In August, my year took a turn for the better. The change that I was waiting and asking for finally came. To honour this, I'd like to take a moment to bask in all my many blessings. Some of these may seem trivial and small, but they have meant the world to me during the worst and best days of 2021.
In no particular order, here are 12 things that I am eternally grateful for:
#1: My hands
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t paint pretty pictures all day, every day. Running a business means wearing many, many different hats, and unfortunately that means that I don’t get to paint/draw as often as I would like. But sometimes, my hands look like this. This is what happy hands look like. Hands that spent time doing something creative and amazing. Hands like these mean a happy heart, because they are paint-splattered proof that I’m an artist! Thank you, Hands - you are my livelihood!
#2: Our capacity to learn
If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past two years, it’s that our capacity to acquire knowledge is limitless. As adults, I think we often forget how valuable it is to learn something new, or we simply don’t think we have the time to invest in our own self-improvement. Not only is it gratifying and good mental gymnastics, it’s also really good for ones emotional wellbeing. Whether it’s slowly learning Ukrainian, teaching myself to knit or a fantastic course by the Future Females Business School, I can honestly say that learning something new (especially as an adult!) is seriously underrated!
#3: My husband, Alex
This year marks ten years of knowing and loving this wonderful, strange, kind, amazing man. I don’t know how he manages to survive (and thrive!) with all my crazy. He is my rock-solid support. He is my calm, safe, happy place. Even on my darkest days, he sees my light.
For those of you that have never been lucky enough to visit South Africa — put it on your bucket list! Nobody does nature quite like us! Here, you can find landscapes ranging from lush indigenous forests to unforgiving deserts and everything in between. Wildlife in every shape and size - from the largest land mammal on earth to teeny-tiny critters that play a massive roll in securing the wellbeing of our vast range of ecosystems. My love for this country’s sensational wildlife - passed down to me by my parents - is what impassioned me to start painting wildlife in the first place.
#5: Family & Friends
Even as an introvert, the various lockdown restrictions over the past two years got to me. Thank goodness for my family and friends. As they say, 'hard times reveal true friends.’ I count myself lucky to know and adore some truly spectacular human beings… And even though life flits by and sometimes aaages pass without contact, I know that they are there and have my back.
We jokingly refer to Kitty as my ‘Universe Cat’ - for five years, every time I encountered a cat, I would yearningly say, “I want a kittyyyyyy!”. And then 18 months ago at the beginning of our first lockdown, the universe sent me a cat: A scared, skinny feral that hissed at me from her hiding place. Now, she has become a centrepiece in our home and lives. Perhaps it sounds a tad dramatic, but I honestly don’t think I would have coped well without her during the past two years… There is definitely something to be said about the affects of animals on ones mental wellbeing! She takes it in turn to supervise Alex and my respective work, chats to us like an old friend, zooms around the cottage like a weirdo, brings a variety of live and not-so-live gifts for our viewing (and chasing) pleasure, and cuddles like no cat I have ever known. I love my job. But I love it way, way more when I have a cat on my lap!
“I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.” This quote by W. Somerset Maugham is one of my all time favourites. Yes, creativity can often be a sneaky, elusive and mysterious thing. But if you plan on building a career that is fuelled by creativity, it’s a good idea to give Mr Maugham’s words some serious consideration. Like most skills, creativity can be developed and honed by practicing! The more diligent you are at your practice, the easier it becomes to implement. I believe that anyone and everyone has the capacity to be creative! As we get older, we gain a lot of insecurities and hangups (some forced on us by others, and many of our own making!), and this eventually smothers our beautiful imaginations and the belief that we are creative.
I love to laugh. At the beautiful intricacies of this strange life, at the quirkiness of others, at myself. We shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. It makes even the most bitter of pills easier to swallow. Culturally, South Africans tend to poke fun at even the most dire situations (fellow Saffers, do you agree?). I guess it’s a coping mechanism. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I started knitting because I wanted something creative that was just MINE. When I was a child, drawing was my hobby. I adored it! Now, I paint and draw for a living. Fabulous!!! But, you do run the risk of soiling your passion when attempting to turn it into a career. As the pressure of bills and responsibilities add up, you might find that your passion has turned into a task. A necessity, rather than something that gives you joy. Although I felt nothing like this, I have always been wary of it. It was especially front of mind when Covid arrived, and the going was so tough! My solution was to learn a new creative skill that I could just cherish as a bit of fun. No need to excel at it. Never going to sell it. No pressure whatsoever. Just pure, me-time fun!
How could we have ever predicted two years ago that we would suffer the loss of income, stability, sanity, loved-ones… The most severe loss of the latter should be a constant reminder to us all to be grateful of the gift of health. With every step I take, every breath, every beautiful sunset I am able to witness, I count myself lucky.
I was lucky enough to have sensational teachers all throughout my school career. Some had a major impact on me - both good and bad. However, the good stands out. My art teachers were especially phenomenal, and I will be forever be indebted to them. Even though I didn't for a moment dream about becoming a professional artist when I was a child, the skills taught, confidence instilled and creativity explored was gifted to me by these teachers.
I created this artwork in about 1996. I was nine years old. And the story behind it is proof that my art teacher was a woman of the highest calibre.
#12: "I am ready"
This is a complicated one...
Imagine holding your arms out wide as if to embrace someone. Chest open, chin up, eyes closed, and saying out loud to God or to the universe (or both!), "I am ready." This is exactly what I did for months on end, starting in May this year after a chance encounter with a stray dog named Maddison. Up until that point, I had been waiting. Waiting for things to get better or change. Meeting Maddison had finally pushed me to the point of DONE waiting. I experienced a mental shift to READY.
For three months, I deliberately and passionately repeated this mantra: I am ready. I am ready. I am ready. Ready for change. Ready for answers. Ready to move forwards.
The answers came.
Like I said, this is a complicated, long one. So go make yourself a cup of something delicious, and then read this...
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