recovering from surgery, raising butterflies, and doing what you love

gardenia from the garden
gardenia from the garden

I know I haven’t posted in a while, but this summer was actually a lot busier than I assumed it was going to be!

Foot Surgery:
As far as my foot surgery/recovery, I’m right at the tail-end of that. My surgical incision *just* finished healing, and the welt I had on my ankle (reaction to some coarse gauze they used to wrap my foot after surgery) finally healed. It’s been about ten weeks since I had the surgery, and my surgeon said that the suture/scar will remain sort of sensitive and tender for the next few months. The reason it’s taking longer than usual is because she had to go in through a previous surgical scar, and scar tissues (especially opened twice) is a little harder to heal. So I’m still taking it easy.

Also, I had to do three rounds of fairly heavy duty anti-biotics and they really made me sick and I’m still dealing with the effects of that. I kind of knew it was coming when the warning label on one of the bottles said “may cause intestinal discomfort for several weeks and/or months after medication is finished”. So that’s kind of zonked me out, energy-wise.

I haven’t been “out” much all summer- I go outside and swim every day, spend a lot of time in the backyard just hanging out with Tom and Gracie and reading and writing, and I do stuff like go to the doctor’s office and go get haircuts and stuff like that, but I haven’t done anything that requires me to be on my feet for longer than an hour or so at a time.

Usually we spend every summer at the movie theater and/or going out to Naples to eat and shop a little bit because of the stormy weather, but this summer we haven’t seen a SINGLE movie at the theater or gone out at all. Part of me is all “holy smokes! All the amazing movies I missed! I’m crushed and I miss it so much! And Gracie didn’t get to see Ghostbusters or Captain America or Secret Life of Pets!” and another part of me couldn’t care less, and secretly thinks watching Stranger Things on Netflix was a better experience than watching most of the movies I have seen in the theater in the last year or so.

But I’m ready to get back into “life” again. I’m excited to go see the new fall movies, go to the Botanical Gardens, check out the new Michaels that they built just 20 minutes from my house (!!!!! maybe a Target/Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods/good movie theater is next?!) and Paper Source and B&N with Grace (who has become serious about planners and paper supplies and stationery and books), maybe even go to Disney for a few day trips as soon as the weather gets better (I have a little scooter-y thing I use in the theme parks because while I can easily swim five miles, I cannot *walk* five miles!)…

However, I have had sort of a big shift in perspective about being “busy” and what I spend my time on: having not been able to do much of ANYTHING this summer made me realize exactly what it is I really missed doing and what it is I really don’t give a crap about. And as I get back into regular activities, I just sort of want to do what I really want to do, instead of doing things I think I *should* do or think I should enjoy, if that makes any sense. So as I get back doing more stuff, I kind of want to be picky about what it is I do. Even though health problems aren’t fun, it’s sort of a luxury to be allowed to be super picky about how I spend my limited time on my feet. It’s gotta count.

The other thing that happened, out of nowhere, is that we started raising butterflies. This I’ll definitely have to write a longer post about, because it’s pretty much THE main focus of any free time around here.

Let me make it clear we had absolutely no intention of doing this- the butterflies kind of chose us. Long story short: I have a pretty huge container garden inside the screened in lanai (pool cage) of our house. Apparently, a Gulf Frittillary butterfly laid eggs on one of my plants THROUGH the screen and a few weeks later we had about 15 butterflies *inside* the lanai. A few weeks later, we now we have SIX species (Gulf Frits, Zebra Longwings, Monarchs, White Peacocks, Buckeyes, and Atalas), are actively trying to get a few more (Swallowtail, Sulphurs, etc.) by putting host plants outside our screen for butterflies to lay eggs on, and Tom renovated the lanai a bit so that there are parts dedicated to the butterflies. I will write more about this soon, because if we keep doing it, I’m likely to refer to the caterpillars/butterflies from time to time so you know what the heck I am talking about.

“Do What You Love”:
Besides being stuck around the house all summer, one thing that kept me really busy was taking an class called “Do What You Love.” I originally took it three years ago (I think?) and I saved all the materials from it, so it was just a matter of pulling the binder down from the shelf and queuing up the videos on my Mac.

I decided to re-take the class on a whim. Right after the surgery at the end of May, when my routine got thrown upside down and I was sort of shaken up by everything, I realized that the whole experience was an opportunity for a “fresh start”. That doesn’t happen often- when you get FORCED to change your routine and habits. I didn’t want to waste it. Because of the surgery, I suddenly had a bunch of downtime in my hands and was desperate for something that would keep me from going stir-crazy. Ialso wanted to get out of the funk I’ve been in for the last few months (let’s be honest…. years.) I remembered “Do What You Love” and decided to pull out all the class materials and just start from scratch and see what happened. It couldn’t hurt, right?

The good thing about taking the class this summer was that I felt like a complete blank slate. I’ve been so focused on my health that everything else has fallen off my radar. This was a chance to add things back into my life, but be very discerning about it. Like I said, you don’t get that opportunity very often. I mean, every day is a new chance to start fresh, but I am a HUGE creature of routine and habit, and no matter who you are it takes a whole lot of courage to step out of the box, and it’s REALLY uncomfortable to do it. But since the box was being taken away from me and I had nothing to say about it, I figured this was a chance to clean up shop.

I worked on every assignment in earnest, and spent hours and hours doing the writing and working through the questions and trying to dig around inside and really be honest. I can honestly say when I started this class around I literally had no idea what I loved (except maybe my family, being healthy, watercolor paints, and swimming) and felt like I was a true blank slate.

So I did all the writing and worksheets and charts and graphs and journaling, and I have to admit, as tedious as it was, it was illuminating. I realized that deep down I felt (and still feel) truly guilty about taking time away from being a “grown-up” to work on anything purely for my own enjoyment. So what I did to alleviate that guilt over the last two decades was take all the activities I loved and “modify” those things so that they felt like “valid” ways to spend time.

For instance, let’s talk about art journaling. I started out scrapbooking during Grace’s adoption ten years ago, but then I realized I liked to art journal more than scrapbooking. So I art journaled, and I loved it. But I started feeling guilty about not thoroughly documenting Grace’s life, and who the heck would care about books full of magazine pictures and quotes in 50 years, anyway? So I mixed the two, but it wasn’t as fun and it got a little confusing. I slowly stopped art journaling altogether because even though I liked art journaling better, scrapbooking served a purpose- it was a “legitimate” and “valid” way to play with papers and tapes and photos. It wasn’t as fun, but it was still a way to be creative and express myself, right? That’s what I told myself, at least.

Then I got obsessed with having to document every single thing that happened, which was overwhelming. Then, last spring, I decided I just didn’t want to document ANYTHING, anymore. I just put it all away and felt relieved. But I started missing art journaling… and sort of tried to convince myself that I could be interested in art journaling but not do it.

Doing the “Do What You Love” class made me realize that while I’m not interested in documenting, what I *am* very, very interested in going back to what I did in my very first art journal: collaging magazine pictures and quotes and bits of art and tape and ephemera together in a big bound book. So I tried doing that again. Some photos and stories from day to day make their way in there, but mostly it’s just a book about what I’m feeling. And I LOVE it. I can’t believe how much I missed doing it.

And even though I literally feel happiness as I work on it, and feel good after as I flip through the pages I have done, I still have a hard time giving myself permission to sit down and work on my art journal. There’s a little voice that says “you are wasting time!” It is just so hard to shut that voice down, but every day I get a little better at it. I think that little voice of disapproval is always going to be there, though- there’s a part of me that will not approve of doing things solely because they make me happy. But now there’s a bigger part of me that knows if I don’t do the things that make me happy, it will have a very big effect on my overall well-being. I’m tired of feeling unhappy. So being a little uncomfortable is worth it.

Another thing from the class that was extremely helpful was the concept of “finite personal resources” : time, energy, and money. One of the more tedious tasks in the class was tracking how I spend all three, but doing it really opened my eyes. Especially in regards to time.

I’ve always known that health and family came first for me, but I didn’t realize how much I shut down everything else on behalf of those things. Our family “thing” is meals- when we’re all home, we eat meals together. Since Tom works from home, we eat a lot of meals together. And because his schedule changes every day, and my morning/afternoon schedule is dictated by my health (how long I’m in the pool, when can get in the pool because of weather, etc, other health-related things that pop up), and Grace has sports and stuff after school, we never have meal times at the same time two days in a row. We never have, and we never will (oh, have we tried.) So it’s kind of a crapshoot.

And since I never know when we might eat, I sort of never start any projects within throwing distance of a possible meal time because I know I’ll be interrupted, and it throws me off my game.

So the whole time tracking thing came in handy, even though I rolled my eyes when I read the exercise. I had to break my day into chunks, and decide what activities could fit into what chunks. I literally made this giant list that says “if you have 15 minutes, you can…”, “if you have 30 minutes, you can…”, etc. Now whenever I have any time, I just pick an activity from the list that feels like it might be fun and do it. I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous and obvious, but I’m completely indecisive and often paralyzed by choice, and I get this weird feeling of obligation to certain projects, and I have the whole guilt thing going on, so it’s good to have the possibilities just spelled out for me. Just knowing I WON’T have time to finish the painting I have been working on but I WILL have time to write something or whatever, and just commit to doing that, makes life so much easier. I don’t have to weight the pros and cons of how I spent my creative time.

I also learned that just because I have a zillion different things I like to do and want to try (especially art-wise) doesn’t mean I have to do them all *now*. Or any time soon. I can still have ideas and sparks of inspiration but instead of trying to figure out how to make them fit into what’s currently going on, I can write file them away for later, and come back to them.

Since taking this approach, I’ve also realized a lot of creative ideas and inspiration actually evolve into something completely different and even better if they are just allowed to simmer for a while. That was a REAL eye-opener. Instead of jumping gung-ho into every new project or painting idea I’ve come up with, or try every tutorial I see online or in a book, I let it sit for a while. Some ideas go away, but some persist and they really solidify and start coming together on their own. Often, several ideas sort of mix up into something else that’s completely unique and cool. And by the time I sit down to work on them, it’s much, much easier. I wish I had known this 15 years ago ;-/. I’ve spent a lot of time jumping into stuff and not liking it and then just writing it off as a done deal. A lot of that stuff is actually coming back now, and being incorporated into new projects. It’s kinda spooky. But fascinating.

Anyway, I enjoyed taking the class and I’m *very* glad I did it. But I dearly missed all the other stuff that has gotten the short end of the straw while I was working on the class.

I hope you had (or are still having) a great summer. Grace starts school tomorrow morning, and she is SO excited. I’m happy for her- she had a good summer because we finally figured out the camp thing, but she’s really in her element when she’s with her friends and doing her after school stuff and team sports and all that. This year she’s doing flute, as well, so she’s psyched for that. It should sound very interesting around here… 😉

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and providing me a place where I can express myself. I know I am long-winded. It’s funny how much I write in these entries considering how little I talk in real life. If I have something interesting to say, I’ll talk up a storm, but un general I’m fairly quiet. You wouldn’t know it from these entries, right?

Have a great Monday 🙂

6 thoughts on “recovering from surgery, raising butterflies, and doing what you love

  1. 🙂 HI! I can’t wait to see butterfly photos. We have a ton of monarchs right now so I’m excitedly waiting for them to turn to chrysalis and then into butterflies!

    Miss your writing!

  2. Glad you are on the mend! Raising butterflies! How exciting! We went into a butterfly tent at our county fair a few years ago and fed them some sort of solution on Q-tips. It was amazing.
    I’ve missed your posts and am glad you’re back.

  3. Omg, I LOVE that the butterflies chose you guys! Couldn’t have chosen a better family! 😀

    I love reading all this stuff. It does not sound ridiculous, btw, to have lists of what can be done in 15 and 30 minutes. Lists help me a lot. And I am also ridiculously indecisive. I get it! And it sounds like a great thing to have around.

    It’s really cool hearing about the Do What You Love class, and sounds like it provides the space for all sorts of epiphanies, which is wonderful! You have taken a lot of really cool classes over the years!

    Anyway, I just love reading about your life. Your entries make me feel happy and peaceful, and make me want to give you a big hug! xoxo 🙂

  4. Hi I just found your blog through a pin about the Brusho color chart on Google…
    Well I can so well understand what You all wrote..that little voice is here in my head too….and always feeling guilty ..
    I loved reading what keeps you busy in your mind..wht you are thinking…
    Hope you recover soon …
    Greetings from the Netherlands..

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