It took me most of my 51 years on this earth to realize that resolutions are society’s way of setting us up for failure, or to create a surge in gym membership revenue, at the very least. We’ve all been there, with the same pressure to cease repeating the mistakes of the prior year. We spiritedly bust out of the gate (after nursing the NYE hangover, of course) into the dawn of a new year and all its opportunities. Surrounded by January’s frigid darkness, enthusiasm starts to dwindle as endurance begins to lag, until we slow to a walk through February to catch our breath, only to crawl into March. Or something like that.
Perhaps I should resolve to be more optimistic.
More times than not, I just make mental note of what I want to change, do more or less of, etcetera. Since we ushered in a new decade, it seems fitting to document what I want to achieve. I write this knowing it may turn out to be more of a multi-year plan with no hard finish line. While deadlines can be galvanizing, life sometimes puts up a hurdle or three during the journey to enlightenment. It is easy to venture down that fork in the road called discouragement, the first exit sign an oasis of “I suck” and “why bother?” Hence, the aforementioned failure of resolutions.
Moral of the story: Resolutions can suck it. Still, I need to bone up on my chess game of life, plan my moves so that I can focus on what I should do differently as opposed to giving it a label that dooms me to an inevitable checkmate of despair. At the very least, avoid a stalemate of indecisiveness. Yes, I forced that metaphor. Just like I am forcing myself into accountability for my past failings.
I should probably move past all the negativity and focus on the task at hand. I put my list into three categories: Creative; Professional; Health. Here are my . . . goals? Plans? Ambitions? Objectives? This is what I intend to do.
These are general . . . things . . . that require focus to improve my professional life and health.
Write in my blog more often. This isn’t really at the top of my list, but since I just paid my annual renewal fee for this site, it seems a fitting start. It has been at least two years since I posted anything here, so I should make the $18 worth it. And remember my password, while I am at it. Anyway, it is easy to let this fall by the wayside, as my day job and all its documentation requirements and emails result in writing fatigue. I realize that, particularly in my struggle to write this post, this creative muscle has atrophied and needs to be limbered up and exercised more. I don’t have a schedule in mind, but at least once per month is not unreasonable. With this post, January is checked off. See you in February!
Draw the majority of days. I can’t target every day, because it isn’t realistic with the demands of my full-time job. If I drew— even just for five minutes—184 days this (leap) year, that is technically the majority. That is 3.54 days per week. I have my studio space, a litany of ideas, a plethora of projects, multiple sketchbooks, and numerous artist social circles. There is nothing preventing me from just doing it. One can only achieve mastery if one practices, and often. I haven’t reached the proverbial 10,000 hours, but there is only one way to get to Carnegie Hall.
Sing like no one is listening. Here is another atrophied muscle. I don’t sing much for the sheer pleasure of it, much less for practice. When I do, I default to my head voice. Because, it is quieter and safer. It is my mixed and chest voices that need work. When I belt it out, my voice is full and powerful. I own a multi-unit property, so I get self-conscious that my tenants will hear me screwing up and think, “Our landlady has gone off her nut.” In lieu of doing the slumlord squeeze on them, I should just decide to stop caring what other people think. I paraphrase both my husband and a friend who started out as my vocal coach, “Just. Fucking. Sing.” Okay!
Blow the dust off my instruments. I have seven guitars, a banjo, mandolin, violin, ukulele, piano, flute, and various harmonicas. I can’t say I know how to play the winds, but I certainly can manage all the strings and percussion (technically, it’s a clavinova). Even though I gravitate more towards visual art these days, I started out with music. It shouldn’t take much to pick up the guitar and noodle, or play a classical piece on the piano. Why don’t I? Lack of motivation, fear of failure, blah blah blah. I bore myself to tears and make my guitar gently weep from loneliness with the same excuses.
Note to self: I have to change the strings on my Martin. Bah!
Write the songs that make me sing. I generally noodle around with ideas, but haven’t written a new song in at least three years. I know I have talent, and my hiatus is not due to a dearth of ideas. While I am at it, I should record the ones I have written. I have the technological tools, I just have that aforementioned lack of motivation topped with an abundance of fear. No one needs to hear my cacophonous flops, so it should be a safe place to screw up. I trust even Sting has a rubbish heap of bad and rejected ideas. Get over myself!
I am an accounting manager by day, but it is not my passion. The only goal I have for my day career is to focus on expanding my position in order to rise out of the pit of ennui so that, on some level, I can actually enjoy what I am doing. I’ve been on autopilot for years, and it makes me dread almost a third of my life. Until I can retire, I need to make the most of this.
The professional intentions are focused on my art business, AmaranthiArts. I set up the LLC last year and my accountant will include the expenses (no revenue, sadly), on the 2019 return. I need to get serious, if for no other reason than the IRS generally gives only three years before turning a profit is required. Otherwise, it risks being classified as a hobby; thus, not deductible as a business. Here is a list, in no particular order, of projects that require my diligent attention.
- Graphic novel. My husband and I wrote the story back in 2012, and decided in 2014 that it should be illustrated instead of just sold to a magazine for chump change. I bought a dedicated sketchbook last September for the character design, and have filled up four pages. Full disclosure, conceptual work, i.e., from my head to the paper with little to no photo reference, is terrifying to me. Even though I’ve settled on the phenotype of the anti-hero, I still tense up and am insecure when I work on it. That needs to change, and I aim to be finished with my studies so that my husband can design the layout of the book. Can I actually start illustrating this mofo by 2021? We shall see. I have to keep reminding myself that this story needs to be seen. It is just too good to languish.
- Comics. I am in the process of inking the third strip of our comic, The Geww, which is inspired by our adorably unique dog. We are deciding if it should be published as a regular web series, and/or compiled into one book. That decision will be made once we get a dozen or so pages under our belts. In addition, there are a couple opportunities to collaborate with other comic artists for other projects, which will get my strong consideration. The more I put out there, the more I might be recognized. Ostensibly.
- Faerie mash-ups book. I have a series I am (slowly) creating with mechanical pencil. I made a list of 25 faeries, and have completed four of them. Once I reach the target, they will be compiled into a book. Each pinup will have an accompanying poem, written by yours truly. No, this will not be done in a year. If I could quit my day job. . . . It would be great to aim for one per month, but that still might be ambitious, as they take 15+ hours to draw. Did I mention I am slow?
- Faerie series. I’ve had an idea for years, which I will keep under wraps, and only unveil it once it is complete. I am too paranoid that the idea would be taken if I put it out there. Can I create at least one of them this year?
- YouTube. Yes, I set up the channel, and just have to start loading it. I should probably record a video while I am at it. Right now, I am working on proof of concept. There will be a lot of work and expenses involved putting the wheels in motion. I would like it to go live this year, but must forgive myself if it doesn’t happen. I can’t expect it will be a big money maker, not to mention that the last I checked, YouTube requires at least a year and thousands of views and subscribers before the channel is considered for monetization. Regardless, the idea I have is too good to pass up. If there is even a pittance at the end of the tunnel, I must explore it.
- Conventions. I displayed at my first con last year, and it was a good learning experience. No sales, of course, but it was a small event that gave me room to cut my teeth. Setting up a table at conventions should be a part of doing business as an illustrator, so if I want to be a professional, I need to act like one. Since I did one last year, can I surpass that this year?
- Web presence. I am active on social media, but I need to set up a website. There are enough do-it-yourself hosting platforms that make it achievable for minimal costs. I also need to make my work available for purchase, and there are plenty of resources that make it achievable.
Whew! That was exhausting. How can I focus on my health when I am piling so much on my plate? Well, everything is designed to fulfill me. If I don’t focus on myself, particularly my creativity, my emotional, mental, i.e., cognitive, and physical health suffer. If I abandon my creative side for more than a week, I am prone to getting depression and anxiety, which exacerbates insomnia. If I am tired, it is harder to be positive, eat well, and exercise. It is a vicious circle.
Outside of that, I don’t have a specific list in mind besides the usual housekeeping. Basically, the healthy things I do, I need to do more. I will add meditation to that list, even though we have a complicated relationship. I try it for a while, get frustrated with it, then give up. Lather; rinse; repeat. I can’t lean on the lack of time excuse, despite all of it that will be eaten up if I actually keep to everything I listed out on this post. According to Zen, if I don’t have time to meditate for an hour, I should meditate for two hours. Whoa there, Buddha dude. I’ll try five minutes a day, for now.
I think that about covers it. Here’s to a productive year, and decade, even. Cheers!
Did you ever have one of those friends who compelled you in such a way to do things you normally wouldn’t, and then you regretted those actions afterwards? I had one, and even though we drifted apart, I fondly reminisce about her. To preserve her anonymity, I will just refer to her as ‘C’. C wanted to try most things at least once; I did not. Don’t get me wrong; I am a very curious sort. However, I am a calculated risk-taker, usually. She did not blithely venture into uncharted territory, mind you, but her carpe diem approach to life could be intoxicating. I trust you know what could happen under that influence.
We drove halfway across the country with maxed-out credit cards and no itinerary. I was given a CO2 handgun (no license needed at the time) for protection. I tried to fire it in a roadside motel room, but thankfully, the canister blew into a cloud of cool gas instead. I don’t know if there were any long-term effects of inhaling what the weapon expelled. Guns freak me out, but I felt empowered around my friend, C.
Another time, we turned an uneventful evening into a festival of firsts for her. Well, two firsts, to be precise. After consuming sugary cocktails and Pop-tarts, she dyed her dark, blonde hair red with a box of henna I had encouraged her to purchase earlier. We then ambled over to the nearest tattoo parlor, picked a unicorn off the wall, and spent the next hour getting it inked on her outer calf. She squeezed my hand the whole time; that girl had quite a grip. The artist was a dragger instead of a tapper, and that is a sensitive area, so I appreciated the pain she endured. Okay, I did not get a tattoo. I do have my limits. As an artist, I would only mark up my body with my own designs. Oh wait, I didn’t know I could draw at the time. I probably didn’t have the money. Yep, that’s it. I did put henna into my hair one time. Remember that episode of the Brady Bunch? Just picture Greg with waist-length hair and that show would have reached a new level of melodrama. Now you know why my risks are usually well thought-out. I can’t take complete credit for controlling her destiny that night. She was a doer to my thinker. She encouraged me to think about taking risks, and I thought really hard so that she would believe I was the mastermind of that evening. For the most part, though, I experienced her risk-taking ventures that night vicariously.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that a night spent at an Alice in Chains concert back in ‘93 would not end for us after the curtain dropped. I have always been a big fan of the band, but C had never heard of them until I asked her to go with me. During the course of the evening, she developed a huge crush on Jerry Cantrell. I can certainly see the appeal. Even now—years later—he looks like Greg Allman’s hotter, younger brother. However, I never cared for long hair on men. My older sister and I agreed on many things, but our paths diverged when the conversation turned to the hotness factor of Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon versus Tequila Sunrise. No contest there, in my opinion. Now, no hairstyle can redeem that man, but I digress. Anyway, despite Cantrell really being the creative force behind Alice in Chains, I was all about Layne Staley at the time. Apparently, I was into scrawny grunge rockers in my early twenties. There was something seductive about that dude, the voice, those intense eyes, and sultry lips. Picture Paul Newman on crack, and perhaps you will understand the allure there. I can’t stand cigarette smoking—he was a heavy smoker—but in my fantasies, he abstained while he sang his trademark growl into my ear. Sigh.
It was a great show, and their performance of Rooster did not disappoint. I also got a souvenir that will remind me of this evening, whether I want it to or not.
I did not have to wrestle anyone for it. One of the crowd control guys was giving it to me as another hand reached for it. He pulled it away until I was ready to take it. As the crowd started clearing out, I passed by him and thanked him for the token. “You know I was giving that to you, right?” he asked with a lascivious smile. Eww. I played dumb, “Yep! Thanks again.” I made a hasty exit before he could go all Indian giver on me. I was a bit insulted. My body was worth a Hell of a lot more than a cracked drumstick. I was an Accountant, damn it. How dare he assume I was just some tawdry, cheap fan-girl? Puh!
We were hanging out in my car after the show, wondering what trouble we could get into, considering the night was still young. At one point, I entertained C with my Layne Staley impersonation singing Rooster and Man in a Box—spot-on, in my humble opinion. The topic turned to some key “what if” questions. What if . . . Jerry Cantrell came onto you right now, even though you are engaged? I had carte blanche if Mr. Staley propositioned me, as I wasn’t dating anyone at the time. The whole time in the car, we had a clear view of their tour bus, and were sitting there waiting for a glimpse of any of the band members. Layne was not to be seen, but there was a flash of long, blonde hair at one point.
After about an hour, the bus started moving. We straightened up in our seats as we exchanged tentative, yet eager glances. “Let’s follow them!” Do I have to indicate who said that? So, onward I drove as I followed them through the back streets. I thought the fun was in the dare, and it would peter out and end there. The burning, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I get only when venturing out of my comfort zone came on full-force as we careened into the entrance to I-94N—heading towards Chicago. “Oh my god, we are really doing this!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe we are doing this!” I screamed. “This is so awesome,” as we giggled like schoolgirls. I pushed hard on the gas pedal, lest I lose sight of their big-ass, black tour bus. This was really happening!
So, we get to the hotel they were staying at. We happened upon a couple of other grou . . . er, fans, who happened to know the floor, and even room numbers, the band were in. I don’t recall how they came upon that intel, but there it was. As we debated what to do next, Mike Inez—the bassist—sauntered through the lobby. He politely stopped for a photo. He really wasn’t on my radar, but who was I to pass up that opportunity. The guy had a great smile and crazy hair. The amicability of one member gave us the courage to seek out the others.
As we stood in the elevator, C and I exchanged looks that could pass for either excitement or an urgent need to pee. As it dinged our arrival, we hesitated briefly before exiting onto the floor. Like automatons, we proceeded to their group of rooms at the end of the hall. Did we have a game plan? Of course not. We stopped in mid-stride as we happened upon an open room. We peeked into the door. Inside was a man who appeared to be their security guard, lounging in a chair and inactively watching porn. I say that because he wasn’t more “engaged,” but he was distracted enough that we could zip past his room unnoticed, like a couple of ninja groupies. Yes, admittedly, we ceased being just fans at that point. We heard voices behind door number two. Without thinking, I knocked. Then, the folly of our ways hit me, amongst other things that shone a light on our unbecoming behavior. I turned to make a hasty exit, abandoning C, and was stopped by the security dude. Dang, he was huge. “What are you doing?” he asked threateningly. Looking for inspiration, I just stared back at C. As we stalled to think up something clever, the door opened.
That sinking feeling in my stomach came again as I stood mere feet from Layne Staley. The first thing that came to mind was, “Shit, that is one tiny dude.” He seemed larger than life on stage, but I could eat a meal off his head, and try to share it with him so he could gain a few pounds. He looked accusingly at his security guard as he asked us what we were doing there. I was ready to apologize that we made a mistake, when C held out a piece of paper and pen, and asked for his autograph. Oh, I wanted to be Down in a Hole at that point. His sexy blues looked at her hands with disdain. He then became physically agitated, held out the bottom of his shirt, and said, “Guys, I gotta get dressed.” SLAM! I guess he told us. I think, not sure. We waited briefly just in case he planned to come back out after indeed getting dressed, even though he was fully clothed already. The disappointment welled up in me as I realized we had been dismissed. I didn’t even get to share my impersonation of him. Surely, along with my cuteness, I would have risen above the ranks of his typical mindless fan. This is not how my encounter with him played out in my dreams.
I turned my head wearily to gaze up at Mr. Horny and he looked down at me patronizingly, “See, now look what you did. Are you proud of yourself?” Umm, no, quite frankly. The ignominy sunk in hard and fast. I was mortified at what we did. Why did he direct that question at me? I didn’t ask for his autograph. I was trying to get out of there. It was all C’s fault! That’s what I told myself. I also considered that the guard was shitting his pants, because he should have stopped us from getting that close to the “talent.” He would be even in more trouble if they saw the adult movie on the bill. While his employers were snuffing the Rooster, he was choking his chicken. How irresponsible of him.
My head was literally hanging low as we slinked back to the elevator. As it made its descent, my hot and heavy imaginary love affair with the troubled rocker cooled precipitously. “What the Hell did we just do? This is horrible. I can’t believe we would do that to someone,” I said between long-suffering sighs. C didn’t see it that way. “What an asshole. Did you see how he looked at my pen and paper like I was offering him a plate of shit or something?” She might have said that, I don’t remember. I was too overwhelmed with shame and regret. She, naturally, had a great time and would do it again, despite his “rudeness.”
But he’s long dead, more than 10 years now.
Yes, when Mr. Staley’s bloated corpse was found alone in his apartment, dead weeks earlier from an overdose, I thought back to what we did. What demons was he unable to exorcise? Did his obsessed fans smother him, or was he drowning in a Sea of Sorrow of his own making? My guess is that it was a combination of both, evidenced by his self-portrait in the Mad Season CD-jacket as being crucified while he sang into a microphone. His respectful, appreciative fans could not shine a bright enough light on his dark soul, so he self-medicated to his demise.
Despite all my cognitive dissonance in what we did, I can set that aside as I tell this tale in my usual jocular, self-deprecating fashion. Levity is the best psychotropic.