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I am so fortunate & grateful to have been interviewed by, my friend, the multi-talented Ya’cub Shabazz of Sankofa Studios for giving me an opportunity to share my story on his inspirational podcast.
I hope you will learn a bit more about my experience during benzodiazepine withdrawal as well as my artistic process — and then click over to check out Ya’cub’s website, his podcast series, & his educational series.
Before I write another word, I want to say thank you.
I could not have made it thru this year without the support from my family, friends, and devoted clients. Without festivals in 2020, it was especially challenging to do business. Nearly all of my sales were to repeat customers — and that truly means the world to me. Thank you for thinking of me this year, for thinking of small businesses, for shopping local. I am truly grateful to each & every one of you. I am wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas & a Happy Healthy New Year.
• • •
LOOKING BACK AT 2020
This past year has been very difficult for everyone. Personally, I’ve felt off-center for most of 2020. Ideologically, I’ve vacillated between thinking humans need to fight this pandemic with everything we’ve got and believing that the planet is sick and tired of us and doing its best to purge itself of us. (I still lean toward the latter.) As a person who was profoundly injured by a pharmaceutical product that was (up until recently) generally considered “safe,” I am ambivalent about this vaccine that has been developed in WarpSpeed. I’ve watched our government unravel under a deeply flawed leader, and I have ached with the realization that 50% of our country embraces his racist vitriol. I’ve leaned into terribly uncomfortable situations and tried to hold oppositional worldviews in the same headspace.
Sometimes I’ve done this well; other times, I’ve failed miserably.
I HAD PLANS, Y’ALL.
At the end of 2019, I was feeling confident & optimistic & planned to acquire new gallery space, participate in more festivals/shows, to network with more people professionally and socially, maybe even allow myself to date again.
I THOUGHT 2020 WAS GOING TO BRING CLARITY.
Unfortunately, the pandemic did not allow me to achieve many of the goals that I set for myself at the end of December last year.
However, I pivoted quickly & created new intellectual & professional challenges for myself.
SO WHAT DID I DO?
Like everyone else, I took my life online.
I TOOK MY MEMOIR WRITING CLASSES ONLINE.
I bought a monthly membership to ZOOM. Being able to continue with the women in my Intro Memoir Writing & my Advanced Memoir Writing Classes provided me with some sense of normalcy. Tuesdays & Thursdays became anchor days, and I looked forward to checking in with everyone, hearing about how everyone was handling the big (and not always pleasant) changes in their lives.
I TOOK MY ART CLASSES ONLINE.
After two failed attempts, I created a functional overhead camera setup and I started teaching art classes online, too.
When I ran out of acrylic paint in early April, I started playing with watercolors, showing up every day for nearly three months to paint LIVE on Facebook. As it turned out, a bunch of people joined me to paint in real time every day — and LOTS of people tuned into to watch at their leisure because they found watching me paint relaxing and entertaining. I ran monthly contests, sending free prints to people who created art that moved me the most.
I rounded out 2020 teaching two individual art classes each day & offering group classes once a month. I learned how to create successful Facebook Events, and I plan to do more of this in 2021.
This year, in addition to selling my work via my website, I started selling my work LIVE via Facebook and ZOOM. Much gratitude there to my friend Tricia Campbell for helping me to facilitate a successful holiday season. I was surprised by how much actually sold, especially before Black Friday. I will definitely do more of this in 2021, for Valentine’s Day…and I have a super cool, very fun idea percolating! More on that in 2021.
I PLUGGED IN TO COMMUNITY.
Once I figured out that things were going to be okay for me financially, I worked on creating some kind of social life for myself.
In April 2020, when we were all locked down, I set up a Facebook Group for people from my high school. We had several meetings where a bunch of us checked in & caught up. My friend Kim Colby Luber and I co-hosted an interactive game for members of my high school graduating class of 1985 to play together; we played a few other games, and then a few other members from the class took over, which I appreciated. The group is still there, and I know that if necessary, it wouldn’t take much to resurrect activity there.
I feebly attended a few online exercise groups and checked in with a local divorce group via ZOOM even less frequently. After spending five hours a day teaching online, it didn’t feel great to sit in front of a screen for very long, but I did my best.
I TOOK CARE OF MY PHYSICAL HEALTH
I ate well.
I slept well.
And I scheduled that stupid knee surgery that I’d been postponing. At six weeks out, I’m walking two miles a day before it starts to ache a bit. Hopefully, it’ll be even better in another two months.
I TOOK CARE OF MY MENTAL HEALTH
In the ideal world, I process challenging things by sitting close to someone, talking things out face-to-face, and hugging it out. COVID has forced me to manage my own sadness.
I learned how to do this during benzo withdrawaland my subsequent divorce, so it SUCKED to have to move into what feels like solitary confinement yet again. I’d only just acquired a few people to whom I can turn when I am struggling. Suddenly, COVID made it so those people would no longer let me in.
I am eternally grateful to my father and a few close friends in different time zones who allowed me to call or text them whenever I needed to do so.
I LET SOME THINGS GO
I’d hoped to play my drums more.
It didn’t happen.
I hoped to complete my memoir in 2020.
It didn’t happen.
I just didn’t have the mental energy to work on something so emotional with everything being so dang emotional all day long.
Also, I spent too much of 2020 hoping that a certain person would come around and care about me the way I cared for him. After chasing him for way too long, I’ve finally realized he’s not my person. When someone cares about you and your feelings, they want to see you. They want to talk to you. They don’t ghost you; they don’t make you a last priority. This has been a painful realization – and I’ve learned that sometimes people’s actions do not always align with their words, and I need to pay attention both. (You’d think I’d know this by now, but I seem to be in the “slow class” when it comes to healthy relationships.) At least I see this clearly now, and I will exercise more caution before allowing myself to get attached to the wrong person in the future.
MY YEAR IN NUMBERS
Each year, I like to reflect on different areas of my life. Most of these things are subjective, but I also like to look at the numbers, too. After all, numbers don’t lie. Blue reflects numbers that were up from last year; Red represents numbers that were down from last year.
8,667 – combined followers on all social media outlets
1,587 – people on my mailing list
384 – unique pieces of artwork sold this year
160 – unique client sales
30 –people I spoke with who are healing from an iatrogenic brain injury
2 – number of shows/festivals in which I participated*
(PS: I didn’t really participate, but my work was represented. Much gratitude to Stephanie Rober Sheedy for bringing my work to Naples, New York; to Lauren Hirsch for showing my work during her holiday pop-up shows at Lauren Hirsch Custom Framing & Original Art in Naples, New York; and to Erika Sorbello for carrying my work at her amazing Gallery Salon in Rochester, New York.
1 – speaking engagement via ZOOM
0 – number of first dates I went on
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
I’m not sure.
But that’ll be the topic of my first post in 2020.
I definitely need to do some hard thinking on how I want my life to look and feel moving forward. Changes definitely need to be made, so the questions are:
What kinds of things can I change realistically, given that COVID restrictions will continue for some time and the future is uncertain?
Also, how can I continue to thrive personally & professionally in this extremely challenging climate & culture.
I am curious to know how y’all are doing. What has worked for you this year? What has gone to shit? Please share your thoughts here or on Facebook or via DM. It helps me to read your words, and — if you post publicly — chances, are your words will help someone else, too.
PS: Artwork in this post is still available. Please inquire if you are interested in purchasing.
If you purchased something from me in 2020, you’ve been automatically entered to win a surprise art-filled package chock-full of good stuff.
I thought it would be hilariously fun to award a second surprise art-filled package to the verylastperson to place an order via my website during 2020 — which is to say at or before 11:59:59 PM EST on December 31, 2020.
If you haven’t yet made a purchase this year or you’d like an additional entry to win, do either or both of these things to enter:
POST a pic of your fave RASJ piece on social media page & TAG me.
TAG two friends in the comment section of THIS POST!
For TEN extra entries, attend my last FINAL ZOOM tonight at 7pm EST!
*Giveaway closes at midnight EST on December 31, 2020. Winners will be announced on January 1, 2021. Open to United States residents only. This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administrated by or associated with Facebook or Instagram. It’s just me, wanting to start 2021 off in a positive way!
Not too long ago, I went on a long walk with a stranger.
He was someone new, and I was excited to get to know him, so I asked a lot of questions.
He told me about his parents. His friends. How he fell off his path. His recovery. He cried, and I hugged him.
For a time we walked in silence and, after a while, I asked him one more question.
“Is there anything you’d like to know about me?”
He looked at me with confusion. He was so baffled by the question he actually stopped walking.
“Not really,” he said.
That was our first and last walk.
• • •
This interaction was shocking for me because, as most of you know, I’m a connector.
I find other people endlessly fascinating, and I ask a lot of questions when I’m interested in someone or something.
But I like to have an exchange.
And I’m *really* missing the exchange these days.
I hunger for intimate conversation, and I miss sitting across from and looking into another person’s eyes.
One of the ways that I share myself is by sharing my art, and the lack of festivals this year has been really tough.
Since COVID started, I’ve been making art in isolation.
To show you who I am.
So you can tell me who you are.
So we can have that exchange.
Sometimes the lack of exchange feels a little like when that guy — that stranger — had nothing to ask me.
To me, that response felt a lot like: ‘I don’t care about you.’
I am truly having to dig deep to mind that gap and ignore that stupid, stupid voice.
‘Cuz I *know* folks care about me, whether or not they buy my artwork.
• • •
If you are so inclined, please check out my latest offerings on my website. I’ve got new magnets, and I’m offering gift cards this year, including some cool bundles for the upcoming holidays — and I’m going to make some cute ornaments, too. So stay tuned!
PS: MyZOOM ART CLASSES are going well, so if you’d like a private class or you’d prefer to work in a group, drop me a line or leave a comment & I’ll send you the details. I’d love to connect with you in this way.
• • •
What are you doing to stay mentally strong during these confusing times?
I’ve finally uploaded a whole bunch of new artwork to my website.
If you click on my new category, WATERCOLOR ART, you’ll see pieces I’ve created since March 6, 2020.
Since we’ve all been physically-distanced from each other.
For those of you who have been with me since 2014, you know I’ve moved through different stages with this art stuff.
First there were hearts.
The the critters showed up.
Then the girlies were born.
And now my artwork is changing again.
There is an emphasis on lines and movement and connection.
Because I am sooooo missing connection!
As always, if you are looking for a special gift, please check out my website because now — in addition to magnets & prints & masonite tiles & original acrylic work — I am also offering affordable original watercolors.
And when you click over, you’ll notice that I have included the story of how each piece was created!
As you probably know, all festivals in New York State have been cancelled thru the end of July due to COVID-19, and I assume more cancellations will follow.
One thing I knew before COVID-19 that has become even more obvious during this weird time is that I really miss having daily contact with people in real life.
To cope with the isolation, I started painting LIVE on Facebook.
Having people watch & comment while I paint has been a lifeline for me, and so many people started following along with my lessons that I decided to offer individual & group online painting classes via ZOOM, which have been surprisingly enjoyable!
I’ve developed an eight session curriculum which includes:
BASIC COLOR STUDY (1 session)
BASIC FACES (1 session)
WHIMSICAL CRITTER (1 session)
WHIMSICAL HUMAN (2 sessions)
SQUIGGLE PAINTING (2 sessions)
COMBINING PAINTING WITH LETTERING (1 session)
And, once we get thru those lessons, we can continue to create together or you can go off-roading yourself!
Soooooooo if you are interested in:
• gifting a class to someone
• scheduling a class for yourself
• scheduling a ZOOM party/group gathering
— all you have to do is respond to this post and we’ll figure something out.
(And, no, you don’t have to commit to all eight sessions. You can just try one and decide from there.)
Most classes are 1-hour, but I also offer ZOOM parties!
Email me for pricing & a recommended supply list.
This masterpiece was created by 6-year, Gavin, from Houston, Texas. PS: Those gray things are anteaters. Duh!
Finally, my WEBSITE is stocked, so click over to see if there’s anything you’d like to purchase.
And for free intermittent lessons FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK.
Thank you so much for your continued support!
I’m so very grateful to each and every one of you!
From the moment lifestyle restrictions were deemed necessary in an attempt to “flatten” the infection curve associated with the COVID-19 virus, many people began reporting experiencing dystopian dreams.
I have suffered from nightmares for decades, and it is not unusual for me to awake in the middle of the night terrified.
I’m sharing a most recent dystopian nightmare here to maintain a record of what I’ve been dreaming about, and also as a way to encourage others to share their own scary dreams so that we can process them together.
In my dream:
I’m on the way to the Home Depot, to pick up a few small items — some wood trim and a big box of air filters for my furnace.
The parking lot is completely full, so I follow a red truck all the way to the back where there is one empty spot adjacent to a big, open field.
I mean to park alongside the field on the pavement, but I accidentally hit the gas and end up rolling onto the field.
But the field isn’t a field.
It’s a muddy bog — and my car immediately begins to sink.
In a moment, cold, heavy mud pours in from atop my open sunroof, burying me.
It’s dark and I can’t move or breathe.
I think of my parents and my son — and realize no one will even find me, lost in the bottom of this muddy bog.
• • •
I wake, gasping for air, and unintentionally call out the name of someone who used to hold me when I had nightmares.
But he’s not here.
Where I used to turn to a partner for emotional support, now that I alive alone, I’ve had to learn strategies to calm myself after a night terror.
So I wrap my arms around myself and allow myself to feel the feelings: the fear, the sadness, the surrender, and finally the gratitude.
I am alive.
I am safe.
I’m doing the best I can do.
While many people believe dreams are meaningless, I know dreams are powerful medicine, evidence of the night mind trying to make sense of what the conscious mind cannot understand during the waking hours.
There is so much confusion right now.
So much change and so few answers.
So many conspiracy theories and so much cognitive dissonance
We’re being told this is our “new normal” and learning how to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
What kinds of weird dreams are YOU having during this pandemic?