Words From My Silly Putty Heart

Drawing For AnnaThere is a pastel drawing on the wall in my Dad’s room at the seniors’ home. Three tall yellow roses standing amid coloured stones, and a backdrop of words repeated over and over. A mantra. ‘I need a shatterproof heart.’

The yellow roses are my Nana, my Mom, and me. The title is ‘Drawing For Anna’. The drawing is fifteen years old.

I wake this morning, thinking exactly that mantra.

I convince myself to write morning pages. What comes in my pages—I need a heart made of silly putty. Bendable, squishable, stretchable. Break silly putty apart and it always smooshes back together again.

Yes, I say in my pages. I need a silly putty heart.

It is late afternoon now, as I write this blog post, and I decide I already have a silly putty heart. All this summer, my heart has been squashed and broken into every shape of every emotion between joy and grief. And every time, somehow, my heart moves back into the shape of love.

A silly putty heart in love shape, I decide, is two hands cupped together, large enough to hold with care all that shows up.

Right now my silly putty cupped heart is holding a lot.

There are today’s naked feelings around my parents’ aging and illness. There is the wanting of a good life and graceful leaving for them, and the feeling this is not terribly possible despite the best we do.

There is the knowledge of being parent to my parents, making difficult decisions, not something I expected.

There is the desperate need of doing something, anything, creative. My heart knows drawing and writing hold me together.

And in this moment, in my silly putty heart, here is the mid-September sun warm on my bare feet, the breeze that smells of the ocean, the rocking of the porch swing as I sit and move my pen across the papers in my lap.

My heart offers me words that soothe and settle the naked, painful feelings. Offers me this moment of beauty. Sun and breeze and the porch swing.  The loud cricket choir that begins singing in just this moment.

I wonder, in my morning pages, what to call this mess of feelings that touch all places between joy and grief.

I have my answer.

It’s called life.

Full Frontal Creativity

notetomyself.enteringhope
Note To Myself: Entering Hope

I’m sitting outside on our new porch swing. One foot anchored on the ground, because as I write, the swing moves.

This swing is perfectly balanced, moves gently and easily. It is a joy.

It is a joy to sit here and write. There is a breeze pushing through the maple trees and the grove of cedars that I love. The shade these trees provide is essential here in August. I can tell this day will have heat. Best to sit here now while the side of the house is shady.

I’ve had a phrase running through my mind lately. Full frontal creativity.

It makes me laugh every time I think of it.

I’ve been deciding what it means.

‘Naked creating’ is what I keep hearing when I think on it.

I don’t mean physically naked, although you could do that too. It’s warm enough right now.

I mean naked emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Not hiding from what shows up in my life. Not hiding or skipping over what shows up in my writing and drawing. Letting it all fall into the work. Being brave. Being true and honest to who I am, where I am in life, and what I create. Holding courage.

That feels like a tall order.

It is.

Full frontal creativity is about balance. My creativity is exactly like the porch swing. Everything in life affects the balance of my creating. Pushing and pulling me, gently and not so gently.

If I keep at least one foot on the ground, I temper the effect life has on me, and on my writing and drawing. I keep my balance. I keep creating through the push and pull and contrast of experiences and emotions.

Keeping one foot, or both, on the ground means letting myself be naked and present to what is happening. When I do this, my heart is open. I am connected to life. My best creating shows up when I am present, open, and connected.

This is not always easy. I have to work at it, keep reminding myself. Catch myself when I try to hide from how I feel, or try to hide from or push away what is happening. Hiding from pain or fear or grief.

I have to remind myself. Hiding doesn’t push things away or stop them from happening. When I try to hide, I end up holding onto the thing I am afraid of rather than letting it move through me and away. I hold inside me the pain, the fear, the grief.

I am trying to not feel, but emotions and experiences are are meant to be sensed and felt. When I hold these things from moving through, they turn into anger. I hurt myself. I hurt others around me. I hurt my creativity and stop up my heart. I throw myself off balance.

These past few weeks, when I realize I am in anger, it is easy to know why. I am hiding from the grief I feel over the wildfires at my northern home, the illness of both my parents, the loss of our beloved family cat. Too much pain all at once. No wonder I am trying to hide, but hiding only stops things up and increases the hurt. I know this. I feel this.

So here I am, sitting in the shade on our new porch swing. Practicing full frontal creativity. Feeling both pain and joy. Writing with a naked, open heart. Keeping one foot on the ground. Keeping my balance while life flows through me.

 

Packing and Unpacking

3crowsletter.600ppi
3 Crows a Letter, 4 Crows a Boy

I am writing this post in the midst of controlled chaos.  Namely, I am packing.  Everything.

Last time I wrote I had just decluttered and sold my home.  I did not have a new home to go to yet.  Now I do.  I also have a moving date, so I am packing with a purpose.  The perfect thing about having already decluttered?  No decisions to make about what to keep and what to let go.  No decisions complicated by memories or by dreams yet to be fulfilled.  That bit is already done.  Yay!

I have a new home with my perfect, amazing, big-with-awesome-light studio.  This is the studio I have been imagining since I began art school.  Twenty-one years of imagining have created me this wondrous place.  There is room for my writing desk and reference books.  Room for my art table and easel and supply shelves.  For my library.  An area with sink and tiled floor for mucky projects.  Storage space.

I saw a studio like this, owned by a master artist, a few years into my art practice.  Always I have remembered it.  Now I have one like it.

A blessing.  A gift of abundance.

I am dancing inside.

I’ve heard tales of artists and writers who freeze up when they finally have the creation space of their dreams.  Like somehow the expectations of results have been upped beyond what they can easily deal with, and it scares them into silence.

I’m mentioning this because when I first walked into this space I said out loud, “Too big.”  It scared me, this huge lovely space made for creating.  This perfect space that could be mine, and I was rejecting it.  This space I had imagined, and I was turning my back on it.

But something interesting happened as I turned my back.  I caught myself in the middle of no.  I felt the abundance being offered me here in this light-filled space.  I stopped, and I began to laugh.  I began to feel joy.  I began to dance with the possibilities of creating image and word right here.  Right here.

In that moment, something unpacked itself and I saw it clearly.  Old beliefs limiting my worth, my abilities, what I do and don’t deserve, what I can offer through my creativity, how big or small I should be.  For the first time, these old beliefs stood fully in the light, and I discovered they are not mine any more.

Oh, I know their ghosts may still show up once in a while, as I create in my new studio.  That’s okay.  They no longer have the same power over me.  When I see my beliefs clearly, I know what to do with them and how to handle the feelings they carry.  I have choice.  They won’t stay long, and I’ll wave goodbye as they leave.

Then I’ll go right back to creating.

_____________________________

A note re unpacking limiting beliefs:

Jennifer McLean teaches a gentle and effective method of releasing old beliefs, emotions, experiences, and trauma.  Spontaneous Transformation Technique (STT) is an easy and quick process to learn and to use.  I know, from personal experience, how beautifully it works in clearing creativity blocks and glitches that slow us down and limit our creative lives.  As a Certified Level 2 Spontaneous Transformation Technique Practitioner, I use STT’s powerful process in my creativity workshops and coaching.  This link will take you to Jennifer’s information page.  http://go.spontaneoustransformation.com/powerhealing

 

Taking Down My Fence (Believing Mirror Part 2)

Cat Fink--'Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones)'
Old Coyote Trick (sticks and stones) — Cat Fink

I’ve been reading about vulnerability in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly.  Her words have me feeling and remembering.

Growing up, no one told me that strength included vulnerability.  If they did, I didn’t hear them.  Maybe the people around me did not know this either.

Growing up, I was taught that being strong meant holding back my feelings from public view.  Show a calm, controlled front.  Always pretend everything is okay.  I became so good at this, even I didn’t know what I was feeling sometimes.

I kept pushing my feelings away.  I thought I was getting rid of them.  Truth is I was storing them behind a fence of ‘okay’.

This is not the way to live.  I knew it, but did not know how to be different.

Things changed when I was twenty-one.  I began the relationship with my future husband.  He saw my heart behind the fence, and he loved it, and he wouldn’t let go.

Something in me knew it was time to build a gate.  A skinny gate at first, but enough to let me say out loud for the first time in my life, to someone, I love you.

I was terrified saying it.  This was laying myself open, a direct path to hurt me and reject what I offered.  Despite all of the loving actions and words Lyle had given me, I did not trust I was truly worthy of love.  I didn’t much love myself, so how could someone else love me?

I could not say ‘I love you’ to Lyle as a statement.  I said it like a question needing the right answer.

He said it.  He said I love you.  He answered.  To me.

Love made the gate in my fence.  Love and the courage to love.  I don’t know where the courage came from, and the ability to hear the voice that whispered inside me, ‘do this’.

I knew this was a choice, to stay with fear or to step forward to love.  I knew Lyle saw me differently than I saw myself.  He saw a world that did not require fear, and he saw me in this world braver than I saw myself.  Maybe this is how my courage appeared.  His vision sparked my belief, and my belief sparked courage to arise, be seen, and claim out loud my ability to love.

Lyle showed up for me when I needed someone to help open a way through the fence I had built around myself.

Lyle told me how he felt and what he saw in me.  But louder than the words were his actions.  He treated me as a person of great value, who had gifts to be seen and shared.

He believed in me.

This is what we do for each other.  We see the best in the person standing before us, even and especially when they can’t see it themselves.  We believe in them.  We say ‘let’s do this together’.

We all have the gift and possibility of being a Believing Mirror for the person standing before us.  We just have to choose to see that in ourselves, and be vulnerable enough to offer it to someone else.

‘I believe in you.’  Words as precious and important and life-changing as ‘I love you’.

Lyle and I have been together thirty-seven years.  We have a son to be proud of.  My fence?  It shows up sometimes as a ghost of itself.  Old habits, old patterns of thinking and reacting, reminding me where I was, and showing me where I am now.  I pat it kindly, and thank it for keeping me safe at a time when I thought I needed protection.  Then I walk around it.

Lyle, I love you.  Happy Father’s Day.

_______________________

In this post:

Brene Brown, book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Avery, 2012.  http://brenebrown.com/

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

‘Believing Mirror’, page 47 in It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, Julia Cameron, TarcherPerigree, 2016.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

 

In Beauty I Write

studiodesk.spring.nemiah.focusd

Before I begin to write, this is what I do.

I ask for help.

I am writing, I say. Come and play and imagine and daydream and write and create in concert with me. I say this to my angels and guides, to Source, to the universe around me and within me. Come and play.

I am always answered.

Two days ago I am doing this, thinking ahead of the blog post I want to write today. Into my mind pop the words ‘in Beauty I walk’. The Beauty Way Chant.

I am not Diné. But I am human and these words show up in my life at various times.

In Beauty before me I walk,

In Beauty behind me I walk,

In Beauty below me I walk,

In Beauty above me I walk,

In Beauty all around me I walk,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty,

It is finished in Beauty.

 

The words are here now.

This chant, this blessing moves into me as soon as I read or hear the beginning words.

I breathe deeper. My mind slows, my body quiets. I feel my weight on the earth. I am present to this moment in time (time doesn’t exist, I hear as I write this, there is only now). My heart opens and listens.

Here in this place of no-time, I stand in creation. Here is all balance and harmony, all life in concert with all life. Here is holy, sacred, all blessing. Here is love. Joy. Here is breath and being and all connection. Here is Beauty, whole, one.

These words shift me into communication with life. I am not just Cat, the single small me. I am Cat, a creation point among many creation points. I am supported, guided, gifted with inspiration and vision.

This is what asking for help does.

It connects me to all that supports me.

I have had two long conversations this week about releasing old feelings of being alone and unsupported in work and life. I know this is no longer me. I know all I need do is ask for help, and help arrives. Words, resources, and people show up. Ideas and images appear. I have a whole world supporting me. I am never alone, unless I choose it.

This is what the words and energy of the Beauty Way Chant do for me.

They connect me to all that supports me. Instantly. Perfectly. With ease and with grace, they stand me in creation.

Every one of us has something that opens us into grace like this. It may take the form of words or image or sound, an object, a person, a place. We just need to recognize it and then choose it, deliberately and consciously. Choose to ask. Choose to be supported, connected.

Choose to stand in grace in creation.

_____________________________

Happy Birthday, Bryan!  I love you.  Your presence in my life is a gift. xoxo Mom

 

 

 

 

A Gift of Attention

me.carrie.nanas.july65

This is what I remember.

I am three years old. I am standing in the living room. My mom is sitting in the chair in front of me, holding blankets. My dad is crouched beside me, at my level, telling me this is my new baby sister. Her name is Carrie.

See? Say hello. You can touch her. My mom leans forward so I can see inside the blankets. There is a small face. Red. The eyes are closed. There are black eyelashes.

I don’t recall if I said anything or if I touched her. I do know how I felt. I can feel it now as I remember. I feel confused. I don’t know what this means. Why is she here? Is she staying with me and my parents? My parents are doing a lot of holding her. They’re not holding me. Do they love her now? Does this mean they don’t love me anymore? Now I feel sad and somehow smaller. I am starting to feel angry at this baby sister, whatever she is, who is taking my place.

This is what I remember.

I am four years old. I am in my bedroom, standing in the middle of the room. I can see the back yard through my window. It is sunny outside. I feel my feet warm in my pink socks, feel the wood floor solid under me. I am happy, peaceful, connected to everything around me. I feel secure in myself—who I am, what I can do, my place in the world. I know I have a voice and ideas worthy of listening to.

What happens in the year between these two memories?

I remember.

My dad comes home from work. He changes from his work clothes to his home clothes. He comes into the kitchen, talks with my mom, talks to my baby sister in her play pen. Then he and I go into the living room.

We lay on the thick rug, my dad on his stomach and I beside him.

And we talk. Just the two of us. He asks me what did I do today? And then he listens.

I tell him what I did, what I found in the back yard (ants, a slug, and two rocks), the songs I sing as I swing on my yellow and blue swing set (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Somewhere Over the Rainbow). I sing them to him as loud as I can. I know all the words.

This is the immense gift my dad gives me. His focused attention. It may be only fifteen or twenty minutes each day. It feels like always and forever. In this gift, he tells me he loves me, that I am important to him and worthy of his time, that I have ideas and thoughts worth listening to.

My dad’s gift moves me from a confused, sad, angry three-year-old who wonders if she is losing her parents’ love, into a four-year-old secure and sure in herself and her world, happy, loved, and loving.

This gift of a few minutes each day. So small, yet it is everything.

Undivided, loving, interested attention. I learn what this is and how it feels. I take it into me.

I know now the infinite value of this gift. I practise it and pass it to whoever I can. This gift says I love you, and you are worth attention and time. You are important to me. You are interesting.

Thank you, Dad, for the gift of attention. I love you.  And Carrie, I love you too.

Surrender

letmemendheart
Let Me Mend Your Broken Heart

I was not planning on writing my blog post today. I feel tired and uninspired. I had a stomach flu two and a half weeks ago, and some of it is still hanging on. Too much of it hanging on today. So the plan is lay on the couch and sleep.

Then I remember Natalie Goldberg saying, start where you are.

Start where I am. I struggle with being sick. I fight it. I force my body to be okay, even if it isn’t. Do things even if I don’t feel like it. Be strong, I think, get things done, whatever ‘things’ happen to be.

Not this time.

This time, when I got sick two and a half weeks ago, I surrendered to how I felt. I listened to my body and what it needed. Sleep mostly. Naps and kindness and going slow. Letting myself drift.

Surrender has never been in my vocabulary. Surrender, to me, meant giving up. Note the past tense there. My understanding of surrender is changing.

Surrender now feels like a kind of trust, of being here right now and listening, sensing what is happening. Paying attention, and then moving with the flow rather than against it. There is relief in this, and ease. Letting go of what I think should be happening and what I think I should be doing.

Letting go. Letting go is not something I have been good at either. Life, for me, has been mostly about control. Being safe. No unwanted surprises. I can feel, even as I write about surrendering to my body and what it needs, a part of me really wants control. Pushing, shoving, struggling, making something happen. Making ‘not sick’ happen.

No. Not doing that today.

Today, it is Let Go. Be exactly where I am in this moment. Feel exactly what I feel. Trust and surrender myself to Source, God, the One Energy, the Universe. Let things be as they are. Let myself be cared for, loved, partnered by this moment.

Let the words come through me and be written slowly on the page, on the laptop. And done.

And now, let myself rest, sleep, let go, trust, surrender.

________________________________

In this post:

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones, Shambhala, 2nd Edition, 2005. Try out pages 110 and 111 ‘Write Anyplace’.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Remembering Light

 

winter light
winter light

It’s late December. Mid-afternoon and the sky already dark. Snow still coming down. It started before dawn.

I’ve been thinking about emotion and memory.

What is memory anyways? It’s nothing solid. Like all in life, it changes. I can tell that my memories move like a story told over and over. The essential points stay the same, but the details shift. Am I remembering more clearly when this happens, or am I filling in gaps, making things whole, putting clothes on the bones of what I recall?

I am remembering the Christmas Eve I was in Grade Five. My sister and I were given night lights in the shape of genie lamps. All other gifts were abandoned as we carried our lamps around the house, Aladdins in nightgowns and slippers. I remember the two of us, whispering and giggling in the dark cave of the hallway outside our bedrooms. We had turned off the hallway light, and all was now mysterious and spooky as we moved around, genie lamps in hand, their blue plastic light covers casting shadows we couldn’t recognize.

This I remember clearly. What I don’t recall with any certainty is whether my lamp was the pink and black one and Carrie’s the aqua blue and grey one, or the other way around. When I picture us in the December dark, I can see either lamp in my hand. I remember them both.

I don’t know what happened to my genie lamp. I do know I loved it, played with it, kept it on the floor by my bed. I suppose I eventually outgrew it, and it was lost deep in the big cardboard toy box Carrie and I shared. Or perhaps, when I tired of it, it was given away to a younger cousin or to a daughter of one of my parents’ friends.

What does not shift in this memory of light in the dark, is the feeling of fun and play, laughter and enjoyment, friendship and love with my sister. I feel all of this now as I write. You can’t see me, but I am all smile like a Cheshire cat.

Here in this memory is joy and light and love.

When I am afraid and in the dark, all I need do is remember Carrie and me in that dark hallway, playing with the light of our genie lamps, giggling and whispering. If I trust myself enough to allow this memory to fill me, body, mind, heart, and spirit, I can see my way here, now, and walk myself out of fear and the dark, back into light.

My mom-in-law, who does not know this story, found a genie lamp in a garage sale. She bought it and gave it to me. It sits here on my work table, a treasure among treasures. It is exactly like the one in my memory. Aqua blue and grey, like my sister’s lamp, or mine—that part does not matter. To my eyes, it is the colour of light and play and laughter and love.

_______________________

I first posted ‘Remembering Light’ last February.  As we move through the world’s celebrations of light and towards the Winter Solstice, I wish us all light and play and laughter and love.