Every Monday, I pop in here ( and over on Patreon with the more intimate bits) to share a prompt and my response to it. These prompts come directly out of the monthly workbook for Book Of Days. There are enough prompts in each workbook to get you through a month of daily journal keeping, and they are ripe for both written and art journaling. You can get these workbooks as part of your Book Of Days experience, or as a bonus as a member of my on line artist’s community, called The Wilderhood. See you there!
This week’s prompt, should you choose to engage it is:
What do I want to bring in from outside? More light? More colour?
Outside. I haven’t been seeing a lot of it lately, to be honest. I am asthmatic and also allergic to the world, so ‘outside’ is kind of my nemesis unless I’m at a festival, where I spend the few days before loading up on Reactine so I don’t suffer too much over the course of the four or five days of being where trees have sex. It’s also hot as Hades out there, so my comfy apartment, where the AC is running full bore, and I don’t have to wear pants, is my preferred base of operations.
But ‘outside’ doesn’t have to mean ‘out of doors’. It can mean ‘outside of my own skin’, so that’s how I’m going to interpret it for today’s little writing session. I think this calls for a list.
I. More poems.
I am scheming up an e-course wherein we work with our own internal landscape through writing to mine our own personal poems, which we can then use in our art journals. This is taking a lot of brainstorming, and a lot of note taking, and a lot of poem reading so I can wrap my head around the fundamentals of poetry writing. I don’t have a formal education in the field, but I have been writing poems for as long as I can remember. I want to make poem writing accessible to everyone (because it is!), so while I’m plotting, I want to be eating, drinking, and sleeping poems. I want to be drenched in them. I want to read them silently, and then again out loud. This kind of input is good for my creativity, I think, because it gets me thinking and feeling outside of my own experience, which makes me curious, and creates a sense of wonder.
P.S. If you want to know when this e-course is released, you’ll want to subscribe to my newsletter.
II. More pleasure.
If you know me at all, you know that I have unashamedly labeled myself a ‘hedonist’, which is a word that’s not often used in a positive light. I’ve reclaimed it, much like I’ve reclaimed ‘witch’. I am an ethical hedonist. I seek pleasure, and believe in pleasure seeking as a worthwhile pursuit. I believe it’s a part of my work in the world to indulge in and also offer as much pleasure as I can (in all it’s glorious forms) in order to increase the ‘collective pool of pleasure’. I also enjoy encouraging others to do the same, especially in Moonshine, where we grapple with whatever we’ve been taught about pleasure, and remove the blocks we have around it.
But, my life has been very caught up in the practicalities of ordinary reality, and frankly, not very pleasurable at the moment. I am in the trenches with trauma therapy. I’ve been setting and holding new boundaries. And I’ve been side-eyeing my ‘go to’ pleasures to discern whether or not they *are actually* worthwhile pursuits. Swilling Chardonnay all night while bingeing on True Crime, for example, is a ‘pleasure’ I’m ready to nip in the bud. What would I replace it with? What would actually feel like real, honest to Goddess, soul nourishing pleasure? I’m working on figuring that out.
III. More Support.
I been thinking a lot about my issues with ‘needing’ people. I don’t do the whole ‘asking for help’ thing very well. There are a couple of people who’ve kind of ‘trained me’ in trust with them over things like “Oh, hey! Can you help me with this practical thing I need to do?” Think – pick up mail, go to the pharmacy (which is a very long Uber ride, or I’d do it myself), run my laundry up and down the stairs, or my garbage down to the bin (I have wonky vision and creaky knees, and the three long flights of stairs are narrow and rickety and scare the bejeezus out of me). I’ve learned how to pay for some of the help that I need rather than flagellating myself with the ‘you should do it yourself’ whip. So, support with the practicalities, I’m learning to ask for and receive relatively easily.
It’s the emotional stuff I struggle with a bit. Seeming ‘needy’ is very, very unsafe for me, so I grapple with that whole “I need someone” thing. I want to get better at it. When someone says to me, when I’m in the middle of a crisis, “Can I help?”, I want to say “Yes, you can.” Easily. Readily. “Yes, you can. You can sit with me, or call me, or make soothing noises at me. You can make me some soup so I can give space to my emotional state without having to navigate the whole feeding myself while tears are streaming down my face. You can check in with me to make sure I’m not white knuckling things along. You can show up.”
I think I’m getting there. I’m saying things like “I need you to love me a little bit louder today”, and “I need you to honour your word” and “I need to be tended to in the midst of *waves at all of this* in a quiet, gentle way that helps me get through it in one piece” and “Can we Skype? I’m struggling with something and I need your eyes on my face while I unravel it.”
There are actual outside things I’d like to bring in, too. The smell of sunshine on my skin after a long meander. Wood smoke in my hair and clothes after a night around a fire. Leaves and twigs and things picked up during a trail hike. The sound of waves gently lapping at a shoreline. A soul-belly full of the sights and sounds of nature…
…but the three things I’ve explored above feel rather more urgent and important right now, so that’s where my focus is.
And you? What outside things do you want more of? Be literal or figurative. Outside your windows or outside your skin.
This week’s prompt, should you choose to engage it is:
“What’s firing you up?”
Okay, truth be told, the prompt that’s actually listed for today in the PDF Workbook I provide in The Wilderhood is about rituals, but this prompt caught my eye because OMG Y’ALL….
THIS IS FIRING ME UP.
I spent the better part of my weekend diving into Series One and Two in Fresh Paint with Flora & Lynx, and I am ON FIRE. I don’t think I’ve ever painted so much in a weekend *in my life*.
CLICK THROUGH THE THUMBS TO SEE THE GORGEOUSNESS FULL SIZED.
I’ve been a fan of working with Flora’s classes for a long time time. I’ve done Bloom True & Creative Revolution a few times a piece, and I always come out of these classes with new skills, new mediums or combinations of new mediums, and more inspiration than I know what to do with.
Check out the details here!*
And I’ll see you on Instagram with all my ‘work in progress’ shots!
*I am an affiliate for Flora Bowley’s e-courses. When you purchase a class through my links, I get a 20% commission. Thank you! xo
This week’s prompt, should you choose to engage it, is:
“What ‘first fruits’ are ripening as a result of my creative practice?”
From my ‘medidoodle’ practice, which is essentially just making doodles on my iPad when I need to rest my brain.
I’ve been working with creativity as a practice now for a very long time. Before art journaling, there was poetry & creative non-fiction. Reams and reams of words strung
together with the sole purpose of getting whatever was inside of me OUTSIDE of me so I could examine it, be with it, acknowledge it. In the years since, I’ve found myself integrating writing back into my practice, finally, though I didn’t know that this would happen. After a couple of years of being a blocked creative, I felt lucky to have *any* mode of creative expression, let alone two.
This year has seen me really embrace both as integral to one another, and as I’ve created space for both, I’ve found that they feed one another. Sometimes my art journaling practice will send me flying towards the keyboard to bang out the insights that are arising while I paint. Sometimes, I’ll be typing up my ‘ten things’, which has become a regular part of my daily life now, and I will want to wrap it up so I can take some piece of what I’ve written into the realm of visual language.
I’m really excited about this, since the writing has been flowing more and more since the beginning of the year, and I’ve been able to flesh out and expand on the work I do – both personal & professional – as a result. It’s also resulting in some pretty exponential healing.
Something else that I’ve noticed is a deeper relationship with my own ‘parts’. Those of you who work with me in Moonshine and other of my offerings know that I take ‘parts work’ pretty seriously. I’m of the opinion that we contain multitudes, and a part of my own healing work is to learn to love all of my parts. All of them. Even the parts I don’t particularly like. Even the parts that are as yet unknown to me.
All this creative practice means my parts have lots of opportunity to show up with what they know. When they do that, I can come into awareness more quickly than I might otherwise. For example, right now, I have a love besotted teenager fully on board, but she’s tempered by an Aunt Frances type character that is full of sage advice. The two of them are a bit of a pain in my ass right now, because they have a set of completely opposing needs – Aunt Frances wants me to ‘need a man like a fish needs a bicycle’, and my love besotted teenager just wants to throw herself at the feet of all things romantic and live there forever – but because I am in ‘contact’ with them through art and writing, I’m able to work with them instead of letting them work me. When I catch that besotted teenager doing nothing but orbiting (and waiting on) the romantic side of life, I can call on Aunt Frances to make a list and help me slay it so that I’m living *here, now* instead of some possible future some day. Sometimes that looks like filming a lesson or making a plan for a future workshop. Sometimes it looks like cleaning out a closet. The besotted teenager pouts, but she gets over it, and even gets into the spirt of things. Especially if I’m flinging paint, or working on a new chapter in that novel I keep meaning to write.
Creative practice is always going to be a massive part of my life, because I’ve seen how powerful it is. The things I’ve learned from surrendering to visual arts *despite not being a natural artist* have been indispensable. Like – you can always fix it, whatever ‘it’ is. There’s always gesso. You can always paint over it. There is always going to be an ugly phase. You’re not done ‘till you’re done. You can trust the process. Just sit with it and let it tell you what it wants. You are never finished skills building. You can learn to represent just about anything you want to represent if you give yourself some time to practice. Practice makes progress. The process matters way more than the end result. And if it matters, you make time.
These lessons gleaned from creative practice have informed my life. I’ve integrated them so that whatever is going on, I know I can fix it. I know I can shift it, change it. I trust that the ugly phase is not a forever phase. There is always the next thing. Practice makes progress in all things, not just art or writing. The journey of a lifetime begins with a single word, a single stroke, a single choice, and all things proceed from that one act of bravery toward the attainment of my desires.
This week’s journal prompt, should you choose to engage it, is “How am I feeling in my own skin?” You can use this prompt for written journaling, or let it be a jumping off for your art journal. If you’d like to share your responses to this prompt, please join me in The Wilderhood, where you will be embraced & witnessed with empathy & gentleness. Alternatively, you can join me on Patreon for a quieter, but more personal space behind my little paywall.
My skin feels too full, like I should maybe crawl out of it.
I remind myself of a hermit crab right now, as though I have grown three times too big for my shell, but there is no new one to be found, so I’m just sitting with all of this *stuff* that wants to come up, that needs me to lean into it, and I am all arms held up, hands (and pinchers) in front of my face as though life is an oncoming tsunami and I don’t wanna drown.
I know that’s heavy, but I will not apologize. Trauma recovery is hard, and I am in the thick of it, and when you’re in the thick of trauma recovery, one of the unkindest things you can do to yourself is to lie about how you’re feeling. The requirement that I do that is what got me here in the first place – all that shoving down of what was true and real. I can’t do that anymore without undoing the work that I’ve been doing, so yeah.
My insides are gnarly. Things are gnarly.
I had therapy on Thursday. There was a breakthrough, but I’m going to tell you a secret. Often, in my world, breakthroughs are painful. They may offer an initial burst of elation, but in the aftermath, in the quiet hours after when I am alone with my thoughts, things get gnarly. Abandonment depression, emotional flashbacks, the ‘skin too full to bursting’ feeling gets to be too much, and I have to grapple. No choice but to grapple. My other options aren’t options at all. Then, on Friday, I had a trauma response to a familiar trigger, and woosah.
But here’s what I want you to know. When shit got real on Friday afternoon, and I knew I was not going to be able to navigate it alone, I reached out. I reached out until someone answered, and I let them come. I let myself be tended to, let myself cry in the presence of, let myself be witnessed, held, tucked in, and kissed goodnight.
I didn’t white knuckle it. I reached out, and I felt *worthy of doing so*. Y’all don’t even know how big a deal this is in my journey.
I have come a very, very long way from the girl who, upon slipping into the deep end of a pool when she was six, refused to grab onto a nearby food for fear of *bothering the owner of said foot*. If I had not been caught by the slowly descending arm and dragged up out of the water, I *would literally have drowned* because I was too afraid to reach out…
I know how to reach out now.
My Saturday looked like this:
That’s my Stacey, me, and a couple of iced coffees, which we grabbed before heading out on a gorgeous drive through the Ontario countryside on a day that could only be described as glorious. We listened to music, took in all the fresh air and sunshine, and communed, mostly in silence.
It wasn’t everything I needed, because there’s a lot that I need that is just not possible right now, but it was *close enough*, and I felt a little less like I was going to burst open like rotten fruit once Stacey dropped me on my doorstep to spend the rest of my day in solitude and healing silence.
I took advantage of my quiet nervous system and got some work done – something that always helps me to feel a little less like I’m going to lose it and a little more like I’m in control. Some of the most self-soothing things I can do include editing video and putting together class lessons, with all that embedding, linking, and describing. It doesn’t require me to show up creatively. It just requires me to show up, and so much of it can be done on auto-pilot that it’s not unlike chanting a mantra or praying the rosary. It gets me still, and in my present, and for that I am deeply grateful.
Sunday took a swing back into gnarly, but I managed by digging into my usual box of tools for when things get gnarly. Music, art, beautiful food, blanket forts. Chats with friends. Telling the truth about where I’m at. I weighed where I was against where I wanted to be and decided I could go it solo. I breathed. I painted. I napped. I snuggled fur babes. I sent out little flares now and again to those that I love – OH HEY I’M HERE – and that was just enough to get me through.
This article appeared in my Facebook feed this morning, and it was exactly what I needed to *affirm* that what any of us with trauma actually needs is exactly what I asked for. Take me seriously. Respect my triggers. Don’t minimize what I’m experiencing. It is *fucking gnarly*, and unravelling it alone is not only not possible, it’s harmful. Self-love demands that I make demands when I’m in this state. Please come if you can. Sit with me. Do not let me spiral into the abyss alone. Do not ask me to abandon myself in this state by expecting me to plaster on a fake smile and pretend like I’m not drowning.
Today, the skin is a little less like a collection of fried nerves and jangling keys, though, and for that I’m grateful. I also got some validation from my horoscope (don’t laugh – these little godwinks matter) from Chani Nicholas. Listen to this:
“What I am working on now, in my personal and professional lives, carries with it the ability to make a long-lasting impact. Any amount of care that I can cultivate for my work goes an incredibly long way. I create spaces where kindness can thrive in the world, starting with myself. How I show myself love when in public does more than just make me feel good. Modelling how to be gentle and generous while being productive and professional impacts my entire system while shifting the industries I am a part of.” Get yours here.
I also did her workshop for this cycle, and it’s all pointing me in this direction: this modelling I’m doing right now is a part of my work in this world. It is terrifying, but it is important, and I can’t stop, won’t stop. I have faith that it will bear good fruit, and that those that need it will find it.
I’m a mess. Things are gnarly. I’m in the trenches over here. This phase of my journey is *very, very hard*, and I am not here to whitewash that or lie to you. So I tell you, with trepidation, but equally, with courage. I’m honest with you, but, look. I’m also showing up, writing, painting, practicing being a joy warrior, creating class content, cooking meals, seeing friends, keeping appointments, making bliss among ruins without bypassing or minimizing the enormity of the work I’m doing.
I think that matters.
In time, as I continue to touch the abyss, deep dive, and do the work to heal my trauma, things will be less gnarly. I will not be as full of the heavy, but in the meantime, this is where I am. My skin is too full of all the truths I need to tell, but/and I’m doing the best I can.
Thanks for reading.
Today’s prompt, should you choose to engage it is:
“What images come up for me when I consider the word ‘nurture’?”
A pot of soup simmering on the stove.
Cool cloths on feverish foreheads.
Tucking freezing cold hands between my hands and rubbing the warmth back into them.
Listening. Truly listening. Witnessing. Empathy in the eyes of the witness.
Unhurried time spent getting to know all there is to know.
The deep caring that comes with unhurried time and attention.
Tending. As in the garden, or to a child, or to a creative project.
The little things we do for one another as lovers, friends, and family. The offered jacket when we’re cold. The meal when we’re overwhelmed. The knot in the muscle worked out with firm hands. The little gifts that say “you matter”.
Acknowledgement. The phrase “I see you”. The way we are counted as blessings.
Confidences kept with care.
The truth, told with kindness.
All of the ways we say “I love you” without words.
Please join me in The Wilderhood, where these prompts go up every Monday.
Alternatively, you may wish to join me on Patreon, where uncensored versions of my writings & offerings go up regularly as they are created.