Today’s *shared stories* come from artist Nicole Docimo and nutritionist Sue Ann Gleason
A funny thing happens when you become an adult. All of the things you imagined for so long as a kid come along, but they’re nothing like you though they would be. I’m not sure I had a completely specific idea about what being an adult would be like, but when I began to arrive there at the ripe old age of 22, I knew I didn’t imagine my life to look like it did – a college graduate with a seemingly direction-less degree (English), jumping from one miserable job to the next. “This can’t be my life!” I would exclaim to myself as I railed against another dwindling weekend, feeling physically ill about the coming Monday morning call to the office, or shop, or wherever I happened to be working at the time.
Six years later, I’m writing this from a quiet second story room that is my art studio and office. My favorite poster hangs on the wall declaring, “Make Art, Not War.” This has become my motto, and I get to live by it every day doing art as my career.
Perhaps the difference between childhood fantasy and reality is that in real life there is no moment of arrival—when I look back over the past six years I don’t find any decisive moment that took me from nowhere to here, instead I find some luck and magic, some hard work, many fears and frustrations, and a lot of questions.
It is a stroke of luck that 5 years ago, I was in a writing group and someone shared a chapter from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and I bought the book and read it a year later. It changed me.
It is also a stroke of luck that I was so miserable at work that I felt desperate to find something else, and so I looked back into my past and remembered that the one thing I had always wanted to be was an artist. It was an act of defiance and hope for me to sit down and start making art, and to keep doing that over and over again for months, wading through the fear and mental objections. It was an act of dreaming when I decided to start an art blog four years ago just to see what would happen, and then later a stroke of magic when one sweet woman asked if she could buy one of the drawings I posted, which then convinced me I could start an online art shop.
Since then, every day has been an interweaving of miracles, and hope, and longing and fear, and overcoming fear, and just making it, and flying on the wings of art, and peace and delight and exhilaration. In short: every day is an adventure. And this is the part I really never could have imagined or understood as a child—that there would be no ‘there’ (in terms of ‘getting there’), and that every day I would be asked the question “What would you like to make your life about today?” And I that I would get to choose my answer.
It’s easy to say “Do what you love,” but what does it really mean? To me it means choosing over and over again to let your heart sing every day through what you do, in any way you can (big or small). It can’t be contained in any box – like ‘artist’, ‘doctor’, or ‘coach’ -but it lives in your heart like a little fire that you tend to by choosing one thing over another. You know you have begun to find your way when you feel the vast expanse and the play of it, the endless possibilities—the sense that there is no bottom.
For me, it means getting up every day and asking myself, “What would I like to make?” and looking out into wide blue infinity for an answer. In my latest adventure it means getting a printing press and playing around with wooden letters. It means staring out the window at birds and photographing clouds, or scrawling across pages with my trusty black pen.
It doesn’t always feel easy. Some days I would rather stay in bed or watch old silly romantic comedies all day. But this is the other part—it will challenge you to look into every part of yourself. Art has nudged me along every day through miracles and trials, and I’ve trudged uphill, swam across rivers and rolled down hillsides full of wildflowers. And I keep going one footstep at a time. The journey continues.
[Images courtesy of Nicole Docimo. Find out more about Nicole on her blog, or visit her shop.]
Sue Ann Gleason
I am a food lover, food writer, and food-based healer. (aka: culinary nutritionist) I started my business because I wanted to create a delicious approach to radiant health. But the road has been a little bumpy. You see, before I set off to study every form of mind-body-health and nutritional science I could get my Type-A hands on, I was simply a happy, “healthy” food lover. Or so I thought.
And then, I lost my health and found it again through a deep, introspective look at the food I was eating, or not eating when I was on one of my extreme diet or exercise regimes. And when I found the courage to dig a little deeper, I discovered it wasn’t only about the food. My beautifully complex life needed more than just the application of glorious greens and fresh vegetable juices. Non-stop, copiously compulsive Type A overachiever. That was me. I used to shave one leg in the morning and one at night to save time. My calendar was color-coded. Even “spontaneous” moments had a color—blue. I was proud of my resourcefulness. I was an accomplished multi-tasker and it even earned me the distinction Teacher of the Year.
Taking on a health crisis was, for me, just another project. I attacked it with tenacity. I started studying things like cellular rejuvenation through raw food nutrition. I climbed into bed with The Autoimmune Epidemic instead of my favorite memoir. My body became a human laboratory. And I healed.
But old habits die-hard. Even in healing mode, I found a way to live life in the extremes. It started with my raw food journey. Instead of reveling in the vibrant colors and textures of homegrown tomatoes, ravishing red peppers, crunchy cucumbers and glorious greens, a meal became a contest. Anything less than 100 percent raw somehow became less nourishing than its cooked counterpart.
There I was—immersed in my new career with more degrees, studies, certifications, awards, and endorsements than I knew what to do with—surrounded by healthy, like-minded nutrition gurus and healers, when I came to the striking realization . . . I WASN’T HAVING ANY FUN.
I found myself longing for the companionship of food-loving friends who appreciated beautiful, wholesome meals, and . . . CHOCOLATE. One blustery weekend, I attended an Integrated Health Symposium in New York City. You know, the kind of conference that fills both your brain and your CEO bucket. The presenters were brilliant. The information was cutting-edge. But the exhibit hall was filled with powders, potions, pills, bars, and supplements. I was trying to find my way out of the tangle, bumping into voracious vendors hawking their wares, when a bright-eyed gentleman blocked my path,
“Our products come from whole food botanicals, optimally cultivated, fair trade and sustainable, rich in human compatible/absorbable vitamins, minerals, EFA oils and antioxidants, especially vitamins C and E. Do you use super food powders with your clients?” he asked. “No, I use food,” I replied. Though, admittedly, I was impressed with the number of words that spilled out of his mouth in just one sentence. That was a pivotal moment. I knew it was time to reclaim my relationship with real food, all food, fun food, and start hanging out with people who actually ate it.
So, I tried a little experiment. What happens when you take away all the fear-based notions around food and health and you just focus on the blissful benefits of consuming colorful, vibrant meals? What happens when you slow down and enjoy what you’re eating? What happens when you shift the pace of your life and make a commitment to engage in at least one delicious activity each day that makes you laugh? What happens when you start eating chocolate for breakfast?
I can tell you, ‘my’ life changed. I didn’t throw away my credentials or the gazillion books I had collected on biochemical imbalances or nutritional theories. But I did create a shift in my life and in my practice. I discovered that I have a unique gift. I can transform even the most contracted eater on the planet. I know how to laugh. I know how to use my creative powers to get to the heart of their nutritional stories because I’ve explored the shadows and contradictions in my own story. And I am passionate about my work as a culinary nutritionist, because embedded in this work, is a heartfelt mission: that we take back our plates, one luscious bite at a time.
[Image courtesy of Sue Ann Gleason. Sue Ann, founder of Conscious Bites Nutrition, is a Washington DC-based culinary nutritionist, dynamic eating psychology coach, speaker, and writer. Find out more about Sue Ann on her website or her blog]
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