Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Waking Up.

Hey, everyone!

Today's Truthful Tuesday topic is a hard one for me to write about. But it's an important one because so many people are going through the same thing this year, so I'm going to push through all that fear and reservation and say what needs to be said. Ready?

Seasonal affective much?

This winter was hard on a lot of us physically. We went through what I affectionately call... Snowpocalypse. So much dark, freezing weather and evil sky dandruff! Snowpocalypse did more than just make us cold, though. It hit us emotionally too, sending some of us into a horrible downward spiral.

And I say us because it happened to me, and then some. Winter is always my hibernation time -- sometimes I think I'm part grizzly bear. I retreat into my own little bear cave, keep to myself, and eat a lot of comfort foods. Well, this time was really bad. On top of Snowpocalypse, I was feeling lost about what I want to do with my life. I also lost a dog walking gig with my favorite black lab, and since he'd become a best friend, I was pretty devastated.

I felt like a failure all around, and I wasn't excited about life. For awhile there, I couldn't think of a single thing to look forward to. I started doing less and less, sleeping more and more, and eating like crazy. I was honestly ready to eat and sleep my entire existence away. Welcome to Rock Bottom, population: me. It was the worst I'd felt since my shoulder injury, when I thought my body was wrecked for good.

Spoiler alert: I'm better now.

This all sounds sad, and maybe even a little scary, but while exploring Rock Bottom, I found something: that same person I found during my shoulder injury. The person who didn't want to give up, and who knew that all I needed to do was change something -- the tiniest little thing -- and I could begin to change everything else.

And here's how it happened.

So you know what I did? I started walking. I dragged my sad, sorry carcass off the couch and made myself walk for 10 minutes a day. And then twenty. And then thirty. I made it my number one priority, the one thing I absolutely had to do, even if I did it in 5 minute increments, and even if I did it at 12:00 at night. I became obsessed with stomping around the house. I wouldn't even let myself stop for back pain, for calf cramps. I just stretched awhile and kept going.

And that obsession was the rope that helped me climb out of the hole. By focusing on one thing with a crazed, rabid weasel-like intensity, I didn't focus as much on what a failure I was. Because I was too busy following through. And then I was too busy surpassing my expectations (walking outside! Walking 30 and 40 minutes at a time! Getting a full hour of exercise a day). And now I'm too busy creating this new part of my identity. I'm not the girl who sits on the couch all day. I'm the girl who walks everywhere.

And no, my life isn't all the way back on track. I still miss that black lab like crazy; I'll meet a lot of dogs in my life and have lots of canine best friends, but he's someone irreplaceable and special. And I still don't know what to do with my life. But since I started walking, I've been enthusiastic about something. I get to explore the neighborhood! To go a different way every day. I've also started eating better -- skipping the dozen cookies every day and renewing my friendship with fruits and veggies. Hopefully this will get rid of the extra *mumblemumble* pounds I put on this year.

My advice.

The weather's getting nicer, but that's not all the way back on track, either. So if you're still down in the depths, I'm not going to tell you to cheer up. I'm not going to tell you that your problems aren't important or that other people have it worse -- yes, somewhere in the world there's a man whose butt is on fire, and it sucks to be him, but that doesn't take away from the fact that you're suffering, and that doesn't mean that you should paste on a great big scary clown smile and pretend everything's fine. 

(If you want to get that guy some water, though, I bet he'd appreciate it.)

I'm  also not going to tell you to make a gratitude list. Here's what I think about those.

 What I am going to suggest is this:

Pick one tiny thing to change. For me it was walking. For you, it could be something different.

Embrace humble beginnings. 10 minutes a day wasn't a marathon, but it was a change.

Keep going, especially when things get tough. I now have stretches for back pain, strengthening exercises for knee pain.

Increase slowly and steadily. I upped my walking by 2 to 5 minutes every few days.

Get obsessed. Right now I live for my walks. They're my rope, as I said before, and I hang on to them with all my might. I'm not overwhelming myself with lofty goals, but I do want to explore a different part of my neighborhood with every walk. I also want to be able to walk to the Co-op and back... and maybe not have to take the car all the time.

From there, I bet you'll notice some changes in other areas. Changes you never even expected -- like me and the veggies. Hang in there, and know that I'm right there with you -- and that if you ever need a safe space to talk about your problems, I'd like this place to be one. In fact, I absolutely ban any and all of the usual well-intended, but not-at-all-helpful things that people usually say to people in our situation.

And that's all I have to say on this subject, at least for now. I hope this was helpful!

Sequintastically yours,

Sarah J. Sequins

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Guess what? I got published!

Welcome to another Saturday at Saturday Sequins!

If you haven't taken a look already, pick up a copy of the April 2014 issue of Bead and Button Magazine. If you do, you'll notice that the cover mentions something about a sequin bracelet. And when you flip to page... I think it's 77? You'll notice that the bracelet looks a wee bit familiar.

That's right! I got my very first project published. So if you've ever wondered how to make my Rainbow Bright sequin cuff bracelet, you now know all my secrets.

Some of you were wondering why I didn't say anything sooner. This is a fair question -- after all, this is a big beady milestone for me! For all the time I spend reflecting on failure and rejection, success is a whole new, unexplored territory. Honestly, I kept quiet mostly because I was in shock. Even though there's a copy of the magazine sitting on my kitchen table, it still feels unreal. Especially because of the way it happened.

See, I was feeling brave, so I submitted a photo of the bracelet, hoping they'd include it in the gallery section of the magazine. It was a long shot, I figured, but I really wanted to show the beady world what sequins can do. I heard back from the editor, asking if they could make it into a project, instead. And I said yes -- of course.

(Front view.)

So I wrote it up, which was a lot easier than I thought it would be, since the magazine has a lovely basics section that readers can refer to. And I sent in the bracelet for them to photograph. And they took all the step-by-step photos for me, which was excellent, because I didn't have to play Let's Torture My Photographer.

And from there, my work was done. It was an unexpected, easy, and pleasant experience. 

(Baby got back view.)

And so that's how a very small action, taken in the spirit of let's just try this and see what happens, led to getting my first article published.

Lessons learned.

Here are some quick thoughts on handling acceptance. First, it's OK to be in shock. It will last as long as it will last, and until then, just keep reminding yourself of how you felt before it happened -- how impossible you might have thought it was, how much you wanted it.That'll help you put things in perspective.

Second, it's OK if it feels unreal. For those of us who struggle with artistic confidence, our successes come out of left field. Sometimes we don't tell anyone because we don't want to jinx it, or we have to touch it, smell it, taste it, stare at it with googly eyes to believe it. And even when we do see it, we still might need some convincing!

Keep it to yourself for as long as you feel comfortable, if that's what you need to do. Then maybe tell one or two really good friends, the way I did with Mr. Sequin. And when you can't ignore the success anymore, turn towards the support of amazing friends to get you excited. Because it's obviously real if your favorite people are leaving comments on your blog and Facebook, the way mine are.

(Thank you, by the way. Getting the project published is awesome, but hearing from all of you is what really makes a difference to me.)

Also, celebrate! Celebrating can take a lot of different forms. Pat yourself on the back. Buy yourself a present. Tell more people about your success. Collect little mementos like acceptance emails, or in my case, the packaging they sent my bracelet back in -- because I'm a dork. Take your spouse out for dinner and cupcakes. Make sure you do something, no matter how small, because cupcakes celebrating really cements the realness of a thing. Nobody celebrates imaginary events, right?

(OK, fine. I make up holidays and reasons to celebrate, just so I can have cupcakes. But I'm a really bad role model in this area.)

Next, don't belittle it! If you're like me, maybe you have a nasty little voice in your head that wants to tell you it's no big deal, or that you just got lucky. You have my permission to give a big old Dog Whisperer shhh! to that voice. Don't feel too bad if it does try to sabotage you, though. Just remind yourself that this is what nasty voices do for a living and make up your mind to treat them calmly and assertively.

And finally, keep going! I've said that the best way to deal with a rejection is to keep doing. This is true for success, too. So tackle that next project. Apply for that next show (or, in the case of yours truly, start to define what beading-as-a-hobby-not-business means to you). What I've come to realize is, the One Big Break that makes your career take off is usually a mythical creature. More often than not, it's more a series of smaller breaks that add up to something big.

And that's all I've got for today! Thanks again for all your wonderful comments and messages. You rock!

Sequintastically yours,

Sarah J. Sequins