I have noticed some shifts going on within me; difficult, positive shifts, and I want to share some of what I've learned with you. The pandemic forced me to slow down. It sat me down in a chair and kept me there, pressing down on my shoulders and I couldn't move. No longer able to use my 'drug' of choice to avoid the hard things in my life -- staying inhumanly busy to choke out the thoughts in my head, I had to sit there quietly. I felt like a child in trouble sent to sit in the principal's office, wishing desperately to be released to go play, but not yet. I had to keep sitting still, waiting and dreading what was about to happen....Yep, I found myself there, sitting with the discomfort and feelings I hadn't wanted to face, unable to escape. The pandemic had won. All avenues to distract myself from what I needed to process were stripped away. I had to face what I had been pushing down for almost a decade.
To give you a bit of context, several events happened in quick succession. I'll start with my divorce in 2013. After a 19-year marriage and it felt like standing at the edge of a cliff and I was just teetering on going over. Shortly after my divorce, I was laid off from my job. There I was, a single mother of two, with no job. Being my 'inhumanly busy self', I quickly found new work and even fell in love with the man who is my incredible husband to this day. But, I did not allow myself to fully process the changes, and jumped in feet-first to create a new business that would later be another incredible attention diverting force, keeping me even further from doing the real work I needed to do....and so the cycle continued. We sold the business in 2019, but that abrupt end to my constant fix of being busy left me feeling paralyzed. I asked myself, could I actually be addicted to anxiety? Without that adrenaline-producing anxiety, I felt immobilized, completely stuck, and unable to move forward. The one constant that I kept coming back to was creating art, so that is what I did.
And then, the stillness of the pandemic hit. No more social life or kids' activities to serve as an outlet to keep me busy and distracted. I continued to paint and the process of creating allowed my thoughts to settle down. The rhythm of the paint brush dipping into paint and then moving across the canvas soothed me and made my thoughts seem less scary. I could now see with the clarity I needed what was most important in my life, but I was still stuck. So, I started to dig. I wanted to understand what was holding me back and where fear was still living inside me. As I thought about deconstructing the events in my life, I remembered watching my father at his basement workbench rebuilding a carburetor from an old car he was restoring. I was fascinated by all the tiny pieces that he extracted from the little silver engine part. He carefully spread them across his workbench and meticulously cleaned each tiny piece to a shine, digging the gunk out of the tiny crevices, always knowing it could be put back together as good as new with a little care. I felt like that was what I was doing. Taking each memory apart and cleaning out the corrosion and grime left behind. Slowly, I was reprocessing each memory and placing it back, releasing it's grip from me and letting the shame and sadness lift away.
And what I learned was, in my first marriage I had to make myself smaller in order not to upset my husband. I was relegated to stay in his shadow. It felt like I had to fold myself over a hundred times like an origami crane to ensure that his need to feel important remained unthreatened. My big heart kept beating against this cramped space, telling me I was worth more. Asking, 'how did I let myself get to this place?' And, 'why was I staying?' The answer to those questions came from years of conditioning, by him and by society but it was painful nontheless to face them. Perhaps the most difficult words to hear are 'it takes two' to end a marriage. Yes, it takes two, but what if one of the two is spinning plates in the air while balanced on a tightrope? What if they are so busy shrinking themselves just to let the other feel important? What if their contribution was always for 'the other' without getting their needs to be met...to be 'strong enough' to do it on their own? That's not the life I would wish on anyone, but it was the life I was leading. So yes, it does take two, but it was a lopsided arrangement that left me an empty shell. THIS is what I needed to process and THIS is what I had been dreading -- facing the fact that I had allowed this to go on for far too long. That was soul crushing, but, it was the gunk I had to clean out of my internal carburetor in order to find my way back to peace. And with my new, shiny internal workings, I realized that creating art had actually nudged me into a world of new possibilities, with a new understanding of what was important to me and with that, I have found the joy I was craving.
What does this have to do with the wooden horse in the photo? That little horse is my Hope Pony. I found him at an estate sale with a price tag marked down 50%. It was the only item in the entire sale with a discounted price tag. He was left alone on a bookshelf, legs wobbly and a bit broken, no tail and his head turned away from me. I knew immediately that he needed to come home with me and he's been such a source of inspiration. This little pony, left alone with his worth decided by someone else. It dawned on me that for too long, I let someone else put a discounted price tag on me. I let them decide what my worth was. It dulled me for a while, but the pony reminded me that something discounted by someone else does not change how much it can be loved or their worthyness. So, that's where the idea of a 'Hope Pony' comes from. I'm planning to do a series of collages in his honor. So, if you or someone you know needs a little hope, I'll have these available soon in my shop. Subscribers to my newsletter will be the first to know when the shop is updated. It's my way to fold some of what I've learned and the love in my heart into my art and share it with others.
I'm wishing you all the best in this journey ahead of us. It is my deepest desire for you that you see your worth, and understand where you may be dealing with painful events or relationships that are preventing you from experiencing the highest level of wellbeing you can. And, I hope that by sharing some of my story, you might recognize something that's also true for you.