Fighting the blahs

stack of sketchbooks

February is here. Ask me how I know? Because of the blahs. It’s a difficult month for me, especially the first part as I’m waiting for the “day”. Third anniversary of my partner’s passing. And the fallout continues. I go days and weeks without thinking but as soon as February looms closer … the mind plays tricks. I do everything in my power to “not go there” but I find myself there sometimes, no matter what.

So … I do a few things to hold the memories at bay:

First: I give myself a break. I know I am strong. I know I am resilient. I know I am a survivor. I hate being a victim. But I am also human. So first and foremost, I give myself a break and allow myself to fall apart and cry and feel blah. And sad and angry and mad.

Second: I find stuff to do that doesn’t involve a lot of effort or decision-making for those days when the blahs hit hard; I can still do something and stay creative while not expending a lot of energy. Keep reading.

Third: I watch TV. Whatever is there. Some happy some sad. Some interesting, some not so much. It keeps me company and I don’t have to think while I do item no. 2 in the list.

Fourth: I eat cheese and crackers. Good food. Some junk. Chocolate. Olives and tomatoes. Mandarin oranges.

Fifth: refer to the first one. This one is BIG: I cut myself some slack. Allow myself to feel not great. Cry. Scream. Wave my fist at the spirits looking down. I even curse (which is something I try very hard not to do).

But let’s get back to Item no. 2 in the list, which I do while I fulfill item no. 3. I create something. It makes me feel better. Despite it all, I can use the time creatively. Sometimes I clean which is a way of creating clarity from the clutter. But this past week, while “cleaning” I’ve been also recycling and being inspired.

Downstairs, in my storage room, I have 2 shelves full of old magazines that I use for collage. But realistically, how many magazines can one person keep? Especially as I keep getting more. I don’t buy them too often because they are pricey and spending $10-$20 on a magazine just to tear it apart, doesn’t seem like a good idea. So I buy used ones at the used book store. I also pick up the free ones at the supermarket.

I’ve decided to clear up at least one shelf so I can store some other stuff there. To that end, I’ve been creating sketchbooks. The first one I did was on texture; I’ve been researching and creating videos on it; a great way to keep all those pieces of paper and images in one spot. Photos, printed images, and pieces of magazine pages. It started randomly, and then it turned into interesting vignettes. When I do this, I create stories in my mind. I posted a reel of parts of it last week on IG. I invite you to go take a look.

But what happens? When I go through the magazines, especially because I’m going to recycle them, I tear or cut out all images and stuff that appeals to me. I end up with stacks of papers. I decided to fill another sketchbook: this time with images of trees – I do love trees, and there are some amazing images around.

What next? Architecture! I’m into architecture as inspiration. I created a lecture that I shared with a group, and I’m considering adding to it and offering it to the general public. What do you think? Would you be interested in something like that? Leave a comment below and I’ll get working on it. But regardless, another sketchbook now is being filled with architectural images and photos: windows, staircases, buildings, rock walls, more windows …

And a fourth book holds ideas: my idea book. I have one already full of images of stuff that inspires me – not that the other stuff doesn’t inspire me. Some of these images are of my work, some of other people’s work that appeals to me, images from magazines, paintings, colour combinations … you get the idea and yes, also textures and architecture and trees. Notes are added beside some images to capture fleeting thoughts.

Yes, there’s paper everywhere in my living room, and glue sticks, and scissors, and sketchbooks. Old magazines next to me on the couch and on the floor. Piles of “to keep still” and what’s to get rid of goes directly into the recycling bin. Not the tidiest of places. But the sight of this kind of creative mess makes my heart sing. And for a while, I don’t think. And the demons are kept at bay. For a while, while I’m glueing, I’m happy. And that’s all that matters. Until the February blahs go away.

coffee table with books and magazines

Thanks for reading. I’m off to get a few new sketchbooks so I can keep making more. More magazines to go through. Until I write again, I hope you go create some stories with paper and glue.


PS: There is still time to sign up for February classes. You can check them all out here.

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  1. Ana, Great idea about the magazines since I too, have piles of them. My month is August when we lost our 50 yr old son two years ago. I have also learned to cut myself some slack and just be a grieving mother–whatever and whenever that happens. Sometimes its weeping in the grocery store when I see something Andy loved to eat–and sometimes its in my dreams that leave me sad and exhausted. The good news is that I have the love and tenderness of my husband of 56 years and our crazy family!
    The other good news is that it does end and I feel at peace for awhile–or maybe I should say during my rough times, since I am blessed with a deep trust and hope in the Lord.

    God bless, Lucy S.

    1. Hi Lucy,
      Thanks for your message. Yes, I know what you mean. And thank the lucky stars for family and friends.

      I have just found another use for the magazines and I started thinking about all the ones I’ve recycled so far. But I still have loads to go through. So now things will be separated into 3 piles!

      Take good care of yourself, and thank you for sharing. All the best,

  2. you sound like everyone else who does collage
    i think my stuff multiplies when im not looking
    im always trying to downsize
    its a constant struggle for me
    i own it and just keep on plugging
    be well

    1. haha. Yes, I know what you mean. Magazine papers, painted papers, monoprinted papers, itsy bitsy bits of paper too beautiful to throw away :)

      Enjoy your creative journey.

      1. Thank you Ana for expressing your feelings
        I became a widow in Dec after 51 years of marriage and 7.5 years of caring for him as he slipped away in pain. I miss his support. He called himself my biggest fan. I feel the anesthesia, the shock of him passing is just starting to be replaced by the realization that he is not coming back, he’s not recovering some where, he’s really gone. But I feel very fortunate to have an opportunity to be creative, to sew and to help others going through the same process. Love and admire you ❤️ Connie

  3. The “blahs” from lost loved ones are real but you are handling this so well. I love how you are acknowledging they exist and using a limited time frame, self kindness and purpose to get through this painful healing process. You got this!❤️ Thanks for sharing your realness.

  4. Thank you for the reminder of the value of brainless activities. As I am in a stage of huge changes, I’ve acknowledged the wisdom of not pushing an agenda for the next while. However I sometimes find it hard to choose a brainless activity that still supports my soul. I like the idea of preparing a good mess for gluing and mashing.

    1. Magazines and images are a great way to do this as when you are looking through a good magazine – or one that’s not so good – you get lost in someone else’s images. I don’t even read the articles, just mindlessly look at the pretty pictures :)
      Take care,

  5. I loved the TAP class this morning. Thank you. I just signed up for acrylic skins. See you next Monday.
    Lynne Douglas

  6. Hello Ana, We attended the Crow Barn Retreat in 2018/2019. You were so excited about your future with your partner. I am so very sorry to hear of his passing. My heart aches for you. My husband received his diagnosis/prognosis the day after we left the retreat in 2019. He was given 5 months to live. I identify with your post about being kind to yourself at those sensitive times. I too do sketchbooking but I use binders and page protectors which allows me rearrange things as my vision changes. I get lost in the process and it provides a break from the sadness, but it also provides inspiration and excitement when an idea comes together. It is comforting to know that I am not just wasting time and avoiding pain, but like you and others, slowly healing. Love your website and hope to take a class with you soon.

    1. Hi Susan,
      SO good to hear from you. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. Difficult times. I am glad you are taking time to heal and keep creating. I hope we’ll meet again soon. In the meantime, I’m sending you lots of love.

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