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Crummy Birthday, Interesting Exploration into Boundaries

The process of creating transformative art; a backstory

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A work in progress (acrylic color and sand on canvas 160x160cm) about loving self and allowing myself to get lost and, well, something like that. Let’s see where we end up.

The big painting has been stuck for a week, almost. I have been gazing, staring, willing it to move. Even dabbing it gingerly with a brushful of transparent red iron oxide. All to no avail.

Until, as so often happens, when I start to focus on a new painting project, the deepening experiences start piling up. When I was in Scotland, re-experiencing Crimson Circle’s SES workshop, I wondered a bit that my mother and my relationship to her did not come up. Ah well.

This week on my birthday, my mother called me. I hadn’t talked to her in three months. At eight in the morning, she was drunk. I listened to her slurry, wobbly words, as always wondering at how the alcohol could completely deprive them of meaning for me, despite her telling me that I was a beloved, expected child. As she talked, I was revising my plan for the day. Usually, when I am in touch with my mother these days, deep emotions may start arising and spread outside my control.

2015_046havemyheartThat day I was supposed to lead a core art workshop in drawing. These workshops are intense and require my deep presence as well as all my abilities. I was already in Rastila, waiting for my core art students, scent of coffee in the air. The open art studio was starting in an hour and the first student would arrive any minute.

I suggested to my mother that we meet, but she said she was injured some way and could not move. Alarmed I asked if she needed help and became even more alarmed when my proud mother said yes. Again, thoughts racing, planning, moving the components of the day this way and that, I asked if she needed help acutely and if I was to come to her. When she laughed resentfully and said no, I asked if I could call after work and said I’m here for her. Grating some more piercing laughter, I heard in her voice, this was not good. I ended the call as swiftly as I could.

Diving into the challenge

“Well, happy birthday to me.” I thought bitterly right after the call.

No need to do anything but breathe. Drawing made with markers, 16x25cm.
No need to do anything but breathe. Drawing made with markers, 16x25cm.

Then I noticed the oozing touch of self-pity and asked myself what I needed. Eating a bit, drinking something hot, doing some deep breathing, I did what I do well; I carefully compartmentalized the little girl inside of myself and the art teacher part of myself in different boxes. While I knew from experience that I would later pay the price of this, at that moment keeping my promises and taking responsibility for all different roles and parts of my life seemed to be of utmost importance.

What you aren't aware of, hides in your shadow. 24x16cm, created with markers.
What you aren’t aware of, hides in your shadow. 24x16cm, created with markers.

Although I felt sad and worried during the day, momentarily distracted, always bringing myself back to the present, the core art workshop was gentle, flowing and even fun at times. Once again I was amazed at the power of art, self-made or enjoyed, to transform anything. What I was less aware of, was the automatic mode I was in – I can carry anything, I can pay this bill, I can afford this, I will carry this [for you] because I can.

During my breaks I was in touch with the Engineer and with my dad, so I could get the necessary information and organize the rescue mission of the evening. After work, I and the Engineer went to my mom’s with two bags of groceries to see what kind of situation she had. In the car, I could feel emotion swirl around in my body. Old, familiar poison. My mind was full of thoughts I recognized. I told the Engineer that voicing those thoughts would only increase the emotion and drama I was aware of inside of me. I felt helpless. When we came to my mother’s apartment building I was relieved to see the building door was open, because I couldn’t get a hold of her on the phone. We rang and rang the doorbell. She didn’t open the door. Her neighbours said she hadn’t been home for days. She still didn’t answer her phone. We left the non-perishables behind the door and got into the car.

Whose box, indeed. 24x16cm, created with markers.
Whose box, indeed. 24x16cm, created with markers.

In the car, my body started trembling. I asked the Engineer if we could stop at a drive through, so I could have a sugary drink and something to eat. That would bring some balance and stability into the moment. The kids were waiting at home for night time stories and the rituals of going to bed. I cherished each bite of the hamburger, sitting beside my husband, each ketchup filled bite. The junk food fit my inside state.

Emotional radiation

The next morning when I woke up, I had a text message on my phone: “Thank you for the food. Very kind. Give me your account number and I will reimburse you. I am not available tomorrow, I am at a retreat. Hug.

This is when I snapped.

The visible effects of emotional radiation started. I felt my shoulder blade area shut down completely, as if someone had stitched iron wire throughout my skin and muscles. The thoughts of self-hatred started gushing forth in a never ending stream. Anxiety made it hard to breathe fully. Deep currents of self-doubt ran through my mind, doubting everything from my skills, to my life choices, to my right to exist. Tears started flowing at unpredictable intervals. I staid in bed, lifting any part of my body felt like an insurmountable task.

Feelings are good. Watercolor in thought book 24 × 17 cm.
Feelings are good. Watercolor in thought book 24 × 17 cm.

While I rationally knew that this was an automatic reaction to the interaction with my mother, based on deep patterns unresolved, it was hard to keep on breathing, keep on functioning. In these situations I would love to be able to be calm, collected, instantly healing myself in some deep mystical or instant way. Instead, in the midst of the considerable inner pain, concepts of self-love feel abstract and unreachable. So I attempted to just be aware of what was happening inside of me, not trying to change anything, concentrating on breathing, letting the painful emotions move through me like weather and tried my best to not hold on to any of the venom that was flowing through me.

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When the Engineer came home at five p.m. I went to sleep and slept through the night.

What was different this time?

For someone who has never lived with an alcoholic, this reaction may seem way overblown. For me, it’s automatic. Through the years, my needs have had to wait and the needs of my mother have come first. Still, one day a year, on my birthday, there is the expectation that it is my day, something for me. Instead, I spent the whole of my birthday, trying to help my drunk mother, calling forth the emotional reality that was my norm for so long.

Discerning between self-pity and self-compassion has been a challenge for me. Yesterday, someone said: “I wish you would always feel appreciated and loved.”

Marker drawing, 24x16cm.
Marker drawing, 24x16cm.

That moment I realized, the only person who can give me that kind of stability is me. Today, after another twelve hours of sleep, I think the biggest difference between self-compassion and self-pity, for me, are boundaries. After experiencing her twenty years of full blown alcoholism, I have still longed so much for a nugget of love from the mother I once knew, that although I have put my children’s needs before her needs, I have always put myself aside.

I have never said: It is more important that I love me and care for me than that I please my mother and father. Not for my children, for my family, for my relationships. For me. Just for myself.

The practicality of loving self

In conclusion, I am here, sitting with the part of myself who resists the thought of drawing boundaries. Life is clearly showing me the need to do so. To say a clear yes and no to how I choose to be treated. The little girl part of me is saying: “But I want myself to love my mother, the way I used to love her. But I want us all to be friends. I want love to be the norm. I want to be gentle, kind and smiling. I am afraid of what will happen if I am not.”

And I ask in return: “Who am I to think I know what other people need? Who am I to say that the minuscule connection I have to my mother is wrong? Who am I to judge how other people create their lives, to criticize what they choose? The only thing that IS my responsibility is choosing whether I want to participate, to choose how I am willing to be treated. And THAT is done by learning what my boundaries are and then expressing them.”

Self-pity is allowing myself to be badly treated, and complaining, heaping on blame and suffering afterwards. Self-compassion is saying: This is not okay.

From life to painting to life again

What I’m learning, already, from this painting project is that loving myself actively doesn’t make life easier, exactly. It doesn’t decrease my sensitivity, or remove the pain from a difficult experience. What it does is increase my sense of being alive, of having a right to simply experience what I do, as I do. With support and love, whatever comes next. When I allow myself to get lost, in my life, inside myself, I find areas and solutions that I haven’t found before.

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Found where I live, today.

 

Rant

dreamer_bulkystuff

There is one thing that I have  been encountering this spring in both myself and in discussions with other Dreamers. It seems that there is an expectation that living your dreams is somehow easy. And that if a dream disappoints, or following it brings with it challenges or hardships, the dream is somehow faulty or wrong and has to be exchanged for another, or vilified.

Well, here’s the thing. This. Is. Not. Easy.

And I don’t think there is anyone on the face of the Earth, ever, who has found that living true to a dream or several of them, is an easy thing.

Living your dream may be carting bulky, unwieldy things while sweating like a pig and looking stupid, just because they fit your budget and it means you can offer more value in a workshop.

Living that dream may mean sleeping in the living room to give kids their own rooms, because you know that the tender balance of dream vs economy could not handle the extra intrusion of a mortgage.

Answering the call of the muse may mean getting up at five, three weeks after giving birth, to get forty-five minutes of writing done at the local café before the baby wakes.

Loving your craft, your art, your business or your whatever Dearest Vision means being willing to face your fears, doubts and resistance; opening up wide to the unknown; pouring in your time, money, focus and passion into it in order to solve yet another elusive puzzle.

It means you jump into yet another transition and accept the shifting grounds of reality so you can create more deeply, more authentically, more fully that which is burning inside of you.

You need to be willing to surrender to what is growing inside of you and to the changes it demands of you.

From the outside it may look like people who follow their dreams are driving on a highway, with a clear map they’re using for navigating all the crossroads.

“Easy for you, you’ve always known what you want.”

This is just not true on an experiential level. At first there is just the elusive calling, sometimes there, sometimes not. You have to persistently seek those clues, look for the YES! in things. And then you have to, you just have to dare take the steps.

Do you know what the hardest thing is? It is not taking that leap; getting married, getting a new job, going to study something new. Although those decisions may be agonizing and scary, what is much, much harder is doing something, each day, to express your dream. To write those words, today, tomorrow, the day after that. To do something when you’re still crap at it. To practice. To dare show up, human, unfinished, imperfect and still express what is inside of you.

When you start doing that, creating something every day. That is when you start living the dream. That is when your dream can start teaching you about its hidden soul.

Following your bliss is not blissful all the time. In fact it can be terrifying and really really crappy, downright boring and disappointing. That’s part of it. Doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Just means you’re on your way.

So. What can you create today?

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! In the thought book 2013, by MDT.
Happy New Year! In the thought book 2013, by MDT.

 

Thank you for being you and for the support this year. Let’s leap into a new year, letting all that needs to be released go and looking forward to unexpected blessings coming our way.

Dealing with Adversity when You Feel A LOT

 

I love naps, in the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger 2013.
I love naps, in the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger 2013.

 

It’s been a bit quiet for a while here on the blog. I have been dealing with some suprising and sudden changes. So I thought this blog post could be about dealing creatively with adversity.

What helps?

– Allow yourself to feel everything, uncensored, no matter how conflicting, crummy, hateful, wallowy, self-pitying or bitter the thoughts may seem to your rational mind. Let the feelings move. You do this by simply observing and feeling. When you feel tempted to judge yourself, go back to sensing what your ear feels, what you see around you in the room, how the soles of your feet move on the floor or in your shoes.

– When your thoughts are racing over hurful comments or rehashing what has happened over and over in a hamsterwheely fashion, choose a word that’s neutral to you and doesn’t awaken any strong feelings (oatfield, cucumber, rice or truck work for me) and repeat it to yourself, fast, over and over again. This reboots the thinking process for a while. You may need to do this a few times to change tracks.

– Allow many versions of reality to be true at the same time. The adversity you are facing may be a closing door and an opening window to a new opportunity, at the same time as it pisses you off.

– Take lots of naps, use all of your relaxation techniques and tools, read uplifting books that you can connect with, listen to angry music, break a few dishes in the sink, watch movies where people go through big challenges and come out on the other side.

– Move your body. It doesn’t matter if it’s yoga, running, dancing, walks or horseriding. Your body wants to help you get through this.

– If the adversity you’re facing pushes your money buttons, try two things: Write a to do list about everything you need to do financially, the bills you need to pay, the people you need to contact, everything. Then take a time out. When panic hits, look at the to do list and reassure yourself that you are taking the situation seriously and responsibly. Then, with a conscious choice, move your awareness to your now moment and your basic needs. Are you bodily safe? Is your belly full? Do you need to sleep? Take care of your immediate needs and reassure yourself that this moment, you are in a safe space.

– Ask for support. Dare be vulnerable. Say no to obligations first and then share as much as you want about what has happened and how you feel about your situation in this moment. People will support you more than you can ever believe.

– To the people closest to you, describe what you are doing to cope. Sometimes we look perfectly competent on the outside, although every moment is a struggle. When you tell your loved one what you are doing to remain active solving problems and not crashing, it is easier for them to support you in loving yourself, because the inner work you’re doing becomes visible to them.

– Remember that your point of power is in the present. No matter what has happened, right now you can choose to be your own friend. You can appreciate yourself, take care of yourself and let yourself feel whatever it is that is happening in you.

– Last but not least, remember that you can always draw, paint, write, mold, sing, dance, vocalize or in other ways express what is happening inside of you. The mere act of getting it outside of yourself can give you clarity.

 

The Terrifying Unknown. thought book 2013, by MDT.
The Terrifying Unknown. thought book 2013, by MDT.

 

Do any of these tips resonate? Is there anyone you know, who is facing difficulties who could find this blog post useful?

 

Play Space

Play space, in thought book 2013, by Marie D. Tiger.
Play space, in thought book 2013, by Marie D. Tiger.

 

There is a play space available for all of us. It is where imagination, our senses, our impulses, intuitions and feelings come together in creative play, envisioning new things and art making.

This play space presents an opportunity, because it allows us to move beyond the personal, beyond good and bad, into a world that consists of different phenomena that can be combined in creative ways so they form something new.

We can learn to have access to this way of being in the world in any moment. In play space, anger isn’t something to take personally and be frightened or triggered by. Instead it is a powerful energy that can be used for movement and response. Mistakes become opportunities for exploration. Feelings become phenomena to be explored.

What color is your frustration? What form does your tiredness take? Where in your body does your vulnerability live? What kind of a movement does your yearning create in your elbows, how could it be expressed?

In this space questions like: How does it move, does it have a direction, what is the sound, how big is it, is it heavy or light, can you jump into it, does it expand – make sense. Good, bad, beautiful or ugly loose their meaning, because in the sensual world, things are what they are. They can be sensed, experienced, felt, explored, moved, combined, molded.

When you come out of the play space, it is time for harvesting, choosing what you take into your more or less rational every day life, and in which way.

Often, access to your own play space allows you to remain functional, present and able to create, respond, stay in contact in situations that would otherwise overwhelm you with their intensity.

Today, staying in my play space allowed me to clean the whole house with pure power of aggression, having been unable to sleep because of the Engineer’s snoring and some other things. It also allowed me to identify how difficult it is for me to relinquish control when I’m scared and living in a state of uncertainty.

I could dance with the hot sudsy water, making the dishes. Hold compassion for my inner control freak seeking relief by attacking stains with a wash cloth. Go lie on the bed on my belly, feet in the air and say: “I’m not angry, I’m scared.” Laugh when my son decided it was a good time to come tickle my feet. Move move move with the different phenomena in the life of one artist and her family.

Today I remember that what is important is the ability to feel, respond, love, receive, enjoy the experience of being on this nutty planet. The details will work themselves out, one by one. They always do.

What brings you to your play space today?

Being an Intuitive Sensitive Type

 

This is created by the wonderful Caroline van Kimmenade at Thehappysensitive.com
This is created by the wonderful Caroline van Kimmenade at Thehappysensitive.com

A few weeks ago Carrie Klassen kindly mentioned the About page here on the blog on the Facebook page of Pink Elephant. Their stuff about doing marketing writing in a heartfelt way is great, by the way.

Then Caroline van Kimmenade contacted me about doing an interview. She works with Sensipreneurs, sensitive types and empaths who run their own businesses. I was honored to be asked and enjoyed our work together.

Too often sensitive people are told that they think too much, feel too much and are generally weird and wrong. People who do not experience life this way, often have a difficult time understanding that we cannot not feel. It is not an option.

The good news is that as sensitive intuitive types, we have a finely tuned guidance system that will immediately tell us when we’re on the right track, or when some further clarification is needed. This is available to us when we learn to decode the signal that our emotions really are.

Caroline has some fine steps for this here. I appreciate her take on being a happy sensitive. Although it can feel completely impossible, it is actually highly probable, once you learn to take care of yourself.

My own quickie awareness serum is:

  1. Go somewhere quiet (bathroom works usually, except if you’re at home with small children)
  2. Take a glass of water.
  3. Breathe, ask: What do I need now? What is happening in my body? Which feelings belong to me?

I hope you enjoy the interview, that you can find here and maybe you find a new kindred spirit in Caroline. I know I have.

How can you take excellent care of your tender self today?

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Need Today, to Love Yourself?

 

I love me, thought book 2013, by MDT.
I love me, thought book 2013, by MDT.

I painted the first version of this picture on a t-shirt, almost twenty years ago. That was the year I put in an ad on a newsboard [on text-tv, laughing at that a bit now], so I could find out the truth about men. Were they simple beings who could not think, as my mom was fond of saying, or was there something more out there? My soulfriend, the Engineer who would become my husband many years later, bought the t-shirt with this turtle on. He wore it everywhere. The memory still makes me smile.

In addition to musing over that memory, I have been reading and translating parts of this important book about self-harm for a youth project I work in. The book is written compassionately and the text validates the inner reality of anyone who self-harms. Punishment in order to dissolve feelings of shame and guilt, search for emotional relief, making emotional pain clearer and more tangible are just some of the functions that self-harm can have. Most often, in our outcome directed, fast-paced world, an understanding for inner phenomena is lacking. Not so in this book.

Loving ourselves is a skill that is learned when our needs and feelings are heard and responded to, when we see people close to us love themselves and take care of their own needs responsibly, when we can express what is inside and have that received. It is never too late to start learning this skill and building habits that support loving self.

What do you need right now?