Thursday, March 26, 2009

Strongest in the Broken Places

“Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.” -- Norman Vincent Peale

A year ago today, I left for the trip of a lifetime.

For some people, a trip to Italy where one stays in the same city for two weeks may not be ideal. It may even feel wrong to travel all that way and not get to explore the whole country or even multiple countries in that time. It may seem like “no big deal” for many others who are used to frequent international trips, or even trips to the more exotic lands of Indonesia, Thailand, or Tasmania.

For me, though… traveling to Venice by myself was the start of a turning point in my life. It opened my eyes and heart to new possibilities. It opened me up in ways I never expected and in many ways, I felt awake and alive for the first time in years.

I didn’t realize at the time that I’d lost the artist inside. I didn’t realize that she’d been sleeping since high school art class, where I practiced for two hours a day three times a week. I played with glass—but we didn’t have a torch other than a Bunsen Burner. Still—it was enough. I loved melting glass and twisting it. I even pulled stringers—not realizing that I’d revisit that experience years later. I have a fused glass plate and even some jewelry I made back then, too. The earrings are crappy and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost the rest of the jewelry I made—I clearly remember wire-wrapping a crystal with copper, and it’s nowhere to be found.

I didn’t have much money to spend in Italy. And let me tell you… you need money in Venice. If for nothing else, you need it for food.

So… I took pictures. Lots and lots of them, actually. It became another outlet for me—another way to awaken the snoozing artist within and allow her to stretch her legs. I took pictures of gondolas, because I couldn’t bring myself to pay the money to ride in one  (although now I kind of wish I had). 

I took pictures of buildings that interested me… which yielded me a lot of pictures of buildings, by the way.

I took pictures of laundry, too. With a flighty, artistic idea that I’d have a series of laundry prints available for sale. 

Some people made fun of me, some kept their amusement to themselves, but for the first time in years—I had a clear artistic vision. No matter how silly it seemed, or even how mundane… the vision was mine.

The same thing happened in the classroom, too. Only, it was messier because I’m not exactly prolific in lampwork bead making. It happened on a smaller scale—I envisioned pink and orange together, and this bead was born (left). 

(Right) I needed to make a bead that felt like night time… and this was the result.

I wasn’t entirely sure of the outcome, but I knew I had the tools to see it through. I wasn’t sure I’d even like the result, but if I didn’t—someone else might, and if they did, they could have it. And if I failed… I could throw it into the canal.

In every sense, let it go.

How is that a mirror to the rest of my life?

Today I am incredibly worried about not having work, and my husband has been unemployed for over a year. Can we pay next month’s bills? Well, right now, the answer to that question is no. We’re in a worse place, financially, than we’ve been in a long time.

I feel helpless and out of control over a lot of aspects of life right now. And yet—I have a vision. A vision of getting work, a vision of selling more jewelry, a vision of paying bills and getting back on our feet.

I have tools to get there. I have a support system, intelligence, and I’m resourceful. I’m determined to get through this period. I’m ambitious—I always want something better for myself and my husband. I know that we’ll get through this.

And, at the end of the day, I can still make a mile-long list of things I’m grateful for. I’ve enjoyed so many things that I never thought I’d experience… like a life changing trip to Italy.

When I got back from Italy, I went through an intense growth period as I examined some things in my life that just weren’t working—but because it had been such a slow decline, it took stepping out of it (and into pure bliss, might I add) for a couple of weeks for me to see the picture with the clarity I needed.

I nearly broke. Irreparably.

But, you know what?

I didn’t.

I somehow managed to make it through one of the hardest trials of my life (and please forgive my vagueness here—I don’t want to discuss it publicly), and I emerged so much stronger and more whole than I imagined.

"Life breaks us all, but afterwards, many of us are strongest at the broken places." -- Ernest Hemingway

I’ve faced many trials in my life—as so many of us have. I think the experiences we have and how we deal with them define who we are. And who I want to be defined as, is an artist, a good wife, a good friend, a hard worker, and a soft yet strong heart.

One year ago, my artistic vision opened itself up inside of me and crawled out of its box, woke me up, and shook my soul.

I realized—on the most basic level—that fearing the outcome causes paralysis.

Construct a vision, grab your tools, and go to work.

The outcome?

Is life.


  1. How lovely to find strength in times that are hard... or harder than what we wish for... I too am crossing that bridge of worry but I know this too shall pass.

    With that being said.... your pictures are awesome!!! Do something with them. Cards??? Prints??? Something!!!. Your jewelry and beads are very pretty! You can do anything!!!


    Rebecca : )

  2. You can never fear what the results are going to be. You know that from eastern thinking. You just have to make the choices, keep moving forward and trust that, if you do those things, then the universe will bring to you what you need.

    You will make it through this. And like your last trial in life, though very different than this one, it will leave you stronger. Vagueness is fine because I understand - I too have been through absolute hell and I wouldn't trade it for the world for who it made me.

    Lots of hugs to you and your hubby. Keep forging onward~

  3. Linda, your pictures are fantastic, and your jewelry is wonderful. Keep the faith, when God closes doors he always opens windows! Congratulations on finding your inner peace and reclaiming your artist. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  4. So beautifully written Linda lee. This piece inspired me to be stronger. I'm so glad you made it to Italy and that I got to meet you. All I can say right now is to stay strong and keep that vision.

    Thinking of you.


  5. Linda Lee, your photos are incredible! You have a real talent. Thanks for sharing them with us who may never get the chance to visit Venice.
    And, you go girl! It sounds like you are finding strength and courage in the midst of profound inner and outer change. Keep breathing!

  6. How beautifuly you've expressed yourself, even your fears. I think many of us are in the exact same place. Fearful, uncertain, unable to take a deep breath. In the end, I really believe that we'll all get back our equilibrium and look back on this as a sign of our strength.

    By the way, your photos are absolutely gorgeous and you should definitely have prints made for sale.

  7. Thank you everyone for your comments! It means a lot to me that you've read and felt my words. We are struggling a lot financially, but at the same time... we're doing all we can to keep our heads above water-- emotionally and mentally too. Your support helps with that. ;-)