I was scrolling through the photos on my art phone – did you know you can call/text me at (907) 390-9983?! Try it! – looking for reference photos for new paintings. Interspersed in all the pictures were so many memories from the past six months that already felt like they took place in a different but somehow related life.
It made me take a minute, put down my phone, and stare at the sky. I thought, with a mix of awe, reverence, and gratitude about all the life that has been packed in this time and yet how it’s also been afforded by a great slow down of sorts.
The quickest context for anyone new to my site and writing (and, welcome!): six months ago in May, 2023 my husband and I officially moved from a three bedroom home into my 19′ Airstream Mobile Art Studio, a custom build and iconic silver trailer designed for creating/displaying my landscape paintings from the very places that inspire them, and also full time living. We pointed ourselves south following ten years living in Alaska with a plan to kick around the Lower 48 for some years, however long that ends up being.
Six months in, and I’m happy to announce that we’re not only still married after sharing nineteen feet of fancy tin can for that amount of time, but – I think – we’re thriving. That’s not in any platitude/Instagram definition of thriving, either: I mean that while the day-to-day stresses, and worse, that come with any life are still very much present, there is now more in our lives that fulfills us.
I think this is what “they” mean about resilience? So many years ago, various trainers brought in to support nonprofits I was working with tried to tell us about this wild and wacky concept. Stress, they said, would always be there but if we lived in it for too long it would destroy us. Growing our own resilience through “taking actual care of ourselves” in various ways would help ward off these toxic, cumulative impacts and ensure we were present and able within our own lives, including for these nonprofit missions we cared so much about. But also, you know. Our selves. Our families and friends.
I never managed to fully achieve resilience in the construct of a normal workweek. That wasn’t for lack of believing in it or consistently trying, either. It’s only now that I’ve opted out, and in to something new, that I realize my own sense of self, belief in my abilities, and perspective is as present as it’s ever been. I won’t say “solid”. I won’t even say “big”. It’s just that my awareness and faith in these facets of myself and my life are more. Which – you guessed it – provides me a bigger energy bank to draw from when things go south.
I write this post not to brag. “Look! I’ve created resilience for myself! I did it not within the confines of a normal life/workweek/structure, whatever that is, but by blowing everything up! Too bad that’s dang near impossible for many people to pull off. …Go, me!”. I write this to 1) share that the 180 degree shift that I vaguely believed would contribute to improving my experience of my own life was, in fact, worth it – and I say this after some months of experiencing and evaluating it in real time; 2) creating this big life shift took years of tightening and sitting still, which in retrospect created an inverse effect of the kinds of memories that flood these last six months.
What do I mean by that?
As my husband and I discussed the then-pipe dream of the Mobile Art Studio sometime in the (literal Alaska) darkness of 2020, we affirmed the reality to ourselves that we would need to buckle down, stay put, and endure in order to make it a reality. It would take a kind of collapsing in on ourselves, squeezing every dollar we could from our lives, and the discipline that comes with it. It would take a lot of what is kryptonite for us both: sameness and saying no for an extended period of time. To be clear: we did not finance the studio alone. Far from it. But we sure as hell put in our fair share of sweat equity before asking for help, which we were very fortunate to receive in many forms every step along the way.
For those days, weeks, months, and years of discipline came a kind of flatness in memory. Time doesn’t differentiate much. Was it 2021 or 2022? I don’t really know. It was the same view, or a similar experience. We ran similar routes near our house. We made a lot of dinners at home. This flatness in time/memory is punctuated with, not defined by, good and vivid memories of time with people we love. Those moments are, I think, what pulled us through the rest.
In contrast, for these past six months, memories are shockingly diverse. There is texture. Most prominent are the feelings: big feelings, good and bad. But so different! And, again, so many. From different paintings, conversations with people, camp spots, hikes/runs, meals, travel, work opportunities, and learning, since May I realize I’ve accumulated many, many moments of feeling truly present and myself across various circumstances. I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. I just feel humbled by all that is actually possible in six short months. I never thought time or experience could work like that, and here’s life showing me what it can do when I really live it how I’m meant to.
My big message in this somewhat sprawling reflection is this: whatever the big life change, toward whatever end that is most true/meaningful to you, is worth it. At the end of our lives it won’t be about how much money we have in the bank. It’ll be an accumulation of experiences, connections, and impact. I am writing from here on the other side of my life change, which is not for everyone, to say definitively that even just judging from these past six months, everything I put forward – and it was a lot! – to create this was worth it.
Here are some photos from my earlier tour through my phone that really underscore, for me, the moments leading up to and through this time in my and our lives. I hope this can serve as whatever the opposite of a cautionary tale is! I think, fervently and maybe a little obnoxiously, that life is too short not to make bold moves if/when needed.