One of my first art journaling loves was a composition notebook that I altered so that I could art journal in it. Essentially, I decorated the cover, added some ribbons to reinforce the binding, and glued pages together. It worked beautifully for the very first art journaling class I ever taught (Elements, which will be making a reappearance this coming year with all new video content, so stay tuned). It wasn’t long after that I learned how to bind my own journals, and I’ve pretty much been using those ever since.
In the spring of 2013, I created one of these journals for 21 Secrets and called the class “Sweet Trash”. It tickled me pink, and I really enjoyed sharing the process, but still – I stayed with my stab bound, canvas covered, massive art journals for my own practice.
Something about the energetics of my life lately has sent me back to the composition notebook, though. I think I need an irreverent space, a space that feels a little less like a temple and a little more like a junk drawer, so I started a new one, and filmed the process because I knew that there are a lot of you who would love it, too.
Sweet Trash Journaling is for your whole life – art journal spreads – the pretty ones and the ugly ones, to do lists, written journaling, photographs, poems, little doodles that you do while watching Grey’s Anatomy re-runs, ticket stubs, menu planning, love letters…all of it can find a home in the Sweet Trash journal.
I have since been filling mine up with a lot of journaling – both art and written – and I have continued to film the process. The series is on YouTube, and it has it’s own play list, which you can find here, but I also intend to update you here whenever there’s a new episode.
I want you to know that I have no intention of censoring my process in the Sweet Trash journal. If I’m having a bad day, that’s going to get filmed and uploaded. If I’m making a tragic mistake, same deal. If I want to toot my own horn, have a moment of vanity, swear like a trucker – that’s all going in there.
It feels good. Right. It’s a place that feels cosy, like I don’t have to take it too seriously, like I can whip off my bra and dance around in my panties. It’s a kind of home for my heart.
It is an important tool in the ‘heal thyself’ toolbox, for sure. But it shouldn’t be the only one. At least, not for me.
If I’m especially low, I may not have the energy or courage to face the blank page with all that I’m feeling. I may find the prospect of journaling (written or art) daunting. And sometimes, we use journaling to *escape* what we’re feeling – to do a quick ‘reframe’ of whatever it is that we’re feeling – write it out and then stick an affirmation on top in the hope that we will shut those feelings down.
I’ve done it. Often and with gusto. And it never fails. Those feelings, those emotions that I have *literally white washed* return with a fucking vengeance. And ok, maybe sometimes you need a break and painting something pretty while your insides are all churning shit and sorrow can be a good diversion, but if that’s all you’re doing? Not good. So not good.
It took me five years of art journaling to realize that sometimes my ‘go to’ tool for dealing with intense emotional pain is actually not an appropriate way to deal with intense emotional pain.
Journaling can divert you from being with your pain. It can provide a temporary easing of that pain, but if you run for the journal every time a hard feeling comes up, you are *not being with your pain* and pain that isn’t properly experienced can’t heal. Or at least, it takes a lot longer to heal.
I once heard that it’s helpful to give yourself permission to completely lose your shit for five minutes, and then you must pull yourself up by your boot straps, dust yourself off and get on with your life. I agree with the part where you let yourself lose your shit. I say lose your shit for as long as you need to, and while losing it, do not self-soothe with food or journaling or sex or shopping or a box of wine or a spliff or a pill. Be, In. Pain. Be with it. Allow it.
Which is the *exact opposite* of what we are all conditioned to do. We are all conditioned to stuff it, eat it, fuck it away (hello rebound), take up a new hobby, get shit faced drunk, get high and stay that way, slap platitudes on it and ignore it in the hopes that it will go away…
We may even say things to ourselves (or suffer others to say to us) that EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON and that we are BEING MADE STRONGER and that we should be GRATEFUL FOR OUR SUFFERING SINCE IT WILL LEAD TO OUR JOY. Shut that voice down. Do not give it a moment of your time. Remind it that you have the right to your feelings – all of them – and that you aren’t going to let your internal censors rob you of an opportunity to genuinely heal your pain.
If anyone tells you to pull up your boot straps, don’t talk to them for a while. No one should pile guilt for feeling on top of feeling, and we shouldn’t let anyone do that to us, no matter how well-intentioned they are.
Bad things happen, and when they do, an immediate seeking out of (or the reminder that there is) a silver lining or a reason or a thing on the other side that we will eventually sing arias over actually dishonours us. It dishonours the part of ourselves that is experience the pain, the grief, the sorrow, the envy, the frustration, the anger. When we refuse to be with what we’re feeling, we’re abandoning ourselves. We’re neglecting ourselves.
I wasn’t ready to talk about it when I blogged this morning because I am feeling particularly self-protective, I am trying to keep my business going while I undergo ENORMOUS transformation, and I was wary of my addiction to spilling my guts as a way to force myself to move on from intense emotional pain. I’m also aware that I tend to succumb (often, and with gusto) to the temptation to put on a shiny face – at least a shinier face than I might actually possess. A part of this is self-protective, and another part is not wanting to get my stuff all over you. We covered that in this post, though, and I have made a decision *not* to do that anymore. I let it rain, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that.
What did ‘letting it rain’ look like last night?
I *indulged* the pain. I fucking wooed it. I *wallowed*. I let it come up and crash over me. I sang a song that absolutely fucking *tortures* me. I sang it over and over again and I let it hurt so good. I looked myself in the eyes while I cried over what that song did to me as I sang it. I wiped my snotty nose on my sleeve. I snuggled my dog. I sang some more. I cried some more. I didn’t have any expectations that this would fix me. I had no agenda beyond *feeling my feels* as deeply as I could feel them. And when I was ready to stop, I stopped. I put on Glee on Netflix. I let myself fall asleep, curled around my dog like a big, tear-stained, snot encrusted question mark. There was zero journaling. I did not smoke a joint or even take a Tylenol. I didn’t break open a fresh box of wine. Life dealt it. I felt it.
And lo, it was very good.
I don’t mean that it felt good. Pain doesn’t feel good unless you are wired that way, and I am not wired that way. I mean good in the ‘it feels so good when I stop’ sense of the word, in the childbirth sense of the word. I was spent. I didn’t imagine for a second that I wouldn’t feel more later. I guarantee that I will, but I have told my whole self that feeling is allowed and that I will *witness it*. I will be present to it. I will not abandon myself in the throes of it. I will not medicate it. I will not ignore it and hope it goes away. I will honour the fuck out of it until it is gone.
Because bereavement deserves our attention.
While it might be more comfortable for the people around you if you dusted yourself off and moved on with your life with nary a complaint about how much it fucking hurts, it does NOT serve you at all in the long game. In the long game, your feels will sneak up and bite you when you least expect it and it will devastate you all over again.
Better to get it done, and by ‘get it done’, I mean ‘let it happen’. Let yourself be slain. Let yourself be crushed. Let yourself cry your tender heart out because *you are worthy of your own permission to fully feel what you are feeling*.
Me, too. I’m worthy of space to feel all the feels. Especially in my *own space* where no one has to stick around if they don’t want to. Even if my feels come as a direct result of my own choices. Maybe even ESPECIALLY when my feels come as a direct result of my own choices.
So, I am going to let it rain. Maybe you can hold an umbrella for me if you want. I’ll make tea, and we’ll hold hands.
Tissues would not be a bad idea before viewing this. The guy’s voice is heartbreaking, and I’m not so bad myself. xo
I took this picture on the morning after I made my very best attempt at cutting a soul tie that needing cutting. The mug is a gift from the lovely Sarah Trumpp who you should totally know if you don’t already. It came with a note in which she dubbed me the Mistress Of Misfits, and I felt *so seen* and loved when I read that. I felt gotten. It was just what my soul needed on a day when I really needed it.
Cutting soul ties sucks balls.
It was probably the most painful thing I’ve ever done, but in the days since, I have been doing amazingly well at holding my own. I am shocked, really, that I am *not* a useless puddle of goo on the floor. I mean, I have my moments, but mostly, I am, truly, holding my own. Not holding my guts in – my guts are firmly IN. Not just plowing through, either. Writing reams and reams. Making videos for you (you should really keep your eye on my YouTube channel, because I’m about to start a new, free, lovely thing there). Cooking Bolognaise sauce. Singing Karaoke on this wonderful app for Android and iTunes that lets you hang out with a global community of singers. Snuggling my lovely dog. Accepting invitations to leave the house. Building journals. Filling them. It might not last. I might find myself completely slain as the shock and adrenaline wear off and the loneliness and grief take hold. But right now? I’ll take it.
Everything Around Me Is Changing
But this isn’t a matter of shit happening to me or rugs being pulled out from underneath me or OPS (other people’s stuff) creating upheaval. This is all me. I see myself standing before the portal between this year and the next. I’m standing with my back to the door that leads to 2016. I am holding a scythe in my hands and a basket over my arm. I am cutting down anything that I know will not serve me as I enter a life I am designing for myself, by myself. I’m collecting whatever wants to be brought forward with me – courage, resilience, business acumen, art. I’m leave behind what sucked me dry or left me longing and bitter. I am making space for what makes the best kind of sense – for what will nourish me and sustain me.
I’m not going to lie.
I’m afraid. Very. I’m shaking in my boots over here despite the serene demeanor and the air of total acceptance. You can feel both, you know. Afraid and also serene. You can experience both terror and a peaceful kind of surrender. It is possible. I am telling you. I am in this state now and there’s nothing about it that feels paradoxical. It feels like what is. I have fear. I have peace. Both are with me, and I embrace them. This is what’s true for now. I am also very well aware that this may change and I may find myself fearful without peace or peaceful without fear. Something entirely new may arrive. I’ll roll with it. I’m good at that.
I had this conversation with my therapist.
It was about how, all my life I have longed to be loved the way I love. It was about how awful it feels to be afraid to ask for what I need. It was about how tired I am of feeling like I have to fight for the basics – to be considered. To be thought of. To be included. To be a part of the equation. The conversation also led to my expressing some real concerns about how I am building my business with the understanding that I will be emotionally supported as I grow.
Shifts needed to take place after this conversation. I need to shrink things a bit so that they are manageable *on my own*. I need to adjust things so that my energy isn’t depleted, because there is no one around to rub my back, make me a coffee, take me for a drive, bring dinner because I’m riding the wild donkey of course creation and I keep forgetting to eat. I need to remember that the *only* energy going into this business is *my* energy.
There is no one else.
There never really was. And that’s okay. That’s what is.
Accepting what is sounds an awful lot like surrendering, like giving up, and in a way, that’s true. I am surrendering I am giving up. I have been pouring energy into things and people that *do not pour back*. As my lovely mentor, Shiloh McCloud has stated, I keep emptying out my entire basket. Every time. All the time. And it does leave me completely exhausted and crying in frustration that my limbs feel like lead and I have no idea how I will ever have another new idea because I feel intensely empty.
Of course, I bounce back. I always do. New courses come to life. New content gets created. I pay my rent. I buy my groceries. I pay my business expenses. It works. But it could work so much better if I respected my energy limitations.
So, everything around me is changing.
But I’m in charge. I am queen of this life and the changes are my own. I will fall or fly on my own merit.
I’m grateful you’re here. You make it all make sense.
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.
I like to cook. More to the point, I like to feed people. There is something very spiritual for me in the process of preparing, and serving food. I love the noises people make when they spoon my soup into their happy faces. I love the silence that comes over people when they chew, savour, swallow. I love the thought that what I prepared will serve their bodies, will become a part of them.
I love a house full of the scent of something savoury simmering on the stove.
(I love alliteration, too, but that’s a post for another day.)
Sometimes, I post what I’ve cooked on my Instagram feed, which autoposts to my Facebook wall, and I get a lot of lovely comments about how delicious it looks, followed by a “can I have the recipe?”.
Sometimes people remind me that I’m multifaceted, multi-talented, that I’m a polymath. That’s a lovely thing to tell me. Did you know? Did you know that when you reflect me back to myself with such lovely compliments, it soothes the part of me that is continuously questioning my value? Well, now you know.
Here’s A Thing I Cooked
This is a gorgeous autumnal soup that I threw together out of things that were needing to be used up. It’s a curried chicken and lentil bowl of tummy warming goodness, and here’s the recipe.
1 large chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 acorn squash, peeled and cubed
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can lentils
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp commercial blend garam masala (or make your own)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 thumb of ginger, minced
If you like a little heat, 1 jalapeno, finely chopped, discard the seeds.
Water to cover
Add oil and butter to a deep pot and heat on medium high
Add the garam masala and cook until the spices begin to release their oils.
Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno (optional) and cook until translucent.
Add the chicken and cook until there is no visible pink
Add the tomatoes, drained lentils, sweet potatoes, & squash, and then water to cover.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Allow to bubble and toil for ten minutes.
Reduce heat medium low and simmer for two – three hours. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
Taste and add salt and pepper to your palate.