Part 2: Last year was a marathon for me!
I have been on some difficult roads before, so I thought it wouldn't be pretty, but I would just keep on keeping on'.
Last year had a whole other situation that would become reality then what I had envisioned.
Most of the time I am a pretty stereotypical fiery Aries. I get my ram's horns on and hit my stubborn head on some stuff. Last year went completely sideways from what I was expecting. A perfect storm of weird events turned the stress knob to maximum capacity. Through not-so-great landlords and a real estate market gone wild, I have had to move my shop 4 times in the last 5 years. Moving is so disruptive for me. I have memory by association so every move is like wiping all connected memory away. Setting up in a new space takes a hot minute. A hot minute to make these new connections of place between thousands of tiny shiny things and tools and parts. It can be incredibly frustrating. I feel like a fool looking for things that used to exist in places that don't exist anymore. Inherently, within the moving process things get broken. Or bent, or lost. One of my massive crystals was accidentally dropped, split and broken during this last move, I took that fracture really hard.
Moving the shop last year was a necessity, but this last move was the hardest it has ever been to set back up. My normal roaring flame was a dark ember. I have dealt with anxiety and insomnia for my entire adult life. I know that stress can affect me in very physical ways, from anxiety attacks, to stress rashes. I was feeling like I was experienced with this mode of existence, but life had a new one for me to deal with.
I went radio silent in the fall of last year. To everyone who reached out, it meant more than you know. To anyone who didn't get an emailed or chat replay, I am sorry. I didn't know what to say.
I have an essential tremor. You can follow that link if you want to see part of what was going on. If you keep volume on, the fume extractor is a prominent audible presence. Might want to mute! The end result is the same.
For the last couple years it has been inconsistent, not too severe and overall — the tremor had been an ignorable thing. This last fall, with an intense onset, the tremor went to work. Both hands. With more intensity and frequency to the point where I could not work anymore. I couldn't place solder. I couldn't correct fusing moments because my hand would unexpectedly jump and I would be at risk of destroying the whole piece. I couldn't hold a camera still enough to take non-blurry photos.
For the first couple weeks, I waded deep in the waters of denial. Just ignore it and it will go away! Some of you eagle eyes noticed that I started bringing back hand wrapping pieces and making those dream makers. The tremor essentially (ha!) took the fine out of my motor skills. The hand wrapping pieces allows for bigger movements, the dream makers don't require as much petite finesse as my regular work does. I was setting up stabilizing guides, wrapping compression bandages for stabilization and learning how to use a tripod for photos instead of free-handing it. Whatever the answer, I had to make something.
But then the weeks turned into months. There were some dark days filled with panic and dread. I have gone all in on making jewelry; I love it, it makes me happy, it helps me figure out life's riddles. Beyond my job and livelihood, it is part of my identity. On those past other difficult roads, my hands were steady. They were the keystone to making the dream of flying free a reality. Are they broken now?
I did get really lucky to have a good psychiatrist that I have a history with and who was ready to help figure out a solution. "Fixing" essential tremors is a moving target. Its cause could be a few different things, and then maybe it's a combo of those few things. We started working on different solutions, but finding that solution that worked for me was taking its sweet time.
The anxiety during this period was a sight to see. Do I tell people about this?! I don't have any answers! I didn't know if my next email was going to be; 'Hello, my hands are broken, I don't make jewelry anymore.'
This is not the email I want to send! But the reality was settling in. What else was I going to do? Life is moving on.
Lots and lots of introspection time happened. I did not want to leave jewelry. All of these small stories I wanted to tell in the different stones would be no more. How was I going to tell those stories now? Reality has a lovely, harsh way of letting you know its presence so a decision was needed sooner than later. Christmas was coming, do I act like everything is simpatico or start laying track for a new road? Bills have to be paid somehow.
Luckily, the doc and I had started on a medication that seemed to be working. At least making the severity less. I wasn't back to my normal, but I was able to make the way I wanted to, again, on some days.
Anxiety has a way of making something hopeful, possibly, most definitely, not hopeful. I still didn't know what to say at this time.
Then the Christmas crazy calmed down and the doldrums of the winter months set in. I felt small and frozen. The deep ember was real. But in the first months of this year, I felt like I was able to address the stress in a different way. Making things in the shop a bit slower, frustrating, unsatisfied, but also having time to chop wood. Taking the dogs for an outing wasn't 'a non-essential use of time'. This created a huge swing in my normal thinking. All thanks to the rather depressing idea that 'it is what it is. Hands aren't working today, they definitely might not work tomorrow'. This thinking is not my normally fiery nature.
I guess nature will out. Those stone stack cairn necklaces gave me a boost. They were more difficult than ever to make, but they were the most solid. Creating the irregular tension settings was a victory for the new normal of my hands.
After all these months, the answer is, I'm not done with jewelry, tremor or no. I'm here for the next problem, and the next disaster and whatever comes after that. When I was thinking that jewelry was possibly done for, I examined my regrets. I make many things that are slightly off the beaten path, but what about those ones that are on no path? I always told myself becoming a working jeweler was my shot at getting the practice I needed so that when my 'most proud opus' happened, I would have the skills to actually make the vision. The opus has not been made. The lead ups of pushing the vision have not been made. There is more work to do.
Getting these realizations out does help me. For a time there I felt very clingy. 'Look at these pieces that were made when my hands still worked good.' This is a rubbish way to think about things but I indulged myself. When I wrote it out, I felt some annoyance at myself because I wanted to hop over to the bench and show this unknown critic the new beauties that my hands are creating on an albeit, slower pace, but a different lens than before.
This is getting older. This is letting more of the entirety in. Let's do it. Happy entering the world day.
My favorite experience after all of these years of making is your responses. It is very beautiful to meet another person at a lone connection point in an ocean of different personal experiences. These stories you give me, they have kept me going.
Not quite in the gospel of capitalism, I want these connections more than I want the highest price point. If you have made it reading this far, thank you. A promise made to (for now) strangers, I want to make some things clear.
My way in this world has been chaotic. Pulling everything that has happened into one feel good story isn’t going to happen. But working with my hands to work out some of the kinks of the crazy I have come through is the best shot I have of making a life that feels good to exist in.
I am definitely familiar with making mistakes. I am also familiar to making changes for the better. This includes admitting fault, or trying to figure out a solution to unique problems. I will do everything I can to work on solutions then focusing on faults. Starting with trying some *very* alternative cures for this damn tremor.
This is more of a sharing than I have ever done. I know some of you understand the struggle. Last year when I asked for stories, some of the responses were the most beautiful photos accompanied by the request to not have them posted on social media. I understand this on many levels, especially now. I’m sharing this weird couple months with whomever has read this far. Tomorrow I am probably going to distance myself from this reality and post something more encouraging and lively on the social medias.
I have heard enough of your stories to know that you are also sharing your energy back at me. I think this means I should spread my wings a bit further. Let the warm air blown in a massive front to fill the space that I wasn’t willing to open up by admitting my hands were on a substitution break. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We are in this together. And the reaction will be a thing to see.
What a lovely reflection: seeing more; the facets of ourselves included. Growing is essential to where I want to be. In certain ways, I have been reluctant to engage with the destructive nature of change. Seems like I should take to heart a few of my own soap-box recommendations. Yoooooooooooo!
Showing you the vision of what I can now see is much more better than hanging on to old inventory.
See you on that wide, wild and ever changing road. Very excited for those stories.
Thanks for letting me share. Thanks for listening. I’m not quite at the point of putting madam tremor on the socials. I’m trusting if you are reading this post, you get my conflict.
I’m happy to meet you here. I’m happy to be here. The future is looking cloudy. It could be nuts.
Don’t forget to hydrate. I'm doing okay on that front! See you on the wild side.
All the best,