Healing Through Art

Yesterday when I received the email from my relative I mentioned that I did not read it, only the first line. This is true but that first line was enough to leave me shaken, quite literally.

I have been taking good care to protect myself from the negativity of the world for some time now. It started with my decision to no longer watch violent TV, then I stepped back from watching the news everyday, then I made the decision to remove myself from social media, then I started to became mindful of how I spend my time and made the decision to be selectively social.

In order to be able to wake up to my own truth about myself and love and life and everything beyond these things I had to turn down the volume on everything else so I could hear my own truth and inner wisdom.

This has worked for me. I have had more epiphanies in all of these areas thanks to my solitude and silence than I have ever experienced previously in my life.

I will not go on this way forever. I may continue with some of these decisions such as my absence from social media and my decision to filter out the media and violence but socially I know that I will not remain a hermit long term. What is point of these epiphanies if I cannot build connection through sharing my truth with others and those I love?

For now this where I am at and I know with my whole being it is where I am meant to be.

These choices I have made have in essence been like a spiritual cleanse. An emotional/spiritual detox of sorts. A resetting of my soul and being. Because of this I have noticed that my level of emotional sensitivity has become heightened.This truth is what made my relative’s email so unbearable for me today. It is the reason I only got through the first sentence before I said to myself, No. I will not expose myself to this poison.

We receive invitations all day long through our interactions with the outside world. What is important to remember is that we are not obligated to accept these invitations. When my relative wrote that email he was essentially saying here is this darkness I have that I am not able to hold, I am bringing it to you so you can hold it for me and I can feel better. I knew immediately I could not grant this request for him. I declined this invitation and chose not to read the email as an act of self-love and emotional preservation.

That first sentence I read was like being bit by a venomous spider. I had a physical reaction. I began to shake. I recognized immediately the reaction I was having and stopped. I will not suffer to ease someone else’s suffering. I do not owe anyone that. I will not burn to keep someone else warm.

I took sometime to recover. Took a deep breath and wrote my truth in my response. After I felt better. I also sent a separate email to my extended family to offer them love and support and healing energy I felt they all might need to balance any difficult emotions they may be grappling with after the initial email from our relative.

Once I had done what I felt comfortable doing for those I love it was time to take care of me. I knew what I needed today: light, gray, AND, nature, painting, and writing. This is what that looked like for me..

  • I changed into my favorite gray clothing to wrap my soul in my own truth: that the world is not black and white, it is beautiful shades of gray where everything is allowed to exist together.
  • I lit my gray candle for healing and two more tea lights to bring light and love through the amethyst stones that held them.
  • I grabbed my art supplies and headed outside to set up shop among the leaves that blanket my backyard.

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I spent the afternoon in the company of Lu, the squirrels, the leaves and trees, and gusting wind that would occasionally blow pollen and leaves into my paint and down my shirt. The afternoon was gray and overcast and I know the Universe did that for me because today I needed to feel the all consuming comfort and healing of the gray.

Lu looked on as I released the toxins from my system by slapping and spattering paint on to my canvas and across the leaves that served as my back drop. Gray and black and white and every color of the rainbow came flying off my paint brush and from my fingers in a mess of color and pain and love and surrender.

Then I began to write. I gave voice to every AND that was banging around in my soul. I bled it all out until I felt clean again. Until I knew it had all been heard, and seen, and released.

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As I look at this piece on my book shelf I have unending gratitude. It is holding so much for me and it does so without needing anything from me in return. This is how I know I am on a path of love and acceptance and healing. I did this for myself. I took my pain and I made something beautiful with it. In this way I AM THE ALCHEMIST.

This is a representation of the AND I am always talking about. This is life. It is messy AND confusing AND dark AND colorful AND light AND love AND GRAY.

There is room for everything here. The pain I felt when I read the first line of that email AND the clarity I felt in the message I was meant to send. The rage I had over what was said about someone else I love AND the compassion I felt for my family member who is clearly sitting in the middle of their own pain. The ability to express my own truth in that moment AND make room for others to express their own truth as well.

This is not easy work to do. I have not come to any of this in ease or grace. It is only through willingness to embrace my own darkness and shadows and love them fully that I have been able to wake up to my truth and share it so earnestly.

I am still working, I think I always will be. I know what took place here was important though and I wanted to make sure to give it recognition. I think it was another small step towards my something bigger, whatever that may be.

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I Encourage You to Write

A month or so ago I mentioned that I had been sought out by a few people as a mentor. That has been a nice experience and I have actually taken on another mentee since that original post. I have even had the opportunity to write my first letter of recommendation for another person, which truth be told I am still working on because I want it to be exactly what it is meant to be.

So something that has come up a few times now is the part of the mentor-mentee relationship where I am being asked for tips/advice on this or that as it pertains to whatever thing we are discussing. I realized I have two tips/pieces of advice that are universal no matter who I am speaking with.

  1. Start seeing a therapist
  2. If you don’t have the funds for therapy then start writing until you do and then keep writing once you do.

That is it folks. That is my sage wisdom about life, and becoming an authentic healer/helping professional, and feeling fulfilled and whole.

The see a therapist part is important because you need to have one person in your life that has no other role in your life than to listen. To listen to it all. Anything you have that needs to be heard that is your person across the board.

This is coming from a woman who has a solid relationship with family, a husband, soul friends, girl friends, trust worthy co-workers, mentors.. I have a lot of people in my life that are here to listen. It doesn’t matter. None of them can hold it all for me. Not even my husband.

And here is my truth about that: I would never want them to. Again, not even my husband.

My therapist is my person that helps me with my relationship with myself so I can learn to listen to myself and be the one person responsible for holding all of my stuff. My truth is that if there is any aspect of myself that I am asking someone else to hold because I don’t want to then I am doing it wrong.

There is nothing that my husband, or friends, or family, or co-workers, or mentors can do to make me feel better about something if I am not first willing to hold it for myself and help myself feel better about it.

So I say again: Tip #1: Get a therapist.

Tip #2 is of equal importance. Start writing.

I realize there are a lot of reasons/excuses that are out there for why you aren’t doing this.

I am not a good writer. My grammar isn’t great. I don’t have time. I don’t have a computer. I don’t want anyone to read it and judge me. I don’t know what to write about.

Keep making that list folks. Write down all your reasons/excuses so every piece of you that is fighting against writing has been heard and then START WRITING.

Start writing right now. Don’t even feel pressure to finish reading what I am writing. You have my full blessing to close the window to my blog right now. Just start writing.

Write about whatever you want. Start making lists. The first list can be that list of reasons you don’t want to write. Make your grocery list. Make a list each morning of who you want to be today. Make a list of your heroes and what draws you to them. Write anything just write. Write everyday until you get to the point where going a day without writing feels like going a day without air.

This is how you get to know who you really are. You are not processing your thoughts and feelings with anyone but yourself. You don’t need anyone else’s opinion or input on your life, you only need to be with yourself. Write.

Write and learn who you are. Write to find yourself. Write to learn your own truth. Write to be heard. Write to heal. Write to get it out.

Writing gives you time to be alone and quiet so you can hear your own inner wisdom about your life.

It does not matter how you start. Write on napkins. Write on whatever is next to you, as long as it is not living because that would be problematic. Just write.

If you do only one thing today I encourage you to write.

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What may look like hypocrisy is just a different kind of authenticity

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You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

I pride myself on being self-aware and deeply empathetic. I had an epiphany today though that made me realize maybe sometimes I get too lost inside myself and I do not try hard enough to understand others.

Case in point:

One of my friends from my old job is an ENFJ. She took the test not long after I did, years ago. I never looked into the details of her personality type, I understand it on a basic level because I understand the test and the results. Also, she and I had a discussion years ago about our two personality types after we both took the test so I gained a little knowledge there as well. An area where she and I relate well, especially in terms of work, is that we are both concerned with keeping the peace. Neither of us like conflict and are both interested in a harmonious work environment. I always appreciated this about her, there was usually very little conflict in the office since we both made this such a high priority.

Recently we got together outside of the office setting to catch up. We were talking about what is going on in both of our personal lives right now as well as her filling me in on what is happening at the office. She told me a story about an issue that came up and how she handled it. I have to say I was a bit surprised with the way she chose to handle the issue. She had to compromise herself and what she stands for to a degree in order to reach a resolution. I was perplexed. How could she do that? Why didn’t she stand her ground? It’s not that I was judging her for the compromise she made, I just had trouble understanding it. I can absolutely be flexible especially in the name of conflict resolution but I wont compromise one of my values for it. If this is my only option my gut reaction would be to push back and stand my ground. The resolution is secondary to my value system.

We finished our time together and said our goodbyes but I found that even days later I was still thinking about her story. I felt bad for her, imagining how I would feel in her same situation but at the same time I had trouble empathizing because every time I tried I would think, “But I would never let this happen!” How are you not a hypocrite to some degree if you stand for something and then fold back on it in times of conflict? I do not mean to call my friend a hypocrite or shame her for her decision, it is just my thought process, it’s me trying to understand.

After some time I decided to look up the details of her personality type. I read something that really helped me better understand my friend and myself for  that matter.

When faced with a conflict between a strongly-held value and serving another person’s need, they are highly likely to value the other person’s need.

Well shit, I get it now. The ENFJ is apparently considered The Giver. This makes total sense now. This is my friend to a T, and I see now where her motivations lie and why she chooses to handle things the way she does. It isn’t that her personal values are not important and worth fighting for but, true to form, she puts others first. This is not to say she is a martyr that does not know her own self worth either, she is a very strong woman. She does things for the greater good though. What may look like hypocrisy on the outside is really just her being completely authentic to her way of being. Here is the thing I have to understand, her way of being is different than mine.

I am a humanist and I measure my success by the positive impact I am able to have on the lives of others BUT there are areas where I will not compromise and I am stubborn to a fault on this matter. My personality type leans this way to begin with, I think my particular disposition further comes from the fact that when I was younger, and not at all self-aware, I did compromise my values and for a while I carried some regret.

It was a like a light was turned on when I read this though. I need to remember that everyone’s motivations come from different places and just because people handle situations differently than I would it does not make them wrong, or hypocritical or in any other way inauthentic. It is just different, that is all. I was a little disappointed in my gut reaction to her story but thankful for my introspection and that I took the time to reflect and try to better understand her.

It gave me even more appreciation for her when I thought about it after. Sher cares enough about the greater good and well being of others that she is willing to make that compromise. That is really something.

Identity: How we are seen, how we see ourselves

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

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Todd and I have been talking lately about our next car. Like the responsible ISTJ he is he managed to pay off his car loan early. I think close to a year early actually. So having not had a car payment for quite sometime and the recent addition of a large dog into our home he has started thinking about the next vehicle and what makes sense. He has decided we need a size upgrade so when he is ready he is going to look at SUVs. I must admit a piece of me is jealous.

It’s not just that he will get to drive an SUV while I am stuck in a car (I have never liked cars since being in a bad accident when I was 14). It’s the fact that I already know when the time comes for me to get another car I will be getting a minivan! It is what makes sense for us though. By the time I am ready for a new car we will either already be one child in or at least ready to start having children. When I was in high school my cousin and I always used to say we would never be “minivan moms” we were going to be the cool moms who drove SUVs. Well uncool or not I have grown up and watched my girlfriends struggle with baby seats in the back of their SUVs and cars plus at times not having enough room for all the extras you tote around not to mention trying to fit additional people in your vehicle. I realized it just doesn’t make sense.

Todd and I were talking about minivans and my silly ideas about them. Believe me, I know they are silly I do not need to be told. What would be more ridiculous though is not getting a minivan when the time comes because somehow I have attached my identity as a person to the car I drive. Or I allowed my ego to get in the way of what makes the most sense for my family. Anyway, Todd says Volvo makes a minivan so at least I have that. Half kidding, I do kind of love Volvos.

This whole idea of feeling less than because of the car I drive got me thinking bigger picture about my identity, about individual identity in general. What do we think of ourselves? Where does our self-worth stem from? How does this compare to how others view us? Are the two ideas in line with each other or are they incredibly skewed?

For example, They say the clothes make the man, what do my clothes say about me and how much do I let what I wear speak for me?

I think my style is feminine, relatively conservative and comfortable but always put together. I will usually pick a colorful flat over a heel to save my feet but I am not a t-shirt and jeans girl.

So I wonder what kind of first impression I give? What I always strive for is approachable. And in thinking about it I do identify with what I wear. I am not proud of it but I can honestly say I don’t feel as much like myself running around in a t-shirt and jeans, I actually don’t really own any t-shirts. I acknowledge that there is a degree of superficiality in allowing my mood to be affected by what I am wearing but I do care about how I represent myself in public. While I accept that this makes me superficial on some level I also feel it is about self-respect though and possibly even being respectful of those around me.

Let me elaborate a little, if I know I have a meeting with someone I will dress accordingly. It shows that I care, showing the person I am meeting with I take them seriously therefore have shown up put together. Not to mention in terms of the work world most companies care about how the people they hire represent them. I realize when I am out in the world I am not just representing myself but others as well. That means something to me.

When it comes to my identity, I do not want to be defined by material things ultimately. My car, clothes, jewelry, phone. I have never been into status symbols etc. I also don’t want to be solely identified by the roles I play in life.

Mother, Social Worker, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend. I have talked many times about wanting to be the same version of myself across the board, striving for authenticity. My hope is that as I go through life I am able to stay true to who I am in all of these different roles and that come across to those I interact with. I realize my children will only ever really thinking of me as their mother but I hope as they get older when they think of me it is more than just “Mom”. I hope my affection, support, empathy and compassion shines through.

I feel this way about all of the roles I will play in life. I don’t want to just be “Jill the Social Worker” or “Jill, Todd’s wife”. When people think of me I hope who I am transcends just the title I hold in their life.