Expressive Arts Carnival No 15 – Obstacle

I’m so happy the Expressive Arts Carnival is back! Thanks Paul 🙂 This month’s activity is:

Through drawing, painting, or any other visual means, create an image that represents a major obstacle facing you now. You can do this any way you wish. With your entry, please also include a couple of sentences saying what the process was like for you, which will accompany your art.

As soon as I read this activity, I knew what I’d do. Here is my entry:

I’ve been facing some challenges at work lately, and this photo I took over the Christmas break seems to capture those nicely, in a couple of different ways. First, there’s a sort of literal representation. I work in a building that’s around the same vintage as this one, so there’s a physical resemblance to my place of work. Second, there’s a more metaphorical representation in that the building seems dark and gloomy, with the spire towering over me – all of it with the stormy sky, almost a sign, foreboding. I’ve been feeling this way about work for a few weeks now. It’s really challenging me not to be afraid of work and what will happen there. Challenging every healed (and unhealed) fibre of my being to walk in there every day. So far I’m managing ok 🙂

Expressive Arts Carnival No 14 – Hopes and Dreams

This month’s Expressive Arts Carnival theme is:

Through drawing, painting, or any other visual means, create an image that incorporates your personal hopes and dreams.

I have blogged on this theme too many times to count! It felt too tedious to recreate any of these posts or images here, so – always the rule breaker in this Carnival – I did something slightly different. Here is my entry:

This is a photo I took on one of my travels. Travel continues to be one of my hopes and dreams, but that isn’t the point.

For me, the point of this photo is to remember that attaining my hopes and dreams as a pathway, a journey. It’s not always easy; in fact sometimes it’s downright difficult – but if I keep working at it, even one step at a time, then one day I’ll (probably) get there.

I say ‘probably’ because there are no guarantees – other life events get in the way, we change our hopes and dreams as time goes on, and sometimes, we find the journey too hard at the moment, and we turn back.

I also say ‘one step at a time’. This is an important part for me to remember because I’ve tended to be an A to Z person. As my therapist once said, I thought I could go in, spew out all the heinous sh** from the past, and suddenly feel better. Well, of course that didn’t happen! It’s the same with my hopes and dreams. I need to remember that half the point is the journey itself, and enjoying that along the way, or if I can’t enjoy it, then at least to remember that it’s a journey!

On a slightly different note – it’s funny how these Carnival entries sometimes don’t turn out the way you initially expect them to. Like this one, for example. When I started on this, it felt tedious and ‘boring’ because I’ve blogged on this topic many times before. But when I finally stumbled upon the approach I’ve ended up taking, it really sat comfortably inside. I know when I pay attention to that particular feeling I’m on the right track … or path. 😉

Expressive Arts Carnival No 13 –

I had the loveliest morning today – brunch with my dear friends from group, at a lovely little cafe in the inner ‘burbs. I feel truly blessed to have met these beautiful women, and richer for knowing every one of them.

There’s something special about being with others who truly understand you, what you’ve been through and the impact that’s had on your life.

There’s something special about what we’ve shared, and the deep level of trust and acceptance that comes from that.

There’s something special about bonding with such a diverse group, about learning from them, and loving each one for her uniqueness.

There’s something special about seeing how they handle healing, each one differently; how they too struggle with the ups and downs of it all, and how they all – every one of them – come out better for it on the other side.

And there’s something special about how calm I feel when I’m with them – centred, true to myself, at peace.

I think they’re amazing. I admire them all. And they, for some reason I can’t fathom, admire me.

These are the women who have influenced my healing.

This post is my entry for this month’s Expressive Arts Carnival activity:

Part 1: Think of someone you look up to, real or imaginary, who has taught you something you can use (or do use) in your healing. Describe either the characteristics of the person, what they told you, or how you have been helped. Use expressive writing by telling a story, writing a poem, or anything that makes sense to you. If you have a blog, you can feel free to publish this writing on your blog. But you will not submit this writing as your entry.

Part 2: For your entry, select three words from your writing that have particular meaning to you and also one color (or HEX color code) that you would like to associate with these words.

The words I choose are: acceptance, understanding and peace.  And I choose to represent them in purple, because it’s a colour often associated with power, and I feel powerful when I’m with – or even think about – these amazing souls.

Expressive Arts Carnival No 12 – In the Moment

The activity for this month’s Expressive Arts Carnival is:

Through drawing, painting, or any other visual means, create an image about how you are feeling in the moment. Try not to think about this. The purpose is to create an image by paying attention to your feelings. Also, please try not to judge your feelings. Whatever your feelings are when you decide to make the image is where you are. And whatever comes out will be okay. If you get stuck, try just picking up a color and exploring. With your entry, please also include a couple of sentences saying what the process was like for you which will accompany your art.

In my last post I used this photo to represent how I was feeling. That blurring, whizzing, frantic pace of thoughts was in the moment.

It was funny, actually, doing this activity – I thought about it a lot over the month, and how I’d represent how I was feeling at different moments. If I was to choose another image to represent how I’m feeling today, I’d go with this one:

The reason I chose a different image today is that, while the blurring and whizzing and frantic pace is still there, I’m now seeing it slightly differently. I’m starting to be able to see through it to the world around me. Plus I’ve booked a short holiday for myself in between jobs, which I’m hoping will be calming and restorative, much like the garden is to me here. I never was much good at spinning, blurring, whizzing. As a child even the swings made me motion sick!! I’m glad I’m starting to see through it, even if it’s not all dealt with, at least I can start to see beyond it.

I can’t take credit for these images, though I do take credit for connecting them to my feelings. Sometimes that’s a giant leap forward for survivors.

Expressive Arts Carnival 11 – Coping

This month’s Expressive Arts Carnival activity is “coping”.

I confess: this one was my idea. I first came across this activity in group therapy last year. The aim was to think about a time you felt you couldn’t cope, and represent all the things you did in order to cope.

For most of us, whether we recognise it or not (and it’s common for survivors to be in that ‘not’ category), we have a whole range of strategies and tools we use for coping. One of the ideas behind this activity was to recognise and pay respect to the resources we have within us.

Some of our copings mechanisms are maladaptive, even downright destructive in my case. But they serve (or served) a purpose at a certain time in our lives. Problems come when we rely solely on one thing, no matter what that thing is, really. Take chocolate, for example. It’s sweet, and yummy, and sometimes just the fix we need. But if we only ever turn to chocolate, then we end up fat and sick. An exaggeration, perhaps, but you get the point.

I posted an original entry on this theme back when we did this activity in group. You can check out my piece here.

This time around I’ve represented things a little differently. I wanted to capture not just the range of things I’ve done to cope, but the progression in them as well. When I first started out on my healing journey I turned most often to those maladaptive strategies I’d used in the past – cutting, getting drunk, etc. As my healing progressed, I became more able to seek out things that weren’t just about “coping” but also about soothing and helping myself. I’ve used a spiral to represent this, as many times I returned to the old ways of coping, though less so as time has gone on.

I also want to share this image with you – it’s nothing at all to do with the Carnival, though does fit my spiral approach. I came across it online and found myself captivated by it. I love it!


Expressive Arts Carnival No. 10 – Safety

This month’s Expressive Arts Carnival Activity is to:

Through drawing, painting, photography or any other visual means, create an image representing your relationship with “safety.” Some ideas you may want to explore are what safety means to you, how you struggle with safety, what are your internal or external safe places, and more. With your entry, please also include a couple of sentences saying what the process was like for you which will accompany your art.

I started out this activity doing a collage that reflected how I feel when I am safe. It was warm and fluffy. It represented an internal safe place, but said little about my relationship with safety, or anything other than being warm and fluffy, so I abandoned that activity in favour of this:

It’s a shot I took a year or so ago. It might seem like an unusual image to represent safety, but it does to me. More precisely, it represents my relationship with safety (good and bad) and my healing around safety.

When I took this photo I was deeply afraid of the dark and particularly the city at night. The dark, the people, the crowds, the noises, the lights… it all triggered me. And yet I was drawn to it as well, longing to walk the streets taking photos rather than taking them from the safety of a hotel room high in the sky.

A few months after this photo was taken I was walking in town one night when I realised I wasn’t afraid any more. Sure, the people were still there, the crowds, the noises… it was all the same, but I felt safe. Safer than I had ever felt before. I remember telling Back Up Therapist about this – and she practically did cartwheels around the room. It wasn’t until that moment that I realied what an important step forward this was. I’ve represented this healing aspect with the splash of colour.

I still get freaked by the dark sometimes. City crowds and noises are still an easy trigger, but I’m hoping my splash of colour will spread. The splash – and the contrast with the black and white – also represents the tenuous grip that I and many survivors have with safety. Sometimes it feels fleeting. Sometimes we feel safe, and others we don’t – even in the same situations. Sometimes we turn to the darkness to create safety in ways that aren’t safe at all, but that we can at least control.

A little note on the creative element of this activity: when I flicked through my photos, I felt that warm inner glow I get from creative activity – a good reminder that I don’t do creative stuff often enough. I was suddenly filled with ideas of projects to do for this month’s Carnival. I wanted to create a stop motion clip with a range of city shots, but realised I didn’t have enough photos, or enough time. Another project to add to my creative list 😉

Expressive Arts Carnival Activity No. 9 – Memoir

This month’s activity for the Expressive Arts Carnival is to:

Write your memoir using only six words and present it as an image.

I found this really useful in helping me to understand and articulate where I am at the moment. Here are some of the “memoirs” I created:

All of these resonated, but didn’t seem quite right. They didn’t seem to quite capture where I am right now, though they’re all true of me at some point over the last couple of years.  And so I came to this, my actual entry, which captures a sense of my past – the idea that for so long I lived for and was defined by others (much like what Castorgirl says), but now it’s time to break that bond and live my life – work out what I want from this funny little thing called life, and go after my dreams. No one else’s; just mine. 🙂 I’ve realised that it doesn’t really matter what that my life looks like, as long as it’s mine and makes me happy – I don’t need to satisfy anyone else, because it is, after all, my life. 🙂

Expressive Arts Carnival No 8 – Your Truth

This month’s theme for the Expressive Arts Carnival is:

Through drawing, painting, photograph or any other visual means, create an image of “your truth.” Some ideas you may want to explore are finding your truth, saying your truth, what your truth feels to you, and more. With your entry, also include a couple of sentences saying what the process was like for you.

I’m getting in early this month, as I go away in a few days (again) for a proper holiday this time. The place I’m going to is also my entry for the Carnival. It’s a simple one, but no less relevant to the theme:

I’ve posted this photo before, and others like it, here and here.

This is the place I went to when my life started “falling apart”. It’s the place where I started uncovering my “truth” – peeling back the layers on my onion of abuse. It’s also the place where I started discovering who I am, and the place where I started healing.

I love this place because of its physical beauty, but also because of what it represents to me. It is my spiritual home.

The Carnival doesn’t close until 21st February and is open to all survivors. It’s a great privilege for me to be part of this, and lots of fun, so I encourage everyone to enter! Details on how to enter can be found here.

Expressive Arts Carnival Activity No. 7 – Self Portrait

This month’s activity for the Expressive Arts Carnival was to:

Through drawing, painting or any other visual means, create a self portrait. Please also include a couple of sentences saying what the process was like for you.

I’ll say up front: I found this activity the hardest one so far. I’ve never done a self-portrait, and I wasn’t sure where to begin.

At first I wanted to do something realistic and something that represented myself in a positive light. I knew that ruled out drawing, because I’d be drawn (no pun intended) into showing myself as I think of myself, and perhaps not as I am.

So then I played around with photos for a while – creatively distorting photos of myself, creating collages of parts of myself that I actually like these days. I even did a pop art photo arrangement, but none of these seemed right.

Then I wondered how much of my difficulty with this activity was caught up with being a survivor. Do I just lack an image of myself? Perhaps …

The Polyvore set I did today shows more about how I see myself in relation to the world. It isn’t the happy, positive image I had hoped to create, though I’m comfortable with how it turned out. It feels right, or more right than the other self-portraits I had created. I can connect with this image, as how I see myself and how I feel. The other images somehow didn’t seem like me, even though most were created with photos of myself.

I am small, in a very big world.

I am colourless, in a world of colour.

I am ugly, in a world of beauty.

I am invisible, in a world of light.

I’m different; I’m an outsider.

I am hiding my face because I’ve never felt worthy.

That is changing, but I’ve still got a way to go.

Expressive Arts Carnival Activity No. 6

The theme for this month’s Arts Carnival activity is open – as Paul says, “any survivor art is welcome!”

I took a photo last night of a Christmas decoration. I think it’s beautiful. I had hoped to photograph it nestling in feathers, or something soft, but with everything else that’s happening this week I haven’t been able to make that happen.

I love this decoration. For me, it speaks to everything I want Christmas to be – beautiful, happy and, well, “normal”. Everything it isn’t at the moment. I’m trying to maintain hope that one day I can create the kind of Christmas I’ve always wanted. I’m still missing a few ingredients for that at the moment, but I try to hang onto the hope. My religious colleagues tell me that’s what this time of year is about – the hope of a better future. Captures my Christmas wish, that’s for sure. As well as the idea of “healing” for all of us survivors here, I think.