My He(ART)-Full Life



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Journal Addict!!


 "One of the best-kept secrets in this technically oriented culture is that simply speaking truth heals." -  Rachel Remen, M.D.
 I love art journaling!! Always have. But lately, I have been obsessing over it, getting up in the (very) early hours of the morning to work on my pages. With no rhyme or reason...working on new and old pages as my heart and soul dictate...art journaling has been consuming me full time. I think because I have been working so hard at recovery lately...spilling all my thoughts, feelings and images onto these pages is a natural extension of that. And for some reason...as soon as I open my journal and start working...my inner critic gets kicked to the curb;! Brilliant!! Also...I love the small pages, the "no rules" mindset and combining text and image. And it has been so cathartic!! There is magic...alchemy...healing that emerges from art journaling...storytelling from the soul. 

 Now for some practical matters...you can use almost any book for art journaling. Recycled ones (I love buying used books and gluing the pages together to form a sturdy surface, applying gesso and collage and then going to town!), you can make a book yourself (love watercolor pages cut to size) ...the options are endless. I prefer a book without too many pages...it seems less daunting that way. And I tend to like to name each of my journals. It works for me because they represent a certain theme or time period but one of the beauties of (art) journaling is that anything goes. 




And I have recently tried out these Derwent Ink Blocks which I love and adore. There are so many different ways to use them (water soluble and can mix with oils!), rich colors and gorgeous tones. A whole other blog post on my fave. art supplies coming up!!

Monday, May 11, 2015

owning my story

"Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”- Dr. Brene Brown
I gave birth to my daughter the same month I turned 40...entirely unprepared for the mothering journey. While I loved Tara so fully and deeply and w(holy) the instant I saw her...I had no map of how to be mother. Or, I should say, the map I did have was entirely wrong. Or maybe I should say that I had 2 maps!! Very confusing...I know...even for me! I come from an extremely abusive/toxic/dysfunctional childhood and while I did quite a bit of healing work in my early 30's...it wasn't nearly enough to prepare me to mother my daughter. My "father" (and I use that term very loosely...was not my biological father nor a parent in any sense of the word) was horribly abusive, an alcoholic, a rage-aholic and an authoritarian; a patriarch in the absolute worst sense.  My "mother" had a "collapsed psyche and personality" (my own definition) and was most definitely not interested in being a mother, only pretending to be so. She was cold, equally abusive, and more invested in appearances and what others thought of her. So...I grew up in a "family" that was so thoroughly invested in lies and denial, in pretense and facades...in caring about appearances; it was like growing up in a house of mirrors where nothing was as it seemed but everyone pretended it was. Kind of like the Emperor's New Clothes. And these were lies that everyone knew about...but no-one spoke about. And there was always a tremendous amount of fear. Fear fear fear. Fear about speaking the truth, fear about saying or doing the wrong thing (this was arbitrary, of course because anything could have been the wrong thing depending on 101 different things). My childhood was all about survival. 
So one of the huge tasks I had at hand was to identify my false belief systems; the lies I had been taught from such an early age. Foundational truths such as love, family, loyalty, respect etc etc...all had to be carefully looked over and I had to carefully discern whether it was truth or not. I had other monumental tasks also...setting healthy boundaries, self care, truth telling and honesty, processing my feelings and figuring out what the heck a healthy relationship looked like. Recovery was (and is) overwhelming. It's a process that I began when I turned 30 and continues to this day.

 But...here's the thing...this beautiful, sweet lady over here gave me another map on how to mother; and I didn't even fully realize it until I, myself, became a mom. Her name was Sophie...and she was our maid/nanny for my entire childhood until we immigrated to Canada. Under apartheid South Africa this was quite common and while my adult self looks at the horrible inequality and inhumanity of the entire set up...my child self rejoiced. This lady right here saved me...entirely and utterly saved me!! She loved me with her entire being and I loved her right back. She carried me on her back (like most African mothers do), she treated me with care, value and kindness. While she couldn't read or write, she was fully literate in the languages of love, humanity, reciprocity, validation, communication. She would tell me all sorts stories teaching me along the way and passing down the singing of songs, the loving of earth, the wisdom of her mothers. She taught me about the things that truly mattered in life. She was humble and true. I used to creep out of bed in the middle of the night to go and sleep with her, I used to want to spend every spare moment with her...just being in the presence of her warmth and love. She was manna from the heavens and she saved me. The absolute most terrible part of leaving S. Africa was leaving her. The absolute worst part of my teen years of enduring the physical/mental and psychological violence from my "parents"; their cruelty ...was not having Sophie with me. Those were the absolute worst years but her love sustained me; the seeds she had planted, while dormant, were still there.

And after I, myself, became a mother...those seeds started to blossom and bloom and grow and thrive. Most of the time...it just kind of happened ...I didn't consciously think about it. But other times...I had to agonize over the decision...second and third guessing myself until i felt quesy. When Tara was about 3 weeks old...I discovered the Moby wrap...a most amazing piece of fabric that I could carry Tara around in...and I did!!! I literally didn't put her down...and she was the absolute happiest baby ever ever ever. And I was the happiest mommy ever ever ever. I decided to listen to my intuition instead of all the buzz and noise around me. I decided to follow my heart and tend to the needs of my baby. I decided to throw out so much of what I was raised with (culturally as well as personally) and forge a different path. I decided to set healthy boundaries (and sometimes...walls when necessary). Not that any of it was easy because of course, I made mistakes. I stumbled and fell and utterly failed at times. But I always got back up...I always tried some more. I struggled with the questions and then struggled some more with the answers. But through it all...I loved my daughter with a fierceness and tenderness I never knew possible. I instantly became so vulnerable and while it scared the crap out of me...I relished in it too. And along the way of mothering my daughter, I had to mother myself also. I had to extend kindness, compassion....grace...to mySELF. I had to make a full commitment to recovery and healing mySELF. Now...instead of looking at how far I have to go...I marvel and honor how far I have come. Now I can forgive myself...I can be gentle with myself, I can celebrate my strengths whist also acknowledging my weaknesses. And so we have grown together, my daughter and I. I can truly say that my daughter birthed me as much as, probably more so, I birthed her. And as I navigate my mothering journey...I am learning to trust mySELF more and more. I am learning to lean into "what feels right" rather than what I "should" be doing. I am leaning into my inner wisdom knowing that kindness wins the day. Knowing that Tara teaches me just as much (more so even) than what I teach her. Knowing that change is inevitable. So that I can be the mother to my girl that I never had...but so desperately needed. All the while...simply being grateful that I get to have her in my life...that I get to love this sweet girl all whilst guiding her on her own life's journey.
*This is a small part of my story...but as I heal and  strengthen my voice...I will be sharing more. Learning to trust myself and the process and send things out into the world imperfect(ly) and all. xxx

Friday, May 8, 2015

my girl

My girl is growing up so so fast...truly...too fast for my liking! We took her to Disney World for her 6th birthday and as I look back on all these years gone by...I am amazed at the person she is! While I miss her baby years...of course!!!...sweet baby smells and carrying her around and taking baths with her and and and. But I also relish in the NOW of her. She is energetic, sassy, strong willed, incredibly smart and sweet and ...just an amazing little kid. She asks 10 million questions and I try to answer them as best as I can. We have long conversations about everything. She tells me all the stuff that's important to her (tooth fairies, princesses, trees, her friends, ice cream) and I listen and marvel. Nothing makes me happier than seeing her eyes light up, a huge smile spreading over her gorgeous face...hearing her laugh. Watching her grow and bloom and blossom is a true privilege for me. All the more because I gave birth at the age of 40...she is a gift. Not that mothering has been easy for me; it actually has been incredibly difficult in a myriad of ways. I have made so many mistakes along the way and what I am just now discovering is this: the very best thing I can do is to heal myself. To practice self love...to forgive myself as often as necessary. To be self compassionate. To really and truly be kind to myself and to be very clear about what that entails (for me). To be absolutely truthful with myself. To offer mySELF some grace when I stumble and fall as I inevitable will. Practicing all of these things will inevitably make me a healthier, stronger human/mother/wife/friend/artist/writer etc. 
And here is my sweet girl...very independent and self assured...wanting to navigate the world on her own terms. So many many times...she teaches me. And I am grateful for the lessons and for the opportunity to fully love.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

unplugged

Dear friends...I haven't been here at my blog for awhile...I have so much to write about...but life has been happening at lightning speed despite my best intentions to cultivate mindfulness. Tim had two major surgeries this year and while everything went really well...recovery has been...well...recovery. And while I can focus on all the things we have learned from the process...because we have learned a ton... (like being grateful for our health, making more time for love and laughter and presence)...the truth is...surgeries suck. Big time. Being sick, chronic pain, fear of the unknown, our bodies not functioning as they once did...all of that...sucks. It's just really difficult. But we are (mostly) on the other side of through. Plus...I have been in recovery too...a whole other blog post on this one of these days plus...parenting and homework and painting and all of that thrown into the mix. As you can see...overwhelm.

So...these past couple of weeks we have been unplugging. Doing a whole lot of building sandcastles, watching sunsets, drinking lemonade, barefoot living, collecting seashells and living at the beach. We so desperately needed this! Of course...I forgot to pack most of my stuff...for some strange reason I left all my electronics at home, the camera malfunctioned halfway through our trip. I even forgot most of my make-up. At first I panicked...but then I realized... I really didn't need all that much. My sunglasses, a few mags and a book...a swimsuit...totally okay with that. Completely unplugged.



And for some reason...this Bob Marley song keeps playing in my head..."Don't worry...about a thing. Every little thing...is gonna' be alright. Woke up this morning...to the rising sun. Three little birds beside my doorstep. Don't worry...about  a thing." Something like that.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

In Honor of Sister Audre...International Women's Day 2015

"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid." -Audre Lorde

 "The  fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken."- Audre Lorde , The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action
"I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We've been taught that silence would save us, but it won't." -Audre Lorde

 “The language by which we have been taught to dismiss ourselves and our feelings as suspect is the same language we use to dismiss and suspect each other.” -Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
"You cannot, you cannot use someone else’s fire. You can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe that you have it.”-I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde

 "For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us." -Audre Lorde

“The strongest lesson I can teach my son is the same lesson I teach my daughter: how to be who he wishes to be for himself. And the best way I can do this is to be who I am and hope that he will learn from this not how to be me, which is not possible, but how to be himself. And this means how to move to that voice from within himself, rather than to those raucous, persuasive, or threatening voices from outside, pressuring him to be what the world wants him to be.” -Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist’s Response, -Audre Lorde

 “To search for power within myself means I must be willing to move through being afraid to whatever lies beyond.”-Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

 "I am my best work-a series of road maps, reports, doodles and prayers from the front lines."              -Audre Lorde


I remember the very first time I came across Audre Lorde's writings...I was 19 years old, sitting in my Women Studies class...when I first started reading her words. They saved my life!! Her writings literally saved my life!! There I was, a very broken girl pretending to be not broken. There I was floundering and flailing...so very wounded and unsure of myself. There I was...an emotional holocaust. I had survived my extremely abusive and toxic childhood and "family" of origin...and running survival programs that traumatized children have to. I ended up taking my first Women Studies class by accident...just because the Psychology class I really wanted to take was full and this just happened to fit into my schedule kind of thing. But it was her writings that gave me strength and fuel...fire!! I held on for dear life to her words because they were my lifeline to a different world...a world where I could be self determining, a world where my gender would not oppress me and stifle me and put me in a box so tight I couldn't breathe. A world where I was not defined by abuse and trauma. Because she defined herself from divergent perspectives ..."a black feminist lesbian mother poet" is how she described herself...she gave me a way to do that myself. My identity could encompass all of my experiences...I didn't have to be defined by what made others feels safe and comfortable...I could contain multitudes.  I could speak my truth even though I was deeply afraid. Her writings gave me wings and hope; a road map to my own innate power. Her work literally saved me, loved me, empowered me and lit a light within me. How I devoured her writings throughout my life from that day on...memorized parts of her books and tucked them away in my heart...to be used as a soothing balm...over and over and over again.
With honor and deepest respect...dear Sister Audre...thank you!  
 International Women's Day 2015...lets make it happen!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

dear Life...

Dear Life...how you continue to surprise me!! This past month you have been  full of unexpectedness, mayhem and lots of serious joy squished in. The year started off with various strains of flu bugs, a serious (but not life threatening) medical emergency with Tim and Tara turning 6. Dear Life, recently you have ushered in gifts of patience, fortitude and self care. Dear Life...As I sit here this sunny morning...I am ready to unwrap all you have to offer. I feel brave enough (even temporarily) to rise up and meet you.

Dear Life...I am so very grateful for Tim...the partnership we have...our friendship and leaning on each other in different ways. Marriage has been so good to me and for me. The growing up, the vulnerability, the trust and friendship we continue to build with each step. This deepening of our relationship has taken me by surprise; the ways we meet in love and familiarity. 

Dear Life...My girl turned 6 yesterday...and she is a complete joy. All of her spunk + sassiness, her sparkle + shine...she is growing in leaps and bounds and inspiring me to do the same. She is brimming with spirit! I remember the moment I first set eyes on her like it was yesterday...and all those countless moments after...when I simply couldn't believe that I get to be her mom. How really, she was the one who birthed me and not the other way around. How she makes me want to be a better person...kinder, more authentic, more patient. She leads me, teaches me, inspires me. Grateful for this sweetness. 
Dear Life...I am so ready to break down the walls of silence that have kept me trapped all these many many years. I am so ready to leap into joy, truthtelling, courage and compassion. I am ready!!! xxx

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

around here lately...

 "There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again." -Rumi
Been trying to focus on the light these days...I have been making a conscious effort to be present to all the goodness while still making space for truth. Trying to make my way back home...to self, to joy, to love, to light. Wishing you all a happy holiday season filled with everything that lights up your heart.





 

xxx

Friday, December 12, 2014

"I can't breathe"

                                 (a watercolor portrait I painted of Tim a few years ago-a birthday gift)
 In light of the recent events right here in America-the no indictment rulings in both Ferguson + Staten Island as well as the state sanctioned murder of Tamir Rice -I am writing this post. I have no platitudes to offer, no wise and poetic quote or words strung together like so many empty promises. What I have is the crystallization of fury, heartbroken cries of pain...bitterness. I have fallen into an abyss of despair. "I can't breathe."
I have struggled these past many weeks to not allow hate + blind rage to conquer pieces of my heart...and I have failed as many times. The recent string of high profile killings of African American (mostly) males (too numerous to mention) has seemed to bring out the best + worst in us. There are people who think that talking about race equals racism, there are people who think that avoiding talking about these social (in)justice issues is the best way to navigate these dangerous waters...and there are those who think that none of this has anything at all to do with race. It makes people uncomfortable...all this talking about race. And sometimes...their discomfort turns to fear + anger. There has been so much victim blaming, vitriol...and sheer hate + ignorance...it has left me gasping for air. "I can't breathe."
 And so now...I am trying to piece together a way forward for my family. How do I raise my daughter to be a proud American while still educating her about the reality that her life simply is not worth the same in these here United States? How do I clap + cheer and have my heart bursting with pride as Tara recites the Pledge of Allegiance...while having another part of my heart completely shatter to pieces? How do I try to encourage my husband when he talks to me about how, all his life, he's played by the rules whilst knowing...that the rules don't apply to him? How to I still my fear that, at anytime we are out in public...he may be the target of unfounded fear + hate? Sure...he's a United States Marine, an Officer at that...but also... a large Black man. I don't have the privilege + luxury of allowing complacency + silence to seduce me. Sometimes...I wish I did...it seems so much easier. But...is it? There are so many great books + articles written on the systemic issues of racism, on the confluence of societal and personal beliefs and biases that is deeply rooted in America, on race as social construct...on and on. But can any one of those books explain why a police officer would gun down a 12 year old child and then refuse him first aid as he lays there dying? Can any book explain what Tamir Rice must have experienced as he lay there wounded....gasping for air? Are enough of us in this society okay with this to allow it to go unchecked...business as usual. "I can't breathe"
My sweet friend from across the pond sent me an e-mail the other day...and her deeply profound words of wisdom and heartfelt compassion + understanding gave me so much comfort. I want to share some of her message here
"...keep lighting the candles and making the art and telling the stories and showing Tara the truth that it is hard to be a loving, giving, heartfelt soul-true person in this messed up world, but we stay true to our dreams and do what we can, and allow ourselves time out from what we cannot do, but always leave a corner for hope and the universe to be bigger than us and humanity to have more answers than we can individually find, and to honor the answers we do find... and to make community whenever and wherever we can...
including across the sea, with friends we meet on wings ;)"
Thank you sweet lady Dee, and to all the other kindnesses + community I have received these past few weeks; it has made a profound difference. xxx

Monday, November 17, 2014

transformations + embracing our "beautiful mess" (notes from the journey)

 “As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It’s not as wide as you think.”
                                                                                                          - Joseph Campbell
 There have been transformations happening over here...budding changes that are happening in the tiniest of ways; and I am trusting my process wholeheartedly. With surrender + faith (my 2 words for the year, can you believe?). I used to be so frustrated and dejected that changes weren't happening faster...that I seemed to be doing everything I was "supposed" to do...but now I am stepping into my own rhythm of healing which occurs at our own pace. I have been writing pages + pages and pages...(amounting to books, really) and am really going way back deep into the recesses of my childhood. I am examining the lies upon lies upon lies...layers of deceit and transgressions and starting to truly bring them to the light. Questioning not only "Family of Origin" lies but cultural and multi-generational ones too. And it has been cathartic and exhausting and revealing ...and I've only just begun!!! It's a huge tangled mess that has depended on complacency, denial and feigned or real ignorance for it's very survival. And I am validating my experiences...the staggering damages that were incurred. I am examining my (false) survival programs/belief systems (otherwise known as fears, insecurities + shame) that I so desperately needed in childhood...but which now, no longer serve me in any way; they need to be brought to light also. I realize that I own my stories, my experiences, my journey...and I am going to claim it. Fully...wholeheartedly, with truth, compassion and self love. And what I am discovering is that each tiny act of courage leads to an expansion of self and acts of synchronicity that I am ever so grateful for.

I'm also beginning to realize that I don't have to "have everything together"...who does???:) But I am starting to truly "get this" on a deeper level. Not even striving for balance...but going with the flow. Not obsessing about whether things will be coherent ...but accepting that it's okay to be a "beautiful mess". In fact...as Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently talks about.here..actually embracing my "beautiful mess"...celebrating it!!! Deep breath to that empowering point of view:) *See what I mean about really small shifts in perspectives = ginormous transformations??? Now that I have stopped chasing "balance" I have more energy to be present. Now that have stopped seeking things externally ...I can make the inner journey. Huge, huge and huge...makes me feel so filled with joy, I can't stop smiling:)

 "Now I become myself. It's taken time, many years and places..."
                                                                                                   -May Sarton
 As much as I have been excavating truth ...I have also been practicing self care. So so important...focusing on things that strengthen me, fill me up with joy and connect me to my deeper self.  Long photo walks (by myself or with Tara), painting, doll-making, juicing, journaling, yoga, reading poetry, practicing...being-ness. And the best part about self-care...(besides the fact that it feels so good) is that not only do I reap the benefits but everyone in my life does too. And Tara is learning , by example, the importance of caring for the self. Win/win/win.




 

“The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.” ~ Nietszche
  More soon! xxx