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Breast Cancer, Life & Parenting

Two Years & A Creative Life

It’s been two years since I ended treatment and had surgery. Holy no-boobs-batman. Two freaking years. Sometimes I feel like I’ve felt every single second of those two years and other days it’s hard to believe two years have gone by so fast. These two years have been full of more growth and change than Jason nor I thought possible. We have learned how to (mostly) put our fears out of the way and embrace life. Doesn’t mean that life is easy, but we are finally comfortable in our own skins and not taking any more shit.

My 2 year checkup with my oncologist went great. All looks good, minus this on-going cough. Which thanks to a chest x-ray, we know is nothing cancer related but something else to figure out.

So all of this has me thinking. Like doing a lot of thinking. Thinking about this perspective we have on life now. Thinking about if I’m applying it the best that I can. Just thinking. And part of my motto is – get busy doing. So all of that thinking needed to also get applied.

Part of this journey is embracing who we are. No more, no less. Just honestly who we are and what we love. And life got crazy-busy for a bit. Like not enough sleep, working all hours of the night, crazy busy. And it was too much. I was burning the candle at both ends. Eventually that gets to you and you start to burn out.

This little greeting card business I started, was really starting to grow. For someone who has always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur, starting and growing a small business is an absolute dream come true. But running a business is a whole helluva lot of work. Anyone that has started any type of business knows this all too well. Even with a small business, the time commitment can be tremendously overwhelming – especially when you are juggling kids, homeschooling and other commitments. So, I shut it all down for a few weeks and took a step back to look at the bigger picture (note to self: always do this when feeling overwhelmed, or on any given Tuesday).

I painted with watercolors for an entire day (painting always helps me unwind and think – more art in schools, people!) and I felt like I could breathe again. All of the things I had been so hurried to do, I realized that they really didn’t have to get done right that second. Nor this week or this month. The kids and I spent more time together in the evenings, truly connecting with one another. We homeschool our kids, so we spend A LOT of time together. But it is that time connecting with each other that is the most important.

I also fell back in love with photography over the past few months. I guess I never really fell out of love with it, we just don’t have enough time for each other sometimes. And that’s okay. We’re like old friends; whenever we have time and can catch up, it’s like no time has passed. We can laugh and talk just like we use to. (Figuratively speaking, I don’t really talk to my camera or Photoshop. No, wait, that’s a lie. I talk to both. Probably waayyy more than I should…). The point is, it is something I absolutely love and has always been a big part of my life, I just haven’t really shared it that much. Mostly because I am totally surrounded by phenomenal photographers and maybe never believed in my own ability as a photographer. But what I’ve realized is that I don’t need to compare myself to them, just need to be true to what I love. Which, for me in photography, has always been nature and landscapes. It’s where I feel at home – from behind the camera, throughout the editing process.

In addition to my love of photography, is a total love of design. From college and design classes that I loved, throughout my pre-kid career where I was a graphic and web designer in the corporate world. Designing everything from simple graphics to logos and giant banners, writing and designing help systems, staying up all night designing websites and designing UI for cloud-based web applications (before “cloud” was cool). All the time designing what others asked for. But I loved it (well, most of it) and I learned so much from all of the amazingly talented Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver and programming gurus I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by. All the while, craving to design and photograph what I loved, instead of what the corporate world or clients needed (who were usually in huge hurry, which meant super tight deadlines – aka: lots of all-nighters). Because, you know, bills to pay… And here or there, on the side, I would make cute and funny cards for family and friends or to donate for charity auctions. Mostly using old photographs gathered from family. And I found that really enjoyed that creative process. Lindsi (bestie from way back) would always ask me when was I going to start my own greeting card line. Like I’m pretty sure she’s been asking me that for the last 15 years. (Little slow on the upswing there Linds, but look – finally there… :)

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. In my case it was cancer and fear and overcoming fear. But in that curve ball, sometimes your life changes trajectory. You see a different path. A path not determined by others. A path that you have always been afraid to take.

But even on that path, you have to know that there can be more curve balls. And the ability to go with that flow and see that change of path. And quite possibly embrace the change of path, which helps you to grow as a person.

We work on finding balance in our lives, which isn’t always easy to do. Quite often, it is incredibly difficult to do. But that short step back from things gave me the perspective I really needed. I was able to step away from the business to see where and how I needed to scale back on a few things, how we needed to modify it to fit our lives. How to make it not quite so all consuming. How much I really do love it and this homeschooling path we have decided to take. And also, how to take a freaking break from it all when needed.

You wish you could see the perspective before you find yourself in the middle of burnout, but that isn’t always easy to do either. So the important thing is that you recognize it and pause long enough to step back to see the bigger picture. Doing that means letting go of your fears of things being different. Or just directly facing those fears.

I love my little business. I love every single aspect of designing, production, marketing and customers. It’s the perfect culmination of my professional career and great loves in my life. I’ve never thought I was the best designer in the world. I simply love designing. The process of it all. Thinking of ideas. Sketching/painting/drawing them out on paper. The writing process itself (because my ideas are usually super word-y and it takes lots of iterations to make less word-y. But all of you that know me, know I’m a little “word-y” anyway… So, that’s probably the least shocking thing ever.) Then bringing those ideas to my computer. Colors and fonts and sketches and more tablet drawing. Making print after print. Until finally, it’s done. Some things flow fast. Other things take significantly more time. Some ideas are still sitting right here on my computer and sheets of paper around my desk, because I simply cannot figure out how it needs to be pulled together. And I’ll get there, or not. And either way, it’s okay – not rushing it anymore.

So here I sit, perspective in place, business revamped, slightly scaled back, boundaries set, fully embracing this creative life I love. Owning my skillsets for what they are and absolutely loving what I design and photograph. All the while Jason and I focus on the kids, homeschooling and growing this business in a way that fits our lives and reduces stress. And continuing to maintain our perspective on life, the best that we can, and continually letting go of and facing any fears that come our way.

Exhaling (yet again) and sending you all so much love,
Shannon

Many thanks to Dominique Attaway Photography for this fun photo!

 

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