The Way Through Is Love

ibuiltmycastles
I Build My Castles in the Sky

I led a writing workshop last Saturday.  In the conversations and the writing, two life experiences showed up common to everyone.

Early in our lives, we discovered we loved creating with words, images, music, or movement.  Then later, someone told us with great certainty that we would never be a writer, an artist, a musician, a dancer, an actor, a you-name-it creative person.  Invariably, the someone making this pronouncement was in a position of authority or trust.  We were told by parents, teachers, and peers.

When this happened to me, the someone was a university art professor.

I heard “You will never be an artist.” and I stopped drawing for seventeen years.  Mine was not the longest gap.  One person in Saturday’s writing workshop was coming back to her love of creating after fifty years.  I have met people who never recovered from the experience.

This happens not only to those in the arts.  This happens to all of us.  We love doing something.  We have a dream.  And then someone says to us, “You will never be.  This will never be.”

Why does someone tell another person, “You will never be.  This will never be.”?

What makes someone so sure they know another person’s future?

I don’t know the answers to the questions I ask.  What I do know is that the way through hearing “you will never be” is love.

I left the visual arts degree program after hearing “you will never be.”  I still grieve the loss.  I wonder what I would be doing now, what kind of life I would have if I had stayed.  And at the same time, I know the life I did have prepared me to return to the art I loved and claim the title of Artist as mine.

During the years of not drawing, I kept my love of making things with my hands.  I found other ways to create.  I crocheted and embroidered and sewed.  I learned to weave, loved it, acquired a floor loom, and took over the extra bedroom in the house as my loom room.  I learned to spin and dye yarn.  My family and friends were the recipients of all this making.

I began calling myself a fibre artist, and loved how I felt when I used those words.  They felt like me.

Then I discovered a new love, weaving tapestry.

I saw complex images in my mind, the tapestries I wanted to weave.  But I discovered I was not able to recreate the images on paper, in preparation for planning the woven piece.

The Universe stepped in to support my love of making, and offered me two things.  My sister introduced me to the book The Artist’s Way, and I discovered there was an art school ten blocks from my home.  I said yes to both.

Love brought me full circle, back to drawing.

My love of creating with my hands would not let me go, and I listened to that love.  It helped me find ways of making that carried me through and healed me of you-will-never-be.

If someone says to you, “You will never be”, let yourself feel the hurt.  Then find a way to walk back into what you know you love, and walk through.  Love is your power.  I believe in you.

_______________________

In this post:

Book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, 25th Anniversary Edition published by Penguin, 2016.  Originally published by Tarcher Putnam in 1992, and republished by Tarcher Putnam in 2002.  Julia’s website is at http://juliacameronlive.com/

Life Is Not A Test

 rainbow.alexiscreek

Life is not a test.

I realized a few days ago that I live my life as if it’s a test I have to pass. Something in me decided this a long time ago, probably in elementary school.

The test never ends. I never know if I have aced it or failed it. I don’t know who the tester is, or if there is one tester or many. I don’t know what the questions are and whether I’ve been asked one, and if I answered correctly or not.

This explains a lot. It explains why I am keyed up and have to consciously work at relaxing my body and mind. Why I often look at others and feel I can’t stand equal with them. Why I always feel I am being judged. Why I don’t play enough and feel vaguely guilty when I do. Why everything I do has to have a purpose. Why I am frequently not satisfied and pass by my successes, barely giving them and me any acknowledgment. Why I make something, love what I’ve created, then it’s bang—onto the next thing right away because I have no time to waste.

How sad.

I can say, and mean it and know it, that I am happy most of the time in my life. This is true. My heart is open and present and connected and creating. I can feel it, most of the time, loving and joyful.

Yet there is this sneaky background tension running the other stuff I listed three paragraphs back. These are feelings I have been ignoring, that creep in between my love and joy and happiness.

Time to make a choice and let this go.

I choose there is no test. No Test. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

There is only my life and what I choose to create in it. And no test.

I am letting these words, and my choice, sink in. This feels better. This feels GOOD.

My shoulders drop two inches. I can breathe. I can enjoy what I am doing. I can play.

Tigger and Totoro--Go Play!
Tigger and Totoro–Go Play!

Yes. I can play. I can wander out of that stuffy Life Classroom I caged myself in, give the door a slam on the way out, and watch the whole place collapse in a heap. Better yet, invite Wile E. Coyote to blow it sky high with one of his Acme missiles. Right on target. Ka-boom! Wile E. takes a bow. The Road Runner and I applaud. Then we all go play. Dibs on the slide!

Yes. Life is not a test. Go play.

___________________________

Note:  This piece was originally posted two years ago.  I am re-posting it today because these last two weeks I managed to trap myself in the Life Classroom again.  Yes, feeling tested, feeling not good enough and not worthy, feeling anxious for no good reason.  Most important of all, not allowing myself to play.  Today I am choosing all over again.  I choose I love all of myself.  I choose life is not a test.  I choose I am allowed to play and enjoy life whenever I please.

After this post is done, I am playing for the remainder of the day!  Yahoooooo!   Maybe you should go let yourself play for a while today too.

 

Resisting Resistance

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

I wake up in an I-don’t-want-to-do-anything mood this morning.

I push through my morning routine.  I do my set of shoulder and neck stretches.  There is a flash of “that feels good” when I finish my last stretch, but it’s not enough to crack my mood.

I feel, as I eat breakfast, the desire to remain here at the table, reading.  The book is good, Closer To The Heart by my favourite fantasy writer Mercedes Lackey.  I do not want to put the book down, but this is more than desire to read a good book.  I am resisting moving into my studio and beginning my creative day.

I love drawing and writing.  Yesterday I played in the small sketchbook I received from the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project 2018.  No resistance showed up.

Today, though, there is a brick wall, ten feet high with “I don’t want to” stamped all over it.  I’m on this side.  My drawing and writing are on the other.

I know the trick.  Find the door in the wall.  If no door, then a ladder.  Maybe a bulldozer (I like that).  Or maybe I need help.

Asking for help is never my first choice.  Sometimes it should be.  Okay, help it is.

I reluctantly drop my book mark at page 148 of Mercedes’ book, leave the kitchen table, and move to my studio. I take my morning pages book from the pile of papers just to the right of me.  I pull a Mickey Mouse pencil from the collection sitting in the Starbucks grande frappaccino cup.  Morning pages are my first and biggest help.  I’m ready.

I start where I am.  Kicking my toes against this brick wall of resistance.  Leaning my back against it and muttering, “This feels crappy.”  And then adding, “You’re in my way.”

I built this wall.  I’m in my own way.

I begin wondering what it is I don’t want to do, that has put me in this mood. Continue reading “Resisting Resistance”

Threads of Joy (Upsy-Daisy Part Two)

letmemendheart
Let Me Mend Your Broken Heart

I learned to sew in High School, Grade Eight.

The first thing I learned was the basting stitch, an easy up and down of needle and thread through two layers of sky blue gingham cloth that would eventually become an apron.

The basting stitch was simple.  All it required was attention to keeping the stitches balanced in length so the layers of cloth held firmly to each other.  The thread I used was a vivid red, deliberate contrast to the colour of the gingham.  It was easy to see what had already been stitched, and what now needed my needle, thread, and attentive eyes.

I am thinking of my Dad, and how he taught me to find threads of joy and use them to stitch my days together.

It was my heart and all my senses he taught me to use, rather than needle and thread.

Every day, as I grew up, I stitched firm the colours of morning clouds and wild sunsets.

Every summer I stitched the feel of my bare feet on wet sand as the tide went out.  I stitched the smell of thick earth under the trees when August afternoons were hottest and I found the deepest shade.

I stitched into my life the smooth, cold taste of chocolate ice cream for dessert after supper.  Two round scoops each for me and my sister, one scoop for our brother who was much younger than us and still sat in the high chair next to Mom.

Every night I stitched the quiet sounds of my Mom and Dad talking in the kitchen after we three were in bed, stories read, blankets and teddy bears tucked around us, kisses on our cheeks.

Here in my life now, I stitch each day together against the grey grief that threatens to pull me apart.  I stitch, with careful attention, the threads of joy my Dad taught me to find and choose.  Vivid colours, lengths of joy and love sewn to balance sadness, to hold me firm.

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/