In The Meantime

This is going to be quite a candid and unedited post because I feel like I have some explaining to do. I clearly have been absent from socials and my work for the past few months, so a brief update seems to be in high order.

A recap:

I rented a tiny home in Portland that was nestled in a lovely little wooded part of the city. As you may have seen from my previous posts on Instagram, the property was a nature-lover’s dream. The tall trees filtered dappled sunlight through my windows and in the early mornings songbirds gently serenaded me awake each morning. Charlie spent the afternoons resting between the ferns outside while I painted away at my studio desk watching the racoons and deer forage through the understory. In the evening owls could be heard calling to one another, and a family of Barred Owls even lived right outside my home through the spring and summer, visible on low branches throughout the day. It was a delight in basically every way during the year I lived there. After 11 moves in the decade prior between various apartments, punk squats, basements, and even living out of my car, i felt very lucky to have landed in that little tiny home and have some sense of stability for a time.

One of the Barred Owl babies

In mid-January I was asleep in my bed and a large Doug fir fell about 6 feet away through my ceiling. A storm had been raging all night and once the winds whipped up that was it–numerous 2-4 foot diameter trees were uprooted across the city. My partner and I grabbed our dogs and ran out of the house only to find that two other trees had already fallen down the driveway directly onto our cars. We were surrounded by at least 100 more trees, all viciously swaying in the 50 mph winds. Through ice and snow we hobbled up to our neighbor’s house for safety and warmth, taking cover while we figured out the next steps.

Those next steps turned out to be long, arduous, and unsettling. My house was no longer inhabitable because the tree took out an entire wall, allowing the snow to pour in and destroy most of my belongings–specifically my studio area (which was directly impacted by the tree). As if that wasn’t enough damage for one day, both of our cars were totaled, leaving us unable to get around the city without calling for rides and spending an exorbitant amount on Ubers. Within a few short seconds my ability to work on my freelance illustrations and easily get to to my job as a studio art instructor was foiled. 

Douglas Fir Destruction
Poor Studio Space

 

I was fortunate enough to be able to move in with my partner temporarily. He lived in a very tiny apartment in the middle of the city on one of the busiest roads–a far cry from the peace and quiet of my little tiny home in the woods. While I was appreciative of the roof over my head and the support from my partner, the traffic and festering smells and people and noises were a nightmare for this easily-overloaded brain with major sensory issues around loud noises. The sirens, gun shots, and random yelling from passersby left me on edge. 

The weeks immediately following the storms were actually pretty positive. I think I was in denial of the severity of the situation. I was supported and held so lovingly by this generous community of friends, art collectors, and family–I can’t even begin to say how much that meant to me. Words aren’t enough for how wonderful it felt to be so seen during such a sudden and life-altering crisis. THANK YOU. I’ll keep saying it forever and ever. Thank you for helping Charlie and I out when we needed it the very most. My generous friend Becca organized a GoFundMe to assist with moving fees and recouping basics like clothing, toiletries, and art supplies. I was floored by the amount of support and  would have suffered a great deal without that financial assistance. The funds raised and the flood of encouraging messages helped me get back up on my feet and begin to rebuild my life again, slowly slowly slowly. 

After the first few weeks of existing in a bit of a stupor, the reality of just how slowly rebuilding was going to be fully set in. My anxiety-riddled brain went into full-on panic mode, fighting for my independence while finding myself suddenly living with another person again (solo living forever! No commitments! Only adventure!) and attempting to control the uncontrollable. I chose to live alone after many years of harrowing and unsafe living situations,=, so being thrown into living with my partner without choosing it for myself sent me spiraling. Old traumas surfaced with force and I found myself fighting unresolved battles that were entirely unrooted in my current reality. Thankfully my partner is extremely patient and understood the gravity of the situation, as well as my deep need to grieve everything I had just lost. Things weren’t perfect as we figured out how to coexist in a tiny space together, but we managed to find ways to support each other and understand our triggers better without taking it personally. He was forced to find a new car (and the funds to afford one) just as I was, on top of nursing his own grief and traumas and adjustments to living with me. We were a hot mess for a minute there, but in the end there was always understanding and patience and love while we picked up the pieces together, one day at a time.

February typically proves to be a difficult month of each year for me. By that point the winter has run me ragged, I’m hurting for long hikes, and the feeling of warm sun on my skin almost feels like it was never anything more than a dream. This February was an all-time difficult one, for those reasons and many more. I got extremely sick for over 2 weeks, like can’t get out of bed or do much of anything sick. With the short days, stormy weather, cramped quarters my mental health took one hell of a nosedive. I was stuck in a crowded and city place, unable to get around on my own, and unable to even hike for a brief reprieve from the struggles. I ate snacks instead of full meals (when I remembered to eat at all) and jumped back on the nightly glass of wine train. Even the smallest of tasks seemed like monumental efforts to make and  I was overwhelmed, irritable, and frankly quite unpleasant to be around. So I laid in bed with the dogs, wallowing in an uncomfortable bed full of fur and worry, unable to see the point of doing anything positive or fun for myself.

Some artists are able to use their work to carry them through times of pain and turmoil. Unfortunately, I am not one of those artists. When I am struggling to survive I simply struggle to work. Sometimes I wish that wasn’t the case but over the years I’ve come to understand that prioritizing taking care of myself during these times is always the most important thing. The art can wait. 

After much discussion my partner and I agreed to move in together. Then began the draining process of searching for affordable rentals that met our needs, then the long wait to finally moved out of a cramped apartment (with a giant Newfoundland puppy, to boot!). 

Hank

I’m going to cut things short here, because the details of the mental turmoil that followed aren’t something I want to delve too deeply into right now. Basically, my whole sense of who I thought I was got turned on its head. Out came the wolves, so to speak, and with a vengeance. My irritability was at an all-time high and my sensory issues rendered me virtually incapable of doing much more than wander through a dark, dirty apartment, lost and forlorn, struggling to let go and gracelessly flailing my way through this monumental transition.

At this point we are finally moved into our new space. We have cars again. We are able to get back to our respective jobs. My new studio space is spacious and clean with so much room for growth. It’s overwhelming, too, because that sense of identity loss is still lingering. While I feel more “at home” with myself than I did just one month ago, this is still an obvious turning point in life that will take some time to adjust to, as wonderful as it’s proving to be thus far. I’m curious about so many things, want to try everything out, am always learning and researching and exploring. This makes it difficult to choose a path forward without constant second-guessing, which over time leads to a shaky sense of self trust–and of self, period.  

Humble beginnings in my new studio space.

I have moved 12 times in 10 years, always shifting my life and interests and activities with whomever is around me at any given time. Now I have the opportunity to stand up for ME, to meet myself head-on, and to start on a new journey that is fully my own. I have spent so many years unsure of myself that I think those thoughts have become a sort of habit to think. Today I am learning to combat those self defeating thoughts, to foster a mindset of growth, to hold my own hand as I navigate learning to be focused and disciplined more than ever. 

On an “I promise I’m taking care of myself” note, I was lucky to have been able to have weekly therapy sessions throughout all of this (and off and on for many years prior). I rely on these sessions heavily to help stablize my through the week, either to vent about things I know I need to vent about or to just have support for anything and everything. During this period I also got set up with a second therapist to assess the potential benefits of medications to address the worst of my ADHD and social/generalized anxiety disorders. One medication sent me into a few panicked weeks of major anxiety attacks, pounding heart rate (130 bpm during breakfast?!) and an inability to breathe. We cut that medication out and decided to address the anxiety head-on with an SSRI, and let me tell ya….all of my reservations about trying yet another antidepressant have been turned on their head. This has been SO helpful my mood has stabilized, it’s easier to see the positive things instead of being shrouded in negativity every day, and I find a have more space to be present and feel deep gratitude for what I have, where I’ve been, and most importantly: have actual real hope for the future. Its not a magic pill and I still have a whole lot of coping skills to learn when it comes to being able to get through the days organized, emotionally regulated, and on top of my health. But this is a big turning point that’s helped me actually respond to messages/emails and go grocery shopping without having an anxiety attack in the car afterward. Grateful beyond words for this relief. Not living in fight or flight every single minute of every single day is pretty cool.

So where to from here? Excellent question, and one I’m still wanting to hammer out the details of while also feeling urged to continue letting go and “just see what happens”. I like plans but never follow them, so maybe this time leading with feeling and heart is the better way. I do know that a series of projects regarding “ABUNDANCE” has been tugging at me, so I am starting brainstorming and sketching for those and can hopefully help them coalesce into something interesting by year’s end. I am also working on getting a routine down so that near-daily sketching is part of my life again. I find the momentum helps tremendously with both my ability to work consistently and feel fulfilled. 

My shop is open once again and I am taking inquiries for custom work once more! Please reach out through email at jennjoslinart@gmail.com with any questions. 

Through the utter turmoil of this year there was always the natural world, gently beckoning me to notice and internalize her lessons. My world temporarily came to a standstill, yet in the meantime the thread that ties me to this existence was still weaving itself through my being, binding and guiding me toward truth. Even on my bleakest days I found I still noticed a songbird outside my window, or the rolling storm clouds, or the single ray of winter sunshine illuminating the oak branches out my window. 

In the meantime, there are always small joys in the connections we make with nature, with creativity, and with our truest selves. 

Thank you for being here even though I had to get lost for a while and thank you for helping me believe that, in time, I’d rediscover the things worth coming back to. 

Jenn

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