Category Archives: thought book

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.

 

Self-love skill #2 – Inside Out

 

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The adventure of self-love continues. Yesterday, after coming home from meeting my work counsellor and seeing an artist friend, I updated this illustration. I don’t think the problem with loving ourselves is the self-care, as much as what happens within, when we do care for ourselves and our boundaries.

Setting boundaries is scary. We only ever see the surface of the people who set their boundaries for us. But when we do it, lots of stuff happens inside.

For me, saying no is often accompanied with a sensation of nausea, guilt, endlessly questioning whether I did the right thing and if I hurt the other.

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As for the acrylic part of the project, here is the big, first acrylic painting in the Getting Lost in Landscapes of Self-Love on the right. On the left is its little sister, called “Loving Self”, from my last show.

Now, I’m going to tidy up my studio, to make room for clients and more painting. Thanks for following this winding path, as I find my way, impulse by impulse, into this new project.

How are you loving yourself today?

Self-love Skill #2; NO.

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Self-love skill number two. Saying no appropriately.

Man, how I struggle with this one. There’s saying it, of course. Hard at times, almost impossible at others.

But before you can say no, you have to be able to feel into what you really really want. Yes or no. You have to be able to say, I’ll come back to you, I’ll think about it for a while.

You need to accept, appreciate and allow your preferences.

Then, you may need to calmly say no thank you. Sometimes forcefully.

So, the practice continues. 🙂

Oh, and what do self-love skills have to do with creativity? My current experience is that the more I make art, the more productive I am, the more time I need for empty space time, bupkis days, taking care of my needs. It’s all part of the whole of creative work. Although the final act of creation may be fast and expressive, what makes that possible is sometimes a lot of time spent incubating, ruminating and in general just containing different kinds of tension.

This means I need to carve out that time by saying no. A lot. Trust the process, trust the need for this time, trust myself.

Sometimes saying no to the outside world is saying yes to your own art, whatever its expression.

What can you say no to today, as a way of practising self-love?

From the Animals in my Head to You

Hei Everyone,

It’s been quiet on this blog on this side of the year. I’m mostly on vacation,

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but today I have been writing an article for Minä Olen magazine and since I found a way to get my scanner to work, I thought I would come and muse in the blog for a bit.

I was sorting through all the illustrations for 365 Days of Creativity (remember those guys?)

Moo! By Marie D. Tiger, courtesy of the Thought Book.
Moo! By Marie D. Tiger, courtesy of the Thought Book.

and found many scetches, a bunch of undocumented finished ones and raw ideas.

I now have 231 documented and finished illustrations of different creative days, mostly with my inner animals, but some with my alter ego red head stick girl.

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The whole thing of course started when I got tired of sitting on my ass and wishing I would create and inspired by Seth Godin  started drawing or painting something small each day [and no matter how imperfect], posting it here on the blog. The drawings kept getting better and I learned to listen more to both my inner animals and my impulses. My imagination seemed to speak animal. Until the beginning of year 2015, when form suddenly fell away and it was just myself and the colors left.

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From my current vantage point it seems that I have most literally created myself visible. Through drawing and the inner work that being an entrepeneur gives rise to, I have slowly solved the conflicts between my inner artist, my coaching practice and my company Crealife. Instead of being a big mash up of everything, there are now clear distinctions between these.

This blog, that I started when I needed an outlet where to share my art, has slowly become a hobby, as my Finnish core art business, Crealife, has taken over. The painting process of my latest body of work Dream Maker, HeartBreaker has been a mostly wordless one, suitable more for documentation in the journal than short, intersting blog posts. Instagram has been a good way to share that process with my lovely audience. <3

2015_sssshhhhcatchingideasSo I’m pottering around the blog today, wanted to say HI and also that I am opening up inner doors so I can write in this blog again, adventure around in my beloved English language and perhaps send out a smidgeon of playful inspiration to summerwarmed imaginations around the globe. <3

 

Cherish the Awkward

Embrace the Awkward, 24x16cm markers in thought book, 2014 by Marie D. Tiger.
Embrace the Awkward, 24x16cm markers in thought book, 2014 by Marie D. Tiger.

Yesterday I was taking a walk. I was stopped in my tracks by this adolescent swan. Humongous feet, wobbly, oddly colored with grey, brown and off-white. So awkward and tied up in uncomfortable knots. Yet all swan.

This has been a year where many of my heroes have fallen from their pedestals with a crash. Saying one thing, doing another. And I have been grappling with that. The humanity of us all. That we have nothing else to resort to, but doing our best.

So I am coming to accept, that in order to keep the magic alive, I have to learn how to not only tolerate the awkward in me and others, but embrace it, seek it, cherish it.

Why?

Because it opens up a point of connection. Because it shatters the tyranny of perfection. Because it means that we are all, irrespective of our roles and status, still learning & practicing.

In which areas of your life could you explore freeing yourself to just be awkward?

 

Monday Musings about Freedom, Inner Demons and Expressing Who We Are

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I have been hanging out with my demons lately. I drew the above drawing a week ago. We had a long discussion with the Engineer about the purpose of the Escape Bubble [watching TV incessantly, internet shopping ad infinitum, drinking too much beer, playing patience hour after hour, frantic exercising, the list is long).

Why does it exist? What brings it on? Is it to be resisted, controlled or is it merely a signal of something?

Is it an escape from uncomfortable feelings?

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Yes! I did it!

A jump to a new level of freedom tends to flush out all of the Usual Suspects; Shame, Guilt, Perfectionism, Fear, Doubt, Self-loathing, Anxiety, Addictiveness.

I am currently completely free from any kind of day job, only working on projects that involve art, creativity and imagination, only taking on work I love and also having more time to paint than ever. More than I had in art school.

Yikes!

Freedom is scary, because it snaps all ties to the old identity. There are no justifications for existence left. There are no “musts, shoulds or have to’s” to create a safe, predictable misery. Something outside of me, to force me to act, to do something, to get going.

There is just me.

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And my  shame.

Shame seems to accompany any quest to become visible, any heroic venture to create something from our core. It is an insidious feeling, because it is so darned visceral and uncomfortable. Can you feel the cringe inside? I sure can, just writing about shame, here.

Succeeding can trigger shame

For many many of us creative dreamers, failure is not the most shame-inducing phenomenon. Succeeding is. Reaching another layer of freedom, another level of being who we are in this world, expressing something heartfelt. This can trigger the urge to escape or to do something rational, leave the hand made small life and join the corporate machine.

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That is why the demons inside are so important. When they are cradled, listened to, ever so gently moved and accepted, they carry with them whispers from our core. Messages from what wants to be born. Old ties to be released so an empty space can be opened for the new to come in.

It is safe to express who you are

But that is what I like about creating. The question “Why do I have these demons?” becomes less important than “What can I create [with these demons, from the encounter with them, through facing these feelings I’m feeling, just as they are in this moment]?” Instead of sitting back, curling into myself frozen and scared, I have the option to explore, experiment, feel into. This is when everything starts moving.

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The thing about them pesky demons is, when we stop running away from them and just sit down, surrender to what is – let go of who we think we should be, what we think we should be feeling – the content of our inner worlds opens up and makes sense.

That is the promise of creating. Nothing can go wrong. It is okay to explore, build, take apart, build again, make mistakes, learn, experience, feel, move, fail, flounder, get lost, listen to impulses, escape and find ourselves again.

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So from my heart to yours; your eccentricities, flaws, shadows and your brilliance, excellence and light, together are what make you who you are. Weird. Is what I most love about you. <3

 

Empty Space

As preparation for a workshop on empty space in the creative process, I have been on a partial media diet. No tv-series, no Facebook article browsing, no reading, no newspapers and so on.

The silence is astounding.

Of course, it wasn’t at first. Because what happens when we stop, clear the space and surrender to it? Everything rushes in. All the denied, pushed away, ignored aspects of the inner world are there, in our faces.

This time, though, it was curiously impersonal.

All the usual suspects, particular to this personality make up of mine, were there: “You’re no good. There is something wrong with you. You’re not normal. Nothing matters. You should just get a real job.”

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But come on. Twenty-five years of inner work later, they are still the same. My shadow, my fears and doubts, the scars, the wounds. It is just thinking. So I gather them into my lap, embrace them, and we sit in the empty space together. Watching snowflakes fall against the backlight of a rising sun.

Sending you a whiff of peace, where ever you are in your life, today.

Empath Stories: Self-Love During Changing Times

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The Untrained Empath: Feelings Are Good. Painted by Marie D. Tiger with watercolor 2014, 25x 16 cm. For sale: 370€ plus shipping, frame made to order.

This blog should have been written on Saturday, instead it incubated until today, Monday.

As an empath, I experience my feelings as both a blessing and a curse. The blast of them, while leading to great aliveness, is at times of imbalance, just way too much. Learning to discern which are mine and which aren’t, helps immensely.

I’m suspecting I’m not alone in saying that life has been full of changes lately. On Thursday, it was time to just rest, which I continued through the weekend. Today, Eren’s comment on my blog gave me the idea to write down self-love ideas that help me with self-care during these times of rapid change.

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What does self-love in action mean to you, in the midst of your changing life?

Bupkis

Bupkis, painted by Marie D. Tiger with watercolor in 2013. Original is for sale in Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/187222372/just-hanging-out-ooak-illustration?
Bupkis, painted by Marie D. Tiger with watercolor in 2013. Original is for sale in Etsy: http://tinyurl.com/ot8l4nd

 I was talking to a friend about feeling drained and she introduced me to a new concept; Bupkis. Absolutely nothing.

That is what I’m scheduling into my week. A whole lot of bupkis. I know it makes my imagination happy and puts everything into order and ease. I’m grateful for the reminder to take care of myself and I thought I would extend an invitation to you, to do absolutely nothing, even if it is just for a minute.

Where could you schedule in some empty time, to just do nothing at all?

Endings and Standing Strong in Emptiness

Endings need time, 29.7 x 21.0 cm drawing, by marie D. Tiger.
Endings need time, 29.7 x 21.0 cm drawing, by Marie D. Tiger.

This June my first ever one year art workshop at my Alma Mater, Inartes ended. It was an amazing process and privilege to be able to support thirteen individuals in coming closer to their artistic core. Rarely have I felt so exactly in the right place while in the presence of other people. The response was amazing.

After the workshop, I walked slowly to the metro, feeling myself arrive at  a huge emptiness. Usually I would have distracted myself, because I dread, loathe and abhor the experience of vacuousness. But, having just heard from my students that I shy away from nothing, no matter how hard, I felt obligated to stay true to myself and hold the same free space for myself.

So I sat there, on the echoing metro station, breathing in wave after wave of harrowing chasms.

Until I felt like giggling. Unpleasant? Definitely. But worse than

childbirth, being a mother each and every day, abandonment, daring to confess my love to the Engineer, overcoming depression, being broke etc ?

I think not.

Just another thing to breathe through.

If you would allow yourself to just feel empty, right now,

and now

and also this breath

and this one

what might you find, on the other side?

 

You can buy the turtle drawing as prints and as cards. 🙂