The first lesson in Facing Forward II went live today, and I got out my handy calculator to add up the total viewing time. 4.8 hours. Dudes. Crazy. In our first lesson together, there is a tutorial on journaling your way from blurts (negative self-talk) to bouquets (affirmations that you can use as sentiments in your art journal). We also create two different kinds of spreads - one really complex & deeply shaded, and the other, created with a template that I've provided, that is much less work intensive, but no less meaningful. I round out the lesson with the creation of a wee affirmation card, made with an artist tile.
Jam. Packed. I'm really proud of it.
Working with affirmations is tricksy, because we can get caught up in feeling like big fat liars when you use them. I help you with that in the introductory video as well, because I struggle with this myself.
Enjoy reading your blog and one of your sentences lead me to my question. You wrote " I *do* have confidence in, however, is my ability to spill,"
I've been journaling for 50+ yrs and I've explored many methods and journeys on the page. But lately I feel like I can't dig deep enough, I know there's more to find deep down, but just can't reach there. When I journal, it feels like a regurgitation! 'Been there, done that.... ' What suggestions would you have for diving really really deeply into the layers of my soul?
I know that your question is about art journaling, but here's the thing. Written journaling can lead beautifully into art journaling. In fact, there are very few spreads in my art journal that didn't first begin as some kind of written exploration.
I'm also wondering if you may be a little bit wrapped up in creating beautiful things vs. addressing your internal processes. I know that when I get caught up in the making part of art journaling versus the digging around in my own stuff part, the spreads I create tend to fall flat for me. They don't feel deep enough. They don't feel like they say anything much about what's going on with me.
If you want to deepen your journaling, one of the best ways is to trust the regurgitation part of things. I know that seems counter-intuitive, but I really believe that doing a daily regurgitation of what's going on can lead us the deeper material *if we let it*. The way to let it is to let the mind do the regurgitation thing for as long as it needs to. When you feel like you've cleared your mental decks of all of the 'this happened and that happened' and you don't think you have anything left to say, I find it really helpful to ask myself "What am I sitting with?" I'm usually looking for something that isn't settled in me - a memory, or a feeling I'm not quite sure I understand. Getting to this deeper stuff can take patience. You may have a journaling practice for quite some time before it starts to happen, but if you commit to at least three pages of long hand a day, eventually, your regurgitation will get shorter, and you will go for the deep dive much more quickly.
Sometimes, I start my journaling session by asking myself "What's up, buttercup?"
This gives me permission to speak to myself on the page as though I am a beloved, trusted friend. I find this most helpful if I'm feeling a confusion of things, or if I can't quite get my thoughts straight.
Here are two videos from Facing Forward II that go into more detail on the easy journaling practice I use to get to what's going on in my innards. I also take it to the next level in search of the reframe or affirmation that I might take into the art journal as a way to begin to heal the harder stuff I might be feeling.
Here's a spread I created after working with this journaling process.
Sometimes, though, there is nothing 'deeper' to access.
We do get to have these lovely periods in our lives when a calm surface does not veil choppy waters. Sometimes, the calm is real. We are in a good place. We need not dig, because whatever is there either hasn't finished bubbling up to the surface yet, or there is nothing there to bubble up. We should all be so lucky. :) I especially enjoy these phases of my life as short lived as they might be!
There's also a misunderstanding that deep stuff must be heavy or painful.
This is so not true. Sometimes the deepest stuff is about how much beauty there is in our lives. Sometimes it's about our profound gratitude for our lives. Sometimes there is just so much peace at hand, that things can feel 'too simple', but this peace deep, wide, and very full. These topics can be difficult to journal about because we can feel trite, too flowery, 'purple'. It's okay to extol the wonderfulness in your life, though, and spreads created from that vantage point can be as equally deep and meaningful as the ones that come out of our more difficult feelings & experiences.
There's another thought coming up for me around trust.
Can you be trusted to really hear what it is that your soul is wanting? Do you work to change the things that come up over and over again? Do you trust yourself to act upon the deeper truths? Or have you broken contracts with yourself so that your inner voices no longer trust you to do anything about what *does* come up. This is not uncommon, and it's something I struggle with myself. When I regurgitate over the same issues over and over again for years, but refuse to/or can't do the deeper work of *changing it*, I can lose faith with myself. I stop trusting myself. Journaling can feel like a slog instead of a practice that nourishes me. The trick there, I think, is to acknowledge it, forgive myself, and begin to ask myself 'What should I be doing about this?' Break it down, and do the simplest, easiest step.
I hope this gives you some stuff to think about! <3
Thank you all for the questions you sent this week! I have a juicy bundle of them to draw from now, and I am very grateful for your participation in this series!
I have a few things for you this week, so let's just dive right on in.
In the "Getting Started" post, I mentioned that we can sometimes get caught up in the desire to share and compare, and encouraged you all to be selective about what & where you share. This was specifically meant to address on line stuff, since when we share on line, we open ourselves up to strangers liking or not liking our work, making critical remarks, or not 'getting us'. This can be scary, and should be considered before we start to make our work available to the public eye - especially if we are digging into our stuff in the journal.
There are ways to journal vulnerably without necessarily exposing all of our deepest darkest secrets, or tender, baby dreams, and I address that in most of my classes. There are ways to add meaning so that what we are grappling with isn't immediately apparent or legible to the casual onlooker (run all the words together, journal in code using Theban, and Elder Futhark, or some other obscure magical alphabet, hide journaling under layers, use symbols to represent strong emotions). These methods create deeply meaningful spreads that are also relatively safe to share.
But what if you're not safe *at home*? What if you can't get space at home to get into your groove, meet yourself on the page, and journal from an honest place without someone barging in, or demanding to see what you're doing? What if you truly have no sense of safety in your own home?
This is a tough one. I remember living with someone who read my journals, and after that experience, for many years, I journaled in the *tub* with the bathroom door locked. I used the Elder Futhark alphabet and wrote everything in code.
Art Journaling in the tub, however, is just not going to work.
In speaking with a friend about this, I realized I have no real, satisfying answers. I can't imagine a life in which I can't close a door and ask for respect for my privacy. Granted, I live alone at the moment, but even when I lived in a house full of people, I could always say "I'm working. Please don't come in." and that would be respected. If I found myself in a situation where people were always barging in, or where I couldn't be sure that people weren't snooping in my journals, there would be hell to pay. I would sit everyone down for a family meeting, and ensure that my need for privacy was heard, understood, and respected.
I understand that this is not possible for everyone. There are circumstances where putting your foot down can be the very opposite of safe, and I get & honour that.
The only thing I can think of is this: create a travel journal kit, and go out. Journal in cafes. Find a friend who also journals and have art journal play dates. Find a local meet up.
You may find that you are safer in the company of relative strangers or friends than you are in your own home.
I will be doing an entire post on setting up a travel journal kit shortly, so stay tuned.
Not very helpful, I know, but it's the best I can do.
The Trap That Is All The Things
Another letter I got asked for some help with the overwhelm that can come from having SO MUCH STUFF.
I'm not a product driven journaler. I have a pretty set list of supplies that I love and use over and over again, and I try to use my stuff in a multitude of ways so that they never get 'old'. This is a matter of experimenting with the things you have in ways you might never have used them before, like trying modeling paste with your stencils, or stamping on scrapbook paper, cutting the stamped images out, and gluing them onto your spreads.
The thing with "Stuff" is that we have to be mindful that we are being marketed to CONTINUOUSLY to try new, shiny things, but in my experience, those shiny things are easily substituted. You don't need eleventy billion kinds of acrylic paint. Golden Fluids do everything I want them to. I have a few other kinds, but I do not *need them*, and in fact, having too much to choose from can really block my flow. I have Copics and I have Tombows because there are things I can do with Copics that I can't do with Tombows, but I only discovered this by using them both, and finding out what their limitations and applications are.
Stuff is tempting. Stuff can also raise up the comparey monsters. If we see a spread that looks absolutely gorgeous, and the creator lists 100 products they used in the making of said spread, we can feel like maybe we don't have enough stuff. That is a trap. While it might be fun to throw a bunch of product at a spread, it is, in my experience, more satisfying to do more with less. How many ways can I use paint? How many applications can I find for a Stabilo All pencil? How can I make water-reactive stuff waterproof? How can I combine things to create a desired look and feel?
Whenever I teach a class, I provide suggestions for substitutions, because I really don't want my folks getting all caught up in collecting stuff. A great art supply stash IS integral to our practice, but at the end of the day, its the practice that matters. Discovering what you most love to work with, and sticking with those supplies is a great way to *master* them, since if you're constantly falling prey to the temptation to buy more stuff, you won't have time to really settle into the best uses of the stuff you already have.
Try asking yourself what you absolutely can't live without, and then see if you can up with multiple ways to use that thing. Try to extend the usefulness of your products by using them in as many different ways as possible.
I love TomBow markers. I use them in at least a half dozen different ways. I use them 'as is' for colouring in. I lay down a layer of marker and then spray it with water to get a delicious, drippy, bleedy gorgeousness. I lay down a layer of marker, and then blend it out with gesso (on a paint brush, with my fingers, with a baby wipe) to soften the colour and reduce it's reactivity to water. I lay down marker, and then activate it with water on a brush to create a soft, watercolour effect. I lay down marker, and then blend it out with iridescent medium to create a subtle shimmer (this totally replaces Twinkling H2Os for me AND the addition of the iridescent medium makes the Tombows resist water once dry!). I also blend out Tombow with white paint to create tints.
One product, multiple uses.
The only way I figured out all the ways I could use Tombows, though, was to play with them. There is a great question to ask yourself when you're in play mode. "What if I....?"
As yourself this question as many times with as many different combinations of mediums as possible, and you will find all sorts of new ways to use your products. "What if I put down a layer of paint and then wiped it up THROUGH a stencil? What if I stenciled with gesso and then added spray inks? What if I used modeling paste with my stencils? What if I stenciled only a little bit here and there instead of stenciling on the whole spread? What if I stenciled on the whole spread, but with different colours? What if I stacked two stencils, one on top of the other, and sprayed through them both? What if?"
"What if" is a very creative question. The next step is to be willing for it to be a failed experiment. Have cheap paper around, and play mad scientist. This kind of fun is the best way to extend the usefulness of what you have, but it also creates looks that are uniquely your own.
Effy’s Fave Supplies
Golden Fluid Acrylics
Permapaque Marker (Black)
Sakura Glaze Pen (Black)
Prismacolor Pencils (Black Raspberry, Tuscan Red, White, Cream)
Copic Markers (Mostly in ‘flesh’ tones)
Tissue tape + assorted washi
Assorted patterned tissue paper
Printed photographs (printed on plain office paper or cardstock is best)
Gel medium (Matte or Gloss, depending on the project)
Workable fixative (I like Krylon)
Dylusions spray inks & DecoArt Media Misters
Paint markers (mostly White and Black. I like Molotow and Uni Posca)
Stabilo All Pencil (Black)
Caran D’Ache Neocolor II Crayons (or any water soluble crayon. The Crayola Portfolios are good, too!)
Alphabet Stamps/Texture stamps
Archival Ink pad by Ranger
Tiny Attacher or stapler
I hope that helps!
Ask Effy Anything!
If you have questions for me (or you just want to get in on the discounts I provide for my beloved newsletter subscribers) please sign up for my elist here! You will hear from me once a week on Tuesday with a link to one of these "Ask Effy Anything" posts, along with other musings, discounts, and news about where and when I'm teaching.
In Other News
Facing Forward II begins on September 14th! Registration is open now!
In this class, we will spend eight weeks + together, exploring faces in the art journal. My intention throughout this class is to work with the negative self talk we all experience, and transform those messages into affirmations – the things we need to hear. These explorations will inform the creation of each face.
Each week, we will focus on a different way to create faces in the journal using a diverse range of mediums and techniques ranging from paint over collage to doodling.
There is an extensive “INTRODUCTION” and “BOOT CAMP”, both of which are jam packed with enough content to keep you busy for *weeks*, and this content will be accessible to you immediately upon completing registration.
Class officially begins with our first face lesson on Wednesday, September 14, and we will continue weekly through until November 2. The class will remain available to you indefinitely, however, so you can take it at your own pace, or take it over and over again as you need or want inspiration.
In my newsletter last week, I invited you to hit reply and ask me anything you wanted to ask me with a promise that if I could answer, I would.
There was a lot of overlap in this first flurry of questions that you all sent me, and a few questions that I've tucked away for future answering, but there was one question that was a pretty common refrain:
"How do you start a journal spread?"
There were several variations of this question, too, ranging from "I don't know how to get started! Any suggestions?" to "I never know where to begin".
This question made me wonder if those of you who are asking are process driven or final product driven in your journals, because that matters. Are you using art journaling as a way to dump your insides out so you can examine them? Are you using your art journaling to *make* something you like? Are you using your art journal to relieve some internal pressure? Are you using it to take a break from adulting, to escape into the delicious world of play?
I think that my answer would be different depending on my desired outcome.
My first inquiry is always "What am I doing here, in front of the page, at the painty table, ready to create?"
This will generally lead the way, because if the answer is "I need to spill my guts", there are several ways I have of doing that, ranging from writing in a scribbly way with a watercolor crayon or Tombow marker, to picking papers that 'feel' to me like whatever it is I'm spilling. If the answer is "I need to play", then I'll just pick the first colour that draws my eye, and begin mark making. If the answer is "I want to practice <insert skill here>", I might begin with a bit of research, Googling and watching videos, or sketching a symbol or image I want to begin incorporating into my journals.
The way to begin, for me, is entirely dependent on the desired outcome.
Usually, in my own personal journal practice, I'm dealing with something. It's almost always about spilling my guts so that I can get some distance from whatever is going on, maybe so I can understand it better, maybe so I can reframe it, or begin to transform it through the power of art journaling. Often, there is a sense of pressure - a real need to engage my journal, a need to meet myself on the page. These spreads are the easiest spreads to start, because a bit of scribbling about the issue at hand, plus some colours or papers chosen based on how they 'feel' to me as I'm working are enough to get me going. I usually work towards some sense of resolution by continuing to add layers until something suggests itself as a solution or a piece of wisdom that I can apply to the situation. If, for example, I begin with a great deal of emotional charge around feeling an emotion I'd rather not feel, I begin by feeling that emotion & expressing it through scribbles, colours, and papers. Then, I build up the spread by applying whatever balm I'm needing.
For example, if I come to the page with a great deal of sadness, I will begin with that sadness. I will lay a foundation of sad writing, sad papers, sad colours, and as I'm allowing myself to 'be with' the sadness, I will keep my inner ear open to what the sadness needs. Does it need a bit of self-love? I'll grab some pink and work with love hearts or other symbols that represent self-love. Does it need an affirmative shot in the arm? I might add words that counter the sadness - not to order it away, necessarily, but to remind myself of what there is to turn my focus to instead. Sometimes, though, the sadness needs me to simply be with it without changing it or reframing it. It just needs to be acknowledged, so I will find ways to express it.
Prompts Are Helpful, But Not Always
Sometimes, we want to create, but we don't know what about, so we'll reach for a prompt or a theme provided by someone else. In BOD, I provide oodles of prompts - one a day PLUS a monthly theme PLUS weekly art cards that can spur us on to journal. We also use Tarot as an inkblot, so we are never lacking 'ways in' to the journal.
However, sometimes prompts allow us to bypass what's really going on, and this can create a sense of frustration in us. The part of us that has stuff going on that wants to be coaxed out can feel ignored as we skip it, and go for the easy prompt or theme.
One of my students expressed in class this week that she is having trouble getting going, and I suggested silence as a remedy. What would happen if she sat at her painty table, full of the desire to create, in absolute silence for a little while? Something would come up. She might need to give it some time, but if she practiced inner listening without jumping immediately into the prompts or other offerings, she might hear a whisper that might lead the way.
Usually, these whispers come to me as emotions, and sometimes, they're confounding.
I may not have any idea why this or that emotion is tugging at my sleeve, asking to be invited out onto the page, but usually, by the time I'm done working in my journal, I either know what it was about, because I listened to it, OR, I feel a sense of relief, or of being unburdened. Either way, I'm a happy camper.
Be willing to feel your feels on the page.
One of the side effects of being 'in community' with something as personal as art journaling is that we may bypass what we're really feeling so that we produce work that we can share without feeling vulnerable or exposed. It can be very difficult to be 'in community' - especially if you're not very confident in your skills - AND share the deeper stuff that might be going on with you.
If you're unwilling or afraid to encounter your feelings on the page because of the risk of feeling vulnerable, unsafe, or exposed, keep a private journal JUST for you that you never share with anyone. Don't feel like you have to share every spread you create. You can share selectively. I find it helpful to share, even when I do feel vulnerable and exposed, but that takes time, trust, and courage that you may not have right now. Be okay with that. Give yourself space to feel all your feels in safety.
"Just Do It" is not necessarily a helpful piece of advice.
If I could 'just do it', I would. Right? You, too. If it were truly as simple as just beginning, we would never have to wonder how to begin. We'd just begin. Instead of whipping yourself with the words "Just Do It", try the following instead:
Set the stage.
Light a candle. Burn some incense. Do this every time you sit down to the page. Touch your journal with love, and extend an invitation to your inner selves to come out and play/express themselves. Set an intention to be with yourself for a while. Pick up the first colour that calls to you, and begin.
Sit with your journal and your supplies at hand, and be still for a little while. See if something begins to bubble up that wants to be expressed. Ask yourself how you might represent that in your journal. Doodle it. Let that be your jumping off point.
Try writing first.
This won't work for everyone, but it works for me. If I sit with paper and pen and muse on the page for a while, I will often get a zing of inspiration as a result. Sometimes I will write directly IN my journal as a first layer.
Look through your stash of ephemera.
Trust that whatever bits and pieces are calling to you *mean* something. You don't necessarily have to understand what, either. They just *do* and that's enough. Pull out some papers, and begin a layer of collage.
Begin with the simplest shape you can think of.
Sometimes, I will have a jumble of stuff going on that defies understanding. In this case, I will start with circles. Simple, scribbly, childlike circles. As I work with the circles, another shape might suggest itself. I'll go on to playing with that shape. If I trust this way of beginning, I will usually end up with something that reflects what needed to be expressed. This video is a perfect example of that.
Trust your own ebb and flow.
If you're not in a position where you *have* to create art, you have the freedom to take a break. Sometimes, our creativity ebbs, and sometimes it flows. Sometimes, when it feels like we are blocked or having a case of the 'i don't wannas', we are percolating, and if we give ourselves some space to wander off and do something else for a while, we will find ourselves exploding with inspiration in no time. Yes, I believe in art journaling as a creative and spiritual practice, but even I take breaks from my practice. So can you.
I hope you found this helpful, and I look forward to your questions next week. Sign up for my newsletter in order to join in the conversation!
The last time I felt *this blocked* in terms of writing was in 2009, when I was just coming down off of several years of dealing with addiction in one of my kids. There were several things at play - the stories weren't mine to tell, I didn't know how to talk about how was feeling without feeling like a big fat whiner, I had no idea how to navigate what I was experiencing in my usual way (blogging/writing) while respecting the privacy of my kid, and I was emotionally exhausted. Thankfully, I found art journaling, and I was, eventually, able to crawl my way out of writer's block through that gorgeous new tool in my tool box of "ways to deal".
I still have art journaling, and it is still everything I hoped it would be, It keeps me in the flow of creative expression. It is a way for me to meet myself on the page, to deal with stuff, to investigate what's going on in my inner landscape.
But I am, once again, having difficulty writing. Blogs. Newsletters. Poems. Even my written journals, as private as they are, are suffering from dusty covers and lack of attention. All my stories seem inextricably linked with other people, and talking about it all is just not comfortable. Yes, I have the right to talk about how it is impacting me, but there is no way to talk to you about how it's impacting me without talking about the backstory.
Rock & hard place. Check & mate.
I was talking with the lovely Lisa yesterday, and I laughed (a bit hysterically) over how difficult I'm finding it to craft a newsletter these days. For those of you who don't run your own business, I'll let you in on a little secret - your newsletter is everything. If you aren't sending a newsletter, you aren't selling your stuff, and if you aren't selling your stuff, and like me, you don't have a nice comfy second income to rely on or a partner to catch you when you fall apart, you don't eat. You don't pay your rent. You are hooped. Screwed. Fuxored. No list, no tacos. Hence the hysteria in my voice as I said:
"What am I going to say? Life is hard, and a lot of it sucks balls, WAH WAH, and I can't really talk about any of it but hey. I'm mostly okay, I guess. *Shrug* Oh, and BUY MY STUFF!"
After some thinking and journaling and other forms of personal work, I realized that what I most need right now is to be in service in areas of my life wherein I feel like I actually have some kind of positive impact. I want to do something useful. I want to hone in and focus on those areas of my life where I *do* feel like I have some modicum of control.
This is one of those spaces. My newsletter is another.
After consulting with my tribe on Facebook, I've come up with a way that I can stay in touch with you without feeling like all I ever do is say "Hey! How ya doing? I'm hanging in there, barely, but hanging in. OH AND BUY MY STUFF." I could skip the personal stuff altogether, and just say HEY BUY MY STUFF, but, I get those emails, and I know we're all subscribed to the same lists, so I know you get them, too. I admit that I don't mind them so much because I'm in business for myself, so I get it, AND I don't have a whole lot of time and attention to give to much more than the headline, but when it comes to my own dispatches from the dark heart of my studio, I like to do things a little bit differently. I like to ensure that a) every opportunity I have to connect with you includes something personal - because we are in this together, and I know you care - and also b) that every opportunity we have to connect is a two way street. I already do this to some degree. Every single newsletter I send out includes an invitation to hit reply and tell me how YOU'RE doing. I love those replies, and I read every one. I cherish the warmth with which you receive me in your inbox. I love that you hear me, and in response, share your own stories.
I want it to be more, however. I want to serve you more directly, and because I am finding it absolutely impossible to talk about my private life, I want to open up this space, in partnership with my newsletter, as a place where you can ask anything you like, and I will answer in as much depth as I am able.
I want to do this once a week, which means there is no way I'll be able to answer everyone's questions, but I'm hoping that there is enough overlap in the line of inquiry that whatever question I answer that week will have some value for you.
So, here's the deal.
I will send out my newsletter weekly from here on out. If I have nothing whatsoever to say about my life, that's okay, because I will include a link in each newsletter to a post in which I answer at least one question I have in my file o' questions. You will always, without hesitation, hit 'reply', and ask whatever it is that's on your heart to ask. If I genuinely can't answer - for example, if it is outside of my area of expertise, I will use my Googlefu and see if I can't find a resource for you that will, at least, be a good beginning for you. If I can't answer because the question is too personal, or would require me to talk about things I just can't talk about right now, I will respond personally and let you know that's the case. I know you guys, though. I know that your questions will be well thought out. I know that you will respect my privacy as I navigate the waters I must currently navigate, so I feel absolutely no trepidation as I extend this invitation.
Dispatches will go out every Tuesday from here on out. Every dispatch will include the usual BUY MY STUFF invitation that is necessary to my livelihood, but it will also include a link back here, where I'll answer away in as much depth as I can.
In Other News
In case you were wondering, you are not the only one that creates things you hate. I've been struggling lately with imposter syndrome, and everything I touch seems to turn to crap. I know that it's a mirror into my own muddled internal landscape, so I'm being gentle and kind with my inner artist about it, but she keeps producing stuff like this:
And while I know some of you will love this, and think it's gorgeous, this isn't working for me. The palette is all off, and the background is too busy. It took three hours to make, and while I *tried* to love it, I just couldn't. Just. Could. Not. Even.
I won't even show you the catastrophe that happened when I tried to use a chipboard book as a journal. Nope. Some things are not meant to be shared, and that monstrosity is one of them.
This happens, though. It happens to all of us. I like to tell myself that it means I'm on a growing edge (which is true). I like to think that I'll struggle a bit to reclaim my voice from the quagmire that is LIFE RIGHT NOW and I will go back to feeling really good about the things I make, but in the meantime, I wanted you to know: I struggle, too. I get blocked, too. Motivation is sometimes hard for me, too. And I do not always fall head over heels with everything I make.
Confession is good for the soul.
And just so that I don't leave that eyesore all alone up there with no remedy, I'll share this:
I LOVE this. It started as a blind contour drawing, as taught by Erin Faith Allen in Metamorph, and became this astonishing spread. It makes me drool. I want to kiss it and hug it and call it George.
Sometimes, social media makes me feel pretty stabbity. The last few days have been intense, with stupidity ranging from Caitlyn Jenner is not a woman to we shouldn't let refugees into our countries because TERRORISM.
I just. cannot. even.
I unfollow people who post shit like that, but that thought that we might still be connected in any way makes me itchy. I know that everyone has a right to their opinion but there are some things that I just can't abide. I won't bother hijacking someone's post to tell them how ignorant they are, because the Internet is not a place where one attempts, through shaming, to change minds and hearts. What I can do, though, is focus my attention where it will be most useful. Loving. Listening. Uplifting where I am able.
My glorious tribe is full of compassion, kindness, empathy, and love. My glorious tribe, a tribe that I've been building since 2000 when I started penning my on line diary, is glorious. My glorious tribe doesn't post shit that makes me stabbity. They inspire, uplift, offer succor, care passionately. They are a tribe of leaders-by-example. They don't crap on people for disagreeing with them. They don't practice boundary violation in their attempts to make sense of a senseless world. They hold their own.
They make me proud to be one of them.
Today, I don't want to focus on the stabbity stuff. I want to focus on how lovely my tribe is, and equally on how important it is *for me* to remember that these moments that feel somehow gross and unpure, these times in which we come face to face with our shadowy recesses, when we are triggered, when our self-righteousness rises up within us and threatens to choke off all kindness, are necessary.
They grow us. They refine us. They allow us to tend to unknown parts of self - parts that lay in wait to be discovered, and loved into the light.
Sometimes I think I am too much like the Princess & The Pea. You know the story. No matter how buffered she is against that pea, she can feel it. Pile on the mattresses, and it won't matter. That pea will still leave her bruised, and sore, and sleepless, and miserable. I have to remind myself over, and over again that I have the privilege of filtering out the things that make me stabbity - I'm so fucking lucky in that I can walk away from ignorance, hatred, rudeness. I have to remember that there are many people for whom the hatred, and ignorance, are a part of their every day existence, and that sometimes that hatred, and ignorance leads to their very death.
They can't just turn it off and walk away. They are in it, eyeball deep, and there is no escape.
So, averting my eyes *entirely* is not an option. It isn't just. I must contend with the things that hurt and bruise and wound and rend. I *must*.
But not all at once, and not all the time. Today, I'm taking a break from world to do some self-care - art, journaling, therapy at 5, a talk on the Camino with a new friend (Hi, Rosemary!). Today, I will rest my eyes on what is good. I will believe in a softer world, and lend my energy to its emergence from the mud of what is happening out there all around me right now.
Trust is a huge topic of conversation between myself and my Self. It tends to go something like this:
"But I'm shit scared!"
"Trust that whatever happens, you can handle it."
"But things could go wrong!"
"And things have gone wrong before, and yet, here you are. Alive and well."
"But he might/she could/they are..."
"Who's the boss of you? You're the boss of you. Trust you. You've got this."
Maybe this sounds familiar. Maybe as soon as that voice pipes up with "But I'm shit scared!", that's it. You freeze, or veer right or left, and go under. I get it. That was me for a long time. But freezing, or veering, or going under never got me any closer to where I wanted to be, to what I wanted to feel.
I am nothing if not brave because lately, when confronted with terror, I rush in headlong - within reason, of course. I mean, if I'm terrified to walk down a dark alley at night when I'm alone, I will probably heed that terror and seek the light. That's just common sense. But if I'm afraid to try something because I might fail, well, that fear gets put in its place and I pull up my boot straps and gird my loins and strap on the helmet of REASON and I go in like a badass.
Most of the time. But usually not until I've grappled for a good long time. Because UNCERTAINTY.
Trust, for me, is very much related to uncertainty. I crave certainty like a seed craves good soil, clean rain, and sunshine. I crave it obsessively. I crave it because I lack *trust* in myself and in life itself, and I have been given plenty of reason to lack said trust. There was a very long time there where I didn't trust my own instincts. I would often move in the very opposite direction of where my instincts were telling me to go. Usually, my instincts told me to stick with the devil I knew. Stay in the abusive relationship. Keep the shitty job. Live in the house that did not feel like home. Keep falling into the same known pitfalls rather than take a different route.
But I grew up some, and while I haven't entirely mastered the whole 'trusting my own instincts' thing, I am working on it.
Working on it is a little like flooding myself with experiences in which there is ABSOLUTELY NO CERTAINTY just so I can exercise my trust muscles. This started with my writing practice many years ago. It started with Anne Lamott's permission to write a 'shitty first draft'. She taught me that I could always edit *after*. It segued into art journaling, into letting go of the desire for perfection, pre-selected palettes, composed spreads with rules and rhyme and reason, and trusting that I could just fling paint, and keep flinging until I was happy - that it wasn't finished until I said it was.
Not bad. :) Closing the gap a bit.
Trust came into play with learning new skills, too. I had to trust that my crappy first attempts would not kill me, and that the more crap I created, the LESS crap I'd create. I had to stare down that weird face I drew - the one with the wonky eyes and mishapen lips before moving on to create ANOTHER weird face with a too long neck or too flat a head before finally creating a face that *pleased me*. I had to fill a few art journals with bad colour choices and zero understanding of composition and too much glitter (there is such a thing as too much!) and text that took up too much room or not enough before I started to fill my journals with spreads that made me really happy.
Closing that gap.
If, as a beginner, I'd needed to be absolutely certain that I'd create a perfect face every time I drew one, I'd have taken up cooking instead of art journaling, because it took a long time before I developed that kind of certainty. Many, many weird and ugly faces led to my first really pleasing one.
When we start something new, whether it's taking up a hobby or learning a language or embarking on a new adventure, we must *trust* ourselves. We must trust that we *can* learn that skill, that practice WILL make progress, that trying is WINNING and not trying is BORING.
I'm not saying it's easy, though. It isn't easy. If you're human, and you've had some life experience, you're probably shit scared most of the time where uncertainty is present. But it is possible to overcome that fear, to employ trust, to be brave. I'm living proof of that, and every time I exercise my trust by taking on uncertainty in the journal, on canvas, in my life, I grow that trust little by little.
My life (and maybe yours) resembles the creative process like crazy. Try a thing. Grapple with terror. Let things be uncertain. Rest in not knowing. See what happens. Wonder and then move in the direction of wondering with NO IDEA where it will lead. Bicker with Self, who keeps insisting that trust is key. Resist. And then when resisting is untenable and you feel like you might bust a nut if you resist any longer, surrender. Go for it. Make mistakes. Fix them. Throw out a first draft or two. Pour the gesso liberally. Erase. Let those first attempts be 'texture' and 'practice runs'. Keep going...
I'm learning to trust that I'll get where I'm supposed to be as long as I keep moving forward with my own best interests at heart.
P.S. I grow my trust muscles through intentional creativity, which I teach in Book Of Days.
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