This month’s ‘Olive Juice’ (self love tonic):
One of the best ways to love ourselves and live a fulfilling life is to follow our curiosities. It is okay if we know nothing at first... there is only one way to go from “I don’t know!” Learning more about the things that perk your interest is a way to tell yourself you value your mind, and that you deserve to enjoy exploring this amazing world we live in. Sometimes you may just end at an understanding, or, more likely, you’ll learn more to inform your future decisions. The Internet is an amazing resource for learning more, I absolutely love podcasts, and books are incredible⭐️. There’s also always places to take classes! I absolutely love listening to #skepticsguidetotheuniverse, #stuffyoushouldknow and everything by @timferriss.
It can be as simple as learning a new way to do your hair, to reading a few books on a given topic, to watching a documentary. It also can be really enjoyable in conversation- to listen to someone, notice what makes you curious and then ask them about it. Doing so can add a lot of depth and fulfillment to any relationship! What is one curiosity you’re currently looking into/trying for the first time? If I’m being perfectly honest... right now I am curious about Dungeons and Dragons... thanks again to a podcast.
Being an Elephant in a Line:
There is a basic premise that feeds patience. Patience comes from the belief and the value that your time is not somehow more valuable than other people’s time. It is realizing that others, even if they are slower at a specific task than you are, are no less deserving of the time they need to fulfill a task. I am sure there are areas where you too, are slower than others, and isn’t it nice when you can still *do* the thing you are slow at, without the fear of being an inconvenience to those around you. By being patient in line, you are giving folks the time they need to do the things they need to do.
A couple weeks ago, I went to the bank. These days I usually just use the drive up or, even more conveniently, the mobile deposit option. But a stranger had had some fun with my debit card and the iTunes store, so I had to go in. As I spoke with customer service, there was no line for the tellers. Of course, by the time I was finished with her, there was a line of about 5 people. No big deal.
I got into line and noticed a woman at the front. She had perfect, long and healthy hair, the kind where it takes a lot of effort to look like there was no effort. Her athletic garb made me assume she was coming from or going to a yoga class… though that might just be a constant state of her life… between yoga classes. She looked like someone who, especially when compared to someone like me, really has her shit together.
But the few minutes we had to wait in line tortured her. She crossed her arms, shifted from side to side, shifted from tapping foot to tapping foot, tightening her lips and glaring. Eventually, the waiting got to her so much that she had to take a deep breath and let out a loud and unapologetic sigh, or more of a “huff,” which I took to mean, “Does anyone else see how incredibly inconvenient this situation is for me?”
I will admit, the folks in front of her were taking a seemingly longer time than one might call “usual.” I don’t know, I don’t usually go into the bank.
Eventually she got her turn. After she handed over her paperwork, the teller informed her that there were some mistakes. Frantically digging around in her purse, she apologized and corrected not just one but a few mistakes.
Here she was, pissed that everyone was wasting HER time, when in the end… she needed a little extra time too.
Lines are opportunities… opportunities for us to give other people time, and to slow down for a few minutes ourselves. If you know it’s going to be an especially long wait, you usually bring something like a book or a magazine or if you’re in the car… perhaps a podcast. If it ends up being just a few minutes, here are some things to do with yourself.
1.) Feel free to be bored. It is actually okay, despite what you’ve heard, to be bored. Let your mind wander, let it day dream. Stare at a wall. Seriously. Your brain is really okay with these small breaks.
2.) Look around you. Notice things, people, and happenings you wouldn’t normally see if you were just cruising along at the speed of busy. Perhaps there is a flower pot in the corner of the bank… is it real? Is it beautiful? Who put it there?
3.) Ask yourself a question and then just think on it. It could be work related, it could be personal, or it could be completely random. For example, here is a good question that will probably get you through a LOT of lines. What one DVD would you take with you if you were going to be stranded on an island for the rest of your life?
4.) Remember, most people are really doing their best.
5.) If you must, you can look at your phone. My advice for this- get some soul loving, mind filling activities you can do on your phone in cases such as these. Or a game. Just scrolling through social media isn’t always the best solution… it takes you out of your world.
A final story about the BEST line I have ever been in.
When I was 17, a friend and I went to a three-day concert at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington. This was back when big crowds didn’t send me spiraling into panic and being 17… well… fun was to be had. Anyway-
The way the venue is set up is like this: there is a field for camping, and a long walk-way to get to the actual amphitheater. Night one, after setting up camp and relaxing, it was time for us and the THOUSANDS of other people to head to the concert. As we crammed in and made slow progress, I was amused by the amount of “moos” drifting up from this huge line. But then, something truly amazing happened. Starting ahead of us and eventually sweeping over us, someone started singing “Lean on me” and eventually, the entire line joined in.
“Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on. For, it won’t be long, till I’m gonna need, somebody to lean on. “
Pure. Elephant. Shoe. Magic.
This goat is here to remind us all that books are a healthy part of any diet!
No, but really.
It seems like it is so easy to take in media and not read anymore. I, for one, lost the art of reading after college... where literally most of what I did was read (shout out english lit!). But recently, I have started inhaling books again, and remembering the magic of how much you can learn from them. I can't seem to get enough. Fiction, non fiction, all of it.
My recent reads:
Deep Work by Cal Newport. This book changed my life... its about living in a distracted world where we are constantly busy and connected, and how to break out of that in order to get real work done. It has helped me create serious balance and push towards new ideas and meaningful work. I still have a lot to do, but this book is a serious must read for anyone... especially anyone doing work that requires long hours of thought and concentration.
Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E Frankl. Basically, he was a psychiatric doctor who ended up in concentration camps. He used his psychiatrist's eye to almost distance himself from the reality of what was happening around him. Eventually, his observations led to his psychological theory, Logotherapy. Logotherapy is based on helping patients and people find meaning.
One interesting point he brought up about our culture today is that with all the conveniences and automation we experience, the more time we have on our hands. That time can lend itself, unhealthily, to what he calls an existential void. Thus, people feel depressed or sad despite how relatively "good" they have it. His solution to the existential void is to live for a purpose, which is often other people (whether doing good things or being responsible to someone.)
I highly suggest this book! The details of the concentration camp experience are subtle, and he focuses more on the people in (and operating) them. The first half is his recalling and observation, and the second half is his theory. It is quick (4 hours audiobook!) and powerful.
The other one I just finished up was The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairly Land in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. It was a wonderful tale about a fierce little girl named September. I won't go into too much detail... but what I loved about this book was entering a wonderful, imaginative world where bicycles run in herds and streets are made of yarn.
And, last but not least, Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. All the inspiration and insight you could need in one place.
Q: What books have you read lately? Any good recommendations?
For those of us who are shy, this might be a bit challenging. However, think small- even shy people talk to a few people in their lives and have the chance to share something fun! Think Amelie, sharing the videotapes with her Glass Man neighbor.
When we learn something specifically with the aim to share it, we are bringing a little bit of joy to our fellow humans. If it something you may feel a bit embarrassed about, it means you are trusting them. But really- it can be anything at all. A new joke to tell at the office, a good-news item... a piece of weird history. Or, for the very ambitious out there, you can learn a skill like the mini accordion.
Q: What is something you already know how to do that you can use to entertain others?
This idea came to me from a real life experience. It was my birthday (30th! Oh Boy!) and my boyfriend and best friends were staying at a really nifty Air BnB with lots of toys for grown up kids. My boyfriend, being the goofball that he is, put on a propeller hat (bright green) and played a mini accordion for a brief but laughter inducing show. By the way... he had no idea how to play it.
Now, it is a thing... and he bought one... and there is a rumor that he is learning Lady Gaga's bad romance for a birthday surprise this year. :)
Part of my goal of this project is to create a series of note cards that find unique ways to say "i love you." Keep tuned!
Q: If you could have a note card to give to the most people in your life, what would it say?
Remember that you are always allowed to change your direction. This is your one life, and if your path isn't leading towards your values or goals, you can shift it. Sometimes it can be a big change, sometimes it is more subtle. but whatever the case, you and you alone really are in charge of the steps you take in this life. And, you are allowed to use them to take you whichever way you want.
Q: What are some changes you have made towards your goals?
Mine is that I do deep work for 3 hours or so 5 mornings out of the week. I shut everything and everyone out (for the most part) to work on my art, often problem solving. Did you know, just the concept for this sketch took over 3 hours to work out? I started with one idea and whittled it down until I got here.
Here, Elephant is listening to a story, letting the man tell it late into the evening. When was the last time you really listened to someone, with no real motivation? (Ps drinking tea can help!).
I have been spending a lot of time playing with different elephants and how I might be able to illustrate them in action. I'm not certain that they will be in every Elephant Shoes illustration, but I like to think they will. Anyway, I finally came up with this guy. Very simple, very adorable. Again, just the beginning, the discovery, but I think I am in love.
Sometimes, it is nice simply to listen to a person's story in order so that they have a chance to remember and relive it. Even if you've heard it before.
As a shop owner on the corner near the senior center, I often find myself listening to stories that are pretty much, if I'm being perfectly honest, feels like a waste of MY time. Except, I have come to realize that giving that time to someone so that they can tell a story is completely invaluable and not a waste at all. It is especially apparent with people who are higher in their years, but it is important with people of all ages. Giving them a few minutes to hear their story is a great gift of love. I have friends that will tell the same story a few times, and if it is a good one, then I enjoy each retelling. If it's not my particular taste, I still listen like I've never heard it before, because clearly, they love something in it, or they are working through something in it.
I do think, sometimes, I have found a person (or they have found me) that takes a little too much of my time-giving, ear-listening love. So it is important to make distinctions between when I can and when I cannot. (For example, if someone stops by regularly, unannounced, and proceeds to spend an hour of weaving unpleasant and strange stories about every small thing they can think of that is wrong with their lives... I will generally find a way to say "No more," as an act of self love.
Q: Is there a particular story you know you tell others? Do you know why you like to repeat it? What is it, lets hear it!
This is me playing around with different mediums and illustrative abilities.
I was walking around my small town last summer. While much of the town is very beautiful and "kept," there are some parts where long stretches of dirt and refuse seem to populate much of the street. As I walked down one of these stretches, I was surprised to find myself all of a sudden face to face with a patch of tall, bright sunflowers. They appeared completely unattached to any property or person.
It put a smile on my face to think that someone out there had put a bunch of seed down in such a random place to add a little beauty to the area. That is love, to add beauty to the world without any need or desire for recognition. Recently, a friend pointed out that the tree near the patch may have been a popular spot for birds to sit (and poop out seeds). If that is true, then I find beauty in that! Good job birds!
Artistically, the one on the left once again got too busy. Too much information- but I was curious how the flowers might pop against the black of the road. I think it ended up taking away from the beauty of the overall piece. So, attempt #2, I zoomed in. I wanted to keep the information about the sidewalk because the story is what makes my experience unique... how many other paintings of sunflowers are out there because they are beautiful? Thousands (millions?).
Q: What have you seen recently that was an "accidental" act of beauty?
Step one of this project has been for me to start playing with new ideas for how to make my art. If you want to see my past art (and how wildly different it is) you can go to kpotterfineart.com. Below are some attempts at an Island View.
Island View: butterfly in downtown Atlanta
I grew up in the open nature of Montana and Wyoming. So to live in a big city of concrete was an exciting time for me, but it was also created a fair amount of longing for home and for the natural world I was so used to. One day, when I was walking down the street (often times feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the things), a beautiful orange butterfly crossed my path. It felt like a little moment of light, a little moment of grace reminding me of the natural world. I "thanked" the butterfly for such a beautiful reminder, and went about my day. Later that evening, I reflected on what I had named "the gratitude butterfly" and set an intention to see more gratitude. For the remainder of my time in Atlanta, I said "thank you" for at least 5 things a night before going to bed.
A note on the images: I started with the one on the left and finished with the version on the right. The first one felt like there was too much narrative... was the girl releasing the butterfly? The second felt like a pharmacy ad (I am 90% sure there is a company with this idea...) and of course I didn't realize it until the end.. which made me giggle. The last one seemed stripped of unimportant information- this piece is really about the butterfly and the city. Happy with it.
Q: What are some of your gratitude butterflies? Did you see some today?