On New Years Eve, I wanted to write something uplifting and hopeful and inspiring to start the transition into 2015. I wanted to give you, my dear reader, a message to help kick-start your year on the right path, to help you accomplish your dreams and goals. But lately I’ve felt like I didn’t have it in me, that there was no way I could write something with that kind of positive energy. Lately I’ve felt angry and frustrated, and not with anything or anyone in particular. One day I’ll be angry and agitated, the next I’ll be crying. My close friends who have done a lot of personal healing know what I’m talking about, some of them call it “deep work”. If you’ve ever been there yourself, then you know what I’m talking about, and I’m sure you know how frustrating it can feel. But I was reminded of a saying I once read, “the medicine is in the wound”, and that is where I found the inspiration for this post.
I don’t do anger well. To me, and most other people, its an emotion that feels dark, heavy, and negative. Who wants to be angry when you could be happy? Well, I’m sure we’d all agree if we could be happy all the time we would, but then we would have nothing to compare our joy to. Instead we’d probably just feel apathetic or indifferent. I’ve always felt that anger was a volatile emotion, that feeling it would turn me into some crazy, out-of-control, violent person. So I’ve been stuffing it since I was a kid, and I think now it’s finally caught up to me. I haven’t been able to work on my weaving much because the anger and frustration doesn’t translate well to delicate and detailed work. So while I’ve been taking a break from my tapestry, I’ve been finding new tools and ideas to help me work through these darker emotions.
In the dark is where the first stage of new life happens, where the seed first cracks it’s hard, protective shell, and tender leaves reach up towards the light. It’s where we rest, where dream-time brings us insights, where ideas grow, and new life takes shape. The time in the dark is never hurried; everything that is preparing for growth needs time and care to be ready to be born. There is vitality hidden in the dark. And life is very cyclical, we all go through phases of blooming in the garden, soaking up the sun’s rays while others admire us. Sometimes the weeds choke us and threaten to take us down. And there usually always comes a time when we retreat back into the restorative cocoon of the darkness, back into our roots to rest and prepare to be reborn again come our next springtime.
During our time in this fertile soil, its important to actually do our personal work, mend what’s been broken, and remember that the darkness isn’t forever. We will eventually be called back into the light, and to carry with us the gifts we have uncovered from our sacred wounds.
While I’ve been taking a break from weaving, I’ve been discovering new tools and ideas to help me work through these shadow emotions. I’ve put together this list to serve anyone who is also feeling overwhelmed, stressed, stuck, or wanting change, now or in the future.
1. Gratitude Lists – If you’ve read anything about living a more positive life or how to manifest your deepest wishes, one of the suggestions you’ll find is writing a gratitude list. But I use it not to just get what I want, I use it to change my perspective. Whenever I’m feeling frustrated, grumpy, angry, or just plain ungrateful, I write a gratitude list. It always, ALWAYS changes my outlook. On New Years Eve I wrote a gratitude list for everything that happened to me in 2014. While it was several pages long, it was also filled with simple things. Like #12: “All of the magical hikes I’ve been on out here.” Or #15: “Practicing patience.” #24: “Learning how resilient I am.” And #30, my favorite: “All of the chocolate I’ve eaten.”
The little things really add up, and they’re not that hard to find, trust me. Even finding just one thing to be grateful for, like a kind person’s smile, can start to shift your perspective. Now imagine finding those little things everyday for 30 days. Imagine a whole year.
2. When energy gets stuck and needs to be released, it can’t always come out as art, even ugly, dirty, messy art, or beautiful, light, and inspiring art. Believe me, I’ve tried. Occasionally it needs a physical outlet in order to be set free. The mornings are usually when I get fresh hits of inspiration, and the other day as I got out of bed and felt the angry energy rise up in me, I saw myself in a boxing class. I never thought of myself as someone who would ever want to try boxing, but there I was in a safe environment, able to release my emotions. I signed up for a no contact, women’s only boxing class. Thankfully we wont be fighting each other. I may want to punch a punching bag, but I have absolutely no interest in punching someone else or getting punched in the face!
3. Faith, and I’m not just talking church or George Michael. When we find ourselves feeling like we’re drowning in sudden changes, forces beyond our control, shadow emotions, and feeling unable to get our heads above water for long, having faith in something is what can get us through. I have what I refer to as “a spiritual posse”, a collection of various spirits, teachers, and guides I’ve chosen that I turn to when I need help. It doesn’t matter if it’s a saint, an angel, the woods, or your cat, just start with having faith that you will get through, and you will get through.
4. Have patience. Sometimes when we’re looking to create change in our lives, or to get through a storm, or to reach our goals, we can lose patience. Keep in mind that we’re all on different paths. Keep an open heart to what personal success looks like for you. Sometimes when I feel like I don’t have what I want, I do step 1 above and I discover that I have everything I need. What you want will come, just keep an open heart and give it time.
5. Be easy on yourself. This isn’t a competition, no ones’ perfect even if they appear that way.
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens
6. Take inspiration from the success of others. Seeing someone climb the ladder of their dreams and accomplish big goals can make anyone feel jealous, and wonder when it will be their time to shine. I used to feel jealous of others’ success stories, but now I use them as a great source of inspiration to follow my own dreams. Hearing about anyone making a living doing what they love and bringing positive change to the world fills me with so much joy, hope, and motivation. Someone living their life through the gifts they bring to the world is also a gift for those of us wanting to do the same; it shows us that with unwavering dedication, patience, and a pure passion for what we do, we can also accomplish incredible things. Usually after hearing or reading such good news, I’ll sit down at my loom and work away, feeling pure inspiration for what it is I do. I simply love these stories. Because if they can do it I can too, and so can you.
7. Have fun. I don’t wait until the storm passes or things to get better to go forth and make the most of life. I don’t sit around thinking that because I’m in a funk, I have to stay there and wait for it to be over. Whenever I’m feeling grumpy, I watch youtube videos of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, or clips from Louis CK’s stand-up performances. I often find myself laughing so hard I’m crying, and I’ve totally forgotten about my grumpiness. Like gratitude lists, laughter has a profound ability to drastically change our outlook, even if for a few minutes. And that’s all it takes to ride the waves to smoother sailing.
8. Do something nice for others, and something nice for you. It doesn’t have to cost you a penny. It can be offering an ear to listen, a compliment (as long as it’s sincere!), or bringing food to an ill friend. Last night, I decided to do something nice for myself that I know I’ve needed to do to help me grow as a professional artist. I bought the domain name for this blog!
One thing I do know is that crossing that threshold from the darkness and into the next stage of life will make me feel more confident, with a deeper sense of faith and trust in the work that I do and the life I live. And that although there will be more hard days to come, having practiced these steps will give me the strength to keep weaving through the storms with serenity and grace.