16 March 2014

Let's Talk Shame, Authenticity, & Vulnerability

Bloggers have been talking about authenticity for quite a while – years, in fact. I'm late to the game. There've been discussions about personal versus public spheres, the perception of perfection, creating a "real" space or an "honest" space or a "professional" or "happy" space, conversations about filtering one's thoughts and creating a virtual persona.

I wonder, sometimes, what my readers think of me. (After all, I have only ever met one of you in person.) I wonder what kind of person I represent here – what or whom I've created, unconsciously, in this space over the past five years. I wonder if I have been true to myself, as I currently am, or who I want to be.. or perhaps they are both me, or perhaps I can never be defined in such simple terms, either online or in person.

I have for a long time felt that exposing my flaws would chase others away, whether in romantic relationships or friendships, or here.

Well, screw that.
I am who I am.

And I am making a change this year: I want to break down the walls I've built as protection, and I want the light to come streaming in.

I'm human. I get angry. I can be extremely messy. I curse. I don't do laundry as often as I should I go weeks without doing laundry. I am an impulse buyer. I don't cry often, but when I do, it's an all-day affair. I am liberal. I take medications. I have days when I do nothing more than surf Pinterest and eat popcorn.

But you know what I'm most hesitant to tell people? That I live at home.
Yes, I am nearly 26 years old and I still live with my mother. Cue all the social stigma, the late-night-show jokes, the images of stereotyped 30-year-old "losers" who have never had girlfriends.

That's me. Sort of.

But stripped of all that subjective guilt and heavy imagery weighing me down, I am a college graduate – with, yes, tens of thousands of student loan debt – who wants nothing more than to have a liveable salary and a steady job (preferably with an organization I support) and an apartment of her own. And a cat. Oh, and that le boyfriend be granted a visa so we can eliminate the "long distance" prefix of our relationship. But you know.

I guess what I'm saying is that life is sometimes really hard. We feel alone and think we're failures, or that our best just isn't good enough. We have big dreams that we keep close to our hearts because it hurts too much to hope. We come home from work exhausted, feeling unappreciated, knowing that tomorrow the same old s--- is going to happen all over again. And we dream of a vacation but just keep pressing on because what else can you do?

Oh, darling, I see you. I see you not because I know all the answers or how the journey will end, but because I am right there with you. I see how hard you try. I see you get up, bruised and bloodied, after being knocked down once again by life's unfair and unexpected blows. I understand. I know.

And I think that this is what makes us human – all the ups and downs and disappointment and pressing on anyway. I think we all struggle, even the most perfect of the perfect, from celebrities and bloggers to us normal folk. We all have awful, sucky days (or months.. or years). And we're going to get through it. Together.

So chin up, baby. Forget what others think and be who you are, because it's hard enough trying to manage normal life (taxes, relationships, jobs, etc. etc.) without trying to invent and maintain some fantasy you. We, the ordinary, are going to accomplish amazing things. Just you wait and see.

08 March 2014

Soul Conversations

Even after years of art journaling, I still create many things I don't especially like. Take this spread for example: while I like the color scheme and individual elements, the whole leaves me – I can't put my finger on it. Unsettled? Needled? Uncomfortable?

As I write this, I think back to what prompted me to create this page: I had had an argument with someone close to me, and I came to my art supplies indignant and defiant and angry. It's funny how, even unintentionally, my emotions become tangled in my creations; I am my art, and my art is me. A beautiful realization, even if the sentiment recorded in this spread is not a particularly cheerful one.

How much is your artwork partnered with your emotions? Do you ever look back at your work and see unexpected messages peering out from the pages? More and more, I find that my art journal is a place for my unconscious self to speak to my aware self, communicating things I have hidden, avoided, or turned deaf ears upon, if only I take the time to look. Slightly scary, and pretty cool.

So yes, even though this spread makes me uncomfortable in ways I can't quite articulate, I am grateful to have had the chance to empty my head and heart through intuitive painting and collage, capturing a moment in time that will represent my journey and whisper words of wisdom to my present, aware self again and again. I so love art journaling.

02 March 2014

Springtime Dreams

This has been a brute of a winter, with temperatures hovering well below freezing and so much snow that the ground has been covered for months. I try my very hardest to appreciate each and every season, knowing that each has its gifts and beauty and purpose, but my patience is wearing and I am longing for winter to pass the torch.

(I do believe that this will be the most marvelous, welcome spring yet. After all this white and cold, the life that appears from every branch, bulb, and nest will bring boundless joy and wonder.)

The forecast is calling for another significant snowfall tonight, so in quiet protest, I'd like to share some photos from last spring. Will you please join me in sending warm, gentle, sunny thoughts to the northern hemisphere?


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