Thinking about my future

I stepped in for a sick fellow face painter on Sunday, and rushed off to a 4 hour market on very little notice. It was fantastic, I felt so proud of myself for pulling it off, and the extra money will make a huge difference to my week considering the bills due such as RAA cover. It’s also been a big boost to my confidence. I was very happy with my work, no one walked away from my table with a dodgy design, and I’m getting more confident about interacting with groups of kids while keeping on painting.

I’m stressed and bored at the moment so I’ve played about with the colours of this blog. It’s considerably easier than moving the furniture around in my flat, although I’m contemplating that too. You’re welcome. Edit: this refers to my original blog hosted on blogger.

I have to make a number of tough calls about where I spend my time and energy shortly. I’ve been working on a number of major projects:

  1. Becoming a Professional Artist – I’m studying the bachelor degree, I work on my own art when I have time, and I have a small studio set up at home. I’d like to be creating more work and I have plans for small publications of art books and poems. I’d also like to write a fiction novel.
  2. Mental Health Consultant – I’ve been working as a peer worker for a couple of years, building my skills and resume in this field. I’d like to be talking at the major mental health conferences, to create a website specifically dedicated to this area of my life, and to be gaining more employment. I’ve done a peer work cert 4 last year. Sometimes my work is paid, most often it is voluntary.
  3. The Dissociative Initiative Inc. – I’m chair of the inaugural board and the primary person driving the DI. I’d like to get to conferences to raise awareness about dissociation and multiplicity, to create resources across Australia, to raise funds to support a volunteer network, and to create access to quality and informed supports for people in need. I’ve been working on this for a couple of years, creating the website, supporting groups, one to one work and many talks. I’d like to write a book about managing dissociation. Almost none of my DI work is paid.
  4. People Painting – I’ve been building a small home business painting people at parties and markets. I’m currently studying a microbusiness cert 3, and I’ve been increasing my skills and knowledge of face painting and of running a small business. Some of my work has been voluntary for fundraisers or friends, but increasingly the gigs are paid.

I’ve reached the point where all of these areas are making progress and I cannot keep them all going any more. There’s too many plates in the air! I’m having to chose between face painting gigs and mental health conferences, between study that will open further doors – such as the TAA course currently – but only briefly – available almost free under the skills for all program, and the time to do more markets. The DI has been a huge labour of love but it not only does not bring in an income, I fund many of the resources from my pocket, which sometimes is a huge strain. I decided earlier this year to try and limit my volunteer work with the DI to 10 hours a week to give me more time to put into my studies and other projects.

To my delight, the People Painting business appears to actually be viable. I am trying to buy a second hand car to replace my totally run down ford laser, which will make sure I can keep appointments and get to gigs. I’ve been lugging about my gazebo to check it fits in the back of all prospective vehicles. It’s quite stressful as I have a very small budget to work with and run the risk of buying a car that has something important break down unexpectedly and strand me without a vehicle or access to my only form of income.

I cannot continue to be living on the edge of poverty long term. I need to buy new socks, to resole my boots and replace other shoes, I need a hose for my garden, a crate for my dog, pegs for my clothesline, food on the table, money to pay the doctor, the psychiatrist, the dermatologist, money for meds. My psychologist and I have been considering the possibility that the depressive periods I’ve been struggling with this year may be the result of struggling so much financially while also being too busy to ease the strain through things like cooking meals from scratch. I’m tired of living on toast and tinned soup and wearing socks with holes in them, and I need winter sheets for my bed.

So I’ve been trying to think about my future, my ideal life, my 5 year plan. What to aim for, what’s most important to me, what I can let go of. I want a child. I want not to raise a child in this kind of financial stress. I need to stay within the limits of my health. I’m not up for full time work. I’m not up for heavy lifting. I’m not up for working within a mental health system where keeping my job means being silent in the face of abuse or neglect of vulnerable people. There also needs to be poetry and stars in my life or I get sick.

I need more time. I need more time to cook and clean and walk Zoe and have dinner with friends. I also need more income, not just to be building something that one day, far off, will possibly pull together into a viable and wonderful career, but here and now, to pay this bill, to buy milk, to pay for Zoe’s training.

Yesterday I was looking at what it would mean to me to stop driving the DI, and to step back from my plans for work in mental health. To stop going to conferences, giving talks, maintaining resources, investing time. Can I do it? What would I lose? What would it mean to other people? I want to change the world. But I also want my own life. Then I went to Tafe and gave a talk about mental health and what it means to have a trauma origin mental illness, and what I’ve found helpful and what’s made it harder for me, what recovery means to me, what it’s like to live as someone with DID. And they listened patiently and thanked me, and I saw that small movement towards understanding mental health and human suffering differently, that shift towards understanding multiples are just human, a bit odd perhaps, but not freaks. I want this, I want to be part of this.

But I can’t do it all. I can’t write a blog and a book. I can’t do the TAA course and publish my poems. I can’t go to a conference on mental health and one on body painting. I don’t know how I’m going to work this out yet. I know that mental health work ignites a passion in me, that I find it deeply meaningful and significant work, but also exhausting and stressful. I love being able to connect my work as an artist with my aims and efforts in mental health through the artworks in my talks and poems on my blog. I know that the face painting is paying now as I’m building it, that it’s a business I control and manage and that it’s wonderful work. Watching kids light up and bounce about because I’ve added a bit of magic to their day is truly rewarding. It does tend to shatter my back and drastically increases my levels of physical pain. It’s also scary because I’m in it by myself and there’s no back up if I’m too sick to work a gig. I’ve always had in my mind that working as an artist and being a Mum were incompatible life choices. I might, if I’m lucky, get one, but never both. Maybe I’m wrong. My psychologist warns me that if I don’t make time for the things that nurture me spiritually and emotionally, for poems and expressive art and time under the stars, I will work very hard and long to build a life and then crash. There’s little of those things in my life lately, small pockets of them but not enough. All the grand plans mean little if I fall apart.

Hard choices! How wonderful it is to have options. I wish there was a clear path. I think I have to prioritize the People Painting at least to some extent. I hope I can work this out and pull it off.

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