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.
What does self-love in action mean to you, in the midst of your changing life?
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.]
This empath elephant is the first in my SummerFreeFlow 2014 collection. I have also started to post progress pictures of my watercolors, on Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest. Some lovely people have been telling me it’s nice to see how the paintings are born, impulse by impulse.
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;
Some time ago, I published this drawing on my Facebook page.
Many people contacted me through different channels to comment, tell me about their own creativity gremlins. This inspired me!
My coach recently said to me that I will find more and more people with whom we can meet in the lands of imagination. Would you join me?
I would like to draw your gremlin(s)
If you describe your gremlin to me in the comments of this blog, or in an e-mail to email@example.com (subject: gremlin) I will draw it and post it on the blog.
What people have done with the description is that they have described how they imagine the voice that nags them when they want to dare greatly, create something big or small or make a change. I usually ask questions until I receive an image or images in my own imagination and then disappear, only to return with a drawing or several.
Drawing your gremlin, as it appears to me, would be an honor. <3 Leave me a comment or send me an e-mail and let’s get to work.
Later, should you feel the inclination, you can buy the original. Just send me a line. The rights to the art work stay with me.
Here is the first triptych of a gremlin called “The Voice of Doubt”:
It is from a Finnish client, so the name is in that language in the drawing.
So welcome to the gremlin party, all critics, fears, doubts, resistances, angers, frustrations, distractions, shadow comforts, shadows in general, shame, guilt and anything you can come up with. Let’s draw and move some energy together.
I used to be so afraid of this. Turning up as the leader of a workshop, talking, sharing, leading art making and then – seeing the WTF-sign lifted in the audience.
These days I see it from a different view point.
Last year I was talking to a friend of mine. We were lamenting difficult challenges in our lives, as we sometimes do. As I was talking about feeling stuck and not connecting with my audience, I suddenly realized something. By picking and choosing, which parts of myself I wanted to show to the world and which aspects of myself were too weird or scary and had to stay locked away, I was creating a distance all around.
First, I couldn’t completely stand behind what I was doing, because I knew I was hiding.
Second, I was too weird for the people I was trying to cater to, even though I cut off half of who I was.
Third, the people I really, really, really wanted to connect with couldn’t recognize me, because I was only showing fragments of who I was.
So now, going in front of a crowd, seeing the WTF signs pop up, I know all is well. Being who I am, I am free to connect with others where they are. There is a wilderness of animals living in my head, jumping on to the page and all is well.
Are you censoring yourself, because you think you might freak someone out?
This meant no day care for her, no working for me and a dilemma of how to get firstborn to and from school.
My husband sent me the following picture from his trip to Cape Verde, where he is, alone.
My to do list is two pages, written with font 10.
Do I manage to convey the enormity of my pity party this morning, at all?
The icky, slimy bug of self-pity started hissing in my ear. Thought by thought, my energy faded away. Powerlessness started seeping into my muscles. My ability to receive any nourishment from interactions with my kids or with my friends and family started receding, until I could feel the slippery frosting of self-pity, coating me from head to toe.
Now, rationally I know self-pity is an attempt to defend myself against overwhelm, expectations and demands. On an emotional level, it’s another story.
The thing is, while self-pity may feel like relief, or like self-love – it’s anything but. It shifts the locus of power on the outside of ourselves, puts us in the back seat of our lives.
Of course, the row of set backs continued. My friends couldn’t help with getting firstborn to school, the taxi driver was rude, there was less money on my account than I remembered, my website crashed… It wasn’t until I had sent my website provider an e-mail to ask for help, and they responded they couldn’t and I just had to google the answer, that I remembered Veronica Torres’ tool: “How ridiculous does it have to get?”.
What else would have to happen, until I took responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings.
Ah, well. I asked myself what would take me closer to self-compassion and loving myself in the moment. After a shower, a glass of water and a loving discussion with my daughter, I came back to the computer and easily updated the theme of my website. Now she’s sleeping and I’m feeling happy for the frolicking Engineer again.
I drew this picture to remind myself that there is a better way than self-pity. What would take you one step closer to self-love and self-compassion today?