the end of 36

I only have a couple of days left in 36, and I have to say that I've reflected on all that made it my best year. At least, the best that I could make of it. It most certainly wasn't my best year... 

It was a tough year, and yet there was so much good about it. I got to love and be loved, I got to grow and expand. Yet, there were a number of heavy restraints. They pushed me really hard. In many ways, they (literally) broke me. From replacing my stolen things, to being sick every other month, hurting from my living space, to running a business, keeping up with the demands, the questions, the balance, the juggling act; the not knowing where I was in my surroundings, trying to accept the changes, trying to appreciate the moment, trying to love every little piece of what kept me going, to accepting that I'd have to pack up and move again, to falling flat on my ass (broken rib). The universe told me, straight out, to just stop running. 

It was where I had to learn how to ask for help. It was so difficult for me accept it, and yet, it was fine time I got some practice. I've spent years trying to do it all on my own, in my own way, as if asking was too much for anyone to keep up with. I thought I had to give so much back in return, when the truth is that people just want to love you. Closeness was so difficult to accept, when I felt I couldn't give back my best. Those who love you don't ask for payback. Care is honest. Love is truth. I had absolutely no idea how to accept it, when I felt embarrassed for being less of myself. I had to accept that when things break down, it's okay to go with it. Let it happen. Let it be. It's part a part of life. Love is there to heal.

It was a year that I learned my personal strengths, hidden within my weaknesses. No matter the struggle, I pushed my focus to the better side of things. There's damage in optimism when you choose not to see the truth behind what's hurting you. I was pushed around on unsteady ground, surrounded by noise, chaos, and tension. I didn't know that my living space hurt me that badly, until I left it. I was scrambling for a place to land, while clinging to something so unsteady. Let the falls be part of the process. It has increased my optimism to believe that these moments are meant to teach valuable lessons. I learned a big lesson about the importance of home. It needs to be safe, supportive, secure, and steady. If it's not... the disconnect is very tough to live with. No amount of optimism will save you. Damn, I tried so hard.

I was given the gift of a loving heart. It held me tight. It told me everything would be fine. It took me in when I needed shelter. It gave me wings to fly. It always encouraged me upward. It showed me the truth of simple, lasting, love. It gave me more than I could ever put into words. Companionship, strength, understanding, truth, structure, trust, honesty, beauty, simplicity, connection, family, play, exploration, creativity, expansion, growth, care, balance, openness, vulnerability, hope, acceptance.... A never ending list of discoveries. This is the part of my 36 that I choose to take with me. It's what kept me smiling through all of the incredible challenges. I learned that it's okay to just let love in. Even if it's a scary thing to accept. 

Photo by Scott Townend

I learned to accept this love from all directions. I visited my roots. I surrounded myself with family, to bring myself back to where it all started. I'd spent a long time running from it without reason. There were things I didn't want to revisit, and yet those things had been put to rest. Nothing can hurt me anymore. I took a deep breath, and I chose to go forth. I chose to accept the changes that have delivered an incredible list of experience. I am loved, and there's beauty in knowing that no matter where I am, and no matter the shape I take, I have a loving place to rest. I am so grateful for knowing where I come from. It's where I acknowledge my core, and view my truth. I come from a good place, with a little bit of grit around the edges. It's the imperfections that bring about a beautiful surface. I learned to accept that even from myself.

I got to experience the absolute importance of what I do. To see how my art, which is my heart and soul, can affect the hearts of others... No words can describe it for what it is. I honestly can't express the gratitude I have toward these experiences, because they run deep. They're things that only I can know for myself and why they touch me the way that they do. They are the memories that I'll carry with me forever, without any doubt. I'm still learning to let go of how absolutely overwhelming it is to know that what I do has so much meaning. I can't.. I really can't express it. I just know I have a whole lot to be proud of, and that's going to take some time for me to process. The value in what I do has absolutely nothing to do with dollar amounts. Memories like this ... yes, they're priceless. I got a whole lot of gifts of gratitude in 36. It goes both ways.

I learned that I have a very emotional job. For an emotional person, this can be a really tricky balance. My heart is expansive, and yet it has its limits. With what I do, I have to balance out all that I give, and practice giving it back to myself in return when it is needed. My job deals with a lot of loss and heartache, and so life and death are a constant reminder that this is what we're here to do. I've drawn probably hundreds of pets and loved ones who are no longer with us. This can actually cause me to stop, breakdown, and cry directly into the faces of those who are in front of me. I don't like to be reminded that all is temporary.. and yet, it's where I learn to appreciate every waking moment that I am given. There is a lesson behind all hurt, and I'm grateful to be able to relieve others of their own personal heartache through the joy of making art. I wish to continue to do this through my living days, but a break is necessary for some breathing room. I'm just glad to realize that there is so much love in this world. Far more than I ever anticipated to discover. 

In the mix of it all, I was still scrambling. I was hanging on tight to where I wanted to land, and yet that landing space was pushing me out. My home was telling me to leave, as I was trying to stay. I'd come home from a place that also pushed me out (the island). One, I left without hesitation, to come back to where I couldn't let go. The difficult lesson in it all was that I was returning as a different person, and all that was familiar, was no longer. The disconnect made me really confused, and I even clung to the thought that maybe I needed to be back on that island again.. even if the push was toward all that I wanted. I didn't know what that was. I really didn't even know how to look for it.. until I had to. I was pushed out again, and I grew even more resentful of the instability. Like floating and falling into distress, with absolutely no place to land.  It's tough when you don't know where you belong, or even who you are anymore. I felt so lost and, at times, completely alone. It was an entirely new shell of isolation that I didn't want any part of. Like floating away from earth itself.

Of course, I eventually landed. Sometimes, it happens when you least expect it, and sometimes things have to reach a certain level of uncontrollable chaos before it finally comes to a halt. It's like stepping, blinded, into the colourful world of Oz, after a black and white cyclone has taken you for a spin. I finally landed. My mind is at a resting place, my legs no longer wobble beneath me, my fingers no longer scramble to cling to a surface that is pushing me away. It's calling me in. It's like I arrived, at last, to place where I am not only home; but where I am whole. I see so much of what was calling for me, right here, waiting. I now have room to grow, a place to breathe, space to expand and reach further into the wild unknown with a firmer grip on where I belong. It's like the best of both of my worlds just presented themselves in front of me. The welcoming expanse of nature (like the island), and a place I know to call home. It's different than what it was before, but it's more of who I am today. It's the end of a blurry 36, and the beginning of a clearer, welcoming, 37. It's like the universe spoke up again and said what it told me from the start, just stop running. It's time to relax. Be free. 

Go be 37.


art work

A couple of weeks ago, I got myself a pack of 10 canvases. Considering I haven't had much of a relationship with painting -lately- it was a bit of a weird choice to go so overboard with my purchase. They were cheap, and a series was calling me. When I finally spread out my materials, shut off my distractions, put on my paint clothes, and decided to let my paintbrush do the talking, I saw something that surprised me.  I was coming from a place of distress. 

It has been a struggle to openly admit that I'm tired of the world. The anger, the immaturity, the pussy hats, the fighting, the pointing fingers, the war, the competition for who is hurting the most. It's so tiresome, and I don't feel I have to be part of it on a daily basis to classify as caring. Happiness is a recipe we all want to get our hands on, yet it is bashed and trashed for being too much. It's not a competition. I've decided that if I can't control the sanity of the world, I can at least control my own. 

Since becoming a paid artist, the disconnect from work and art have come to blur my vision. For years now, I've been doing it in an entirely different way from what is natural to me. My skills haven't improved, my drive no longer exists, I'm following lists of instructions from someone else's vision, in some ways I'm even dumbing it down so far below my capabilities just to play it safe for what is acceptable. Art isn't about reading minds, or doing what you're told. At least not for me. Ask any artist about custom orders and they'll likely tell you the same story. So soon as we're asked for reason, we shut down. It's what I believe kills creativity to begin with.

I've struggled with seeing the value of my position, even though there are a number of incredible artists who I look up to.  I don't know how to put myself in a higher position, or even see myself as intelligent, or brave enough to firmly believe that what I have to offer has far more value than a marketed price tag. It's where my confidence falls short, where I don't trust even my own voice, and why I'm pushing harder to understand what it is that keeps us standing in our own way.  All at once, I'm discovering my true value. This is a push to move forward. 

This is still a growing practice, putting myself out there. I don't even know where I'm going with it. All I know is that a lot of struggles are going on under the surface, along with what is going on outside. It's not easy to keep up with, and I feel that now is the time to really find the strength to get through this. You are in more control than you are led to believe. 

I'm here to help you.


the art of healing

I feel we could all use some time to acknowledge our strengths. In this busy world, it often takes an actual effort to make time for ourselves; where it becomes too simple to look past all of those things that really matter. The world has been in a flip floppy place. Emotions are high, feelings are vulnerable, and the tension is thick. I'd say it's almost toxic to get too close to it right now, and so, I'm pulling at my own heart to hear it out, and heal. It's time.

If there's one thing I'm good at, it's healing. The downside is that I had to learn through some really unfortunate experiences. I've been told that I'm more optimistic than I allow myself to believe, because when things become a natural habit, we often forget that not everyone feels or believes or behaves the same. Optimism isn't an easy thing to hang onto, when life gets real, and throws a punch or two in your direction. We can get totally knocked off of our feet, and have no idea when we'll land. It's when I call upon my creativity, to map out the journey to get there. I suppose that's a gift I should be more grateful for. I don't know what I'd do without it.

It's why I want to share more. It's something I feel people can get some real closure from, to express in their own way; once we get rid of rationalizing and trying to understand everything. I'm a great over thinker, but I never block myself from feeling it out.  If I did, I likely wouldn't be drawing anymore. It's why I feel sort of sad when I hear people say that they "can't" draw, when it's really a matter of trying. I feel creativity is what keeps our hearts alive and happy. Look at how kids play with their imaginations. I'm pretty sure most of us were like that at some point. I don't believe in ever letting that go.

When my grandma died, it was probably the biggest life altering experience ever. I had no idea how I was going to go on without her, and sometimes, even after 20 years, I think of her and wish I could sit at her kitchen table and just chat for hours. It's what we did best. When that was gone, it was absolutely like I'd lost such a part of myself that would never return. Loss has an incredible impact on so much around us, never realizing how much it takes from us, as we move forward as different people. This is life, and it's not easy to accept at all times. I just like to remember that I've gotten through it, and to a better place since then. I didn't think it was possible. I have my art to thank for that. It literally painted a picture of everything I was feeling underneath the surface. That's the beauty.. You get to see it all in front of you as you let it all out into the open. What's more special is that it's all yours to know, see, feel, and understand. It sort of builds a special relationship all over again, that no one but you will ever know.

I painted pictures of trees. It's something my grandma once said she'd like to come back as, if given the chance; so she could continue to provide for her family. We never planted a tree, but I chose to look at my surroundings as a comforting presence to bring her closer to me, for my own healing. The more I painted trees, the more I accepted that this was the shape she would forever remain. It's of course not the same as who I remember, but something I can go to if I ever need to get through those lumps of coping with life and death. It closes those gaps of distance that we have no control over. I am so appreciative for all of my tree paintings. I think it might be time to make another one, just to see how much has changed. I'm sure my grandma would be proud of who I am today.

I use my creativity to get through personal challenges. When I was heading to the island, in 2015, I drifted into isolation, and yet my art went into outer space. I realized my fears and curiosities of the unknown, and let it be a part of me. I was moved by Bowie's Space Oddity because the words inspired me to take the leap into an unfamiliar place, just to see what I could discover for myself. I will never forget the drive, and hearing that first strum of the guitar to start me on my journey. An image came to mind, my thoughts exploded, and before I could rest on the first night I arrived, I was in my sketchbook, recording these thoughts. This will always be a moment in life that I'll value forever. It's when I changed entirely, and found who I am. I sometimes still don't know who that is, but I know if I need guidance, I can pick up a pen and see for myself. 

Art is an act of expression, and it speaks in many volumes. It can come in the form of a painting, drawing, a song, a sculpture, a poem.. endless mediums that bring an incredible amount of healing and emotional discovery. I hate to admit that when shit gets bad, I look at it as an opportunity to make great things. It's like the Trump stuff. We're all sick of it, we're all fearful; but we can laugh for a moment at someone's comical depiction of him; because we need that relief from our feelings. It doesn't mean we don't care, it's just a reminder that we can find laughter in the face of so much negativity and in some ways terror. I just don't believe we have to be in that thick of emotion, in order to be a part of society. It's why I said that when Trump was elected, the world is going to have some amazing art to share. 

I'm looking to express, and practice more of my strengths; because the point of this post was for my own personal reminder. Healing takes time, and I believe we all go through moments of absolute despair and frustration. If you are in need of some relief from the real world, pick up a pen, sit down at your piano, dig out those scrap pieces of fabric, scissors, ink, a new journal for your thoughts. Don't deny your creativity the time to speak. If you're hurt, alone, sad, broken, beat; now is the time to pull out your finest.You know you have it in you, and so do I. There is so much to share with the world around you. It needs more love. 

I'm here for you.


the sinking horse

A little while back, I decided to illustrate something for self motivation. Much like how people use inspirational quotes, I rely on imagery and art. I'm inspired by stories and character; and the emotions that surround them. When I first saw this scene, from The NeverEnding Story, I remember feeling -once I got over how sad I was about the beautiful white horse getting dirty- that when it comes to personal struggles, sometimes you have to let the horse sink. It doesn't mean you're selfish, it doesn't mean you've failed, and it never for a second means that you don't care. Just sometimes, you have to realize which position you're in, before it's too late to ask for help.

This image makes me consider my own personal struggles. I've become more honest with myself when it comes to my insecurities, my frustrations with anxiety and depression, and how my self esteem honestly blows. I don't like to put that stuff out there often, because then I feel the need to over explain, so that I don't get emails from people who think I'm in a bad place with myself. I don't need to hear that I "don't need to feel that way", or that it's stupid for me to even be insecure at all. Being told your emotions aren't right is where the struggle begins, and I'd say that for many years, I've been the role of the horse; because I didn't know how to ask for help.

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

A few weeks ago, I fell on the ice and broke a rib. When it first happened, I was pissed at myself for being so stupid. Who falls on the ice? Why weren't you paying attention? How do you manage to make things worse for yourself at all times? It became less about the accident itself, and more about my personal downfalls. Pity party central, actually. Where do you expect to take yourself, when you only expect yourself to fail? It's exhausting. Don't be the horse. There really is no need. 

It takes a lot to know when it's time to let go. At least for me. I always try to work things out, to gain understanding, to somehow balance everything in order to say it's just fine. Taking on too much at once, can really result in too much weight to carry, which eventually leads us to the failure we've all been trying desperately to avoid. This whole experience, and this image, have taught me so much about myself, and how unnecessary it is to play both roles, at all times. As a good friend once told me, "just because you can do it yourself, doesn't mean you have to." Know your limits, reach out when it's needed, and you'll never be the sinking horse.

It's okay to ask for help.