Category Archives: Boundaries

Crummy Birthday, Interesting Exploration into Boundaries

The process of creating transformative art; a backstory

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.


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.

Found where I live, today.


Boredom and Creativity

Boredom Is a Choice,  29.7 x 21.0 cm watercolor, by Marie D. Tiger.
Boredom Is a Choice, 29.7 x 21.0 cm watercolor, by Marie D. Tiger.

I’ve  been thinking a lot about boredom now in Summerland, being at home with the kids, aged five and seven (or almost six and almost eight, to be more correct.)

Every weekday morning, it’s the same question:

– MOM, can we watch TV?!?!?!?

Every weekday morning, it’s the same answer.

– Nope.


– Grumble grumble grumble. I’m sooooo bored. There’s nooooothing to do. Mooooooommmmm. Moooooommmm.

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.

They’re playing!

The sweetest music in the world. Born from the fertile soil of technology deprivation, boredom and the choice to create something new.

In what way is boredom serving you today?

You can buy different sizes of prints and cards of this watercolor.

Encryption Key

Seesaw, drawn with markers in the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger.
Seesaw, drawn with markers in the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger.

Hey there,

It’s been a long time since I wrote in the blog.

June was chock-full of client work with interesting, dedicated people who threw themselves into making art and learning about their creativity. Now I’ve been winding down to holiday mode, spending time in summerland with my children. Time is starting to loose its meaning and I have difficulty remembering what day it is. Lovely!

On a more personal note, I have been exploring what it means to be an empath. This year, I’ve been working with Molly Gordon and Caroline van Kimmenade, both of whom I can heartily recommend. It all started out with the intention of checking out what is going on with the profitability in my company, my sense of having one foot on the break and the other on the gas and the recurring phenomenon of ending up either broke or exhausted.

With Molly, I have learned to instantly access my core, my deep trust in the goodness of life. I am now able to look out into the world and feel supported. No matter what is going on, I KNOW it is all alright. Nothing has gone wrong, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

The program “From Suffering Sponge to Sensitive Savant”, that I’m enrolled in with Caroline is a bit different than traditional coaching. This is pure training for an empath. I’ve learned to understand my ability of being able to viscerally feel what others are feeling, discern what is mine and what isn’t and what to do with inner phenomena that originate from someone else.

So far, I feel like someone has given me an encryption key to my life experience. Everything makes so much sense now. So, I’m vacillating between accepting where I am and making small changes in my everyday life.

The changes I’m noticing this far are:

– It’s easier for me to make art, take&make time for making art and hear what I need [as opposed to taking care of everyone else and ending up resentful and exhausted.]

– Although I am still super-sensitive and aware of emotional fluctuations, I am able to discern what is mine, what isn’t and I know what to do in both cases.

– I now KNOW, beyond all doubt that I was never broken.

– The exuberance, joy and lightness that I remember from my childhood grows stronger every day.

– Being with my own intense kids is so much easier, because my inner clarity is now a stable flow. I can maintain the loving kindness that they thrive in.

The challenges I’m aware of are:

– It’s a LOT of work. I get immobilized with an influx of emotional static and it takes a whole lot of sifting, sorting through, writing, jogging and breathing to organize all the sense-material coming in [but it is infinitely better than it used to be].

– It’s lonely. I used to morph out to meet people, like an emotional Barbapapa, always finding the facet of my own experience that fit what my empath senses were telling me was appropriate. Now, I’m getting used to a whole new way of communicating and just being me. Scary!


– I’m way off my comfort zone, practising something completely new and not doing it particularly well.

But you know what? It’s so worth it. Because for the first time in my life, I can genuinely say that I am starting to feel this affectionate regard for myself. Not awash with the feelings of others anymore, I can differentiate who I am and I like what I see. There is a sense of inner logic to my past, I can see how things have led up to this point.

I’m wishing you a sunkissed summertime, with lots of goodness and gentleness.

P.S. If you felt that twinge of recognition, Caroline has a few places open for empath training here. And you can read more about Molly’s coaching here.

You can buy prints in different sizes and cards of the Seesaw drawing.


Nope. By Marie D. Tiger, in the thought book 2014.
Nope. By Marie D. Tiger, in the thought book 2014.


Sometimes, no is the most valuable word you have. No to outside authority. Nope to guidance that does not resonate. No to the suggestion that there is no solution.

Cranky or not.

What do you need to say no to, in order to get one step closer to your core?




The Blue Wall

The Blue Wall in Merihaka.
The Blue Wall in Merihaka.

I came home from taking my son to school today and almost yelped with joy. Once in a blue moon, this wall turns all blue. I took this snapshot with my phone, because I wanted to show you. The little things, these details of beauty, are what make every day life so precious and alive.


They love me, they hate me. In the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger
They love me, they hate me. In the thought book, by Marie D. Tiger


Yesterday I wrote about saying no. I think it’s hard, partly because it requires that we say “What I think of me, is more important than what you think of me.”  For me, this was an insight that changed everything, because it carves out a personal space where it is possible to be, to breathe and to be truly compassionate.

What do you think of yourself today?

Graduating on the Winds of Magic

Trust moves rhinos, in the thought book by Marie D. Tiger
Trust moves rhinos, in the thought book by Marie D. Tiger

Yesterday I had the most extraordinary experience. It was time for my final presentation at the Business School for Creatives. Very exciting! I had prepared a speech, with Powerpoints and all, polished up my business plan and made a fine looking portfolio to present. Everything was done in my very own style, as you can see below. Rational, thought out, standing firmly on the ground with my head just as firmly in the clouds, putting all cards on the authentic vision.


Present in the meeting were two evaluators that I had picked from my own business circles and one from the school. The school evaluator was a gray haired, very official looking gentleman, who looked somber and efficient.

So we started out with scrapping my power points, because the memory stick had a different sort of file system than the school system. Wonderful! Then I started out with my presentation, only to be firmly put in my place by the official, who took charge of the situation. Oh well. But when he asked me if I would mind him interrupting me (which makes me slightly crazy), I was already full of bubbles.

There’s this rule I have – the more that goes wrong in the beginning of a presentation or workshop, the better it is going to go. I have had zippers on dresses open in the middle of a presentation, huge tables bolted to the floor in a dance workshop, keys lost, alarms on.

So when I was allowed to start talking, I did. I knew my material and answering the tricky questions was pretty easy. And then we got to talking about the art, the growing one fourth of my company. I felt my passion ignite, I felt the mood in the room change and the gray official numbers man burst into a huge smile that shone up the room as he burst out: “What a magnificent vision you have!”

After that, the tricky questions, stern demands and other rhino kinda stuff didn’t stand a chance to the air of magic that was swirling around the room. I passed with flying colors, pats on the back, and an even more powerful conviction in the power of the open heart.

How are your dreams doing today?

P.S. It wasn’t until today that I heard what kind of experiences the other people in my class of 2013 had in their presentations. Let’s just say that “magic” is the right word to describe what happened with my business plan and how it was received.

Are They Your Feelings?

Human sponge, thought book 2013, by MDT.
Human sponge, thought book 2013, by MDT.


One of the most liberating insights of my life came at a point in my life when I had studied therapy, coaching and been through various self-developmental processes. I was confused, because there were still times of absolute darkness and inner pain. Although they were shorter, they were no less intense. They were also less easy to pinpoint, didn’t seem to have any substance at all, except the emotional pain they contained and gave rise to.

At that point I started finding literature about empaths, about being so sensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions that you start trying to process them in yourself. I started asking myself: “Is this mine?”

If I had that rootless feeling of not being able to feel the feelings in my body, I started to just let them go. I told myself: “Not mine, not mine, not mine.” Doing something physical helped, running or vacuuming the apartment.

One day, while walking around the small lake near us, I felt awash with joy, this simple exuberance of being alive. Memories of childhood and feeling this same feeling started to jump up like happy puppies and I was filled with the certainty that this joy was mine, had always been mine and would never leave.

So still, at times, when my boundaries start leaking, the human sponge effect starts. With good self-care, equilibrium returns, step by step.

How about you, are you carrying stuff that isn’t yours in the first place?



Safe Space

My safe space, in the thought book, by MDT.
My safe space, in the thought book, by MDT.


I watched the last episodes of Flashpoint, season 5 yesterday, while I was filling in this drawing. The name of it came to me while I was in my Sunday morning writing & heavy metal mini-retreat. I had drawn this a year ago, while leading a creativity liberation workshop. Now I realized what it was that I had drawn.

A while ago, I attended a workshop where we talked about self-love. At the beginning, the leaders discussed appropriate ways to share painful emotions and how to stay in our own center. They said that we can all choose to be in a safe space, simply by choosing to be there. Although I felt doubt, I chose to be in my safe space. And I was.

After the workshop, this has been one of my favorite things to keep aware of. To choose to be in my safe space and cultivate the safety inside.

When you choose your safe space, what kind of colors, sounds and feelings [or something completely different] does it contain?

Here and Now

Here and now, thought book 2013, by MDT.
Here and now, thought book 2013, by MDT.


I’ve been living with this mongrel feeling of living a life that is something between directing a symphony orchestra and walking a tight rope. Living a whole life, where there is no distinction between work and life has its own challenges. It requires being very aware and present. Oh, and yes, having good boundaries. Here are some of the questions I ask myself during the day:

– How many meetings can I afford this week, so I still have enough creative bandwidth for both making art, being in love with my husband and being a present, loving parent?

– What is most important today; cooking a nutrient-filled dinner and sitting down for an hour with no phones, internet or other outside influences with my kids and their important matters or doing laundry, vacuuming, organizing our home?

– Do I take a fifteen minute date with my husband today and set aside all thoughts of work, my to do list and all the organizing details that concern our children’s lives and risk forgetting something or leaving something undone?

Each of these questions represents a dipping into my core and the essence of what I am doing here on this planet. It is so easy to get caught up in the domore-domore-domore-domore-rhythm of our society, instead of remembering that it is who we are and the level of our presence that decides how happy and content we feel.

How about you? What are your essential questions today?

Letting Go of Self-Pity

Self-pity, thought book 2013, by MDT.
Self-pity, thought book 2013, by MDT.


The one thing that has kept me from loving myself, creating what I dream of and being the person I want to be, more than anything else, is self-pity. Breaking up with drama was almost impossible while I was holding on to the pacifier of self-pity. I’m that good at pitying myself. The way this has worked for has been something like this: Because I’ve been so brave and _________________ (fill in the blank), now I can _________________________ (over eat, shop like crazy, be curt to my husband, yell at my kids or alternatively not go out for a run, ignore my budget, not take care of myself, not go writing). Self-pity always led me to the worst decisions, short term relief and long term grief.

The tricky thing is, self-pity is a [dysfunctional] self-soothing mechanism, which is why I and we all fight so hard to keep it, when someone tries to get us to quit. These days, I always know I’ve had a relapse, when my husband asks me: “What do you need now?” and instead of feeling an answer arise, I feel the impulse to snap at him like a huge crocodile. I’m still not an evolved enough person to behave graciously in that situation. But I do know that self-pity arrives when I start compromising my boundaries.

It is easier to give in to self-pity than it is to ask: “What do I need now?” and be compassionately present with the answers. It is easier to act on self-pity than to do some real self-care and go for a run, or take a nap, or listen to a mindfulness recording, or pay all the bills we can and ask for more time on those we can’t.

Letting self-pity go requires that we take responsibility of our power to create and how we can learn to use it with more awareness, in our inner world and our outer world.

What is your relationship to self-pity?