Daily Archives: 8 . June . 2014

the cult of positivity

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I’m sure I’ve blogged about this topic before, or carried on about it on Facebook.

I see constant anecdotes and photos reprimanding us…

…that if we were grateful enough, we would never be lacking for anything

…that while we are blowing hot air about our particular misery du jour, others are taking their last breath

…that were we to count our blessings, we’d realize how damned lucky we are and stop that complaining shit stat

And I get it. Some people never stop complaining, even when every little thing in their lives is the way you or I would wish ours to be – they are still snivelling bags of misery (and that does, in fact, get old).

There are times, though, that even if you are fully cognizant of the fact that people are starving in Africa and you happen to be fortunate enough to have sufficient food in your pantry to feed a whole small third world village for a month, you still feel pretty down about the things that are happening in your life and being reminded of that tidbit of information does nothing to spike up your happy meter.

Instead you feel even shittier for having your “first world problems” in the first place, and feel guilty for being so (apparently) ungrateful for what you have.

Here’s the thing. Inner unrest is almost always a signal that your intuition is trying to tell you something.

Sometimes it’s because you have stopped listening somewhere along the way and are functioning on auto pilot without really paying attention to what you are doing.

Inner unrest niggles when the situation you are choosing to engage in goes against the grain of your fundamental values and principles, and you are choosing to ignore the little red flags that are popping up as you are going along because you’ve gotten so used to being comfortable in your discomfort.

Then there are times when we go through some major transitions in life, and while we humans are certainly equipped to deal with transitions (seriously… we would have died out millennia ago had we not been an adaptable species), our instant-presto society expects us to pop up like a freshly thawed toaster pastry mere days after something life-altering has occurred.

That can be even the good stuff… a promotion, a newly-tied knot, a long-desired move to a new place, the purchase of a new home… or the obviously less positive stuff… like losing a job, having to move without notice, the end of a relationship, health challenges, children moving out (i.e., an empty nest), the loss of a loved one (whether expected or not).

All change, to some degree, causes an anxiety reflex. Some of it merely heightens our awareness so that while we are in a new situation we adapt as quickly as possible – but it is exhausting, even if it is exhilarating.

The more painful sort of change grinds us into the ground and pulls us along by the ankles through the raw and painful grieving process. There is much out there on the different stages of grieving, so I won’t discuss it in detail here, but what I do want to note is that the process takes inordinately longer than any amount of time typically allotted for it by our western society.

People are patient for a week or two (if that), but after that if your performance isn’t back up to pre-trauma speed, patience with your process starts to dwindle and whatever progress you might have made in the interim is largely interrupted by the added pressure that is now placed upon you to be back to “normal” again. Many people either have never experienced grief before, or have conveniently forgotten what it was like to be in its throes – sort of like the purported denial of remembering childbearing pain.

The key to survival is to seek out qualified support to help you over that hump, because once the funeral is over, and the condolence notes stop coming in, or you are two months in to flying solo after a twenty year marriage, people forget that things were ever different, and that can be hugely difficult to deal with on top of the ongoing grieving.

Whether the life change is big or small (and it’s all individually relative), self-care becomes primordial to the survival of our hurting soul bits. In the end, these very same things are what help me keep my sanity even when shit isn’t hitting the fan.

So… what to do?

1. Schedule in time for your Self.
Learn to gauge to what point you can push yourself before a melt-down is impending. It will change over time, and it will be a trial and error process for a while. If you feel that once a month you need to work in a mental health day just to stay sane, plan it ahead of time. It will be something to look forward to and the break in your normal routine something that will be akin to that light at the end of the tunnel when you start down sliding. The waiting between breaks will help you build up resilience and allow for the incorporation of healthy coping mechanisms in the meantime, which will make everything go more smoothly. Determine what your daily, weekly, monthly needs are, and have an action plan.

2. Practice radical self-compassion.
Like it or not, things will not always go according to plan. Something might happen that will throw you off kilter despite your best efforts. You may not, on a daily basis, be functioning at 100%. One of the best takeaways for me from The Four Agreements (if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it) is to do your best, whatever best means on any given day. On some days your best may just be to roll out of bed, get dressed and make it in to the office, while other days it will be to blaze through a week’s worth of work in a single afternoon. It may vary that drastically. Respect the variance. Respect your willingness to show up, in whatever capacity that you are able. Be gentle with yourself. Afford yourself the same compassion as you would extend to another in your situation. You deserve to be treated kindly, even by yourself.

3. Establish good boundaries.
People mean well… they do… but sometimes their “help” does more harm than good. Learn to be specific about your needs, if you ask for help with them, as well as to gracefully express when someone is triggering all of your defence mechanisms. Deftly extricate yourself from the situation or the ministrations and be sure to let them know to be more mindful of the way in which they communicate with you going forward. Relentlessly cut ties if they have a track record of not positively supporting you.

4. Have a support system in place.
Know who you can call on when you are on the verge of a melt-down. Have an escape route in place so that you can go some place private. If you are seeking the help of a professional counsellor, have your appointments set up on a regular basis in accordance with their advised schedule and make additional appointments if you feel you need them. If you need to be assisted chemically to find better balance, explore the most personally comfortable way in which to achieve it.

5. Spend some time, daily, checking in with yourself.
Whether that means doing it while sitting on a meditation cushion, as you move through the asanas in yoga class, during a walk around the block, while soaking in the tub or lathering up in a shower, when putting in miles on the treadmill at the gym, or at the table with your journal or art supplies. Make real or mental notes on how you feel, how you’ve improved in the last while and think about how you want to feel. Danielle Laporte’s The Desire Map helps siphon down our focus to what she calls our Core Desired Feelings and keeping those in mind while we do our inventory check can pull us back to center even when we’ve skidded off the road.

6. Nourish yourself.
That means feeding the body, mind and spirit, daily. Plan meals ahead so that you take the guess work out of daily cooking chores – chances are you will be eating more healthfully or regularly. Take vitamins and minerals as recommended by your physician. Spend some down time with a book, crossword puzzle or other mind-feeding endeavour. Honour and connect with your spirit, in whichever way you feel most comfortable.

7. Move.
Spend some time getting physical. I have found that when I’m hurting emotionally my tendency is to avoid being embodied. I become this untethered soul hanging on to my bodily connections by mere shreds. Exercise gets the endorphins pumping and even if my heart is heavy with grief, my body feels lighter after it’s been fully exerted.

8. Rest.
Fatigue is a by-product of depression and the carrying of the burden of stress. Without adequate rest the body simply can’t perform its regenerative functions, whether for the physical body, the mental body or the emotional body. Eight hours of sleep is the generally established minimum, but more may be required during more taxing times. Honour your body’s signals and allow it the rest that it needs to heal itself.

Enacting these things may take some effort, especially at first. I know that when I’m newly grieving, I’m like a dazed zombie and barely functioning. If you have someone close to you (a spouse or a partner) who can help you over the hump, you are ahead of the game. Otherwise you may well have to wait until the fog lifts before you will be able to begin fully implementing these self-care steps.

But for the love of all things holy, don’t let the bastards get you down… you are worthy… you are worthy… you are worthy.

Adriane xo

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hip-hip-hippity-hop – a blog tour

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I haven’t done one of these Q&A’s in a while, so when I was invited to join in on the tour by Kim of MuseCraft, it was hard to resist. This blog tour has been going on for a while, and everyone who participates gets to invite others, so there are lots of links to follow back through the tour… to which I say : EYECANDY!!! Go check it out!

So without further ado, the four questions about myself:

What am I working on?

I’ve always got a bunch of things going on, both in relation to my writing as well as my art stuffs.

I’m working on two main writing projects at the moment. I’m working on a story called The Incredible Virtues of Cauliflower. Initially I was going to write it as a screenplay but I’m just going to get the sucker out and then figure out what to do with it – at the moment it looks to be novella length. It’s like birthing a child, this. The story is about a guy who falls in love with a woman after he sees her through a telescope.

The other writing project is my little mostly visual story of Darika. This poor li’l story has been in production for ages – far too long to not be embarrassed by the languidness of its unfolding, but it’s my story (“Darika” is an anagram of my own nickname as a child) and it’s sort of a mythologized autobiography of how I discovered art as a child and how it continues to support me throughout every step of my life.

I am also developing a 52-week program (which I intend to freely disseminate under the inspiration tab of my website – though tips are welcome, if people are moved to contribute) which will approach creating as a form of meditative practice. It’s meant to be used as a way to reach personal and individual inner wisdom rather than a “do this to get that” thing. You become your own facilitator by finding your own way to your creative process.

I’ve been doing this on and off for a long while (it’s my set-point when I am in flow) and when ever I’ve fallen out of this groove I find I also lose my centre. I feel compelled to share this with the world, and it may not be anything new, per se, especially since so much of this is an integration of different processes that I’ve learnt over the years, but perhaps the combination is unique to me.

I recently made a tiny book called How to Navigate Loss. Inspired by Maya Stein’s prompt (of the title) I made the first one for her tiny book library and then decided that I ought to make a more refined version and offer it up as a limited edition. The books are tiny little works of art with a beautiful, healing message, hand made as they are ordered and only a limited number will be available.

I also just built a new Wix website and now that I have a quasi-shop space, I feel compelled to develop things to put up in there. Aside from the Tiny Book, as well as some other handmade items (some jewelry pieces, small original paintings, etc.), I’m in the process of conceptualizing some patterns for fingerless mitts/cuffs, and I plan to sell both the patterns and the actual wearables so that people can either make it themselves or buy the ready-made stuff if they are not DIY-inclined. I’m also working on putting together some images for greeting cards or little art prints. I will use a third-party for the production/shipping of the paper goods because I’m just not set up at the moment to do it myself, but at least I’ll start getting my stuff out there.

And finally, inspired by Squam Art Workshops (which I can’t currently and may never be able to afford to attend), I’m plotting “The Amazing PJ Getaway in the Great Wet North” for next spring (April). I have a couple of friends already on board… more are welcome (though no more than eight, because then it’s just going to be outta control space-wise). But plotting course/share offerings, goodie/trade bags, local walkabouts, radical quasi-rituals, and menu massaging… because food must be good/healthy/indulgent…! The event will be free except for pitching in for materials and food and whatever related airfare will cost to get here, if travelling from afar. And pyjamas and an open spirit are a requisite.

Aside from that I’m always thinking things up and making stuff. I can’t help it.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not really sure. I tend to take in what others are doing kind of like enjoying a nice piece of fruit and I don’t often compare my own work to what everyone else is doing, so I’m not really sure how it differs or is similar. I do make an effort to be original in content and execution, but I’ve been creating for so long now that I imagine my stuff must look unique to some extent.

I just do and make and create and hope that it offers my own perspective and that the flavour of my essence comes through in my art and words.

Why do I write/create what I do?

So for me the point of all of this is to express… paint the picture of yourself, continuously. It’s through that act of self-expression that we come to know our ever-changing selves. And the expression is the beauty – the beautiful thing to behold. It’s a shifting masterpiece, a performance piece.

Creation encompasses everything, not just the arts but… how we roll out of bed is a dance, the angle we fill the kettle with water at the sink is a sculptural study, the movement of our feet against the pavement a moving syncopated sound composition, how bodies of people acknowledge each other while crossing from opposite sides of the intersection a choreography of movement.

It’s all so fascinating at that level.

Yeah, sometimes the mundane shit wears us down because we stop being present and want to be elsewhere, but as soon as you pull the focus back to the doing, it becomes this amazing dance again, a co-creative symphony of movement and creation.

How does your writing/creating process work?

It depends on which part we are talking about, and which form. I could drive myself mad with all of the ideas always flowing through, especially if I tried pursuing them simultaneously.

Just.Too.Much.

So when I get an idea I jot it down in my iNotes (how cool is Cloud computing?!). The notes transfer to all my devices so I have access to all of my little ideas where ever I am. I add to them as things occur to me. When there’s enough there, or I feel moved to push the concept further, I start working on it in earnest.

Poetry flows of its own volition. Very rarely do I sit down to specifically compose poems. They come like a sirocco wind and blow through me. I remember hearing about how Ruth Stone explained her experience and thought “yes, exactly!”. Grab that sucker by its’ tail.

My other, lengthier, writing starts with idea kernels that I let incubate until they are ready to come to life on the page and develop into bigger stories. I’ve tried over the years to be more disciplined in my writing (i.e., create an outline, make character sketches, etc.) but I’m just not there yet. Maybe I’ll never be. I know who the characters are because I carry them inside me and they become “real” to me as the story incubates. I have an idea of where I want to take the story and then let it write itself. I “see” my stories in my head unfolding like a movie, reel-by-reel, scene by scene. I just capture what comes through.

What I have done, though, in the way of being more disciplined, is to deliberately create a space container to allow for the words to manifest. If you don’t make the time and merely wait until the words are ready to come spilling out, you will be waiting a long time. The French have this saying… l’appétit vient en mangeant – your hunger will grow once you start eating the meal.

The visual stuff is similar, but again, it depends on what I’m creating. Because I make so many different things I operate differently for each. Making a beaded necklace will be approached differently than working in a visual journal. However, what is the same in all of these is that I allow myself to tap into the stillness inside and let it speak in the creative process. I sort of step out of the way and let this non-rational part pick colours and beads and paints and collage materials and techniques and create. It truly feels like a sort of out-of-body experience and a dance with the divine. When I’m in that space it’s exhilarating and I often look at what I’ve created in the end and think “wow… I did that?!”.

So that’s me, in a nutshell.  Now on to the next part – I get to introduce you to some other creatives who agreed to join in on this journey.  Go visit their websites/blogs/FB pages and see what they’re up to, and make sure to check in next Monday (June 16) for their blog tour posts.

Anastasia Olson

Anastasia is a jewellery designer and metal alchemist extraordinaire, creating artisan jewellery that is unique and organic – but with a polished sophistication – meticulously handcrafted in sterling silver, copper, brass and gemstones.

You can find Ana online on Facebook and at her website.

Belle Wong

Belle Wong is a writer and blogger. She writes about books, writing and creativity at MsBookish.com, and is currently hard at work on a mystery novel and a children’s fantasy. She loves reading and anything to do with creativity, is a closet foodie, and has been known to dabble messily in various artsy endeavours.

Belle can be found on Twitter at @msbookish and on Google+.

Lisa Gornicki Bolender

Lisa is a self-proclaimed creative wanderer living in Southern California, making art and coaching creative souls.

You can find Lisa online her website.