At 18, I moved to America. It was 1994. Long before Facebook, even before everyone had mobile phones like we do now, David and I kept in touch. The thread on which we tugged at each other came in the form of long distance phone calls and letters. My letters to him were messy, wild, over punctuated, dramatic accounts of my new life in America. I loved it, I hated it...I'm coming home, I'm staying.
David would call me from a telephone fixed to the wall. He would sit on the floor, ask about America and fill me in on the gossip from back home. He would tease me over things I had written, I would tease him over his Billy Connelly impressions, telling him he needed to update his jokes. We would talk and write about anything and everything and for hours on end.
For years, I kept David's letters in a box in my room. One day, while packing for another move, I decided I had too much stuff. I threw out notebooks, diaries, scrapbooks, posters... I threw out the box of letters from David. At the time, I thought nothing of it.
Until he died.
The last time I saw David, I was in a hurry and I rushed our time together. To my dying day, I will regret that.
At his funeral, David's sisters presented me with the bandana he wore and a large, brown paper envelope. In it, were all the letters and cards I had written him over the years. I can't even begin to describe to you the emotional weight of that envelope.
I carried it around for 10 years.
How long is long enough to carry a burden?
The death of any relationship where you showed yourself, warts and all to another person is hard. I have found that the same applies, even if a person with whom a relationship dies, is still living. The overriding emotions (for me) stem from how it ended.
Do relationships ever end well? NO. Because if someone is gone, vanished from your life permanently, then it's because something terminal happened and you're all out of chances.
And the most maddening thing of all to be left with, is regret.
What is letting go?
It's a decision.
It's when you drop the scoreboard. It's when you stop trying to redeem yourself. It's when you stop the persecution of yourself and/or the other. It's when you stop trying to right what haunts you as having been wrong.
How do you know you're ready?
You become aware. It becomes heavy... you just all of a sudden feel the weight and something emerges that you never sensed before. A desire to be free.
How to release a burden
My haunting regrets after David were disguised as guilt, it was huge.
One day, I simply decided it was time. Something in me knew it was ok to let go. It also knew how..
I held a private little ceremony. I took the letters outside, I burned them to ashes, let them blow away and that was that. I released the burden. I cried then and I cry now as I think about it, but I no longer feel the guilt. That is what it feels like to have let go. I can be sad and not guilty. I'm glad I know.
For every ending, there's a new beginning...
In a cupboard in my hall is a stack of diaries. They contain the pre and postmortem of a relationship, the regrets from which I've been hoarding for some time.
I've felt a new and confusing weight recently. I didn't know what it was until I sensed again, the emerging of a desire to be free and with it, a knowing that the source of this weight is in those pages. Only now is that clear.
I wasn't expecting this, so it's a pleasant surprise. I'm wondering what will my life be like without these stories?
I've carried them long enough.
It's time to let them go..
Always, Amanda xoxo
(p.s. I still have the bandana)
Often, if we’ve have been walking alone for some time, we may suddenly see someone also walking their path, who may appear more certain in their stride than we. So, we find ourselves trying to catch up and join them, because we’re struggling to trust ourselves and we’d rather walk wherever you’re going and get there, than stay here and get lost on our own.
Yes, we can catch up and walk together for a while, but the only time the path feels like our own, is when it is. But how do you know?
There's an art to trusting your own compass and setting your own course.
We’re all fellow travellers. Then there’s people like Orly Avineri. She is a guide.
This was my second workshop with Orly. The theme of this workshop was hollow spaces.
In my last post, I wrote of the hollow girl I see when I revisit an earlier time in my life. I wrote that it still hurts to remember her. I wrote about how I’ve come to understand why, but that it still packs an emotional punch. Enough sometimes to make me cry.
What I didn’t write, because it’s what I hadn't yet reconciled, is my relationship NOW with that hollow girl. As if some kind of ghost, she has continued to haunt me.
I realise I've been afraid of her. Afraid she will return.
All hollow places are, by nature, functional. The trick is to understand their purpose.
Orly spoke at her workshop of what she meant by hollow spaces. Her view is that a hollow space is one where life is accommodated and facilitated. The nests, the vessels, the wombs. The nooks and crannies that house aliveness. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I think I have continued to identify and associate hollow spaces with emptiness, bereavement, loss.
The irony is that it was out of that hollow space that my yearning to feel alive surfaced. After this weekend, I understand now that my hollow space contained a gift. It’s where THIS life, the ME I am today, was housed.
My hollowness was a gestation, a pregnancy, my creative life waiting to be birthed.
In that post, I shared also that a fundamental part of my recovery process was the practice of noticing what made me come alive and seeking out these experiences. I did that instinctually, this blows my mind!
Just as the acorn contains the blueprint for the oak it will become, emptiness contains the blueprint for fullness.
That’s why it hurt. Because deep down, I knew exactly, the me I was failing to be. My hollow space contained the blueprint for the life I was meant to live.
By the end of these three soul stirring days, I had come to change my definition of hollow from something empty to something hallowed. Today I sit here re-aligned. My compass calibrated and my spirit inspired to set off down the path again. I have a new understanding of where I began and why.
Once again, Orly has worked her magic.
She led me back to my hollow space and allowed me to understand it,
not as an abyss, but as a dwelling.
Buíochas Orly, thank you.
So, fellow traveller, let me ask you this…. What is the blueprint in your hollow space?
You can read the full poem here. Sweet Darkness by David Whyte
All my life I’ve been drawn to creative people. In my experience, there are two basic types.
The Little miss (and Mr) Sunshines
The openly expressive creatives. Ah, these boys and girls are fun. You feel good in their company. They are interesting and inspiring. They make you think, they make you smile. They’re curious about you, themselves, the world. They’re interested, engaged, connected. They have intriguing practices. They thrive on abundance. They own who they are and rock it. They’re passionate, they know how to LOVE but they’re not ashamed or shy about hating what they can't love.
I’ve never left an openly creative persons company not having felt inspired.
Have you ever hung out with a repressed creative person? Welcome to shitty town! Not fun.
They seethe in their paralysis. They scathe in their scarcity. Stagnant, resentful, they are consumed with self loathing. So much so, should one dare to see in them, anything other than the pathetic creature they believe themselves to be, then they will loathe you too. They channel all their energy away from appreciation and into cynical critisicm. You leave their company feeling like someone just put a wet blanket over your fire. Because they did.
They are the wet blanket.
Which creative type would you rather be around? Which would you rather be?
I’ve been both.
Facebook has this app. If you sign up, it offers you your memories on the anniversary of the years they happened.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been confronted with all the memories leading up to this day in 2010.
2010 was the year I’d rather forget. It also happens to be the year I began the process of recovering my creative self.
Here are some of the photo memories FB reminded me of from around that time.
You know what I see when I look at these photos? A vessel… a hollow girl, who was completely worn out in her mission to contain herself. I was a Gollum.
To look at these photos still hurts. Because I remember her. I remember being her. It was hell to be her and it was hell to be around her.
It’s also still quite emotional, I’ve been trying for 2 days now to figure out how to write about it…every time I tap into what I remember about this version of me, tears roll down my face.
Why? Because I know now who was inside that vessel. My little miss, without her sunshine. An abandoned girl, her fire smothered by the wet blanket of a person she was horrified to have become.
That’s what the tears are about. I cry because at that time, I thought the part of me who is sitting here typing this right now, my creative self, was dead.
It’s the strangest thing, to remember such grief and now to experience such gratitude for having been wrong.
Within days of these photos being taken, I called truce on a long standing war with my self. For the first time in my life, I declared a definite. I was done.
That decision came from my bones, it was a commitment.
This was my mantra… and to this day, I find it to be true.
That moment marked the leaving behind of emptiness and the beginning of a journey in which each step has been about filling the void with love and passion and joy and….. ME!
So how did I do it?
I began a couple of practices, which I will share in the coming weeks, one of which was noticing what makes me feel alive and seeking out those experiences.
What those experiences had in common was true self expression.
Lemme tell you… I expressed the shit out of myself! It was amazing and I highly recommend it.
I found myself once again in the company of openly creative people. The ones who own it. I was encouraged, I was inspired. I was reminded of the me I wanted to be.
It was the fuel that fed and the path that led back to my creative fire…and oh my god, this time, I let it burn.
What gallant people are the openly creative. I want to be like them.
So, what burns your creative fire?
Always, Amanda xoxo
I've been restless in my creativity lately. Actually, I think that's always the case. I have this thing with moving forward, progressing, wanting to develop my art in directions beyond my current ability. I'm constantly wresting with where I am and where I want to be. And although I know
there is only now, still, this is what I do.
I feel like I'm a better artist in my head than I am on paper... Always trying to catch up with myself.
I'm always expirimenting, jumping from one thing to the next, inspired by experience, ideas and the works of other artists. Now I'm painting nests, again inspired by paintings I've seen. Also I love the idea of nests, I've always called myself a nester.
I'm practicing and exploring as I go... There's more paint being used... more freedom being sought and more courage being required.
I am not a trained artist. I'm almost 40. I'm just beginning, just learning and though I carry inside me the critics fear that it's 'too late', that 'I'm not good enough', 'not ready to go out into the creative world calling myself an artist', I do it anyway. I have to.
My beginnings are humble, my learning is happening before your eyes... what you're seeing is my efforts... my attempts, my sometimes clumsy, sometimes clueless, always authentic honouring of this fascinated THING inside me.
So, I think this line from Ms Dickinsons poem 'For Every Bird a Nest" is fitting for me... I will not let myself hide or feel ashamed because of my beginner status. I'm building my modest nest out here, before you, on the ground.
Thank you for supporting me
Always, Amanda xoxo
It's just chaos... nothing short. Maybe that's a bit dramatic... But lemme tell ya, there's no other word... Chaos will have to do, ok?
Chaos is PMS speak for can't cope. Can't cope with what? Oh.. things like..
not being able to get my arm through my cardi's sleeve hole on first attempt... not being able to find 'that' pair of socks ... the cat looking crooked at me.
These are the kinds of things that get placed on the can't cope with list during a PMS attack.
(I know, the drama.... but girls, I know ya feel me)
During this time of hormonal flooding... rationality packs it's bag for a day trip to Mars, patience is just the name of a Guns n Roses song and perspective is set to 'nope... every way you look at this, it's a disaster'.
How I haven't bitten my own tongue off at this stage is beyond me. Welcome to my Monday March 2nd, an 'I'm 'bout to chew the hair off my own head if it gets in my way one more time' kinda day.
Why does this hijack me every month? Why don't I see it coming... why does it leave me hyperventilating at the threshold of needing to be sedated? And...Is it Ironic that I painted owls while dealing most unwisely with this condition?
Anyway... this explains last night's art session to me now. Usually when I'm making art, I am chilled, relaxed..in the flow and enjoying the adventure. Last night I was painting as if I was up against a clock and must have a completed painting in the next five minutes or all art privileges will be taken away from me for life!
At one point I actually questioned had I ingested a barrel of coffee unknown to myself, that's how not relaxed I was.
This morning I was going to take photos of what I did last night so I could post them here...but I was afraid to touch the good camera for fear I would drop it (btw, that's pms code for 'throw it against a wall')...
Anyway... I took a very shaky shot with my ('stupid') iPhone instead. It's not a great photo but I'm sharing it anyway... my new birdies...owls!
Yesterday evening I heard, for the first time in the surrounding forest, an OWL!! I have been waiting for that sound now since November! Finally! Welcome Mr Owl! Needless to say, when I sat down to paint last night, I had to try my hand at the wise 'ol owl.
In a relaxed state, I enjoy the process of creating, I take my time. These poor guys were dragged forth as if all life depended on having them manifest in one session. I put so much pressure on myself and totally kicked my own ass in the process.
Does anyone else do this when painting under PM stress? Maybe I should have done some art journalling or something. I kinda think it would have been more fitting for me to scribble with a bunch of crayons given the state I was (and still am) in.
So, my jury is out on this, most likely because I white knuckled it and didn't allow myself the space and time to create...I was pursuing the production of something. As if the time spent creating 'had to count'.
Always, Amanda xoxo
If I'm honest, I was trying to re-create another piece that has been admired, because it's pretty, visually appealing....and so I wanted more, more 'lovely'.
But then I found myself in this story instead and realised that experience wants to be the one doing the telling. That this is about something it wishes me to know and... gulp...accept.
It is this:
That I can't just have or re-create the pretty, the pleasing. I can't expect the pretty or the pleasing from life, or from others either. I have to accept what is.
That inner peace is a process, a journey and a personal thing. No matter where you are on (or not) the path and no matter who is also on (or not) that path, we're all carrying our own baggage, stories, banners and stakes and the only way to get 'there' is to keep moving ... Carrying our own 'stuff' and allowing others carry theirs. We all march together, alone.
Although it transcends explanation, I 'get' this... in theory. The practice is another thing. I am in practice.
It's hard though, especially when the ones we love seem to be struggling so hard to find their path. Sometimes even appearing to be on another one, a scary one, the one that walks them straight through hell. There's always the temptation to intervene and try to steer them right. But that's where we go wrong, or at least I do. I have to walk mine and you have to walk yours.
I suppose this piece was that experience coming through, this is about as tangible as I can make it.
Love to you.. From my path to yours. May you find peace, celebration, parade.
Always, Amanda <3
“Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.
I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and follow where they lead.”
~ Louisa May Alcott
January is kicking my ass. I always struggle with the new year, it takes ages for us to come to terms with each other. What I KNOW, is that we always do, that this too, is temporary. I will not be stuck here.
I posted last week about resolutions, how every new year I find myself in the battleground of inner conflict, in a war that is not actually a war, but a process; I just keep forgetting that!
So here is a process that worked for me in getting unstuck most recently.
- I kept a written journal.
- I allowed myself to vent and to not feel like I had to control or force myself into a better mood
- I’d had a sense of my particular conflict for a while before I ‘went in’.
I have found that our issues are always getting flagged, but when we’re not ready, we push ‘em back down. That’s ok. When you’re ready, you’ll know, because when it’s meant to be, there will be a curiosity about ‘going there’.
- I sensed my curiosity and stayed close to that and non-judgement
- I repeatedly told myself what I know. That every little thing is gonna be alright.
After venting enough into my written journal for a couple of nights, I managed to create a little distance between me and the ‘drama’, I let it sit for a while and waited for the urge to art it out further.
After a couple of days I felt called to my art journal.
It was during a particularly scathing train of self criticism, so I just opened a clean page and scribbled in pencil, the words of the critic.
They were angry, venomous words. I just scribbled them out onto the page, uncensored. It was unpleasant, but I didn't stay with the thoughts, I dumped the words out and then I walked away. Just to note, I wasn't home alone when I did this. Once I did the scribbling I dropped the pencil, left the room (I knew my journal would not be read) and returned to the company of my love. It's important to feel safe and supported if you're going to entertain the critic.
The next day, I began with a measure of detachment. I couldn’t read the words without being triggered so working fast and without thought or reaction, I put a light layer of medium diluted gesso over the words and a thicker layer over the particularly cruel ones.
I added a few layers of paint and stamps and then scribbled some positive counter thoughts over the new layers.
At this point I had no idea what I was going to do with this page. I took a break, dunked my head into a nourishing bowl of MY FAV veggie broth and listened to an inspiring audiobook by my favourite author. TIP: MAJOR Self care all the way!
Before long, I got the urge to go back to my journal and start with a heart. (FYI, Whatever ‘urge’ pops into your head, don't think, just go with it)
The heart represents my greater self, my capacity to be loving, compassionate and kind. I outlined the heart with black gesso and over that again with a charcoal stick, blending it in to add some depth. I outlined two more, smaller hearts for balance and because I LOVE hearts!!
I’m sorry I didn’t take photos from this point as the process unfolded…I was immersed & it never occurred to me. Guilty face
I drew three birds, two inside the heart, painted with black gesso and outlined with white tip marker and the third larger bird, which I just outlined over the paint layer with black gesso.
I then painted loose and fast with dry-ish brushes around the drawn images with combinations of medium, black and white gesso, mauve and crimson red (LOVE that colour). This made central features of my outlined images, the exposed layers of paint giving an effect I couldn’t achieve if I ‘tried’.
I had drawn the three birds before I realised there are three inner parts to this conflict! I love how the subconscious plays out when art journalling. I included the words ‘All parts are welcome’ as a message to the conflicted parts (and the critic) from true (greater) self. This is the central principle of Self Therapy, an approach to healing I find extremely compassionate, user friendly and effective.
I finished by doodling some random lines with black and white gel pens and shading around the images with pitt artist ink pens.
This process was very worthwhile and therapeutic for me. It has helped me detach more from each of the characters of this inner drama, to step back (into self) and not over identify with any one, or becoming overwhelmed by it’s perspective, fears, demands, opinions.
Getting into self is the primary step in the self therapy approach to addressing inner conflict. As I write this now, realising the process that unfolded, facilitated by some (always magic) time spent art journalling, I feel relieved, empowered and strengthened. I understand now. Now I have something far less threatening to work with.
There is more to do, but for now… breeeeeathe.
Always, Amanda xoxo