Judgement

What makes a person get out of bed?

Is it purpose? Some promise that thrusts them ahead?

Lust for life? Usefullness?

Uncomfortable bed?

Maybe it’s hope and love or a wife

Chemistry? Energy? Beautiful life?

*

Is it a case of not mattering dread

or of not seeking answers

in books by their bed?

*

Or are they awakened, absent of fear

and shameful existing that threatens to sear

through every thread, that fabrics their being

And today they can trust in themselves to be seen

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Just something I was wondering ;)

Always, Amanda xoxo

The Cost of Creative Self Exile

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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.

Little Miss Sunshine. Photo courtesy of Tumblr

I’ve never left an openly creative persons company not having felt inspired.

The Gollums

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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So, what burns your creative fire?

Always, Amanda xoxo

Oh...to be a wise 'ol bird!

DSC_0064 - Version 2 Ok, I'm gonna chew my own head off.... Emotional armageddon has descended.

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'.

Anyhoooo! (Whooo!) Here they are! Maybe I can ask them for some of that wisdom they're known for... so next time I'll be a little wiser when hormonal armageddon comes to town! DSC_0064

Always, Amanda xoxo

Who did you use to be?

The forgotten one This piece is about re-connecting with a young part of me...

I've always had that 'something missing' feeling. You know that feeling you get everytime you go to the airport? Imagine that, everyday.

It's that sense of having forgotten... there's something I'm without.

I have had little memories of my child self, there's always been a disconnect. I coudn't remember me as a kid, no sense of her at all.

I have spent my life wondering what she was like, what did she like to do, what she wanted to be when she grew up.. who did I use to be?

 

In this past year, I went looking for my little one and I found her.

Here's something she told me:

She had a 'superpower' wish, to be invisible.

I asked her what that would afford her.

She said 'a place to hide'

Processing Inner Drama. An empowering process through Art Journalling

“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.

Inner 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.

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.

Self therapy, all parts are welcome

I finished by doodling some random lines with black and white gel pens and shading around the images with pitt artist ink pens.

Self care

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

New Year...Old Fear. How I'm facing it.

Time now to flourish  

 

Reflect and Resolve

As happens a woman with a history of depressive self loathing, at the end of days when she falls short of meeting her own expectations, 2014 draws to a close and she finds herself saying fare well to yester-day-year.

Reflecting on the lessons she’s grateful for, the growth she’s achieved, this woman is tantalised still by the divide between her current self and the self of her dreams, the one who exists ‘over there’. Dividing them, a river of doubt. Once again she finds herself resolving to stop pushing the boat out and blaming her defeat on the lack of a bridge.

Sound familiar? 

Here you stand, in the early fog of this new year, daring to promise yourself that THIS YEAR I will brave the divide between the me who dreams and the me who is dreamed. You are not alone, I stand here with you. Standing here used to scare me, it kinda still does.

I know why new beginnings hold such weight for women like us.

It’s because we convince ourselves that new beginnings are the corners we turn, around which we’ll finally escape our demons. But every time we begin, we inevitably get ambushed by those old, decrepit, gnarling fears.

Outsourcing our power

I know I’m guilty of it, especially when it comes to casting out risk and responsibility to the future me, the one who lives in tomorrow, Monday, next week, next year, as if to say ‘there is no fear where she is, let her do it’. My heart sinks when I think of future me, it’s not fair. All I’ve been setting her up for is sickness, overwhelm and regret.

Hoarding Powerlessness

There’s a younger part of me who hoards powerlessness, it seems to be the only way she can feel safe. I think she believes future me will rescue us. Then there’s everyday, caught-in-the-middle me, walking on eggshells because I’m afraid of upsetting the little one, but why?

Because the little one is more experienced in her truth and when everyday me dares to set about challenging it or releasing the powerlessness, it triggers an inner conflict, a fight for control.

Inner Peace Mission

This is not easy to admit, because it's always been my dirty secret and I feel very vulnerable making it known but I’m telling you this because I know I’m not alone, because I think emotional honesty is important when it comes to struggles with self worth and because naming conflict takes some of the energy from it, freeing it up for the work of making peace. I want peace for my little one, for our little ones.

Naming it

This powerless inner part, let's call her Jane (my middle name), is so easily torn down. Easily discouraged, dismissed, dismayed, demolished. She is easily diss’d. I used to really hate her for that, I judged her harshly, labelled her pathetic and weak, which just made her even more fragile.

To her, the belief of not being able is grounded in truth, absolute truth. When this truth gets triggered I feel her fear so intently that to distance myself from it is, at times, the best I can do.

I no longer hate my little one nor do I still identify completely with her, but in my inner world, she’s still living from that place of fear and is highly influential.

Fear of Flying

Jane is terrified of me flying my own plane. There I am launched, with magnificent wings and a bulging itinerary of ideas, she sits back in air traffic control, but due to her hyper vigilance, she soon sees nothing but danger. Without her confidence I can’t advance my mission and instead am left to linger in some sort of holding pattern before the inevitable crash and burn. What I end up with is that I feel like a shitty pilot, with yet another flop.

I know Jane has my best interests at heart but she serves me up an enormous burden of self doubt and frustration.

This year I want to move beyond the holding pattern, I want to give future me some fucking chance, she’s the one I’m going to become!

I’ve seen a lot of people in their new year writings, choosing a word to guide them through this new year, my guide word has yet to reveal itself, though I think belief is a strong contender.

Leveraging Lessons Learned

Until then, I turn to 2014 as my guide. It was the year of P.

Promise, Practice, Presence

It was the showing up, the identifying of the stepping stones that I consistently have failed to see, that they be enough, that the propelling of my being across the divide, one magnificent leap to ‘over there’ be not the only measure of progress or success. That I stop waiting on my future self to arrive and rescue me and to encourage my current self in building that bridge, so that they may meet half way. To make the effort every day and that my efforts, however small or large, are allowed be good enough. To do this with compassion, faith and care, step, by step, by step.

The goal is to become experienced, as a believer in me

I have personal goals, creative goals, professional and purpose goals, but they all hang in the balance of getting through to Jane, to convince her in letting me go.

Five years ago I couldn’t even believe in myself enough to get out of bed.

I didn’t believe there was life beyond the fog of depression.

I didn’t believe I could be loved.

But I did, there is and I am. 

We can do this.

Have you overcome an inner Jane fear? How did you do it and what difference has it made in your life? Please share what you know!

Always, Amanda xxx

Plot twist! How to craft a self-love story from a shitty script.

Every Little Thing is Gonna be Alright Have you ever listened to the lyrics of the Peter Gabriel song ‘Don’t give up’?

Such a heart wrenching depiction of a man at his wit’s end, bereft of his pride, his identity, lamenting the loss of his usefulness, his place in the world, belief in himself…‘I never thought I could fail’. It’s about a man adrift, amputated from his spiritual home.

I find this song so real to life and deeply moving.

It seems he’s struggling with expectations, an implied hand-me-down measure of success, ‘taught to fight, taught to win’ and he believes he has reached a point of ‘no fight left, or so it seems’. It’s a failure story.

First, you have to hear it

Do you have a failure story you tell yourself? I know I do. There was a time I was unaware of it, didn’t realise it was a story. I mistook it as a fact, a personal truth, a dirty secret. Everything I did was an attempt to conceal this truth from the world. I didn’t know it was a product of another burden, the fear of judgement, and that only with perfect behaviour, achieving perfect outcomes, could I have any sense of immunity.

News Flash… there is no immunity from Judgement!

I spent a huge portion of my life trying to avoid judgement. Ironically, in my quest, the unconscious strategies I employed invited lots of it… I attracted the very thing I was pre-occupied with. Isn't that funny (Eh, No!), but that’s what happens. Wherever your energy is invested, life also issues cheques from there.

If you’re invested in avoiding anger, be guaranteed your pay checks will be full of it. Same for disappointment, disapproval, conflict…whatever. These are the arenas of judgement, ruled by a panel of critics.

Retire the Peanut Gallery

The world is full of critics. Oh yes, chalk that down. The thing is, the critics aren’t just out there, in the world… the social phenomena of internalisation brings them much closer to home. That's how we get inner critics.

If enough people are mean to, or hard on you, even if it’s just one (but influential) person and it threatens your lovability, you learn to be mean to or hard on yourself. Same goes for disapproval, expectation, regard, neglect. In it’s simplest form, it’s a case of ‘Monkey see, Monkey do’.

So you pick up the cues, internalise the habit and critisize yourself relentlessly in the hope that this strategy will produce the ‘right’ behaviour to ensure the outcome of complete protection from judgement.

That’s how it worked when you were small right? Your behaviour was shaped to suit those in power. Your job was to avoid upsetting the adults. The unspoken instructions of ‘Be a good girl so I can be happy with you’, really meant ‘Don’t blow my cover child, I’m trying to appear in control here’.

Want a Plot Twist?

Break the pattern! You can’t expect or wait for the hander down of this pattern to change their position before you change yours. You can’t control that, so you have to do the work on what you can control.

Stop waiting

As Jesus said ‘forgive them, for they know not what they do’. It’s the only way to release yourself from a story where you’ll always be wrong. You may design scenarios in your head where you argue your position, get to have the upper hand, correct the offending party and bring them to the realisation of their wrongdoings (or is that just me?). In real life, I bet you’ve never have that satisfaction, the outcome that would grant you vindication and peace. Sorry to burst your bubble but it ain’t gonna happen, not that way anyway.

You have to make your own peace. Waiting for another to suddenly see the light and take it all back still won’t undo what is done. It’s kinda like the artist Prince becoming Prince again, still doesn’t change the fact he went off and became a symbol, something we couldn’t call him for a while. Waiting for your peace to be granted only perpetuates the powerlessness that keeps you locked in a cycle of grievances.

Put the stick down

Stop critisizing yourself. In fact, stop criticising others too. Believe me when I tell you this is key, when you do this you’ll be amazed at the amount of energy you’ll free up from operating the default position of always ‘correcting’. Don’t let that be your purpose in life. It’s exhausting, stop it. Use the same habit cue to practice compassion instead.

I’m not suggesting you become a robot here and deny your emotional stress reactions, you’re not perfect, nobody is.

The other day I spent hours on to customer service, trying to resolve an issue with my phone line. My call was repeatedly dropped and eventually I lost it, I screamed the house down in pure anger and frustration before calling back. Calm and composed I was not, so I’m not going to pretend there aren’t days my shit is far from together. You’ll lose your shit too, just remember to forgive yourself, recover and move on.

It’s gonna be alright

If you know the song I opened this post with above, you’ll know Kate Bush carries the chorus. She represents the voice of compassion, arriving to interrupt the protagonist’s failure story with another perspective. Her message is one of love, hope and encouragement, a reminder that he is loved, cared for, supported, that there’s no burden on him to prove himself, no need to be ashamed.

Be like the voice of Kate Bush in this song, develop a compassion mantra. You don’t have to come up with an original one, borrow one from a song or poem or story you like. A mantra I absolutely love to use is borrowed from Three little birds by Bob Marley, ‘Every little thing, is gonna be alright’… Keep it simple.

P…lots of P!!!

Practice, patience, persistence, repeat. I’ll never forget the first time I actually experienced compassion for my own self. I had been ‘in practice’ for about 18 months before it finally came to me, but when it did I was so humbled by it, it’s a beautiful experience.

If you want to read a little about that, I’ve written about it in this post, but I mention it here now because I want you to know it doesn’t happen overnight, you have to do some emotional work and prepare for it. To arrive at self compassion after having been foreign to it is a big moment, very moving, overwhelming really, but in a good way.

Show up

Unlearning self bashing and developing compassion requires a leap of faith, you have to hope, keep going, keep believing, you will get there. I’m not saying it will take you the same amount of time as it did me, just don’t expect miracles of yourself or the universe and don’t expect to arrive without the required journey on your behalf.

Nobody else can walk your road for you, but know that you’ll never be alone, on this adventure you’ll meet many fellow travellers, each at various stages, each seeking, so remember to be kind and let kindness be.

Take your time and for now, just promise you will at least show for up yourself, as you are.

State your intention out loud with me now…

“Dear (Amanda), I promise to show up for you”

How does that feel?

Always, Amanda xoxo

If you have an experience to share on this or questions to ask, leave a comment here or you can always email me hello@amandagraceart.com, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

P.S…. Check out my links page for some amazing resources to get you on your way home

Stick to the white notes..

Diva Oh My God,

What a diva, this one has a neck. She came out competing, wasn't going to settle for being anything other than the best. THE PRESSURE! ..she wanted to impress. Nothing enjoyable ever comes from trying to impress. For example, check out the next wedding party you see. Some wear high heels that are truly impressive, astounding.. there are dresses worn by some that beg the question 'Is that material or body paint?'.... Impressive, at 12noon. But then fast forward to post dinner time... ouch... it's the funny walk parade, pain etched faces and boyfriend crutches.... destination: barefoot and freezing. Wearing heels to me  feels like my feet being encased in barbed wire. I don't care how fabulous they are, or what they do for the outfit... Give me my boots, then I can rock it out all day long! :D

So was that her, the Diva, or me, looking to impress? I'll compromise and say there was a pair of us in it. I put heels on, she dug hers in. Not gonna beat myself up over it... It's going to be a challenge to not let my painting suffer the fear of judgement and perfection. Still, I hope the next one will be more forgiving & not want to kick my ass. I'm still trying to figure out the skin tones.. so far my girls, when assembled look like a Benetton ad. Any tips or pointers would be helpful. I might experiment with oil sticks for the face at some point.

It all 'looked easy' trawling the internet's folk art collection. "I could probably do that" I thought and then I have a go and next thing I know, I'm wolfing my half heated dinner standing up while a splattered canvas sits on the countertop mocking me

it goes something like this... Stuff on Canvas: 'What am I? Seriously, what in the name of jaysis am I supposed to be? Where are you going with this.. c'mon..swallow that, fix this shit'

Next thing I know it's midnight and I'm walking up the stairs carrying my neck under my arm and my dinner still in my throat.. thinking 'My God...why am I doing this?'. I think that's the skill of an artist, whether it be music or poetry or art or anything. Is that the completed work 'sounds/looks/reads easy', then you know you've been delivered art by someone in tune with their craft. Most likely there was hair, teeth, fur and tears shed during the process... the odd existential crisis thrown in between demands from what wanted to be featured and what needed to be left out. I've a lot to learn.

There are two pieces of advice, two separate and very different style musicians passed on to me, the first was about space.. resisting the temptation to overwork something. The next was about resisting the temptation to get fancy and instead to focus on getting good at the basics.  I think these are transferrable to painting too... I'm gonna post them at my desk.

1. 'Music is not just composed of the notes you hear, it's the notes you don't hear that draws you in'

2. 'Stick with the white notes 'til you know what you're doing'

Always, Amanda <3