I Haven't Shared This With People Too Often
I’ve contemplated suicide a few times in my life.
I Haven't Shared This With People Too Often
I’m going to tell you something that I don’t share with people too often. For context reasons you should know that I kind of lack confidence, although I’d say in the last 5 or so years, I’ve definitely gained more than I used to have. Due to this lack of confidence and the fact that I’m not the type of person to tell the world my problems, when I do share parts of my story here on social media, it’s because I feel that by putting it out there, someone else might be helped. So, here’s the thing I want to share.
I’ve contemplated suicide a few times in my life.
Maybe we should call it “through her eyes” … in her hands,"
- what do you think?' asked Hannah Linn, Executive Director at the Bracebridge YWCA, (see more about her HERE) as we brainstormed ideas for our all women art show that we had co-conspired to plan just in time for International Women’s Day this past March.
I thought it was a brilliant name, and so was born an art show, with over 20 Canadian female artists from Ontario, Canada contributing pieces to the event.
As an artist myself, and always looking for inspiration, I wondered what inspired these other women and how they came up with their unique ways of painting. Lucky for me I was able to get to know some amazing women during the show and ask some questions guaranteed to inspire you in your creative process.
How does she do it?
“I don’t know how she does it, she is so strong”.
Have you ever heard that said? I’ve not only heard it, but I myself have said it about others.
It’s always spoken with a sort of awe that these women are still able to stand, to carry on, to breathe, to have such inner strength. They’ve faced dreadful circumstances, ones that we can’t imagine having to endure ourselves - and if we did, we’re fearful that we would probably die. Maybe they’ve survived some sort of abuse, been diagnosed with an illness, lost of a dear friend or family member, or survived some other sort of tragedy. Yet these are often the women who go on to help others. They become the coaches, the motivational speakers, and the leaders we look up to.
How do they do it?
The pathway to inner strength
As I sit on my deck on this beautiful July morning, I am reminded of how much nature helps me to reconnect with my inner voice and brings such peace to my soul. The stillness of towering trees, the constancy of the flowing river, birds singing their morning songs, and the sun creating ever-changing blue, purple and golden hues as it rises in the sky.
Before my young boys wake up and the stillness of the morning is broken, I think about my own childhood. I try to reconnect with who I was. I think about the dark times in my life and how they shaped me...
I began painting this series of paintings as part of my growth journey. I'd already explored more difficult emotions and painted about my journey through them. But now I was ready to go from coping with and navigating difficult emotions to exploring ways I could develop inner strength, and hold onto hope when the next of life's challenges decided to come my way. I also knew that many others were on similar journeys, and I wanted to begin conversations, share our insights, and inspire others to understand the foundations of becoming, and staying a strong woman - or human really. While there are many emotions that help build our character, I believe that the four I chose to paint for this series “Elements”, create a foundation, and that the others will come after these four are firmly rooted.
I've also come to realize that it is how we respond to challenges, that shapes who we become. We can either become bitter, forever angry, and crumple under the weight of adversity, or we can choose to learn. Each lesson adding new layers to our character. This is where the 4 qualities of a great leader come in. Experience is the best teacher, and for any that have gone through adversity and thrived, they are in a unique position to help others do the same.
Click on an image to see the paintings that inspired this post in my Shop.
Remember feeling bliss?
As Canadian Mental Health Awareness Week and Mental Health Month approach, we may ask ourselves some deep questions. Maybe we ask, 'at what age did we forget how to just being happy?'. Barring an abusive childhood, when we were children we simply did things because they made us happy.
Play all day without once wondering what we might look like in a mirror? ALL day!
Scarf down our favorite treats without once worrying about calories? Absolutely!
Dance like no one was watching? Yep! (At around 5 years of age, I once twirled around the room after my mother’s dance class was over. Everyone cleared the floor just for my solo lol. Sadly, I would never dream of that now!)
Smile like goofballs for a picture? Count me in!
Then something shifts...
Can Art be a Partner to Greater Emotional and Mental Well Being?
I paint as a way to express emotions, as a sort of therapy, a way to tell stories, mine or those of others. This new series entitled "Elements" is no different. Each painting is a reminder and inspiration to remember the foundations of becoming and staying a strong woman - or human really. While there are many traits that can build our character, and strengthen our mental health, I believe that the four I chose to paint for this series “Elements”, are foundational, and that the others will come after these four are firmly rooted. Continue reading to see how I believe that hope, strength, bliss and self-love can lead to superior mental and emotional well being.*
When we send out a seed, we never know how it will grow. When I approached Hannah Lin, Executive Director of the YWCA Muskoka regarding an art show celebrating women in the arts, neither of us could have envisioned the response both from the artists and those who would join us in the celebrations.
With this year’s IWD Day theme, “Balance For Better”, I’d like to talk about what International Women’s Day means to me. Some may think that advocates of women’s celebrations or movements mean that we are putting men down. This is absolutely not the case. Rather, we are looking for a balance where a deficit has existed.
I didn't have a healthy amount of self-love...
It all started when I realized I had been making life choices that proved that I didn't have a healthy amount of self-love. I used to think that by doing and becoming the best wife, mother, daughter, housekeeper, worker, etc that I could be, I would be worthy of love. When I didn't get the reactions I had hoped for, I would spiral into self loathing, and try even harder.
...RECIPE FOR DISASTER.
When women come together to build each other up, there's a magic that happens. We start to realize we are not alone in our dreams, our goals or even our fears. And then we begin to believe in ourselves a little more. We add a few layers of confidence. We start making plans to build our dreams, we take actual steps to reach our goals and we begin to believe that we can make a difference. This is what happened when women from around Muskoka gathered at the YWCA in Bracebridge to finalize plans for our spring show at The Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge, ON, last Friday, January 18th.
I thought I'd have everything figured out...
When I was young I thought that once I was an adult, I'd have everything figured out. Once I "grew up", I then felt that something was wrong with me when I questioned myself, my decisions or felt "less than". Now I realize that our life is a journey of growing, learning and constantly figuring things out. I now also know that I'm not alone in these feelings. This painting "Labyrinth" portrays the feeling of not knowing which decision is right or wrong. The times when our thoughts swirl, and every decision seems right and every decision seems wrong. What I've learned is that when we are faced with decisions these are opportunities for growth.
We hear a lot about loving ourselves. But to be honest I'm still figuring out exactly what that means, and how to do that. It's easy for me to love you, my readers, to see your beauty. But when it comes to me, I'm still working on ironing out the wrinkles of my own self love journey. I figured I'm probably not the only one, so I've looked for a little help from Motivational Speaker and Success Coach, Lisa Cybaniak, to share her insights with you.
Read Lisa's blog post where she gives us 4 Actionable steps to change our thoughts, our life, and learn self love....
The Meaning of Life - What is the meaning of life? by Lisa Cybaniak
This is the age old question. Perhaps everyone’s meaning is different. Perhaps we all have our own meaning to seek. Or perhaps, just maybe, at the root of everyone’s quest is really how to love themselves.
On the surface, learning how to love yourself seems simple. You just do it, don’t you? Tell me then, when things go wrong in your day, what is your first response? Is it to blame yourself, tell yourself you knew you couldn’t do it anyway, throw in the towel and pretend like it didn’t matter anyway?
Or maybe it is to ask ‘why me?’ and feel like despite your best efforts, nothing ever turns out the way you planned? Or worse yet, maybe you sabotage yourself in little ways without even realizing it – not completing a task, not putting in full effort, not showing up, not studying for that test/exam – just so that when you fail, it’s not a surprise, because wouldn’t it be so much worse to complete that task with your full effort and attention, putting forth your best foot, only to not succeed?
After all, success is everything, right? Wait a second though…. What is success? Does that mean things have to go perfectly the first time, or can you still be successful if you faced struggles head on, made mistakes and learned from them, to go on to find success and happiness?
I’m asking a whole lot of questions here, but they are not pointless. Success is directly linked to our value of ourselves. If you related to any of the above, then maybe you don’t value yourself as much as you initially thought. Maybe there is room for you to learn how to change your thoughts, love yourself, and then go after the life you deserve, mistakes and all.
As we build walls around ourselves or allow others to impose prison walls for us, we have to deal with a myriad of difficult emotions. As a coping mechanism and to keep the peace, many of us have decided it easier and safer to swallow our feelings. Pain, hurt, rage all kept inside in order to maintain a calm exterior. I call this "swallowing the storm". Thus was born the idea for my painting "Bridle". The interesting thing that I've learned is that when we don't honour our feelings and give them a healthy outlet, they just "come out sideways". They can present themselves as anxiety, illness, addiction, or any other unhealthy coping mechanism. While I continued to make myself swallow the storm, holding in my emotions and allowing others to hurl their emotions at me without repercussions, I began to lose myself.
There is a path many women take while journeying through difficult experiences. I believe that in the journey to self love, we first need to come to terms with our emotions. Sad or happy, scared or courageous, allowing ourselves to be human, to feel, and to honour the emotions as they come and go - as long as we don't use them as an excuse to hurt others.
I am so pleased that many were affected by the theme of my recent solo art show at The Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge, and that a dialogue was started around this path to healing.
"Great courage in the face of danger", is how valor is defined by the Oxford Dictionary. I believe that valor is needed to navigate this life. We each have our own battles for which we need courage, strength, and determination.
How amazing to relish those moments where we can enjoy the strength we've gained from weathering a storm. Each obstacle adds a little more strength to our character and gives us knowledge for future challenges.
I believe that this strength also carries a component of embracing our value. Without learning to love ourselves, we will not be able to make the healthy choices in our lives that we need to. We will doubt our decisions. We will follow the crowd. However, when we learn our value, there is an inner strength that stands firm against attack, that believes in our inner voice. When we give that inner voice as much weight as we give other's opinions, we grow stronger. Each time we succeed, we believe in ourselves a little more. And that is how we take fear and self-doubt and build it into valor.
How though can we build our self worth? From my experience, we need to surround ourselves with support systems. As a child learning to walk needs helping hands until they can stand alone, so we need positive supporters until we can learn to trust our own voice. Friends, therapists, social circles, family, support groups, reading, music, these all have a place. They won't be the same for all of us. Only you can decide what form your support will take, who has proven worthy of the task in the past, and who is strong enough to be there for you now and on into the future. Listen to your voice in choosing your support system, change it as circumstances change, or when one of them lets you down. But whatever you do, believe in possibility. Believe that each and every one of us here on this crazy planet has value. Join me here every week, as I explore ways to increase our self esteem, through dialogue, self love, and artistic expression.
In between the daily grind, the filtered social media moments, the good times and the bad times; once in a while we are hit with something that stops us in our tracks. Whether from deep loss, physical or mental illness, grief, abuse, or some other trauma, we've all encountered deep pain in our lives. This March, I have the honour of displaying a group of paintings at The Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge, ON, in a show entitled "Passages". This body of work explores the journey through the emotions created by this pain. There is a path we must take to get through it, and find ourselves again on the other side of grief.
The journey is not linear. With the paintings in my show, I compare each emotion we go through to a passage. It may be that one is stuck in a passage for years, only to circle back to a previous emotional passage. One may be living in several passages at once. All of these emotions are normal. There is no time limit for being in a passage. We each take a similar path, yet we each travel it differently, and that is okay. With each emotional stage or passage, there is potential for learning and finding our way through, to a healthier place.
To heal from pain, personal work is needed, yet with the aid from others, we can navigate the emotions we face, to healing and freedom.
I invite you to join me for the opening reception, March 3, 2018, from 1 to 4, at the Chapel Gallery. The show runs from March 3 -24, Tues. to Sat. 10-1 and 2-5. If you can't make it in person, I will be posting here shortly with pictures of the event.
Being an artist can be a lonely affair. Minutes turn into hours, haunting music inspires the gesture of a paintbrush, the scent of mineral spirits hangs in the air. A day passes. And another.
When we emerge, we criticize our work, we walk away, we come back, we scrutinize it, we change it, and we change it again. And in the end it has become a creation in and of it’s own.
We tend to be loners sometimes. Even so, we derive inspiration from those around us, the world we live in, and the natural terrain. These are some artists that inspire me, let me tell you why.
I follow these artists on Instagram, it’s an inspiration to see their works in progress, their finished art, and a little piece of their day, as I go through mine.
Albert Einstein once said "education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school".
After my weekend enjoying the great weather and amazing people at the Cranberry Festival, I couldn't agree more. I love people, and there were thousands that visited Johnston's Cranberry Marsh two weekends ago. These same people saw my art. That was intimidating, but I'm happy to say I survived the jump. Showing my art to the public is like revealing a piece of my soul. How relieved I was to receive so many positive comments, and I sold more items than expected - wow.
So to any of you who are contemplating taking a leap of faith. I say, go for it! Say Geronimo! It's the anticipation that creates the most fear. Life is an education, let's live it to the full. I would love to hear from any out there that have taken the leap...how did it go? ...what did you learn?... Send me your comments, I would love to hear from you....
OK, so I've painted murals before. Kids bedrooms, restaurants, seniors' centers and small businesses. But this is different. I'm bringing my art to the public. When I painted murals it was the client who chose the image. Before the paint even touched the wall, they could change the layout. This time I'm choosing, and it's sort of like jumping from a cliff. I know I'll land safe, I'm prepared. But I have butterflies in my stomach anyways.
I'm taking my latest pieces to the Bala Cranberry Festival, October 14, 15, 16, 2016. Come say hi, and let's cross our fingers for great weather!