Notes on Courage
Inner work for outer action.
Between writing grants and ushering in a new session of arts activities at heARTS, I've been re-engaging the world of Pinterest. I used the site a lot before heARTS was a really real thing and it helped me to fine-tune my vision and it inspired action.
In my journey down the rabbit hole, I found a pin from the Arts and Healing Network that quoted ME! I read it and was able to give myself a little pat on the back for the words. Those were good words I used!
For me, painting is a way to look inward, and for others I think art can be an opportunity to express themselves outwardly - something that might not come easily. Either way, I think the power is in the story. Artistic expression offers the opportunity to share parts of ourselves we might not otherwise share.
I'm still in awe of the fact that the Arts and Healing Network recognized me for courageous heARTS' work just 6 months after opening the doors! It's pretty *magical* actually. When it first happened, I was elated! I felt affirmed for all the hard work and it bolstered my heart to keep moving forward.
The public acknowledgement was also a huge wake-up call for me, because as wonderful as I felt, I also became aware of my tendency to shrink. My inner critic was quick to tell me not to be too happy or too open about it. People will think you are boastful and arrogant.
I've spent the past year, grappling with this tendency. Thanks to the loveliness of Liv Lane's Project Light Year (2015 registration ends today!) I've been learning how to shine. My tendency to shrink is quickly diminishing. Like I said in my last post, I'm ready to celebrate my life with abundant gratitude-- and that means all the amazing, magically extraordinary parts of it!
Yesterday, I guided a painting session with a group of high schoolers. About half-way through the workshop, one of the painters called me over and said that she was stuck. She told me that when I shared my story, it reminded her of her own loss in 2007. She felt inspired to paint about that loss and started her "dark" painting. As she told me more of her story, I observed the black at the top of her page gradually transition into beautiful shades of red and orange-- a sailor's delight surely around the corner.
I could see her delight in the vibrant hues she had started to use, and hear the pain and burden as she expressed concern about what she thought her painting was suppose to be-- dark, heavy, grief-stricken-- but wasn't any more. I asked her if it was possible for both to exist-- the darkness and the light. The guilt she was holding, just beneath the surface, was palpable. When wounds cut so deep that it feels like a betrayal to use vibrant colors in a painting, just imagine what it feels like to live a vibrant, colorful life?
I get it. There have been many steps on my journey that have felt like betrayals. Betrayals that I turned into obligations so I wouldn't feel so guilty.
Surviving felt like a betrayal. I'm alive and thirteen others aren't. I need to make my life worthy of the second chance. I need to prove to the Universe that I was worth keeping, in case there was some kind of mix-up on the way to the other side.
Healing felt like a betrayal. I'm getting better but others are still stuck. We're in this together, but I can't stay stuck. I can't keep reliving the pain, I need to transform the pain. Moving on is a betrayal to the pain and grief and loss, my own and others.
Creating courageous heARTS felt like a betrayal. I'm living my joy by using my deepest sadness and pain. I'm betraying the sadness, my own and others. I'm betraying the horrific tragedy by calling it a gift, by having the audacity to say I wouldn't want it any other way.
I know exactly what it feels like to feel the pull of the dark-- the obligation to it, the muted existence that it creates. I also know what it feels like to find the light-- to live in the vibrancy of the contrast and find joy again.
Recently, I had an Angel Reading with Laurel Bleadon-Maffei, and was reminded that my essence-- joyful and adventurous-- is meant to live a vibrant, colorful life. I was awakened to the fact that the only real betrayal is to live a muted existence-- holding on to the darkness out of obligation and guilt.
So I'm cashing in my gift... Life.
I'm done feeling bad about being alive. They wouldn't want me to- would never have ask me to. I did that to myself.
I'm ready to celebrate my life! (Whoa.)
I'm ready to breathe in deeply, with grateful awareness.
I'm ready to explore the big wide world and all it's vibrant colors.
I'm ready to giggle uncontrollably and feel the drunkenness of joy again.
I'm ready to live a magical, extraordinary existence.
I'm ready to pop the lid off what's possible and keep dreaming-- even bigger.
I'm cashing in, with utmost gratitude.
I'm ready to fly, anyway.
*Image adapted from Tony Webster: https://flic.kr/p/9WBhY5
When courageous heARTS came to life two years ago, I thought I had emerged from my cocoon. I thought I had checked the right boxes, made the right decisions, walked through the right doors, and emerged on the other side a butterfly.
In many ways I did. I took flight and felt the wind beneath my wings. (cue Bette♫)
Ok, sorry about that-- it was there, I had to take it. :-)
Flying was really fun, but eventually I got tired. I found myself flying less, and becoming more concerned with scarcity-- of time, of money, of ME!
I haven't birthed any children, but courageous heARTS is so much of who I am that it was hard to separate its well-being from my own. Much like parenting an infant, when your lack of sleep is secondary to your baby's need for nourishment, I took a backseat to it. No matter how much you love your baby there are also times when all you want to do is sleep, or eat, or play without having to think about their needs. I poured all of me, every ounce, into this entity that was me- is me.
In some ways I felt more alive, more whole. But in others, it was clear to me that I was becoming scarce. I was struggling to separate my identity from the organization's and to find my voice again.
Since mid-December I've been laying low. There's been sickness, and holidays, and weddings, and anniversaries. I've been engaged in my immediate world, but in many ways I have felt a stillness and an anticipation of things to come. I feel like I've been in a cocoon-- safe and warm, waiting for just the right time to emerge.
As I look back on 2014, it's clear to me that I spent the year finding my own nourishment. I thought I was in flight, but in reality I was a caterpillar munching on leaves. That nourishment will make me a stronger butterfly, and a wiser one.
There's this saying, "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly."
It speaks to the kind of change we all go through at different times in our lives. Transformations that make us unrecognizable to ourselves and sometimes even to those around us. It also speaks to the unspeakable beauty of becoming what you were always intended to become.
About the blog:
This space holds thoughts and ideas generated from my personal journey of healing and recovery from trauma, co-dependency, and white supremacy culture. Opinions are entirely my own.