Erin Collins introduced me to Stephanie and I am so glad she did! We connected as soon I walked through her front door as we chatted about thrifting and vintage finds and then connected even deeper over, as odd as it my sound, cancer. My mother was diagnosed with cancer in the early ‘90s and has been in remission since. She and Stephanie are not just survivors but, more importantly, they are thrivers. I have been interested in exploring how having cancer has changed the individual’s life for the better and Stephanie had lovely things to say about that. She is also a single mom as my mom was, so we had lots to talk about in that regard, too. Stephanie is upbeat and excited for life and full of smiles - a combination of characteristics which makes for a wonderful human.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
First and foremost, I truly feel like I am a conscious being living a human experience as a mom, daughter, sister, a creative, a piano teacher, a second-hand huntress (laughs), and a member of my community - here in Bend and on this globe.
What matters to you or what motivates you?
To really embrace each moment and know that we don't have to live with such strict, rigid certainty of our life. I believe the possibilities and the magic can happen when you surrender to the moment. That really means a lot to me. And it alleviates a lot of potential suffering with having those expectations otherwise. Yeah, living in the moment with gratitude.
What concerns you or what gives you a heavy heart?
'Cause I've been there before, I feel like when people - as humans, I guess I should say - feel stuck in the past or kind of label ourselves because of our conditioning of the past and our worry about the future and just kind of have this stuckness in life - that we can't move forward and recreate ourselves. So, when I see people with a lot of talent and they have a certain purpose that really speaks to them and they have that hard time to kind of dive into that and live that life that they truly want.
What do we mean to each other - person to person?
I think we are a reflection of one another. I feel like it takes a village in that we need each other. I think we can get inspired by each other; we can help each other - raise each other up - to each live our own potential and see that we each have this immense, marvelous light within us. And from being sick, that was huge for me in how this community rallied around me to lift me up in a lot of ways. They nourished me - the connections I made with people - and I found that a new definition of success, for me, was just kindness.... was the ultimate success. When we show kindness to one another and kindness to ourselves, I think we all can... I don't know what the right word is... soar (laughs) in our own individual lives, but together.
What does it mean to you to be part of a community - the community of humans? What does it mean to you to be part of this whole thing?
It's pretty immense and amazing to be part of this whole thing if you want to look at it globally in this moment in time that we're all here. I think we're all put here with a purpose to feel a sense of fulfillment. I think we all have something to bring to the table to help each other through life. Life is such a beautiful opportunity but it also has its challenges and that's when our community should be able to work together. I think it's so important. And I, also from having my dis-ease moment, realized that being a part of community can be everything. And you kind of start shedding all the superficial things of what you think you need. But you need your community. And everything that we've needed has been provided for us since the beginning; from a soul/spiritual level to what the Earth has provided as far as our nourishment and being able to utilize things for shelter and utilize each other's talents and what they have to offer. And sometimes that's more fulfilling than just going out and buying something - you know, that impermanent sort of happiness.
It seems like it often takes some sort of tragedy to bring people together or to remind people of their community or to help people focus - for some maybe it's cancer and for others maybe it's some sort of debilitating accident or it's a time of war. I'm just gonna be really personal right now. The first part of the questions is why do you think we all wait for that? Not only for the people to help, but for the person that needs the help. The person that needs the help tends to focus and be able to celebrate the community once they've gotten it after something bad has happened and then the people that help usually wait to help until something bad has happened. So right now, I need help with this project. But I'm in a relatively good health. On the surface it doesn't look like I'm going through much of a hard time. But I keep asking for help and that ask keeps getting ignored. And while I'm really grateful that people eventually have their time when it does all come together, I'm wondering why we wait so long. And to make it an even bigger question, look at what we're in right now. We wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and it's gets really bad.
I fully agree with what you’re asking. Why does it take something traumatic and having a humbling experience for people to finally either gather around or for ourselves to reach out to somebody? I think sometimes that's just a projection and a reminder that we are not here forever. And sometimes a dis-ease or a tragic accident that's debilitating for somebody - it reminds us and so, for some reason, brings us our own ease of dealing with that this could happen to me.
Maybe this comes back to living in the present moment, which brings me to, I'm able to listen better, just to myself, and to see, with other people. Taking that time to be present and feel what the need is of others. I think it needs to be a constant reminder that we all - again - we all have a story; we all have needs that are very important to us; that sometimes we need help; and I think it's really important to still remain vulnerable and ask for help when you need it. Even if it's to help with an art project or to help pick up the kids and know that we can't always do it on our own and we need our community to help assist. And it's important to take that time. Sometimes it's only half-hour, an hour, and it can make all the difference for somebody. And I don't want it to ever be too late... for something tragic to happen. We always say, Oh, I wish I could have said this to them or I wish I could have spent more time with them. Because the things that we're busy doing on our normal day, those are the things that aren't really gonna matter and we can’t take with us. But that we helped raise each other up as a community and helped when someone needed our help - you can take that kindness with you, I truly believe.
Leading into the next questions about social injustice and an invasion of human rights, for some people their tragedy happens to be their skin color or their sexual orientation or their birth place. Why do you think we're still dealing with that stuff today - in 2018 specifically - with all that we know? What's your role in that capacity and in changing that?
I think a lot of us still live in a sense of fear - a fear of taking the next step. Whether it's in pursuing what speaks to us, just fear from our media that we see. Again, it brings me back to being present in the moment and a huge one that I feel could have some impact... is sitting with yourself and knowing yourself, loving yourself, doing your work, facing your fears. The start is within each of us. And I think it's all just fear-based. Of why people, like you said, still choose to be cruel and unkind and judgmental to others based on color or culture. Yeah, that weighs heavy on me. It weighs really heavy on me. Because we - again - are all in this together. We are a community on this globe and we're all going to be exiting this life and we'll probably all end up kind of, you know, in the same place. So all this fear and this judgment, it's just such heavy, horrible, fear-based energy. It could be put to better use of embracing one another. These differences - it's what keeps our world so beautiful and so unique and all the stories that we can all share with one another to embrace us as a whole. I think it's just a really beautiful opportunity. Again, I think it's fear.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
I do. I do have a sense of purpose. I think my sense of purpose here was to be some sort of a creative and see the beauty in all the small things that have been created from generations and centuries before us. And to have that appreciation for that and to maybe point those things out to others. And to create new things based off of being inspired by people that I meet and places that I travel. And my purpose, too, is just my own self-love and self-worth is a huge one. 'Cause I feel like once I have that, I can radiate more of other things that I enjoy doing and emit more love to the others around me once I have met that for myself.
What do you want more of in your life?
I definitely would like more travel and immersion with cultures and people in the communities around the world and the things that they create. More food and textiles and just constant inspiration - I want more of that to be more consistent.
Do you want to ask me anything?
What would you like more in your world?
Yeah. It's funny - I come up with things, of course, being a talker (laughs), but I don't have ready answers for a lot of this stuff. And they change every day.
I want more of a sense of community, as odd as that probably sounds creating this project. I've been working really hard to find a community here in Bend. So, geographically, I'm still looking for my people here. In the world in the greater sense, I'm looking for some validation with my people. I'm looking to be a little bit more successful in how I show up. I feel like I'm doing a lot of good work right now, but I'm not sure that it matters so much until it starts to get noticed. Right? So, not really fame or not really notoriety, but just some attention being paid to the work helps fuel it and keep it going and perpetuate and grow it. So, yeah, I'm looking for some local good friends (laughs) and then I'm looking for a global community of peers that help this project and this work that I do and this curiosity that I have being a little bit more effective. I guess I could keep it like that for now.