I’ve done this a thousand times. Fit myself into a pair of jeans that hug my legs but leave the rest of me desperately crying out for space or at least a bit of stretch. Finding a high enough waist band to lovingly envelope my curves has been a challenge I haven’t taken time for. So I’ve settled to being pinched, cramped and tied up in discomfort, for the benefit of long looking legs.
Molding myself according to expectations of others is a similar experience. Although it may seem easier, the pain of pushing myself into a default template is ongoing. And just like my muffin top is visible, no matter the kind of sack I wear for a blouse, nobody is fooled by me squeezing myself into the cast of normal/perfect/whatever.
And why is it so scary? I don’t know about you, but for me it is frightening to connect with that part of me that flows over, that needs, that reacts in intense and unpredictable ways, the places that need compassion, acceptance, time. To not cram it into yet another corset, tight belt or behind the mask of a smile.
But to listen. To experience. To see what is.
This week, I’m starting with my body. I bought a pair of jeans with a wide, high waist. Comfy and soft. At the same time I’m letting my feelings roll, jump, hide, run, dig tunnels, whatever. There’s space here, both for a soft belly and whatever sort of feelings that life awakens.
Is there a template in your life that you’ve outgrown and/or are ready to bust out of? If you would surround yourself with tender care and deep acceptance, what would your next step be?
And it is quite a journey. Whoa! So, the next painting was a very different drawing when I started this morning’s work. As I listened to Bon Jovi [again] and painted, ever so often I had to get up and dance. The Engineer sat safely in the kitchen, working through his flu and I was painting in the living room, dancing like mad to keep the shame from paralysing my body. So what you see is as much a “dancing” as a painting.
The shame kept wanting to grow in the painting, so I let it grow into its true form. At some point, though, Fant (the elephant) decided that T. (the tiger) had been alone in the hot spot long enough, so he jumped into the fray to hold his friend’s hand. I am reminded and want to gently remind you, to choose a safe place for anything concerning shame – painting it, expressing it, exploring it, feeling it, sharing it. You’re not alone.
If you want to purchase this as a print, click here.
Shame and art
Shame is s physical emotion. Do you recognize the hot flashes, the blushing, the looking down, the foggy thoughts, the paralysis, the curling into a fetus position, the fountain of sweat, aching tummy, headaches, breath taking anxiety, hot flash of anger? I do.
The two years after I graduated from art school where a walk of shame. I longed to make art, it was almost a physical yearning. Yet every time I grabbed a brush, a pastel or a pencil, self-hatred started gushing.
There was no escaping it. I had a tape of particularly hurtful critiques and comments that I had collected, that started playing in my head, LOUDLY. It seemed that the very act of making art triggered shame, hatred, anger and it was all directed at myself.
For the longest time I blamed art school and the art world. Yeah, like until five minutes ago. Ugh. :/
But I’m realizing now that the fact that my deepest shame and deepest joy were bound together is nobody’s fault. Not even mine.
When my son was three and a half years and my daugher was one and a half years old, I had a moment of panic. Returning to work kept coming nearer and I knew how the demands of generating money could suck all the time from art making, especially if the art maker was crippled by creative self-hatred.
One day I put down a paper on the floor. Armed with colors, brushes, stickers and my little daughter, I started painting together with my little fire cracker. Safe to say, I was so busy with the raging fire of impulses from my baby daughter, I had no time to hate myself or what I was doing.
After this painting, I still felt the yearning to paint. Love yourself. That was the need I kept hearing inside of me. In order to be able to create, I had to start loving myself and creating from where I was. The following week, when my children were napping, I sat down and fervently asked my inner world to help me combine my inner power and ability to love. Stroke by trembling stroke, I painted this painting.
Brené Brown, who researches shame and vulnerability, talks about shame resilience. Because we all have shame triggers and experience shame, the important thing is not to avoid it, but learn to know those triggers and develop shame resilience. Here is what is included in shame resilience.
1. We recognize when we are feeling shame.
2. We recognize our cultural and social expectations and how we react to shame.
3. We make meaningful and empatethic connections to others.
4. We share it with the right people. Shame cannot survive when we encounter it with empathy and compassion.
Today I invite you to bring your shame into this Compassionate Tea Party and share something, it may be just a symbol for the thing you are thinking about. There is tea, sympathy and compassion here for all of our shame.
How can you let yourself gently move through your feelings today?
There is a different balance here. It doesn’t say: Like me. Accept me. It says: I like me, I accept me and I am here, exuberantly present. It takes a stance. Very different. Well, I’m not a cub anymore.
makes me laugh
The brazen humor
love of sex
it took its time
now it is here
and I won’t squeeze it back
Movement. The movement of sperm, of seed, the receptivity of the egg and the flurry of activity that happens when conceiving takes place. The potentials, the energy, the enjoyment. The aggressive thrust of something new being born into the world.