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.
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.
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?
Back from Scotland and my adventures into the mystery of loving self. Things keep getting more hectic here on our planet, more turbulent. I felt an updated skill set in caring for myself would be appropriate. I’m glad I did.
Edinburgh was a beautiful place where it was easy to breathe deeply. I came back with lots of inner space and a collection of non-verbal, not yet painted experiences.
I’ve always thought loving ourselves is a pretty abstract concept. Easy to think and talk about, harder to practice. A quick google search seems to indicate it isn’t an easy concept generally speaking.
It seems to me, loving ourselves is something to be practised, day by day. This way it does increase, helping us to keep center in this ever-changing world of ours.
So while I’m painting my huge paintings around this theme, here in my studio, I thought I would ask my inner crew to give me something more tangible, that can be shared now.
I asked my friends: What is implemented self-love? Here’s the first illustration, T. and Fant style.
This morning I was feeling pretty much like this picture. Do you ever feel like this?
When I came back from taking the kids to school, I went straight to my Dragon’s Lair, that’s starting to come along pretty nicely. I moved things around, taped a new series on the board in preparation, drew myself into my core again.
Not much time away from the To Do List, but time enough for clarity.
The ones of you, my dear readers, who have followed this blog for a while know that in 2010 I decided to take on the tyranny of my own beliefs, internalized from well meaning parents, peers and art school. These were beliefs that in unending circles spouted out shoulds, musts and not good enoughs.
At this time my daughter was on her second year and I realized the return to work was imminent. Were I to ever have time to be a full time artist, it was time to start making some art – any art, no excuses.
The three guiding principles that allowed me to break free from my self-imposed prison of shame, self-doubt, creative blocks and resistance were:
1. Easy access to the act of creation.
2. Create something every day.
3. No need to plan, know or understand, just start playfully.
Four and a half years have passed. During these years I’ve created more than ever before. I’ve also been suffering less than ever before in my life.
But, coming back from Switzerland, about four weeks ago, it seemed I had to work at squeezing myself into the life that just a week ago had seemed wonderful. I felt like an ocean that tried to squeeze itself into the utensils drawer. So many tiny compartments. So little space for expansive processes and uninterrupted time.
Time for a change.
After a few weeks of uncomfortable fidgeting and some simple structural changes, an opportunity presented itself. A storage space, close by, reasonable rent. Easy peasy?
The vulnerability of a shining core
Again and again, I’m surprised, inside myself and in working with my clients, of the kind of strength and vulnerability core desires exude. This past week, I have gathered thought books, pastels, art works from every nook and cranny in our home, in the Engineer’s office, in the far reaches of closets, behind photographs, in the high kitchen cupboards. Tear inducing work. I have been trembling so my bones are shaking, in order to encompass the enormity of what I am allowing myself to do and become.
I never imagined I had created this much. The tendrils of my most protected and naked core dreams have reached all through our home, until they simply did not fit anymore. Time for the dream to move out from the cocoon of our home.
Flashback to eighteen years ago. I had finished High School, with excellent grades. I felt I had earned the right to make independent decisions and although I attended entrance exams at the University of Helsinki, mainly to please my father, I was seeking other options. When I found a school that combined an intensive year long visual art and writing class, I knew it was the right thing for me. The fact that they rented a room I could live in just made the whole thing better.
I applied for a job at a shopping mall, as a cashier, and got it. Having secured a place of study, a home of my own and a job to finance it all, I presented the plan to my father. He took one look at the curriculum, at the price and said:
“Marie, this is the worst mistake of your life. You will regret this.”
So I went and did it anyway.
Taking permission to do what makes life alive
Dreams do not make life easy.
They’re not supposed to.
In fact, the transformational work that is included in any dream from the core will probably bring up everything we are hiding from ourselves to the surface.
Dreams do not [necessarily] bring in millions, or even enough to pay the rent at first.
There are no guarantees. Hard times may be ahead. This is not for wimps.
Proceed only with awareness, gentleness and support.
This is why rational minded people try their best to steer us away from dreaming in the first place. My beloved Dad was absolutely. Completely. Right.
Not when he said I would regret my decision to pursue art.
Just definitely when he said I was choosing a spiralling, backward, hard path, when I could have just driven on the highway [to a well paying job]. He was being the stern parent out of love and concern for me. He could not see into my soul. He did not see the reality of impending death that was driving me. Every road that lead toward deadening myself was too expensive to contemplate.
No money in this world can buy aliveness. The aliveness of a bungee jump lasts for a few seconds, jumping with a parachute, it lasts a little longer. But the skin caressing, soul squeezing, heart pumping aliveness that comes from bringing alive a core dream expands with each step. You just may end up with a life worth living.
If you wouldn’t have to
plan or understand
your dream on a rational level, yet, which next step toward your dream beckons to you?
I was out meeting my accountant today. Things are moving in my company and we were crunching the numbers to see how everything adds up. My book keeper is gentle as a doe, yet I walked away from my encounter both weary and overwhelmed. The urge to make art, create, move hearts and energy, transform creative blocks with freedom and exuberance seems to mix poorly with numbers.
Somewhat later, I talked to a friend. She asked me:
“What would you and your family look like, if you hadn’t been making art all of these years”?
This image immediately popped to mind. My parallel future self, without the presence of transformative art making, would be an obese therapist, listening to everyone else instead of creating herself.
Images of my husband working full time at some nameless company (because when you don’t have time for your art, giving it to someone else becomes verrrry hard), imbalances in my relationships with the kids, all the shopping I would do to make up for the lack of direct creativity flashed through my mind. Then I remembered.
Some years ago I was studying expressive art therapy. During those studies we were required to engage in therapy of our own. At one moment there, painting a sky big and blue, talking to the therapist, I had the clearest flash of insight; studying expressive art therapy was the perfect compromise for the little girl caught in between mommy’s and daddy’s wishes for me. An academic degree (Dad) that incorporated the arts (Mom).
That moment and insight was a crossroad. I left my therapy studies (for the second time) and went on to pursue art making, for real.
That choice. Making art every day. Has transformed my life experience.
I’ve learned to stand and contain chaos, to let completely opposite feelings or concepts play with each other in the same space. Art has taught me to start where I am and say yes to whatever is born. Creating every day has taught me to trust the void of not knowing, lean into beliefs of uselessness and open up to uncertainty.
Without art my life would be more rational and controlled. And less alive.
If you would create something, just for you, today. What would it be? [mental note: the more useless, the better. You do not need to justify creating.]
By the way, the Engineer is so much more ruthless and so much better at standing this whining. But I’m doing my empath homework and getting better at it. Because, fast-forward about forty-five minutes and the living room is filled with laughter, instructions, crashing, running feet.
The sweetest music in the world. Born from the fertile soil of technology deprivation, boredom and the choice to create something new.
For about eight years, every work day in my life, every moment on my own, has been framed by the needs of my children and family.
This summer the boundaries of this framework are wider than every before. While the beaches are filling up with roasting people, our parallel insight stages of our creative processes have given rise to a new rhythm. One day with the kids, one day at the studio, one day with the whole family. Rinse and repeat.
And I am so grateful for the unyielding restrictions that have surrounded me until now. All this space is pretty terrifying. The need to fill it up with distractions is palpable.
Until I remember,
I don’t need to do anything.
It’s okay to walk from tea cup to tea kettle.
Listen to silence. Wiggle my toes. Eat a pistachio nut.
Feel my skin.
The impulse that leads me to the next step in the body of work before me always comes. The emptiness is like cold water that I dive into, head first and the initial shock jars me to my bones. No matter.
Sometimes I think such a big part of creativity is the ability to stomach tension.
There is the tension that starts building an hour before it is time to get the kids from school and the meter is running out on work time. There is the pressure of making room for imagination, art and creation, while money is needed, the bills are piling up and responsibility is weighing down on the shoulders. There is the balance between the ideal vision and the messiness, imperfection and humanity of the reality that is born out of the vision.
When you don’t take the sometimes considerable force of this raw energy personally, you can learn to let it all slosh around in your body, keeping the energy moving, letting it all mix together in divine chaos. Then you pour it all into what you are creating.
What could help you keep the tension and energy moving today?
The Loving Offer. Did you know you can buy my work?
A long time ago, I read that when we are in touch with who we really are, with our essential self, we fly like a butterfly through our beliefs, over our obstacles, through any inner or outer barrier.
Today my suggestion to us is to let art be our butterfly.
So when the world is going crazy, make art.
When you are going crazy, make art.
When the mind is dying, make art.
When those in power fall down, make art.
When the intensity is getting the better of you, scream.
and. make. art.
When stuff is falling from the sky,
radiation is polluting the water,
the earth is quaking,
Making art moves energy. Making art flows intensity.
Making art brings relief, helps us breathe.
So the next time anxiety grips you, sorrow moves you, terror paralyzes
you, joy wakes you, exuberance makes you bounce – make art;