Changing Seasons

I’ve opened my windows to the call of  birds who return this time every year. They are talking to each other and sound just as excited as I am for the change in season. I couldn’t name any of the birds I hear by their call, but I revel in the beautiful melody of their songs.  After living in New England for eleven years now, my body shifts with the waxing and waning of daylight. My ears have adjusted to the sounds that arrive and depart as the melting snow gives way to the fertile soil below, awakening from her slumber. Even the trees appear to stretch their branches from their yearly slumber. Small hints of pine indicate what we all know, Spring is on her way. 

I am a child of the south, a daughter of the Crescent City. When I was a little girl, in the rare event that it would snow, it was quite an event. Never enough to plow, let alone build a snowman and gone before the days end. But it always was a wonder. In New Orleans’ subtropical climate, we would get something like winter, but never what the Northeast has. Being a child who spent most of my time out in the thick of the humid New Orleans air, I never knew what it was to long for Spring.  It was always outside my front door awaiting me. But now that I live in New England,  I have had eleven years, forty-four seasons to take notice. To pine for warm air and count down the days until I can pack up our winter wears, open all the windows and let the first breezes of spring in. 

Copyright 2021. Gabrilla Ballard.

New month, New week, New Commitment

Today is the start of a new month and it’s a Monday. A good day to start something new. A good day to start a new practice, or to refresh a current practice you already have.

For the last two months, I have been writing every day. It’s a commitment I made to myself. No public announcement (until now). Daily writing practice is something I’ve wanted to return to ever since I took a month off of social media in the latter part of last year and wrote every day on my blog.

My current writing practice started small-fifteen minutes a day. If I chose or choose to write for longer, fine. If not, I met my commitment for that day. Eventually, my writing time increased to thirty minutes, sometimes more. And over the last two months, my writing practice has become something I enjoy and look forward to. That’s not to say that some days aren’t hard or sometimes I don’t know what to write about. Half the time, I think what I’m writing is not good. Then there are other days when I am in the flow. Fluid. In the pocket. But whether I feel lost or I feel like I know exactly where I’m going, I keep showing up. I don’t wait for inspiration. I only wait for my house to be quiet enough.

What I have discovered is that with commitment comes a deep satisfaction. It’s small at first, like the satisfaction you get from a small piece of candy. Then it grows. Because you work out the resistance with yourself. You don’t abandon yourself or your practice when things get hard. Because the good stuff is on the other side of that hard, seemingly unmovable resistance. And when you get there, to that other side and you do it over and over again, you develop unwavering faith in yourself.

My other commitment is to post here weekly. I think a few months ago I was a little over-ambitious in thinking I could post twice a week. Start small Gabe, I had to remind myself. That said, I hope you keep stopping by.

What are you looking forward to? What new practice are you working on? What current practice can you level up?

Have a great start to your week and month. Spring is on the way!

what I learned making art for 30 consecutive days

While I was on a social media break, I knew I needed to cultivate a better habit to replace the poor habit I had of picking up my phone every few seconds. I needed a practice that would redirect some of the energy and attention I gave to social media. So, for 30 days, I decided to complete a painting each day. 

Because of the fullness of my day, I knew I would need to start small. And that’s what I did.  I took a pad of 6 x 6 inch water color paper and began.  The first two weeks were primarily abstract paintings. Just to get warmed up and used to painting everyday. Eventually I began to draw more pieces which reflected the time I was spending in the woods. I explored more realistic pieces of my kids and me. I painted an owl. I experimented with watercolor and gouache. 

On some days I was very excited. On other days tired. On some days I was REALLY into it and would paint that small piece of paper for more than an hour. And on others days I didn’t feel like it. Didn’t matter. What mattered was that I showed up. 

After completing this month of daily painting, I got a glimpse into what can happen when I develop a good habit. It wasn’t the first time I’ve embarked such an experiment. A few years ago, I made a commitment to show up for my music everyday. What ended up happening in what became 127 consecutive days of music was incredible. I wrote more songs in those 127 days than I had in years. I taught myself how to play ukulele and I pulled myself out of a really dark period in my life. I eventually stopped that experiment because I had to move. Nothing to disturb habit formation than a stressful event. 

But back to the current experience. Once a few days after the my 30 days ended and I stopped making art, I quickly wished I had not just stopped at the end of the 30days. Instead of making 30 days the goal, I should have made 30 being the starting point, the warm up for bubbling a creative habit that could last years. Because I know that if I can go 30 days, I can keep going. I’ve done it before. Yes, there may be some days when I don’t do my best work, but the point of it all is to show up and create. Create anything.

I have resumed my daily writing practice, even if you don’t see it. But if you want to read what I post here, I’m sharing every Monday and Thursday. Beginning November 1, I will resume my daily small art practice and occasionally share some of the small art here as well. I intend to create other bigger work, but this is all about creating artistic habits that last as long as I do. Be well.

Post Social Media Fast Update

19 days ago, I ended my 30 day social media fast. Some of you may be wondering how I’m doing in my return to the land of social media. Some of the pros– I am happy to admit that overall I have been doing very well with maintaining balance with social media. I have been keeping my weekly schedule with instagram, and I have not been back on Facebook yet. Facebook wasn’t really fulfilling me much and so I haven’t been compelled to go back on. I have also been maintaining a daily exercise practice, which I started while on the social media detox. It is a combination of walking, running and strength training, which has had a beneficial impact on my sleep and my mood.

As for the cons, in full transparency, I feel like I have been overusing Youtube. Youtube was included in my social media fast even though I felt I had a pretty ok relationship it. But going a month + without social media gave me a lot of perspective. So, this weekend, after what I felt was a significant increase in usage, I wondered what happened. What was it that drove me to increase my YouTube consumption much more than the others platforms? And why is it making me uncomfortable?

Before I get into my insight, I’ll admit I like watching videos. I like watching my favorite self-development, DIY youtubers do their thing. It’s inspiring to me. But what I also realized is that I was also searching for some sort of gratification. As I mentioned in one of earlier posts, sometimes we search outside ourselves for gratification. This in and of itself isn’t horrible. But when we’re searching more for inspiration outside ourselves than within, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate. Which I did. And what I came to was that I was missing the gratification and motivation I got from the simple practice of writing and posting on my blog each day.

There was something powerful about knowing I had made a public commitment to write and post daily that made me show up. Eventually this practice became something I looked forward to and got a lot out of. But once I stopped my social media fast, I stopped the daily writing. I actually hadn’t written much since then and it affected my ability to resist the habit of overconsumption of media. By not committing to what had become a good habit, I fell back into bad ones. I also missed writing and posting here. So, with that being said, I will resume my writing daily practice and will post here on my blog twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays. I look forward to getting back into this practice which brought me immense joy and a sense of accomplishment.

I’m also planning to limit my YouTube consumption to the weekend. Check back this coming Thursday!

In the meantime, Be well.

Day 30: The end…& the beginning

Today marks day 30 of my 30-day social media detox.  And it has been wonderful. There have been so many gifts this time has brought into my life. I wrote and painted every day. I started hiking on a regular basis. I read almost two books. I painted 25 small watercolor paintings. I edited another episode of my podcast (out Friday). I started walking about 3 miles a day and I’ve been sleeping better than I have in a long time. 

Whenever I would tell someone I was doing a social media detox, they would always say, “I should do that!” And I highly recommend it for everyone. Serendipitously, on the 7th day of my detox, the documentary, “The Social Dilemma” came out, which made me more firm in my commitment. I HIGHLY recommend it. I also recommend the documentary “Screened out.” 

As I move forward, my plan is to remain off of FB for a while longer. Maybe indefinitely. Of all the social media platforms, it’s the one I prefer the least. I may even delete it all together. As for the others, I will post once a week (or download an app that can post for me). I won’t be hoping on right away thought. Now that I’m here, I feel I can go a few days more and frankly, I just don’t feel compelled to logon .

I don’t view social media as a bad thing.  But when something is affecting your emotional health in a negative way, it’s time to take the reins back and take sovereignty over your attention and your time. There’s no greater freedom than to choose what you focus your mind on. Be careful. Your mind is a precious thing. 

Be well and come back again soon. The fun is just starting.