three very good questions…

Today I closed the door for the last time on my much-loved studio of 15+ years.  It’s empty.  My work is now in storage.  This is the end of one era and the start of another.

I keep thinking about something my husband, Jeff told me a few years ago.

What’s working?

What’s not?

What’s next?

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goodbye-to-my-studio-lillibridge

  1. The last painting in my studio.
  2. My paint covered work shirt.
  3. A layered image of me and the empty studio.

Sometimes I need to think…

much smaller.

My thoughts are way too macro right now.

Today, I’m choosing to go micro in my thinking.

I believe my brain will thank me for the respite…even if it’s fleeting.

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Seeking Middle Ground

I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground.  I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate.  We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me.  I’m hopeful that we can shift course.  I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.

MIDDLE GROUND; a standpoint or area midway between extreme or opposing positions, options, or objectives (Merriam Webster)

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We are living in unprecedented times.  A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work.  My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home.  We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day. 

I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising.  Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs.  We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.

I grew up in a very conservative family in the South Dakota.  I have deep knowledge of how political beliefs are shaped from both sides of the political aisle.  My paternal Grandfather, Louis Lillibridge was an intellectual and a moderate—in my estimation anyway.  Grandpa could consider a lot of competing ideasHe studied other religions and ideologies.  He read constantly.  I adored him for many reasons, but mostly I felt heard by him.  Don’t we all want to be heard even if people don’t agree with us?

We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.

My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988.  For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier.  My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/.  My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating.  I actually met the King of Tonga.  I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences.  This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs.  Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.

I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen.  My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices.  It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990.  Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.

My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim kids, many who spent time in refuge camps).  They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates.  This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont.  I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful.  I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue.  I’m only speaking from my own experience.

When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.”   I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.

 

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Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY.  Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding. 

The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground.  It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about.  Uncomfortable, but really necessary.

America, our democracy is calling.

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Let’s get curious about each other.

In December I was…

diagnosed with ADHD inattentive presentation.  I’ve suspected this for years, but at this stage in my life it was becoming unmanageable.  As an artist and mother of young kids I naturally had to shift gears constantly just to keep things running in our household.  There were endless ways I could stave off boredom and feed my brain’s insatiable hunger for disruption, distraction and change.

brain its the way it is lillibridge unfocused-focused

I could hide my challenges quite easily because the whole universe was operating in a constantly distracted way. The endless buzz in the world rewarded my brain with “quick fixes” and made me believe I was managing just fine.

Then four things collided at roughly the same time

1. My children became more independent and my day to day responsibilities shifted. 

2. My husband, children and friends were telling me that I was leaving out crucial information in my communication AND I was getting defensive about it.

3. I studied positive psychology and the necessity on both a personal and societal level to quit spinning, slow down, reflect and get more focused on how I want to spend my energy and talents.

4. I turned fifty.

I know people joke about the endless diagnoses out there.  I’m a little OCD or that’s my ADHD talking or I can’t get that done because of poor executive function etc.  I was resistant for years because I didn’t want to be off the hook for the behaviors that were affecting my life and those around me.  I did however, need some answers and solutions for help to narrow my focus and allow me to better utilize my skills in both my private and public life.

Now being able to look back at the ways ADHD manifested in my life has provided a certain amount of ease and less shame about my deficits than before.  As a child I was highly adaptive, creative and curious about so many different things.  However, I also was a day dreamer, a poor tester, I rarely followed directions and was often told that I wasn’t working to my potential.  I was always armed with loads of ideas and didn’t follow through on them. I created a narrative around my deficits that I was less than.

I fell asleep during the science portion of my ACT test in high school. I got the minimum score required to go to private schools in South Dakota.  I also dozed off during the ADHD test I recently took with a psychologist.  I think my brain was bored and the competition of it all wasn’t enough motivation for me.  I wasn’t getting any juice so my brain just shut it down.

I recently remembered as a high school kid reading one page of the dictionary before I went to sleep to boost my vocabulary.  When I think of this now I believe I was trying to find ways to boost how my intelligence presented to others because it was less quantifiable than my siblings and my peers.  The really smart kids wanted to be friends with me, but my grades were very average unless I loved the subject. Then I could focus.  Thank you English and creative writing.

My husband remembered that my Dad told him when we got married that he would have to help me with certain things—paying bills, insurance and so on.  My Dad knew on some level that I had some challenges with organization.  I recently found insurance paperwork he had requested in the 1980s for me to sign and send back.  I never did.  I guess he asked me again.

I did all of the stuff I was told to do to quiet my brain and help my focus—manage stress, exercise, meditate, rest and eat well…and yet it just wasn’t quite enough.  I’m taking a low dose of a psychostimulant on the days more focus is required of me.  Now, with greater knowledge about my brain’s chemistry, I have renewed hope and focus about my life.

So, I’m unsure why I need to share this now on such a public forum.  I guess I feel that storytelling is what we need now more than ever in this uncertain world.  I believe that a willingness to be vulnerable and share our stories and fears is very important in 2017.

I don’t want to hide behind this diagnoses.  I really am the only one that needs to understand my brain.  However, if my story helps you share your story than this was well worth my time.  We are all in this together.

Go forth and be bold and share something personal or painful from your story.  That small act of courage could change someone’s life.

 

http://www.adhd-brain.com/adhd-predominantly-inattentive.html

my creative life July-December 2016

July:  I worked on my coursework for my positive psychology class.  I created a handbag out of a friend’s damaged Audi seat.  I was generously given a huge amount of fabric that was just beautiful to work with for the SEABA fashion show coming up.  I read a lot about the psychology of geography—the study of how we behave in relation to our environment. I traveled to South Dakota to visit my family and was lucky enough to get to shoot some photographs at the Burke Stampede Rodeo. Oh, cowboys…

August:  I sketched, sewed, painted and made handbags…a big blitz of work.  Using the company SPOONFLOWER I got photographs printed onto fabric. My daughter, Lucy wore a skirt I made with an abandoned farmhouse photo I shot in South Dakota on it.  I used rust prints Elizabeth Bunsen created with Nebraska license plates to create fabric as well.  Burlington master goldsmith— Jane Frank designed jewelry worn in the show—the pieces were such a beautiful compliment to the clothes. 

September was a blur: The fashion show was entirely consuming the first 10 days of the the month.  I love to be in flow and entirely focused on one thing.  Deadlines are my jam.  However, this year I also needed to create my final project for my Positive Psychology course at the same time . I graduated and got to spend a week at Kripalu in Lenox, Mass with a remarkable bunch of people from all around the world.  Later in the month my husband and I went to the Champlain Valley Classic Car show, taking photos and talking to classic car enthusiasts was just great after being so busy.

October: I turned 50 on the 12th.  I was taken to Martha’s Vineyard by friends.  My husband surprised me by getting my folks, my sister and my brother-in-law to Vermont for a long weekend to celebrate with me.  That was remarkable AND he threw a party complete with my friends putting on a musical review, poetry, singing songs and making me feel so unbelievably grateful for my life.  I took a few of my favorite images ever and layered more photos. Jeff and I dressed as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo for Halloween.

November:  I traveled to Burke, South Dakota.  I took photos of Herrick that made current and former Herrick residents very happy and remarkably nostalgic.  I got to hang out with my great nephew, Liam (oh, and the rest of my clan).  I created digital images of my own planet based on a conversation with my son.  The planet New Vagus is based on the vagus nerve—the power center of our nervous system.  I wrote.  I cried when Leonard Cohen died.

December:  I made leather pendants for gifts.  I kept playing with the image of a South Dakota two-lane road, layering the photo and playing with the visuals of memory.  I created a line of scarves with my images on them.  I will post the link soon if you are interested in ordering one.

January 2017 is off to an interesting start.  I’m cleaning out the basement—sorting through letters, photos, the kids clothes I’ve saved, toys, books and all of the things I can’t believe I now have to deal with.  I’m learning a lot about myself and why things seemed so very important to me.

Turning 50 is an interesting age to take a look back, look ahead, try to stay in the moment and not get too stuck in any one place.

ever have a bad brain day?

I was reminded today of something from my children’s early education days.

if-it-feels-yucky

That was fine when my kids were developing a sense of how to behave around other kids and caring teachers were asking them to give language to their feelings. However, as adults that’s not nearly enough of a “gut check” on the huge amount of messages coming our way all day, every day.  Our bodies give us so much information…heart rate, muscle pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue, shaking hands, sweating and so much more.  I know at least for me, the more I notice, well, the more I notice. 

And once you notice, you can’t NOT NOTICE.

Terribly well written, I know.  If we were talking in person that might make way more sense to you.  OK, I’ll try a little harder…

On one hand it’s a good quick question to keep in mind?  Does this feel “yucky” to me? However, yucky alone requires deeper exploration as grown-ups.  Is my body trying to tell me something my mind wants to override or disregard?

brain its the way it is lillibridge          bad-brain-day-lillibridge

My mind wants to override messages the rest of my system is sending constantly.

Sometimes I have to tell my brain to step out of the room.  Because it says some utterly crazy bullshit sometimes.  I’ve had a quickening heart rate in a situation recently and I took notice.  When I listened, I realized that what was required of me was courage, not medical attention.  I know I’ll tell my body to leave me the hell alone and let my brain take the wheel again, but now that I’ve noticed…well, you know, I can’t NOT NOTICE.

Positive Psychology teacher/author, Tal Ben-Shahar teaches that sometimes we’re having a “bad brain” day.  It’s simply offline.  Makes sense, right?  Just like having a bad: hair, back, skin, belly, knee, wrist, neck etc. day—we should gives ourselves permission to recognize that we can indeed have a bad brain day.  It’s just sending some false data today and if that’s the case, listening to our bodies instead can be the balance our system requires.

If I want to improve my listening skills with other people, I have to at least try to give myself the same courtesy every once in a while.  That means I have to listen more.  Talk less.  It’s 1:24 am and my body is telling me it’s time for bed.  Goodnight folks.

Why we need to question everything

This form of psychological abuse typically plays out like so: The gaslighter states something false with such intensity and conviction that whoever is on the receiving end is confused and begins to doubt their own perspective.

The term comes from a 1938 play called Gaslight, in which a husband drives his wife crazy by secretly altering things in her house and making her question her grip on reality.