Navigating life as a creative empath

Photo by: Tao Heftiba

Photo by: Tao Heftiba

In the past, summer had been my slowest season aside from the years when I carted my wares from art festival to art festival. This summer, though... has been as busy as a few of my previous holiday seasons. I'm so excited about it. As an artist, you always wonder when people are going to finally get sick of your work and move on. So the idea that five years in and I'm still busy ( more so than ever ) is really amazing to me. 

But along with business/work growth happens, right? 

So instead of getting overwhelmed, I decided to take some calm time this morning to talk about it. I know that most people feel like they're juggling a million things each day.  Balancing life, work, and family while finding a healthy balance for your own needs is tough. To all the people out there raising kids on top of that -- you are superheroes, go treat yourself to something special without guilt. Right now. 

I'm inherently empathetic, so when people ask me for help or need me... I don't just hear it... I actually FEEL it. I actually think of it as an honor to have people that trust me enough to know they can count on me. I know that not everyone is that fortunate. But, to be honest I wasn't always able to cope with daily responsibilities that well. They overwhelmed me. I'd handle everything well outwardly only to crumble into my own bed afterward like I was retreating from battle. 

When I'm not running my pottery studio, I'm also the caregiver ( and only relative ) of my 90-year-old grandmother. Everything she needs ( apart from what her assisted living center can provide ) is on me. Her health has not been good and there have been many appointments and many middle of the night emergencies over the last few months. She lives 2 hours away because she's afraid to leave the town she lived in her whole life. I haven't said much of anything about it until now but I think that it's important to talk about the tough stuff, too. I spend my time feeling split between two worlds trying to juggle the things she needs and running my business. Not to mention the guilt of feeling like I'm not there enough to be a good partner for my amazing husband. 

Sometimes, I feel like I'm failing everyone. I know that everyone feels this way, too at times. In the process of checking boxes for others, we can forget to give ourselves time to check our own. So I want to talk about how I've taught myself to manage it all. 

1.) Take joy in creating. -

I used to panic about the orders I needed to get out. I was terrified I would miss a deadline and let someone down. It prevented me from appreciating the fact that I get to do what I LOVE every day. Now, I remind myself to move slow and steady. I make myself appreciate the things that made me start this, to begin with. Like the way the clay feels as I smooth it in my hands and the way you get a little burst of excitement with each piece that gets completed. Guess what? taking my time hasn't caused me to miss any deadlines. It's just allowed me to enjoy the process and actually be more productive with much less stress.

2.) Give yourself an hour -

1 hour is not going to change anything for anyone except yourself. There needs to be 1 hour a day you take to do something JUST for you and absolutely without any guilt. It makes ALL the difference and makes you better prepared to handle all the things life asks of you. Everyone will be okay if you take one hour. In fact, they'll be better because they'll get you in a better state of mind.

3.) Remember to separate yourself - 

I used to think that if I didn't take on other people's problems that I wasn't a good person. But taking on other people's every interaction with the world around them isn't feasible or healthy. I've learned that you can help people without being consumed into their issues. We're all here with our own daily experiences and other's peoples aren't any of my business. I can help them in ways that are productive and meaningful without making them my own. In fact, I've learned that I can actually help them better this way. 

4.) Be kind and have patience -

We all feel pulled in a million directions. If we remember that when we deal with each other, then everyone can work together with a little less stress and judgment and a little bit more calm and compassion. 

So now that I've taken this hour to drink my coffee and get this all out and off my mind  I feel totally ready to keep working away in my studio. I'll work today until I catch up on all my orders so that tomorrow I can make my 4 hr round trip drive to help my Grandma get to her appointments. Knowing I have everything up-to-date in my studio will help me be totally present for her and her needs. Then, my hour for myself tomorrow will be dinner out with my mom and sweet cousin who is about to leave for her second year of college because I miss her terribly when she's gone. Friday's hour for myself is going to be shamelessly hitting the snooze button, and Saturday's is going to be totally cut off from technology with my husband. 

Now, I'm totally excited for the rest of the week.