Blueprints: an Introspective

One of the things that really annoys me is how things that happened so long ago still have impact now.

I understand that our foundation story is deeply routed into our brains and our smaller selves can get trapped in the ruts. It can take all our skill as learned adults to get our smaller selves out of those ruts and moving in a positive and healthy directions.

Our foundation stories keep coming up throughout our lives in our various interactions and experiences, as they are our blueprints and how we recognise our relationships. Changing the blueprints is a lifetime of work.

It annoys me that things my adoptive mother did so many decades ago can still have impact. She’s ancient. I’m well and truly middle-aged. I have a deep seated anger toward her that I rarely touch. I also have deep seated pain that I let go and let go and let go.

I have been through periods with my own adult children where they have been busy separating and blaming. I understand that this is a process we all go through. I am grateful that they have matured and we have settled into adult relationships that are mutually supportive. I did not do to them what my mother did to me and my siblings.

What happens when your parent is the cause of significant damage for you? When they put you into such appalling situations of abuse that the blueprints are disastrous? Those blueprints may never be able to be altered. They get shelved. They get dusty. They get frayed and torn at the edges. They are still there.

I have no resolution for this, I’m just irritated. I cannot allow myself to even think about my mother. It makes me sad, especially when I consider what I have with my girls, whom I adore. They are truly wonderful people (and yes, I know I am biased). I wish my mother thought that of me.

And therein lies the niggling doubt. No matter how much I appreciate myself and am grateful for my resilience and strength, the foundation person in my life does not consider me a person of worth. There it is, that thread of doubt that it might be true.

Ahh, now that I know what it is that taints my blueprints, maybe I can get them off the shelf and find those threads and erase them.

My artwork on my skin: an Introspective

At the age of fifty I realised that the long desired tattoo had not been etched upon my skin because I hadn’t drawn it yet.

This was a revelation. I had started drawing and painting again to soothe my mind and develop skills to illustrate my own stories. I had already e-published one of my stories, having purchased photographs from a skilled wildlife photographer. I decided I wanted to do my own illustrations and pencils grew from my hands.

I doodle all the time, if I am not using my hands for anything else. It seems to be a point of fascination in meetings at work, with the mistaken belief that I am not listening, until I say something precisely on point. Doodling keeps my anxiety, at being in a room full of people, at bay. It keeps my “busy mind” occupied, so I can focus on the discussion. More on doodling another time

When my drawing and thoughts of tattoos coincided, I realised that I needed to draw my own tattoos. I had always wanted a tattoo but never liked anyone’s artwork enough to have it needled into my flesh. I started drawing tattoo ideas.

Butterflies are one of my many favourite things. I drew butterfly after butterfly while I searched for an artist whose tattoos I liked. Found one, showed her my drawings, discussed exactly where I wanted it and we were away. I let her have free reign and we were both happy with the result. Original artwork, inspired by my own art, etched into my skin.

The really interesting thing was it didn’t hurt. Not one bit. I had researched where the least painful parts of the body were for tattooing and knew that I wanted to give my hump wings (you know the hump at the back of the neck that comes from too much slouching and reading). It was just right.

I knew that I wanted my next tattoo, knew what I wanted it to be and figured out an approximate cost. I decided they would be an annual birthday gift to myself. The next tattoo was of a seahorse with wings. I played with this image for a long time and came across another artist closer to home. I visited her at the studio and liked her, her art and the studio more. Her take on my design was more appropriate for a tattoo. My drawings and paintings were much softer, her’s are striking. I love my winged seahorse, he divinely sits on my back right shoulder, waiting patiently.

This year I had a round-bellied, silver teapot with a flannel flower design needled into my skin and I discovered that when you tattoo your non-dominant side, it hurts, rather a lot. I am right handed and the work on the back of my neck and my right shoulder became intense but not at all painful. The teapot was painful. Very. It is also perfect.

I have been wondering why I am willing to endure the needles, hours of it, wounding my skin for the image to be permanently placed there. I feel the wounding is necessary as the wound heals and in its place there is an image of my own artwork, on my skin. This is uplifting and delighting in a way I don’t quite know how to express. Every time I catch a glimpse of my work (and I look a lot), I am pleased all over again.

There are many associations with each of the images I have placed. They are also part of what will be a whole piece when I am done. I don’t know that I will ever put my tatts in a place for others to see easily. The only time others see them is in summer or when I am in my bathers (as I swim frequently, they are frequently seen, usually by the grey-haired set, keeping their curls dry. That’s another story.). I don’t have tattoos for others, I have them for myself. Each piece and placement has more than one significance. The next piece will be on the painful side too. I’ve already drawn it.

One question I am often asked is why they are on my upper back where I can’t see them? I can see my upper back by turning my head or looking in the mirror. Don’t other people look at their backs? The pieces are for me, not anyone else. They signify things for me. They elicit a range of stories, memories and concepts for me that are pleasurable. Isn’t it curious that people seem to think I have created them for others? I confess to not really understanding that. They are mine, I know they are there, I know what they signify and I know the whole piece it will become.

This is artwork designed by me, inspired by my design that I get to wear. It has taken more than half my life to get to this place and there is such freedom in it.

Through the window – A Musing

It’s raining, it’s pouring, I wish I was still snoring. All the animals are inside, and slightly damp, the visiting teens are inside, and watching telly loudly. The view through my lounge window is of looming grey clouds and rain. All the plants are holding their leaves to the sky and laughing.

I’ve loved the power and light show though. Only because we have not lost power, for which I am most grateful. Parts of the town have. Trees down, creek rising but on the bright side, no fires. The ‘fire season’ is officially over. On the first day the fire bans were lifted, which was hot and incredibly windy, people went to town burning off. Guess what happened? Yup, fires out of control.

Reminds me of one year a neighbour down the road, lit debris at the base of a tree. The fire began racing up the trunk and the neighbour began batting at it with his plastic rake, sending embers off into the wind. I stopped and told him I’d rung the fire brigade. He gave me a few choice words as he ran for his hose.

Then there was the other neighbour who lit a fire near their fence and a tree. Youngest Daughter and I stood watching as the flames took over the fence and leapt to the tree. I called the brigade.

We’ve watched a fair bit of weather through our lounge window. One year, hail stones as large as golf and tennis balls bounced into our front garden. The car received a lovely array of circular dents in the roof. Youngest Daughter, being seven, raced into the front yard to collect some hail stones and proudly showed me three. We put them in the freezer to keep them.

Another view was our first year here in a bush fire area. It was Black Saturday. I was already freaked out and the power kept cutting out. I was very aware of how fast fire could spread and there were four big fires well within 20 kms of us. The winds of change could easily bring them our way. I was bravely staying, encouraged by a fire-wise neighbour, when Youngest Daughter went to the window. “Mum,” she said, “Look how pretty the sky is.” I whipped around and saw vivid orange smoke clouds. We cut and ran to our friends for the night.

Other views through my window have been spider webs of rain drops in the trees, gymea lilies silhouetted against the sunrise, children making mudslides down the embankment, cats sunning themselves and pouncing upon one another. I’ll keep watching and let you know what we see next.

I’m painting a tree on my wall

Over the past few years, life has changed dramatically. You know, life happens. One of the things has been to get rid of lots of stuff, including furniture. With spare rooms it has been shifted around and with daughters, it has been shifted out. I’ve always leaned towards large pieces of wooden furniture and it has been a substantial effort to move said items.

The result has been a spareness that is pleasing to me. My house looks a little bare. I seem to need to create the space for my mental health and wellbeing and to move on from very painful experiences. It has taken a long time to clear the wall in my kitchen/ living area. Longer to talk myself into painting the wall then believing that I can design and paint the tree.

I drew many trees over the past year before deciding on a curlicue version, much like my doodling. The challenge was then to believe I could transfer it onto my wall. I won’t describe here the many methods and techniques I considered. Eventually, I painted the wall and took chalk to it and began drawing. I erased the first two efforts and the third I am happy with. When finished, I’ll move the family photos to that wall. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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From brown to grey in a few short years

Very recently, Youngest Daughter, re-posted a photo of me from 2009. I looked so much younger than I do know. A lot has happened over the past eight years and I am completely grey. (I tell Youngest Daughter that she is responsible. heh!)

I don’t mind being older, in fact I relish it. There is so much that once used to bother me that now doesn’t. My hair being grey? Looks good. Other people’s opinions? Who cares? What I relish most is what I know. Feeling down? It will pass. Sliding into a depression? I have the skills now to balance out. Stressed out about kids, work, house, elderly animals? I can deal.

All that ‘dealing’ has been hard won. Does it sometimes get on top of me despite my best efforts? Totally. Do I break under the strain? Sometimes. Do I know that I can get back up? Absolutely. At times it seems to take me longer, I don’t bounce back any more. ‘Getting back up’ can be laborious and take some serious determination. Do I pep-talk myself every morning to get up and get going? Yes. Do I have internal debates about every effort? Yes. Do I do it anyway? Yes, I do.

I am better at what is good for me and better at not giving up. Sometimes it takes an inordinate amount of time to figure how to get things done with limited resources (for example, gigantic dresser down to Middle Daughter’s place without strong people to help), and I eventually succeed. I am better at knowing when one thing extra is too much or when one thing extra will be just the thing. Falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from work? Go to sleep or take dogs for walk? I take the dogs for their walk. I feel this deserves cheering!

My reluctance to socialise does not concern me any longer. I work with people five days a week, belong to committees and volunteer. Enough people. Being at home, peacefully with my fluffy peeps is the best.

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Today is Sunday and I am tired. (Yesterday was exhausting, searching for missing child.) I will take the dogs for a walk after this, then have another cup of tea. I will do some shopping (yuck) and housework (double yuck) and rest because it’s back to work tomorrow.

Yes, I like being older. I am sad that I have physically aged so much but vanity was never my concern. I do wish I had more pep. I know that I will still get done that which needs to be done and the selectivity between need and want will prune the extraneous. It may take me longer but I get there in the end.

Grey hair rules!

 

Blogging 301: Why do I keep on keeping on?

When I first heard about blogging, I could not imagine why anyone would want to share their thoughts or read others. Guess that’s a clue, right there. I didn’t even keep a diary as I couldn’t bear reading back what I had written. I do keep an art journal with my doodling and practise work. I draw images, and zen-tangle them, until I can confidently re-draw them and feel I have added to my repertoire. It’s not a visual journal of my life journey, nor is it like one of those art journals on Pinterest, full of colour and special wording. Nope, it’s just my doodles and image creation.

However, I see in that, growth. A slow building confidence in my own artistry. I have always been creative, trying many mediums. Paint has been the most intriguing for me. Mostly because I couldn’t work it. Collage works for me on a very personal level. Sculpting works for me at another level. Drawing and pen work for me endlessly (I do love a good felt tip) but painting eluded me, until recently.

I discovered dimension and sculpting paints and canvas paper in a pad (oh joy). Now my head is full of what I would like to draw and blending images. Once I have an image, I can see it in 3D, and can re-position the image on my page to view it from every angle. Now, why can I not do that with my thoughts?

Is that what blogging is about? Is it viewing different topics under discussion from every angle, until a whole picture is built?
When I read other bloggers’ work, I gain an insight into their perspective, their experience of life. It does not allow me to know that person or understand their intimate drivers, but a blog that has connected to my life experience in some way. That in turn creates a feeling of connectedness. I recognise something in the blogger’s experience that I have shared. I do appreciate a blogger who explores a situation and questions themselves.

If writing enables us to view a situation or experience from different perspectives, much like my art journal, then it is no wonder that blogging abounds. And abound it certainly does. There are millions of bloggers, some of whom capture the interest of thousands of readers. I do not read blogs everyday but I do view a number of them regularly and some I even follow.

There are friends’ blogs that I always read. Mostly because they are my friends but also because I enjoy their conversation and with some of them, who are far away, miss hearing their voices. Most of these fall into the category of Storytelling friends, Storytellers from across the world whom I have met through other Storytellers and enjoyed their style, their wit and their stories. I have read enough of their blogs that I find I can reference between them. That has occurred more than once which makes me wonder how those comments and commentary have stuck with me. What resonated that I integrated their experience?

I read voraciously, mostly online and ebooks. I read widely and enjoy snippets of information as much as I enjoy learning something new. I absolutely adore being able to satisfy my curiosity. I don’t have to know everything but being able to look something up the moment I wonder about it, is a joy that is unsurpassed and stems from an education mired in library reference books. The opportunity to read, verify, deliberate and consider another person’s experience is vicarious and unifying simultaneously. Curiosity is not just an human trait but certainly brings joy and entertainment to my life.

Have I answered my own question then? About why I continue to blog, even when I don’t feel like it and sometimes feel I have nothing to say? Yes, it offers an opportunity to connect through sharing, personally and through reading, in a way that is stimulating on many levels. I can only hope that other people enjoy my musings as much as I appreciate theirs.

Liking, Loving and Looking After Yourself – A Musing

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The weeks go by and the weeks go by. You know the year is flying by when your youngest says, that went quickly. Nothing makes time seem more fleeting than your youngest child getting older.

We measure our lives by achievements in the physical and only when we have had a physical loss do we become aware of other forms of achievements. I feel one of my greatest achievements has been learning to like, love and look after myself. Not that long ago I asked my son how would he know when he had high self esteem. His answer? Well, I’ll have a car and a bike and a house and a boat… (We live in the bush). I answered that they were things and things can be easily lost. Figuring that ‘self esteem’ may be the wrong question, I asked, how do you love yourself?

This turned into a considerable family discussion. How do you like yourself? How do you love yourself? How do you look after yourself? The general consensus by those under 18 was how much good stuff could you buy. I was momentarily speechless. These were the children who had grown up in my care, the children who had decided with me that family outings were preferable to buying new furniture. I am the mother who forewent all manner of things to take my children on a secret holiday, the topic of many trips down memory lane. I am the mean mother who refused to buy electronic games for a son whose obsession with them caused him to discuss characters as though they were friends. (I was the mother who was horribly confused for quite some time.) I am the mother who still sends her children to play outside. I am the mother who kindly says “only boring people get bored.”

How then did these children of mine learn that liking or loving yourself depended on what you could buy yourself? These are the same children, mind you, who would rather go without than put in extra effort to earn money. (I am also the mother who enjoyed ‘going on strike’ on the odd occasion their laxness got too much.) I asked them how they would buy themselves these things if they didn’t want to work? That appeared to be unanswerable. “We’ll get jobs” from them was met by rapture from me. I am the mother, after all, who has worked most of their lives.

Where did my children pick these ideas up and how come they had more sway than what I taught them? Only now in my 26 year old Daughter am I seeing a foregoing of brands and must-haves for a simpler life. Only now am I seeing a young woman determined to like, love and look after herself. She acknowledges the lessons she learnt from me and is closer to appreciating a simpler life than she has ever been. I hold out hope for the others. I have to say that moving through the stages of parenthood are very challenging.

When they are tiny, you are wonderful and to be obeyed because if Mum’s happy, everyone’s happy. Then they get a little attitude and you have to shift from loved and adored parent to the negotiator. You just get a handle on that and you get the I don’t care, nothing matters. Here you have a choice. You can either be firm and emphatic or gentle and encouraging. I switched between them to keep everyone on their toes. I am, after all, the mother who ran out of shops while my children were engaged, cackling like a chicken, leaving them behind. At least it made them keep an eye on me and caused me much amusement.

I discovered that if I made things work for me, then they had choices within boundaries. My boundaries but then I’m not superwoman. My grandson throws wobblies, banging his little head on the ground. I regard him calmly while people around cast me looks and say “ you can do that or Grandma can carry you or you could walk and we will…” (add in enticement). He will get up and walk with me. Unfortunately teens are heavier.

By the time you are used to being a teen parent, they are out off into the world and don’t need you for awhile (until something goes wrong). That’s all fine. Challenging, heart-rending at times but fine. What I do hope is that I have led by example and they know how to like, love and look after themselves without being self-indulgent and self-obsessed (Youngest Daughter fills my ipad with selfies. I have hundreds of them. Heh heh heh. I find uses.). So, what did I do when I discovered that buying stuff was their answer to liking, loving and looking after themselves?

We kept talking. I kept asking. I knocked all the ‘stuff’ off as things that come and go. Exhibit A, barbie dolls. Youngest Daughter had dozens of the damn creepy things and those ones whose feet came off. Ugh. I’d find bits all over the house with either child or dog or both teeth marks in them. She’d take off their clothes, then their arms, then their legs and then their heads. After all, their feet came off. Then she’d want me to put them back together. Couldn’t do it. Don’t know how they went together in the first place but damned if I could get those creepy things back in shape. The dog loved them. Those dolls are like self esteem, once taken apart, it never fits back together in the same way. You have to start again and build anew.

By the time our discussion had pared all their ideas down to just having yourself and how do you like, love and look after yourself, they really did not seem to know. I asked them if I liked myself and they said yes. I asked them did I love me and they said yes. I asked them did I look after myself and they said yes, albeit a little uncertainly. Then I asked them how was it that I liked, loved and looked after myself? I am a large woman of happy features. I have never been beautiful. Conundrum.

Then I told them the secret. I decided. Then I practiced. I get better at it as time goes by.

That is a much better way to measure my life.
(c) CLHHarper 17/10/2014

Stories Art Life © : Meditative Storytelling Process

Are you needing to sort stuff in your life?

Do you need a peaceful space and a little time out?

Do you love stories?

Then you need to join us for a meditative storytelling process.

Stories are the way in which we frame our lives. We contextualise our experiences through our stories, we share our stories and we see ourselves in other people’s stories. Stories are the way in which we interact and network. Stories are the way in which we untangle the sticky webs of trauma and sorrow. What better way to share our stories, untangle the sorrows and re-shape our tales into sparkling spirals but through storytelling?

Stories Art Life © is a reflective meditative practise that allows us to centre and rest in Story. Being told a story can carry us back to a time when snuggled down for a tale was the safest place to be. It is also the place, when we are listening to story, that we are the most receptive to the tales that need to be told from our own lives.

Stories Art Life © works like this. We welcome, acknowledge the sacredness and confidentiality of our sharing, share where we are at, settle comfortably, relax and breathe. Then I tell you a story. You are welcome to watch me tell or close your eyes. When the story is complete, reflect and respond to the story on your art pad. This is when we share each other’s stories. Whatever you share will be part of someone else’s story. This is how a Reflective Story Circle © works.

Whatever the issue you believe you need to deal with, whatever you are grappling with, whatever you think you should be dealing with, may not be what comes up through the story process. Whatever does come us is what is actually at the top of the pile and exactly where you need to be.

I use a number of different processes as an Holistic Counsellor and stories are my favourite. The next series of Stories Art Life © will be in February and March in Belgrave Victoria. You are welcome to contact me through this blog and I will respond.

When: Tuesdays, Feb 11, 18, 25 and March 4 and 11, 2014
Where: Pandora’s Healing Centre, 41 Station St, Belgrave, Victoria
Time: 7pm – 8.30pm
Bring: An art pad and your favourite, chalks, pastels, pencils, textas
Cost: $50 for 5 weeks

Yours in Story,
Cindy-Lee