life is a combination of breathtaking beauty, overwhelming possibility, heart shattering pain, and simple wonders. It is fleeting.
Ever changing. Always moving.
Sometimes it is painfully, and devistatingly motionless. Sometimes it is brutally fast. We blink, years fly.
I see all of this in the life cycle of a peony. (Or any flower)
that's why I choose to look. To see. To relish the days. Whatever they bring.
Let's talk, shall we.
I recently had an Art By Jaci Musec sponsored event, featuring the Through Infertility series.
Perhaps it is a little silly to host my own event/art show this early in my art career but
it was time to get the word out about this series, and share the stories, the paintings and my intentions for this project.
So... let's start there.
What is this all about?
This series is a Collective Experience & Abstract Expression
Representing Individual Unique Journeys… Through.
Let's break it down... this is an exclusive opportunity for individuals who have/had or are experiencing infertility. It is a special experience of working with (me) the artist, to create an original one of a kind painting, that represents THEIR unique journey through infertility.
How it works?
Individuals provide detailed information in a series of questionnaires.
(Providing as much information as they are willing.)
I spend time reflecting on the experience. Then a 12 x 36* original- abstract- intuitive painting is rendered.
1 in 8 couples experience Infertility.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive.
The idea for this project came to me while prepping for my first solo art exhibit. I was reflecting on the emotional healing power that making art had had on my own infertility journey and I wanted to be able to help other couples in similar situations. (Read about that show here )
So I put the call out on social media and spread the news via word of mouth... asking couples to participate.
It was an experiment of sorts.
Would people participate?
Would I be able to actually do what I was setting out to do?
Would it in fact be healing like I had experienced in my own art making?
Five couples signed up. Five couples sent me their stories. Five times I read and read and cried. Each story impacted me. Each story was heartbreaking, hopeful, peppered with pain and uncertainty. I could, having walked my own journey, identify with so many expressed emotions. So many of their pivotal moments mirrored mine, and yet, we were all on completely different journeys. AND we were all at different places in our infertility paths.
Each of these five painting have a very unique story to tell. So, here they are:
There Will Be Hope
This couple connected with me while in the midst of their infertility journey. It was here, as they found themselves deep in the trenches, that this painting came to life.
They have been struggling, trying and coping with diagnosis; managing fear and confusion and frustration and hopelessness for a while. In fact, they were on this journey for three years, unable to ovulate doctors had prescribed medications. Several months passed, as they watched their dreams and hopes slip farther out of reach, a miracle---they found themselves pregnant.
What a joyful surprise it is to have a treatment finally work.
However, after far too short of time, they experienced loss. The baby did not make it.
Dread, devastation, and heartbreak.
And yet, they had a renewed sense of hope. They moved forward with a more aggressive protocol. Setting parameters on how long and how much they would attempt before moving towards IVF. Now, as they cautiously hope for another miracle, they find themselves planning for what is next... treatment and the unknown factors of the life that lay before them.
They have also begun work towards becoming foster parents.
Currently they are in a season of active waiting.
Always Meant To Be
This Couple’s story begins several years ago. They learned early on that having their own biological child would be an extremely long and uncertain journey. While this news was difficult to process, they knew that God had called them to explore other options; specifically adoption.
They decided to end treatment and pursue adoption. In a fortunate turn of events they did not wait long. A birthmother choose them and the course of their lives changed the day they adopted their son.
Several years have passed since the thick of their infertility journey and adoption story began, but they have spent these 4 years with a continued hope to grow as a family with another adoption miracle. They continue to wait.
This couple’s story is particularly gripping for me as it centers on some of the negative emotions that are brought to surface in this journey. Physical pain, emotional pain, isolation, frustration, bitterness, jealousy, being misunderstood, hurting, longing, and loneliness to name a few. These are the words they used when describing their story.
I connected with them in the midst of their infertility journey. After years of trying to conceive, they find themselves in the thick of the treatment. Dealing with pain and heartbreak of loss and months upon months of what is known as “charting”. Countless tears have been shed. They continue to hold onto the hope of one day seeing their dreams come true.
Scars Of Heart
This couple’s infertility story is another that continues to unfold. They have been trying for over five years. After a diagnosis of PCOS, and several attempts with medication, a doctor suggested a weight loss surgery for the female to increase odds.
Saying this was one of the hardest things she has ever faced, she no longer can eat normally and often struggles just to eat.
After healing from surgery, they did in fact become pregnant. A miracle. Heartbreakingly, only 9 weeks into this pregnancy they lost the baby.
Devastation and depression hit hard. They are working to heal and have begun to take steps to try again.
Growing and Grieving
This couple’s infertility story is another unique look into the emotional challenges of infertility. After struggling to get pregnant and then finding out that they would have issues conceiving, they worked diligently on altering their lifestyle to optimize their chances before taking the next steps with treatment. With the greatest excitement they became successfully pregnant. However, in the midst of this joyful time, devastation took hold as it became clear that her mother would soon be leaving this earth.
Focus continually shifted between worry and excitement for the growing baby―And heartbreak for the slow loss of her mother. The two experiences becoming so intermingled, and heavily affecting the emotional well being of this couple, that it took years to heal from the trauma.
They couple later went on to go through treatment to conceive their second child.
This project... it is so powerful.
Not only did five couples participate. They all remarked on the experience as having valuable, powerful and HEALING effects on them. GUYS--- that was my intention the whole time.
Here are some of the responses they emailed me after receiving my frequent updates or the final email. One participant couldn't wait, so she called me immediately after receiving the final email.
IT'S ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL!!!! I'm in tears! It tells our story so well! Again, I am so honored to be a part of this.
Omg Jaci...wow. I LOVE it. Seeing it finished has left me speechless. I don't think I'll ever be able to express what this painting means to me. I am so very grateful for you and this project. Thank you for this creation and for all your encouraging words along the way.
Wow...your vision and how you connect and portray things! I am super excited to follow the development of this. Like silly excited!
I'm speechless. I cried looking at the photos you sent. I love knowing that our story is literally the heart of this painting. --Again you leave me speechless. I am moved to tears looking at this painting. You managed to capture everything we've been feeling in one picture. I absolutely love it! -- This process has been so healing. It's given me time to reflect and really think. I've cried a lot this week- thanks to you and hormones!!! Thank you so much for everything!--I cried as soon as I saw the pictures. When I read that the textured circle is baby Shaw, I sobbed. I was not prepared for how this reveal affected me. This painting is absolutely perfect and we can never thank you enough for this amazing gift.
Oh my gosh! Jaci! This is amazing!!!! I love the colors and I love how you interpreted that part of our lives like a shadow. I'm beyond pleased and honored about being a part of this! Also, I'm keeping all these emails to put in my scrapbook!
As an emerging artist, it is amazing to be able to work on projects that are well received. And even more amazing to work on something with so much depth and heart.
I thought for a time that maybe my work would only be deeply personal to me.
This series taught me that there is a whole new level for my work, I am thrilled, inspired and so hopeful.
So, I had the show... displaying these five paintings publicly. Now, these five paintings will go to live with their families. I hope that the paintings continue to bring healing, joy, hope and strength to these couples.
And yet, this project... this series... it has only just begun.
I have opened this up as a special commissioned art service.
If you know someone who would benefit from an experience like this... tell them.
If this project moves you... consider sponsoring a painting for a couple who may not be able to afford one.
IF you are someone who would benefit from an experience like this... please take that first step. Email me... let's connect... YOUR STORY MATTERS!
Read more or sign up for your own commissioned work here.
The act of creating art became a powerful tool in shaping the person I am today.
Big things have happened recently.
It all started when I began working on an event location for the Through Infertility collection Open House. I was touring spaces and dreaming about having a space that I could better photograph my artwork. I was planning and thinking and working, and before I even realized I was setting up an appointment to see an available studio space.
I had already booked Jamberry (in Dunlap) for my event. So this really had nothing to do with THAT, yet, in a way it did.
I looked at the studio spaces available and I just knew it was time to take the leap. Time to have a studio space that would be offsite (not in our home), time to have more room to stretch and grow with my work, time to have a space that would lend itself to more creative bursts.
I've worked so hard on this space over the last few weeks. Hauling in supplies and furniture. It feels more and more like my own every time I step into this room.
A few days ago, was the First Friday event in Peoria... and I was able to open the doors to my studio for friends, family and the public to come and see. It is truly a dream come true. I can't wait to see what lies ahead.
People get sick of the rain really quickly round here... not me, I love it.
I breathe in the fresh rainy scents and bask in all the beauty that rainy days highlight. I splash in puddles and let the mist fall on my face. I listen to the gentle, steady rhythm. The grey skies force me to look down and around. Hello reflection in this sidewalk pool. Hello chirpy birds with bellies full of worms. Hello yellow petals dripping. Hello budding branches. Hello grass coming to live--- you are so vibrant and dashing.
With the proper tools(waterproof boots, a warm sweater, a towel to dry off, a hot mug of tea, eyes willing to see) a rainy day is simply a different sort of opportunity. Once to savor all the richness the earth has to offer.
#hellopeoria #rainydays #iloverainydays #meetjacimusec #wordsbyjacimusec #abmlifebeautiful #abmlifeiscolorful
Every once in awhile, in a moments notice, life turns upside down.
News hits your ears and shock waves ripple through your heart.
No one is exempt from these sort of moments.
They are built into the fabric of life.
When they arrive, we all stand, stunned. We almost never see them coming… and even when we do, we are shocked that they’ve arrived.
These moments- upon- moments-upon- moments, when time stands still,
crash into us
like a bolt of lightning. Electric and instant.
They come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and feelings -- each one characterized by the
blind side that they bring to our reality.
Our brains scramble to make sense, our lungs struggle to take that much needed deep breath.
Our hearts beat wildly as we begin the next step… Processing.
Just the other night… I had one of these moments.
It knocked me sideways and swelled my heart with grief.
I felt heavy. Raw. And heartbroken.
After struggling with Infertility for the last (almost) 7 years, I find that I am particularly susceptible to emotional trauma.
Imagine a chronically ill person… they’re immune system is much weaker in many ways, and therefore more susceptible to a dangerous virus.
That’s me… only I am not chronically ill, I am living in perpetual emotional trauma.
It is strange to say that, but it is the most accurate way to explain my situation.
It is why I am consciously and actively vigilant to protect my heart. It is why I do my best to practice self care daily. It is why I say “No” to baby showers, and newborn hospital visits . It is why I no longer teach preschool, why I nap regularly, and why I choose to submerse myself in things that bring joy to my life.
My emotional well being depends on the amount of “defensive” work I do.
With all the work I do, to remain balanced and stable… I still know that I am going to have these blind sides… no one is exempt from these sorts of moments.
They are built into the fabric of life.
How do I cope?
I first let the wave crash. The one that follows the lightning bolt. I feel all the emotion in its pure form and let it wash over me. I observe it. I acknowledge it. Without judging myself, I let whatever I need to feel rise up and be present.
And then I breathe deeply. I hug. I remind myself of these important truth’s:
I am not in control.
This reality is painful, uncomfortable and unwanted… but it is here.
Therefore, I will do my best to accept what I must, change what I can and rise above the rest.
I am not in control.
And then I get to work, taking care of myself.
And for me that can mean many things…
A crying session. Writing. Painting. A brisk walk. Pulling weeds. Screaming loudly. Talking.
Tuesday night, after the initial shock wore off, and I began to process, I sang.
I sang my heart.
I sang on a stage, in a little bar. I stood, in front of mostly strangers, with a microphone, no musician to accompany me, and I sang.
And the healing power of art took over.
The music of my fellow open mic attendees and my own small set -- released the energy that had built up. It lessened the weight of the grief and sadness. It allowed me to move forward.
With each arrival of a new season I grow increasingly aware of my surroundings.
I breathe in the winds of change and I collect new memories. It is within these few transitional weeks that I find myself reflecting, observing and appreciating the world that surrounds me.
Life, in all its beauty is fleeting. If we don't stop to enjoy our days now... when will we?
It doesn't have to be a constant, grand notion... it can be found in the smallest of things.
Sometimes, all it takes is a tiny vase of flowers sitting on the windowsill dappled in sunlight.
Hello Dear Readers,
My goal for 2017 is to post at the very least, once a month.
Yet, February slipped right through the cracks.
Let's break it down and examine the two ways I looked at this.
Most of us... myself included... naturally and initially jump right to negative conclusions. We look at this kind of slip up as an indicator of Failure and as a strange opportunity to unleash our harshest critic. Ourselves.
Only the second month of the year and already I fell short of meeting my goal.
Several unfinished drafts, full of thoughts, are saved in the blog editor, various notebooks and my brain... but never made it to the publish button. What a waste.
This is a huge disappointment, to my goal setting self, my readers and my business.
How many times did I sit before the blank screen. A blinking line against a white backdrop. What is wrong with me that I couldn't take a moment to blog a few thoughts, words, or photos?
Maybe I am not a writer. Not a blogger.
Thinking like this is so damaging. It is like putting a giant "do not enter" sign on your dreams and goals and future. We start with words like Failure and they morph into others...
But there IS another way to look at it.
In the last five or so years, I've personally been growing. Leaps and bounds.
And the initial thoughts of self belittling no longer sit well in my company.
They do visit. But they are not as comfortable. They don't grab a blanket and overstay their welcome, getting cozy in the confines of my mind.
In fact, almost as soon as the Failure alarms sound, the new team I've acquired hop into action, and set to work organizing, banishing, and modifying unwanted thoughts...like triage or a particularly talented stage manager.
Soon, the crippling thoughts of Failure are replaced with more tender, well crafted, kindhearted, loving and helpful thoughts.
"February slipped through the cracks."
It sure was a quick month. Busy too. Remember those notes jotted on paper. I was sure hoping to expand on them in the blog space... I suppose I still can, later.
It never felt right, every time I sat down to blog last month... it felt forced and insincere.
The last thing I want to do is to start posting a bunch of random stuff just to meet a goal. HA. I am so transparent, I am almost positive that a blog post-forced would be a blog post- torture for the reader.
Perhaps there isn't any good reason for a month of silence. I am human. And my humanity affords me a fair amount of mistake making.
maybe there's a more significant reason. Perhaps I have been busy living out and fleshing through some very real notions. Needing the experience before I can articulate them on the page.
This has been true in the past, and now that I think about it... I HAVE been wrestling with a few topics haven't I?
And there is the big stuff too. The infertility treatment decisions and the business decisions. The extra naps, the traces of depression and anxiety trickling into some of my days. The several BIG idea projects holding space in my brain... not to mention the short story I've been writing... the short story that seems to be turning itself into a long story.
This is what my new thought process looks and sounds like.
Isn't it so much more gentle and understanding. It leaves room for growth and perspective. It encourages thoughtful reflections and ACTUALLY inspires.
It accounts for life, the messy complicated bits and it helps to remind me that I am not a production assembly line.
I am a living, breathing, mistake making, thinking, growing person. Not a failure.
furthermore... it sounds a lot more like how I would talk to someone I love.
More forgiving. More tender.
It makes me think of being a child at the carnival. You approach the coveted ride, hoping to God that your head will rise above the height line, the one that determines who can and who can't ride.
Failure- and our subsequent self talk tends to be like the carnival worker. Grimacing down at us, declaring that we are not allowed to move forward.
But life isn't a carnival ride... it is a grand and wondrous adventure... not a short term thrill.
We needn't hold ourselves back with negative thoughts, my friends. It isn't helpful.
My hope, in writing this... is that you, my dear reader, would find a path to a kinder, more tender self love.
That you could set to work replacing harsh criticisms and unrelenting negative self talk, when bumps in the road happen and they will.
That you would look in the mirror and speak gentle, encouraging, thoughtful, tender words to yourself, AND mean them... sincerely.
We need to keep moving forward
a whole lot of
a view of my writing nook
Today I took our little dog for a walk.
It was cold and windy. I bundled up, she wore her scraggly fur as usual.
Gusts blew the wisps of hair sticking out from under my hat.
We took a familiar path down the sidewalk, of a cul de sac. Upon reaching the bend, my ears caught sound on the wind. A steady playing of rhythm instantly noticeable as wind chimes. Melodic dancing tones.
Ellie too caught the sound, it utterly terrified her.
She glanced at me, at the house, and then as if to say "let's get out of here" she pulled hard on the leash. Doing her best to get away from the wind chimes. Looking at the house and it's mystery sound with frequency, until it was well out of site. Her little dog brain trying to make sense of this new information.
We are like that sometimes. Frightened by the strange, the new, the unknown.
We pull hard in the opposite direction.
There is no shame in being frightened and perplexed. It is a key part of our learning experience.
However, unlike my sweet dog. We have the ability to understand on a level that is much more intricate and nuanced. We do not have to remain frightened and worried by that which is unfamiliar.
In fact, we have such a privilege to learn and grow and change.
We have tools at our fingertips that can help teach us.
We have relationships with people who can share what they have learned.
We have the ability to discern. We have the opportunity to build new relationships, to ask questions and seek information.
we may, still, armed with knew knowledge, carry fear.
But it is my hope that we would first move forward in love and curiosity before we cast a net of fear out before us.
Fear is like a snapchat filter. Fear is like a pair of foggy glasses. Fear is a means of distorting perception. Be cautious about that which intensifies fear in your heart.
Once, as a little girl, I was looking out the back window of our family vehicle. It was night and we had been traveling for awhile. I noticed a small feathery seed clinging to the window. It looked so strange. I didn't know it was a seed. I didn't know what it was.
Yet somehow, my wild imagination convinced me that it was a thing to fear.
I imagined that this seed could bore into my skin. That it would travel through my body. It spooked me in such an impressionable way, honestly I do not know why or how or what justified this fear. It was completely and innocently made up in my seven year old brain.
This year will hold many unknowns.
My creative business is changing. My artwork is expanding. I have new and exciting projects. I have growing connections and interesting challenges.
Personally we have decisions to make, treatment to plan for, embryos to bring home. The political climate is feeling very unstable and I feel as if a constant noise of argument is humming in the background. People I know and love are facing heartbreak and uncertainty.
this space... the here and now, it is a hard and difficult space to be sometimes.
My hope is that my artwork, my words, my actions, and my love will inspire in you a new hope.
One that lets fear fall into the shadows.
Forward, without fear. 2017
As many of you know, if you've been following along my journey, creating art has been a healing revolution in my life.
Years spent in the ongoing throes of infertility had left me feeling broken and less.
It felt as if the strong negative emotions creeping in were slowly changing my identity.
Bitterness, anger, pain, heartbreak, helplessness, fear, frustration, anxiety, depression and more...a cocktail of darkness loomed over me.
It was exhausting.
Early in 2014 I experienced one of the biggest shifts in thinking. A brand new idea to me.
Learning that I could give myself permission.
Permission to be what I had a sneaking suspicion I had been created to do all along.
Up until that point, I actively cultivated "becoming the best version of me." (I even wrote a song about it) but in some ways I was still holding back.
The dark cloud loomed and I seemed to be in battle... a constant struggle. It was so hard to better myself while trying to cope with our infertility journey.
At some point, anxiety became a leading role in my life, depression took center stage- yet all the while I was making strides in self care, gratitude, kindness and more... Yet, it wasn't until this permission slip to my soul unlocked a new identity that I truly began to part the clouds of darkness and embrace my journey--- in other words---HEAL.
I gave myself permission to be me.
It looked something like this:
"dearest self, you have permission to be who God created you to be. Stop selling yourself short--- as 'just a creative.' You are so much more than JUST creative.
And dear, your broken heart... it is part of you, it is intertwined in the very fabric of who you are... but you are so much more.
Stop working so hard and be.
You ARE an artist! Create!
Feel! Breathe! And
Take this messy, complicated, long season of waiting and use it.
And one more thing... it is so sweet that you desire to be the best version of yourself, but YOU are great
opening your heart to the authentic you--- embracing your art, your journey, your pain, your longing, your truth...
well dear, that IS the best version of yourself.
Yes! You will always be unfolding, becoming but know that you are already here... and
YOU ARE ENOUGH"
Go ahead and read that last bit of it again.
"You are Enough"
Wow. Making a declaration to yourself, giving permission on this level. It does something to you. A great and mighty shift has occurred, and I can never go back.
I am an artist.
I capture moments.
I encourage others.
I love people.
everyday I add a small portion,
what will be considered
What is it that you need to give yourself permission to be?
When will you decide to love who you are?
To proclaim that YOU are in fact ENOUGH?
We need to shift the way we think.
Because we are all creative---
let's stop thinking of ourselves as
groups of humans who are "just creative"
and other groups who are "Not creative"
still others who are either "super creative" or those who think they have "zero capacity for creativity."
We are human... it is in our nature to create---
we were designed that way!
So maybe you wont be a painter, or a photographer, or a novelist, or a poet, or a musician, or a sculptor...
buried deep inside your soul ...
is a masterpiece...that only you can bring fourth
It is your life.
Photos taken by Jaci Musec
Scenes provided by the great creator.
Hey there dear ones. I took a short break from blogging so I could keep my sanity during the holiday season. Now it's January- a new year- and I am feeling energized and inspired.
One of my January goals includes making studio time a priority. I am also making "getting fit" a priority too, but that's another post.
So... I've had a few solid days of studio time and I feel confident that I can keep up my current schedule.
Two reasons: 1. I am exploring and "playing" with different colors, ideas, processes and subject matter--- portraits! (My least confortable area so it is fun and challenging to open up and try.)
2. I am working on a new series of paintings. The collection is titled "Through Infertility".
Basicly I am working with five unique couples who have experienced or are currently going through the turmoltuous journey of infertility.
Each week I will focus on an individual couple... taking their personal story and turning it into a work of art.
The goal is to give them something tangible that will in a way commemorate this season of life, while honoring their pain, joy, sorrow and uniqe twists and turns.
As I am working with couple 1 this week I am reminded anew why I choose to go after this project. I am inspired, honored, and moved to be able to paint an abstract expression of their journeys.
I've been emailing couple 1 with updates, details and photos the past two days. Their reaction to this experience is more than I could have hoped for. This process seems to be touching and healing for them.
"I'm speechless. I cried looking at the photos you sent. I love knowing that our story is literally the heart of this painting."
Yet, what I am most suprised by, is my own response.
am deeply moved. We've only just begun and I find that I am full of emotion, energy, inspiration, tears, joy and hope.
When this idea first came to me- fully formed- I recognized it's power and beauty immediatley. I knew I wanted to do this project to give healing hope, through my art, to other's on this journey.
What I didn't anticipate was just how beautiful and powerful it would be for myself.
I am so excited to see where this Through Infertility project goes and how it evolves. For now, I am just in awe of the way it has moved me in such a short time.
"You are not alone"- Couple 1 (female)
So it is with much anticipation that I begin this new year, this new month. 2017 will have a major focus in my art, it's growth and how I "put it out there into the world."
Follow along on Instagram at @artbyjacimusec
Please share with others who might be encouraged by this project.
and stay tuned for more Captured & Reclaimed updates.
Ps. Thank you, for being you. A miracle of life, breath & soul, heart & humanity, spirit & body... may you find inspiration and beauty in your life.
I love using words to connect with my fellow humans.