Monthly Archives: May 2016

Being Gentle

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I’ve been learning so much since my revelation in therapy last week. I’m devouring articles and books and finally – finally – understanding that my insecurities and fears are perfectly understandable as a direct result of things that happened a long time ago.

It’s as though a huge weight has been lifted. I am not defective.

There is nothing wrong with me.

Of course the people who love me have told me that forever, but it can’t penetrate if you believe, deep down, that they are wrong.

Now I know they are right and everything has changed.

I am seeing myself and others with true compassion, maybe for the first time. I have always thought of myself as a compassionate person, but now I realize that I was good at being compassionate about strangers, but less good at feeling compassion for those whose lives affected mine. Because I was so caught up in my own fears and insecurities, those closest to me were often viewed through that prism.

Now that I am giving myself a break, I find I’m able to give others a break too. I’m able to see them as they are – individuals with their own issues, hang-ups, insecurities, fears, strengths and weaknesses – all of which are nothing to do with me.

For someone who has spent her whole life feeling responsible for everyone else’s emotional state, this is a HUGE relief. I have smiled more over the last few days than I have in a long time.

And, even more important … I have finally been inspired to start painting more than just selfies and life drawings. Today I went out for a walk and passed some beautiful cows. Tonight, I started a painting of one of them. It’s been a long time, but I think maybe I’m on my way back!

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The selfie (that’s the first painting!) is number 151 in a 356-day series. You can see the others here.

 

 

May 30th

Heading into Leeds shortly to celebrate my brother’s birthday with him, so I’m posting earlier than usual. Another half face, this time in Indigo watercolour.

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May 29th

I live in a beautiful home in one of the loveliest parts of the world.

Seriously. It’s gorgeous here.

I make a good living.

I have a kind husband who cares for me.

I have friends.

So far, I am healthy.

Why doesn’t any of this help?

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No Mistakes

I had an art teacher once who used to say there are no mistakes when you draw blind (meaning drawing without looking at your paper or pencil). She said that even though you think the lines are in the wrong place, actually everything is just where it was supposed to be. It all means something.

In that case, this drawing makes me wonder two things.

  1. Why do I always draw one eye so much lower than the other when I draw blind?
  2. Is it just me, or do I look a little calmer than usual? Maybe a little more centered?

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Shenpa

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One of my favourite spiritual writers is called Pema Chodron. She’s an American lady who became a bhuddist nun, and she’s wise, kind, funny and always thought-provoking.

She talks a lot about ‘shenpa.’ Shenpa is the feeling you get when something triggers the worst of you. It’s that feeling of tightening, of shutting down, of acting in a way you don’t much like. It’s that feeling of being triggered by a person or event, and seeing yourself doing it but not being able to help it. The things that trigger shenpa are different for each of us – but it’s likely that for each one of us, they will be all too familiar. In other words, we all have our triggers and we’ve probably had the same ones our whole lives.

Maybe you feel shenpa when you’re criticized. You feel yourself tense up and then the next thing you know, you’re lashing out. Or maybe you feel shenpa when you envy someone who has what you want. Or maybe when you feel threatened in some way.

For me, it’s always about other people and my insecurities about them. I was triggered again tonight and, this time I watched and felt the shenpa as it happened.  I felt tight, anxious, on the verge of minor panic, and I experienced an urge to do something to relieve the tension. To seek reassurance. To gain control of the situation.

That’s what I always do. Act. Get control. Even if my actions are ultimately unproductive, or produce the wrong result, just acting has usually been enough.

Tonight, I worked really hard at doing nothing. I simply observed, witnessed, and waited. It wasn’t easy and I can’t say I relaxed, but I made it through without trying to take control and – what do you know – everything worked out just fine without my guiding hand.

I can’t make the anxiety go away just because I understand where it came from, but I think maybe watching and witnessing are the keys for now.

 

 

 

Feeling Lighter

After my therapy session the other day, I feel so much lighter. I don’t know if it will last, but it is as though I’ve put down a huge burden. One I’ve been carrying for as long as I can remember.

I’m still thinking about, and working through all the things I’ve learned, but the effect is already significant.

Will it last? Hard to say. My emotions can be so overwhelming that they can sweep me away no matter how hard I try to keep my footing. But maybe this time I will have a branch to hold on to. I know now why I feel as I do – surely that’s a step in the right direction?

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