Hmmm... A very long hiatus full of life to bring me back here: visits with my family- spectacular, art making- soul saving, volunteering at Be Brave Ranch (Little Warriors wellness centre for children who have been sexually abused to be opened soon. Click on the link to see more about Be Brave Ranch: http://littlewarriors.ca/events/building-brave-on-shaw-tv-2/)- inspiring, technical difficulties with my website- FRUSTRATING. And, here I am- back up and running. 
While I hadn't taken too many breaks in the creativity/ healing side of things, I did not make the time to sit at my computer. I think it was a good time to let some things settle, and to become accustomed to new ways of seeing before I carried on.

I grappled with my third instalment of my art trilogy. I understood organically that it would be a seminal, integrative piece that would catapult my process of wellness to a different level. One morning I woke up and just started to gather 'stuff'. Household items and things that could be repurposed into art. This was more than a green project that was meant to raise awareness of ecological responsibility (although there are whole communities of artists who have that as their focus). It was the start of the reclaiming phase. In conversation with my therapist about the dizzying confusion I was still experiencing, he referred to it as 'transition'. My immediate response? Transition has always been the most difficult stage of giving birth for me.

When I began by painting a large shoe box, without any idea of where this would end up, and while suffering the not too gentle teasing of people around me, I had already made the decision to just see what this box held for me. This was truly a process piece, as it was purely engagement with materials  that grabbed my interest. I knew from past experiences with art making that sometimes the least aesthetically pleasing pieces hold the most power for me. 
AND, I am well aware that this 'piece' looks like a grade five project, and there was learning in that as well. 

"Chaos theory has revealed that fragmentation leads to new and higher levels of organization, which is practically a definition of the creative process."
                                                                                   - Shaun McNiff
I am resilient.

As I find myself emerging from 9 months of frozenness, and an inability to function fully (or, at times, at all ), I reflect on what I have learned about myself and the manner in which I am able to turn my darkness into light. 

In my reflection I saw myself in a blender- whipping and churning all that I thought I knew. I recognized pieces of my Self as they whizzed by to be hacked and cleaved by the waiting blades of stinging self- awareness. It is hard to let go of what you believe to be true, and taste the concoction that is a result of that kind of violent shaking. But to extend the metaphor, in blending the bits of 'truth' and awareness, it doesn't make them untrue, rather, it changes the colour and texture of how they taste and feel on the palette. Previously, I have spoken of the transformative process of art therapy as an unravelling and re- weaving of the threads of my life. This has been a more aggressive, albeit shorter and more intense, experience of dis- integration, and thankfully, re- integration.
This understanding has allowed me to give some order to my experiences and, now that they are altered through a process of repurposing, reframing, reintegrating and reclaiming, to see how they fit together. It is not unlike the altered puzzle I created for myself a while ago. 

It has not eluded me that birthing metaphors are abounding in this writing. Transition, 9 months of gestating the growth and change... The metaphor speaks to the deep body connection of this work, the time it takes to grow, cultivate and accommodate this kind of shift.

The 'art invitation' that I used in this art making experience, was to invite the very hurt, very tiny girl to give substance and form to the pain that she feels. For me, this has a larger scope than inviting the 'child within to come out and play', as has been suggested by many popular self- help authors. That cliche may have its place in pop psychology, but where the depth of healing that is required to soothe the fierce pain that was inflicted, there is no room for the possibility of minimizing the experiences with buzzwords. This was an opportunity for me to hold the painful experiences that live inside of me, in a loving, supportive and nurturing manner. When I don't have a cacophony of my own bitter and hateful voices jabbing at my inner ears, I can sometimes hear the helpful and supportive urges of family, friends and therapist. And as I considered what this box was full of in front of me on the table, I heard the question that had been posed to me more than once: how would you hold one of your children, or your granddaughter if they were hurt? Can you make room to hold this child in such a way?
The art making took me days, even weeks, of manipulating materials- feeling the textures of the things I had gathered, and following an inner guide that was the decision maker in how the pieces would come together. There were sharp edges and poky things that felt brutally and excruciatingly  painful in my hands. I pried apart wooden frames with nails sticking out, cut strips of tin, and shredded some of my beautiful papers. 
As I put them back together, in a way that made sense for the 3, 5 and 8 year old, as I saw it through the fifth grader's eyes, elements that had been missing from the chronological story of my life came into focus. This thing I had constructed was a place I remembered, only now, in a conscious, embodied state of mind. 
Suddenly the movies I have watched from the inside, were on the outside. Externalized, and seen as I had as a child, the movies became the memories that they had replaced. I had turned those experiences into 'not my own', so I could cope with them, and so, I had named the invasion of memories as other peoples' movies. I had, in fact, turned them into other peoples' movies, and I couldn't understand for many years, how they got on the inside of my eyes.  
The story- MY story, was less fragmented now. Painful as it felt, I reclaimed it.
It may sound over dramatic to some, but owning the pain of the experiences long past opened a space in me to reclaim my soul.
(By soul I mean the whole of me. Mind. Body. Spirit.)
All from a cardboard box and repurposed 'stuff'.

A week and more have passed since I got to this stage in this work.
It is finished- for now.
Feelings, awareness, and meaning have filtered through the layers of my consciousness. Reflection has given shape to the thoughts, words to the previously intangible sensing places that held secrets- memories that were too horrible to keep in my consciousness. All of this has given rise to more questions that I have worried and turned to every angle in my mind. I find that as I come to grip with these issues, yet again, I see more clearly what I could not see before. 
A seemingly unrelated question has been bothering me for quite some time. On one hand, there are an increasing number of messages that accost us from every media device: life's too short to spend worrying, just reach out and grab your happiness. The other end of some kind of continuum tells us that the richest rewards come from staying with your feelings in difficult times and working through/ with the discomfort. Of course, I am not suggesting that we should over- think things or not be happy. But which of these dichotomous aphorisms, I wonder, is correct? I have been trying to reconcile my feelings and ideas about this. I have discovered that I solidly stand in the 'staying with' end of things, and that this a spiritual calling for me. (Spiritual meaning, here, understanding the learning and impact of our experiences, and how we can best use them to aid others). I see that my being demands that I listen to these lessons and extend my learning to others. As for the other end of the continuum- it is alluring to me. It appeals to the free spirited rebel in me. I have teased out that I do have a difficulty with it. To me if feels like in the context of our culture, happiness has been replaced with irresponsibility. It appears to me that individuals who adopt that stance either are unable or unwilling to do the work required, or simply unaware of the growth and satisfaction that comes from it.
I needed to know this about myself to keep myself moving forward. My belief is that as I become more balanced in the acceptance of who I am, and where I have arrived, the spiritual path will continue to fulfill my need to contribute positively from the depth of my experiences. I don't think I will ever give up the energy of the free spirited, but I will gratefully welcome those moments as gifts. 

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift."
                                              - Mary Oliver

As I discerned my understanding of that dichotomy, and where my instincts and hard fought learning fall, I was simultaneously acknowledging the presence of another truism that has always eluded me: What about this question of worth?
I have historically lived with self- loathing, self- doubt, and self- blame as the vantage points from which I viewed that world. I have never felt worthy of the simplest gifts: love, acceptance and value. Even as I have lived more fully, with the richness and joy of being a family, I tucked those attributes away, until the time was right to free myself from all of that.
It seems like NOW is as good a time as any!
True to my way of walking through the world, while I was out running, listening to music (that incidentally I took completely randomly from a stack of ipods that we have around here), I was turning these problems around in my thoughts. I realized that the music I was listening to was one complete album, and that almost every song on it spoke to me about my wonderings. Well, how many times do I need to be given a message before I tune into it- clearly, MANY. I'm not suggesting that I was getting messages beamed in. But there are times in our lives when synchronicity seems like the norm. For example, each time I was pregnant I saw pregnant women and babies everywhere, where normally I didn't notice how many there were. We do become attuned to what is similar to us and our needs.
I let go of the thinking and just listened and ran. Liberating really. 
I won't befuddle anyone by trying to convey the convoluted twists and turns of my mind that got me from the running trail to awe at the space I was running in, and finally to what I have accomplished for myself and others. These things rang with the music of worthiness.
I reflected on the people I have known who are mean and have done despicable things. Where I have blamed myself for any wrongdoing, and have worked hard to make things right and be gentle with others, they seem to thrive on hatefulness. And still- they're just people trying to make their way through the world. AND they deserve the human right of just 'being'. Being loved. Being nurtured.Being...
So here I sit, trying on the idea that I may be 'worthy', 'loveable' simply because I am.
That's a HUGE leap for me. And I'm trying it on.
While I can anticipate the frustration of 'two steps forward and one back' syndrome, I feel the positivity and warmth of early spring sun. I feel my feet solidly back on the ground, and the strength of standing on my own two feet.

All from a cardboard box...
Art therapist, well known author and editor Cathy Malchiodi, published Creative Interventions with Traumatized Children (2008). I was lucky enough to be given that book on loan, and now have purchased it for my art therapy library. It was another simultaneous/ serendipitous event that validated my experience with SCIENCE.Not comforting exactly, but so affirming to have neuroscience explain why it has been so difficult for me to give voice the trauma that I lived with. 
Art, poetry and movement have been both my teachers and my voice. I will pursue the ever- changing dynamic of arts and promote it as a gift that is healing and so very beneficial on many levels.
By externalizing the memories that had crowded my thoughts, feelings and psyche for so long, I was able to create a new relationship with the ideas and the feelings. I have been able to have a different perspective and view old circumstances from more of a distance than I have previously been able to do, without feeling the paralyzing fear of a child.

"We can’t find our path without getting messy. Messy comes with the territory. We came in messy. We learn messy. We love messy. We leave messy. I never found my way to clarity without first befriending confusion, in all its chaotic forms. I never found a path that felt like home before falling into quick-sand. I never established a new way of being without trying the wrong way of being on for size. I never found the light without stumbling around in the dark. I never tasted God before getting a little dirt in my mouth. Not that all messiness is good messiness, but some of it is. In the heart of the chaos, is the clay that shapes us home. Chaotic Magnificence!"
                                                                       - Jeff Brown

And the trilogy?

They may seem unconnected, but they are connected by process. In exploring the ways that I could be gentle with myself, and find myself loveable, I had to uncover what was living within: the masks and the babe that I forged from clay, the pieces of my puzzle, and finally- the memories that I have always been afraid to own. 
They have all been part of an internal evolution that provides me with newer, stronger ways of greeting the world.

This piece has been difficult for me to write. I feel very exposed and vulnerable. 
I trust that those who are impacted by my experiences will offer them to others. If you feel comfortable, please comment with your thoughts and stories here. If that is too big a step- message me on facebook.