Initially, I was sort of lost when the Superhero Unfolding Initiation Station was put on hiatus due to Covid-19. Unemployed... dream project on pause... I felt sad, disconnected and adrift. This, however, did not last long. I started to think about what I could bring forward during this time, since I am not a first responder nor am I a medical professional. And then, it hit me. I can bring forth the resilience and joy that got me through some of the toughest times in my life. Something sweet, fun, simple and true.
So, I started making inspirational signs for my neighborhood and seeking out venues to install them. The first group to respond was the First Presbyterian Church and Hope Counseling on B Street in Petaluma. I installed a number of signs there yesterday.
This group of signs includes the Petaluma Art Chicks. The little yellow chick is called Chick P. He is a cross over character with the Superhero Unfolding project. I think of him as "Petaluma's first completely unofficial, unsanctioned, unconventional and unstoppable Superhero!" He is an amalgamation of Petaluma's agricultural past, the tenacity, strength and bravery of a vulnerable chick entering into an unknown world and everyone's love for emojis.
I am looking for more venues and working on new signs and characters.
Today's confession: I started making these signs because I felt that I had something to say and to share that was important. Something that would offer an alternative to doom and gloom and fear, in a way that was fun, simple, and easily accessible to all. My goal was to inspire a smile and perhaps a bit of reflection on oneself and the situation that we are in. I am not afraid of being viewed as a simple-minded fool making colorful cartoons for other's amusement. My fear is that I will fail to communicate clearly the ideals of self-love, appreciation and personal empowerment. Or, that I will wish to manipulate the message somehow to gain wider acceptance. Something like the self editing that I have practiced most of my life.
Today's insight: Creativity arises from need. The need for me to create, and the need for that which is created. Which, leads me to a Rilke quote... "A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgment of it: there is no other."
Being born the second child, I am keenly aware of the role that competition, comparison and expectations can play in a developing self-image. The last time a teacher asked me why I couldn't be more like my sister, clearly implying that I was not measuring up to her as an ideal, I answered, "Because I am not her."
I discovered that what was clearly obvious to me, that I was not my sister, was also the source of my childhood problems. I was expected to me someone that I was not. To act in a way that was other than what I felt. When I expressed a contrary opinion, I was told that I had no right to feel that way. No "right." As a child I was confused. I felt alone and unloved. I sought praise and care. So, I adapted to fit in. I abandoned my vulnerability, originality and quirk. And, instead of thriving, I became self-conscious, insecure, afraid and ashamed. I kept myself from expressing who I was and what I longed for.
It has taken me a long time to understand that I am ALWAYS the one getting in my own way. That, my thoughts about myself limit my actions and options. I can choose to let fear, insecurity and judgement rob me of joy and opportunities, or not. And, if I feel the need to create inspirational signs of sweet little bird emojis in green shoes, so be it!
Obstacles abound. The arrival of COVID-19 and Shelter In Place initiatives have resulted in consequences and changes for every human being on the planet, including Superheroes! Booth construction has come to a grinding halt. All public events have been postponed until the fall at the soonest.
I have been fitting together the walls of the booth on the floor of my kitchen. the space is a little awkward but surprisingly efficient, as everything is within an arms reach. I manged to fit and align the components for the walls, including the acrylic windows over the weekend. The doors, held together with tape and string, lean against a shelving unit in my kitchen. I am now waiting for hinges and mending plates to arrive so that I can glue up the doors.
Today's confession: I am surprisingly nervous about gluing up the walls. Especially, since I lack a number of more sophisticated tools which would help insure that the walls are square. This is a serious point of no return for the project. So, I am kind of glad that I have a few days to wait for parts. Measure twice, glue once!
Today's insight: I think my superpower is making due with whatever is at hand. I have discovered that I can usually figure out a way to get something done by using whatever is available. For example, I have no large clamps to hold things together. So, I used twine, pencils, cardboard and tape to make a simple version of a band clamp.
It was a night of failures, lessons and insights. I worked at the shop again, tonight. The frame for the booth is coming along. All the pieces are cut to size and the dados are done. It was time to focus on cutting the tenons. Initially, I thought that I might cut these by hand. But, since there are 40+ tenons needed, not including the door side, I decided to take Scott's advice and do them using the old table saw. This, turned out to be a lesson in the benefits of patience, precision and overcoming unmet expectations.
After learning how to change and align the blades on the saw, and best process for making the tenons, I cut a few small test pieces. I was happy with the results. However, the first few "live" pieces which I cut, were not square. The tenons were uneven front to back. Perplexed and a bit frustrated, I sought expert advice from Scott and Rollin. After a thorough investigation, they determined that the miter gauge and the fence were misaligned. and made the necessary repairs and adjustments to calibrate the saw. Once that was done, I made the cuts.
It took me three times as long as I thought it would to finish my work tonight. But, it did get done. And, I learned a few things about old table saws and unmet expectations.
Today's confession: The kind and caring people working next to me at the shop are a source of encouragement and a great example for me. They are patient, understanding and resourceful. I was perilously close to giving up and going home early tonight. I could feel the frustration boiling up inside me, my patience evaporating rapidly. The arising awkwardness and mind chatter, palpable. I wanted to leave and be free of these feelings. But, what good would come of avoiding or postponing such things for another day. So, I leaned into the frustration, the agitation, the anger, the impatience, the self doubt, the insecurity about my project and my abilities rather than running away or giving up. Which, have been habitual strategies. Tonight, I stayed and saw it through, feeling awkward, insecure and squirmy. And, it was ok.
Today's insight: Things take time. Machines need maintenance. Precision is equal parts skill, care, effort and patience. Clinging to results and expectations leads to frustration, impatience and disappointment. Disappointment arises from unmet expectations. It is the direct result of not getting what I want when I want it. Disappointment perceives unmet expectations as inconceivable and goes looking for someone to blame. More often than not, that someone is me. And, I allow myself to be pulled into its spiral of criticism and despair.
Today's insight 2: I think I may be a bit of a diva and a drama queen!
When things go awry ...
Construction has begun on the booth! I bought the wood on Tuesday and started cutting things to size tonight. I am working at the woodshop at the Petaluma High School. I LOVE being back working in a community shop! Tonight, I prepared pieces for the frame, and three of the four sides of the booth. I caught myself singing while using the compound miter saw to cut the boards to length. I learned how to make dados using the table saw (thanks Scott!). And, used my new skill over and over and over again to cut 54 dados. I still have to cut several pieces for the doors and put dados into the long parts of the frame. Then, onto the tenons!
Many thanks tonight to Scott and Rollin, and my classmates for their help and patience!
Tonight's confession: This project has been in development for a long long time. And, while I am so excited about finally bringing it out of my head and into the world, I admit to feeling a low level of anxiety around it this afternoon before heading to the shop. I see the anxiety as a combination of fear and self-doubt. The fear of failing to meet my own expectations. The fear that this project will somehow fall short of its dream/image in my head. And, I will have to let go of it. Or, that somehow I may not be good enough, or have the skills and courage to bring this dream/vision to life.
At times like this I find it helpful to seek the advice of others. So, I thought of the most inspiring and motivating quote I have ever found. It was sent to me by a friend, when I confessed that I was paralyzed by insecurity about showing my work. It is from the fantastic Martha Graham... “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy. A quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly... to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work... you have to keep open and aware.”
And, I remembered the impossible things that I have done, the mountains that I climbed cycle-touring in NZ by living the motto of "just try," and hearing the words of the great Nelson Mandela echoing in my head... "It always seems impossible until it is done."
Tonight's personal insight: I can be freakishly focused and quite intense when I am working. I hope I didn't scare anyone. ha ha ha. But, seriously, I am not taking to anyone when I am using a table saw.
So far, most of December and early January has be spent doing research, reviewing plans and obtaining materials. Which, is not exactly the most fun part of a creative endeavor, but is super helpful in keeping things on track and moving forward. It also helped to inspire me while I waited for the grant check to arrive from Creative Sonoma.
I have purchased the capes. So, now in the process of deciding how I to construct the chest plate for the front and transfer the logo onto the back begins. I have also purchased an inexpensive pay phone replica which I plan to modify for the listen and record activities. I have several ideas about this which need more exploration. I have also started on the yellow pages. But, I admit my heart has not really been in it. So, I have focused my energy on getting the cape production sorted out. I borrowed a sewing machine from a friend to help me tailor the capes (thanks, Pam).
Today's confession: While my mind works very quickly and I am an excellent problem solver, I am often paralyzed in making final decisions. Consequently, I procrastinate or put off projects or purchases for another future time. Tonight, I broke that habit.
Following my intuition, I registered for the community class for experienced woodworkers moments after noticing the dog-eared community education pamphlet sitting on top of the book pile by the heater. It had been there since I brought it up from the mailbox two days ago. I am not sure why I did not register immediately. I was so excited when I received it that I read the pamphlet going up the stairs to my apartment. I knew immediately that this was the best solution for a production facility close to home. And yet, I procrastinated thinking... "tomorrow, I will do it tomorrow." Thankfully, tonight I heeded the voice in my head that said "you should do this now." There were only 2 spots left open when I logged in to sign up.
Today's personal insight: Procrastination is sometimes very helpful as a motivating force for me. But, this episode felt dismissive and willful. Feeling into the situation, I found hints of resistance, insecurity, laziness, self-sabotage and fear underlying the procrastination. A reflection that was both awkward and authentic to my experience, yet revelatory and true.