Time Traveling

December has been an intense month for me.

It marks the sixth year since my dad died of brain cancer.

So strange how time passes, but in an instant can fold in on itself. I’ve felt so far from that time while also unbearably near. Suffering from  physical and emotional pain so all encompassing I felt like I’d time travelled.

Flashbacks, heartaches, headaches.
Days where I couldn’t stop crying for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Days where I was fine one minute and hyperventilating the next.

I started to call it ‘death aches’.

Like my insides could rip through me at any time. Like not being able to look in the mirror because my face reminds me of his. Like I didn’t have the ability to hold myself in this present world. Like nothing, my sanity included, was safe.

December has been kind of scary for me in that way.

Feeling like I’m “closer to the crazy” (than usual).

I’ve forgotten if last year was like this.
I was completely caught off guard by the effect the anniversary would have on me.
It’s like I’d somehow forgotten how much grief can hurt.

Karen (my art therapist, and friend) says that my body remembers. That we live in cycles, that the time lapsing-seasonal-triggers make a lot of sense.

After working with her this fall, I feel like I may be more self aware. I’m closer to raw, but I’m also closer to strength. I am quicker to identify the things I’m feeling, more trusting in asking for help and being honest with myself. The pain may be just as awful as it was then, but I am quicker to bounce back, I’m learning what helps and what doesn’t.

After having so many in my life and especially this month, I’ve sort of developed a system to battle breakdowns:

1. Call a friend.

– In my experience, I will often spiral quickly into completely irrational thoughts if I’m alone for too long in breakdown world. The sooner I surrender my despair to someone who can reassure me that I’ll be okay, the sooner I can feel like myself again.

Also, sometimes it’s enough just to have a conversation about every day mundane things, or say nothing and just be held by someone.

Note. My friends are incredibly supportive and open. (thank you thank you thank you!)

2. Write about it.

-When I can see my thoughts and emotions on the page, outside of my mind, cut and paste-able, re-visit-able and safe, than I can begin to let them go. I can accept what they were and my helplessness begins to disperse. When I’m creating from my emotions and experiences than I can more easily accept their purpose.

Note. I don’t usually read back (usually at least) until I’m in a new head space.

3. Look/read through old journal/sketchbooks from a similar crisis or time of year.

-Shortly after my dads death, when I was deepest in my depression, I used the image of the person I wanted to be to guide me (and I still do this). I knew what direction I wanted to go in, but didn’t know how to get there. So when in doubt, I would ask myself what I thought she would do, sort of like my own made-up-fairy-godmother. Now, looking back on the self that had the strength to live through those things, is incredibly comforting.

I feel like my past and future selves are considerably wiser than my present moment-living-experiencing self, if that makes sense.

Here are some of my favorite pages (of no specific theme) found while looking through old journals.

I’ve been working on art journaling.

It’s one of my favorite art forms (to see/appreciate), along with mixed media and collage, but as much as I enjoy them, I also find them all quite hard to do. They feel completely contrary to my perfectionist nature, which often results in just not starting, worrying about “ruining it” or collecting pieces of paper that I never use.

So I’m practicing.

I was inspired by something I read on Anahata Katkin’s blog once about how she works her pages in layers, leaving them unfinished and then returning to them with different materials until they’re complete. I like idea that the pages will shape into that I want/need them to be over time. This takes away some of the “perfectionist” pressure, leaving  more space to experiment and forgive.

I’ve also recently discovered a love for text based art. I’m fascinated by the act of taking thoughts, statements and snipits of conversation out of context and isolating them on the page to see how they stand on their own.

Check out the incredible-ness of Sabrina Ward Harrison and Anahata Katkin. Ironically, AK just wrote a blog post about SWH and her beautiful feature on Apartment Therapy. Like SWH, I would like for my home to feel like you’ve just walked into one of my journals. Although, in my case maybe it should be the other way around. My art journaling practice may be able to learn something from chaos that is my bedroom.

Here are some of my recent pages.

Things I have learnt recently:

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  • I love a man in a dress. (attracted to)
  • Steve jobs was a total hottie in the 70’s.
  • Most of my male friends wear size 32 pants.
  • Sathyg means “naughty prank” in Swedish.
  • What strawberry daiquiri tastes like.
  • How to identify when I am disassociated. (a process)
  • The president of the international computer games association (as of 2006) is obsessed with chess.
  • Mr. Freeze (from Batman) ’s wife is terminally ill and that’s why he became a scientist.
  • How to do a faux brass finish on textured wallpaper
  • Fish can be bulimic.
  • Trees can grow twisted.
  • Wasps can be beautiful too.

Sometimes Hurricanes Need Containers.

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This summer, I saw a Fringe show by the stand up poet/story teller/comedian Jem Rolls, he is fantastic, hilarious and so inspiring. He had a joke that went something like,

 

“Why would anyone go digging around in their insides and emotions?”

 

“Well, because I’m a poet, and that’s what poets do.”

 

I laughed so hard at this point, almost spitting beer onto the person in front of me. I would say that this is what many artists do, or at least what I do, in making art. I have often felt like I cannot accurately interpret or process my experiences unless I’ve made art about them, like I cannot understand my life, or myself, until it’s been reflected back at me.

 

Magicians need direction. Chaos needs structure. Creativity needs a place.

 

I am a hurricane and this blog will be my container.