Saturday, January 24, 2015

Imagineering my Life

"This liberty wind in my face, and I’m giggling again for no reason."

Is it possible to be too happy?

I know it must be annoying to other people. I know this because when I wasn't as happy as I am now, it irritated the crap out of me when other people were overly jolly.

A lot of friends, in my life and those who I only know online, have had tough years, challenging years, sad years.

So I wonder, when I'm posting lots of silly, joyful photos, from the Hawaiian Islands, or from Disney World, if I am just a little too happy. I wonder if I am putting it out there too much, showing off, and I wonder if I should stop letting it spill out quite so much.

So many things are just going right in my life. And I want to celebrate it. It hasn't always been that way, I had hard years, sad years, challenging years too. Yet in the bigger picture, looking at the things that really matter, I've lead a charmed life. My parents both lived long lives, my children are healthy and I've always had abundance. My neurotransmitters have been my worst enemies and, even in my darkest nights, I've always been grateful that it wasn't something worse.

Sure, I feel like I was an underachiever, that I had the brains and talent to have had a more interesting career, but I lacked self-confidence. I played it safe and stuck with the devil I knew and mined a lot of salt, but it paid the bills and sent my kids to college and allowed me to accrue a respectable retirement nest egg, which I'm continuing to try to grow.

Yes, I married (the first time) on the rebound, from years of dating disappointments, overlooking the red flags and then paying for it for so many years, because I thought I didn't deserve better, because I felt trapped and guilty and terrified of a sea change.

And now I have this amazing life and I sometimes wonder if I'm actually dreaming it. Could I have invented this whole fantasy life, could I have, as they say at Disney, imagineered an entire dream world? Am I heavily sedated in some asylum somewhere and is everything I think is real merely a figment of my own creation?

OK, maybe that is a little far-fetched, as I probably wouldn't have this slow-healing cut on my hand. Or a husband who works so hard and such long hours that I daren't ask him to help me set up my new computer. And I'd probably have spared my daughter the agony of having her husband of five years walk out on her in the cruelest possible way. And conjured up a heated, air-conditioned glass studio instead of a crowded space in our garage.

Nothing's perfect. But for me today it's more than good enough. Much more.

I've been working very hard, making beads, getting ready for an online trunk show, listing beads for sale compulsively on Facebook. I'm not sure why I drive myself so hard. I could give it up, all the endless work that goes with making art your living as well as your life. I'd suddenly have a lot more time. I could read more, write more, keep my house tidier, relax more, smell the roses more.

But I'm no gardener. I don't even know how to relax, really. Television doesn't interest me and eventually I'd run out of movies and mini-series to watch online. Plus I love melting glass. I love making beads. I love the validation when someone likes my beads enough to buy them and even better, when someone writes to tell me my beads are even more beautiful in person. I like the friends I've made in the glass community, the camaraderie with my fellow bead makers (and addicts), the knowledge that I'm doing something special, something not just everyone can do.

Speaking of addiction, I've stopped buying nearly as many beads as I had been. My collection is bulging at the figurative seams. I binged a bit right at the end of the year and resisted for a full week in January, and since then I've bought less than six beads or bead sets. Each of the five was almost accidental - I placed a bid that I though had no chance of winning and was surprised to find myself the winner.

I've given a lot of thought to addiction lately. I used to think addiction was a smokescreen for not feeling our feelings. Emotional needs not getting met that we are trying to fill with "things." But I love my life, I am happy and grateful and I don't know what gap I would be trying to fill. I do know that my parents, my mom especially, were no-nonsense types who rarely bought anything they didn't need. They had nice things but a reasonable number. I have gone to the other extreme - excess and self-indulgence.

Here's a secret. When I moved in 2007, I packed up a house I'd live in for 19 years. I got rid of boatloads of stuff (some I wish I still had). Some I put out on the curb and people carried it off. But all the "collectibles" were carefully wrapped in tissue and packed in boxes. There they are still, stacked in spare room closets. When we moved into our new house I just bought new stuff. I'm a ridiculous person.

I don't just have 1/4 lb. of a glass color. If I get below 2 lbs. of my go-to colors (opal yellow, silver pink, copper green, red copper green, uranium pastel, etc. I have anxiety. I probably have 10 different kinds of clear, about 15-20 lbs. total. Plus I switch between 104, 96 and Bullseye, and I had to have some Boro on hand in case that bug bites.

But somehow, I don't feel guilty about glass buying. Some of the glass I bought early on is out of production and has gone up in value. I usually only sell it if someone is desperately seeking some, but on the whole my glass is worth more than I paid - I just don't think about the hassle of packaging and shipping it.

Still, you know you are in trouble when you find out you didn't win a bead you thought you had the high bid on, and you feel relieved. Selling beads on FB means I am constantly going through the photos to monitor my listings and then I see something beautiful and have to click on it. I have an awesome collection, but lately when the mail comes I don't even want to open the packages. Because I'm out of space to put things away. I don't know why most other bead makers are not bidding and buying but I keep doing it. I love making beads. I don't want this to kill my joy.

Bead buyers justify buying beads by thinking, I can make xyz pairs of earrings from that set and make my money back and a profit. I'm learning that it's not so easy to sell jewelry. I listed a necklace for pretty much the price I'd have sold the beads for and got no bids. Not to mention that as much as I like the idea of making jewelry and like it when I actually do it, I almost never really feel like doing it.

I don't think most lampworkers are addicted to buying beads. I know my limits as a beadmaker. If I think I can make it I usually won't buy it. That's my rule anyway. But there is such talent out there and I know how hard some of the techniques are.

I also have a HUGE collection of beads I have traded for or gotten in bead exchanges. Literally hundreds. I have participated in earring exchanges and most are still in the bags or boxes they came in. (I'm always open to trades.) I've also donated at least one thousand beads to Beads of Courage.

As usual I feel conflicted. I feel like I should be saying "buy more beads" since I make and sell them. I worry about being an "enabler" but I have talked to some of my "fellow addicts" one-on-one and the consensus is that people are adults and responsible for their own decisions. At least I try to keep my prices fair. I see beads sell for both too little and too much every day.

Today I saw a set of 14 perfectly pretty pink beads sell for a buy-it-now price of $11. For the first time ever, I commented on it. I said that it made me want to cry. It did. Thought not for the usual given reason that it devalues the art of the beadmaking community as a whole. I don't think my pieces will sell for less or less well as a result. I just felt sad for the person who put in the time behind the torch and thought so little of her time and talent as to ask so little for her art.

But I can't take on all the problems of the bead world and carry them personally. I have to resist my nature, which is to carry other people's pain. I have to refer back to what my mom used to say - "I don't try to live other people's lives, I have enough trouble living my own."

Although frankly, living my own life lately has been anything but trouble.

"I am driving in my car up Highway 1
I left LA without telling anyone
There were people who needed something from me
But I am sure they’ll get along fine on their own

Oh this state of ecstasy
Nothing but road could ever give to me
This liberty wind in my face
And I’m giggling again for no reason

I am dancing with my friends in elation
We've taken adventures to new levels of fun
I can feel the bones are smiling in my body
I can see the meltings of inhibition

I'm reeling jubilation
Triumphant in delight
I am at home in this high five
And I'm smiling for no reason

I am sitting at the set of Cali sun
We've gotten quiet for its last precious seconds
I can feel the salt of the sea on my skin
And we still hear the echoes of abandon

Oh this state of ecstasy
Nothing but road could ever give to me
This liberty wind in my face
And I'm giggling again for no reason."

((Alanis Morissette

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