For someone who disdains core exercises – as in, situps – I’ve gotten pretty good at them. I remind myself when the burn is happening that I can endure it. By going deeper into the moment, instead of trying to distract myself from it, I seem to fare better.
Related to this is how proficient I have become at holding. Holding boredom, frustration, sameness. It reached a fever pitch during the pre-vaccination days of Covid when Alaska felt like a (very beautiful) snowglobe in which I was trapped; specifically the walls of my home and the (very beautiful) views from my neighborhood.
Even outrageous beauty kills me, if it’s too much of the same.
I’m learning that while I do have the capacity to hold, to be still, to stay the course, to endure, it’s also deadly to my spirit. I thrive in movement. I prefer running to ab exercises.
Do I still do the core work? Yes. It’s good for me. Do I still choose a path and stay the course when necessary? Of course. Not only is that part of getting to where I want to be in life sometimes, it’s also needed so I can be there for people/things I care about – from family and friends, to my colleagues and consulting/writing work. Following through on what I say I will do is a deeply embedded value of mine, related to responsibility and integrity.
I picked a course of bringing the Mobile Art Studio into being, starting in 2020 and solidified in 2021. This required me to be very, very still in one place for what felt like a very long time. I focused deeply, alongside my husband, on all that was required to bring this dream to life. It required an enormous amount of energy and discipline from us: to imagine, discuss, adapt, and plan together; and then to double down on money and logistics in the most profound way I think either of us have ever focused our attention and resources on one thing.
For a very long time, we pulled as hard as we could, from basically the same deep place, to source what we’d need to finance the studio. It was about my art business, but also, for the two of us, a pivot in the course of our lives enabled by having a trailer from which, ultimately, we could live and travel.
The most extreme measure we took was Airbnb’ing our house and living in our truck for weeks at a time. I remember saying to Wes as we lay in the back of Fluffy the Dodge Ram’s slightly leaky truck bed as rain poured (poured!) down and we helplessly watched a trail of water snake down the side onto any already sodden clump of paper towels, this is in the name of a life change. This time next year it will be better. We’re doing this, for that.
The rain didn’t let up. It felt like it stayed that way for weeks last summer.
We held the course. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, to sleep in the truck for nights on end, to run the same sameness day after day, to skip travel plans, to say no to fun opportunities, to live by a strict budget, to transfer everything I could out of every paycheck toward the studio and focus on growing my art and painting my paintings. It required a kind of routine and focus that kills me. But I knew it was in service to this dream.
So I held. I held on even when it was so boring, so maddening, and so frustrating. My muscles shake sometimes when I’m near exhaustion, but I know I can make it through the rest of the plank even if it seems impossible. Moment by moment.
And now, I’m sitting here in the Mobile Art Studio itself, having picked it up in Ohio and learned to drive it, having completed my first commission and about to start another one this morning, with my sister getting ready for the day and Wes about to fly in. I made it to the desert. I get to see my stepdaughter in a couple short weeks. We’ll caravan around my (other) favorite part of the world; I’ll keep on painting, writing, and consulting.
When I saw the studio in its entirety for the first time, with my new logos emblazoned on both sides and website on the back; the truly beautiful and iconic silver Airstream silhouette, I cried and laughed as I walked toward it, sharing the moment with the designer and my new friend, and one of the many people at the shop who worked on it (Kelly teased Tommy: “you made her cry!”). I couldn’t comprehend that this thing, this idea, something I’d gazed at the mockups for for hours, and even masking-taped out the dimensions in my dad’s basement to get a sense of the space – it was real, it was done, it was right there in front of me.
The moment that I cut the check for it was terrifying, because it stretched the upper limits of everything that I’d saved – and I and we truly gave this everything – but at the same time, it was a relief, because it was done. There was no more unknown quantity. We’d come in close to our budget, and I had enough to pay for the overage. That was it, game over – the trailer was officially mine. Ours! No more wondering, no more throwing everything I have toward it and holding my breath that it would be enough.
Now that I have it in hand and am doing the things I said I would do from it, there is no chafe. There is no nagging, oh, but I wish we’d designed it this way; no, oh, but the reality of this thing is not as good as the dream. I really thought there might be. After all, life has taught me repeatedly that the grass isn’t greener. Now that I’m here, it should look an awful lot like the rest of my life, but just superimposed on a new setting.
But it’s not like that. It is better than the dream. It is everything I hoped for and more. I feel happier and more fulfilled than I have in a very long time.
The biggest thing is that I once again have the fire in me of movement; of dynamism. I have enough knowns and unknowns to make life feel at once secure and safe, but also exciting and immersive. On the one hand, this isn’t about a thing, which – glorious though it is – is what the Alli Harvey Mobile Art Studio is. But on the other hand, this – gorgeous, functional, amazing – thing is the catalyst for a new phase in my and our lives. It’s very much about the thing, and what it enables me and us to do.
I am both proud of my ability to hold for so long, and also hopeful and optimistic that that’s the last time I’ll have to do that in a long time. I’m ready, again, for freedom and movement. And that’s how this feels.
I am so profoundly grateful for every single one of you who has been part of this with me, helping me both imagine and bring this into reality. Now that I’m here, I can say in full, wholehearted truth that it is everything I dreamed of, and so much more. Better than getting to inhabit this new reality is knowing that I did zero parts of it alone, and I get to share this feeling of wonder and awe in all that we did with so many amazing people. Thank you all. Thank you all.
I will try to keep unburying these little blips and thoughts and reflections from the back of my brain to share back as they come. It’s my way of trying to continue to invite you all to experience this growing reality. It’s so exciting and profound for me. And, you know me, the spirit of my art and writing is all about creating connection. I love being in this adventure for my own experience and life, but it’s so much better shared.
I’ll keep updating from the road!
Pics below 🙂