Things I Know About Starting Over

Work in Progress

In 2015, when the shit hit the fan, I had to change. My whole life was in tatters and I had to find a way to live again. But live on my own terms. Live true to my soul.

For decades I’d been on the production trail. Do do do. Produce produce produce. Because I’d eventually I’d get to the promised land. I’d be successful, famous and accepted.

What I know now from having to start over is that there is no end point. There’s only the journey. I’m in a constant state of becoming. Becoming a better version of myself. But I will never be complete or perfect because that state just doesn’t exist. It’s a fallacy we’re fed to keep us keeping on. The desire or promise keeps us working with our heads down, selling out our souls for very little rewards. We think we are living the life we want to live but really, we’re living the life ‘they’ want us to live. The system, that is.

Now, I’m happy with less. Happy to work small. Happy with little ripples I create because I know in my heart that this is the authentic me at work. I know now, what I do, I do from the heart. I do in service to others with no expectations or need for anything in return. Living my life on my terms is my reward. And that’s enough. I’m enough just being me.

Plans for May

I announced on Instagram the other day my plan to go on another social media hiatus in May. This is something I periodically do as a means of self-care. In the past, I’ve left it too late before taking a break and I’ve been left rolling in the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. I’ve been burnt out and rendered speechless with nothing productive to say.

I’ve learned from this experience, I’m planning my retreat ahead of schedule, when I’m still in a good position and enjoying the experience. I’m taking a rest while the going is good. And there’s a voice saying to me, I’m a fool for going now, for leaving the party early so to speak. Things are getting exciting, I’m making connections. I’m also receiving a lot of support for my #100daysproject. I go silent and I will loose all momentum, all exposure etc.

My sanity and health is more important. I take breaks from social media as an act of self-care. The time away gives me the time and space to go within and listen more carefully to my own wisdom. Going dark on the internet, gives me a chance to create without distractions or comparisons. It gives me space and permission to breathe.

I’ll still be posting here as well as on Patreon and sending out Studios Notes during this time as I feel as if I’m just getting started with this blogging malarkey.

This break is coming at a time when our new project is beginning, which involves more Black, Asian and ethnic minorities getting out into the British Countryside. I’ll share more details soon.

ten things

A few moons ago, I tried to bring into practice writing ten things about my day. Ten observations without using metaphor or simile. I detailed the task at length in this blogpost.

I kept up the practice for just a few weeks. Life as usual got in the way. Tonight, I find myself wanting to return to this practice. Maybe it’s been thinking on my decision to go deeper into my practices and life instead of adding width through acquiring new things, that has me reflecting on this ten things practice.

I see this daily practice as a means of generating more gratitude for the life I have created at the same time as grounding me in the present moment.

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be sharing these creations on a special project page on my website – ten things. I hope you enjoy these sharings and look forward to reading them.

Where I work

I wish I could display a wide open space with large tables, easels, storage for paintings and tools. With natural light streaming through so many windows that the space is forever bright. But I can’t.

I can’t afford a studio. If I’m organised, I can use the spare room which is my son’s room when he returns for visits from Uni. But recently, it’s become a dumping ground for when I’ve come in from an event or job and I’m too tired to sort out my bags. The room soon becomes unable to get into and the clutter enters my mind.

I’m much better being a mobile artist. Packing a bag and going to a hotel room to work is my ideal working space. And recently with having to travel for union work and family gatherings, I’ve managed to monopolise clean and white hotel rooms to create colourful, vibrate paintings be that my abstracts or my portraits of black women. And it has been welcomed and liberating.

So yes I don’t have a regular space to create at home but I don’t allow that to stop me from continuing to explore my visual language.

ten:three

1. Re-entry into my everyday after being away is harsh.
2. The sun glows low.
3. We walk the shore alone and smell the waves.
4. My everyday life is full of kinks.
5. The terns dance within the foam.
6. Strong black coffee steams.
7. Luther Vandross ‘Searching’ on the radio.
8. Emails plying up as is the washing.
9. Box set bingeing late into the night.
10. Not ready to start it all again tomorrow.

Circles

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I see these turbines and they remind me of giant silver daffodils. I imagine that they are drawing circle after circle uonnthe air, the wine, the sky. #decemberreflections2017

Peace



Deep within the still centre of my being may I find peace.
Silent,y within the quiet of the Grove may we share peace.
Gently within the greater circle of humankind may we radiate peace.

– Cairistiona Worhington

Talking about my practice

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This is a visual journal entry I completed a few months ago while continuing with my Creative Facilitator Training with Lisa Sonora

22/04/2017

It feels weird coming back to DOP ( Dreaming on Paper) after two years absence. I’ve tried to do it again but just didn’t get into it. But now I’m doing the Facilitator Training, it seems important to get back in. I need to post to the group.

Yes I’m skipping through at a pace as I still do the techniques I learnt back then but it’s good to be refreshed on the techniques I haven’t done in a while -like the stamping as well as the textured page, the wallpaper and marbled effect. I haven’t used a wet one in a while or the stripped effect so it’s good to do this and to not feel any fear but be comfortable with it – like second nature.

—————-

So yes weird but also reassuring that a lot of the habits and techniques have stayed and also how far I have developed since the beginning with flaps* and stuff, and extensions and tearings and pockets and stuff. I’m proud of myself I am, of my progress and practice. I’ve come a long way in the journey and I’m still on it. Thank God.’


*flaps = additional pages added to the journal, see visual journalling post for further explanation.


Technique:

The journals I use most frequently are the Pink Pig pads. I usually pick these up in town, not online, bought three at a time because there is usually a discount on them and they definitely have more pages in.

I prepare my pages with paint ahead of the time I want to use them. So when a journal is coming to the end, I start prepping the next one with paint, so it’s ready with no breaks in between.

I pick the colours that are calling to be at the time. Here for this page the dominate colour is bright orange. I use ready mixed paints, craft paints, kids paint and start with just one drop of paint in the middle of the page. I smear it across the blank page with a disused credit card. I love this part. The spread of colour makes me happy. A simple task, a simple pleasure but oodles of fun.

I’ve gone on to add pink and blue to the orange after this. Using the same credit card for each colour, sometimes all paint rubbed off before a new colour is introduced and sometimes not. I’m not doing this to be neat, to cover away all the white of the page. I like my smearing of paint to be quick and messy.

Sometimes I do right up the edges sometimes not. I prepare three double spread pages at a time and then leave them to dry, sketchbook open with a paint bottle propped between the pages either side so they don’t stick together.

Once dried, I can write on it. Gel pen was used here but ball point pen works just as well. Here I’ve added images of nature and travel and adventure at the bottom of the page. I use glue sticks. I’m not loyal to any particular brand either as long as it does the sticking. These were cut from a tourist leaflet about visiting Scotland.

The images I select usually tie in with what I’m writing, they talk to each other. While sometimes they don’t and this might because I’ve skipped ahead in my journal and stuck in some images to break up the page already. But all the images I include I love, I have an emotional connection to. I’ll talk more about that in another post.

After the writing, I return to the page and use the leaf shaped stamp. See what I did there? I wrote in this journal example about the techniques I haven’t been using in a while and rubber stamping was one of them. I rectified that here.

Me, Myself and Social Media

 

I popped back onto social media the other day to announce that I’ve decided to take another month away. I didn’t make this decision lightly, I mean, I’m trying to build up my business here and what kind of business will it be if not being marketed within social media? However, once this decision was made, I felt a huge pressure lift off my shoulders.

I don’t like who I become when I’m on social media. A friend on Facebook asked me a series of questions in relation to this comment, which I will attempt to answer here. Thank you, Kim for giving me the prompts to dive deeper into my relationship with social media which has been brewing for many years now.

I think a little bit of history is needed first, to illustrate where I’m coming from.

Prior to May 2015, Facebook was my social media of choice. I posted personal details, images and happenings but most of the time I used it to raise my profile. Through this social network, I gathered many friends and associates. Some I knew in person, while the majority, I had accumulated through the years of being a freelance writer. They were my colleagues and growing audience.

I had a thriving blog, where I shared my writing, my practice and my processes in an honest and open way. I’ve always felt that the writing world is a realm of mystery. Through public postings, I had hoped to breakdown some of that, making it easier for others to follow their dreams of becoming writers. I had a large following. Some posts being read by over 500 people. This popularity spurred me on to write and share further. My ego was in the driving seat here, for sure.

This life I created all disappeared after being accused of being a plagiarist via Facebook. This I have written about in detail in my book, rubedo. Through these allegations, I experienced the very vicious side of social media. The anonymity, the mob mentality accompanied with the lack of accountability meant that people said things about me that they wouldn’t dream of saying to my face. This is the beauty of social media; if you’re not using it, it using you.

For a time, I withdrew from public. I needed to heal and to find a way back to me, the authentic me. With creativity being my crime, creativity was also my cure. I started to put my toe back into social media, through Instagram. This was safer. I could share my images without anything coming back onto me. Through different online courses, I re-entered Facebook, but through closed groups only. Protection was my focus. Protection from further scrutiny and attacks. Protection from being hurt again.

Fast forward two years, I’ve come to understand my relationship with social media better. I find it beneficial for me and who I am becoming to take breaks from it. It started as a weekend, then a week and then a month.
I feel blessed to feel part of a community on social media again. I might have less ‘friends’ on there but I do know that what I’m putting out there is coming from the right place. The right place for me, from my authenticity. And if people are connecting with me on this basis then I’m happy about this. Grateful for this.

However, when things start to get on top of me, such as too many negative posts, too many hours spent mindlessly scrolling through feeds, and too many thoughts wishing my life looked more like someone else’s, then I feel it is time to take a break.

There are times that I find social media a distraction; as an illusion but which I’m buying into every time I go on there. I know each platform of social media has their different benefits and drawbacks, yet, I feel at times that there is a constant scrolling through feeds but without really taking anything in. But I think I continue to do so because of that fear of missing out. I continue to do so because I’m not sure how I’d be able to connect with people around the world.

There are the distractions, the happenings, and the glorious technicoloured lives that I wish were mine. There’s the jealousy and the envy. The need to be seen and not be seen. There’s the need to share the good stuff happening in my life and in the process collect the likes, loves and shares. There’s the constant swirling around of news about injustices, inequalities and violence within the world, with comments and shares but which really don’t create change in the real world. This frustrates me.

Yes I’m all vulnerable and authentic out there in social media but this is still just a slice of my life. There is little room to get to know the person, really, deeply on social media. That would take too much effort. And really does anyone see any value in doing so? I do. I miss the face to face experiences of talking to someone, really talking to someone when I spend time too much time on social media instead.

At present, I attempt to show all sides of me. The highs and the lows. But when I get into a funk, I don’t want to be seen, I don’t want the witnesses. But what that really means is that I don’t want to see myself. I want to hide from myself, and being off social media makes that so much easier. And then not so. There aren’t constant updates. There isn’t the need to put voice and an image to my life. I can just be in my reality 24/7 and hopefully through this process of silence and solitude, I can work myself through my funk.

In the first couple of weeks of being off social media, there’s a pattern of taking a photo and thinking straight away, ‘I have to share this on Instagram.’ If this is the only reason I’m capturing this moment in order to post it on social media, then that’s sad. This isn’t the way I want to live my life. I want to pay attention for me to be. To enrich my life, not for likes or comments on social media. Not for validation or recognition. I want to feel whole despite of this, not because of this.

I want to know in myself that I have created something of worth, because I think so, I feel it, not because someone on the internet comes along and says so. It’s about fostering that self-knowledge, self-belief of my own self-worth, independently of what anyone else says or thinks.

I know I still do things in this world for a reaction. To gain recognition, validation and acceptance. Much less than before but that itch is still there. Having time away from social media, aids me in weakening this need for someone else’s approval, at the same time as strengthening my belief in me being good enough just as I am.
Social media is addictive. Addictive in fostering desires for other people’s lives and not appreciating our own lives. In the past, I have used social media mindlessly, using it to fill a void within myself.
At this point, it ceases to be meaningful and becomes an added pressure, an added space in which to perform in a certain way, to a given standard.

I’m attempting to no longer use or be used by social media in this way anymore. I’m hyper-sensitive to the signs. When things start to slide this way, this is when I go on hiatus from social media. I take myself away from that arena, dive deep into my own life and continue the work on myself, away from public scrutiny.
I do come back out again but wiser and stronger each time. Changing in the process, growing and becoming the best version of myself through the process. This is self-care.

When I re-enter social media, I feel more safe and secure and stronger even in feeling that I’m showing up as me. I can once more expand in my own way, knowing that there will come a time when I need to contract again. I accept this cycle, it is part of life. My aim is not to avoid it. As I’ve mentioned before, if I knew of a way to do what I want to do and not be part of social media, I would take it (answers on a postcard would be greatly appreciated. Nevertheless, my aim is to show up in authenticity in the virtual and real world simultaneously.
I live and learn in the practice.