Sometimes I have so many thoughts and tangents that I don't know where to start.
I start. I paint and write, and trust that I will be able to weave the ideas so they become a tapestry. I seek to tell stories, the fibres of which are of a texture that are graspable by the very human element that runs through us all. Many times I have had to unravel the threads and find new ways to braid them, adding new strands so that the whole of the tale is visible. 

I have been entertaining more questions, that once resolved birth even more questions that are ever more convoluted. 
But I have considered the pieces that are necessary to unfold how I came to this art invitation. There are, of course, a number of strands. There has also been the intervening time and the work I have done that has given me a growing sense of stability. 

I am alright.
 Rather a bold statement really, considering where the last months have taken me. At this point, alright, means I can feel the earth beneath me again. I am full of emotion that I can feel again without falling to pieces. Alright, feels real. It is a place from where I can appreciate the past and see the future. And, more importantly, I can breathe in the very moment. 
Alright also has the pitfalls of normal living- two steps forward, one back. The days that seem like I have taken two steps forward and THREE back are tough. On those days the panic returns and I wonder if I'll ever feel 'alright' again. 
And I persevere through those times. Because- that is a core piece of who I am. It is not a state of martyrdom, but rather an understanding that instead of constantly seeking the next great thing that will cure all, my solace, growth and change come from the depth of me.
I have a new 'online guru', Jeff Brown. His quotes are nuggets of wisdom/ common sense (when we trust our senses at all) that frequently speak to me at a profound level. When I last thought I would never move out of this dark, deep place (it was a three step back week last week), a couple of his quotes landed where and when I needed them. This one felt like it was definitely right time, right place:

"Sometimes we forget how far we have traveled while we are looking ahead to the next steps. Good to lie down and remember what it took to get this far, all those karmic hoops we had to jump through, all those overcomings. Good to stroke our face with love and to remind ourselves how much courage it took and who we would have become if we hadn’t braved the journey. Good to say ‘thank you’ to the inner spirit that walks within and beside us, whispering sweet somethings in our inner ear, reminding us that we are simply and utterly worth fighting for. We ARE simply and utterly worth fighting for. (~an excerpt from 'Love it Forward')"

On those 'three step back' days, it is very difficult to see where I have come from. And, the inner spirits are certainly not whispering ANYTHING. They are screaming their abusive messages, trying to pull me back into the mire that is their home within me.
I wrote a piece a few years ago, for a book "Writing Routes: A resource handbook of therapeutic writing" (Bolton, G., Field, V., and Thompson, K. Eds, 2011). The piece was called Giving Perspective (p. 106). In it I described the process I have used to gain perspective of where I am now when I look to my own work as testament to my path. I wrote: "In 'stuck' times of poring over old poems and thumbing through old journals, I'd say out loud to myself, "I may not be in a great place now, but at least I'm not back there,' (p. 107)
So...
I start. I paint. I write. 
And then I remember just how far I have come, how much of my Self I have poured into the very long, arduous process of healing. I remember some of the sheer horror I have lived with and realize that now I stand at a place where I can look back and KNOW that I am safe now. 

Ah 'safety'. What does that mean? Does it have the same meaning for you and for me? Is it a place, a mindset, a feeling...?
I suspect that 'safety has different connotations for each of us. We probably have unique concepts that come from different facets of our lives, depending on our experiences in childhood all the way through to ever- changing maturity. 
Some individuals need financial stability and structure to feel safe, for others it will be a place, or a remembered safe place that we can take refuge in when the demands are too high around us. For others, still, the issue of 'safety has never occurred, so they have no sense of what they might require from a safe place. 
Herein lies the seed of my art invitation- to create a safe place that I can return to visually, emotionally and spiritually when I am in one of those 'three step back' places that feel like a jail cell, never to be escaped. 
I have more than one safe place within me. Most are places I have created in fantasy in my earliest memories of needing safety. When I was sharing some of this idea with my daughter, as well as one of the earlier renditions of this painting, she remarked that when she was pregnant, her safe place was gently floating on the water in Greece- an experience we shared. While that was a warm, welcome, safe place for me, it holds a great deal of yearning, and thus is on a different page in my internal rolodex of places to land for respite. If I feel simply unsettled, I find it quite easy to connect within- a meditative state that allows me freedom from the weight of life around me. However, as I have palpated my way through the viscosity of these past months, I was unable to find that central part of me when I needed it most. 
I invited myself to create a safe place that would represent my ability to soothe myself, and find safety within me. As I mentally rolled through the possibilities, I stopped at a place that is fantasy, but has many familiar elements. There is always water in my safe places, a quiet place of retreat and natural beauty. It is a place that is settling, serene, and solitary. 


I played with paper and paint (on canvas board). I worked with techniques I hadn't previously. Trial and error opened new avenues to be explored. I gained satisfaction from the appearance of a fanciful image with polka dot trees, and a cottage complete with flower box. 
This image is the in progress piece I shared with my daughter. She remarked that she was pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the hues. I responded that it wasn't finished yet.
Picture
When the scene was complete, I felt it still wasn't finished. 
I wrapped it in a dream, adding brush strokes of colour that gave me a true sense of 'safety'. The gauze- like finish felt like transparent bubble wrap, keeping me safe from both internal and external demons. Through the bars of light, I can see with eyes that open both on the depth of my being, and on the world around that is both glorious and intensely sad.

Picture
As I sat with my image, my writing, I began to play with effects on my computer. Though I love the colours with which I created this, they are meaningful to me, the fading was appealing. The effect on me was one of nostalgia. As I look at this now, I feel like this is a place that is wonderfully old and will remain there forever- guarding my dreams.





I remind myself, usually daily, that we can create safety for ourselves, that we can feel whole and worthy as we walk through our daily rituals. Sometimes that feels like a heavy load of responsibility- to take care of my Self. Mostly it's a freedom that is a reminder of how far I have journeyed.

As always, I close with the invitation to comment here, by email or on Facebook. 
Be well.
Namaste.