a tattoo. If they wanted to double major, or do hair for a living or live by the beach or the mountains, they went for it.
I hadn’t done much besides obsess about pill schedules and plan doctor appointments for the past four years, so I had no plan–my plan was to survive.
One day my nanny was working on a school project and asked if I had some glue. “What kind do you need?” I asked, and opened the guest room door. I pulled out a big box filled with tacky glue, glue guns, Elmer’s glue, glue dots, fabric glue and glue strips. Her eyes lit up as she peered into the closet, bulging with rows of fabric, paintbrushes, ribbon, glass jars, wooden signs, buttons and sewing machines.
“I didn’t know you had all this in here!” she said. I pointed to the other side of the room, where stacks of bins were labeled with more arts and crafts supplies. I had stacks of books on how to knit, sew and start your own craft business. I had embroidery thread, rings, yarn balls, hooks and looms.
“Do you know how to do all this?” she asked. I hadn’t thought about these treasures since I’d been sick. Over the next few days I showed her how to create her own custom embroidery by hand and gave her a few paint tubes and instructions on how to make her own coffee table tray.
Later when she was taking the kids to their swim and gymnastics lessons, she said to me, “Hey you are doing so much better, why don’t you go out and take some of your own classes?”
These words lit a fire under me. I hadn’t considered doing something fun for myself in a long time. I was just trying to make sure the kids were living a normal-ish life while I got better.
It had been over 12 years since I switched majors, leaving behind my dreams of becoming an art teacher after one of my college professors discouraged me during his figure drawing class.
Having survived the misery of the past few years, I was blessed with a new outlook on life. I grabbed hold of the encouragement in front of me in the form of a bright-eyed 19 year old girl and signed up for a weekly adult art class. I stocked up on fresh paints and new brushes and a cloth roll to store them in. I explored different drawing materials and papers and tested out new techniques.
I discovered online art courses that I did after dinner with my son, both of us ready to go with paper on clipboards, a set of drawing pencils and erasers.
I was working on art every night.
After awhile I had so many projects I was working on through online courses and Pinterest boards that I couldn’t keep up with my class assignments. I was having so much fun finding something new to do each night. I would lay everything out on the dining room table, start the videos and do my best not to rinse my paintbrush in my coffee cup.
And suddenly, I realized I was no longer “sick Amy”, I was once again “Amy the artist”. I learned how much I missed drawing and creating on a daily basis–and reminded myself that to be an artist doesn’t mean that you have to sketch people as if you were taking their photo, but that you’ve found something you’re passionate about creating–and DO IT.
In that moment of excitement, I didn’t need the memory of a professor telling me I was terrible at figure drawing. What I needed was the encouragement of a young girl reminding me how to find my joy and in turn, my life again.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
For those of you feeling like life has got you backed into a corner of monotony and repetition–scale the wall! Look up around you and see what you’re missing. Maybe it’s a social life, maybe it’s creativity. Maybe it’s individuality, maybe it’s inspiration.
Can you find a mom’s group? Join a knitting group? Take an art class? Take a photography class? Learn how to be a better writer, or speaker, or learn a new sport like pickle ball? What do you love? Do you want to join a book club? Be a better cook or decorator?
I can’t guarantee you can quit your day job over it, but I can guarantee that if you make time for things that make you really come alive, you will find so much joy in the day to day.
Don’t have money to spend on a hobby? That’s ok too! Start simple–go to the library, look on Pinterest, watch YouTube videos. There’s so much free information out there to get you started on your next favorite thing.
When I started spending my own time on my own thing, my life flourished. I remembered why life was worth living and was excited about getting up to start the next day. I didn’t drag myself out of bed anymore, I headed straight to the literal drawing board.
Here are my favorite places to start:
- Creative Live: Classes to purchase (which constantly go on sale!) plus live stream free classes (schedules even available ahead of time so you can plan!)
- Skill Share: $13.99 a month gives you unlimited classes across a wide variety of topics such as business, writing, photography and painting
- You Tube: Best place to go for FREE woodworking, sewing, crafting videos. The sky’s the limit here! You can even post your own if you want to start teaching others your skills!
- Pinterest: Wish you had a hobby but not sure where to start? Start scrolling through other people’s boards for endless ideas. Type in painting, crafts, holiday, bored, home, kids, DIY—anything to get the ideas flowing. Not a crafty person? Pinterest is made to teach “uncrafty” people how easy it is to look like you know what you’re doing!
- Art Classes: Google “adult art classes near me” and you may be surprised by how many options you find!
- Recreation Centers and YMCA: Exercise classes, art classes, sports teams, education–look into your town and the surrounding areas.
- Library Classes: Join a book club, a writer’s group, learn a computer skill, teach a class.
- Joann Fabrics and Michaels‘ stores: Ongoing craft classes led by an instructor. Michael’s even hosts an awesome yearly conference where they team up with Pinterest: Pinner’s Conference
- Group Painting Events: These paint and sip classes are everywhere–you and a group of women paint a simple picture following a teacher’s instructions
- Community College Courses: These are open for you to pick and choose classes taught by a professor! You don’t have to be earning a degree or living in a dorm to take advantage of these.
- Church Classes: Many churches have ongoing Bible classes, parenting classes, and marriage conferences you can attend. These are great places to make new friends and how I found stay at home mom friends after I quit working.
TAKE THE CHALLENGE:
Want more ideas? Follow my Crafts board on Pinterest for projects I love!
Not sure what hobby to choose? Read my previous post on Setting Goals and Habits to focus in on what it is you love and want to improve on.
P.S. While going through this transformation, I found an awesome book called An Audience of One that highlighted this very concept I was chasing–creating for yourself. Check it out!