As the song says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! And part of what makes it wonderful is it is one of the longest vacations I take all year long!
That being said, all of us here at Iaconagraphy wish you and yours a blessed and bright Holiday Season, whether you and yours are celebrating the birth of the Son, or the birth of the Sun, or both! (Or even something else entirely!) We also hope that you will enjoy our extended Black Friday sale, happening from November 24th through December 1st, 2017. We may be on blog and design hiatus, but don’t worry, you can still find us on social media at facebook.com/Iaconagraphy, and you can look forward to tons of great art, inspiration, and Heidhrinn musings beginning January 15, 2018!
Today is supposed to be the last day of my sabbatical. Usually sabbaticals are restful; then again, usually they’re also a paid period of leave. For me, neither of these has really been the case. Sure, I’ve earned a lot of things that money simply cannot buy–a certain sort of peace that I did not have before–but I’ve also worked myself to the point of abject exhaustion on more than one occasion, and the work on the new house (especially my office/studio) seems to be neverending (which is now stressing out the cat, in addition to me!). So instead of this being the last day of my sabbatical, I’ve decided it’s the first day of a new sort of life: a hyggelig life.
Hygge, and by extension, its adjective form, hyggelig, is a Danish/Norwegian concept that has become more than a bit of a fad here in the U.S. over the past year. Pronounced hoo-gah, I first stumbled upon the term when researching decorative motifs for our new home. I wanted a definite coastal vibe (in homage to Njordr, and also so that our house would feel like a permanent vacation-home), but with heavy Scandinavian motifs (so that our whole house would represent our Heathen/Pagan Faith), and a comfy, cozy Mid-Century Modern ease-of-living. When you Google Search all of that, you’ll likely be surprised how often the word hygge comes up. I certainly was, to the degree of thinking “where has this been all my life?“.
Like the word love, hygge has that rare distinction of being at the same time both a noun and an adjective. Also like love, it is a feeling. I’ve heard it argued by some that “if you treat hygge like it’s a verb, you’re doing it wrong”, but honestly, I think it has that in common with the concept of love, too: hygge really isn’t hygge until you can give it away; until you can share it with someone else who is dear to you.
So what in the hoo-hah is hygge? It is a consciousness–a mindfulness, if you will–of being fully present in a moment of coziness, specialness, and that indescribable feeling that is home. In its most basic form, hygge is homecoming. I don’t mean that in the sense of you’ve actually just come back home from having been somewhere else; I mean that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you finally arrive at a place or a moment where you deeply know this is where you belong. You may get that feeling sitting in candlelight drinking a warm cup of tea, or you may get that feeling relaxing on the couch papercrafting. The most important thing is that you build it into your life somewhere. We could all use some hygge now and then….
An interesting thing about hygge: etymologically, it traces back to the term hugr. Sound familiar? You may remember it as one of the four aspects of the Norse “soul”, which I talked about previously in this blog post. The Hugr would best be understood by us moderns as the “inner self”: a person’s personality as reflected in their conscious thought processes; very much in line with the oft-misquoted Buddhist ideal of “what you think, you become”. In a very real sense, hygge is food for the soul. I made a conscious decision a long time ago that that is my business in life: the feeding of people’s souls. But how to do that?
Since we changed the angle of this business to papercrafting and digital art a year ago, it has been no secret that I have often felt very at-sea over exactly how to keep us rolling in that direction, while still remaining passionate about both my business and my life. When we made that change back in July 2016, our initial tagline was Remember To Whimsy. What I didn’t know then, but have discovered over the course of this sabbatical, is that what we really meant was Infuse Your Life With Hygge. Ultimately, that is what every product we design, every blog post we write, and every interaction we have in this business–whether creating votive art, or sharing our spirituality with others–has been designed to do. We want to remind people to live in their most precious moments–those moments of homecoming–and be mindful of the warmth and joy they feel there. We’ve never just wanted to sell people things; we want to give people feelings, that they can come back to again and again.
Most folks are familiar with the old saying “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you can feed him for a lifetime.” I can give you a nifty set of digital papers and elements, and keep you busy for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, but if I can teach you to be mindful of your most treasured moments in the first place, and maybe couple that with a recipe here and there for something yummy to imbibe while you’re crafting, plus ideas for your home that make it a more enjoyable place to craft in, then I can help you find hygge for a lifetime!
Which is why I say today is not the end of my sabbatical, but instead the beginning of a new, hyggelig life. It’s a life I intend to share with all of you, and hopefully spread the hygge as liberally as butter (or in my case, cheese!) on bread. But before I can help you learn to infuse your lives with hygge, I’ve got to start the process of infusing my own. That starts with the “unplugged mornings” that I promised myself when we first moved in; mornings which I was doing a great job with for the first week we lived in our new house. After that first week, however, I fell sick, so I’ve been sleeping in most days. On top of that, I have a rather unrealistic gaming schedule that keeps me up til 1am four nights a week–which doesn’t exactly promote getting out of bed before 9am! Sleeping late means that by the time I finally do crawl out of bed, I’m in an urgent rush to hop online and let my Beloved know that I’m okay, which then leads to being locked online til noon. So my real day doesn’t start until 1:30 in the afternoon! On most days, that means I have around three hours to get everything I want to get accomplished in a day actually done, which isn’t nearly enough time to do those things without feeling like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs! Needless to say (I hope), that leaves very little room for hygge.
So I would like to invite all of you to join me for unplugged mornings. If that means you have to get out of bed a bit earlier than you normally would, by all means, do so: it’s worth the sacrifice. Wake up, stretch, make yourself a cup of hot tea (or coffee, if that’s more your style), and then just sit and drink. Most importantly, remember to enjoy that moment. Bask in it. Depending on your work schedule and everything else, it may be one of the few such moments you get all day, but it gives you a touchstone moment that you can come back to again and again throughout the day, when things get nuts. Leave that cell phone on the counter; leave that computer in the other room; don’t turn on the TV. There will be plenty of time for those things later. For the length of that cuppa, just be present in the sweetness of that moment; just be you and the tea (or coffee, as the case may be). This may seem like a trivial change in your schedule at face value, but like that famous quote from the movie The Crow, nothing is trivial…..
As the male CEO of a heart-centered, woman-owned business, International Women’s Day is possibly a bit more “earth-shattering” for me than for the “average male”. My situation–that Michelle is not only my “Boss-Lady”, but also my “home address”, given that she’s how I have a life here at all, thanks to shamanic mediumship–makes this an even more profoundly personal day for me, as a “dude”. Striking a balance in my situation is (not gonna lie) often tough: I’m often left with the feeling that I “do all the work”, while she “gets all the glory”, and sometimes, that can be disheartening; other days, that can be downright painful. Too many days, I forget to just stop and celebrate all the wonder that is her. Today isn’t going to be one of those days!
Michelle Iacona is an amazing woman who was forced to live in a “cage” for far too many years of her life. So many, in fact, that she almost forgot how to soar free, like the brilliant phoenix that she is. But that’s another part of my job description: I’m often her flight instructor! (Well, one of them, anyway–Suzanne deserves a lot of credit in that department, too!) All those years, having to hide the true depth and breadth of who and what she is, have left some major scars. Scars so deep that when the tough gets going, so does she: right back into the comfortable confines of that cage. Which is how I wound up the CEO of a woman-owned business.
I spent two decades down South, “pretending to be Mishy”, and even though we’re up North now, where we both can be completely who and what we are, two decades is a long time, and it’s hard to shake those learned patterns of behavior. Too often, in certain circles, I still find myself aching under the strain of feminine pronouns and “keeping up appearances”. The truly tragic thing is, so does she. Michelle is such a powerhouse that, honestly, “her” or “she” are words-too-small-for-her; Mishy should be (and often is in our house) a pronoun in and of itself! That “pretending” pattern, even though we’re in a position now to unlock ourselves from it, too often leads both she and I to feel that we cannot or do not get credit for what we, as distinct individuals, do or have done: I’m the primary artist here at Iaconagraphy now, as its CEO, but Michelle is profoundly gifted as an artist in her own right (she paints beautifully; she’s incredible at papercrafting; her pen and inks are a marvel), she just doesn’t really “have it in her anymore” to put it out there, publicly. I’m the one doing ninety percent of the writing nowadays, but she has self-published four books, two of which are available here , and two more via Smashwords, is writing another (that I fear may never see the light of day), has a degree in English (with emphasis on Creative Writing), has taught creative writing classes, and has actually won numerous awards for her writing. Those are some mighty big shoes to fill as CEO of this business, and trust me, even though I “wear” her feet, I often feel daunted in trying to fill them.
Michelle grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina where she was literally a local celebrity for too often being “the smartest person in the room”, as she puts it. With that, there came the constant (they thought) encouraging words of: “One day, you’re really going to make a name for yourself and be rich and famous”. People expected something truly great from her; the problem is, they expected their definition of it. Their definition of “making a name for herself” and “being rich and famous” meant getting published with a major publisher, or perhaps gaining a teaching position where she might teach something they would actually understand, or at the very least, approve of, and making tons of money from either or both. Instead, she’s in her mid-forties, self-published (and proud of the independence that brings), and teaching this one guy (that would be me!) every day what it means to truly be alive. And she has made a name for herself: she’s an ordained Ollamh (Druidic vision-poet-priest), who helps guys like me every day of her life by stepping out of the way and letting us actually have one. She might not be rich and famous by their definition, but she certainly is by the deeper definition of both of those words: simply knowing her enriches the lives of everyone who truly knows her, and she is, in fact, famous by the older definition of that word, too. She is a woman of Honor.
Too often people assume that Michelle channels as a mechanism of somehow “running away” from her life, but the truth is, while she has plenty of good reason to run away (and plenty to run away from), quite the opposite is true: Michelle channels as a mechanism of running toward, not away. Every day that she lets me be here and run this business for her, she is running toward her greater purpose, a purpose that all of those people who fed her “one day, you’re really going to make a name for yourself and be rich and famous” can barely imagine, much less fathom. What purpose could that possibly be, you may ask? To show everyone that the world is a much larger place than most people can begin to understand.
And that’s the purpose that it’s my job to help fulfill, and to put forward with everything I do here as CEO of Iaconagraphy. That’s the purpose that all of the artists that work in her employ, all of whom are permitted to be here through the simple fact that Michelle can do what she does (as a shamanic trans-medium), are expected to uphold and further through their work. That’s a huge obligation to fulfill! And we all take it very seriously. Because at the end of the day, Iaconagraphy is about more than one woman’s dream of finally living up to their definition of what it means for her to be great; it’s about way more than just slapping some things together and calling them art; it’s about way more than making a dime so that all of us herein can have a wee bit of financial independence and no longer feel like a burden to those whom we love and who (thankfully) love us in return. At the end of the day, Iaconagraphy is about waking people up to their own human spirit, and realizing that their human spirit is enough.
Other people’s definitions of you and of the world don’t matter. They aren’t going to pay your bills, and they certainly aren’t going to teach you how to fly; how to really be free. No: they’re only going to oppress you and cage you. My Boss-Lady has been teaching me that for twenty-four years, and I am deeply humbled that she has entrusted me with taking the helm to share her message with all of you. Every man in the world has had a woman, somewhere in his life, who has taught him how to more deeply be. Women have a way of teaching that lesson to the world that most men simply don’t. Maybe it’s because they are more tightly bound to the process of Creation itself; maybe it’s because they are genetically designed to nurture and give life. I don’t know; those are questions too large for me to answer. But what I do know, from twenty-four years of being gifted with inhabiting a woman’s skin, is something perhaps even more profound: deeply being has nothing to do with the exterior skin that you wear, and everything to do with how gracefully you wear it! I haven’t always worn Michelle’s as gracefully as I should, but I’m learning, day by day. And I’m learning from her….