A Year in the Life of Fibre Artist Bridget O’Flaherty

Living with Family Illness and Coping with Stress

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

A Year in the Life of a Fibre Artist? I’ve been drafting and re-writing this post for a few weeks now. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to share or what you would want to read. Should I give you another summary of a year’s successes? A list of my wins? My promises for the next year? I decided to share some of my wins, but also some of my challenges. Everyone has disappointments, bumps in the road and challenges and when we just see all the fabulous parts, it can be hard on those that have had tough times.

The Good

Thread painting kitsTo sum up, the successes I’ve had over the last year have been many! I’ve been creating and designing, planning and networking, building an inventory and exploring new product ideas.

One of the most exciting parts of the year was launching my website and engaging in social media. I have been amazed at the outpouring of support that I have received for my work. Thank you, most sincerely for encouraging me to continue.

I get to wake up every morning with the opportunity to work with fabric, inspiring nature, planning projects, interacting with students, clients, shop owners and other industry professionals. Thank you for that.  I LOVE my job!

The Not So Great Parts of my Year

My life as an artist is really no different from anyone else’s. I have a home to maintain, support my kids in their lives, support my ageing parents and my husband. Where it may differ is in the details of those, my husband and partner of 26 years is seriously chronically ill, my mother had Alzheimer’s( she recently passed away, I shared a tribute to her that you can read) and my father is critically ill as well. So I’ve had a full share of trials for the past few years, this last year was particularly tough. But they also lead me to one of my greatest decisions.

I have a Unique Situation

But not exclusive. I sometimes feel very alone with my situation, but I know there are other people out there with struggles that likely even trump mine. Navigating a serious illness with the notion that every day could have a hospital visit, is exhausting.  My partner, Aaron has had an undiagnosed illness for over 30 years. It has been investigated in every possible way. We’ve even seen specialists at NIH in Maryland with state of the art genetic testing and the Undiagnosed Diseases Program. We have stopped looking. They (and I mean medical community and alternative practitioners) have no clue. Really, they don’t. That’s ok!

Sometimes not having an answer is the best gift. We have learned to live with it and treat every day as a new opportunity to get more out of our lives.  Not knowing what comes next is terrifying sometimes, but it also allows us to assume one day more. We really live one day at a time and it affords us a lot of hope for another one.

How Does His Illness Affect my Work?

I am lucky in that my partner has good days and bad days, he is not bedridden and he still loves to work at keeping our house going too. He supports me fully in my decision to pursue my art as a business, I couldn’t do it without him. He’s really one of the most inspiring people I know. He experiences daily pain and suffering and yet he literally has a smile on his face every day. 

Crossroads

Difficult Road ImageI reached a point last year where I could no longer manage my own stresses. On top of my partner, my mother had Alzheimer’s and became wheelchair bound early in the year. My father was in the hospital, in and out of ICU for 6 months. That was a year of constant hospital visits. By March I was tapped out. I had reached the “WTF is the point” stage of dealing with illness, death, pain, and suffering.

I realized that any of this could happen to me, anytime. If I didn’t take my opportunity to pursue what I wanted, maybe I would miss my chance. I missed creating, I needed to get back to my art. So after helping my father transition to Long Term Care, I decided to take a break. I took about 3 months to figure myself out and figure out how I could possibly support my family with my art. 

Rejection, Recognition and Resolutions

Disappointment CityThe year had ups and downs with my art as well. I submitted applications to a few shows with some older work and applied to teach as well. They were rejected, I now know I wasn’t ready for that part of the business. I wrote about the benefits of rejection in an earlier post.

That same month, I received notice that I was the recipient of the MERA Award of Excellence for Artists in my community. It was perfect timing and really validated my decision to follow my heart and my art. I also was accepted into a Small Business Program for Start-Ups. I worked with professionals and learned how to approach my art as a business.

This last year has had it’s ups and downs for me. Like everyone else, I have to take the bad with the good. I’ve worked hard this year and I am feeling ultimately very successful. Even with my bumps for the year, I am incredibly grateful that I get to practice my art. I am looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead for the coming year. I’m excited to connect with you, share with you and continue to explore the amazing world of fibre arts. My resolutions are to execute this year, to make my business strong, to stay true to my art by inspiring others to engage and be available to my family.