Thursday, July 7, 2011

When Life is Overwhelming…

I really debated whether or not to make this post; to bring out something so personal.  But my journey isn’t just about me.  I’m not alone in living with chronic illness, with having multiple life and health challenges, with being a survivor of sorrow and pain.  Perhaps what I write will speak to you with whispers of hope or intimations of healing.  It is my heartfelt wish that, in sharing our journeys, we can share and support each other in our healings as well. 

We may not have the details in common, but the underpinnings of our lives will always have commonalities.  We share the human experience and are connected in so many, many ways, both seen and unseen and we are NOT alone.  We are never truly alone.  Hang on to that thought – embrace it, believe it!  You are NOT alone!

One of the outcomes of my dealing with fibro, disabilities, and loss of all income has been a huge grieving process and the brief dissolution of my already shaky self-worth.  Overwhelm??  Definite, absolute and mind boggling overwhelm!  My tolerance for all things outside of myself telescoped to the extent that being around anything even mildly stimulating – people, conversation or noise, too much input or information – would trigger feelings of being overwhelmed.  As though my body and mind were screaming “Enough!  Enough already!  I’ve already got too much on my plate and I can’t digest any more!”   

I’ve always been an introvert, but this is like being the mother ship of introversion!  At a time when I most need to feel connected, to feel involved with life, my being seems to experience overwhelm and simply starts to shut down.  And that overwhelm translates into disorientation, anxiety, exhaustion, sometimes as panic and often as fibro fog.

All my life I’ve considered myself strong and resilient; I’ve always bounced back.  Through childhood, through multiple miscarriages, through divorce, through homelessness and so much more.  Like a soap opera heroine, I’ve always triumphed over the dark.  Until recently. And I’ve been hard on myself; I’ve judged myself weak and lacking. I questioned and doubted so many things that I believed about myself.

While meeting with a counselor yesterday, I had several “Aha!” moments.  The biggest one came about when he asked me how I had dealt with the level of abuse that I’d experienced while growing up.  I responded that I often had out of body experiences; that I disconnected from what was happening.  And that doing so helped me to survive; helped me to keep my core – my spirit and my heart – safe.  And I realized that that is essentially what I’m doing now.  The abuse isn’t there, but so much of life is overwhelming, and I’ve brought into play tools that worked for me in the past – that disconnection, the disorientation. Simply having that insight has been profound, allowing me to be compassionate towards, and more gentle with, myself.

I know that there are better tools; there are ways to address all of the things I’m experiencing.  The evolution of my life and my spirit require tools that do more than simply allow me to survive.  I also need to grow and thrive and continue transforming myself and my life in ways that are meaningful, uplifting and affirming.  With  40 or so added years of living, I’m more than ready; more than willing!

I’m discovering that there is a positive side to overwhelm, and how I experience it depends on the focus that I choose.  For me, part of the answer has been reconnecting, in new and wonderful ways, with my innate creativity.  Collage, altered art and most recently, art journaling; they’ve all played a part.  Remembering to “keep it in kindergarten” and not worrying about what others think of what I create, but simply creating for the joy of it!

 The connections that I’ve made via my creativity and the warmth, support and encouragement that I’ve received are such tremendous gifts too!  Even being gifted with this blog and learning how to be here; remembering how to write, having this special space to connect and communicate is part of the answer.  My steps may be small and halting, but how I dearly treasure every one of them, knowing that those steps will become strides.

I’m looking forward to discovering even more tools and techniques to wrap around my soul, to bring more vibrancy, energy and healing into my life.  A new adventure; new discoveries; new ways of being.  And I’m so very grateful to have you here.  Every word, every wish, every interaction, every touch of your humanity, heart and wisdom are wondrous things to me.   

That I am still here – and yes, still alive - is testament to the light I’ve found within each of you.  This is the kind of overwhelm that I can live with – the gratitude and grace that you engender in me.   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's Elemental, My Dear

The Elements of Art Journaling class has officially started and I've made the cover to my EOAJ journal.  I'm transforming a simple composition book and started out with a layer of gesso, then built up layers over that.  I intended to do more layering but loved the splatter look enough to use it as the background.

Delving into my stash of papers and graphics I noticed that the things that I was drawn to were related to the elements of water and air.  Not surprising since I'm a Pisces with lots of water and air signs in my horoscope and very little earth or fire.  I have always felt a strong connection to the Earth though, and so a representation of a tree found its way onto the cover too.

I loved the whole process - there was a flow, a rightness, a deep, deep contentment all infused with a sense of fun and joy!  After watching the videos I just totally lost myself in creating.  I didn't have anything planned in advance, so was able to let my intuition out to play. 

I used various scrapbooking and wrapping papers, candy wrappers, homemade alcohol ink sprays, and a feather for the cover.  To reinforce the binding, I added two ribbons and two two fuzzy, delicate yarns (braided to give more strength) and then attached a gold leaf charm and several beads.  The perfect journal cover for this water baby, lol!

A super fun bonus was that my daughter and 2 year old grandson joined me in my creativity!  When Marta saw my journal, she left and came back with her own composition book and asked me to show her how to make her own cover.  I loved being able to share some of what I've learned!  Her cover is still a work in progress, but she gave me permission to share it.  It's her first try at art journaling, and I love the result!

 Even little Anthony got excited about making art!  He had a blast creating masterpieces on paper (and skin, lol!) with acrylics and glitter.  He took home two of his creations, but I kept this one:

I love participating in EOAJ and feel so blessed that it was given to me as a gift by a very special lady with a very huge, loving heart - and knowing that it has inspired my family to play and create along with me just adds to the joy and pure deliciousness! 

And it's not to late to jump in!  Registration will be open through July 15th, and you can get all the info at The Elements of Art Journaling