Thursday 31 March 2022

Thankful Thursday: Celebrating An Unexpected Gift

I think Thankful Thursday may be my favourite social media convention. It's wonderful that in the midst of all the noise, and selling, and argument, and time wasting that floods our feeds every day, so many people have decided to pause and say "Hey! Let's share a moment or two of positivity. Let's pause to celebrate the good things in our lives." I love that Thankful Thursday reminds me to pause and appreciate my good fortune in being who I am, where I am, in the circumstances of the moment.

Today, I'm thinking about an unexpected gift that has come into my life because I'm an artist.

There's a reason the term "starving artist" has become such common currency in our culture. Most artists don't earn a living from their art. They take other jobs to put food on the table, and make art in their precious free time because their hearts tell them they must. And because they must make art, artists seek jobs that allow sufficient flexibility of schedule, sufficient free time, and a minimal emotional investment in order to leave them free to pursue their practice. Typically, jobs that provide the freedom to make art don't pay a lot and, thus, artists develop a parallel skill set to their art: They become very proficient at making the most out of what material things they have.

I'm in my 60's now and, looking back, I see that I had no idea about the range of practical skills I'd develop in order to free up time and space in which I could make art. Without realizing it at the time, I have throughout my life made a series of choices to get by on less money in order to have the freedom to make more art and, in order to do that, I've mastered a wide range of skills that help me stretch my budget.

I learned to grow my own food, and to preserve it for the seasons when food is less abundant. I learned to identify and forage for wild foods. Because basic ingredients are often less expensive than prepared foods, I learned to cook from scratch and mastered skills like bread baking and pasta making. I learned about nutrition so I could derive the most benefit from my food growing efforts and grocery shopping bucks.

I learned to sew clothing, to launder it in ways that cost less money and caused the least amount of wear and tear, and I learned how to mend my clothing when it was damaged. I learned to look at second hand clothing as a resource. I learned to see how clothing could be restyled and altered to fit, and how to make other necessary household items from fabric sourced from 2nd hand clothing and linens. I took the lesson of my grandma's church dress to heart, using and repurposing every piece of clothing and household linen until it was completely worn out. As a result, I wear my clothes for years, and often decades. That's taught me to disregard fashion and, instead, to cultivate my own personal style.

I learned to find joy in activities that cost little money. Walking has become a daily habit for me, both in the course of running errands and for pleasure. I learned to seek out and appreciate the extensive network of recreational trails available to me here on the island. I learned to take my foraging bag with me when I walk so that my outings not only feed my spirit but provide me with food and art materials as well. I learned to find joy in choosing day trips over more extensive vacations and in turning picnic meals into a celebration rather than a mere necessity. I learned to love my local public library and how use inter-library loans as a means to access university libraries when not a student. I learned how to host potluck suppers and group trips to beaches and parks.I embraced the pleasures of letter writing.

So, now, here I am: On the young end of old, chronically ill, living alone on a limited income, and equipped with the skills to turn those circumstances into a life in which I not only get by but actually find joy. Rather surprisingly, I've also learned that being good at being broke is a marketable skill.

How could I possibly not be thankful for the life skills being a "starving artist" has given me?

Which brings me full circle to my appreciation of Thankful Thursday. Today, I'm going to pause and appreciate how my need to do something essentially impractical has brought me such a wonderful set of practical skills.

What are you thankful for today?


Leslie said...

What an uplifting post! As someone who is also "on the young end of old" I especially enjoyed reading your words of wisdom!

Aunt B said...

Thanks Leslie. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.