It’s normal to have questions and even a bit of uncertainty when you first step out and do a new thing, all through every stage and level you go through. But there is a thin line between being inquisitive and having doubt.
What if this doesn’t work out? What if no one likes this? What if I let down my audience/clients/customers with this new direction?
I’m so tired of getting in my own way. I’m tired of “What If” ing myself into inaction. Aren’t you?
Seriously, what would taking that chance look like for you?
Renewal, restoration, replenishing?
What about the spring of favor attached to you obeying the call and fulfilling your purpose? It shows up as goodness, all-sufficient grace for you to complete everything in front of you, and loving kindness to keep you in the midst of your tests, your shortcomings, your plunges. Remember:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
CAN I TAKE SOME TIME TO TESTIFY ABOUT GOD’S GRACE?
OHHHH, GRACE, UNMERITED GRACE!
Check it: If you never learn anything else from me, learn this:
The minute you surrender to whatever the Lord assigns to you, the door swings wide open in heaven.
Anything that was a distraction–a shiny, attractive idea, concept or person that only resembles what He revealed to you in your quiet time–gets removed.
That, for me my friends, stands as the definition of deliverance!
Anything that even smelled like fear, or doubt, or other people’s opinions discounting you–dealt with and eradicated.
I can hardly believe this was over 4 years ago! Making paste papers was really fun, and they sure came in handy when it was time to make book covers!
Our 1st active class session, I had oh so much fun!! We made paste papers, a simple process involving cooperation and collaboration amongst peers, easy if lengthy cleanup, and creative pattern making via..well, it’s fingerpainting.
Pick a paper: Strathmore or rice (which, contrary to misconceptions, is apparently NOT made of rice grains, i.e. food, but from the long fibers of the rice plant. Who knew?) Strathmore paper is pretty smooth, sturdy, and durable, although I don’t think it’s a rag paper [will double check!] Another fun fact about rice paper: It is most vulnerable and delicate when wet, but stronger once it dries again–so when scoring, making patterns with tools, or stamping, you’re better off just waiting until it dries or just being really, really, REALLY careful.
In a catfood can (or other bowl-like container; we just used cat food cans), Mix a fingernail-sized dollup of ink with a huge glob of wheat paste, enough to fill at least half the can. Stir thoroughly; try to “whisk” as many lumps out as possible.
Dampen your chosen paper with a sponge or wet paper towel. With rice paper, you should probably wet the table underneath it.
Liberally apply your mixed paste to your paper and smear with your hands. Feel free to add more ink for stronger hue, more paste to spread it out, little scraping tools to add paterns, etc.
When you’re done, put the inked up paste paper on a sheet of neswprint and then put on the drying rack.
There were brayers, cork stamps and cut up plastic lids, laughter and comraderie. I began to sing the Brady Bunch theme song, which sparked a full 10-15 minute discussion of TV shows and the Brady boys….and feminism…across the room…
How to assess how much fun we had:
WE NEVER stopped laughing/chortling/giggling/moving
We collectively used at least a third of the pack of Strathmore, and ALL of the rice paper by the end of class
Many, many jokes passed around about the resemblance of the wheat paste to various substances: Nickelodeon slime, oatmeal, snot, ketchup, kitty litter, split pea soup, carrot souffle, BBQ sauce, ketchup and mustard…
Mixing colors was enjoyable because it kept yielding unexpected results, like sea foam green or Barney purple, or turquoise.
There was definitely clear exchanges of ideas, especially when it came to producing textures on the paper, sharing mesh and stamps, and leftover colors.
Teamwork!! I know in my case in particular, I ALWAYS needed help lifting my rice paper onto the newsprint–which I kept leaving on the blotting table on the OPPOSITE side of the room!!
In fact, me working with Gabby and Yehimi to get one of my aqua rice papers onto a sheet lead to a sort of crude printmaking opportunity: We tried putting the rice paper on newsprint–the rice paper, which was already torn and still trying to tear, had to be adjusted twice. Gabby suggested we move the rice paper to a piece of Strathmore instead, since it was stronger. That’s when we noticed that the ink had bled thru and made this really fancy pattern on the newsprint . GASP!You could really see everyone’s lightbulbs come on: What if we placed a wet strathmore on the other side and pressed them together? Anne called it a “Printmaking moment.”
So, yay! New discoveries were made and a ton of paste papers were created–plenty enough to cover any size book. We cleaned up with sponges or used razors to scrape the dried paste-ink off the tables. and thusly, my school day was over by 12:30. 😀
I took a walk outside, enjoying this unseasonably warm Georgia weather, and I felt my soul stretch! Whew!
You see, after spending days on end glued to my laptop screen wrapping up some projects, I had become cramped in more ways than one.
My legs were practically jelly. My eyes were dry and tired. I was getting snappy. (Apologies to my family; I really haven’t been myself.)
That irritability, that moment when you are approaching the very edge of your wits and tension is building in your muscles, clearly shows that you must get away.
I’m not talking about escapism, per se. Just come away for a while so you can return with fresh eyes. A clear, sound, well-balanced mind.
Today, give yourself a time out. Take a walk, exercise, meditate, read some scripture. Read the Grammy’s thinkpieces. Allow yourself to actually go on a mini quest. Go breathe real air. That blog post will still be on your computer. That template in MailChimp will autosave. Those beats you’ve been painstakingly putting together will get to Soundcloud.
But your audience, your customers, your readers need you to be the best you. Not half-slumping, frantic you.
This project was the bridge into abstraction, my “last hurrah” with figurative work, and my first foray into performance art. I wore a costume/outlandish outfit every single day for a month.
So began my intensive, 30-40 day concentrations on one subject, and me producing a large volume of small works.
It’s Therapy Therapy! Come on in, and settle in the plushy cushioned couch. (You can lay on the leather chaise if you want, but I’m all for the fluffy and comfy. 😀 )
Let’s stretch. Reach your arms up, up, up towards the stars. Wriggle your fingers! Inhale deeply; shake it out!
Now, slowly, move your arms down to your sides. Breathe in deep. Alright, now, let’s get to the inner work.
I don’t know about you, but this has been a particularly heavy week.
Tuesday I found out about MarShawn McCarrell taking his own life.
“My demons won today. I’m sorry.”
I cried for the entire day, inconsolably.
I did not have the pleasure to have met this young man in person (thank God for social media) but as I watched so many others pour out their condolences, and their shared memories, and their grief, and his activism, I could acutely feel loss. Overwhelm. Pressure. Void. Such a stellar person touched so many.
“My demons won today. I’m sorry.”
Those words will continue to haunt me, and my heart breaks. Advocating for black lives and working in social justice is tough–and I KNOW that’s a ridiculous understatement.
I’ve only been here 23 years. I do not know of a time more pressing to raise support and awareness around trauma, mental health, and wellness in our communities and movements, than right now. In the wake of Anthony, Sandra, MarShawn and countless, beautiful souls senselessly taken.
I cannot fathom that today may be the day you just want to quit.
That the well of anguish is simply too deep, and I have nothing to draw with.
That you’ve been hiding in the shadows with a plastic smile and an empty, aching heart.
That you don’t think you have any more tears left in you. That the spotlight burns and you want to launch off the pedestal. That you’re beyond tired.
This I know; this little light I have for you.
J O Y.
In that Scripture, Nehemiah was teaching the people, Today is set apart for the Lord’s purposes (consecrating, calling sacred and holy).
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all of the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Don’t mourn or weep.” They said this[d] because all the people wept when they heard the words of the Instruction. 10 “Go, eat rich food, and drink something sweet,” he said to them, “and send portions of this to any who have nothing ready! This day is holy to our Lord. Don’t be sad, because the joy from the Lord is your strength!” 11 The Levites also calmed all of the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy. Don’t be sad!”12 Then all of the people went to eat and to drink, to send portions, and to have a great celebration, because they understood what had been said to them.
I say to you reading this, that TODAY is set aside for ALMIGHTY GOD’S purposes.
Not our agenda, not our work schedule, not our events and projects.
You are not reading this by chance.
This is a day to celebrate, to exchange mourning for praise, to rejoice at making it through hardships and at the baby steps, to simply set back and be amazed at Almighty Creator’s work in your life!
Yes, even at this moment, you are being kept in the palm of His hand; He is not afar off, but near to all who call on Him sincerely, and close to the brokenhearted, and the outcast, and the rejects, and the discouraged. Lift up your head and acknowledge Him, because even in the silence, He is present.
I want you to focus on joy. Today, calmly focus…on joy. Smile.
Smile, though your heart is aching,
Even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds, in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile, through all fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll find the sun come shining through for you
Light up your face, with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear maybe ever so near
Cause that’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worth while
If you, you just smile.
I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart. Psalm 119:32
Pull up a chair and have a biscuit; it’s time for Tuesday Tea! Let’s talk about running out of space.
Growth is the outcome of dedicating time, energy, significant effort into bringing something from seed form to a full, flourishing state of being:
From single word to presentation
From cute idea to product
From hypothesis to probable theory
From seedling to tree
From fetus to adult
Ideally, our creative ventures will expand, enlarge and become efficient, effective vehicles. Platforms to stand upon. Programs to implement. Profits bounding from the windows to the wall.
I’m getting macroscopic here. My point is that growth should be expected in life, and lacking growth is stagnation, death.
What becomes apparent when a person, place, idea grows?
It immediately requires more room.
That lily you planted a few months ago has to be moved to a larger pot.
Your child can climb out of the crib herself; she needs a new bed.
A simple to-do list won’t do anymore–that new initiative needs a complete project management system. Not a vision board, a vision wall.
You’ve got so many sketches, you’ve got to get a separate portfolio to keep them in. Your canvases are taking over your bedroom, and your bathroom, and the living room…
You have a thousand invoices to send and 2000 orders to fill before Friday…
You just can’t seem to get to the last 100 unread messages in your inbox…
Your hard drive is running out of disc space–every week.
You hear God whisper, and feel a familiar tug in your heart that it’s time to find a new place of worship, to go into ministry full-time, to teach, to move across the country…
Growth comes with its own pains: uprooting, saying goodbye, switching platforms, bringing on an assistant, learning a new language.
When you run out of space, you’ve got to carve out more room.
This must be intentional!
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been wrestling with my cloud-streaming computer. Although I had saved all graphics & photos to the cloud, I could not figure out for the life of me why the hard drive would fill itself up! It seemed to be happening on its own, like the magic brooms filling the fountain in Fantasia! And I just…wanted to (gingerly but forcefully) shove my laptop onto the floor.
This issue was holding up too many projects, occupying way too much of my time. What’s a frustrated creative to do?
I opened Disc Cleanup manager and to my surprise, my laptop had saved every single solitary update Windows had run since it was assembled in the factory. 162 updates to be exact, all consuming my limited free space.
I had to selectively clean out my system files and old updates to make room for new stuff.
Moral to this real life snippet?
Delete whatever is outdated and no longer beneficial to you.
Clear out all that is cluttering your headspace, even if it presents itself as useful information.
Some of the experiences and connections you have gained over the years were seasonal instructions and assignments, that are now completed. You’ve outgrown your old school of thought. You are no longer dependent on that relationship. That free website platform is limiting your expansion into e-Commerce. Those well-meaning family and friends just cannot grasp the scope of your vision because it was not given to them.
Celebrate your personal and professional growth!
Be thankful that you can now demonstrate greater faith, be more fruitful, more loving. It is a beautiful thing always to grow up, no matter what you let go of in the process; there’s so much more to make room for!
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater.
2 Thessalonians 1:3
I have had an idea stewing in the works now for a couple of weeks, and I just cannot hold it in any longer. 😀
I have spent the better part of January 2016 devising a few projects, some goodies that will help scattered, stressed and strained creatives put all that nervous energy into positive use.
Some relax by knitting. Others sip wine and watch old movies; other people party, or fill out puzzle books, or enjoy a Steven Universe marathon on Hulu.
I feel most at ease and like myself when I am making something: a bracelet, a doodle on a napkin, a painting, a colorful design…and I feel least relaxed when I lose track of my trains of thought and I am spinning 7 plates while I clean my room and cook dinner and have 20 different tabs open on my laptop as I edit a blog post and almost forget to twist my hair..
You get the idea. Multitasking is a pain and a lie. Plus, it’s hard to pursue excellence, righteousness, and peace when you’re flailing about, busy Martha.
What am I getting at here?
You. Need. Focused. Breaks.
I’m talking about times and activities set aside for you to have a moment of peace, a sprinkle of joy, a pause to breathe in some fresh air and express gratitude. Time to retreat into your (portable) happy place.
Oh, and a device to systematically help you discover your happy place as you go!
On social media I conducted a little survey to find out which of the creative therapeutic products that I had in mind would be most beneficial to you, my readers:
The majority of you all would like to see a coloring book, followed closely by meditation prompt, mental mapping journal, and visual exercise.
I am developing each of those items for your viewing doing pleasure, and making some adjustments to the #TherapyThursday posts–all just for you!
Taking care of your mental and emotional well-being, keeping your joy, and maintaining your peace on a daily basis are all so essential to you staying the lovable vessel of positive energy that you are!
Not taking care of your mind, body and spirit, burning yourself out means getting sick, being irritable, and not performing at your best.
SO, let’s do this together! Sign up today.
Join Mental Health Chat on Twitter, Wednesdays 8 pm UTC/3 pm EST! Here’s a brief recap of this week’s discussion. Note: I have edited names to protect participants. Trigger Warning: This post is centered on experiences of and advocacy toward self-harm. Please proceed with caution, and empathy.
Welcome to Therapy Thursday! In collaboration with Mental Health Chat, an open access mental health community online, each week I shall participate in a mental health conversation with psychiatrists, psychologists, patients, and mental health advocates, and give you all a summary. I hope you will also tune in!
Self-harm is such a sensitive subject. What a mind-blowing discussion.
We talked about possible causes for people to resort to self-harm, its impact on relationships, alternate coping mechanisms, support, surrounding stigmas and how to eliminate them to allow more healthy dialogue.
People were so forthcoming with their views and experiences, giving reassurance and showing compassion on such a misrepresented mental illness.
Points to consider:
SH is employed as a coping mechanism to manage emotional pain in a number of different ways, including condemning outbursts (verbally beating self up), marking oneself, cutting, biting, ripping out hair, eating disorders, overexercising–but also smoking.
S: Self-harm is a complex area which begs for complex considerations in terms of understanding, research, treatment and support.
M: A person uses self-harm when under duress and in need to feel tangible control, and release.
Q: Adrenaline can ease pain or anxiety for a moment. Busy busy busy can be self-harming also.
T: Self-harm can be physical as in cutting or emotional as in withdrawing/becoming angry in response to suppressed feelings.
It’s often physical, because some find that focusing on physical pain is easier to handle, and the results are tangible. SH provides a release. Other forms are more mental strains:
P: Harsh self-criticism is also self-harming, though not always recognized as such.
MHChat Moderator: There are many reasons for and many forms of self-harm, and self harm can significantly increase likelihood of death by suicide.
Someone practicing self-harm needs to be listened to, because they are indeed communicating. That message could be the SOS friends and family are looking for:
M: I want out, I’m in pain deeper than you see me inflict on myself.
D: YES! It says, I’m experiencing so much & I need to control something, I NEED to feel something!
M: Is it fair to say, instead of stoicism or acute numbness, “I feel everything and it’s overwhelming”?
S: SH is a spectrum, a means of reflecting an aspect of your self, of saying something to those who observe [you behavior].MHCMod: SelfHarm makes the invisible visible and it is a way of telling the untellable and an effort to cope and go on with living.
Anyone can be in a state of high emotional stress or traumatized; anyone can find themselves engaging in self-harm to deal with that stress.
HS: Anyone who is marginalized and feels hopeless about the possibility of connecting in a meaningful way with others [is more at risk].
The most vulnerable groups in society are more prone to self-harm: This may include children from broken homes or abusive/negligent, adverse backgrounds, unemployed young adults, adults with learning disabilities, low-income, isolated groups, veterans, people with PTSD…
JH: Quite often it is family and community who cause the problem. E.g: Child abuse is massively underreported and traumatic.
J: Mass self-harm in religious festivals is certainly encouraged…Ideology, theology or culture has played and does play a role in human beings harming themselves.
Self-harm, as with other mental illnesses, is often not approached with empathy or respect. Instead, people may label the person as extreme, histrionic, crazy, or melodramatic. Mental health professionals as well as family and friends must take care not to shame the individual practicing self-harm, or be dismissive, treating the situation as simply attention seeking–or as rehearsal for suicide.
Self-harm relates to a person’s self-narrative and sense of identity:
D: When you self-harm, yo get to control what you feel, how much you feel, and when you feel it.
J: I’m taking charge of my story; [while] in darkness, wanting to seem less helpless? Also, I’m angry at being made to feel helpless!
P: I understand from personal experience of years of self-harm in the past.
T: No, you have the right to be angry, sad, and say your opinions.
The experience of self-harm impacts not only the individual experiencing it, but also their families, loved ones, and significant others: They may recoil in shock, feel helpless and fearful for that person’s welfare, or express frustration with the individual for not directly expressing their emotions. Unfortunately, receiving negative responses may reinforce using self-harm as a coping mechanism.
E: Being an SH-er can feel incredibly isolating, because so may people don’t understand it and don’t want to see it.
V: Why is it that self-injury is swept under the rug when topics like suicide and addiction are now talked about?
P: Perhaps because others don’t know how to react and deal with it– too terrible to talk about it or contemplate.
S: [Within the family or group there’s] constant tension between coping for the person and potential worry about what it means for others
Self-harm behaviors are addicting processes. Even when the person desires to stop it can be difficult. As with other addictions, the behavior itself is a symptom pointing to underlying, deep rooted issues. Also, self-harming persons can go through withdrawal, or relapse after stressful periods. They may need to gradually stop self-harm through safer alternatives, like popping bands, taking a cold shower, or redirect themselves to self-nurture. (EP)
There’s definitely social stigmas attached to self-harm, within the mental health field, in education, and in our communities at large.
CM: Many in the profession still see these behaviors very lightly, due to stigma and a real lack of understanding of how to treat…so the area becomes frustrating and professionals “give up.”
H: Austerity has caused huge increase in suicide and self-harm. It targets the most vulnerable groups and needs to be stopped.
A: While services may say they are aware that self-harm is an important issue, individuals still struggle to access the right support.
G: Teacher training on mental health is very poor: it focuses solely on what the conditions are but not first aid.
S: Medication and CBT on “the quiet” is not a solution. we need to focus on well-being EVERYWHERE!
P: Media needs to begin accurate and informative reporting, not sensationalizing and making out self-harmers to be a danger to others.
How do we raise greater awareness of self-harm and its meaning and its significance? How do we garner support for individuals who self-harm and their community? 1. Empathize: More than anything, self-harmers need to be treated with dignity and kindness instead of being discounted. Listen receptively to people who have lived the experience. Don’t fail to see the person and pain behind that injury!
2. Support: Remember that it really does take a village: For a parent or caretaker of a young self-harmer, it can be difficult to be objective. Families and loved ones really need their own support systems and resources, such as rehabilitation efforts and group therapy approaches (think Al-Anon). Tangible support is VITAL.
G: If it is the parent that is self harming, parents need to know how to explain to their kids that it is not their fault.
The entire family needs to get wholeness. Group dynamics play a HUGE part in recovery, or regression.
3. Educate: Debunk the myths, mysteries and stigmas through open dialogues. Reducing the fear reduces the stigma.
Watch and share films like “Ida’s Diary” or “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”.
4. Provide alternatives: Help self-harmers learn healthy ways to express and deal with painful emotions. Teach them self-compassion.
Be the safety net you wish for others to land in.
Resource: Children: childline.org.uk/Explore/SelfHarm
If you are in the U.S. and are feeling low and need to talk to someone, please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. If you are in the U.K. and feeling low and need to talk to someone, please contact Samaritans at 0116123.
What coping methods do you use to deal with emotional distress? Want to celebrate your recovery ? Share your strategies with me! You, too, can be an advocate for mental health! Join Mental Health Chat on Twitter, Wednesdays 3 pm EST!
I’m pretty certain that if January proceeded in any way like it did for me (and a fairly large number of creatives I know), then you were looking forward to February’s arrival!
A new bright and shiny (short) month to reset–I even gave my mastermind a virtual group hug. Happy New Year, again. 🙂
The new year optimism unleashes a wave of creativity, a sense of renewed purpose, expanded territory, opportunities on the horizon, and the resolve to make this season the best one yet!
And then, just as you’re set and running to punt the football, Life becomes Lucy, your foot hits…the air, and there you are, stunned, flat on your back. In Peanuts, it’s funny; in reality, you feel a bit bruised, ego sore, fatigued. You hesitate to head back out there. You would rather slump back into your comfy bed, buried under blankets and cursing all the Mondays.
So, Garfield-Charlie Brown, what’s eating you?
Maybe you jumped with all eagerness to launch that all-new product line on bigcartel and never quite finished all the uploads.
Maybe you dropped the ball on a couple of pet projects and you’ve watched another creative successfully do the same thing you wanted to start. (Seriously, though, there is room enough for ALL of us and you put a unique spin on the idea. Quit comparing lanes even if you seem to have the same starting point.)
Maybe you figured out that you need to upgrade your systems of organizing and doing so that no task gets left behind.
Maybe you’re extremely close to a breakthrough on something so major and exciting and impactful that you’re almost terrified to press the red button…
Maybe you have some unresolved personal issues you need to address before you sabotage your creative pursuit, blog, business, side hustle, movement…
Maybe you have no idea what your next step looks like and you’re getting frustration all over everybody else while you’re distracted and busy…
Whatever your deal is, there is one surefire method to cease wallowing and get YOU out of your own way:
Be grateful for the steepness of your learning curve. Be flexible.
Yes, for every single solitary thing you are facing at this very moment, good, bad, ugly– practice gratitude. Thank our Creator for sustaining you one more day and for the lesson this trial, test, discipline is teaching you. That’s maturity, and we are all growing up a bit more everyday! *throws confetti*
Say it out loud, in a non-sarcastic fashion:
Stressed at work? Thank You for a job/career that challenges me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Missed a deadline? Thank You for helping me become a better steward of Your time by bringing it to my attention when I waste it. Thank You for the grace to complete this thing with excellence!
Got a project on hold? Thank You for providing me with the means to accomplish all that You have placed in my hands. Thank You for developing my trust in You and in Your timing. You do all things well.
Making adjustments in your business or your routines? Thank You for showing me how to work smarter, for placing the right people in my life to assist me in what I’m pursuing, for teaching me flexibility.
Afraid to pull the trigger on that new, terrifyingly brilliant idea? Thank You for the talents and gifts You’ve given me to direct others to how awesome You are! Thank You for the resolve to proceed full strength, and for blessing the work of my hands.
Concerned in general? Thank You for reminding me that You didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a calm, well-balanced, disciplined mind, and I can do everything in You.
Solomon was a pretty wise guy, right? In Ecclesiastes, the wisest man in the world gives us sound, pragmatic advice on making the best of whatever life hands you:
Go then, eat your bread in happiness, and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil be lacking on your head.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, where you are going.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-8, 10
Mia Anika Translation:
Do the very best you can, to enjoy your life as it unfolds, to maintain pure intentions, to be full of joy, keeping in mind that God gave you permission to prosper when you got here.
You don’t have to be fearful, or apprehensive, or controlling, or pitiful, because God is confident in the abilities He gave you! You’ve only got right now, today, to thrive (not scrape by) and be fruitful.
Be excellent! Excel at your innate exceptional uniqueness, while you’re here. Leave this world empty, having accomplished all on your plate.
I guarantee if you pursue that goal singularly, your recovery time between taking L’s will decrease tremendously.
Be grateful. Be humble. Be flexible. Be excellent.