A servant to your to do list?

Are you a slave to your To Do list? Do you feel like you’re only allowed to relax once everything is done and your list is empty?

Do you feel guilty if you do something just for yourself? Do you worry that self care is selfish or horribly indulgent?

Where did these feelings come from? Did you grow up in an environment where only your achievements were valued? Did you grow up in an environment where the adults were tired, unwell or unavailable, leaving you with a strong sense of responsibility to help get things done? Maybe the people around you also struggled with self-care and you feel guilty any time you were found to be loafing around while they were working hard.

You may know all of that but what are you going to do about it?

Creating new attitudes towards self care is not easy. But it’s important work.

Self-care can be about the basics like making sure we are clothed and fed, kept warm and safe. For some people even the basics are something they have to learn themselves as adults.

Self-care can also be about allowing play. Time spent doing what we feel like without a deadline, without an output, without a gold star at the end.

Self-care can be about tending to our bodies, noticing when they are tired, allowing them to rest and allowing them to move joyfully.

Self-care can be about what we don’t do as well as what we do. About setting boundaries. About saying no about not having to be all things to all people. It can be about learning to tolerate the discomfort that comes when we can’t alleviate the pain of others. Self-care can be about gently reappraising our role of rescuer, doer, saver, get things done-er.

Self-care can be about stepping into the role of kindness giver to our bodies, of noticing and being in physical form.

Self-care can be about allowing the frivolous. Tapping into our senses. Doing things purely for delight, that is, our delight, our own delight, not delighting others. Self-care is an inward orientation, and listening to the quiet voice of need as well as whim and whimsy.

Self care is unlearning hardness, deafness to our bodies, unlearning critical appraisal of our leisure, unlearning callousness, unlearning the need to be permanently productive, unlearning a commitment to constant movement and striving.

A learning of gentleness. A learning of kind trusting and well wishing. A learning of allowing in the soft small and beautiful. A learning of unclenching.

Ultimately self-care is a learning of the self. Beginning to see ourselves in the centre of our lives beginning to chart the topographical contours of what we love what we like what we need and what keeps us well.

Feeling the feels – tired

Energy levels and what to do with them have been a big theme for my personal growth the past few years. (Oh hang on – is ‘personal growth’ a bit of a new agey cliché? By all means replace with ‘learning/ musing/ reflections/ new habits’ or whatever works).

What to do when I feel dead tired like a lump and have no oomph or get up and go whatsoever.

How to use energy when I have it.

What deflates me.

When I need to rest.

When I am tired in the mind versus tired in the body versus tired from a sugar slump versus tired from not enough sleep. When I feel icky from having absorbed complex emotional stuff that I need time to process. When I feel tired because actually I’m sad. When I feel sad because actually I’m tired.

Getting much better acquainted with what tired is.

I am finding my 100 words for tired like the fabled innuit and snow.

And finding a way to make space for it, accept it and make room for it without fear or judgement or ‘should’. Without fighting it and ‘pushing on’ or ‘soldiering on’ or ‘just doing it’.

I am trying to feel the rhythms of my body much more keenly and create a life that adjusts to them, respects them and works around them – not forcing my body to stick to routine and expected outputs that my mind makes up.

Because who am I to know what important work my body might be doing while I am tired and rest? Which cells might be tinkered with and replaced, which emotions are being sifted through, which memories stored, which ideas are growing in the subterranean dark of my subconscious. I am moving to respect my body’s wisdom much more – even if the Goddess of Efficiency and Productivity is no longer receiving her sacrifice.

Even if my sense of self (attached to energy, creativity and outputs) has to subtly shift over and adjust sometimes to make room for tired, not-creating, listless or idle me.

I practice expanding to embrace both. I practice feeling peace with it all.

What is your relationship with your creativity?

piggybackIs creativity a long lost friend you forget to ring until the day is over and you’re laying in bed and you think ‘tomorrow!’ with a pang of guilt?

Is creativity an acquaintance that you suspect doesn’t really like you much?

Is creativity an old lover you were once close to but now feel embarrassed to be around because you think they might not like you much anymore?

Is creativity like your best friend in childhood who you could play with every day and then cry and wheedle when the adults arrived to take them home because you weren’t done yet?

Is creativity a dirty little secret – someone you see briefly for a rush of passion but try not to remember when you’re back in ‘normal life’?

Is creativity the one you’ve seen in the distance across the room and feel a deep connection with but you’re too shy to go up and say hello?

Are you catch-up-only-sometimes-but-over-hours-of-delicious-chat-and-a-bottle-of-wine friends?

Is creativity a bit like a mythical creature – you’ve heard it talked about but never seen it up close with your own eyes?

Is creativity a dear friend you chat with weekly or daily?

Tell us below what your relationship is with your creativity at the moment!


If you want to make better friends with your creativity come along to my monthly Mixed Media Masterclasses in 2017, or consider joining my Women’s Creative wellbeing Group (face to face or online) in January.

Reader question: How to tackle questions about your art from friends and family

I always get these kind of questions from friends and family: “What do you want to do art for if you aren’t an artist?” and the ubiquitous trio, “What good is that? How can you make money with that? Can you sell it?”. What should I tell them?

I hear you. If you are the black sheep of the family or others don’t enjoy making things like you do this might come up – especially in the holiday period if you lug a sketchbook with you to outdoor gatherings, or are busy taking up-close photos of Christmas lunch.  Well. I don’t know your friends and family so I cat be sure what will work to help them understand you better, but here are some answers I just made up – I hope they help!

“Some people knit or sew or birdwatch, I draw”

“Art is like having a hot bath – relaxes me and washes away the day.”

“Humans have been making art for thousands of years – long before there were galleries and agents. I’m continuing that tradition.”

“Who says I’m not an artist?”

“Art helps me feel good about life, and process my feelings and make sense of what happens in the world.”

“Would you ask why would you want to bake a cake if you’re not a full time pastry chef?”

“I think making art is part of staying healthy. It’s like the gym for my hands and brain. I’m just stretching my creativity muscles and staying fit on the inside.”

“Aw you know.. art makes me feel good, and doesn’t hurt anyone. There are plenty worse ways to spend my time.”

“You know how some people sing in the shower because it makes them feel good? That’s like me playing with clay – it just feels good, even if no one else sees it or I’m a bit off tune”

“I’m teaching myself some great new skills with acrylic right now – I love learning”

“Making art saves me money – I decorate my home AND entertain myself for the cost of just crayons.”

“I could make money from it by selling it or teaching it but right now I’m happy working in job at the (blah blah) and doing this just for love.”

” I prefer to make things as a hobby rather than just buy things. I think it’s better for the environment if I do less shopping and spend my time honing my skills instead.”

“I could sell it but I choose not to right now, I’m focusing on doing it for the joy of it.”

“How can you put a price on happiness? Some people would pay top dollar to have the kind of fun I have when I’m making art.”

“I love making things with my hands, it feels good. That’s good enough reason for me.”

Some of these answers are a bit cheeky, a bit provocative even, but I want to give you permission to gently question the questioners too if you have that kind of relationship.

You might even want to try having the conversation in your imagination through journaling. To do this, first write out the kind of comments you’re scared of hearing, then write out all the responses that you can think of, from angry, to cheeky, to witty, to reasonable, to heartfelt. Maybe even let your non dominant hand do the writing back and as you write feel the feelings that come up. Be angry, let tears flow. Keep writing until the emotions feel like they have passed through. Then go make yourself a cup of herbal tea or go for a walk and let the feeling of standing your ground and knowing your truth sink in.

You could also just try making a long mega list for yourself in your journal: ‘I love making art because’ or ‘I’m allowed to do what I love because…’.

The more open hearted joyful answers might be easier to give when you remember the pleasure that making brings you.

I also find that when we doubt ourselves it feels much harder to be questioned by others. When we feel sure in ourselves that what we do is ‘worthwhile’ / ‘allowed’ answering questions like this becomes much less threatening. So maybe practice saying and believing some of these answers yourself, as well as sharing them with others.

How do you answer this question? Share your ideas!

Positive impact

We live in a world that values the BIG. Big impacts, big programs, big numbers, big change.

Today I want to celebrate the positive impact we can have by just being ourselves, gloriously, messily, unashamedly ourselves. The small impact. The tiny butterfly wing of change.

I read somewhere that for each person who reads our blog and leaves a common, another 3 or 4 or 5 or however many have probably also read it and been inspired by it or found it thought provoking. It’s easy to discount these little ripples.

Each time we show up and the person who has not yet found their voice is inspired to do so too.
Each time we own all our parts and someone still struggling to feel OK with their shadow feels a small opening up of their heart.
Each time we make friends with our creativity and model that it is safe and enjoyable to write, or make art, or to sing or to create great projects we pave the way for someone else too step more fully into themselves.
Each time we make an inclusive space and connect people at work, in our communities, or online and we unknowingly help combat loneliness and disconnection.
Each time we talk without shame about our limiting or critical inner voice, or perfectionism, or about self-doubt, or the ups and downs of our jobs, or family life, or being human and we help make this space safe for others.
Each time we talk with respect and pragmatism about recovery from mental health challenges, or burnout, or childhood neglect or abuse, or some other experience that is often hidden and considered shameful, and another person moves one tiny step closer to accepting themselves more fully and wholly.

Every time any of this happens we have made a positive impact.

So today I want to celebrate the positive impact I don’t even know that I’m having. The small ripples, often unspoken. And the positive impact that you are having like that too.

10 books in 2016 challenge – update

If you saw my earlier post on #10books2016 you might know about this gentle and easy to achieve challenge (hey, I’m all for us actually reaching our goals!).

Here is a quick update on just some of the books that people taking the challenge are reading at the moment:

  • Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”
  • Terry Pratchett’s “The Truth”
  • Hanya Yanagihara’s “A little Life”
  • Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens”
  • Dr. Michelle Mazur’s “Speak up for your Business”
  • Diana Gabaldon’s  Outlander Series Book 6: “A Breath of Snow and Ashes”
  • William Gibson’s “Spook Country”
  • Scott Orson Card’s “Ender’s Game”
  • Lianne Moriarty’s  “Truly, Madly, Guilty”
  • Susan Hill’s “The Soul of Discretion”
  • Karin Slaughter’s “Faithless”
  • Gay Hendricks ‘The Big Leap”
  • Petra Garlipp and Horst Haltenhof’s “Rare Delusional Disorders”
  •  Margaret Atwood’s “The Heart goes Last”
  • Janet C Atlas “They were Still Born”
  • Andrew Miller Dernier “Requiem pour les Innocents”
  • Nick Bantock “Urgent 2nd Class”
  • Colin Gilbert et al.’s “The Daily Book of Art”
  • Nevada Barr’s “A Superior Death”
  • Catherine Hyland Moon’s “Studio Art Therapy”
  • Elizabeth Wolf’s “Plume Fantome”

A mix of sci-fi, crime, literary fiction, young adult, business related non-fiction, art, art therapy and more!

If you are keen to join us by sharing the world’s shortest book reviews ever, encouraging each other to keep reading, and getting great ideas for your book list, come on over and join our Facebook group HERE. It’s free and a no pressure zone.

PS This blog post is #101!! I feel happy to have written 100 little nuggets of thoughts this last year.

Living in line with our values

Are we living in the way we say we intend to?

Looking at our values and seeing whether we are living them helps reflect back whether our day to day choices are anchored in our deepest life meaning and pursuits.

If compassion is our highest value, where is it showing up, and where is it not? What is the growing edge for us in applying it?

If integrity is our highest value, and we find ourselves stretching the truth or acting differently behind closed doors to how we present in public, is this an area we need to look more deeply at?

If kindness is a core value but we find ourselves so exhausted and running on empty that we snap at those around us, what does that say about our ability to be kind to ourselves?

If we value expression but find ourselves holding back from speaking up, we might wonder about what we fear and what silences us.

For me, learning, creativity and zest are my highest ‘values in action’ – the things I both care about and like to frequently apply. Life feels better for me when I’m learning, when I am making things and expressing myself and when I can act with enthusiasm and spontaneity.

But lately, with world events and even in my personal sphere, I’ve been thinking about some of my other values of kindness, care, and taking responsibility.

There are things I care about but don’t always act on in the ways I would like.

There are ways I’d like to see myself, but my actions speak differently.

I notice, I reflect and ask the questions, and hopefully then I course-correct. Towards kindness, towards compassion, towards outspokenness when needed, towards taking responsibility for our shared problems, towards my vision for the future.

Help for writing content – a 10 minute ice breaker

Here is an exercise I developed for some clients recently who were feeling stuck on creating content for their website and social media. I’m sharing with you in case it helps kickstart your writing today and express yourself.

INSTRUCTIONS

Give yourself just 10 minutes, a timer and a piece of paper or keyboard and finish as many of the following sentences as you can in that time. Try to create an answer for all of them, even those that don’t seem to apply. Work fast and don’t worry of the answer if goofy, badly worded or lame – just write. Imagine it’s a random test at school with a very friendly teacher who will give you a mark for each question as long as you write SOMETHING; you don’t have time to think too much, you just have to answer as many as you can and keep moving.

Once the timer has stopped, see if one or two particularly resonate. These might be the ones you wished you had longer to write about.  Highlight these ones and now give yourself 10 minutes EACH to keep writing about those ones.

You might find the process takes you far away from the sentence starter but into some great territory that could be a useful Facebook post or blog post for your clients/ readers/ customers/ tribe.


 

Story/ learning/ growth/ sharing the wisdom of women/ confidence/ balance/ peer support /intuition (pick one of those) is so important to me because….

When I speak about my work people are often surprised that I…
Some coaching clients find it hard to express themselves and hear or stand up for their inner voice. I support them to…
Working parents have so much on their plates. I love to help them…
Humour is in my opinion….
Strength is in my opinion….
What helps me gain clarity when I’m feeling overwhelmed is…
I love helping clients to….
Self care is….
Passion is so important! I’m so passionate about….
The reason I first started this work was to….
Coaching clients often ask me…
With my own journey as a mother/ personal trainer/ writer/ speaker/ coach/healer one thing I’ve learnt is…

 


That’s it! Good luck! I hope it helps.

40 clicks around the sun

So this week I turn 40. Naughty forty. The big four-oh. Forty is the new thirty, forty is the new black, 40 is the new… 40. And all that.

I thought it might be timely to take stock of some reflections on life, what I’ve learnt and what seems most important to me. (You know, just to summarise everything of importance, simmer it away on the stove and distill it into some sweet, spicy elixir of wisdom and truth, presented in a brief blog post – no pressure.) But then I thought about how me now and me at any other time period might not agree on what was important, or even what life was all about. Who have all these me’s been? What did it feel like at different moments?

0-3

There are dogs and birds and music and skin and beach and cake and wow, just like wow. Oh look at me my arm does stuff. Oh wow like I can move around and hey these are my legs and I can walk! I can walk! I get cuddles and get read to. Sounds, pictures, words. Smells, colours everywhere! Woah, more more more of all this stuff!  There are words! Oh right like they mean something. I can read! I can write! I can fall over and skin my knees! I can draw! I can put EVERYTHING in my mouth!

4-6

So, there is this thing called the months of the year, and apparently I have to learn then and wow they just go on and on and this is really a very big task indeed. I have friends. We play pretend. I like baking. I like to industriously pick leaves off Grandma’s flowers and feed them to next door’s chickens, a busy little project that will last for ages. I like to help this piece of sandstone wall wear away, grinding at it with a stone. I like to play outside. We run around. The teacher makes us sit on the mat. We make books about the holidays. I like my hair in plaits, and clips.

6-11

Rollerskates and riding my bike with a sparkly seat. Neighbours and climbing trees. Making perfumes out of squished flowers. Having Barbie fights. Making elaborate plays with lots of great costumes from the dress up box. Telling rude jokes. Picking that scab on my knee. Learning facts and telling anyone who will listen. Nose in a book. Picking the neighbours flowers and selling them back to them. Jumping off the cubby house roof as a game rather than playing tea parties in the cubby house. Drawing fashion designs. Dancing around the backyard to Madonna songs and pretending we are in fact performing to vast multitudes.

12-16

Why is my hair so fluffy? Why do I have a pimple? Why is everyone, like, so stupid, and yet all of this is so funny, just ridiculously funny, and you know what, I think I’ll need to talk to my friends about it all day at lunch, and then in notes in class, and then as we walk to the bus, and then on the bus, and then at home on the phone, and then in our secret messages book to give them tomorrow at school. I just have SO MUCH to say. And so much music to listen to, which you totally wouldn’t understand the IRONIC value of, and the funniness of these bands, and their CUTE-ness, and what a super dooper crush I have on that singer, and that singer, and that actor, and that boy in class, and also that one – here I’ll write you a list. And oh my gosh don’t start, oh no don’t start laughing, not now, not here, oh no I will never stop giggling and now I just snorted and now you are laughing, and oh my god!! I have my first job, just one hour a week after school. I get actual money! Cash in an envelope once a week. And yet I also have VIEWS, about ISSUES, and BOOKS and you know I’m also very smart, here read my essay and listen to me talk awkwardly in front of the room in my slightly ill-fitted on my thin frame, scratchy uniform with hair that wont stay in place, blushing.

16-25

And now I am tall and mature and men have started looking at me – even gross old guys, yuck, what do they think I could possibly want with them. I glide. I glide through the halls of school on a bubble of my own thoughts, buoyed by an intense busyness of all my hobbies and committees. I like people and I love having friends from all different groups, and backgrounds. We have intense, serious, interesting conversations. School is a rush to the finish line, a year of deadlines and complex scheduling. Now I have a weekend job, and now a second one, and they let me do things, serve people, make coffee, clock on and they actually pay me. And I’m part of a team, and we have fun and chat and even when it’s boring its still kind of interesting.  And now I’m at uni and I feel free, and romantic, and adventurous, and I am a list of my likes and dislikes, and I have mysteries, everything feels imbued with deep heavy meaningful mystery – my feelings are mysterious, the messages in music and books and films are significant beyond my knowing somehow. I write tiny little letters to tiny little pen pals, steeped with cloying rose scented mystery. I dive into love like an other-worldly mermaid into a deep cool pool of miraculous intensity. I am light, unencumbered, I drift, I have mini adventures beyond my own town. I am worldy.

Oh and the bad days start. The so sad and limp I can’t leave the house days. Conflicts and trying to make sense of patterns and the pinball like bouncing of behaviours and relationships. Complexity. Stickiness. Sadness. The shock of ‘what next’ after uni. The trying to be accepted by big important official jobs that link to my passion and mission as my confidence drains away. And grief of love lost, big heart wrenching grief that channels all the other griefs bottled up. A move. A move to another place to start a new chapter.

25-35

Big city! The thrill of the new. Kebab shops and people wearing work clothes without stockings! Trains and humidity and j-walking and staying out to the wee hours and commuting and an office job, and share houses, and relationships and most of all a big messy, dirty, trashy, sparkling spectacular city perched with all its tamed white toothed glamour, like the opera house crouched and smiling out for the cameras, above the slightly fouled water of the Harbour.

And now travel! Colours and smell and tingly exciting fear and so many people, and smells, and images and wow oh that salsa. Friends! Around the world! And kindness! And people being nice to me a wandering lost stranger.

And the thrum thoughout: who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Why am I how I am? How do I think? How do I see things? How am I feeling? Which bits of me are intrinsically me and which bits can change and have me still remain? Oh wow I have a mind watching itself, I have self-doubt, I have feelings of anxiety, I have patterns, I have preferences, I have emotions and I have a mind – how does this all work? And I start therapy! In this private sanctuary I can speak my mind, I can be heard, I can share my deepest flaws and fears and hurts… and I am OK.

And being in relationship to work. My weird codependant clingy addiction to work. My ‘sacrifice myself at the alter’ of work. My ‘I have a reason to get up because of work’ and my ‘I can’t possibly stop even if I want to because it’s so important’ relationship with work. Travel and anxiety, accomplishment and mind numbing stress, overwhelm and fatigue.

And then love, for a person: a solid, grounded, kind and ‘every day’ kind of love I realise I would like to have every single day. And home. And stability. And growing a garden together, a life together. And contentment.

35-39

And stepping up. Promotions, managing teams, supervising staff. Holy shit I’m an adult now. I’m not the young one in the team anymore. Holy shit I’m meant to know stuff – enough to teach others.

And edging away from the work I no longer see a future with (although at times I love it and am engulfed and excited by it). And towards the things I like more. Towards art. Towards a job that legitimately involves crayons and panders to my strange love of collage. Towards therapy. Towards coaching.

And more travel! Colours and smell and tingly exciting fear and airpots and so many people, and learning and feeling like a proper grown up woman doing the things that she wants. Spontaneity! Friends! Around the world! Learning! Mentors! And kindness!

Jumping knees deep into entrepreneurship (‘I can’t event spell it! how can I be one??’ I find myself wondering on incredulous days) and the highs and lows of confidence that I ride like waves in a choppy sea, and the various people positioned on life rafts and at lighthouses calling me in, guiding me in, helping to show the way.

And here. On the brink of time, right here about to begin 40 tomorrow.

——

Have you ever written your life as a story? It probably changes every time you write it (mine twists in the wind showing different sides at different moments), but it can be a great tool for gaining perspective and celebrating your journey. It can be interesting to consider the change and constancy in your experience of the world over time.

We often use story and poetry in art therapy to communicate deep feelings, celebrate our strengths or to see our lives with fresh eyes.

Maybe you could write yourself as a character? Describe yourself in a poem, or create an old-style fairytale depicting your key life adventures and lessons learnt through forests and wolves, wise women, body kings, golden keys and timber boxes. Try it! Let me know how you get on.