On Tortured Souls (a drawing)

Be grateful for the creative, feeling, hurting, yearning, tortured soul. That’s a soul of substance. ~ Jonas

Drawing detail: A Soul of Substance, 2011 by Smiler

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A good day is a day without pain

No connection to this post, but a preview of something I've been working on for a good long while—that's my dad visiting at last year's student show.

My latest bout of the blues was set off by a night spent fighting the bedclothes, and insomnia always leaves me feeling very sick the next day. So I took a “sick day” today and slept till I could sleep no more and feel better for it now. This means I missed my art class, but I don’t even feel badly about it, though I should, I guess. All I know is I didn’t want to be in the same room as that irritating woman. My bruises from last week have gone from blue to greenish-yellow and cover a good portion of my upper and lower right arm as graphic reminders of just how badly I handle stress. Continue reading

On my mind today

As much as I’m wanting to do all kinds of things today, I’m equally desirous of spending time with my books. I’m more conscious than ever that I’ll have to cut back some on bookish things starting about a month for now to make room for my art classes, and art in general, which I’ve been woefully neglecting along with everything else. My dad offered to pay for my classes this term, which is very generous of him, so I signed up for a class with my favourite teacher Elisabeth for another round of watercolours (she keeps it fresh and new and exciting all the time, what more can one ask for?). I’ll also be taking a day-long painting class during which everyone works on personal projects, which I thought was probably the smart thing to do since I’ve got maybe a dozen canvases at various stage of completion and could certainly use the feedback to get me moving on them. A regular three-hour class is just too short, and the full day is a little too long to be leaving Coco alone, so I’ll probably show up a bit later in the morning (big surprise, right?). Continue reading

A Timely Reminder

One of the reasons I haven’t been very communicative lately (other than frequent migraines) is that for several months now I’ve been feeling stuck in a slump with nothing much interesting happening in my life and in my head. Whether this is actually true or not doesn’t seem to make much of a difference when it comes to feelings. Every day I receive the DailyOm inspiring spiritual lesson of the day and most of the time I just stick it in a folder to read at some other time, since inspiration and spirituality are not high on the agenda these days. But this one caught my eye and really made me feel a whole lot better. Here is an excerpt for your reading pleasure:

No Going Back
Every Step is Forward

Periods of intense forward movement often give way to periods of what seems like stagnation.

There are times when we feel that we are spinning our wheels in the mud in terms of our spiritual progress. This can be especially true following a period of major growth in which we feel as if we’ve gained a lot of ground. In fact, this is the way growth goes—periods of intense forward movement give way to periods of what seems like stagnation. In those moments when we feel discouraged, it’s helpful to remember that we don’t ever really go backward. It may be that we are at a standstill because there is a new obstacle in our paths, or a new layer to get through, but the hard work we have done cannot be undone.

Every step on the path is meaningful, and even one that seems to take us backward is a forward step in the sense that it is what we must do to move to the next level. In addition, an intense growth spurt requires that we rest for a time in order to fully integrate the new energies that have been liberated by our hard work. When we feel we are not making progress, we can encourage ourselves to take a moment to rest. We can meditate more, feed ourselves well, and get extra sleep. Before we know it, we will be spurred on to work toward the next level of our development, and this rest will make sense then as something we needed in order to continue.

The Workshop Beckons

Bowls

Bowls

I made this series of small bowls over this past year, during several visits to the workshop at the Allan Memorial institute. They’re rough and unsophisticated and may as well have been made by a child, but that’s what I like about them. The one on top left was the first one I made around this time last year while I was still attending the day program. I had fun playing around with the clay and just enjoying the process, which at the time felt like a whole new approach to making things, so I’m a little bit attached to it as it somehow represents a newfound freedom: one where the joy of making things isn’t hindered by the pressure of worrying whether the final result will be “up to par” or not.

I was very keen on this mold I used with the first one, and had visions of dozens and dozens of these bowls, each with it’s own particular quirks, in a rainbow of colour combinations. So of course I jumped at the chance when I was invited to spend some time at the workshop this spring to make a couple more. In fact, I enjoy the atmosphere of that workshop so much that I had talked about possibly volunteering there maybe once a week. It seems like the idea took and I will now be acting as the “artist in residence”, which is the title they concocted for me, the idea being that I’ll come in during workshop sessions on Wednesdays to share my passion for making things, along with whatever knowledge I can transmit, and encourage participants to try new things. Art has been the best kind of therapy for me and I’m all too happy to help others discover this for themselves.

This post is long overdue because it’s been my intention for many months to show these bowls so that my mum can choose one so I can send it to her in France as a now very belated birthday gift (if she wants one of course). So there you go mum. You choose, I send, with love.

Bowls & pics by Smiler

Necessary Changes (la suite)

In Necessary Changes (Part 1), I addressed changes needed on a global scale. For part 2, I was going to segue into something along the lines of “but as we all know, true change always begins on an individual level” and then ramble on about all the changes I need to make in my personal life so I can become a better citizen of the world. Screw that. I can try to be a saint in the next life. For now, here are a just five changes to my current routine which may help me to start liking myself just a little bit more (because heaven can wait):

1. Listen to more music; silence may be golden, but music is better than some of the stupid thoughts that rattle around my brain night and day.

2. Get back into yoga; because NOT doing yoga makes things that much more difficult (even just 5 minutes counts).

3. Breathe (i.e. fill lungs to capacity) every day; tends to make everything that much easier.

4. Do fun stuff, possibly even slightly crazy stuff (but not too) as often as possible.

5. Count my blessings and don’t believe the voices that say I don’t deserve better (and when they start acting up, see 1-4).

On The Road

I’ve had a pretty harrowing week so far. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on what could have triggered the numerous meltdowns I had in the past few days I realize I’ve been reacting based on old scripts which of course have nothing to do with the here and now but have gotten so deeply entrenched over the years that “losing it” has become a knee-jerk reaction.

I read—more like devoured—Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in the past couple of days. It’s a Pulitzer prize-winning (and Oprah Book Club!) novel about a father and his son trudging through a post-apocalyptic American landscape, trying to survive on what morsels of food they can find and avoid being killed and eaten by the few remaining humans they come across. A harrowing story to be sure, and if it had been written by anyone else than McCarthy, I doubt I would have made it past the first few pages, but it’s the kind of book you can’t put down once you’ve started it and from the first, I was drawn in by the poignant relationship between father and son who have nothing left but each other and the great love and tenderness they share to keep going day after day.

As I was reading it, I was able to enjoy the writing and keep my emotions detached from the gruesome world McCarthy describes. But then when I finished it in the middle of the night, I exploded into bitter tears with the realization that for much of my life, I’ve been walking around feeling pretty much like these fictional characters did, more in tune with my own inner apocalypse than the actual living world around me.

Since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I read a book review in Vogue magazine about a successful book editor’s memoirs relating his descent into his own private hell of crack addiction. Now in his early 40’s, he’s managed to get sober and stay that way for the past five years and according to the interview, this book was the catharsis the author needed, helping him to honour the life he led even through the worst of times while also attaining some kind of closure. I was uplifted by this story and after that I fell into a long sleep and had the very rare experience of dreaming simple, almost pleasant dreams.

No big surprise then that this morning I had a story forming in my mind. It was writing itself out as I was going through my morning rituals of walking the dog, feeding the kidz, getting myself ready for my painting class starting today. So I pulled out one of the beautiful notebooks I collect for those moments of profound insight and inspiration, and I started telling the tale I’ve only told a handful of people about, one that should be long gone and buried by now but which has left me with unhealed scars. It’s time I make peace with the past, release the old hurtful memories, turn them into creative fodder and move back into the present.