Why here? Why now? Why at all?
This blog post is more on a personal note than the others. It is more a pulling together of everything to date so I can consciously move forward into a fuller focus and commitment to this work. I hope naturally though that the posts that follow are more widely reflective than this one.
As mentioned in my initial blog post, with regard to this art project, I was gradually waking up into a world not of my choosing. I had experienced heartache losing my love like sand through my fingers, I had been diagnosed with a double whammy illness. Two other key people I had felt an attachment to disappeared through changes within their own lives and I found myself feeling quite alone, lost, afraid and full with grief and confusion. I felt deeply sad and my heart ached for a long time trying to analyse and make sense of all that had happened. I believed that somehow by continually analysing and reanalysing I would discover some sort of magic equation that would bring everything back as it was. I also applied this thinking to my health, if I ate the right food, if I exercised more, if I learned more and more about the ins and outs of neurological science that somehow I would win with this ‘thing’. Of course there is no magic equation and we cannot hide from our reality as much as we try. I was slowly drowning in realisation of hard unwanted truths and struggling to find a float. I wrote a poem (first public poetic share) which very much emulated my sense of feeling around the loss of love and the unwelcome change: The Thief in the Night
I am one for using music to help understand my emotional world and at this time the song “Human” by Delta Goodrem was my go to https://youtu.be/lC8x8KwID4w.
For years I had been keeping myself under tight control and in my distress I did not feel in control. I needed to fall apart, to act out the inner mess I was feeling. To hide from my sadness. I was struggling to accept things and the reality felt too much to be with so I distracted, busied myself with social gatherings, events, trips etc. I soon tamed and began to face what was going on in my life. I began listening to my heart and intuition. This internal mess was necessary, I spent much of this time equating myself to Bridget Jones when she was lonely, heart hurting and naive. I needed to let go of the illusion of control that I had been keeping for years. I needed to lose the harsh judge in my mind that would keep me imprisoned. I needed to learn that I am as human as the next person. That I’m not perfect, no one is perfect and acting perfect couldn’t hide my wounds or my struggling self esteem and it was creating barriers in my life. I needed to fall from a self imposed pedistool and know the world wasn’t going to break. I was still breathing, I was learning. I needed to see there could be much more ease in life and that it was safe to not know anything and to be wrong. In turn this allowed me to understand others with a fuller compassion. I learned that humans are fallible and ideas of right and wrong are (on the whole) not so definitive, there are grey areas where we are all just making it up daily. That I could make it up too by intuitively listening to what felt right for ‘me’. It created a space to understand both ‘myself’ and others more. That very little separates us and that we owed each other great compassion for we are all in a storm of sorts.
I needed to let go of the chains confining me inside. Falling apart helped. It changed my soul and way of being in the world.
All of this whilst trying outwardly to keep it together for the sake of my daughter who needed her mum through challenges of her own.
At some point in my despair, as I say, I realised I was not the only person suffering. Everyone is suffering in one way or another and instead of drowning further I became curious. I didn’t lose the suffering but I felt less alone with my eyes more open in the here and now. Somehow I needed to learn about other people’s felt experience of life and how they made sense of their circumstances. That the fairytale of everything working out was a construct created by society (or Disney) because as humans we seek the happy ending. But life isn’t clear like that. I also learned that my view of the world isn’t necessarily right and I needed more room for others’ perception and to trust others’ instincts sometimes. It’s ok to be wrong. I learned respect, something I hadn’t known very well personally. Also to be softer, more open. Eventually I found my way through the despair to a gentler, kinder way.
I am grateful to my friends whom were present and beside me during this time, I am also honoured to have supported them in their storms too. I am grateful for the wise council also in moments where I was not at my best.
If you have been following this blog you will know that I began this enquiry by travelling and meeting strangers across Scotland (my home country). I made a few trips large and intermittent just to open up the space for this new curiosity. I planned to travel further and meet more people in differing cultures. I did a little bit but more about this and the delay in a later post.
In and out of heart pain and grief I struggled and I would often lose confidence in myself (still can) or believe that I wasn’t a good enough person. That my illness made me undesirable and I’d be stuck at home all day everyday with no quality of life. I did not feel worthy or that anything I had to share would be of value to others. I doubted myself and what I was trying to do. I had had a childhood filled with adversity (which is not a topic for now) and insecurities born of that time that continued to affect my thinking and core beliefs. A lifetime of being told I wasn’t good enough, too big for my boots, a fantasist and believing I wasn’t enough or worthy. The song that best represented this inner battle I had with this was another by Delta Goodrem called “Enough” https://youtu.be/OFsmz9SpZHE
(NOTE: Thankfully however I have had great therapeutic support to look at this and grow)
I felt old belief systems oozing into my thinking patterns.
I took time away reflecting on this and couldn’t quite pull myself through enough to take any big action. Posting on and off for this project. Creating/painting on and off. Committing then hiding again.
From early 2018 I took a year connecting and feeling deeply into my heart and I began feeling more healthy, balanced and trusting myself to just be. I let go of my pain (mostly). My heart felt like a more welcoming home as opposed to my thinking mind. I realised that there is no need for big action and that this exploration is much more gentle, paced and subtle, that its about just being. A life’s curiosity. Moment by moment in each here and now experience. I began to feel a sense of wholeness and that I was enough and as any other human being welcome to open up in curiosity realising that I had been planting seeds all along. I explore this in my post From Seeds Once Planted
I opened up a community art studio inviting people into a safe space where they can explore and find themselves whilst in the company of others, reducing their felt isolation and demystifying some of the stigma and non truths they keep telling themselves. This has been a wonderful experience to date, I feel very grateful for each person I have had the honour of meeting here.
If you have read my earlier blog posts you will know that I have Multiple Sclerosis and that in my case the marker for this is a rare condition called Transversemyelitis. See my previous posts Vulnerability and Well… for more information. One of the new treatments that became approved in 2018 is a form of chemotherapy (see D Day)
In my post Existential Beauty I explore the inner world of heart and mind, struggling with a need for certainty in a world that can not offer such a thing. I quoted a scene from the film ‘Parenthood’ (1989) about life being like a rollercoaster.
I chose this treatment fully informed and believed it was the best option for me (I still do). I had to challenge services to receive it so it was no easy time, I am fortunate enough however to have been gifted the opportunity and began in November last year. In my post But who in the world am I – Alice In Wonderland I was planning to use this experience as a way to understand what this sense of ‘self’ meant, giving the space to sort of deconstruct, if you like, to see what makes me ‘me’. I was thinking the best way to do this was to begin by removing some of the labels I identified with e.g. my job title, clothes style, hairstyle (given I may or may not have lost some or had thinning anyway). However I needn’t have planned anything as it all came undone itself as a result of the treatment (as mentioned in my previous post In Search of Meaning (i) )
Through my treatment I struggled with fatigue and needed to take a break from working. This too affected my sense of identity and I found myself facing social stigma. Another disabled person burdening society, media and government policies certainly didn’t help.
I lost my connection to my heart and I had not anticipated just how much losing some hair and eyelashes would affect my sense of identity. I felt more and more vulnerable deep inside and lost.
I’m a firm believer in mind and body functioning as one so once the treatment began to shut down targeted parts of my immune system and altering my repair DNA I believe I was experiencing a similar process both mentally and emotionally.
I lost all sense of ‘myself’, spent a few months with acute anxiety ate far too much, had medication that increased my weight alongside that and became deeply depressed. I was not in my best ‘self’. I needed to turn inwardly and try find the person that I knew once again. This was not easy but necessary. I began taking antidepressants and they have really helped. However, as the antidepressants started healing the synapses in my brain I began to feel an exposure of underlying anger. It was so deep. I didn’t like anger and I certainly wasn’t comfortable feeling it. I struggled with the concept of being angry and simultaneously a good person. But this time I allowed my anger the space to speak and I was feeling it unjust that my health be this way given how unjust my story had been to begin with. I felt moments of resistance and denial, a surge of defiance and fight arising but with no particular focus. Looking back now I think this was the beginning process of me learning healthy boundaries, of learning what was and wasn’t okay for me and learning that that is allowed. Soon it also became a way of pushing up through the overwhelming layer of hard nothingness surrounding me in the depression. I needed to learn to allow my anger it’s place instead of keeping it suppressed like it was a bad thing. Allowing it to be there was both scary and empowering simultaneously. A song that really resonated at the time was by Bishop Briggs and is called “White Flag” https://youtu.be/syhBqULC99I.
My therapist once told me if used my anger wisely it could bring clear wisdom.
I remembered the importance of relaxation and learned throughout all of these experiences to be open to a sense of ambiguity.
The deepest suffering has now eased and I don’t feel any of this energy anymore, I am rested and take room to breathe when necessary. I feel a gentle respect for life and as much as I can I practice loving kindness.
It’s okay to feel anger and it’s not helpful for our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing to hold it inside.
Given all that has been and gone I am facing it with as much loving kindness as I can. I’ve had much learning about ‘myself’ and more particularly the importance of self care in balance with the outer world and other peoples needs. This must be balanced or we are unable to help anyone else.
It has taken quite some time but just in the past couple of weeks I feel I have reconnected to my heart again and I am practicing each day living in it. With more grace and kindness. I’ve had the gift of a couple of opportunities in the past couple of weeks that focused on opening up the heart. I’m grateful.
My creativity has sparked once again (the energy of the anger transformed) albeit mildly and I am beginning to find some flow and familiarity. I am feeling much more authentic and healthy.
My heart still longs for the fix and the magic so that I can have my life back, the one I chose and wanted, the happier times I remember. I am grateful however for all experience even though it has been hard. I accept the humbling happenings and respect the moment as it is. I have learned and returned to just being, no more /no less.
My MS continues to be a process, I have had much emotional and practical adapting to do. Sometimes it has really saddened me and I’ve felt lost and down but mostly I try to work with it. This topic will have its own dedicated post.
I am reconnecting with this work properly as mentioned in my previous post. I trained as a psychotherapist and had my own private practice but decided to step back from this to fully connect with this journey/ exploration as I trust this is the path for me. I am trying to make sense of this life and hopefully my curiosity will help others along the way too.
I chose to write this today so as to start opening up a little more as to the reasoning behind the artistic journey and hopefully someone else may recognise some aspect of ‘themselves’ in my story and feel inspired to explore too.
As for music today the one that resonates most is called “Experience” by Ludovico Einaudi https://youtu.be/_VONMkKkdf4
Life, a series of moments in all its natural cosmic beauty.
If you are interested here is an interesting article regarding sense of self https://jackkornfield.com/reclaiming-lost-sense-self/