Wednesday, June 21, 2017

How to Make It Through a Tough Week


I haven't been having a very good week. Actually, I've been having a really bad week. It seems like, today, it's starting to turn around - but I'm always wary of saying so lest things actually get worse.

But I'm trying to work on changing my perspective, finding the good within the bad. It's surprisingly helpful, actually, & it makes me feel grateful even when I'm feeling down.

For example...

I've had a couple of really difficult days at work that I won't go into here, but at least I have a job I love that pays all the bills. Fortunately, bad days/problems there are few & far between, so when they do arise, they're at least a little bit easier to swallow.

All I wanted to do last night was crawl into bed early, but I had to clean our place because company is coming. Now, though, my home is clean, & tonight, we'll welcome two of my very best friends into town as they pass through on their way to Chicago.

I've been really low on cash lately because I'm paying off my credit card debt while trying not to go back into debt - but at least that means that, at some point, I'll be able to say I'm debt-free, & my paychecks will go right to me, not to my bills.

I feel wayyy behind on wedding planning (check out my last update), but I know it'll all fall into place by the big day. I mean, it has to, right? And when that time comes, I'll walk away married to my best friend, which is all I really need or want.

My weight is at an all-time high, which I don't feel good about, especially in the lead-up to said wedding, but I'm still mobile, capable, & strong. I've been doing workout videos, trying to move more, cutting carbs, etc., & most importantly, reassuring myself that I have value no matter how I look or how much I weigh.

For all these reasons & more, I've been struggling with depression & anxiety again, largely in the form of low self-esteem & a lack of confidence, which is a really weird thing to experience at 32 - but I am taking my medicine, practicing self-care, learning on my support system, & trying my best to take care of myself.

I'm reminded that mental illness is a lifelong struggle - that just because I overcame it once doesn't mean I'm not susceptible to it again or that life is not a happily-ever-after. But I know how to cope now, & I will not be taken under by my lows. I am so much more than my bad days, & a bad day or a bad week does not a bad life make.

And here's a small list of additional good things, because I find that writing them out helps me to appreciate them more:
  1. It was roasted red pepper soup day at my favorite coffee shop.
  2. My favorite barista introduced me to toddy, a super-strong iced coffee.
  3. I bought a bright green, patterned shirt yesterday that I love.
  4. Today is the summer solstice, but it's sunny, breezy, & not too hot.
  5. I'm rereading a very chill, readable YA series from my childhood.
  6. The cats have been super-extra-cuddly since we returned from a weekend trip.
  7. I'm meeting a new blog friend for tacos tomorrow night.
  8. I bought a bottle of my favorite mead at yesterday's farmer's market.
  9. I found an inspirational rock outside today?
Hey. Sometimes it's the littlest things.

Good luck gettin' through the week, friends.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rooms to Let: An Incredible Art Installation in the Unlikeliest of Places


A couple weekends ago, Mike & some of our friends & I drove over to Slavic Village, where I'd never been, for an innovative, larger-than-life art installation called Rooms to Let. Supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Rooms to Let is an annual project that transforms vacant houses & empty lots into massive works of art featuring works by dozens of local artists of varying styles.

We got there late in the day, so we only made it through three of the four houses. Luckily, two of them were located on the same lot. Unfortunately, the time frame meant we had to speed through a lot of the exhibits, & I'm sure I missed a ton of really cool stuff. I could've stayed in these houses all day, if I'd been by myself; as it was, I was the last one of our group out of all three of the houses we visited. Oops!

I'm no photographer, but here's a look at some of the best of the day. I couldn't let this amazing exhibit go undocumented - but as you look at these photos, imagine that it was all, like, 10 times more beautiful & fascinating than what you see here, OK? OK. Let's go.







We weren't sure what to expect, but the first room we walked into was covered in absolutely gorgeous, colorful paintings of nude women with modern, feminist, activist messaging woven throughout. It was hard to believe they were painted on the walls of abandoned building, places that someone once called home. 






This candy-colored room felt especially unsettling, somehow. The bright, saturated colors against the backdrop of a peeling, other-wise-falling-apart room... well, it was plain old spooky. Look how pretty & shiny & new these colors are - & then look at the crumbling building falling down around them.







Some of the rooms were reminiscent of the outdoors, with trees & even waterfalls brought inside. I'm not artistic enough to, you know, quite get it - but it was really cool to see a fake creek running through an abandoned stairwell & a roomful of trees growing through the walls.











Some of it was interactive, inviting visitors to take part by writing on the walls or knocking down blocks or playing music or, in one case, even sweeping the floors. In another room, a woman with a white-painted face & body sat at a desk, legs up, gum popping, as she flicked little pieces of paper across the room & refused to engage with any of her viewers.









One of the coolest rooms, though not exactly art in the traditional sense, was the "Selfie Pink-Ghost-Room," its name hastily scrawled on a plywood door. We made our way into a dark basement... filled with fake fog, pink lights, & a blank photo backdrop for... selfies, of course. It was a little too crowded down there for us to snag a good one, but it was still a cool place to explore.





My favorite room, in a really painful way, was the Donald Trump room, a child's playroom with not-so-subtle messaging about the danger of the impact of our fine president's words on young, impressionable girls & women. I kept hearing people peek their heads into the room & exclaim, "Look how cute it is!" - totally missing the point, like half this country, I guess.













That certainly wasn't the only politically minded display, though most were slightly more subtle. A number of the displays focused on housing issues - meta, yes, but important, too, especially given the setting of the exhibits.










And some of the exhibits hearkened back to Slavic Village's homeowners of ages past. In one room, the artist herself was actually present, chatting with visitors & explaining that the tchotchkes that peppered her work came from a home in the area that a friend of hers had recently purchased - photos & paperwork & recipes & all kinds of things that told the stories of the family that once lived there.




And some of it felt angry & broken, a reminder that this artwork came at the expense of a once-vibrant neighborhood's lifeblood. I was surprised, frankly, that more of it didn't feel angry... & I wondered how some of the neighbors felt, the ones living next door to these dilapidated-but-now-beautiful homes-turned-canvases - the ones still living in dilapidated homes themselves.











There were also some really incredible pieces of straight-up, traditional artwork in the "I want to hang that on my wall at home" sense. It was sort of depressing to think of all of this beautiful art being demolished along with the walls that hold them - but I guess that was sort of the point. Art is ephemeral. Stability is ephemeral. Life is ephemeral.






 And some of it just felt like art, period - weird & pretty & strange & inspirational & confusing & what-the-hell-ever else. There was literally a bathroom covered floor-to-ceiling in hair. Art, man.













The artwork continued outside, too, with performance art in the backyard, neon & metallic paint on much of the foliage, & murals being painted in real-time in vacant lots - not to mention this clown-covered couch hanging by a thread out of one of the windows. Yikes.










I have to confess: As much as I loved the artwork, something about Rooms to Let left me deeply unsettled. It is uncomfortably voyeuristic - not to mention classist - to visit a down-&-out neighborhood to see beautiful works of art in spaces that are tangible representations of economic downturn & poverty.

I appreciate what the folks behind Rooms to Let folks are trying to do, & I of course appreciate all the incredible art itself - but in practice, well... it just didn't feel good. People live in Slavic Village, people struggle in Slavic Village, people in Slavic Village are trying to make ends meet & better their community. They're not an exhibit.

Part of the lead-up to Rooms to Let included a fix-a-thon & a community clean-up project, but... well. It doesn't change what's happening in Slavic Village, in so much of Cleveland, or around the country. It doesn't change what economic inequality looks like - or feels like, for the people living it. Here are a few ways to support organizations doing work to correct economic inequality.

Overall, Rooms to Let was an incredible experience, some of the coolest & craziest art I've ever seen. Even though it made me uncomfortable in a number of ways - & was, probably, supposed to - I love that Cleveland artists & activists are taking on interesting & creative ways to try to bring attention to what's going on in our city, to bring something beautiful to something downtrodden, & to inspire creativity in Clevelanders.

Where can I find more great art in this city? Let me know in the comments!

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