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My Art Therapy Journey

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A couple of days ago I made a connection with someone who left me asking, “What if…?” The “…” are representative because there are so many endings to that question.  I guess the “What if’s” are different for everyone.

I feel full of possibilities.  “What if…everything?”

In my life I haven’t always been sure that staying alive was the right thing to do.  And I mean “staying alive” in a more of a way than just the mechanics of breathing. Even breathing in a way that keeps the body going can be a challenge sometimes, but  I’m really talking about keeping my heart alive.  Passion, hope, love.  There is risk in living with light.  The body can die, but the heart can be devastated when something important goes wrong.

Things have gone wrong before.  I’ve had opportunities to give up at times when people might not have even judged it as a weakness, and I would have liked to have taken my break.

Somehow there’s always been something keeping me going.  A resuscitation, I guess.   Maybe that’s when the light has taken the driver’s seat. Admittedly, on the really hard days I haven’t always been grateful for that force so dedicated to my continuation.

But then there are days with connection, mystery and magic…that grow my spirit enough to help me feel I can support the energy of life again on my own.  But never, of course, completely on my own since those are the days I am most lifted up.

Those days are the ones with rainbows.  That unexpected gift of communication when I’m looking for convincing evidence that it’s safe to come out and interact again even though the clouds are still foreboding.

So…what if I am safe?

What if…my life matters?

What if…I have something worth sharing?

What if…I’m not alone?

What if…everything has a reason?

What if…I can’t find a reason, but it all matters anyway?

What if my story was meant to be heard?

What if the beginning really is a very good place to start?

What if?

What if?

What if?

 

If you’re wondering who this someone is who inspired these questions this time, it is a film maker named Mary Trunk who is now editing her most recent documentary titled Lost In Living…Here is a brief description of this film I’m so grateful for and link to a generous 10 minute Trailer which I found on Kickstarter.  This is a film filled with passion and honesty which I feel privileged to be a backer for (and is still open for funding, so check it out.)

“Behind the domestic curtain of motherhood, where the creative impulse can flourish or languish, are four women determined to make a go of it. Filmed over seven years, Lost In Living, confronts the contradictions inherent in personal ambition and self-sacrifice, female friendship and mental isolation, big projects and dirty dishes. The complex realities of family life unfold in this documentary film about the messy intersection of motherhood and artistic expression.”

 

 

 

***

 

A couple of weeks ago we had a brief storm in my city during the middle of our midwest drought. I was lucky enough to be out in it.  If I hadn’t had to run to the store with my daughter for essentials while my husband was out-of-town I would have only heard the rain.  When we arrived at the store the clouds were beginning to break and the sun was coming through.  I saw a man across the parking lot taking an iPhone pic of the sky.  And, of course, I had my phone too.  I took a picture of the sky and clouds facing the opposite direction.  It was magnificent.

Storm Clouds Breaking

 

When I left the store the sky was still filled with brilliant form and light.  I took out my phone again for more pics, shooting away, when a guy with his daughter walking in motioned to my left and said, “There’s a rainbow over there.”

Light Entering

 

 

A cloud among many

 

Soft Blank Slate

Alive

 

There I was, looking right at the sky and missed the rainbow entirely!  I was a little embarrassed, but grateful for the direction!  It actually turned out to be a double rainbow, so quite a treat!  It was large so I couldn’t get both sides in with one shot, and naturally, the photos don’t  nearly do the experience justice.  It was warm and cool, wet and sunny with the most amazing light.  A wordless beauty, for sure.

Rainbow

 

Don’t forget to look for the rainbows…

 

 

 

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Sliver of Light (found coming through the middle of a grouping of conjoined Sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park, CA)

I’ve been in a place with no words lately.

When will I learn that not having words, or really, not being able to express them, does not help one (me) to escape?

I hadn’t planned on writing this.

But then something brushed past me and I felt like maybe I could get something out.

Now I’m not so sure again.

This is a frustrating battle.

I want a poem.

I want significance if I’m going to have to stutter through these mutilating stops and starts.

I want something to show for the scar tissue from all the rips in my chest.

I haven’t had much time to paint.

Or maybe it is energy I have struggled with.

With vacation and all…

I did take some iPhone photos while I was gone…and my phone never got close to dying.

I did though.  We were nearly involved in a potentially fatal crash on the highway on the way to the airport, coming home.

The tire on a pickup in front of us blew and sent the pickup bouncing and swerving into a concrete partition barrier under an overpass and then tossed it back across to the other side of the highway for another concrete kiss before it finally came to a stop.  The highway was filled with traffic, including a speeding semi directly behind us (and we were the first car behind the pickup that lost control).   Miraculously, there was nobody in the lane beside the out-of-control pickup and so it kept the snowball effect from happening, and we were miraculously far enough behind the pickup  that when the tire blew and the actual crash(es)/impacts  happened we were able to avoid contact.

I know at least 10 drivers had to have seen the accident happen, and sadly, us and one other single male driver were the only ones to pull over to make sure the driver of the pickup was ok.  It’s pretty horrible to watch a vehicle crash right in front of you (or behind you, I’ve experienced that before on the highway too…and I wasn’t involved or hurt,) but what made me sick to my stomach and clench up my throat was that amount of people who sped right on past without even attempting to stop and help.

The driver of the pickup was an older gentleman and was pretty shook up and, I’m sure, in shock, but thankfully not critically injured himself.  We were in a dangerous spot ourselves when we stopped, and on the opposite side of the highway from the pickup, so we continued to the airport after making sure the driver was safe and able to wait for police and ambulance and that the other citizen who stopped was able (and willing!)  to take care of the rest from that point.  It didn’t appear the driver of the pickup even had a cell phone…I felt so bad for him. : (

Can you imagine if nobody had stopped??!

That’s the question I thought about the rest of the way to the airport.

Which quickly led me to thinking about how many times I’ve been the one involved in a  life wreck.

It put me into a place of deep thought (but with a well-activated nervous system) …about how we could have seen someone killed in front of us, one or more of us in our car could have gotten seriously injured or killed that morning, or we could have seen and been involved in a compounded highway mass tragedy if the speeding cars had been spaced within even a car length’s difference at that particular time and place.

But life went on.

We got into a plane that morning to sit by an old man holding an iPad and stock report papers who was quite consumed with things that obviously mattered, who didn’t want to sit by or have anything to do with us (and he really didn’t know how close his luck was to not having us there) especially our baby.

But there we were.  All of us in a row.

And here we are today, still living this life.

My Daughter, Playing In the Light

My Daughter, Playing in the Light (in the middle of a large, conjoined grouping of Sequoia Trees in Sequoia National Park in CA)

It is scary to unravel in the light.

Light means awareness and awareness means seeing what was once in the dark.  Sometimes things in the dark, once revealed, are not so scary anymore.  Like the classic monster in the bedroom…that isn’t.  But sometimes there really is a monster in the bedroom.

More children’s books should probably talk about this so it can help us grow into adults that can face reality.

Monsters exist…and not just in the dark.

Sometimes the light in the room is flipped on and the monster is real and tries to eat you alive.

This particular revelation of the light is dark…I don’t mean for it to be dark, but I’m scared and angry at the monsters.

It is beyond-words scary to come to life sometimes.

I have travelled in the dark.  I guess I battled fear  in the dark sometimes  too, but I could look at the beasts lurking around me and tell myself they weren’t real.  They were just my imagination playing tricks on me…just a shadow that couldn’t hurt me.

I sometimes find reality to  be unappealing now that I’m learning the truth.  But I guess the greatness of light is that reality can be changed into something better.

There are also good things….good feelings.  Gifts.  Flowers. Laughter.  Love.

And still, always there can be Hope when the feelings don’t feel so good.

I just think it’s important to say that sometimes it’s not all rosy.  There is a lot that makes me want to shut my eyes again and say, “I’m not here.  I’m not here.  I’m not here and neither are the monsters.”  Oh, but to believe the lies.

They are there.  Here.  Me, the “monsters,” my life….it all has existed through all this time.

*

Yesterday I walked into the kitchen with my toddler, preparing to make her breakfast.  I flipped on the light and…  This is what started off my day.

I am rewriting the story, or in this case…maybe the song.

It was not so Itsy Bitsy.

It also did not go up the spout again.

 

Over the weekend my Baby became a Toddler.  She’s still not quite “toddling,” but we’ve made the one-year mark.  It’s exciting and humbling.  It makes me nostalgic for my older daughter who will turn 14 this fall.  Though, it is hard to not be washed in fear.  I look at other families, especially younger ones just starting out with their baby or young children and sometimes my heart wants to stop.  I don’t really know why.  I don’t know if it takes me to the hindsight wisdom I have now about a time when I was so young (a teenager)  and unknowing–when I had no idea what was to come for me as a mother– or if I am feeling vulnerable for them…because they look so innocent.  Parents.  Hearts just right out there in front.

I don’t think I look innocent.

But I’m not really sure what I look like anymore.

I have no idea what life will throw my way. I am  doing my best to be the parent my toddler (with her own unique personality and set of traits, much different from her sister’s)  needs me to be.  I don’t think I look-or feel-innocent, but I so often am scared of not knowing enough.

I am constantly searching myself out, asking, “Have I learned what I need to know from my mistakes?”

It’s scarier to be pretty sure I probably don’t even know all the mistakes I have made yet.

Time is a teller.

Is there any parent out there who can’t look back and see even just one mistake they might have made in raising a child?  If there is, I’m sure that person will come find me here to tell me, lol.  Never fails, huh.  (Falls under the class of “Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to.”)

Anyway, we survived the first birthday party.  A party my older daughter never received.  (I was a Jehovah’s Witness then.)

I feel like I am always living in alternate universes.  Especially as a married woman and parent now in this new place.  Memories free-flow around and through me.  I live in an ocean of memories and most of them are not very pleasant.  I work hard to make new ones.  Sometimes I think I actually work too hard at that and stress myself out even more.  And then is the memory I worked so hard to make good any good?

But as I was saying, we’ve made it this far.

This year we celebrated with friends…a pretty rockin’ way to get the ball rollin’.  Right?

But my older daughter was with her dad.  So even this birthday is tinged with sadness.  It’s a long story only a mini-series could tell.

I’m going to trust that if I keep living life with light will take care of this for all of us.

I’ve been savoring  my latest set of Instagrams.  It seems like so much has happened in just a couple of days, even though when I look around not much has changed.

Except for my mantle.  Yes, my mantle is looking different these days!

My mantle now holds a vase with Roses of Different Color!

And, I think you can be assured it’s not because I am wearing rose-colored glasses, either.

Just take a look at these beauts!

Yesterday my husband ran an errand to the store and came back with these!!!

No arguing, no disharmony, not even a “discussion” precluded these babies!  No ladies (and gents) my husband bought me flowers because….because HE DID.  And he gets full credit.

Now, I didn’t used to think I was the type of girl to get all giddy over flowers, but turns out…I kinda am.  Especially when they’re tie dye, and especially when I know it means my husband is listening and paying attention.  And something grabbed his attention at the store when I wasn’t with him and he thought of me!

So I’m a little sweet on these flowers, and sweet on him.

Self-Portrait with Roses  : )

So not too much commentary today, although it feels like there’s a ton to share.  It will have to wait because I am stopping to smell my tie-die roses!  And I invite you to sit-a-spell and smell them with me!

I wish that swallowing a multi would fix it all.  It swims down my insides and  bursts into my stomach with a jolt.  A shock…defibrillation. Everyday, the all clear comes…again, again, again.  Dissolving and resolving to resuscitate my cells.  No cell left unturned.  No man for himself.  Scratching out of form into my blood.  Giving into itself.  Singling out no one.  Saving the many lives within me.

 

Am I the only one who ever imagines a vitamin this way?

I am here because the pain is too much.  I participated in the recent routine of watching an episode of Breaking Bad with my husband and opening my mind to sleep, but my body isn’t cooperating.  The pain has been intense today…it has been growing all week.  Growing, growing so fast that I would like to graduate it on out of my body.  But then where would it go?  Into someone else’s body?  Maybe this pain is my way of helping, contributing in a way, to the world.

Maybe I should be able to help it that my body cannibalizes itself.  It scares me.  It stops me in my tracks.  There’s nowhere to go.  But here.  Here to cope.  Here to express.

Therapy of my making.

It does help me.  It helps to get it out.  And I’m ok with it as long as I stay responsible for it.  Responsible for how all this works itself out.

I’ve known a lot of hurting people in my life.  Scary people.  People who took their pain out on me.  And there is a part of me that does understand that now.  Maybe it’s a part of me that my multi-vitamin has reached and has  provided insight.  But mostly, the rest of me still suffers from other’s pain as it attempts healing.

I learned infliction so well though, I think.  So easy to administer…like with a spoon.

I try to make myself better, to stop the pain, and yank the spoon out of my hand.

But the hurting is still there.  It just moves, moving closer and closer to be fed.

It badgers me.

I will starve it.  Starve the pain until finally, even if slowly, it goes away.

Nourishment itself inflicts me.

 

My body tries to speak to me.  I try to listen.

It is hard to listen.

I crave art because it is the safest way to hear.   And the clearest.

I’m working on getting working in art.  It’s taking time, precious time.  Soon though.  It will be soon, and in the meantime, I build.  I create a space for it to live…to just be.

Thinking about this brings me some relief, even as the internal chewing of my flesh continues.

Some days are much better than this.   Some days I don’t hurt like this.  Some days there is relief.

And I will keep swallowing the pill.

Photos from a recent trip to the park…all of my park pictures so far are from the same section of path.

These remind me of bones….

Sadly, I have not been spending many hours trying to figure out Photoshop, or even messing around with Instagram.  BUT, I have been busy working!


Yesterday my “night job” duties (the time after my daughter goes to bed for the night) consisted of painting the basement….because!  Because it’s in the process of transforming into my studio! Yay!

I’m so excited to have a designated place that might be large enough to become a holding place for the art I crave to do.  I have a lot of plans for it, but mostly the plans are open and evolving as I speak.  I think I have an area picked out for metalworking and another corner space picked for painting…

It’s exciting to think about, but for now my most used studio supply is elbow grease!

Speaking of, I better get back to it since my daughter is down for nap and time does not hold back!

 

Some picks from the journey… 🙂

 

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All Hail the King!  I don’t know why I just said that other than I’m trying to refrain from saying OMG?

I just figured out that I can layer filters with Instagram!  My night job (my night job playing around with photos I took earlier in the day with Instagram) just became a lot more loaded.  Which means that with the knowledge of the power of layers I’ve just come across, I’m going to have to dedicate myself to learning Photoshop now because Instagram will be too small and slow to suffice.  How did the world ever get by on no layers at all…and then one single layer…and then….as many layers as I can imagine?

This is what I get for being an “old school” snob about all this photography business.  I completely deserve to not have known.

But now I know.

I wanted so much to not like digital.  I was doing so good too, with getting all the way into the middle of 2012 carrying rejection of digital with me.

But now the world has changed.  I’ve sunk ever closer to the big black hole of the digital darkroom…In fact, I’m running to it and slamming the door tight so nobody can disturb me here.

Phew.

It’s going to take me a while to process this….

Layers….Filters and Layers, people.  I’ve lived with them for years and nobody ever told me how cool they could be!

This will require the addition of several hours to each day for quite some time.

 

 

 

 

This will be a great way to explore filters and layers on the inside (of me.) But for now, the layer of me that made another recent discovery only a few days ago…a television series I discovered on Netflix called “Breaking Bad”…needs to go get that fix.   I never actually watch TV either…but I’m doing that now too, apparently.  And pretty happily so far, I might add. I’m going to go try to rot my brain quickly so I don’t get any more anxious about this.

 

Bite me, old school.  Sheesh.

I don’t have a lot of words today.  I guess it’s more about a relationship with where words come from.

Control, Option, Command

Escape

Delete, Enter, Return

Shift, Function, Control

Command, Option

For some reason these keys just connect with me right now.  I took these photos last night, initially by accident, when I was busy editing some other photos.  My iPhone’s camera opened up and staring at me were the “Command / Option” keys on my camera screen….They were/are right where I am.  I went exploring around my keyboard a bit and found there were a lot more clue keys about either where I am…or where I have been… at my fingertips.

Nobody chooses a mental disorder.  If I could pick mine, I probably wouldn’t have the one I have.  And, I really don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and says, “Hey!  I know what I want for today!  I want to special  order a nightmare of after-effects that are a result of abuse I’ve experienced in my life!”

No, I really don’t think that’s the way it goes.

Because I’ve been thinking lately, “Can we just be done now?”

I have to ride the wave, and sometimes it’s true…the wave is a great adventure.  “Great” is a very subjective term.

And some things about living with the brain altered experience of a formerly abused mind, body and spirit can be subjective too.  Such as, “How will I live this day of madness?”

There is some choice in how I live my days.  Sometimes there is even a lot of choice.  Sometimes making that choice comes with an enormous amount of pain and struggle…but, I don’t think the trouble with making  choices is reserved solely for people with a brain condition or someone living the effects of abuse.  (Although, it can certainly add an extra ounce of oomph to the process!…and at times call for extra support through a qualified and emotionally mature and plain ol’ good-hearted and kind therapist.)

That’s part of why I believe art therapy is such a universal part of living.  Art is so central to the human condition, not just conditions that provoke a person to cut off their ear.

I guess I’m trying to say a lot of things here.  I’m saying sometimes in life there are choices even within the place of no choice…for everyone.

Some days I choose to feel.  Some days I choose to not feel.  But the feelings are always there….I don’t think there’s a lot of choice about that.  Being human is like that.

For a long time I have chosen to not feel.  And for a while I made that choice, even if subconsciously, so I could survive all the feelings swarming around and through me.

I’m entering a new place.  I’d say it’s an in-between place.

There’s not a lot of words to this place yet.  I just hang on to the light and what it reveals…It seems like I am in the process of seeing a lot along my personal journey lately, although I can’t always quite make out what an image is.  Engaging in life through art has been a safe place for me to explore this unknown.

Today…I choose feeling.  I choose life.  I choose hope.  I choose light.

Thankfully, these things are making a home in my chest and not so much my brain.

Today I am brave, which is not always my natural condition, but is just as much part of the human condition as all the rest, none-the-less.

These photos are from a family walk at the park yesterday….

(Click on the image to view in a larger format on your screen.)