I've been waiting until it felt like the right time to decompress and write about my self-imposed creative assignment that took place over 52 weeks in 2017 - The Ray of Light Interview Series, but that moment simply has not organically arrived.
I thought that maybe if I took the artwork off the walls of my studio and started shipping it off to the recipients that the words would come to me, but it hasn't really work out that way.
I thought that if I embarked on another big creative project that it would give me a little time and space to reflect on what I actually did with last year's project, but that didn't work either because I've catapulted myself into The Geographic and my mind is aflutter with thoughts and ideas about that project, not the Ray of Light Series.
So here I am.
Writing words that will hopefully encapsulate the enormity of what I put myself through last year and why I did it.
No pressure, right? Riiiiiiiiiight.
I have recognized that I like to tackle self-imposed assignments as a way to push myself as a creative person. I really respond to telling myself what to do. What once felt like too much in early 2017 (52 weekly interviews AND original art to go along with it!? Are you crazy, Tammi?), slowly, over time, began to feel like just right. I was going to have to take it bird by bird, as writer Ann Lamott would say. And, that's just what I did. One week at a time. One woman's story. One image. One day in the studio. One night editing and formatting. One day to promote.
One of the biggest things the series allowed me to do was to take a look at my propensity to procrastinate and work on my time management (two things that really challenge me) in a very concentrated way. Since the interview would need to be posted on Friday, I would, more often than not, end up in my studio finishing artwork (or editing and formatting the interview from the comfort of my own bed) until almost midnight every Thursday night. This was not optimum and every week I'd vow to do it differently the following week. And, sometimes I did. But usually I'd start the artwork on Monday or Tuesday, finish it up by Wednesday, and then copy and paste the interview into a blog post and work on editing and formatting it (not my strong suit) way past my bedtime on Thursday night. I'd schedule it to publish early Friday morning and then fall asleep.
I used to write an intro for each interview, but that started causing me so much anxiety that I had to nix that from the program around the middle of last year. I started to cut myself some slack and had to remind myself that I was the one who had made up this assignment, so I could change the rules surrounding it if I wanted to. Slowly, over time, I reminded myself that this mindset could also be applied to my sobriety and recovery and by committing to this weekly practice, I could see the correlations between this project and my life. Sometimes I would need to pause or remind myself to keep it simple. Choose grace over drama. Enjoy the ride.
I know that when I'm prepared and have a loose plan, I seem to be able to handle what life throws my way. And when I don't wait until the last minute, my anxiety subsides. This project reminded me every single week to slow my roll and try to be better prepared.
Doing the actual work helped to ease my feelings of anxiety and my brain slowed way down. I looked at the project as an act of service and I worked on removing my ego from the whole she-bang. I was just a channel for these women to tell their truths. My blog posts were a vessel that carried their stories to a larger audience so that they could be accurately seen and heard. I was there to spell-check and add links to resources, not change or shift their narratives. I merely used my tiny space on the internet to let them SHINE.
I think the biggest takeaway from this Ray of Light Interview Series was the fact that I got to keep my word to myself every single week and that turned out to be the medicine I needed at this phase of my recovery from alcohol.
I used to be the kind of woman that added -ish to a lot of her promises. I'll be there around 5-ish. How about I shoot for Monday-ish to complete that thing I promised you? Or, the dreaded admission that I'm (gasp!) 40-ish. Such a bunch of bullshit, really. Adding -ish to my words turned out to be the verbal cue that what I actually meant was I most definitely was NOT going to do the thing I was kinda-sorta saying. I would NOT be there at 5 pm (probably not anywhere close). I would NOT complete the thing on Monday (probably more like Wednesday or Thursday). And, I'm 47, NOT 40. And thank God for that.
Yes, keeping my word on a weekly basis pushed me to look at myself differently and shift the story of who I really was vs. who I really am. Did I want to be the -ish person? Did I want people to question my intentions? Did I want to make people second-guess that they could trust me? Did I want people to think of my as the woman who couldn't keep her word? Did I want to be known as the flake?
No, because now I wanted to be the woman who told the truth and her word meant something. This project wasn't for gold stars (although I am a big fan of those). It was for me to show up for others and expect nothing in return. Sure, people might like the posts or share them on social media but it wasn't about me, it was about the women and their stories. The art was a small way for me to say, Hey, I see you and you're really beautiful - inside and out. I'm so glad you chose YOU and removed alcohol from your life. Look how radiant you are! Look how you're shining bright in your recovery! Look at how you're vibrating at a higher frequency now that you've removed that one thing that was dulling your light! Look at the life you're living! Look at you right NOW.
I knew that by choosing to see and hear these women that I was also giving myself permission to be seen and heard. It was through the act of hitting publish every Friday morning that I was quietly saying to the universe - Here I am. See me. Hear me. Love me. It was through their bravery that I got to slowly inch myself towards being brave, too. It was through their honesty that I got to practice telling my own truths. It was through the beauty that they had created in their lives that I could start seeing the beauty in my own.
After 52 weeks of sharing other people's stories, I could finally see my own in a way I hadn't before. By doing this year-long project, I could settle into the work that needed to be done next on my end. I could dismantle the old stories that had been running the show for most of my life. I could shrug off the girl that was all about the -ish and start blazing my own trail and believing in myself and become the woman who showed up on time, delivered what she promised and liked who she saw staring back at her in the mirror every morning.
Somewhere along the way last year, I started calling myself an artist. This series proved to me that I have what it takes to consistently create work that is meaningful and unique. Finally becoming the person I've always wanted to be was happening to me in real time and I could feel my own transformation through the simple act of making art and sharing it with others.
This body of work turned out to be the biggest gift I gave myself in 2017. These women helped me to see that I am not alone. I am part of something bigger than myself and I deserve to be happy and fulfilled in my creative pursuits and in my life.
Saying goodbye to these ladies was bittersweet. As I packaged up each piece, I thought about all of the connections and relationships I formed through this series of work. All of the friendships that have been born, too. Each woman has left an indelible mark on my life and I will NEVER forget the year I spent with them.
When I look back on 2017 and remember the hardships I faced, I will also remember the support and encouragement that I received from these women. And whether they knew it or not, they helped save me and keep my hands and mind busy when things got rough.
I'm grateful I gave myself the nudge to create this Ray of Light Interview Series and that the byproduct of my self-imposed assignment was a feeling of contentment and pride. This was soul-work that I didn't even know I needed until I did it. Thank you to each and every woman who participated. Your stories and your strength carried me during a year that would have previously drove me to drink, but not this year. No, this year I channeled all of my emotions and creative energy into each and every one of you and ended the year with my head held high.
You, my little rays of light, made all the difference.