REFOCUSING ON LIFE’S BEAUTY: Guest Blog by Shykia Bell

Shykia Bell is an artist, poet, and author. She lives in New York with her husband and their daughter. She also works as a freelance writer, digital/pencil portrait artist, and graphic designer.
 

People everywhere, myself included, are overwhelmed by life’s challenges. Each day more is demanded of us regardless of how depleted our emotional resources may be. Not enough value is placed on our need to recharge ourselves and to an extent we’ve been primed to see self-neglect as a normal part of life. One thing has become clear to me over the years, and that’s the glaring fact that collectively society has an urgent need to heal and rejuvenate so as to avoid exceeding our breaking point.

 

For a while, I pondered how I could use my talent to help others achieve this. I tried blogging, and later publishing works including Duality, a collection of poems and essays all focused on highlighting the multifaceted contrasts of life’s stages. Duality actually came about during my transition into motherhood and the realization that I no longer had as much free time to devote to my craft since something more delicate required my attention. So, Duality is the culmination of the fragments of time I was able to claim during early parenthood.

Enduring life’s responsibilities and demands

When one finds themselves inundated with responsibility it can trigger an identity crisis. I’m no exception to this. Prior to publishing Duality, I faced questions regarding my purpose and connection to others. Parenthood is a known catalyst of this phenomenon, but it can also apply to anyone who finds themselves in a caregiving role or a drastically evolving state in their lives. I understand the strain that comes with thoughts of potential failure and how it tempts one to give up not only on dreams, but sometimes the prospect of facing life altogether. So it becomes even more important to seek out joyful and relaxing activities to help not only offset negativity, but to serve as another reason to persevere and connect with others and share our experiences. This realization moved me to write Shifting Perspective, a poem from Duality.

SHIFTING PERSPECTIVE

Traversing life’s corridors along individual journeys,

We view experiences through shifting lenses,

Of varying opacity and sharpness,

Sometimes enhancing and obscuring our acuity,

 

As they intermittently cross our paths,

That eventually intersect,

And for a moment, we share the same vision,

Albeit shaped by our individual goals.

 

Why can’t we linger in this place of harmony?

Why must we instead go back to wandering,

And wondering what could have been,

If we had only just remained in peace?

 

Life is Beautiful

Now, roughly six years later, I released my first coloring book, Life is Beautiful, with a similar aim as Duality. Though, Life is Beautiful focuses mainly on the beautiful aspects of life and nature since I believe that’s what the world needs most right now.

Now, the title isn’t meant to imply that life is always beautiful, but that its beauty still exists during the times we’re distracted by its ugly and chaotic moments. Actually, this book was created during some very dark and unfavorable times in my life over the past year or so. It helped me to remember that such times are temporary and that light would eventually break through the gloom. And the realization of the process led me to create the page Even In Your Darkest Moment You Still Shine For Someone.

Sometimes as a means of survival we must remember that we all have the ability to provide light in a world that often fixated on darkness and negativity. Such a consistent focus on the negative is unsustainable to the mind and spirit. Not only is it toxic, but it’s downright exhausting. I’ve existed in that mindset for far too long and it’s a counterproductive way to live. It’s a mode of existence I’d like to help people out of, or if possible, to avoid. Also, I strive to leave a legacy that acknowledges life’s difficulties, but also reminds people about the beauty that lies in its mysterious wonders and our ability to dream and grow. And above all, I want to be a positive role model for my daughter. I hope to achieve that by demonstrating effective, creative ways to cope with life’s challenges while maintaining hope. After all, everyone needs a reason to persevere each day.

 

 

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CREATIVE LIFE AFTER A LONG HIATUS by Shykia Bell

 

How does one bring a career back from the dead?

Okay, perhaps that’s a little dramatic, but it’s what came to mind a little over two years after my daughter was born. By that time, I was nearly five years into my unplanned hiatus following a series of family tragedies and medical emergencies in addition to a personal battle with anxiety and depression.

The return to my art and writing has been a long and arduous process which was compounded with the brand new challenge of motherhood. For several reasons, I’ve very rarely enlisted the help of sitters. Therefore, I’ve had to make additional sacrifices in order to get any work time in. Most times I’ve had to sacrifice either my work or sleep. 

I’m sure many mothers can relate to the struggle of finding their identity after becoming a parent.  Society has long conveyed the notion that motherhood is a woman’s ultimate purpose, and once attaining that purpose all else should be sacrificed. And while I believe that my life’s priorities have been rearranged, my duties as a parent do not overwrite my passions as an artist.  If anything, the former fuels the latter and vice versa. 

By default, the creative process for authors and artists is lonely. Motherhood can magnify that loneliness in a way. Naturally, as a wonderful new life is celebrated, creative potential is sometimes overshadowed, dismissed, or forgotten. Some people have assumed that I had abandoned my creative endeavors altogether. And as my new responsibilities dominated pretty much all my time few people noticed that a vital part of my life had all but faded away.

It was seemingly of little consequence to them. Perhaps they didn’t realize that my aspirations, like my beloved daughter, are also a vital part of my identity. They are not mere frivolous pastimes. Yet, unfortunately, many artists face the same stigma where the legitimacy of their craft is solely judged upon their level of success. And given the fact that prior to publishing DUALITY: Poems, Essays, and Reflections, it had been seven years since I last published any writing, my success was questionable.

So, how did I go from a seven-year creative struggle to finally publishing my work again? A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of work, improvisation, meditation, and encouragement from a couple of dear friends and loved ones. Sometimes I’d jot down ideas (or even entire passages) on my cellphone as I rocked my daughter to sleep. I’d do the same during car rides. Most of the time I’d sacrifice sleep to work on DUALITY, new drawings, or my forthcoming sci-fi novel. However, in recent days I’ve learned that as my daughter gets older, there are other ways to unapologetically claim time for my work. Part of that means stepping beyond what others expect of me as a mother. Another part of it means getting better at delegating tasks whenever possible.

When I experienced a medical scare this past fall, it revived my desire to finish what I had started while at the same time invoking a fear that some of the words I had written might have been prophetic of my own demise. The process revealed the people who care most about me. It also left me grateful for my health and renewed my respect for the fragility of time.

In some ways it’s ironic that motherhood has provided both the greatest challenge and the greatest inspiration for me to get my work out there again. It’s important that my daughter gets to know all parts of my authentic self since that’s the closest I’ll ever get to achieving immortality.

Here are four tips that have helped me emerge from my hiatus:

1. No longer seeking permission to work on my craft.

I learned that my creative aspirations will never mean more to anyone else than they do to me. I also learned to value my work time without feeling guilty about occasionally sacrificing socialization in order to attain it.

2. Learning to forgive myself when I get off track.

Life intervenes our well laid plans. Often repeatedly and relentlessly. Yet, it can be tempting to blame ourselves when things don’t work out. Blame is unproductive and can prevent us from circumnavigating the cause of our delays and learning from the challenges whenever possible. Also, sometimes unplanned deviations to our schedule can sometimes work in our favor, allowing us to catch mistakes or coming up with ideas me might not have otherwise considered.

3. Doing my best with whatever time I’m able to get for my work. Even if it’s just five minutes.

Some people have the luxury of having a consistent schedule for their projects. Being a stay-at-home mom, I typically rely on the wee hours for productivity. Yet, even that rarely pans out as I hope, given the unpredictable sleep patterns of my beloved toddler. This means frequent interruptions. To cope with this, I work on what I can and make bookmarks and notations of where I left off. 

4. Understanding the importance of stress management.

Stress hinders the creative process and can discourage us from pursuing our dreams. Finding some method to decompress is vital to our recovery from stress. For some it’s meditation, yoga, exercise, music, reading, or other pastimes. In anticipation of stressful times, I created playlists of uplifting songs and speeches. Find what works best for you and incorporate it into your routine.

Shykia Bell is an author, poet, artist, and creator of The Bell Studio. Additionally, she is a freelance writer / graphic designer. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their daughter.

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Duality: Poems, Essays, and Reflections is now available at Amazon

Artwork from the collection is available at the author’s Redbubble shop

Medium blog: An Unexpected Diagnosis: How a Feared Ending Led to a New Beginning

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