I am _________ .

i-am

Last year, early on in my therapy, my therapist asked me to finish that sentence.. I am _______.

I couldn’t do it. My eyes started to well. It was so simple but I had nothing to give. No kind word, no little comfort.. I had no words. I am nothing. That is probably how I would have finished that sentence in that moment.

As I have grown deeper into my center this simple sentence has become much easier to finish. One word I have struggled with though in terms of finishing that sentence though is artist. There is a lot of opinions out there about art, is good?, is it bad?.. I knew I was not good enough. I did not deserve the title. I was afraid that if I said out loud “I am an artist!” the art police would show up at my front door and hall me away for being an absolute phony!

You know what the worst part of that is, I think back over the years about some of the labels I allowed to be placed upon me (either by myself or others) that I willingly accepted.. Slut, Liar, Bitch, Sinner, Unworthy, Unlovable, Ugly, Stupid, Not-Good-Enough. It was so easy for me to accept these labels as part of my I am ________, but I would not allow myself to have this. Which is really amazing when you consider I have been creating art since I was old enough to hold a paint brush.

So I create in private where it is safe and no one can see and judge. I may talk about the fact that I like to paint with people but that does not mean I will ever share my creations with them.

My soul friend asked me for an original piece. She collects art and has a stunning gallery wall in her home. Normally I would be reluctant, intimidated.. In the past when this kind of request has been made of me it was with a specific subject in mind.. “paint me a picture of this..”. I can’t do that. I can only create what I personally feel inspired by. I know my friend understands that because she is an artist as well, an artist with words. I would never expect her to create something real on command because I know that is not how it works.

So she left it open to me, anything I want to make, and the result is my very favorite piece I have ever made. I am calling it Balance.

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Color in balance with absence of color, the male energy of the triangle balanced by the female energy of the orchids, order and chaos all in balance in one space because everything is able to exist at the same time. Balance.

I have created a lot of art in my  life and I have a different relationship with each piece but this one is special. This one is my validation. I looked at it once complete and said out loud in my living room for Todd, and Lucy, and the whole Universe to hear and bear witness – I AM AN ARTIST!

I hope it means as much to my friend as it does to me. This piece came out exactly like I wanted it to. That is a really amazing feeling for me because there was a time where my brain and my hands did not communicate that well. I had all these exciting ideas that I wanted to create but I was not able to express what was in my head the way I wanted to with my hands.. This is exactly how I envisioned this piece. I did it.

I am an artist for me and me alone, I always have been. I am grateful to be secure enough in myself to be able to say now without vulnerability, I am an artist.

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There is No Box for That

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Tonight I made a political pollster’s job a little more difficult, unintentionally of course. They called to get all my yes and no answers about why I will or will not be voting for whoever so stats can be drawn up in one party or another’s favor. The problem was I apparently did not fit into their boxes neatly which meant I wasn’t playing by the rules.

It was obvious to me that the caller was working for Trump’s campaign. All the questions were bias in his favor. The questions put Hillary in a bad light and tried desperately to remove him from that same lighting. Some of the questions I know the caller probably had to put a N/A next to or skip all together because they were too black and white. They only gave me two choices, bad or worse, and I know those are not my only choices. The poor pollster, on more than one occasion said, Um ma’am there is no option for that. I was thinking, that is not surprising. For example, she asked my party affiliation and gave me the option of Dem, Rep, and Ind. Well officially I am registered as No Party Affiliation so that is my answer, I am sorry the survey did not account for me but it does not change my answer, that is how I am registered.

Where it really got dicey was in the demographic information. She wanted me to pick a religion, that is definitely not applicable for me but of course that was not a box she could check. Sorry, does not change my answer. The next question was how often do I attend church, Um never.

This country wants to divide us into these boxes but the truth is I wonder how many of us actually fit? I am not religious, my spirituality cannot be defined, I am not affiliated with any political party, just because I am not voting for Trump does not automatically mean I am voting for Clinton, doesn’t mean I am not either. I do not consider myself conservative, moderate, or liberal.

This is turning into another post about embracing the gray area which makes sense I guess because this blog is about a person’s life, mine, and that is exactly where life takes place.

The pollster was very sweet given that I was probably a bit of an aggravation. I wondered about her as I answered her questions. Who is this mystery woman? Does she work for Trump’s campaign like I think or some other third party polling agency? What does she think of me, what do my answers tell her, what picture is she coloring in her head of me right now? Or does she even care, maybe this is just a paycheck? I wonder what deductions she is able to make about the people who live in our country thanks to the kind of work she does. One moment she is on a call with a no party affiliated woman who can’t give her a straight answer, the next maybe a republican voting for Hillary, or a Latina voting for Trump. Do others play by the rules and allow her to place them in a box, even if does not fit quite right? It is all very curious I think.

I will Paint my House Gray and I will Live in it

I have been sick for a few days and unfortunately I was not feeling any better today. I am hoping the clouds will part and tomorrow will be the day I no longer feel like a germ, I have internship and do not want to miss out on hours. My Dad decided to pay me a visit today, he heard I had been under the weather. It was nice to have company surprisingly, being sick alone is no fun, being sick with someone you like to talk is a little better.

He actually just called to check in on me as I was writing this. Dad’s are pretty great.

While we were visiting Dad was asking me about internship and we were sharing insights to this and that. My internship, in a round about way, is relevant to my dad’s own work experience. Something he said really struck me, I am almost laughed because I have been writing so much about it lately. I had been talking about person-in-environment approach indirectly and how important it is to have context for what you are seeing and hearing when working with a client. I was also talking about not falling into extreme perspectives, specifically as it pertains to the population I am working with. For example, some people I have encountered view this population as dangerous while others see them as pitiable objects. Those are two vast extremes and neither are going to help you work with the client effectively.

While we were talking about this and he was relating similar experiences in his own career he mentioned there was a reason he and I do not fall into these extremes, because we are realists.

I just looked him, a smirk on my face. My dad knows better than almost anyone how much of an idealist I am so it struck me as funny that he would call me a realist, even though I am in my own way when it is appropriate. I am all things mixed up together, most of us are, especially those of us who embrace the AND, that scary gray area. I am an idealist, and a realist, and a cynic.. etc.

gray-house

So I listened with curious intrigue as he elaborated his point. Now I am not well as I mentioned so my recall skills are fuzzy. I do not remember exactly what he said but the overarching point he made is that we, he and I, understand that people are made up of a lot of things and that they are capable of making choices, and that we know we should never be working harder for our clients than our clients are willing to work for themselves. It was all about being sensible and having good boundaries and judgment. Yes, if this is what my Dad calls realism than I absolutely fit that definition.

 

It is interesting because in recent months my Dad, knowingly or not, has really been challenging the way I see myself. First his remark about me being brave that threw me for a loop and now calling me a realist.. It is interesting to see yourself through someone else’s eyes for a moment.

There is a lot I am thankful for as I lay in bed finishing up this post. I am grateful to not only have Dad that will make impromptu house calls when I am sick, but to have a Dad at all, some people don’t. I am grateful for the relationships I have with both of my parents. I am grateful that even at 30+ years old they worry I am sick. I am grateful for time to rest and heal when my body needs it. I am grateful for my access to medicine and healthy food to nourish and heal me. I am grateful for a sweet dog who will not leave my side when she knows something is off. I am grateful for recognizing that all the best, truest parts of life and who we are exist in the gray area.

I am grateful for all that I have and hope the universe will smile upon me and let all this rest I have given myself be enough to get through the rest of the week.

Warning Label

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I read something today that was talking about how much easier life would be if each person came with their own relevant warning label. First of all, I agree. Second, what would mine be? I have been thinking about this and have a partially composed answer, the rest will come as I write I am sure.

My first answer (the composed part of this post) is Flight Risk. This was an accurate warning label for me through most of my twenties and the entirety of my single life. This label was born from a catastrophic end to a complicated relationship and a separate trauma event that followed months later. Trust became a major issue for me in the beginning of new relationship prospects, along with fear. The first few men who I attempted to date once I felt ready did not listen to my request to move slow and thus this warning label was created. I would literally tell potential partners at the very beginning, I am a flight risk, I need to take things slow. What I was so often met with was the guy thinking this was some kind of challenge.. Oh it will be different with me or I can change/save you. I never stuck around long enough to find out. Intimacy had become this really scary place for me, which is sad, so no matter when in the relationship intimacy finally came up it was going to be scary and difficult for me. My thought was if I at least have a solid foundation of trust and healthy relationship with the person maybe it will be less scary. I was right, kind of. It was still scary and difficult when it finally came up in Todd and I’s relationship but we had been building a relationship together for so long that I had someone supporting me through it who was patient and loved me.

So fast forward 5 years into the future.. What would be my warning label now.. Challenging maybe? I like that because it has many definitions that feel right.

Challenging in that I will challenge things that others say either because I do not agree and want to have a dialogue or out of curiosity which may then require them to give insightful thought to what they actually mean (intention v. impact type of stuff).

Challenging in that I am complex and may make some uncomfortable.

Challenging in an ambiguous sense..
Person 1: How would you describe X, Y, and Z.
Person 2: Um, Challenging?
I mean, what does it even mean? Who knows? It may be worth it to some to find out, and to others not so much.

This is my take on my own warning label right now. Thinking about from other’s perspectives though..

I think Todd’s warning label for me would be verbose. I wear him out sometimes with my long-windedness.

I think my Mom’s would be outspoken. I have found my voice and truth in that relationship and I think I wear her out too sometimes.

Verbose, outspoken, challenging. I think the take away message from this post is to use my natural skills of introversion to shut up and listen. I will approach my day tomorrow with the intention of mouth closed, ears open and see what the world tells me.

warning label

Labels

My soul friend has arrived!

Yesterday evening Todd and I went to the airport and picked up his best girlfriend from college who also happens to be one of my favorites. My soul was dancing inside my body the moment she joined us. We immediately began talking about books, and life, and all other things that felt good and right in the moment.

When we arrived home Todd and Lucy went to bed, he still has to work this week, but she and I stayed up. We talked all night until today became tomorrow and my heart felt full.

Our conversation was everything I love about a good conversation, it was deep, it was authentic, and it was limitless. One of the topics we broached had to do with how labels are problematic and how we both struggle with their existence.

It is the idea that instead of saying someone is a bad person it is often more accurate and kind to maybe say they had a bad moment. You did something bad, that does not mean you are bad. One is probably most compassionate just not to make the judgement at all, to maybe say nothing, or if you must say something let it be some form of I love you.

As a person who has been prescribed many labels without my permission I am well aware of how problematic labels can be. That does not mean I am always as mindful as I  could be though when it comes to placing labels on others.

Last week I deleted two people from my FB account because in my head I labeled them. Here is what is maybe closer to the truth in both of these cases, neither of these people are racists or homophobic, they did express privilege and prejudice that was a problem for me though. It was more than I could sit with. But still it is recognizing the difference between this person is a racist and this person is struggling with prejudice thoughts.  And the truth is maybe they are not struggling with their thoughts, maybe it is me that is struggling with their thoughts.  All I can do is be honest that those thoughts and comments made me uncomfortable on a level that was more than I could tolerate and rather than look at them as a problem I need to look within myself for what opportunity for learning and growth exists in this place of discomfort.

This is absolutely a growth piece for me. I say that in my career as a social worker I am not comfortable with diagnosing clients and that kind of centers around this idea of not wanting to label people but then here in my personal life I may do it without much consideration. I do not know that I will ever be completely without judgement, it is a lofty goal, but it is one I will work towards.

I will try to make a conscious effort to be more mindful of labeling which means recognizing that the men I encounter in life may not be sexist as much as they may hold some gender prejudices, and people on social media who I have previously looked down on as narcissists or vapid ninnies are just regular old people who hold different values than I do.

I guess that is what this really comes down to. People hold different values than I do and for some reason that makes me feel that I have the right to label and judge.

You are sexist. You are a narcissist. You are a bigot. You are homophobic. You are wrong. I am right.

I need to step back from this pattern of thinking. How can I really have compassion for others when I am playing this narrative in my head? I know I have made major progress in this area but there is always room for more growth. I think many of us have room for growth in this area if we are willing to look critically at ourselves rather than remaining critical of others.

I will be honest that this may be an uphill battle for me at times. I am an activist and a feminist and I have a tendency to get fired up and want to call things out. If I can learn to channel that energy in a truly positive way I bet there would be no limit to what I could accomplish.

This morning I grateful for time for quiet reflection, I am grateful for my soul friend and the lesson she brought me last night, I am grateful for time off this summer to recenter, and I am grateful for my ongoing journey.

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