This daily archiving series is about organizing and dating my journal collection, as well as acknowledging the self-directed violence as important therapeutic shadow work. Processing my projections and darkness.
Trying to figure it out.
How can today’s journal be 7 years ago?! How can last Saturday be a week ago already? How can it be 53 years since I stood trembling in Kindergarten?
“Time is rhythm: the insect rhythm of a warm humid night, brain ripple, breathing, the drum in my temple—these are our faithful timekeepers; and reason corrects the feverish beat.” ― Vladimir Nabokov
I hesitate to start writing probably because I don’t trust my ability to tell the story. Or even draw it out properly. All I know is I can’t feel this way anymore. The hands along the railing. The ground coming towards me. The change of heart as the wires break the fall. The sense of failure.
April 23, 2013
Was it good to leave the house today? It was actually. For the first time, I woke up with less anxiety and managed to get up early in the sun daylight and get work done at a leisurely pace.
May 2 2013
The living room. Our relationships with the dead continue as we move on. They are still alive in us. Introduce the loss. My immediate default is to talk about Dad, but I need to talk about Mom. It is coming.
May 26, 2013
BIG VISION: “I no longer drive around heart in throat trying to figure out where I can find money to cover debt. I am debt free. I earn more money per month than goes out. I am saving money. I am enjoying a blissful, peaceful, sorted out life.”
In this moment, in this particular Starbucks, that reality could be true. In this moment all is well. I no longer want to anticipate events. Just be.
I am starting the difficult delightful chapter, developing a financial plan. I feel that familiar sense of shame, fear, low self-esteem, lack of trust. Lack of trust that the vision will work.
June 26 2013
Feeling like I have no skin. Feel like the boundaries have indeed eroded…
“To investigate that part of myself that refuses to take birth fully and hops about as though it still had one foot in the womb… But when the heart acknowledges how much pain there is in the mind, it turns like a mother toward a frightened child. – Stephen Levine
When I read something that really needs to sink in- I mind map it out. My whole brain is engaged and I can then look at the mind map throughout the month and be instantly reminded of the lessons.
This morning was all about the Power Path- taking some quiet personal time for a coffee, house to myself (except the ladies of course) and a therapeutic check-in.
Thank you to my soul sister, Patti Henderson, who first connected me to this powerful resource.
Evaluate all the structures that have formed your foundation and restructure what is needed.
My biggest takeaway from this month’s forecast:
Allow a new project to fit you rather than you trying to fit the project.
“As you approach your life with creative pragmatism, you may need to cut something loose that has been holding you back. Attachments to patterns that keep you small and hold you hostage to old ways of thinking as well as outdated perceptions about what is possible will only get in the way of you moving forward. If you find yourself saying “I can’t possibly do that”, question this belief. Practice saying “I could do that”. This gives you the choice and the possibility of something new instead of shutting the door before you give yourself the chance to see what is on the other side.” – The Power Path August 2018 Forecast
Regarding my creative process, I welcome the conversations my inner critic instigates. [This is not the same voice that picks at my skull with negative self-judgment. That’s another thing all together].
I have learned how to dance with the inner critic in my art process, welcoming its critique versus criticism, allowing mistakes, experimenting, allowing editing, willing the throwing away of crap. It’s not about silencing the inner critic and pretending EVERYTHING I MAKE IS GREAT. It’s about allowing its presence as a natural part of being a creative human.
The participants in my art sessions have ranged in age from 2 to 105. And depending on the age group, the specific program, the vulnerabilities, the style of the students- the inner critics become vocal in varying ways.
Some inner critics are happy and healthy. There is nothing quite like working on your own art beside a 5 year old who so naturally dances with their inner critic as they work– joyously creating while making decisions on color, shape, style. Happily sharing techniques, insights, asking questions.
But some inner critics are negative, detrimentally vocal and hurting. When do some of us lose this joyous ability to dance with the inner critic? When does it become an inhibiting monster as opposed to an ally? How do we tame it?
Adults in particular struggle with perfectionism during my drawing classes. That is why I don’t hand out erasers (the eraser can become a crutch, and the participant may spend too much time “fixing” as opposed to diving in to the process). That is why I do a follow me technique so that we are all literally on the same page.
I have found an easy and magical way to create joy and surprise in my art classes that in turn surprises our inner critics– collecting and collaging the class’s drawing.
For example, last Monday, I facilitated my third session with older adults in Burnaby. The group bravely dove in to the session. My students quickly realize my exclamations of delight at what they draw are authentic- I get SO EXCITED about the way people make marks on paper.
There is a lot of laughter, a lot of concentration and dialogue, a lot of self-judgment and some express disgust at their drawings. So how do we tame that inner critic so as to not wallow in self-judgment and crumple up our work and throw it into the recycling bin?! How do I lift my students?
The real magic happens with we let go of our work, cut them out and create collages. TOGETHER- the drawings become MAGICAL. The class expresses surprise and delight and take ownership in the most delightful way. One participant expressed her delight- “I thought my drawing was so bad compared to yours and everybody else’s. But when I see it up there now in the midst of the rest of them, it looks so wonderful.” On Monday, we created 4 panels (which will be embellished with feathers and embroidery and exhibited at the residence).
Session 1: OWLS
Session 2: Bunnies
Session 3: Hummingbirds, Ladybugs
It has become a theme in my art teachings- collaging work as a group- be it on the streets or onto boards. I just love it.
Our inner critic is surprised. Our work as a group looks amazing. And we are building CONNECTION. By letting go of our work, by sharing it, combining it, we become a COMMUNITY.
I had a very anxious week last week. It was a crawl to the finish line. It was a mix of grief, self-doubt, money stuff, fearing I don’t have what it takes to succeed in this life, blah blah blah. It’s familiar, having suffered from anxiety all my life. But last week was particularly hard.
I just LOVE his questions! I really recommend you read the article and contemplate the questions.
As I read through them, all I did was nod, nod, nod- yep, yep, yep- without a doubt, I have found my life purpose. Obvious. Obvious. My mission is pretty clear- to awaken creative expression– and that includes my own.
And Molly is my biggest expression yet. And oh, I am ready. To combine TRUST with pushing through, to SURRENDER along with doing what it takes.
For example, Mark asks:
1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE?
Ah, yes. The all-important question. What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat? Because here’s the sticky little truth about life that they don’t tell you at high school pep rallies:
Everything sucks, some of the time.
Now, that probably sounds incredibly pessimistic of me. And you may be thinking, “Hey Mr. Manson, turn that frown upside down.” But I actually think this is a liberating idea.
Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate? Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.
If you want to be a brilliant tech entrepreneur, but you can’t handle failure, then you’re not going to make it far. If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the 80-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.
What unpleasant experiences are you able to handle? Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?
What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually.
Might as well pick one with an olive.
So, dear Molly- you have taught me to embrace my life purpose. To clearly state- I am an artist. You have been gestating since 2003(!) and I am willing to do what it takes to birth you. Labour has begun.
At one point last week, I walked around the lagoon a few times, for it was the only thing that made any sense as my anxious demons directed sweet insults into my ear. I sensed that I met Molly and the boys at the end of my lane that enters the park. We walked together. I was wobbly and tired. But they walked with me.
Everything sucks, some of the time.
But this project moves me forward quite unlike anything else in my life.
So I am willing, dear Molly, to eat many shit sandwiches for you.
Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it. – Mark Manson
Christmas is here- magical time of year. One of my favorite and one of the hardest. So true for many of us. It’s a time of joy and connection, of reminders of loss and longing, of financial hardship and worry, a time of creating and sharing and giving…
I love surrounding myself with old Christmas trinkets and treasures and the past…
… a reminder of (and gratitude for) my childhood filled with joy and belief in magic. A time of magical thinking.
I love all our collected Christmas treasures. I’ll spend time simply looking at them, touching them. They are magic to me.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the draw of magical thinking and the need to find connections and signs, to fall back into trust.
What would happen if I simply met all my worries with love?
With a don’t-know mind?
Simply allow the magic?
… you are wired to find meaning in the world, a predisposition that leaves you with less control over your beliefs than you may think. Even if you’re a hard-core atheist who walks under ladders and pronounces “new age” like “sewage,” you believe in magic.
Magical thinking springs up everywhere. Some irrational beliefs (Santa Claus?) are passed on to us. But others we find on our own. Survival requires recognizing patterns—night follows day, berries that color will make you ill. And because missing the obvious often hurts more than seeing the imaginary, our skills at inferring connections are overtuned… We look for patterns because we hate surprises and because we love being in control. Emotional stress and events of personal significance push us strongly toward magical meaning-making.
There were many triggers this week, both personally, professionally, and financially, that led to a multitude of emotions- most especially anxiety. Triggers that give rise to deep-rooted memories and default reactions. Anger directed at self.
But I was delighted to find that I also defaulted to the “don’t know mind” technique and that I allowed difficult conversations.
I allowed for a change in the usual approach.
I also use my personal meditation tool- drawing Frida.
I am ready to tackle the week ahead. Have a good one.
We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be. – May Sarton
I was at the grocery store the other day purchasing food for a youth grad event, about an hour before I needed to be there and I STOPPED. I couldn’t go forward; I couldn’t go back. I had no idea what to buy. I was dizzy. I couldn’t see or think clearly.
I knew in my heart, I didn’t want to be there in that moment. I simply had had enough. It’s not the work itself per se, nor the amount of work- it was the deep-rooted anger I felt DEEP in my heart directed DIRECTLYat myself.
For right before that moment, standing there in that grocery store, I had been emailing to get paid for other work… I was scrambling, still fucking scrambling, for scraps where I could get them– at the age of 52. Fifty-two. That anger stopped me.
I am too smart for this, too talented, too valuable, too underused, too old for this, too dumb to figure it out. Too tired of still struggling.
I was done. Trapped. In that moment. With the past weighing on me. The old familiar. So weary of it.
His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.
As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.
Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.
― Rainer Maria Rilke, The Panther
But the food was eventually bought. The grad was amazing. The youth were elated and celebrated. Seeing their smiling faces I knew what the point of all the work is. I always know that. I am drawn, always drawn, to facilitating successful experiences for youth in my community.
But I also know, that frozen moment in time was a wake up call.
I need to take stock of how far I’ve come, take stock of the unbelievable leaps forward. Knowing, I can no longer accept a scarcity frame of mind.
THAT IS THE CHANGE I MUST NOW MAKE. To change my neural pathways so they don’t keep charging with the familiar fear of mind- scarcity.
The connections I have been making in the community are coming to fruition. I am reaching out. And it’s working. I am collaborating, and it’s working. I am asking for help and it’s working.
I celebrate the amount of work it has taken me to get me to this point of STARTING FRESH.
So despite the frozen moment, asking myself, no… yelling at myself- WHY ARE YOU STILL IN THIS SPOT?, I breathed into it, laughed it out, and realized-
I AM NOT IN THE SAME SPOT, motherfucker. I am about to fly. I have not been dumb. I have been BUILDING.
READY TO LIVE IN THE ABUNDANT STATE OF MIND.
I got some incredible and timely gifts from my friend, Laura, yesterday. And could the quotes be any more perfect for this moment, right here, RIGHT NOW?
My friend, Patti, reminds me to allow the unknown. To rest in the don’t know mind. And that tool is working.
I know it’s never perfect. It never will be. It’s deliciously imperfect. And unresolved. And confusing. And it is life.
The delicious BLOOD AND GUTS of LIFE.
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
…live in the question.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Too much output this week. Leading to lots of thinking and reassessing. Squirrelliness. Harumphyness. But enough is enough. Weekend work done and I stop in to ease the racing thoughts with a walk in the cemetery with my dog…
Wind down with some doodling…
A pot of coffee on a Sunday night…
A conversation with my parrot…
Bath time. With Dostoevsky.
Shhh brain. Shhhhh. No need to figure anything out tonight.
DRAWN TOGETHER WORKSHOP SERIES with Katarina Thorsen:
FULL DAY (6.5 hours) or 3 PARTS (2.5 hours each)
In this therapeutic art workshop series, artist/author and art facilitator, Katarina Thorsen takes you through personal explorations of your Past, Present and Future through creative expression tools. Katarina creates a safe and fun-filled haven for participants to learn journaling, drawing and anxiety tools.
NO PREVIOUS ART EXPERIENCE NECESSARY!
Birth/Roots exercise [History- where have you been?]
Connections exercise [How did you get here?]
Letting Go exercise [Reflecting on challenging events]
Self-Portrait exercise [Reflecting on the need for normalcy]
Mindmap exercise [Where do you want to go from here, planning]
Born in Sweden, Kat Thorsen was mainly raised in British Columbia, Canada. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in 1984, Kat pursued studies in fine arts, psychology, special education, behavioral evidence analysis and restorative justice. She raised two children while pursuing her visual art career and her professional development.
Since 2005, Kat has worked as therapeutic art facilitator and support worker for Circles of Support and Accountability(community support for high risk sex offenders), at Burnaby Youth Custody Centreand Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary School, in the North Vancouver and Burnaby School Districts, at a variety of residential care facilities in the Lower Mainland, in private and public workshops as well as at Intersections Media Opportunities for Youth Society on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Kat’s own artwork (drawing, painting, street art, journaling and crafting) can be found in private collections and on the streets of North America and Europe. Her popular interactive art encourages participants to become part of the creative process. Kat published her first book, Drawn Together- Maintaining Connections and Navigating Life’s Challenges with Art in 2013. Her next book is a true crime analysis and graphic novel based on her research into a historical Vancouver murder mystery. Passionate about the therapeutic power of art and its ability to build connections, Kat is now pursuing this passion fulltime in her new position as art director and in-house artist of @bypoststreet. She continues to provide therapeutic art workshops throughout the Lower Mainland.
Sometimes we get can get lost in simply living life, raising our children, and our everyday responsibilities. We often lose our own identities and forget about the goals and possibilities that we have always wanted to reach. We ignore the creativity of our inner child, setting it aside as trivial and immature. Collages can help us all open up our creative and artistic sides to create a sense of peace or to define who we are, were, or wish to become at this moment. [source]
Collage by Darcy Glip: “Katie and her camel had 3 doves.”
Opening August 29, 2013 7-9 PM Espana Gallery
689 Abbott Street
Includes Artist Talk
DRAWING ON PAIN exhibits my personal therapeutic process as I utilize art to help me process the difficult challenges I have encountered (and continue to encounter) in my life– such as divorce, cancer, my friends’ suicides, financial struggles and planning the road ahead. I call myself a Kahloist and often find it healing to utilize the image of Frida Kahlo to express that internal pain for me. By facilitating the need for self-expression through drawing, I lighten the load in my heart.
My painting carries with it the message of pain. – Frida Kahlo
Kat, do you ever stop? I mean truly just stop? Just taking a day and doing nothing, just drinking tea in pjs and doing nothing?
– Maryellen to me
I have to say the answer is no. Or more accurately, yes- sometimes– but when I do, I feel my body reacting. I feel the migraines come on- migraines that can start in the chest and move down to the stomach. I get the doubled over mom-stomach. Or it starts in the shoulders and moves up the back of the neck. That’s my genetics.
Many migraine sufferers complain of headaches on weekends, vacations, or after a period of stress. Researchers at the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx… found that patients had 20% higher chance of developing a migraine 12 to 24 hours after their mood changed from “sad” or “nervous” to “happy” or “relaxed”.
So hmmm. It’s weird for me to stop. And as a single mom trying to keep up with debt, as an artist following her passion, as a self-employed and as a youth coordinator navigating the needs of an at-risk population, and as someone who always needs to feel productive… I can say my mind never does stop.
I am driven to follow my artistic vision and passion, but I am crippled sometimes by overwhelming anxiety and the need to stay on task, to keep at it. I use my journaling and anxiety tools and when I am in the creative process, I flow. I find peace . A reprieve from the debts and anxiety.
But since finding the right brain business plan, I find my wake-ups easier, my mind on task, my directions making sense, my confidence increasing– despite the continuous debts and hurdles. The toolbox is streamlining.
Now I am doing a new business plan as I work on my DRAWN TOGETHER workbook/workshop series that builds on my belief in the healing power of art and its ability to build connections. I am going deeper into the right brain business plan book by doing the online course and the process helps not only the project but my entire life.
So DO I STOP? No. But I can release. And decrease the stress. So that those moments where I may find myself in my fantasy cottage and just sitting, I may actually breathe in the springtime and allow the stillness to soothe me, and my stomach is quiet, my belly soft, my heart gentle, my neck flexible, and my mind still.
I think of [rest and sleep] as one big ball of goodness. The most important ingredient for either is to apply without guilt or shame. So many people rest or sleep secretly, or feel like they need to explain or justify it! Think of sleep and rest as pure goodness multipliers, and don’t let anyone else’s opinions in.
My previous posts re my right brain business plan adventure:
Few things are worse then than waking up stressed and facing anxiety which is a highly unpleasant but rather common occurrence. The reason that anxiety is worse in the morning for many people is because this is when the body produces the most cortisol. This is a stimulant and the body produces it of course to help you to wake up. However this is also one of the hormones produced when we are under stress, and one of the ones associated with the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is then compounded by the fact that for many of us the morning is something of a shock to the system where you go from lying comfortably in the warmth without a care in the world to being jolted awake by an alarm and having to hurry out the door to work.
I’m working on a book with Dad and it’s a beautiful process. It’s about maintaining connections through art and with art.
But as Dad goes through his past, and I take dictation and notes…
… I am filled with nostalgia for a life passed, I am filled with the heaviness of missing my mom.
I can sense I am anticipating losing Dad…
even my old dog, Tobey.
Anticipating. Anxious. Process.
I know that life is always fluctuating and sometimes we are stronger than other times. Sometimes we feel power-ful and other times power-less. Sometimes we hold on so tight, we strangle the moment. I’m learning that all of it is OK. There’s no right or wrong. Only splendid imperfection.
The anxiety that wells up, though, requires some tools so it doesn’t take hold and cause a depression.
And by now, through lots of practice, I have a pretty good toolkit that I carry around with me.
So I embrace the memories. Ride through heart ache. Sit with the moment. Grateful for being able to love and be loved and thus not be immune to loss, nostalgia and sentimentality.
“Whenever I start thinking of my love for a person, I am in the habit of immediately drawing radii from my love – from my heart, from the tender nucleus of a personal matter- to monstrously remote points of the universe. Something impels me to measure the consciousness of my love against such unimaginable and incalculable things as the behaviour of nebulae(whose very remoteness seems a form of insanity), the dreadful pitfalls of eternity, the unknowledgeable beyond the unknown, the helplessness, the cold, the sickening involutions and interpenetrations of space and time.”