In addition to finishing my February cards, I started a project today from Tamara LaPorte’s free class Art, Heart, & Healing. It doesn’t look like much, but she had us write down all our negative thoughts and do some reflections on those thoughts. The next step was covering up those negative words with gesso. My words kept bleeding through, so there are a few coats of gesso on there. I’ll pick this up later this week or next weekend.
Creative Practice: Writing
Today was my godfather’s funeral. I had thought I was doing very well with the loss. I lulled myself into thinking I would not have to go into the depths of this loss and all the new realizations that came with it. Today that illusion was broken. This is the first sudden and unexpected death I have dealt with as an adult. At the funeral, it hit me hard. Grief wracked me through and through. I knew the only way to the other side of this grief was through it. What better place to fully experience grief than a funeral. That, and there was a military salute complete with Taps playing. That song. How does anyone stay strong during that song?
One of my Creative Circle friends, wisely suggested how hard it is to believe that loss is such a universal emotion, because when you’re going through it you feel so alone. It feels like your own person hell. She said it much more beautifully, and it resonated so deeply with me.
I did a bit more writing today. It was very rough and very raw. It was exactly what was needed.
I really meant to keep up and not get behind on my blogging, but life. You know? Between a funeral for a loved one, followed by a huge wave of subsequent grief that knocked me for a huge loop, and starting a new job a few days after the blog has gotten away from me. I could beat myself up, but I won’t. I had a very difficult week or so. There were very high highs and some pretty low lows. So I decided to be gentle and love myself. An idea, which has been novel to me in the past.
While I have made time for creativity each day, even when it was very hard, I have not blogged about it. So I will catch up, and move on.
Creative Practice: Poetry
I am still working on poems about grief. They are very brief. I don’t know if they will ever be ready to see the light of day, but I do believe they are helping me heal. If they ever are refined and ready to share, I will share them here. For now, they are just a way to deal some very raw emotions. That is enough.
I’ve missed the ocean. I know I’m spoiled, but it’s one of the reasons I pay so much rent for so little space. Regular trips to the beach have become a part of my own personal healing on so many levels. I have spent a good deal of solo time here. Just me and the dog. In fact, I have spent a large quantity of my time the last six months in a fairly solitary life. At first I thought of it as a detox, but then I just settled into asking what my body needed. For months, my body told me it needed rest and deep periods of reflection. I have felt a metamorphosis taking place. I still have no idea what will come at the end, but I have stayed safe in my quiet cocoon waiting, digesting, and being. I’m quite sure many of my friends think I may have ceased to exist, but it was what I needed to do.
This morning I decided to take a late morning trip to dog beach. It’s been weeks and I needed it. I knew I would write, possibly take up this theme of grief again. I was not looking forward to that.
As I was making the solitary drive to Ocean Beach this morning, I noticed a large outcropping of birds in the channel between the ocean and the bay. Within that group of hundreds of birds, there were at least ten white herons. I have always loved herons and cranes, and considered a sighting lucky. Up until now, I had never seen a large group of either. I had always considered them solitary birds. Now, I have no scientific knowledge of the habits of these birds, so I’m working solely off assumption here. I took it as a sign (or maybe symbol is a better word), that perhaps my time of solitude is breaking too. For months I have been in this cocoon. Waiting. I feel my self getting ready to emerge as something that I have yet to understand. Things in my life have naturally been falling into a more social mode. This new style of feeling my way through, of checking in with intuition has been so foreign to me. I still have no idea what comes next, but I am starting to see the light outside of this cocoon.
Creative Practice: Word play, Brainstorming
My last day of travel! After a particularly crazy morning at my parent’s house filled with some mix-ups, I got on the road to come back to San Diego. Much later than anticipated, which was not a good thing since I had to be at a family gathering that afternoon. I drove home, got the dog settled, grabbed presents, and turned back around the way I came. I spent a lovely time with family, and came home exhausted.
Not having had a moment to do anything creative all day. I knew I had to do something, but what? Due to our family’s recent loss I had been thinking about grief on my way home, which led me to consider all the things we grieve for in life. It seems to me that the experience of going through any kind of grief is so bizarre. Of late, I am learning to welcome grief in as a friend and companion. This is something new for me. In the past, I have had two ways of dealing with grief. The first being avoidance. The latter gritting my teeth and bearing it much the way I did with math homework all through high school. Just push your way through this unpleasant task. I have never invited grief in for an afternoon snack, and tried to get to know it better. In this year of letting go, befriending grief and loss seems to be a task I must face. So tonight I brainstormed some thoughts on grief. I began to write down my thoughts. I kinda, sorta wrote the very rough draft of a poem.
It’s funny, another thing I am not very comfortable with is poetry, yet here I find myself feeling an urge to write poetry about grief. It’s not that I have anything against poetry. I quite like it when other people write it. It’s just that I feel lost when I try to write it. I don’t know if I’m doing it right. Although I loved my high school English teachers, I do blame them a bit for my fear. One of my English teachers had us do a poetry project. The haikus in that along with all the talk of Iambic Pentameter make me feel like poetry must be very structured and difficult to write in order to be good.
Here I am thinking about writing poetry about grief. What have I gotten myself into with this project? Who knows what this will become. Perhaps in the end it will only be essays, or even journal musings, but however it turns out, it feels like another necessary step to healing and listening to my soul.
Creative Endeavors: Journaling
I was feeling a lot of life pressure today. To clear my head a bit today, I packed up a towel, water, my phone, Martha Beck’s Finding your North Star, my journal, and the dog. We headed out to Dog Beach for some space and fresh ocean air. Our usual M.O. is to trek out to a nice spot, put a towel down, cuddle up together, and then I read and write. This is when it’s good to have an old dog. He is perfectly content to snuggle up for awhile, since he will get a leisurely walk when I’m done. I realized today that he is actually thirteen and a half today. In six months my little Parker will be fourteen years old.
Today I did a writing exercise that I have been putting off for several months. The first part was to breathe and feel your way through each part of your body, noticing any areas that are hard to feel. They feel numb or frozen. I did this inventory. The next step was to write down, “What are you trying to tell me, (body part)? Then you write as if you are that body part. I have had right hip pain pretty constantly, so I started by having a conversation with that hip. You might be wondering what a hip might say. My hip had quite a bit to tell me, and none of it was that big of a surprise. I won’t be sharing my journal entry, because, this is a blog not psychotherapy. I found it quite helpful to dump all of that out of my body, so I went on to another part. I’ve had a many aches and pains the last few years. I often feel about twice my age. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog. I need creativity regularly to help me deal with stress, and to send my body into a relaxation response so I can heal. One of my pains is in my abdomen to the right of my belly button, and no it is not my appendix. I have learned that my appendix is not in the normal placement. I have been to many specialists, have had many tests run, and no one can figure out what the heck is going on. It was bothering me today, so I thought what the heck. I repeated the exercise, and it was very surprising. The short version is that part of my digestive system is pissed, and thinks I need to strengthen my back bone. It had some choice words in there too.
After that, I took the dog for his leisurely walk. We bonded, and got our feet in the sand and water. When we got back to the car, I realized that neither my hip nor my abdomen were hurting. This is not the norm for me. The pain has not returned all day! I will definitely be doing this activity again.
Today’s Creative Endeavors: I invented a new flavor of yogurt; Progress on an art journal page.
I woke up today feeling pretty rotten. I was achy and suffering from nausea. I had no desire to eat anything for breakfast, or do much of anything. I had a full fridge, but nothing sounded good. I did water with fresh lemon for the nausea to no avail. I knew eventually I would have to eat and was so not looking forward to it. I started making a mental list of things I thought I could handle. I knew I had homemade coconut yogurt, and the probiotics would be good for my tummy. With no sugar, it is so tangy. I had a bunch of pears too. Knowing honey is soothing to tummies, so I added some local honey. My newest yogurt flavor was so soothing, and actually made me feel better.
Since I was feeling so bleh and my to-do list was so long, I resisted doing art most of the day. I had stuff that had to get done! Over responsibility is one of my faults. Even when I know I need to rest and play, I keep working. In the evening, I finally sat down to make art. I picked up the journal page I started on a few days ago. I had a background, but that was as far as I had gotten. I did not feel like making art. I just wanted to lay around. Once I started, I didn’t want to stop. I did get tired pretty quickly, but I made signifigant progress on this page. I also found, I didn’t feel as bad while I was absorbed in my artwork. I spent the day feeling like a cold was coming on, but powering through. When I finally stopped and let myself get into the zone, I felt better. Art should be part of our self-care. We need to let ourselves create whatever our profession or our life situation. Creation is such a powerful healing tool. Michael Samuels, M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane, R.N., M.S.N., in the book Creative Healing, emphasize the healing power of art.
“Prayer, art, and healing all come from the same source: the human soul. Research has shown us that a person in prayer, a person making art, and a person healing all have the same physiology, the same brain wave patterns, and the same stress of consciousness.”
Spending time in an art practice is not only good for the soul, but good for your health as well. In taking care of ourselves as we enter cold & flu season and the holiday rush, perhaps we need make our creative practice a priority. For our sanity, and for our health.
I had great plans for a finished journal page today. I had the whole thing envisioned in my mind’s eye. I had the time set aside to do it., but then it turned into one of those days with a little extra serving of ick. It seems that a condition of unemployment breeds frequent those days. Then add to that a bit of gossip I didn’t ask for, which turned out to be a bit of hurtful information for me, right as I was supposed to be writing this post. The day was a goner.
Luckily for me, in preparation for the completion of this journal page, I had spent some time prepping the background and playing with paint and cosmetic sponges. I left it to dry, thinking I would get back to it later. I am working on a creating a dedicated creative area, so I worked on clearing stuff out. Packed stuff up for storage and drove it to storage. After that is when the day went south. I had the time set aside, but the evening was spent nursing my tender heart.
At first I felt disappointed that my creativity was minimal, but life happens. It’s not like I totally skipped out on the whole process. I showed up. I worked on creating a space for art and I painted for ten to fifteen minutes. My commitment was to spend ten to fifteen minutes a day minimum. I met the minimum, but still felt the need to beat myself up. I’d like to say I have now faced this problem and resolved it, but this one is kind of a doozy for me. I torture myself for not being perfect. I wouldn’t have even noticed how mean I was being to myself, were it not for my reflecting here. It’ that much of a habit. It’s one of the things I’m hoping a daily practice for a year helps me break.
So today I declare my effort good enough. If I have to come back tomorrow and make the same declaration, then so be it. I will make that declaration for the next three hundred and sixty three days if I have to. Part of my journey right now is about self care and honoring myself. So I honor myself for showing up. Even though it was a hard day, I showed up and put some paint on the paper. I did it.
Is there something you are beating yourself up over? What do you need to honor in yourself today?