Last Friday, I finally finished making my Christmas presents for this year. And it was about time because I was going crazy with the accumulated (self-imposed) pressure and the lack of actual fun.
Don’t get me wrong, painting is fun and I love it. And I did have fun making my presents. But I made five paintings in under three days. Never touched my guitar. Then went on spending my little free time of the week working on another one. (I’m not complaining at all, just laying out the facts so I can make my point.) I got very little sleep and ingested too much coffee. I did get a few breaks being with the kids the afternoons and spending my Sunday afternoon and evening with Esther making some cool memories! But it was so much work in such short time and I barely allowed myself any actual breaks… It was always on my mind anyways. I couldn’t think of something else since it was set in my brain as top priority. In the end, it squeezed a lot of life out of me although it was still fun to do.
Sure, Xmas isn’t a surprise and I should have gotten down to it wayyyy earlier than I did. And nobody forced me. Nobody but me. Except, it was not forced. Don’t put it like that please. I did put a lot of pressure on myself and forced myself to keep working at it even when I got really tired. But it was never a forced thing. More like an impulse, something I couldn’t help. My love bursting to get out on time for the occasion. I definitely should have been more prepared which would’ve avoided me a lot of unnecessary strain and pressure. But it was not forced. Just brutally natural.
I know I should have started working on them long ago so they wouldn’t have been rushed and messed up a bit(you’ll see what I’m talking about if you click here). But I’ve been very busy ever since I started as an au pair and managing my time and tasks hasn’t been super easy. Realizing that I was running out of time to make a thousand personalized paintings for each special love of my heart before the big day should’ve been enough to trigger the Reason in my brain and make me turn to a wiser choice (like an album photo like my host mom suggested or just buy a simple thing, a card, flowers, a thing), wouldn’t you think? But… The what you said? Reason? Meh. I actually honestly considered it for a bit because I was thinking how hard it would be to get everything done for everyone on time. But I can’t give up on shit. I just fucking can’t give anything up.
And so I sat down with five pages in my sketchbook ready to become ugly drafts of what would later become the love infused (maybe “stuffed” is a wiser word to use here) Christmas paintings and ascended down a slippery path coated with coffee-gone-cold and affection-turning-chore. I know I make it sound super dramatic but it was pretty intense. It’s easy to lose your way sometimes in the midst of brush&rush. I was so stressed out… My little outing with Esther helped release the tension a bit but it was not enough obviously. I was drowning in it.
Buying presents is rarely a thing I do. First of all because this girl has no money. And secondly because I never really find anything that matches my idea of what the person should receive from me that would both materialize our relationship and also bring a little something more into their life. On the rare occasions I will find a thing that will be perfect. Usually has to do with inside jokes tbh. But more often than not, it’ll be a battle lost.
When I make something, I’m sure it’ll have enough pieces of me in there for the person to feel obliged to like it. Just kidding. Ha! I think it just feels more special when it’s been made by you for the person you love. There’s a different warmth to it. And I think that’s important. Especially when I’m sending gifts to my family more than ten thousands kilometers away from me. It needs that warmth and those little sparks that feel like me in it so they can feel it and receive my love with an approximately 96% accurate translation. Handmade feels better to me.
And although I’m “super hard on myself” when it comes to what I make, if you make me something, it doesn’t matter how clumsy it is, how small or how rickety it looks to you, I will love it for what it is, your best effort and a condensation of your love translated through your stupid hands.
Let’s talk about that “too hard on yourself” bullshit now. Which is actually the main reason I started writing this post.
During my relentless rush to bringing my love to life on five canvases before Christmas, I got a few comments on the way I was doing the thing. I should take a break, shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself or simply should stop if it is so stressful. And it’s not the first time I hear it. And, no different than usual, I don’t wanna hear it!
I try my best to remain calm and polite when given those comments because usually, they come from people whom I love and are just trying to look out for me. I know they mean no harm and they’re just trying to save me from the hands of my over-demanding self and her too-high-for-this-life standards. But here’s the thing lads, you’re not helping and you’re wrong.
No, I should not take a break because you feel I’m too tired to work. No, I should not simply give up on my making presents for my family because that’s putting too much on my shoulders. No, I will not slow down because it’s my fourth coffee and it’s a beautiful day to go out and sniff out some flowers or whatever. No, I will not do things differently because it doesn’t match your vision of life and work and love and whatnot. No, I do not have to lower my standards or do anything just because you think I should.
My ways might not be perfect. They might even seem crazy compared to your ideas of what should be and how it should be. But they’re my ways and I don’t think I should have to change them so they fit yours. It doesn’t have to feel right, normal, okay, to you, for it to actually be it. Now, I know most of you are just doing what you think you should be doing, looking out for me or whatever. But, just don’t force your ideas onto people like that. Because it is kinda rude and mostly annoying, especially when I’m in the middle of losing my mind over all that makes me and that I’m making. I could snap, I swear. There’s a fine line between a caring advice and an invasive unsolicited opinion. Just shush, please.
One thing I feel can’t be dissociated with a life filled with love are sacrifices. Whether they be about the tiniest little things like sharing the last cookie in the jar or much bigger ones, they’re part of the deal. There’s a part of selfishness in love but there’s also a part of selflessness in there, and hopefully, a bigger one. I do sacrifice a lot, which I usually realize later because it doesn’t matter when I give it. I give it all. It’s free. Take it. I love you, I give, take all you can, I keep giving on.
Making these paintings took hours from me; hours that could’ve been spent sleeping, playing the guitar, eating chocolate, going for walks, etc. It took precious time but I wouldn’t want it back. I had to give it all I could in such short time, especially since it was for my family so far away from me, whom I might not see before long… I had to compress as much love as I could between the layers of paint, infuse it with parts of me so that they feel my love once they get it. But even to my Irish family and friends that I have barely met I gave my precious time to leave my heart’s footprints in a last minute handmade gift. I just do it like that.
I’m not saying that those that do it differently love less or badly, not at all, just differently. That is my way of loving and I know it’s not the universal way to love, I’ve been around long enough to know now that everybody has their own scales and standards. And things hardly ever mean the same to anyone, even when they do. We might both feel intensely about something, but even then, the intensity might vary because we are different even in being the same. I’m not saying you’re doing it wrong because you’re not doing it like me. We’re not the same, I accept that; I accept the fact that our truths are not the same although we’re all believers. So stop telling me I’m doing it wrong. Stop telling me my love is too crazy because there’s no such thing. Let my fire burn bright and focus on yours!
For me love is all about that. Dedication. Sharing. Caring. Selfless when you can but still charged with your pieces. You gotta be invested. You can’t love part time. You can’t love half-price. All or nothing. ❤