I was talking with a dear friend the other day about the craziness that is creative business and how it can be a very scary thing to grow. When I first started, it seemed to be simple mathematics that the larger your number of students/clients/lovers of your stuff, the greater the number of difficult/painful/unkind interactions you might have with them. I'd seen it happen for other teachers/content creators, and so I was pretty much terrified that it would happen for me, too. And it did. And it was hard. And I spent a lot of nights curled up sobbing in the corner of the couch thinking maybe I should just quit because it didn't feel worth growing my business if it meant dealing with all the nasty.
And I got a therapist who helped me recognize how NOT ABOUT ME all that shit was. I learned how to deal with the triggery feeling of omgdoom that arose, and came to understand that the omgdoom feeling came, not from the negative interactions themselves, but from the original bullying wound I had carried over from childhood. I came to understand that people who bully people on the Internet, that take the time and energy to write a nastygram or harshly criticize or judge their teachers or content providers, are not well. That trying to work shit out with those people was a lot like throwing myself to the wolves. That some people really do not deserve my time and attention. That my hard work to work things out must be reserved for people who actually care about me. That my caring, trust, and energy investments must be earned.
These realizations were a revolution. They impacted all of my relationships - not just my relationship with on line trolls. I began to assert my boundaries appropriately in all my interactions.
Which brings us to today.
It kind of surprises me that despite a huge leap in the number of people I interacted with last year, I did not have the expected increase in negative interactions. I had a huge decrease. I can only remember two, and they were, like, ten minute blips on my radar.
I think it has to do with the way I now deal with what I have come to call 'the crazy'. If I smell it, even a hint of it, I ask for respect. If it isn't given, boom. Gone. I do not engage any further. I don't try to work it out. I don't wonder how I could do things differently. I don't second guess myself. I remain intact.
If I were a therapist or a pastoral counselor, I think it would behoove me to really dig in with people who are having an issue of some kind with me. I think it would absolutely be my JOB to figure out what's really going on beneath the unexpected hostility and work it out. I'm neither of those things. I demonstrate art journaling. I write vulnerably about my life. "Helping Everyone Deal With How I Might Trigger Them To Behave In A Hostile And Unkind Manner" is not part of my job description. It's absolutely NOT my job to help my tribe figure out how to be polite, respectful, decent, or kind. That's something my tribe should already know how to do (since they are adults, after all, and how to play nicely is something we are all taught in childhood). If someone can't play nicely in my spaces, I eject them from my spaces.
I am one person engaged with a couple of thousand people, the majority of whom are perfectly lovely, respectful, kind, and a joy to work with and for. My people realize that I, also, am a PERSON. They have grace. They have patience. They do not send a nastygram the minute I make a mistake or say something they find offensive. They do not judge me harshly or even AT ALL and they do not wait to pounce with unkindness the moment I do or say something they aren't happy about. They are people who benefit from their interactions with a person. They have not made the mistake of believing that I am a product that they can consume and toss like so much garbage when they are done with me.
Your teachers, bloggers, content providers, etc. are PEOPLE.
I think it's easy to forget, as a consumer of the content released by mixed media art teachers, coaches, bloggers, etc., that the people we are being instructed and entertained by are PEOPLE. They are not television programs. They are not products. They are PEOPLE. When you send a nastygram to someone who is instructing or producing content on the Internet, you are sending a nastygram to a PERSON. Not a corporation or a company or a persona. A PERSON.
I am grateful that I no longer experience these kinds of negative interactions in a way that devastates me. If there's a hint of nasty, I double check if the perceived nasty is real or projected. If it's real, I yell TWATWAFFLE at the top of my lungs, deal with the problem (usually by inviting the person to get the fuck off my internets), and move on. If it is a misunderstanding, I fix it and move on without self-denigration.
But there are some who can't do that (yet). There are some for whom the nastygram is really devastating and harmful and damaging and while, yes, it really is just a thing we have to deal with as teachers and content providers, it is a really shitty thing we have to deal with and it is a thing that we wouldn't have to deal with if people would just remember that they are interacting with a PERSON before they sent that nasty note written to shred that PERSON into little bits of sobbing devastation.
Besides, when someone takes the time and burns the fuel to harshly criticize someone else's way of being in the world, or is just plain getting off on being unkind, as some denizens of the Internets do, I believe it does at least as much harm to the person doing it as it does to the person on the receiving end. And sometimes, more harm, because in my case if you send me that kind of thing, it no longer touches me. I just yell TWATWAFFLE and move on with my life. The purveyours of fine fuckwittery have to live with themselves and the toxic spumes of nastiness they create. They have to smell what they dealt. They have to look themselves in the mirror and deal with the evidence of their own unkindness and lack of empathy or grace.
Kindness is so powerful. I've embraced it. I employ it. I am blessed by those who do the same and want nothing to do with those who don't.
And that's it for me today.
*Steps down off soapbox*
Oh hey! I got a new lipstick!
"Sin" by Mac. Matte. With a smidge of lip glass in a colour name too small to read because I am old. *Gigglesnort*
I had a giveaway for a free seat in Book Of Days 2015 - Volume One and today, I drew the winning entry!
YAY! Congratulations!! I've already emailed you. xo
We began today with opening ceremonies in which I walked everyone through decorating the cover with intention. Our first lesson will go live on Monday, January 5th, so there is still plenty of time to sign up!
I am totally overwhelmed today AND I'm in Ottawa visiting with family, so that's all I've got for now. I will return on January 3rd and resume my usual schedule. xo
If you're looking for the Bloom True giveaway info, you can find it here.
Hello, my loves! I am here to ramble, so please pardon the inevitable derailed trains of thought all over the place. I have a few things I want to share, and none of them are connected, so here we go:
I decided on my word of the year yesterday while sitting in my backyard.
No snow, though we do have some mild flurries today.
Anyway, as I was sitting there, a few crows came to play in the trees above my head, as they do, and I laughed because the evening before, I'd done some private art journaling around the old crow oracle - one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, etc. etc.
The spread I'd been working on was a 'one for sorrow' type spread, which I was playing with while watching a horribly depressing but compelling series on Netflix. (The Killing - really good crime drama, if you're into that sort of thing). There is so much sorrow in this series, and so much gloomy weather, too, that the single crow as harbinger of sorrow just popped into my head as I was watching.
While I was sitting in my backyard the next day, looking out over the creek, sipping a hot cup of coffee, watching the dog romp in the leaves, enjoying the unseasonable temperatures and the December air that, blessedly, did not hurt my face (!!), these crows came and gave me my word for the year.
Sorrow's other side of the coin.
Two crows for joy.
My word of the year for 2015 is joy.
I will not merely sit back and expect it to show up, though. I will foster it. I will invite it. I will seek it out.
Newly inspired as I was, I came in to film the opening ceremonies (aka journal decorating lesson) for Book Of Days 2015, and my hand bound art journal went from this:
(Learn to make one like it in Book Of Days Boot Camp - It's FREE!)
Check out the feather! Gilded! Pretty!
I was made entirely joyful by the process.
My ex and I are going to see family in Ottawa. We're leaving tomorrow and returning on Jan 2.
I know this is weird, but a) I don't drive and he does and b) he loves and misses my daughter, and c) we're grown ups and d) despite everything, we are still completely in one another's lives.
Don't yell at me.
My therapist knows what's going on and she keeps saying things like 'there's so much growth here' and 'there's been some real shifts in this' and 'You'll know it's time when you let go.'
Since I pay her for her advice and I don't pay you for yours, guess whose advice I'm going to listen to?
That was snarky. But also serious.
No one really knows what's going on but us, and even we're confused most of the time. I've begun to focus on letting go of letting go. As in letting this happen (whatever this is) organically. We'll know when we're done, I think, and if we're never done, well, we're never done. *Shrugging* My new lovers will have to deal with my unnatural attachment to my ex and we'll all have dinner together on a regular basis. There are worse things.
We were out on the patio having a smoke the other day and we caught ourselves planning to go camping next year.
Laugh. Shrug. Look sheepish at one another because aren't we supposed to be moving on with our lives?
I said "It is what it is.", and he nodded and we went back inside to finish watching American Horror before he wandered off home.
It is what it is.
I can live with that for now. <----what matters. Period. End of.
So we're taking a family road trip to see my daughter, her aunt (and my friend) and uncle, their daughter, and my daughter's awesome fiancée (who I adore). We will probably take a side trip to Montreal on Jan 2 to grab a smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz's before heading home.
It will be a joyful visit, and I'm really looking forward to it. Also because SMOKED MEAT. OM NOM NOM.
And that's me for now. And you? How are you? What is happening in your world?
I'm really curious if you've ever 'consciously uncoupled' as Manfing and I are doing, what with the joint therapy and the continued friendship. Did it work for you? Could you have done it any other way?
This is also me for now:
Morning face. Knitted cap because BED HEAD. Happy to see you. xo
Today only, by which I mean until I remember to shut it down, you can get Radiant:Faces for %50 off. Just apply coupon code boxingday to your purchase and you can have the class for $44.50!
The live portion of the class is now finished, which means that all the lessons are just sitting there waiting for you to enjoy them! The classroom will remain open until October 31, 2015 and there will be a challenge to complete 18 lessons before that time period in order to win $100 delivered to your PayPal account PLUS a seat in Book Of Days 2016. (I'm looking way ahead this year!).
Click here for details on the class.
TRIGGER ALERT: Depression, suicidal ideation.
If the trigger label didn't scare you off, please take a moment to center yourself before you read. This one is a doozy.
I haven't opened anything up for registration for 2015.
Some of you might be wondering why. I have talked, a little bit here and there, in the classes I'm currently teaching about what I plan to do in 2015, but other than those brief touchings upon that are expected of an instructor as a class comes to a close, I did not, for the most part, blog about, Facebook about, or newsletter about 2015.
I made a deal with myself in June when I moved out of the house I'd occupied with my partner since 2004 that if things didn't get better/if I didn't feel better by the time my 2014 teaching schedule was finished at the end of November, I would permit myself to exit this world.
I know this is harsh to hear, and I'm sorry. It was harsh to feel, too.
It took me about four and a half months to disclose this suicide pact I made with myself to my therapist.
That's 135 days of overwhelming pain, of self talk that went something like "It's okay. It's almost over. Hang in there 'till you've finished your work."
I didn't want to fail you. You were my reason for waking up every morning. My obligation to you was my anchor to this planet.
I know some of you are wondering BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR KIDS?
I was absolutely convinced that not only did they not need me, but that my presence in their lives made their lives worse. That is how awful and deep seated the depression was. That was how insidious my self talk was.
Things began to shift over Thanksgiving weekend. I was alone for the first time in a decade. I was inconsolable (and drunk) and if not for my friend, Laura, who heard the subtext in my decision not to go to a thing we were supposed to go to, I might very probably have popped a bottle of Tylenol with Codeine (which you can get over the counter here in Canada) chased by a bottle of Irish whiskey and killed my liver.
Laura showed up without warning and made me open the door because, having been there herself, she could hear what I wasn't saying. My ex showed up not long after because I texted some very cryptic and frightening things that alerted him to the depths of my 'not okay-ness'. Between the two of them, they glued me back together. They both extracted promises from me with regards to disclosing to my therapist.
I'm a promise keeper. They totally used that against me. I'm so fucking grateful they did.
I told my therapist that week and we began working on the old messages that were rising up in my body around how meaningless and empty my life felt in the aftermath of my break up.
We're still working on it.
And I'm still struggling.
There are nights I wake up at 3 a.m. with intrusive thoughts and panic attacks and a very strong urge to off myself.
But I'm getting better.
I didn't open registration for anything in 2015 because I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be here in 2015.
My depression, my desolation, the intrusive thoughts, the high levels of constant, bone crushing anxiety and grief were too heavy for me to carry. I knew I had a lot to be grateful for and a lot of people who loved me, but that knowledge did not touch the abyss swirling inside me. I was a walking black hole. Despite my very best efforts to look for the good, to remember what was beautiful, to create meaning, I was drowning.
I was a little bit honest about this in social media, but only a little and very infrequently. I was ashamed, you see, because I felt like a hypocrite. Here I was, preaching self love and care, and yet when I was alone, I wanted to completely and utterly self destruct. So I couldn't tell you. I just couldn't. I hope you'll forgive me.
Sometime near the beginning of November, Facebook made me change my name. This might, on the surface, have seemed like a minor inconvenience, but it felt like a message from the Universe that, yes, it was time for me to go. My life had become a place in which I could not even use my chosen name. And then I realized that I'd lost all my ID and could not even apply for a name change until I acquired every single piece of ID - something that would cost me hundreds of dollars and who knew how much time. And then I got the flu. I spent one Friday night vomiting because I accidentally overdosed on Oil of Oregano in a misguided attempt to heal myself, and while a part of me was completely terrified that I would die that night, there was a part of me that was kind of hoping I would die. If I could die of this flu then no one would ever have to know how badly I'd wanted to die. I could check out naturally and no one would ever have to be pissed off at me for giving up. I could die without my last thought being "I'm so sorry I let you all down."
I didn't die, though. I stopped vomiting at 5 in the morning and texted my ex and I let him take care of me through the rest of my recovery. I took my prescribed medicine. I ate bowl after bowl of soup. I drank tea by the liter. I started to feel better.
I picked up my journal and I started to negotiate myself into sticking around. There were a lot of 'if/then' notes around what would have to happen to keep me here. There were rows of pros and cons. There were angry letters to myself about my sister's suicide and how hypocritical it would be of me to inflict the very same pain my sister's choice caused me on those who love me. There were love letters, too. To my inner child, whose desire it was to leave this place. She was the one with the pain too great to bear. She was the one with the body full of memories of violence and abuse and grief and loss.
I took her hand. I took her to therapy.
I've made a promise to her that I will never leave her.
I'm promising you, too.
I have come back to myself, and I want to tell you...
You saw me through. You didn't know it, but you did.
I will be opening things for 2015 in the coming week and one of them is going to be a completely freely given gift of my time and energy in thanks for what you've meant to me in 2014. Stay tuned.
If you or someone you know struggles with depression or suicidal ideation, please find the number that is local to you here. Get help or find out how to help.
I had therapy so I had to don the winter woolies and venture out into a world that felt like it was trying to kill me what with the cold and the icy stabby things falling out of the sky. Thankfully, the bus stop is a mere minute from my house, so I only had to spend about three minutes in this weather before getting onto the blissfully warm bus.
All the same, it was good to be out of the house and out in the world. After therapy, I went to wander in the mall a bit so I could feel like I am, indeed, a part of the human race. It was packed and chaotic and I had my fill after about twenty minutes.
The line up in one store was so long that I abandoned the new journal and pack of pens I'd selected as a present to myself. Yes, you heard me. I LEFT A NEW JOURNAL BEHIND. You know the lines are too long when...;)
Therapy was powerful (and I might start sharing more on that later as my courage increases). And my usual post-therapy dinner was delicious.
There's nothing like a rare steak with peppercorn sauce and deep fried onions to make a girl feel like all is right with the world. Well, this girl, anyway. That loaded potato on the side doesn't hurt, either. :)
I ventured back home, donned flannel pajamas, made a cup of lemon and ginger tea, and crawled into bed with my puppy and heating pad. I watched Tim's Vermeer (highly recommended!) on Netflix and started watching Vikings before I fell into a deep, deep, ten hour, dreamless sleep.
Today is for a metric butt tonne of work. I'm creating a little doodle boot camp for my Radiant peeps so that when we tackle the last lesson, we have a tool box full of personal doodles to use to complete it. It's going to be fun and I'm looking forward to it. Do check it out if you're inclined to join us. The class will remain open until October 2015 and I foresee quite a few bonus lessons going up in there between now and then, too.
In Other News
This class opened on Tuesday:
Here's a cute sneak peek of all the lovely work the instructors created for you to emulate!
Here's my offering.
Amazon book mailer meets glitter tape, paint and glue, and voila! A holiday card portfolio with a place to store your odd sized cards + an envelope to store the addresses you need to do your cards next year. Super fun!
Sign up here.
And one last thing!
Wildly Inspired is late this month, but I will be back at it next Wednesday, December 10th, which means there is still time to enter the challenge to win a seat in Moonshine 2015! Huzzah!