Judgement, Shame, Forgiveness

In my last post, One Year Sober, I mentioned that I would be facilitating my first “Fight Shame with Forgiveness” workshop with my recovery group.  It was a great success and I was truly honoured to be in a room full of so many creative individuals.  At the beginning of the session, almost everyone mentioned that they “loved art” and followed with a self-criticism like “but I’m not very good”.  However, I took great pleasure in watching them suspend their judgement and allow their inner child to come out and doodle. They were so “in the zone” that most of them continued to work through their break and were quite happy to share their doodles with each other at the end of the session.  Judgement of ourselves and others is a dangerous thing.  It’s soooooo limiting and stifles our ability to grow into compassionate, creative human beings. It blocks us from understanding our inner strength and our worthiness to love and be loved.  As children, we are immersed in ideas about what is right and wrong, who is good and who is bad. These ideas are handed down to us through society, our families, teachers, friends, colleagues and even strangers.  So it’s no wonder we judge ourselves harshly for not living up to some elusive ideal we think we need to be in order to fit-in, be accepted and be loved.  

How do we stop judging ourselves?  By forgiving ourselves for not being perfect, by letting go of the past and accepting that we did the best we could do under the circumstances, by accepting and loving ourselves as we are and by celebrating ourselves and all we have accomplished.  A great way to do all these things in one step, is by writing a letter of self-forgiveness, or as  I also like to call it, a love letter to yourself.  We can also practice non-judgement by exploring the creative arts …. like doodling.  Why should we do all this?  Because we are worth it!

P.S.  The above doodle was created by my Dad.  Before introducing my art therapy exercises to my recovery group, I practiced them with my parents, who are in their eighties.  They thoroughly enjoyed it.

One Year Sober!

Just over a year ago, I walked into my doctor’s office for my annual physical and told her that I was going to quit drinking alcohol.  This was my way of making sure I would be accountable to someone for my decision.  She was super supportive and referred me to an addiction counsellor at our local hospital.  Of course I didn’t think this was necessary but I thought, “it can’t hurt”.  Well, what a journey it has been.  Working with my addiction counsellor and joining a recovery group has changed my life!  I have received sooooo much support that I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Not only have I met wonderful people just like me, who want to leave their past behind and move forward in their life sober, but I have been learning about mindfulness and being kind and gentle to myself.  It’s not always easy but when I take the pressure off myself to be in complete control of my life, I am a much happier person.

Around the time I quite drinking, I also discovered my “why” as an artist.  Being in recovery and trying to figure out my creative purpose was serendipitous.  My addiction counsellor had been encouraging me to explore more deeply my art making as well as encouraging me to write my thoughts. So it was no surprise that I started making  Self-Forgiveness cards to help me and others like me overcome our self-inflicted shame of past choices and events.  This is my purpose.  In two days, I will be facilitating my first “Fight Shame with Forgiveness” workshop with my recovery group.  It will include an art therapy exercise to warm up our creative brain and then we will start writing our letters of self-forgiveness.  Wish me luck!

Feeling Off Balance

Every year during the weeks leading up to Christmas, I start to feel a little off balance and I’m at my worst during the week between Christmas and New Years.  I’m never quite sure why this happens.  I have no issues with family and I thoroughly enjoy their company during the holiday season. But inside of myself, I doubt every move I make.

 I gave up drinking alcohol on December 28 last year (my birthday) so I was a bit nervous about getting through the holidays this year without it. I was even more nervous about eating sweets and gaining a ton of weight.  I’ve been craving sweets constantly since I stopped drinking and I was determined not to go crazy eating them over the holidays.  Did I eat sweets? Yes LOTS.  Did I drink booze?  NO.  Did I do Yoga and meditate like I said I would?  A big fat NO.  However, I realized, (after I perked up again in January) that self-acceptance is crucial.  I know this happens to me every year, so I should just accept it and try not to control it or beat myself up about it.  It always ends once the new year starts.  

In early December, I wrote a forgiveness letter to myself and then read it a couple of weeks later when I was feeling super down in the dumps.  It was beautiful, like reading a love letter to myself.  The process of writing the letter helped me think positively about myself and reading it later definitely lifted my spirits.  The new year is here and I’m ready to make 2019 my best year yet!  I’ll be working one a new  body of work which I’ll be showing at the Arts On The Credit show, April 26-28, 2019.   The image above is something I’ve been working on for a commission and in a later post, I’ll show you what inspired the image.

Legacy, Fun, Talent

The other day, I watched a video by Melyssa Griffin, explaining that the way to find my unique purpose on this planet is to find the intersection between how I want to be remembered (Legacy), what brings me joy (Fun) and what I’m good at (Talent).  This resonated with me because it’s a very succinct way of describing how I determined my creative purpose through Ann Rea’s course Making Art Making Money

Some painful soul searching made me realize that I want to be remembered as a person who helped people overcome shame and rebuild their self-esteem.  Dancing and doodling  bring me joy and make me feel present in the moment. My talent is having the technical skills to turn my dancing and doodling into art.  Not just a picture to hang on a wall or a unique note card to write in, but art that inspires forgiveness and dissolves shame.  In future posts I will do a better job of documenting my entire artistic process but here is a little tidbit of how my doodles become prints using stencils, ink and beeswax.

This is my original doodle that was inspired by music, generated while I was dancing (more on that in a future post).

A very quick video of me removing stencils from an inked and waxed sheet of Kozoke (Japanese paper) and the finished print before I cut it up into rectangles.  Each rectangle was mounted on a 5″x7″ note card which became forgiveness cards shown above.


Art with a Purpose

Recently, I’ve been taking time to carefully assess why I make art. In particular, why in the past I’ve been inspired by drains, utility covers and cracks in the road.  After some soul searching, I realized that these objects cover up what lies beneath the surface.  They are a reflection of me, the me who has been covering up feelings of shame from painful events and choices made in my past. It seems I’ve been spending far too much time looking down at the ground, perhaps hanging my head in shame.  I know I am not alone; there are many of us out there who are or have been in the same situation.  Now, I’m on a mission to fight shame with forgiveness and to use my art to help myself and others achieve this goal.  This blog will document my ideas, may artistic processes and the ups and downs of recovery from addiction and trauma.  Feel free to join me on this journey and sign up to receive my updates and posts.