Wow- I've gone from a long break, to being almost prolific in my creative flow- YAY!
AND, as you can see, I'm still getting messy and dirty.
I feel that since I have been working with young people with similar felt experience to my own, the work I do feeds my internal creativity machinery, expanding always outward. One piece sparks three more, igniting ever more...
As I naturally deepen within myself through my art, my connection with important people in my life, my work and my yoga practice (to name but a few of my resources and tools), I imagine an exponential explosion of possibilities for inviting others to deepen their own felt- sense of healing. 
The complete inverse to where I was a year ago in my body/ mind of folding in on myself and away from others, I feel I am expanding, while being able to stay within my borders with greater and greater strength. Even while in the very difficult and painful process of integrating 55 plus years of subterfuge and cloaking my core with layers of neurosis, pathology, and generally unhealthy coping mechanisms, I witness the evidence of growth. It is so difficult in those moments of searing pain that push me to the edges of panic, to hang on to the forward momentum. I rely on my art, my connection with people in my life, my work, and yoga (to name but a few of my resources and tools- :-}) to help me grow my fingernails long enough to hang on a little longer. And then, when I have  externalized confirmation to my growth, and healing, I am able to take a full breath, and know, that even for a little while, I am really alright. 
Chaos, pain, and uncertainty ALWAYS return. But the span of moments that are 'alright' is longer. The depth of certainty that I realize is greater, and the quality of living and relationships becomes more beautiful- even in moments. 
Life, healing, are journeys. I bet you've never heard that before, or that there is no destination, or timetable within which we must arrive. 
Yes- I'm chuckling at myself. 
Because in the light of the momentary flares provided by a full breath, connection and conscious living, I remember all the messages and affirmations that are at the heart of my capacity to transform my self- awareness to this point. These truisms contain the information that my mind/ body/ soul need to continue lighting the path for myself and for others.
I hear the same message over and over- AGAIN from so many sources. I turn a deaf ear, hardly remembering at all that it was said or read at all. I ignore, or pretend that I don't understand. In the very next breath, I remember, allowing the richness of life to flood my senses, begetting even more full breaths, and the exponential possibilities of life and creativity forge their way to my consciousness...

I know that I will always to continue down the road- that leads from my gates, going to 'who- knows- where'. It will lead me through winter and finally into spring. The gates hold me back for just a bit, and then the key magically appears in my conscious mind. The magic that produces the 'key' may be a full breath, a new perspective, or the support and human warmth. And I see that the magic is ALSO the key, because without those pieces of magic in my life, I have no chance of deepening my awareness and connection. 

There will always be triggers in my life- the  inevitable chaos causing pain elicited by betrayals in the moment, that drive me into the past, leaving little option but to know myself more deeply.
Knowing myself more deeply can be so horribly painful, and with sighs of relief, I realize it can also be deep play. I can walk through hidden doors to worlds of fantasy, remaining firmly planted- both feet on the ground. 
I had a 'play date' recently (thank you Maren- we should do that again. I'll make better tea.), A full afternoon of sometimes light exploration of materials and the felt- sense of working with different things in different ways, and sometimes deep engagement with material and process. I left this piece- melted crayon, pen, water colour... on canvas board, on my kitchen counter for a week following, adding dabs of ink here and there until it made sense to me. Every time I look at the piece I feel like I'm playing in my own Alice in Wonderland fantasia, complete with hidden elfin doors and faces peering from the very essence of the trees. 
It feels like joy.

And this- another 'resist' painting: crayon, pastel, water colour and collage on paper is so full of movement and texture, so full of living.  It invites me into the vortex, the place where I am free to try on my feelings in 'different colours'. This is a place deep within myself where expansion occurs and I can go beyond the borders and boundaries so necessary in my life, in a safe and contained way, allowing for greater perception and deeper knowing. The unfolding of my soul happens here, awakening to the colours of being that I never knew existed.

There will always be triggers in my life, and they will leave me no option to know myself more deeply...

And, as always, please comment, message or email me your thoughts comments...

We sometimes want life to work out neatly- things to go exactly as we've planned, no glitches, smooth sailing... Only rarely has that been my experience. We even come into this world with a fair bit of - messy. Generally it's best to have contingency plans, so if things get messy we don't become too stuck in the muck to get ourselves out.
OK- this is me. I have a tendency to get stuck, and then have to dig myself out. My contingency plans only take me as far as I have thought them through.... which is to say, not very far. Because, of course, everything is going to happen exactly as I envisioned it...

Life is messy. 
I am continually reminded of this, both in my work and private lives. I am reminded that getting messy, playing in the dirt is just fine. At least for a little while. The treasures are revealed when we wash up at the end of it all, and buff the jewels we have grasped. I know this is similar to my thoughts on chaos theory, and, it's different. This took on a whole new experiential- image for me, as I watched the processes of the young individuals with whom I am working. 
A recent occurrence in my work place brought me back to these thoughts. A young staff member remarked that we  (clients and staff) "had destroyed your art room, with all the mess". My response was: it's alright- art is messy. Then after a brief pause, I added: LIFE IS MESSY. The people in the room tittered, in a relieved sort of way, and some banter flew about, as the idea settled in with all present. Immediately after, a young person who had been displeased with a canvas that she was working on, decided to cover it in a layer of colour, and then wrote "LIFE IS MESSY". She gave me that piece to keep in the art room, as a reminder to all that enter... It's alright- get dirty. 

To her I dedicate a quote I found: 
For the girls with messy hair and thirsty hearts.

(And, of course, this is for the boys too- I really have known more boys with messy hair than girls.)
We tame the chaos through our creativity. It may be better to say that we give form to the chaos. Chaos and messy aren't really the same. Chaos is the myriad of thoughts, ideas, events and experiences that we are charged with making sense of. Messy is the path. 
Messy is the operational method of knowing, understanding, making sense out of... Messy is the exploration of the sensations, the feelings and the ideas. 
And art, is the manner in which we can give our feelings actual shape and colour. Art is the method that I use, and a metaphor for our lives: art is messy/ LIFE IS MESSY.

Is this chaos or messy? I would answer that out of the chaos I was feeling after an intense art therapy session with a group at work, I unleashed the feelings that were swirling within. They found their way to a tiny canvas and were contained there- for all to see. When I look at this I see flow, transformation, cracks- where the light gets through. 

I have a personal metaphor for this that I see in my home environment. I can live in chaos until it intrudes, causing mayhem. Then I wade into the fray, sometimes I need rubber gloves, and when it's all done- even my bathrooms are sparkling. I quell the chaos by getting good and messy, dirty- and then, as I have already alluded to, there is a sense of calm in me and around me. It has not gone unnoticed, by me and by people around me, that sometimes I need to reign in my surroundings before I can attend to the emotions and sensations that are bubbling beneath the surface. When I have tidied my environment, I will, at times, seen things from a different perspective. I may have added a twist to a curtain, moved pillows to a new locations, or otherwise altered things- just a bit- so they look different or even new. 
This is, again, just like chaos theory- in the falling apart, and re- assembly, new and higher order material is formed. 
Life resembles art? Art is life?

The piece I am adding here, is the HOW.

PictureAcrylic /melted crayon on wood
This is nothing particularly new for me. I have already attested that I have done it in my life, in my home (even before I was fully cognizant of how it works for me), to settle myself, and allow for a different perspective on things. NOW I get to choose my method (madness to my method?). I can choose art media that feels the most right for what I am processing. I almost always tell the people with whom I am working- that I don't really feel like I am art making unless I get dirty. Hmmm... that can be metaphorical too: I can get my hands dirty, wear clothes that are embellished with paint splatter, OR I can work on subject matter that feels messy and dirty. 
Oh- so many wonderful ways to play.

I notice that lately, I have made many art pieces that are flowing, maybe even oozing or bubbling. But they have defined edges/ borders and boundaries. This seems to be about my need to maintain boundaries in my life- both work and play, so the ooze has a place to bubble and form, and still not to leak and catch me unaware.

This was SOOOOO messy. 
And SOOOOO much fun.
While working with a group of young people, we decided that our final group piece would be a piñata of sorts.
A lot of the prep and piecing fell to me, as the group members were still involved with other art making to finish their pieces before the end of the session. People rotated in and out of sticking their hands into the gooey vat of glue and paper to help create the piñata. And as luck would have it, we all laughed when we saw the shape our piñata was taking, as the balloon that was giving it shape started to fizzle, leaving us with a deformed globe to work with. 
There you have it- best made plans and all... LIFE IS MESSY. 
Our group work proved the premise we had been working with. Could art imitate life any better than that?
After plastering the outside with stories, and words that represented what we wanted to leave behind, we took the finished product (:-}) outside and smashed it with gusto, until the inside yielded our representation of the 'sweetness in life'.
I LOVE art therapy.

As this group said their farewells for a bit, I invited some of the other therapists into the art room to experience some art making. 
My piece was revealing for me. I felt that I freed a demon that has been living with me for most of my life. It would be wrong to say that it is now free- rather that I am beginning to be free of it. 
From my current vantage point, this particular monster is exactly where it should be- OUTSIDE of me, contained in a mess of watercolour mesh. 

Pass it on. 

As always, feel free to comment in the section provided, message me or otherwise let me know your thoughts.


Mmmmmm..... Creamy pumpkin soup, with chilli and REAL maple syrup (brought to me from eastern Canada by my outstanding son- in- law). It is interesting how my relationship with food changes, shifting gears from time to time, and then coming to a complete stop- Only to be resurrected again in a new disguise. 
A relationship with food? Many, or even most, people might find the idea of a relationship with food to be nonsensical. They (maybe you), might find themselves wondering what a relationship with food entails- isn't food for eating?
It's not that simple when you have lived the majority of your life using food as a hiding place, avoiding the painful 'now', and the scary past by focusing on food, or NOT food. 
And I find myself still hiding. Even as I unfold such deep and satisfying parts of my life, such as the work I am currently engaged with, other pieces of my life go underground for a time, and reappear, pulling with them strands of past lives that I would sooner not look at right now. The sometimes shaky present has its inception in the past. My core beliefs about myself, that I can't change, were grown into my structure, infusing my very psychology with faulty on/ off switches. They govern my responses to the world around me. 
I can't undo that hardwiring. What I CAN do is forge new neuro- pathways through creativity and life- long learning. This is more like diverting the information to a new feed, with more grounded switches. I continue to learn the ways to slow down my response- enough so that I can include the new information that may mediate my behaviour. 
Pumpkin soup- It matters. I feel so much more comfortable when I can spend time in the kitchen creating nourishment, for family, for friends, and EVEN myself. The pumpkin soup is almost exclusively for me, so the steps I took in its creation are loving ways of nurturing myself. That doesn't come easily to me. Nor is it a simple task to remind myself that I am worthy, too, of warmth and nourishment. 

It has been a long time since I last sat down to write- a lot of living has gone on in my life since then: I have lovingly deepened my 'grandma- hood', grown flowers, seen another incredible sunrise at the top of Haleakala, Maui, watched my daughter blossom with a babe in arms, walked the seawall with my oldest son, watched my youngest compete with fierce intensity, started my work at a new job as yoga teacher and art therapist, and of course, continued my own exploration of where my past meets present through art. 
I started with my discussion about pumpkin soup and my relationship with food because it was just 'there/ here' for me. I sat down immediately after having a small bowl of soup for lunch. I knew it was time to just start writing, and I could pull the pieces together after. I have created pockets of comfort and grace.
Now, the deep underbelly of living fully demands that I scratch a bit, or maybe massage, so that growth and blossoming can continue. 

And now I will do my best to pull the pieces together.

Some of the pieces you see were created as my expression/ response to the individuals I work with, others (resist painting) were the exploration of my own sense of stuck- ness. What I notice is the way my art, family, and life flow. There is a sense of peace- filled movement that feels so 'right' and necessary after a year of doubt and turmoil.
"A moment of peace is worth every war behind us." 
                                                          - Indigo Girls
Sometimes it seems the world has tried to make me hard- with a vengeance. 
My response is to continue to be as loving, compassionate and fully present to myself and to others as I can be. 
The pockets of warmth and grace that exist in my life, sustain me. I understand that I create those moments through hard work infused with every compassionate thought I can muster. 
On bleak days I reach out for love and support- and sometimes I make soup.

A long, cold winter looms, and I won't be able to grow flowers. I promise myself, 'out loud', that I will paint flowers when I can't grow them, cook with an eye to nurturing myself as well as others, and cuddle that gorgeous granddaughter of mine whenever I can. 

My life- long work of staying on the healing path, is unfolding now into the life- loving work of sharing, teaching, giving and creating. It is a full time job- loving and being present to what is, and I believe that we are worth it...
I am worth it!

My explorations through art have started to head down a different road. I consider this to be a good thing, but not yet "good enough". At present, I feel like I'm still having too many of the 'three step back' days. They are definitely less frequent than when I invited people to follow as engaged in this process of healing. In fact, then, it seemed that there was no forward movement at all. 
So what would be "good enough"? Will I ever really be satisfied with the place I've arrived at? ...probably not. That is what drives me to continue to explore- that belief that there is always more to learn. However, I have been musing over the words "good enough". I have realized that my drive to go further, delve deeper, etc doesn't preclude the idea of good enough. 
I have been talking about this idea with people around me, and I seem to get really quizzical looks from many. In our perfection- focused society of the BEST commodities, the BEST performance, the BEST of everything, most people don't understand the concept of "good enough". So let me clarify what I mean by this statement.
I'll start by saying what I DON'T mean.
I have always thought of "good enough" as many people do, as meaning settling for something, or an outcome that was less than the best. I see this as a disservice to ourselves now. AND, that is NOT what I mean by "good enough". Nor do I mean that we shouldn't endeavour to do our best at the things we do in our lives. 
I strive to do my best, always- but where do I draw the line?
Lately I've been feeling that I work SO hard- just to be ALRIGHT, when others seem to take for granted that life will go on. And, so, again I ask: what IS "good ENOUGH"?

I live in Edmonton, Alberta. For anyone who knows hockey, you will remember the Edmonton Oilers back in the 80's when Wayne Gretsky was our local hero. In those days, my husband and I had seasons tickets to the games, and it was fun to watch the Oilers led by Gretsky. On any given day, Gretsky played beyond what anyone else could do. On his best days, he demonstrated over and over again why he is considered the BEST. On his off days, he was still better than anyone else who was up against him, but he might not score. It was understood that off even his mark, Gretsky still gave everything he had, and that was 'good enough'. 
These ideas have been rolling around in my head since I last wrote about being 'alright'. At times the words crashed against sharp objects that exist in my imagination, cutting my resolve to shreds, leaving me feeling like I was drowning, once again, in my own nightmares. 
I asked myself: "when is 'alright' good enough?" thus fusing for me the proximity of the notion of 'alright' to 'good enough'.The perception of alright, and good enough are similar enough in the body- felt sense they inhabit in my body, but differ in scale, and acceptance. It is fine to answer 'alright' when somebody asks how you are, but it seems quite a different thing to say that things are 'good enough' if queried. 
Of course, I decided to explore this further through my art. 
I have long since been a huge fan of mandalla work. There are many ways to use the simplicity of the circle to discern the nature of feelings that are within. Frequently, I use mandalla's in my own work, and with others, as a check in point: what would it look like to draw, paint, colour your feelings in the moment?
This exploration began with the piece above. 
I will tell you that I was feeling not quite 'myself' when I drew this. It came from a very young aspect of myself that feels consumed with unexpressed anger. In the moment I felt I had taken, not three, but 56, nearly 57 steps back. It started as a red, angry eye. This changed to something less definable, but no less full of anger and pain.

How does this relate to 'good enough'?

I don't have any.
Not entirely true, but it is no accident that balance poses are my challenge in my yoga practice. (After all- how we do anything is how we do everything.)
I began to feel the similarities between 'good enough' and balance. I wanted to explore how I could manipulate these feelings into a usable form,  as I move through my process towards embracing wellness/ wholeness. 
When I had regained some sense of self, I moved from my initial piece to the first of this series, and I moved through them as the ideas and sense of all this solidified in my body. 

I'm pretty sure I have never used the classic yin/ yang symbol that denotes balance. I was drawn to it, and decided to use it to examine my feelings more deeply.
The first in this series borrowed the colours from the piece I did through a younger place. It still felt very angry and confused, with rays of anger radiating, or leaking beyond its containment. 
I then went to the classic black and white version, noting that it felt quite soothing, but didn't fit for me. 
Next I created a colour wheel, denoting the colours that spoke to me in this art invitation: black- despair and confusion, red- anger, red contained in black- pain, brown- sad, light blue/ indigo- clarity, blue, calm, pink- alright, and purple- joyous. The colours are opposite their converse, so, for example, calm is opposite to anger. 
I went on to use the same basic shapes to visually see where the balance of these feelings were in my experience. The angry, painful, desperate, sad... side noticeable overtakes the gentler side of my mandala. The harsher feelings also have sharp edges that tear away at my psyche. The largest part of the softer side of this mandala is 'alright'. There are small bursts of joy, clarity and calm as well- but mostly alright. And for now, 'alright' is 'good ENOUGH'. It is the ground zero I spoke of previously, that way above the bottomless pit of self- loathing I had found myself in. Alright, is a good resting place for the time being. It is the best I can summon- on balance- in the now.
I let that sit, and percolate for a while and began two 'works in progress'. The first is how I imagine I would LIKE the balance of these feelings to look. The more difficult side will always be anger, pain, confusion and sadness for me. I imagined that if they came upon me in more 'manageable' segments, I would be better able to cope with them in healthier ways without losing pieces of myself. The 'eye' on that side is in the lavender/ indigo,  symbolizing clarity. The gentler side of my dream balance wheel still has an angry eye, but tempered with enough 'alright' to make it softer. The whole of this side is protected with calm, making room for more joy and clarity. 
The last image is playful. Also not finished, I began to introduce more colours with an eye towards making it more aesthetically pleasing...
As I said,the last two mandalas are works in progress as I strive for balance, as we all do. I somehow hear a friend of mine saying: how is THAT like your life? 
THAT is exactly the point- I go deeper within to uncover what is right for me in the moment, to facilitate the forward movement towards wholeness (which includes anger, despair...). I continue to envision what balance and good enough can look like for me.  

"Good ENOUGH" changes in any given moment, day to day, and year to year. 
Back to my story about Wayne Gretsky and his 'good enough', it should be understood that 'good ENOUGH' is a measure of where we are right now- that in balance there are enough positives in our lives to counter the heaviness of our existence; that we let enough light in so we don't sit in the dark. As we strive for that balance there are times filled with anger and pain, and my wish is that there are equal amounts of joy and peacefulness. I am reminded of a song by Indigo Girls, "You and Me of the Ten Thousand Wars". The lyric that has floated across my memory as I have written this: 'a moment of peace is worth every war behind us."
THAT is what I mean by 'good ENOUGH'. It is the place within me that knows that in the present I have done everything I am able to create forward momentum for myself and those with whom I am in connection. 
I'm off to make a 'good enough' dinner for my family, infused with love, caring and nurturing.
Please let me know how you conceptualize 'good ENOUGH'. Comment, message, FB...
I am very, VERY tired this week (and last).
Dragging my butt through day after day, workout after workout, thinking I just had to kick myself into high gear...
Most who know me already know... and for others who did not know this yet- this Saturday, May 10, would have been the eighteenth birthday of our third child, second son, Cassady. 
Cassady was a full term, over ten pound baby boy. His heart fluttered but a few beats on its own, and the remainder of his time here, in our midst- the briefest of existences- was spent on life support. Until we were informed that we had to make the call as to whether the tubes and lifelines should be removed.
Though I remember that moment as one of the most difficult decisions of our lives, it was really very simple. Cassady was an infant body. It seemed when I held him, that his soul had kissed me, and was gone. There was no essence, life- force, prana, to hold him to this plane. His brief appearance was a life lesson, of the fleeting and precarious nature of our existence, that nobody wants to be given. And it touched us, and those around us to a depth that still ripples beyond. 
I mark the day with the 'family birthday cake', planting a perennial, and a reflective pace. And my body remembers.

I will continue to sketch/ watercolour, play with words, and allow the quiet introspection that comes with this anniversary to be my guide this week. 

I wrote a poem a number of years ago that still feeds my tired body on this  sad occasion:

On Being With the Dead and Dying                        

Whispers to my Son in the Night

Ode to the love, my small child-

And to the pain- joy, laughter and grief

That your spark has endowed.

Your body breathed, only

The essence of artificial life-

Man- made air forced through your tiny lungs

With masks and tubes.

וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם.

Breath of the divine

Grazed over the top of your head.

It met my lips,

As I memorized the feeling of your downy head

With my kiss.

I gave your cold, small body,

Purpling and bluish,

To the tender hearts of my young children.

Their hands reached out for you,

Cold against cold,

Souls aching in unison,

We chanted our pain.

Birthed into love,

Buried with love.

Your   transitory encounter with this life-

The definition of pure love.

And still,

Your brief appearance on this plane,

Intersecting our lives,

And forever changing our experience of this worldly existence;

Brings purpose to our lives.

I have held, in my own hands,

The ephemeral-

The fleeting moment when life is given

And then, is gone.

One heart beating it’s fluttery rhythm,

Devoid of prana,

You have given me the gift of the deepest wisdom.

*The Hebrew text above translates as: And the spirit of god blew across the face of the water.

And so, my art, my words, my reflection for the remainder of this week will focus on the profound joy, AND grief, that all of my children and granddaughter ignite within me. My work will stand as a prayer, of sorts, for the safe passage of my loved ones through this life. (But not SO safe that they don't brush up against the experiences that teach us such deep love. I wish I could spare them from grief, but, of course, I cannot.)
I will TRY to be gentle with myself- my body remembers.
EAT birthday cake, dance and cry... 
For this week, my intention will be to feel this very human existence, in its pain and reverie.

Please comment, email, FB your thoughts.
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)
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.
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.

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.

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. 
I put the third part of my trilogy on the shelf for just a bit. I know what it needs to look like (which isn't to say that I know exactly what the image will look like when I am finished, just that I have an idea about what it needs to portray). I am thinking about ways to complete it, how to approach the materials, and it is bigger than I thought. And, once again, I see my 'how I do anything, is how I do everything' mantra present in this 'on hold' place. I try not to leave things incomplete in my life, but sometimes I need to take a step back and get some distance and perspective before proceeding. So, instead, I have been doodling.

Doodling has re- emerged as an art form, a meditation and a subject for psychological study. There is a patented approach to doodle meditation called Zentangle. It has caught on as a meditative experience that ignites creativity. The focus of this practice is using simple lines to create repetitive patterns that invariably become beautiful and intricate works of art. I other art therapy news, researchers are looking at  the manner in which our brains are affected by doodling. Initial findings indicate that individuals who doodle retain more auditory information than non- doodlers. For more information on this and other similar art therapy practices go to: https://www.facebook.com/arttherapywithoutborders

Initially, I was going to title this post: The Art of Doodling. But as I was 'working' on this piece I realized that it would likely never be done- there were so many spaces in- between. Engagement with this media, and focused attention on line, colour, and movement has been very pleasing at a sensing level. I have enjoyed the freedom of the flow that has taken over the page. Each time I open up my book and grab my pens, I dive into the work. That seems like the wrong word for this, as it doesn't feel like work at all. It truly is a pleasing, calming and gentle way to meditate and create. The colours seem to choose themselves, and flow from my eyes through my fingers to the page. No thought to how something will look, I have relied on the trust that the shape will be exactly what I need to see. It is an intuitive process.
The 'spaces- in- between' has stirred a space within me, that is longing to be massaged. It holds the sweet remembrance of ideas, conversation and true exchange. It is a term that reminds me of the mysteries that we encounter every day. For me, it is the same as a pause in a yoga breath. In those precious seconds so much is revealed. The ways in which we can hold the spaces- in- between, and the room that we can make for them in our lives is often a reflection of how far we've traveled. 
As I have worked on 'filling in the spaces', I realized how little I have dwelled in the spaces, the unknown, recently. Lest anybody think I believe the unknown to be a wholly comfortable thing for me, I will rephrase: I haven't made enough time or space in my life to reflect on the bigger picture- that which is not completely knowable, and thus holds mystery that can be both awesome and delightful to see as it unfolds. In this context then, the unknown is a spiritual curiosity for me- what fits in that open space? Does that space in between me and you somehow hold the shape of our lives?
When I breathe into that space within me, there is always the possibility... the possibility that I will know more about myself, my place in the world, the people who populate it, than I did before. 
Similarly, as I dwell in the spaces on the page, new ways of enveloping my world in colour open up, and I am soothed by the way it naturally flows. 
I see new directions as I look at my additions to the spaces. More and more, I understand the nature of those spaces- in- between, and the complete stories they can hold. I will never be able to fill in all the spaces- at least I certainly hope not. The spaces allow for a refuge from the busy- ness around them. Each one is a quiet place to breathe, and reflect on the swirls of colour in which we live. They are pockets of meditation that invite us to pause. There is a praxis that occurs in this process: we act, we pause and reflect and then we move forward from that inner space to take further action that has taken shape based on our reflection. It is a natural and gentle way to be, and I long to remember my spaces- in- between more than I have. 
And in this case, I created the pockets, spaces, pauses, exactly where my intuition told me to place them. 
This is a work of my inner world: of colour, of movement and 'spaces- in- between'.

This was an important break from my intended work of finishing my trilogy. Taking the time to reflect and explore the space I'm in is essential for me- as essential as breath, and the pause in the breath.

As always...
Please comment share, contact me, etc.

What a scary mess!
I need to re- frame that statement: what a PERFECT mess!
I know that our 'product' doesn't always come out exactly as we envision it- if we even HAVE a preconceived idea. Case in point, I was working from a pretty good understanding of art materials, therapeutic process, etc. And still, I was flummoxed at every step of this piece. So, no, this is not as I envisioned, but it IS perfect for reasons that go far beyond appearance.  
After my last 'exploration in clay' piece, I had a felt sense of the direction this process was going. Right from my 'aha' moment, back in Floyd's office,  when I saw with my internal eyes the path my art- making must take, I knew that this would be an exploration in three parts. I already know what kind of work I would like to do next. Taken together, the three pieces in this 'trilogy' that I am in the midst of creating will be transformative in some way that I can't yet see. TRIlogy- there had to be a third piece. Just as I puzzled over how to get from A- to B- to C, my friend, talented artist- soon to be art therapist, Lenore Walker (www.lenorewalker.com) posted an art invitation on the use of 'altered puzzles'. "Altered books' are a mainstay in the practice of art therapy. They are the transformation of discarded books into a story that tells us how an individual has experienced the events of their life. It is a rich and beautiful manner of expression that can provide a legacy for people who are old or ill, can be a voice for someone who has felt silenced, and is accessible to almost anybody as a way to record their creative energy. I was intrigued then, by the idea of altered puzzles and the layers of meaning that occurred to me even as I turned the idea around in the moments after I read Lenore's post.
As an art therapist, I am aware that it is imperative that we have experience with an art invitation before we offer it to our clients. There is a need to be comfortable with the materials, and to understand the ways in which they may potentially affect an individual. And so, the learning began. 
I began with a simple children's puzzle. This was easiest, and turns out, the best decision I made regarding materials. 
Then I spent a long time choosing images that spoke to me. In some cases I created the images by printing photographs of my own artwork or things that I have in my life that are important to me (the Buddha in the upper right hand corner, the star of David- top middle). It was important to me to use images that I felt a connection to. As in the example above, I chose to use the photo of the star of David that I wear almost all the time because it feels like it is 'of me'. Some who know me also know that my name, Yona, means dove in Hebrew. I have had a life- long affinity for doves and the meanings the images of them carry for me. I have always imagined that I must strive to embody some of the traits the dove represents to me: emissary of peace, the capacity to soar but having the ability to seek groundedness. Sadly there is also the 'wounded dove', though not sought, that seems applicable to many aspects of my life.
There are many steps in collage making, and I savoured the time I took with each. 
When I do collage work, I usually like to tear my pictures out of the magazine, paper... I feel like I am more engaged with the image that way, as I tear carefully along the edges. I also like the effect of frayed edges. In this case, I did some of that and also cut some pieces into desired shape.  
I arranged the images in such a way that they said in pictures, what needed to be seen and heard. 
And then I glued them...
To the wrong material. 
By the time I realized that corrugated cardboard would be a very difficult choice of material to work with, it was really too late to change my mind. I would have ruined the images if I tried to move them to thinner, but stiff cardboard that would be easy to cut. I had a decision to make: I could either choose new images, remembering that I had put much heart into my choices, or, I could carry on and learn what there was to learn. 
I decided to carry on, struggle through the project, and to notice whatever came up. 

I have recently been told by someone I am close to, that they don't believe the adage I live by: "how we do anything is how we do everything". I feel like this particular piece of work demonstrates that philosophy beautifully. It is about noticing- noticing the patterns that we have adopted in our lives, and seeing the levels that they dictate our 'automatics'. I persevere- that's what I do. I look for the meaning in the manner in which things happen- not to say that there is a divine message, but there are lessons to learn from my actions. This also clarified the notion for me that ACTION doesn't have to be a move across the world to make changes in how we are in our lives. ACTION can be the little things we do and notice in our everyday lives that bring us closer to our own centre, and enrich our lives and those of the people around us. 

My next faux pas was to outline the puzzle pieces on the face up side of the collage- wrong again. So I repeated the tracing on the back side of the collage, knowing that there could well be discrepancies between the lines on the front and those on the back.
Oh well. I'm not demanding perfection, right? 
Difficult to say: it doesn't need to be perfect, it needs to be what it is. Remind myself that this isn't a commissioned piece of art, this is a process. 
Cutting out the puzzle pieces was anything but perfect. I struggled to make this as smooth, and without errors as I possibly could. (And how is THAT like my life?) This step took quite a long time, owing mostly to my first mistake in using corrugated cardboard. 
I enjoyed gluing the collage puzzle pieces to the original puzzle. It felt like I was giving structure to what I was creating. 
I sealed the puzzle pieces, let them dry, and then assemble my altered puzzle. Though not 'pretty', the effect was profound.
The first thing I noticed was that there were definite cracks, so there would never be a seamless appearance. I thought of Leonard Cohen's "Anthem": "There is a crack in everything
                                                                      That's how the light gets in"
The many layers of metaphor began to drop into place, as though they were a puzzle of their own that fit together as I gave myself this unique perspective of my experience. Perhaps they are the lines of a poem waiting to be written. 
There is definite movement from the left hand side filled with darkness and scary monsters to the right, where there are images of the tools that support the bridge building of the center: spirituality, creativity, abundance and family. Central is also my star of David, with my dove winging her way above all. There is also a quote that will probably speak to many: "A broken heart is not just sad. Such a heart carries wounds that alter normal functioning on every level..." These elements reflect my own movement from the dark towards the light. Even the recyclable symbol on the back of the cardboard holds its metaphor. It seems to be saying to me that we are always capable of transformation. The fact that this is a puzzle that fits together with difficulty is one more metaphor of how I have struggled in my life. It takes huge effort on my part (and sometimes on the part of the loved ones and supports around me) to keep working at putting the pieces of my life puzzle together. 
And I persevere, believing that this is the ACTION I need to take in my life. It feels right to stay grounded in my role as mother. From this grounded place, I move my feet with knowledge that I can feel the earth beneath me, and the dove above me, as I walk on this path.

When I began this puzzle collage, I had no idea where it would lead me- we cannot demand that the art gives us a personal message. Rather staying with the process took me to deeper levels of awareness, and allowed release of things that needed letting go.

In my first post I said that my purpose here is to "chronicle my healing journey through art". 
I would like to come back to that now. 
I'm still not 'cured'.
Is there a cure for broken hearts, trauma and all the methods we employ to bandage, 'forget' or otherwise cope?
The cure is any action that propels us forward, insists that we see ourselves and does not permit us to run away. It is a way of living. I believe that I am doing just that here. 
Still I can't live with an eating disorder- certainly not fully or healthfully. As I have engaged in this project, I notice that I am calmer, and I have a gentler energy that has allowed me to see myself more clearly. These are important markers that guide me back to a more balanced lifestyle that will allow me to release yet another level of pain and re- engage in the larger world outside me. 

As always, I invite comments and encourage you to share this with anyone who couild benefit.
Christmas is over, as evidenced by the Turkey Pot Pie in my oven (I'm dubious that my puff pastry will really puff). Instead of a lump of coal, I got a block of clay. 
Looking at this slab of clay on my table can be daunting. Long ago I had the experience of being 'triggered' when using clay. Only during my Art Therapy training did I understand that clay elicits that response from many people who have had experiences ofsexual trauma. In the past, that triggering effect served to make me feel more crazy, different, like I didn't belong, etc. With my current knowledge, I chose to approach my slab of clay like any other art medium, and let the process guide me. I stayed cognizant of the possibility that I COULD be affected by the feel of the clay, and I knew that at this point I am able to manage those feelings. 
The piece I subsequently created was no accident. While the feeling of the clay squishing through my fingers did guide the image, the intent was born of an art invitation that was very specific. This is another way to use art therapy- as an invitation to give form to a specific image that wants to be released from our bodies.
This invitation was a spark of an idea that grew out of a conversation I had with my long- time therapist/ mentor. We were talking about ways that I could nurture the little girl within who had been so badly hurt all those years ago, and he asked if I could picture holding her. In that instant I had an image in my mind, and I knew what I had to do.

So I sat with my lump of clay, inhaled deeply, and put my hands on the clay. I felt an immediate jolt of pain- a memory that found its way into my hands as I worked. I continued to breathe rhythmically, and reminded myself that a memory cannot hurt me (although it certainly feels like it can). I allowed the feelings to just 'be' until I was ready to shape and mould my image. 
I was surprised to note that as I worked I found a calm that I gleaned from focus on the details of what I was doing. 
The conversation I had with Floyd (my EXCELLENT therapist) played itself out, as I very literally gave form to the formless. 

I worked in stages, forming first the body of ME who could hold all that needs holding in my life. Then I created an image of the child that I was- still part of me, reflected in the umbilical chord still attached. Finally came faces that haunt me even today.
The first depiction of 'me', captures the deepest sense of me, the heart and soul of who I am. I believe that I am 'mother' at my core, meaning that it is my greatest desire to nurture, to heal. It is that essence that Floyd was inquiring about: could I find a way to give to myself that which I have always given so naturally to my children, and now- to my grandchild? 
This being has a strong, grounded base, connected to the earth of which it was made. Hollowed belly serves as a reminder of two levels of awareness: 1- the starvation and purging that I have inflicted on myself, as a result  of: 2- the evil I perceive is within me. 
The smaller aspect of me has lived among the demons: the animal face that torments me with blood curdling howls of both the tortured and torturer, 'moon face' who has no affect, and the 'normal' monster, who looks like all of us from the outside. There are many more, but as I scourge myself of their power, I may stop listening to their taunts.
They live in the hollow space in my belly. Sometimes they hurt that tiny being who experienced so much pain, and I feel that pain. I created these images separate from 'me', so I can move them, making room for all of me. When I attempt to banish them for life they reappear, a reminder that kindness will soften them too.
Then there is the small, infant me, who longs to be nurtured- held as a mother does with tender love. Connected by an umbilical chord- I am not willing to let her go too far away. I need her to teach me more: to be kind and gentle, to find self- compassion, and to know that it is alright to love and nurture her- particularly when she is hurting.
Creation of my exploration of 'me in clay' was cathartic. I externalized the voices, and gave them form and faces. They are no longer hidden beings. This was a step towards freeing myself, at a newer and deeper level, from the very hold that the past sometimes retains on me. It will sneak up now and then and grip me in its paralyzing darkness. Unable to see them, I imagine the demons to be all- encompassing. They are not- today, they are only miniature faces made of clay. 

There are so many things still to say about this experience. I will let the ideas flow through me, and continue to process their meanings. For now, I will focus on the art therapy aspect of this. From the medium I chose, specifically for its earthy, though potentially triggering, properties, through the meditative way I worked, to the specific theme I chose to address, this was typical art therapy session. It gave me voice, I conquered my fear of using a medium that could be emotionally challenging, thus gaining confidence, and I was able to see some of the challenges the past holds for me from a different perspective. 
Plus- I really enjoyed doing it!

It doesn't escape me that there are some meta- themes that showed up at my table. My husband walked past when I was done, and said: Oh nativity... Though he knew that it wasn't my subject matter, that is what it conjured for him. And then my son came home and asked me if it was for Charlotte (my daughter who is newly a mother). That had a ring of truth in it for me, as it is both currently in the forefront of my thoughts, and this piece is about mothering myself.
These meta- themes are universal and may speak to a wider audience than my unique issues will. It is my hope that others will resonate with some aspect of this work and be inspired to connect, create...

As always, I welcome comments.
Wishing a happy and healthy New Year filled with joy and peace to all.