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 between my health, lost love and a close friend. 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 all 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 and unwelcome changes: The Thief in the Night
I was struggling to accept change and the reality felt too much to be with so after 15 years of not drinking alcohol I opened a bottle of wine and used this socially as my method for distraction, busied myself with social gatherings, events, trips etc.
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 began throwing caution to the wind, being impulsive and allowing conscious mistakes to happen. I needed to fall apart, to act out the inner mess I was feeling. To hide from my sadness. This time didn’t last too long though, I tamed and began to face what was going on in my life. I began listening to my heart and intuition. Although brief this unruliness was necessary, I spent much of this time equating myself to Bridget Jones (literally). I needed it, I needed to take drastic steps to loosen up, to ease the inner control I had been keeping for years, I needed to lose the judge in my mind, I needed to make mistakes to learn that I am as human as the next person. That no one is perfect and acting perfect couldn’t hide my wounds or my struggling self esteem. I needed to fall from a 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 make mistakes which in turn allowed me to understand the mistakes and choices made by others with 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.
(NOTE: I do not promote alcohol as a means of numbing pain or falling apart it just happened and I was fortunate not to have an addictive personality)
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 a storm) 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. I learned that my view of the world isn’t necessarily right and I needed more room for and trust in others’ instincts. I learned to be softer. 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 or believe that I wasn’t a good enough person to fulfil this self set journey. That my illness would take over 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 and believing I wasn’t enough or worthy. The song that best represented this inner battle 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)
Faced with these new circumstances I felt old belief systems ready to ooze into my current thinking patterns. Some reflection is given in my post Adversity and When Enough Is Enough
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. My heart felt a more welcoming home than my thinking mind. I realised that there is no need for big action and that this exploration is much more gentle, paced and subtle. It’s a life’s exploration. I began to feel whole inside and that I was enough and as any other human being welcome to open up in curiosity. Realising 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. Well…
My condition has been aggressive (although not the worst). 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 this treatment 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. The media and government policies 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 hurting and it saddens me that in that process I too hurt others, I was not in my best ‘self’. I experienced more loss and suffering during this time. I needed to close inwardly and try find the person that I knew once again. This was not easy but necessary. I began taking antidepressants and they really helped after a couple of months. 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 felt it unjust that my health be this way given how unjust my story had been to begin with. I felt moments of resistance, a surge of defiance and fight arising. Looking back I think this was the beginning process of me learning healthy boundaries and 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. I was fighting for the right to my life. Anger is a very natural emotion and (as my therapist once told me) if used wisely it can bring wisdom/ enlightenment. A song that really resonated at the time was by Bishop Briggs and is called “White Flag” https://youtu.be/syhBqULC99I
I thankfully remembered the importance of relaxation and learned throughout all of these experiences to be open to ambiguity.
The deepest suffering has now eased though and I don’t feel the power behind the surge anymore, I am rested and allow room to breathe when necessary. I feel a gentle respect for life and 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. I am more of an introvert than I had realised but the process of this has allowed for the inner change and metamorphosis to happen.
It has taken quite some time but I do feel I have reconnected to my heart again and living more by heart in my day to day. Much gentler and with more grace and kindness. I’ve had the gift of a couple of gentle personal development courses in the past couple of weeks that were all about opening the heart. Again I’m grateful.
My creativity has sparked once again albeit mildly and I am beginning to find some flow and familiarity (but observing preference and discernment with an open curiosity).
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 is. I have learned and returned to just being, no more /no less.
My mobility as a result of my MS continues to be a changing 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 soon.
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 life 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