TherapyThursday| Crossing Over from Past Defeat

It’s always easier said than done: facing your pain, guilt, loss, failures, taking them in stride and moving on with your life.

It’s far easier to blame whoever hurt you, or focus intently on your circumstances and throw a pity party, or to just stay angry at yourself, at your offender, at God.

The solutions are simple–facile? No. Simple, ouais.

I sum it up in one phrase:

PAY YOUR DUES.

  1. You owe yourself forgiveness. Forgive all the festering wounds, old injuries, snubs, rejections, insults, betrayals. Grace yourself with forgiveness for allowing it to happen.
  2. You owe God praise. He is always good all the time, even when everything looks awful and impossible.

    I know O Lord that all Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Psalm 119:75

  3. You owe your loved ones your love. It’s not easy to love the prickly members of our family–the ones who rub you the wrong way or cause drama or call you the demon child behind your back. But hurt people inflict other people with pain; they need your unconditional love the most (this isn’t endorsement for abuse or becoming a doormat though. You may need to go have some courageous conversations, as Sophia Nelson says.) Treat them kindly and honorably, and watch things shift.
  4. You owe your supporters your grateful, gracious response. The people who are truly here for you are not always seeking a handout or accolades. Yet when you do well, pay it forward!
  5. You owe your ancestors acknowledgement. Greatness isn’t created in a vacuum! Recount the stories of your elders and the generations who paved the way ahead of you. Learn from previous mistakes and generational patterns. Reach back to your home community.

My family on both sides provided examples of black love, resilience, and resourcefulness.

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How I Found that Art Heals the Broken

This is the Story of How Art Saved My Life.

I didn’t start out a carefree black girl, embracing a paintbrush to encapsulate my inner world. I used to be as mysterious as the secret garden.

Although few believe me when I tell them now, I was such a timid, quiet little girl. I felt awkward trying to figure out the right thing to say. I would self-edit in the middle of speaking my mind and be apologetic for taking up space.

I would not speak up for myself, closed my lips tightly and refused to voice my opinions. Rather than say what could never be taken back, I internalized everything I observed, felt, and thought, and I would write furiously. Pages, whole volumes of diaries and journals of adventures, fantasy, concerns, prayers, poetry. In these contained spaces I could abandon all of myself to creative expression.

I ventured onto public stages twice, in an intro to drama exploratory in middle school, and in spoken word. I consumed Def Poetry Slam like spring water and fell head over heels with Darius Lovehall. I wrote Virgin to the Mic and astounded people with how “deep” and powerful I sounded. Sharon G Flake wrote my life story in The Skin I’m In.
With lyrical descriptions of my everyday, I navigated the roller coasters of teen angst, the demands of school, social life.

Then came the day the levees broke. I was learning how to manage all my emotions, develop a thicker skin, maintain a stoic facade to face the world. How could I overcome some of these deeper insecurities?
Words were not gelling together quick enough.
Pastels were faster. I meditated my way through a ream of paper snowflakes. I could scribble furiously in ink that no one could decipher or silence. I sketched up composite characters of beloveds I knew. I drew sardonic thought bubbles and bludgeoned hearts, idyllic scenes of deer or koi ponds, worlds I had never visited in electrifying colors. I discovered that I was brilliant! I developed a passion for concentration portfolios and a penchant for large volume series. My hands moved so rapidly on full cylinders leaving little time for redrafts or do overs. I focused on getting the images out of my head and onto substrate.

Visual art took over where writing had left off, but I still felt a void where my voice was concerned. In all my whirlwind of collegiate activity–class, clubs, parties, event planning, labs, boyfriend, no sleep–what was I missing? Why did I feel such disconnect?
After a few stress management sessions, I decided to take a quiet retreat to a park and decompress weekly.
I picked up a bible and a mat to pray on. I rejoiced to find that my Creator Who spoke the universe into existence, Who fearfully and wonderfully made me was seeking me out all that time. (More on that journey later)
Over time, added to that arsenal a giant brush, a giant canvas backdrop, paper and pens. I encoded myself in graphics, in doodles, in non traditional materials, in self portraits, in word tunnels.
For every new obstacle or daunting situation, I met the challenge with bright, obstinate colors, with pigment, with black on black on black, with research.
Earlier in the summer of 2014, I figured out that I wanted to be an art therapist. To bridge the gaps between the shy and introverted and the voiceless, and healing. Because for me mark making was language, color screamed what a megaphone never could.
Arts Heals The Broken.
Mercy.

Tuesday Tea| Overcoming Decision Paralysis

Imprisoned in your own mind

Have you ever come up with an idea, a plan, a system, get so exuberantly excited about it that you bubble over with joy and novelty, and then..life shows up. Challenges mount. The people closest to you cannot or will not support you the way you imagines, and did I mention that the entire time, you are figuring out your life in the process? I digress.

Maybe you are a creative  getting an online store off the ground, or you committed to a 30 day workout challenge so you can get the tight core you always wanted, or you attempted to go vegan (btw kale wraps are the bomb, folks.)

When you get swamped with opposition, you can easily find yourself discouraged.

You need to employ systems for managing your priorities and activities, impacting how you use your time, energy and creativity for the better.

This month, I took the #FocusFor30 challenge from Monique of keepchasingthestars.com (Her blog is an incredible resource for creative business and staying positively productive!) Each day, we were to schedule one hour a day to a specific task. Honestly, I made it for 20 consecutive days, and then rather sporadically this week. In the course of those 20 days, I read a ton of Entrepeneur.com articles, took a couple of webinars on content creation, revamped my blog, completed a series of branding exercises, caught up on email, applied for part-time jobs, completed whole drawings, created content, dropped off artwork for MINT…I was on a roll, centering my day around an hour (or two if I felt extra motivated) of laser focus per task. I printed off a goal sheet and wrote out an 18 day ambitious and thorough Mia Anika brand and website relaunch campaign.

I ran out of steam, and then I ran out of time, and then I just ran.

Here is what I found:

Efficient systems require a feedback loop, some chosen metrics to quantitatively measure progress, and a fail-safe  (like a fuse box for electric wiring in the house).

QUALITY GOODS (1)
That fail-safe needs to leave room open for failure, emergency, adjustments, everyday living, and REST because I am not a robot!

When I fail to accomplish my objectives, I have to revisit my system (receive feedback in some way) to make some adjustment. Is there a blockage (discouragement, pressures) that needs to be removed? Am I standing in my own way?
Are the things I prioritized the right things for me to be pursuing at this time? Am I putting the cart before the horse?
Am I paralyzed at a crossroads with a decision to make?

It takes daunting faith to start before you are ready, to make executive decisions that will position you where you want to be. There’s practical steps you can take to go from Z to A:

  1. Visualize your issue. It’s easier to address a problem that you have written down. List your concerns, your viable solutions, and your alternatives. For resolving matters that appear to have a lot of grey area, make a Venn diagram or a concept map.
  2. Create a consequence matrix to assess risk. This measures the likelihood of an occurrence happening and the severity of the consequence. It’s a great way to  sort out all the possibilities scrambling around in your mind and prevent you from getting stuck in a rut of what if.
  3. Choose the most viable solution with the consequences you can live with. What will give you the most positive impact?
  4. Flip a coin and go with the flow after the fact. Lol.

You cannot decide if you cannot simplify. As my dad says, “You have options. You always have options.”

 

 

7 Takeaways on Transparency and Decisions

**Holiday Decompression and Regrouping**

For many, the holidays are time for family and friends to gather together in the spirit of goodwill and cheer, following such traditions as trimming the tree, caroling, ugly sweater parties and general jovial activities. For others, the holidays trigger bittersweet memories of days gone by, loved ones that have passed away, generations-old conflicts, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness.
For me, the month of December was a mixed bag of surprises, disappointments, misunderstandings, and episodes.
I amassed so much information about passive income, blogging, content creation, website launches and E-commerce, a good 3-4 months’ worth of things I’d need to implement. I attended numerous Twitter chats (shoutout Melissa Kimble MYCC and the Nectar Collective and others) about productivity, focus, self-care… I did my last creative event of the year, #TheClassroom benefit concert, and put together a mural proposal. I worked on personal branding exercises, assessed what I’d need to relaunch an online store, postponed the official launch so I could campaign effectively for results. Somewhere in all that, I carved out time to meet with friends, make prints, attend ugly sweater parties, go see Star Wars, bond with my brother Miles over Halo.
I also managed to create a maelstrom over my life and choices with my dad’s side of the family (insert 20+ years of emotional trauma-drama here). I cried rivers for days and sought advice from a couple of people I trust. At last, the fog is starting to clear from my mind, and I can regroup to plan for the next few months. Here are my major takeaways:

1. Communicate directly, clearly, and effectively, what your plans are.
No one knows what is going on inside your head but you. If you do not have a plan which you can lay out and clearly speak what you are doing, someone will create a plan for you. On the other hand, being direct and specific about your activities, dates, times, and company leaves little wiggle room for rumors and misunderstandings.

2. Everyone has triggers, including you.
Behind that tirade about your decision making, your missteps, mistakes and failures, is someone who may be genuinely concerned about your well-being. They also may be reliving their own struggles, or venting their personal frustrations. Recognize your personal triggers and guard your heart when you feel you’re about to detonate; unpack in time after the conversation. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guard your heart and mind with the peace that surpasses understanding, to give you the words to say.

3. Ask for help–but discern who is the best source for that help.
Sometimes, you just need a push. Other times, you need physical (material/financial) support, not just spiritual, mental and emotional. But don’t discount any type of support; rather, prioritize so you can ask for what you need. Recognize in advance what you can leverage and where someone’s skill set suits you.
Not everyone is mature enough, equipped enough, wise enough, selfless enough, or knows you well enough to really lend you the assistance you seek. People always act in their own best interest, first.

4. Major initiative is required on your part to get you where you need to be.
All the great advice in the world is not going to help you unless you DILIGENTLY apply what’s useful. Cut out ALL your distractions and time wasters: those things that look like opportunities but are really taking you out of alignment with God’s best for you. Consider who is in your circle and connect more deeply with folks who can take you where you want and need to be. Get rid of negative, apathetic or lazy influences that stagnate, drain and deplete you.

5. Be free from bondage to other people’s opinions, expectations, and perceptions.
You cannot change another person’s perception of circumstances or people, no matter how you defend them or offer your perspective. My parents may never see each other in a positive light, and I must accept that and move on; at the same time, I cannot take up their offenses personally, open myself to a vicious downward spiral of negative thoughts about myself, or get entangled in depression. Rise above in your mind. Be mindful of how folks’ view of themselves impacts what they see in you. It’s not usually you; its them. Someone will always have something to say about what you do or don’t do, good, bad, indifferent. Do not subject yourself unnecessarily to being torn down–you are not a martyr for baggage. Creatives and entrepreneurs especially must protect their headspace.
If you are seeking to please people, then you cannot serve properly.

6. Simplify and fortify your life.
Uncomplicate your life, make executive decisions, and strengthen what is lacking.
Busyness is not synonymous with productivity. Having the external appearance of making major moves is not the same as moves actually manifesting. You have to do the hard work, putting in 1000% effort into you own goals and vision. God did not give the vision to anyone else, so no one will see what you see. Mentors, advisors, peers in your field can talk to you all day long, but in the end, you must decide what your life will look like. You’ve got to make it happen.
To become focused and remain focused, tailor your everyday to executing that vision. If you are rebranding yourself so you can relaunch your online business, center your day around that with some flexibility for breaks other activities. If you are applying for jobs, or grad school, or a residency in Timbuktu, you must allocate full consistent time and resources to get results. If your priorities must change, adjust accordingly, but you don’t have to cast your dreams aside.

7. It’s not always either/or, but both/and. Not every major or minor decision is centered around an ultimatum. Lately, the things I have gotten hung up about have been about balance, determining what environment I would grow in. Select what’s most essential, put thought and time into making it happen, and then move down the list. It’s really as simple as weighing a choice and its alternatives. Ask God to show you what’s the righteous thing to do (which may mean Him speaking to you in a still, small voice, through other people, in Scripture, through red flags–don’t ignore those!)

Most of the time, we know what we need to do, but we do not desire to get it done. We scream that we are not prepared enough, that we lack direction and need help making decisions. We shut down out of fear, we overreact to criticism, we make excuses, or practice escapism. How many times must you circle around that mountain before you move forward in faith? Your obedience impacts you and whoever is connected to you; there are definitely unforeseen consequences to your disobedience.
The decisions I’ve had to make have involved everything Christ told us not to worry about: how I will make a living, how I will pay off debt, where will I live, what will I eat, drink, wear… Rest in confidence that the wisest choice will also be blessed with true PEACE.
I am unlearning anxiety slowly, one step in the right direction at a time.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Tonight, it goes down: winter solstice, the longest night of the year 2015, with rain accentuating the soft notes of this atmosphere. I am spending these next 10 days or so being acutely introspective, reorganizing for the coming months.

As I clean out my online closets and choose the useful things, (including whether or not to delete this blog and start anew), I feel a familiar wave of nostalgia and bittersweet release wash over me. Every year I know I have grown just a bit more, even with the missteps. Earlier this evening, I began a dedicated hour of content creation, that extended itself well over three hours once I found my About page. I really hadn’t paid it any mind in the past couple of years, so I proceeded to skim, and tears filled my weary eyes. It was as if my younger, more naive self had written a letter full of sunshine for me to read 4-5 years later.

Sometimes, the only one you need to encourage you, is yourself.

here is what MikaRedfoxx (cringe, cringe) had to say to me:

Introducing Me. Me=Mix of Everything

steadily flowing streams of consciousness washing through my being and flushing out all the mixed up washed up thoughts tumbling about in a dryer without any fabric softener so they remain coarse and raw and

Matter-of-fact Expression, Modern and Eclectic taste, More Emotional than the average sensitive soul

Math Equations &chemistry sets and poetry&paintings

strength intelligence passion compassion sympathy empathy logic art talent writing randomness

Measure of Excellence. encompassing a creative force to be reckoned with.

I fall under so many labels: twin, bigsister, eldest daughter, niece, amiga, hermanita, peer, classmate, [contributor,] Africana neo-soul internationalist hipster stuck in the 90s, retro and forward-minded…

I create, it’s what I do: make up blues songs that I never seem to have the means to record, poetry &prose, random choreography to catchy tunes and handshakes with my best friends, deliciousness in the form of BROWNIEEES!! paintings, paper sculptures, drawings, mixed media collaborations between paper, fabric, paint, lacquer, ink, charcoal, oilpastels…

I am Cherokee, Blackfoot, Seminole, Mexican and African-American, and a woman shifting and moving underground..

I seek to discover myself, to be more aware of my limitations as an artist, as an intellectual.

O winds of cynicism don’t blow me away just yet…I want to color someone’s day…”

Not to mention that bit I had removed about being a Scottie (if you don’t know ask somebody about us) and some other rather ratchet phrases I deleted. How hilarious and yet how profound, that is how I estimated myself. I’m no longer seeking out limits in that sense of containment…

Here is my modified, “mature” statement, cut and pasted between this youth manifesto and my poetic artist statement in my website, http://www.miaanikaart.com:

In the series, Microcosms: Depth and Darkness, I explore the energy and dimension of paint through abstraction. Using acrylic and ink, I create dynamic spaces on small squares through value, texture, various mark making, broad brushstrokes, and sweeps of color. I have expanded this project to large-scale works.

In the Tempest series, I record my transition into “the real world”, a journey full of sudden financial downturns, spiritual upswings, rapid mood and environment shifts, and loads of apparent missteps. But then, then there’s the light, and the breeze and the calm, and then plunge. I cover a full 2 seasons in A Wee Book of Storms, and medium paintings.

I am Mia Anika, a black Millennial creative exploring and expanding in Atlanta, Georgia. I actively work as a visual facilitator, painting instructor and freelance artist, and plan to become an art therapist in the next few years.
I relate to the world graphically: I process emotion and atmosphere and regurgitate in living color. I paint and craft, insert and remove myself as a therapy–it serves as my
psychoanalysis. I attempt to reclaim what’s perceived as loss. I facilitate others’ healing by inviting them to participate through the creative process.

In my work, I incorporate the power and intrigue of language; I restate pictorially and think in visuals, ascribe significance in lyrical description. I communicate with gestures and colors, generating spaces with my hands. I am motivated by identity and relationship, by mood and atmosphere, by serendipity. History and I have a casual dialogue which leads to breakthrough.
I am committed to building community among young creatives of color, restoring families and groups’ sense of serenity through creative expression.”

There is something to taking yourself seriously: You must pursue that to the end of communicating and demonstrating your value, because no one else can. I can articulate in prose now, haha. As a human and esp. a creative, you constantly self-edit.
Sometimes I cringe at old work…other times I can appreciate my rawness…

what a time to be alive.

Have you rehashed old content to make improvements? What’s been your creative evolution? Share in the comments below!

 

3 Reminders When You Paint Live

Wow, what a week! Wednesday December 16th, I featured as a live artist at The Classroom, an motivational benefit concert held at The Music Room on Edgewood. It was my last show of the year, and I anticipated debuting my style’s recent development. I use live art events to hone my speed, to experiment with new media, and to connect with other creatives. Live art is an effective tool to demonstrate just what you know and add value to your works.

Here’s 3 Things to Remember when you paint live:
1. You may need an assistant–and that is okay. With all the supplies you’re carrying in hand: canvas/ other substrate like paper, Bristol board, wood; paint/ink/markers, palette, palette knives, rag, apron, work lamp, extension cord, along with your business cards, email sign up sheet, prints…
Someone has to keep up with all of that stuff and that person may not be you. Reduce your scurrying so you can focus on creating.

2. You are here to promote yourself.
Interact with your audience; demonstrate your skills; walk folks through your process when you can. Collect contacts. Have your social media info legibly on display. Show some smaller pieces or prints of older work available for sale, things with continuity with your project. (This is brand building.) Bring a tip jar so people can leave their compliments with dollars! 😉 Thank everyone!

3. Your mission/priority is to compose.
You’re not required to cater to the whims of your audience as far as your subject goes, but it is hugely beneficial to keep people engaged. Use vibrant, bold colors, super gestural strokes, big movements. Situate yourself in good lighting, where there’s moderate traffic and a good flow. Take occasional breaks to chat, or step back and examine your work. Take plenty of photos and video. Do not allow anyone (fan, friend, promoter, hater) to interfere with your vibes or throw you off your game–just keep working! Shake off your nerves, creative one. In the words of Mary J., “Let loose and let your mind go free!”

There you have it! Have you ever created art in front of a live audience? Want to but don’t know where to begin? Have suggestions? Tweet me or comment below!