Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rising From The Swamplands

There are lots of different ways of getting lost. Some of them are fun - like "squirrel " moments where we get off course following a new activity or trend. Some of them are caused by seeing something bright and shiny just off the path that we have to check out - I call these "crow mind" moments. Some of them are restoritive like a meandering drive in the country on a Sunday afternoon.

But often the road of life sends us around a curve and we find ourselves in the middle of a swamp full of hungry alligators and no  map to guide us out. There is quicksand to the left, snapping teeth to the right, smelly bog in front and no trail back. I don't know about you but when I hit a patch like this I can get really mired in the muds of despair, especially if the weather is bad and distressing news just keeps on coming. I've had a winter like that. I got a little lost and really blue and I have been struggling to get my bearings back.
I like to learn from my mistakes so this last few weeks, as I began to feel a bit stronger, a bit more able to deal with all the bad news, I've been thinking about what I did wrong and what I did right. I haven't handled things as well as I would have liked but I have handled things. I'm not being hard on myself - I'm just being honest.

What I  Did Wrong

I should have let relatively unimportant things go and found time for my personal art no matter what. I know that the work I do with my hands is good for my soul and that it is often the way that the strength of my faith has the time to wrap around me. When my hands are busy creating I find peace. I should have let housework and busywork go even more than I have. I should have eaten out more and made do with more healthy prepared foods. I should have but I didn't.

And when I wasn't creating I got behind on my comittments to the FB groups I belong to, the very groups that inspire and motivate me. And the more I got behind the harder it got to catch up. I should have forgotten about the missed weeks and just jumped back in where I was. I've done that this week and already I feel better. I've also finished pages that were started in simpler ways than originally planned. Just working in my journals and puddling about with the tools has been good for me.

I took on lots of work this winter and I got trapped in the worry cycle. You know the one. You worry about it, dream about it, fuss over it. Then you finally snap yourself out of it, get the work done and then you think "That wasn't so bad." Worry, overthinking, worst-case-scenario living...I keep trying to give it up. I need to remember how exciting and invigorating the work is for me, how the energy of the students is restorative and inspiring and stop worrying about showing up for class unprepared.

What I Did Right

I swam. When curling ended winter should have. But it didn't. It got grey, it got cold, it got inhospitable outside and I couldn't go for walks. I needed to move. I complained, I kvetched. And then a place became available to swim. So I stretched and swam and I felt better inside and out.

When all other creative work wasn't happening I started a simple little journal that I call my Blues Book. I just used graphite, a micron and a blue Stabilo water soluble pencil in it, at least at first. When I couldn't face colour or collage or all the other fun stuff I usually like to play with, I turned to it each night and just tangled and lettered in a simple way. Looking through it I am pretty happy with where that intuitive work is leading me. But even if the work wasn't any good I learned a few important things. First, to keep working even if it is really simple work. Second, in sharing my work and the feelings behind it, I have touched other lives and helped others find a way forward. Which leads me to the other thing I have done right...

I've shared my feelings with close friends and looked for ways of connecting with people rather than retreating. This is hard for me. I'm one of those bears that likes to go into their cave and suffer in silence. I am blessed with good friends who are good listeners and I am blessed with good friends who are creatives and who are happy to come and play with me even when I am a grouch. Laughter and tea are good therapy especially when mixed with colours and "what if we tried this" moments. And so is being reminded that things will look better tomorrow, or the next day, or the next...

What I Want to Know

We all get the blues. What I want to know is what you do when you lose the trail and get stuck. I think we need to talk about this more and be aware that we aren't alone in feeling this way. That would help. I'd like to have a tool kit of ideas to keep handy for when it happens again and to share with you and my students. So lets start the conversation here. Tell me what you do to move forward, to see the world in a rosier hue and leave the blues behind.