This last weekend was our first turkey dinner of thanks in London. My lovely friend, Amy flew in for a long weekend, and David took Thursday and Friday off so we could have a proper weekend. We were a little island of American celebration.
I loved that we decided to declare a holiday for ourselves. I need to do that more. I need to choose that today, this day, is a good day, and I can celebrate and remember what’s good. And make food to share with my friends. Unsurprisingly I have been struggling with the Depression Fog here in London. I knew it would happen and spent a lot of energy the first half of 2016 preparing for it. When my life is full of changes (like moving to a new country), questions (like When will I get a job? What am I doing with my life? Do I want to go outside today? No. It’s too cold), and having the work of making all new friends, I can struggle.
Like running, life is all a mindset. Running a marathon I learned that my body could do it, but my mind wasn’t always on board. I have to care for all aspects of myself: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically. Right now I’m juggling applications for jobs, exhibitions, grants, and residencies while painting and painting and painting. It’s a beautiful time, and I am hopeful for the life we are making here. My brain chemistry puts a damper on it all sometimes, and I am hopeful that I will get that sorted. My hope is my ongoing holiday, my self-declared buoy that helps me endure.
So, to share my mindset and to indulge the American tradition of stating what we are thankful for, I’d like to list them here. If anything is an update on life here, it’s all we have here even after just 6 months. Thanks for participating in another step toward hope.
I am thankful for…
AUGUST: I finally returned to London from the Bay.
- my beautiful London family of David and Zeke dog, the most loyal and caring dudes I’ve ever encountered. Without them I wouldn’t stand a chance. And I wouldn’t be on this adventure.
- new friends! I have new friends! In London! In this supposedly unwelcoming city, David and I have met so many kind people who have made space for us in their lives. We are at the beginnings of many friendships, but feeling like we are finding our place here. Maybe it’s that this is a city for introverts. Maybe making our own beer helps.
SEPTEMBER to settle in…
- Britain’s topnotch baking and for seven beautiful seasons of The Great British Bake Off. For Mel and Sue. For Mary Berry.
OCTOBER: to find more of my place here
- beer. For the ability to make it. For it to be an excuse to chat with a friend. For how it lets me discover my new home here with Britain’s exceptional malts; for how it lets me remember home. We even got to take a keg of our homebrew to David’s workplace for an office party.
- running a half marathon with David to get a medal that doubles as a bottle opener. That even though I ran my slowest race ever, I was able to do it. (2:48 is a far cry from my best of 2:09.)That even though being so slow feels hard and shameful, David was patient and trained with me because he knew I needed to do it. That as I huffed and puffed toward the finish, David waited to cross with me and the race volunteers cheered me on. That I still get the same medal as those who finished in less than 2 hours.
- (field) hockey at Hendon & Mill Hill Hockey Club. When else will I have the chance to play recreational field hockey? I have resurrected my love of field hockey on October 29. (They just call it “hockey” here.) Tuesday nights is “training.” Saturdays I am out on the “pitch” for a “match.” I’ve had to relearn a few terms with how they say things here, but my years on the team in middle and high school have given me another opportunity to make friends. You’ll see me playing midfield on 3’s (third of their three teams). In my second game I scored my first goal and was named “man of the match.”
NOVEMBER: to give thanks
- visiting friends like Dorcas, who flew as the election results were being tallied, bringing hugs and comfort upon her arrival. I am thankful that I could process with her and share our concern for the States. Also, that we continuously celebrated her 30th birthday during her visit. For always being excited that I am painting. For how she struggles to be honest and fully herself and a “goddamned human being,” and helps me to do the same.
- more visiting friends like Amy who came for turkey times, who baked and cooked everything with us, who gorged herself on art with me at Tate Modern (twice), Tate Britain to finally see the Turner Prize, and Kew Gardens to see the Hive among others. For all the encouraging texts she sends me to check in. For bringing me coffee and American hugs. For encouraging me to do hard and brave things because she also does hard and brave things.
DECEMBER: being hopeful for the future
- St Luke’s, the church we’ve been attending. It has been an encouraging and welcoming space, even for someone as spicy and grouchy and cynical as me. Services are in an old church built in 1867 that sat vacant for 20 years until they restored it in 2012. Its Gothic architecture lets in the light from above, just like it was designed to. Christmastime, London, and Advent seem to be all about light as well. We are in a small group that meets weekly and were delighted when we realized we didn’t feel new anymore.
- my studio and art practice. That making art is continuous and a journey, that I will continue to discover new things about myself and the world. That no one can take away an art practice. That somehow crushed up pigments and oil and light come together as paint, and that’s what my whole career is about–light and hope.