Talking to myself

Visual journal 10/05

I come to the page bubbling with excitement. For what, I do not know.

I feel a change in my energy. It might be the light coming through my window. It might be the prospect of the day ahead. Or if might simply be the fact that I’m turning up for me daily when I come to the page and braindump, dream and talk to self.

The White Gaze

Visual journal 06/05

I do love a white gel pen on a black gesso page. I love the contrast but I also love that it reverses/ subverts the norm.

Quite fitting really when I was exploring my understanding/ operating of ‘The White Gaze’ today.

From Wiki: ‘ The White Gaze is the assumption that the default reader or observer is coming from the perspective of someone who identities as white, or that people of color sometimes feel the need to take into account the white reader or observer’s reaction.”

I wonder who wrote this definition? Loaded much, ‘assumption’ , ‘sometimes’ please. It’s our reality. It’s White Supremacy Culture. It’s the norm.

I’m learning ( all the time) how to survive the white gaze. And taking my lead from Toni Morrison, I know I have meaning and depth without the white gaze. My life has meaning without the white gaze. ‘ But we do language. That might be the measure of our lives.’

It might be a daily practice with need of constant reminders but I’m learning to create not for the white gaze, in spite of the white gaze and it’s repercussions.

I am learning to be free.

7 Reasons Why …

“ I dwell in possibility…”. – Emily Dickinson

7 reasons why me and alcohol are simply not a match any longer: –

1. In case of emergencies and who knows when there might be another one, I don’t want to be incapacitated because of having a drink.

2. Drinking alcohol no longer brings me joy.

3. Lately, I’ve been using alcohol to gain courage and gumption therefore showing up and not being genuine.

4. Alcohol is a gateway to other destructive behaviours and actions.

5. I’m no longer tasting it, really tasting it.

6. It’s been getting earlier and earlier in the day when I start drinking alcohol.

7. I’m drinking for all the wrong reasons.

Dry January – Coming Late to the Party

If you receive our Studio Notes, then you would have read that the beginning of 2021 did not go as planned. Miss Ella got sick, real sick, having to go into hospital for a few weeks to recover from an infection. We didn’t know what was happening and it was worrying.

At the same time, our local hospital trusts brought in stricter restrictions in terms of visitors to hospital. They brought in the rule of one parent per child, 24/7. So swapping out of parents to give some respite and relief. No sharing the load.

It made sense that Miss Ella’s dad stayed in hospital with her as then I’d be available to run around, bringing in food and changes of clothes, as I drive while Miss Ella’s dad doesn’t.

Not being able to see her, cuddle her and tell her everything was going to be alright was so frustrating and painful. For a few weeks there I was self medicating with wine and binge eating crap just to numb the pain and worry. For a few blissful hours each night, I could switch off and forget everything. But the worry and fears were still there to face me the next day.

We’d decided that when Miss Ella was discharged from hospital she’d come stay with me to recover. I hadn’t been with her for so long and it also gave her dad a break after his hospital stay. I needed to be there for her, be switched on and watched her like her hawk. Therefore, alcohol was out of the question.

I’m so pleased that I’d made this decision because within 24 hours of being out of hospital, I had to rush Miss Ella back in with the same symptoms as before. This time, I was the parent to stay in hospital for a few days while they worked out what was wrong and treat Miss Ella again.

By the time we got home again out of hospital, I was 5 days into not drinking. And even though we’d been on another rollercoaster of a ride and alcohol was offered as a means of unwinding and forgetting the recent health scares, I abstained. Again I wanted to be alert and on standby just in case of another emergency with Miss Ella.

So that’s the long story. The short story is Dry January is happening and it wasn’t on my radar. And I’m not really following it as I’ve said, I’ve been drinking this month. But today, I’m 8 days dry.

Sobriety is something I tried last January and completed the month. This year, I’m planning on going beyond the month.

I think my drinking became an issue for me in terms of my behaviours and actions and go-to during 2020 lockdown, marriage breakdown, separation and new home period of my life. It became easy to reach for the wine bottle and forget my worries and concerns. But I just can’t accept the excuses any more. It’s not really worth it as our recent health scares and hospital stays have illustrated.

Throughout, 2022, I intend to share my journey with sobriety here as I realise writing about my struggles is part of the cure. I

have a choice and I chose me, authentic me.

Word of the Year 2022 – OPEN

Every year for the past 6 or 7 years, I’m chosen a word to guide me through the year. A word that I can use almost as a beacon to lead me through the year ahead with purpose, focus and grace.

2021 saw we embracing the practice of ::SLOW:: after 2020 and pandemic forcing everyone to slow down. Once things started to open up again, to some degrees, I didn’t want to give up the space and creativity and peace I’d found in moving and being at a slower pace. So I purposely leant into slow in 2021, and it saw me well.

Each guiding word is not discarded at the end of each year but through practice they become incorporated, embedded really into my way of being moving forward. So 2022, will see me continue to practice ::SLOW:: because I have learned so much about myself and others through it’s adoption. It has changed the way I operate in this world and for the better.

So considering this, the natural progression for me, building on 2021, is to adopt {BE} OPEN as my word of 2022.

For me OPEN means being open to opportunities, vulnerabilities and ideas.

Using OPEN with {BE} is a reminder to go gently and with grace. Using {} around the word ‘be’ is giving me, my state of being a virtual hug. I’m hugging myself through this process of opening up more to opportunities, vulnerabilities and ideas.

{BE} is offering love to myself. {BE} OPEN is offering action to open, even though I know ‘being’ has nothing to do with ‘doing’. Being is just being, just being me. No need to produce or shine. Just be simply open to what is there right in front of me.

{BE} OPEN to opportunities is not to shut down straight away but to move out of my comfort zone if something is offered to me as a possibility.

{BE} OPEN to vulnerabilities is being more of an open book. Showing up more and more authentically me and not being afraid of sharing my emotions, feelings and thoughts. Having my honest heart on display and giving and accepting LOVE.

{BE} OPEN to ideas is continuing to be the life-long learner I’m accepted myself to be and to continue to play and experiment within my own practice. To remain open to new adventures and explorations and not be afraid to take leaps, even when I’m getting older and maybe stuck in my ways.

With 2022, I’m practicing how to keep an open mind, heart and soul to whatever comes next. Viewing being and developing myself not as a chore or battle but as a blessing.

Rest and Creativity

After a really busy November, I was looking forward to a quiet December. It has been a slower pace to last month, but there has still been deadlines and events that I’ve needed to prepare for and attend and reflect on.

So past mid-December already, and I just feel as if I can slow down again now. But I say this but I must have been resting in some kind of way because I went back to my art journaling practice yesterday.

My art journal practice is different to my visual journaling practice only in the fact that I use fewer words and these Black women always seem to show up in the midst of the page somehow.

Here we have another one, who showed up yesterday out of the darkness that was developing on the page. And isn’t she delightful. She’s got a twinkle in her eye and a wish in her heart.

To be in the studio yesterday, playing on the page, I even completing a handmade zine which will be on display in the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, was a joy and much needed. As it signalled to me that I’m back to listening within. That I’m back to creating for me and just for the hell of it. That I’m coming home.

Thank you, Sheree. Now continue to rest. And create.

Honouring My Wholeness

It’s nearly been a couple of weeks now since we, Olwen Wilson and myself, completed facilitating our online visual journaling retreat called Honouring Our Wholeness. For three sessions spread over six weeks, we created space for a self-care visual journaling retreat for women, feminine and non-binary people who are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour.

This was a unique and well-needed safe space for us to come together and just be. To let down our loads and know that we weren’t going to be judged but held. It was such a nourishing and nurturing space that without it, I feel a bit remiss. This space came along at the right time when I needed to take things slow and lean back into my visual journaling practice. What I need now is to remember what I learned from this experience and continue the journey; this healing journey I’ve been on for over six years now.

Six years ago, I started my visual journaling practice through a virtual course run by Lisa Sonora called Dreaming on Paper, at that point. It came into my life when I needed to explore my voice. When I needed time and space to get in touch, probably for the first time, with my true self. It provided me with an anchor when everything around me was disappearing, had been destroyed. Visual journaling kept me afloat, when I could have easily drown.

These are the things I need to remember when I do get a bit lost because of outside demands, or when I’m being far too critical on my own arse. Self-compassion. self-care and self-love are waiting for me when I open my journal and just play. Just try. Just turn up for me.

It was such an honour to be gather with these beautiful and generous people during Honouring Our Wholeness because that’s what we did for each other and ourselves, we showed up and offered ourselves compassion, care, grace and love.

All I can say now is MORE. I WANT MORE.

Honouring Our Wholeness

Consider this. You might have an idea that takes seed, but as it grows and develops it blossoms into something amazing which you could never envision when you started.  One such seed, which was planted way back in June 2018 during the Iceland Creative Retreat with Olwen Wilson, is finally coming to fruition today.

Honouring Our Wholeness , hosted by Olwen Wilson and myself is a self-care visual journaling retreat for women, feminine and non-binary people who are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour.  This is time away from the busyness of our lives to create in community within a space where we are recognised, safe and nourished. We will take inspiration from our connections with nature and ourselves. 

Imagine really being seen, heard and acknowledged!

Over a six-week period, we plan to meet on Zoom on Sundays, April 18, May 2 and end on May 16, 2021, from 1 – 4 pm ET/10 am – 1 pm PT/6 – 9 pm GMT.

During each three-hour session, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to play in our visual journals to really dig into the joy of creating for ourselves. Visual journaling is a simple but effective practice which has seen me through so many ups and downs and life experiences. And I’m so excited to be sharing this practice with Olwen through this offering. 

Both, Olwen and I have immense experience of expressing our thoughts and feelings through our visual journaling practice. Reaping the benefits of listening to and observing our interior worlds and environments around us. But the power and wisdom of this practice we can’t keep to ourselves as we constantly share our joy of visually journalling with others through workshops, retreats and social media.

Anyway, I’ve said enough. Head in over to the Honouring Our Wholeness information page where there’s further details and how to apply. We’re accepting applications right the way through to 26 March 2021.

How much is this going to cost you?

Honouring Our Wholeness , a virtual retreat specially created to provide an empowering and rejuvenating space for women, feminine and non-binary people who are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour is a unique offering which comes with a unique price tag.

Price for participants – £0/ $0 ( Thanks to funding).

Olwen and I do hope you’ll join us.

Apply Now

Honouring Our Wholeness

A self-care visual journaling retreat for women, feminine and non-binary people who are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour.

Hosted by Sheree Angela Matthews and Olwen Wilson

Sundays, April 18, May 2 & May 16, 2021

1 – 4 pm ET, 10 am – 1 pm PT, 6 – 9 GMT

Your participation is requested for all three dates.

Cost: Free

Let’s explore our connection and relationship with nature and ourselves together.

Apply Now

The Healing Threshold

I’m stuck within

the healing threshold

drowning in grief.

Too stubborn

to turn back,

too tired 

to move on.

Sacred scars

raised, I lick

to quench

a November thirst.

Navigation bleak

across the silken 

land to peace.

Sister moon,

give me your light;

a blister in this bitter air,

as once again

with head down

and heart up,

I set forth

into becoming adrift.