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  • Cara Van Leuven

BUT FIRST, THIS

The amount of love and support through comments and messages after my last post floored me to say the least. I don’t feel like I owe you this, but I want you to know my journey to get where I am today has not been easy.

For years and years I lived a life that was a disaster. i made one poor choice after the next and couldn’t get out of my own way. The walls inside mental hospitals became familiar after trying to end a life that already felt dead.


Your encouragement means the world. Had I known that the life I’m living was possible — full of love, friends, horses, art and absolute wonder — it would have been a lot easier to get through those years. Thank you to all of you ... now, back to the chapter at hand. ...

Tom and I left Tuesday morning 15 minutes before our goal time of 5AM. After driving for nearly 10 hours and feeling utterly cheated in life (I was forced to use a public bathroom for business that is only meant to be done in private bathrooms), we finally got a room in Cordele, GA. Small talk in Cordele always began with, “You headin’ north or south?”

South!

By Wednesday afternoon we were unpacking the van at my new temporary home in Winter Park, Florida. As much as I love the home, the weather and my studio set-up, I was pretty pouty missing Tom days before he was even set to leave.

By Friday we were headed even further south to reach he vicinity of Cape Coral. We scoped out the show location where I would be one of 300 artists. Set-up wasn't allowed until 8PM so Tom and I decided to set up early Saturday morning; we headed to our AirBNB that was half an hour away on a fairly secluded island.

The thrill of the unknown struck in a way I find comforting and frightening and utterly addictive. And that damn thrill kept me up almost all night. I worried about having enough time or space to set up the tent. I finally did get some shut-eye only a half an hour before our 4AM alarm sounded. Within minutes we were out the door to get that tent up.

It took some time, a lot of patience and muscle, but we somehow made it all work. The booth looked great, my art was uniquely different and I was feeling pretty damn confident ... the crowds were thick an hour before the show even opened. And so there I was, ready to sell sell sell.

And I waited and waited. For hours my sales were almost nonexistent. Dismal. Imagine this — for nearly a year you've planned on this chapter of your life thinking it wouldn't be great just for the weather, but financially. You anticipated numbers that you weren't even close to hitting. All this and I was exhausted, working off the minutes of sleep from the night before.

At least the weather was phenomenal. Tom was by my side, encouraging me, reading and basking in the sunshine. We had a great dinner on the water while we were both attacked by mosquitos and noseeums. Most importantly, we dreamed. We dreamed about us both being in Florida together. We dreamed about the dogs with us. And the horses. And a life that could possibly be enhanced in a year or two.

Sunday was another early morning since I had to get Tom to the airport in Punta Gorda by 5AM. My sales started a little stronger but again, not what I was hoping. Maybe it was an east coast versus west coast thing. Maybe I needed to be further north. Or further south. As I was ruminating all this, I started a conversation with a couple ... I thought very little of it until the woman decided she wanted three paintings in a similar color pattern.

Sometimes you just get a little lucky. I got lucky, and I hope she and her husband cherish their paintings and find the perfect spot for them.


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