The Fruits of Creative Practice

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.

JYHO #4 – It’s Gnarly Here In My Own Skin

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.

Gnarly.

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.

Progress.

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.

xo
Effy

 

 

Journal Your Heart Out #3

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.

Journal Your Heart Out #2

Hello, lovely!

I just arrived home yesterday from my first festival of the year. My face is burned to a lovely shade of firelight and my body is aching in places I didn’t even know I had. I used myself up this past week in the pursuit of shenanigans. I’m sleep deprived, dehydrated, and happier than I can ever remember being.

My phone was off almost the entire time, and I mostly left it in the cabin. I did not check into any form of social media except to do a couple of photo dumps.

It was exactly what I needed, and I’ve returned to you here in this space as a paradox. Emptied out. Renewed.

This week’s journal prompt, should you choose to engage it, is:

“How’s my inner fire? Do I feel fired up about anything?”

I laughed when I read the prompt for this week because I actually took a forging workshop this past weekend. I donned safety glasses and massive fire proof gloves, and then…

I was struck, as I struck the iron, with how much like my life this process is – the intense heat of it, the way you must move the metal where you want it with certain, confident blows, striking while its hot, shaping it in accordance with your muscles & will, so it takes the form you want.

If you don’t get it right the first time, it’s okay. You can reheat it, tweak it, move the metal with your strength and a pair of pliers, adjust it while the metal is soft enough to move.

You may not get exactly what you had in mind, but you will get *something like it*, and that’s good enough for me.

My inner fire comes to life at this time of year, every year, as though it has as its primary source that first fire, the struck match that signals a season of frolicking with my friends-who-are-family, so I’m all ablaze with it today, heart full, spirit soaring somewhere above the to do list and the ordinary day.

Me, shaking, but DOING THE THING Y’ALL!

I am fired up about the work I do in the world, about the love I have to give. I’m fired up about how well my own healing serves me & my community. I’m fired up with courage – I entered an art show this weekend, (and won honourable mention), and read poems in a bardic competition. (WHAT? WHO AM I RIGHT NOW?)

I almost vomited (believe it or not, I have terrible stage fright) but I made it through, I only cried once, and I made the judges cry. WIN.

A video of my performance is up on Patreon, if you’d to see.

I made a vow to abide with what is and sealed it with a thousand kisses, knowing as I do now that the fire of my devotion will never go out of its own accord.

There’s more on this on Patreon.

I’m in the second half of my life (maybe even the last third), and I’m fired up about packing it as full as I can with all that makes this life worth living. I am fired up about emerging as exactly who I’m meant to be after a lifetime of adapting to what was required of me.

I’m fired up about writing, art, beautiful food. I’m fired up about the soul connections that I tend as though they exist at the centre of my being – my own personal hearth fire.

And I’m fired up about how I might serve you in the years to come, too.

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.

 

 

 

Journal Your Heart Out #1

I produce these booklets for folks in Book Of Days & The Wilderhood that include a journal prompt of each day of every month, and I’ve decided to post one a week here on my blog as a way to keep my writing practice ongoing. Anything deeply personal that results from these writings will go over on my Patreon, since a paywall helps me feel a little safer about sharing, even if that paywall is only $2 a month.

This week’s prompt, should you choose to engage it is:

“Where am I now in my life when compared with where I was this time last year?”

I fired up the ‘On This Day’ feature on Facebook to get a glimpse into my past. I really love that feature, because while it can sideswipe me with unhappy memories, it also gives me a very clear picture of how far I’ve come.

Last year, on this day, I was moving out of the apartment next door to this one and into this one. In the move, I got a dishwasher, a walk in shower, a view of TREES instead of someone else’s windows. I also got a significant increase in rent, but I had faith in myself that I could handle it, and lo, I have handled it.

I was also waiting for my little grand bean to be born.

I was in a lot of pain. (There’s a bit here for Patrons only). 

I wanted, every single day, to run away from home, but there was no where to run away too.

Oooooooof.

I was also getting a really good handle on who my friends *really are*, which is what happens when you are grieving, embroiled in family drama, and moving all at once.

***

Today, I woke Bean up and fed him a bowl full of blueberry & apple stuff that he loved. This after we tried a veggie thing that he *did not love*. We played, babbled, and got cleaned up and dressed. His mom picked him up at 8 to take him to daycare. I have him again tonight.

(There’s a bit here for Patrons only). 

He is the light and love of my life.

Today, I sent off a few files to a colleague for review, since they are going up in a class called Wild Creative Journey near the end of this month. I paid my affiliates, designed some graphics, loaded the dishwasher, and put away the Bean’s toys. I’m about to type up and print off a packing list, since I’m leaving for fest on Wednesday. There is nothing looming, work wise. I had to wrangle things (because the last half of May was a shit show of ‘not my circus’ proportions, so I *was* behind), but the wrangling was successful, and I will leave for a week of no work absolutely guilt-free.

Today, I had to rescue my bra from my derpy dog, Salem, who came to the pack in March of this year. She is so full of life and energy and shenanigans, and she has a real knack for destruction of all the things, but I do believe she is one of the most beautiful dogs *on the planet*.

Salem & Sookie

(There’s a bit here for Patrons only). 

Today, I am looking forward to another night with Bean, who is coming over at six to have another sleep over with his Mimi. My son, James, is also coming over. We’ll have dinner and play with Da Bean for a while before he runs some errands for me. We will probably watch an episode or two of The Magicians.

Today, I am looking forward to a road trip to fest with my soul sister, Stacey, who is one of my beloved casserole people. She knows all my secrets. I know all of hers. Together, we are a force to be reckoned with, but mostly we are braless and we know how to wine and whine.

(There’s a bit here for Patrons only). 

Today, I am counting sleeps ’till I get to see 42.

Today, I am confident that no matter what life throws my way, I can handle it because, lo, I have handled my entire life so far, mostly on my own, despite enormous obstacles and a completely fucked up nervous system.

Today, I am grateful to be here, and that has not always been the case.

And that’s me, today.

***

In Other News

I have a free group on Facebook called The Wilderhood where you can get all the prompts for each month, plus participate in challenges (there are prizes), plus hang out with THE WORLD’S MOST SUPPORTIVE AND AWESOME COTERIE OF WILDLINGS EVAR! I hope to see you there.

 

All My Parts (Trigger Alert)

Trigger alert for mature themes including child abuse, and trauma response. 

I. So, there I am, sitting in my studio in a Zoom room with my therapist (bless her for offering virtual sessions), and I’m recounting the parts of my weekend that feel relevant. I move from one story to the next with a wave of my hands and an ‘anyway’ as usual, and then circle back to another part of my weekend, and she stops me, because when I was telling story A, I did something with my hands that I stopped doing when I was telling story B, but that I then repeated when I was telling story C.

She tells me what I was doing – a totally subconscious thing where I’m scratching the pads of the fingers on my left hand with my left thumbnail. She demonstrated the action for me, and then asked me to repeat the action, to slow it down, and to check in with myself about what comes up.

II. I’ve been doing the teeniest tiniest bit of Somatic Experiencing with her for a little while now, so I know some of the things I should be paying attention to. Any pain. Any buzzing in my forehead. Anything to do with my vision, my heart rate, or how embodied I do or do not feel, but this unconscious action – this tiny little clue to the fact that we were dealing with a trauma response in both story A and story C would have completely escaped my attention, because, listen – when we’re telling our stories, we are not conscious of the signals we’re sending, but someone trained in SE *is* conscious. They are paying very close attention to every damned thing, even in our silence. This is why I’m finding it so valuable, because I can headspace myself back to some semblance of centred if I *know* what’s up, but I am not always going to know what’s up. What’s up is often buried under layers of self-protection. Having someone help with the dig is *crucial* to trauma recovery. Sure, some self-help is possible, but a pro is *needful*. I know that better than anyone.

III. So, I slow things down, and I begrudgingly repeat the motion, scratching the pads of my fingers with my thumbnail, and as I’m doing that, I catch myself doing it with the right hand, too. Something is definitely in there, I think, as I sit in silence while she watches me like a hawk. Something is in there, goddamn it. Here we go. And up it comes. Up it comes. And I am thirteen, and I am lying on my side in the bedroom in my father’s house. I’m facing the wall, and he is very, very drunk. I am curled up into a ball, my eyes wide open but unseeing. I am terrified. I know what’s coming.

His check came in, so he’s drunk a case of Molson’s. He’s feeling talkative, so he’s pulled a chair into my room, and is sitting at my bedside, waxing poetic at me while I pretend to sleep. He starts sweet like he always does. How glad he is that I came to live with him. How it’s changed his life, given him purpose.

And then it shifts to how much he hates my mother and how awful she was to him.

And then it shifts to how sexy my legs are and how much he wishes I wasn’t his daughter.

And then I start to sob, and beg him to leave me alone, and that trips the wire in him, and he starts to beat me about the back of the head and shoulders.

I fight back, like I remember my mother doing. When he’s drunk, he’s weak and sloppy and a few well-aimed punches and kicks will send him whimpering and limping away in due time…

He never remembers in the morning. He wonders out loud why he is so sore. Assumes it’s some kind of flu coming on, which gives him the perfect excuse to lay in bed and drink all day…

This happened to me for about a year, like clock work, whenever the check came in or someone else brought beer.

IV. I have no idea why this piece was stored as it was in the pads of my fingers, and I may never know, but I know that hanging out in that action in silence unlocked it. I always had this piece *cognitively* – this is not a case of ‘lost memories’ or anything like that. What I didn’t have was the piece where when people are drinking around me, some part of me is thirteen and lying on my side in bed in my father’s apartment, waiting for the words and blows to come raining on down all over my little body, If people are drinking around me and there is even a hint of darkness in them, that part of me goes into a powerful and confounding trauma response.

This is not the fault of the people drinking around me, and of course, no one around me is raining blows down on me these days – they wouldn’t dare – but that doesn’t matter. There is no feeling safe *at all* in a trauma response, especially when one is completely unaware that one is *in* a trauma response.

V. I have been bewildered over this for years. I know that I am incredibly reactive around people who are drinking. There are certain smells, tones of voice, body postures that *terrify me* in these moments, but because I didn’t have *this part of the piece* I didn’t know why or what to do with it. I just fucking spin, and cycle through flight, fight, freezing, and fawning. I, myself, go to a very dark, hopeless place when I’m around people who are drinking. There is rage in there. There is disgust. There is, above all else, though, terror.

And now I know why, and now I know how to take care of myself.

VI. SE has been the single most useful and also hardest therapeutic process I’ve ever undertaken. It feels a little like magic, like something shamanic is going on – like my therapist and I go in through the body in search of splintered off parts of self that have been imprisoned for decades, and once we find them, we bring them back to the now, with the safety that exists in the now, and the compassion that exists in the now. Soul retrieval. The real deal.

I will love myself in all my parts.

VII. I hesitated to share this because it is such a vulnerable thing to reveal. I don’t want the people in my life who enjoy their drink feeling in any way responsible for me or my reactions to it. I, too, love to imbibe. I party like a Canadian, eh? And that’s not going to stop. But I want you to know how powerful this process is in case it’s something you need, and I also want to be fully, deeply, truly known, so voila.

Keeping quiet about stuff like this in the name of ‘propriety’ feels like self-abuse at this point. That old self that would just shut up and smile, that would clench her fists and her jaw, but dare not say what is actually happening within her in the moment? She’s dead to me. What is true for me is true for me. It is no one’s responsibility but mine to deal with it, to heal it, but I deserve to be heard, witnessed, and known and loved in all my parts. All of them. Including this part where things that are happening around me can make me feel so unsafe that I am transported back to my thirteen year old body and my father’s apartment and his boozy stench and his fists.

VIII. Like most women I know, I have a laundry list of violations that have happened when alcohol was part of the equation. Some of them happened when I was very, very young, and some of them happened when I was a fully grown person and in possession of a powerful no. They *all* came up yesterday after therapy. All of them, like a movie I couldn’t pause. I jotted them down as they came up so I could have some sense of control over the flood, so I was okay, and I didn’t spin out into the horrids like I have before. It was manageable. I acknowledged each memory, and when they stopped coming, I washed my face and got on with my day.

And now I know.

These traumas (and all violations are traumatic) have been stored up in my body. I can be sitting there *thinking* I’m having a good time, or thinking completely useless things like “Why are you not okay right now? What the fuck is wrong with you?” but if I check in with my body in moments that in *any way resemble* any of those past moments, it will tell me OH HEY YOU ARE NOT SAFE, and it will tell me that through my heart rate, my emotional state, the way I’m interpreting and filtering what’s actually happening.

IX. I have this piece now. It is a huge piece, and it’s going to change everything, because when you know the situations that cause a trauma response in you, you can go in with your eyes open and your awareness completely attuned to whatever your body is trying to tell you. You can remind yourself that this *now* and you *are safe*, and you can do whatever it takes to ensure that you remain safe, and that you are responding to the truth of the moment.

X. C-PTSD fucking sucks, but I am bigger than it, and the work continues apace.

This song today, because reasons.