art journal

When Art is Everything {Introducing Healing HeARTs}


I'm not sure that I came to art journaling in the usual fashion.  I didn't start with that deliciously freeing, fast and loose visual alternative to handwritten journaling that I hear my friends describing their introduction to art journaling as.  Instead, I used an art notebook of mixed media paper to learn how to paint faces.  I'd signed up for an online art class and needed to practice.  But painting on canvas felt too scary (and expensive), and loose paper annoyed me.


So art journaling it was.  I filled page after page of the art notebook with full-on paintings of women.  I painted for the distraction, to have something to think about other than a dark, dark time that I was enduring in my battle with an eating disorder.


But it wasn't long before I reaped more benefits from painting than mere distraction.  Instead, I found emotion pouring out of the end of my brush, and within a startlingly short amount of time, I was making major forward progress against the eating disorder -- something that I had literally given up hope for.


Painting became self-preservation, self-healing, self-care.  It filled me with purpose, a sense of an accomplishment, and joy.  I could lose myself in painting for hours and hours.  I had never experienced anything like it, and I will never stop being grateful for the powers and coincidences that brought art into my life.  It turned me back into a person at a time when I thought that living as a shell was the best I could expect, and continues to be a healing and illuminating force for me.


So when I heard about what my friend Anna is doing with her program Healing He[art]s, I was more than a little excited, and wanted to tell you about it . . .

www.annameadearts.com/healing-hearts.html
Healing He[art]s is a mechanism to put art supplies in the hands of women who are struggling. The vision is for women to give the gift of art to other women. Because we know that art heals. We have lived it, and we would like to pass along that encouragement to others.
Anna and her supporters are gathering art supplies in order to assemble and donate 144 art journaling kits this holiday season.  Each kit costs $25, and contains some basic supplies, such as paints, pens, papers, brushes, and, of course, a journal.  

I love the vision of this project, because I know the powerful healing effect that art can have.  You start painting, pretty sure this art thing is going to amount to a whole lot of nothing, and then all of sudden you find that you're painting your fractured soul back into wholeness for the first time in forever.  

If you'd like to donate to Healing He[art]s, you can do so here (major credit cards, Paypal, checks and money orders are accepted).  And stay updated with the kits' progress here.

www.annameadearts.com/healing-hearts.html

On Novembers {Life After Stillbirth, Three Years Later}


I keep waiting for it to get bad.

I mean, three years and one week ago, my baby died inside of me and my world shattered and I didn't think I'd survive the day, much less make it out of the dark places.

I never thought that Novembers would start being not-hard.

But then, there's still a week to go until my girl's third {still}birthday, so I guess anything could happen.  I don't want to speak too soon.  I don't want to jinx myself.

Still, based on previous Novembers, I expected to feel memory's cold fingers stealing over my shoulders, pressing, clenching until I could hardly breathe.

 

People keep asking me (thank you, thank you, thank you for remembering) how I'm doing.  And I have to shrug and say, not sure how it can be, that I think I'm doing okay, actually.

That truth sounds strange coming from my own tongue.  But that doesn't make me less grateful for it.

I guess I thought that, if I ever got to this place where November doesn't sting like it used to, I'd feel guilty.  That it would make me less of a mother to the daughter I never got to raise.

But I don't feel that way.  Mostly I just feel glad.  Maybe a little confused, and a bit nervous, afraid that November 20 is going to hit like a hurricane.  But aside from that, I'm glad.  Because even though I love her, I don't want to spend the rest of my life losing a month or more of my life each year in a black hole of grief's resurgence.  Not on top of the grief I've already traversed.  Not when I have so much life to see to.


Maybe it's just pregnancy hormones, protecting me somehow.  They do that with my depression, after all.  Somehow, though, I don't think that's it (although I guess we'll see next year, huh?).

And I hesitate to saw why things are different this year.  Maybe it's just the passing of time.  Maybe it's how deep into the darkness I let myself descend.  Maybe it's the art journaling, or the questioning and pondering, or the sea of tears my eyes have poured out over her name.  Maybe it's how grateful I am for the life she's given me -- I will never stop wishing she could have stayed, but treasure the many, many gifts she left for me with her absence.


I don't know.  I don't know.  I don't know.  

I don't know what next week will bring.
I don't know how I'll spend her day.

But I am glad. 

I am glad of her.  I am glad of the me she birthed with her death, the greatest paradox I have yet to know.  And I am glad of this calm and unexpected loveliness, three years later.


We are Made For Changing

one of my poetry holiday ornaments -- find them all here, with new ones like this going up soon

I really don't know what brought it on.  Maybe it was the early morning dark, or the fact that I was still bleary from recent sleep.

But all of a sudden, it dawned in the dawning hour -- the next shifting.

Don't you know, we all shift in small ways and large throughout the day, month, year, and all years together?  Or we should (and not that icky, "do more, do better, rush rush rush" kind of should -- I mean the slow and nourishing and natural kind).

We are made for changing, not for staying the same.  Look out the door, the window.  See how the earth makes way for roots and greenery, how the trees blossom then turn skeletal, how the sun and stars and moon turn and turn, always turning.  Watch the snake shed her skin, the woman shed her bloody monthly lining, the child shed his baby teeth.

We are, all of us, made for changing, growing, shifting.

This morning, my next one came.  Or arrived.  Or began.

I had begun to think that it wouldn't.  That I was trapped in this sameness, and while it's not a bad place to be, you may have heard that we're made for changing.

Then, there it was, blooming wide in my heart and mind: I don't want to live that way any longer.  I can't. I have decided that I won't.

And that was it.  An end, a beginning, and the start of a new middle-ish place.  I can't say where this will bring me, only that I am glad.  Because I am made for changing.

I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget it:


A declaration?  An anthem?  Maybe.  A fitting way for starting to bring my fearless year to a close?  Absolutely.

I've been wanting this for a while.  But I wasn't brave enough, wasn't quite ready.  I was too afraid of what -- who -- I might lose.  Until I saw that I lose those things, those people, anyway, because I guess people can sense when you're not being all of you, or that maybe you really weren't meant for each other anyway, not in this here and now, at least.

This time, I'm ready, I think (I hope).  I feel like I can't afford not to be.  We are made for changing, you know.

I can't, I won't keep asking permission for the things no other person has the power to permit or deny.  I refuse to keep asking if I'm allowed to be who I am, because I am.  You are.  It's allowed.  It's necessary. 

Just like that, the inner walls of stasis and stagnation begin to crumble.

Because we are made for changing and changing and changing, becoming ever more of who we truly are at the core.


Your turn: what are you asking permission for that perhaps you don't need to be?  What's one think you'd like to try on in order to become more fully and authentically you?