Letting go. Handing it all over to God.

“Father, I feel you nudging me to write another post. I hear you and obey. Soften my heart and mind and help me to allow the Holy Spirit to speak through me, giving me the words and story you most want me to tell. In Jesus name, Amen.”

It may seem strange to see my posts now beginning with a prayer. For me, with the changes in my life, it makes more sense than ever. I want God to guide me and I want Him to know that I want his guidance. Prayer is my intentional way of letting Him know.

I feel compelled to write a bit about my story.

In 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer but prior to that I had been intentionally living a life that was taking me farther and farther away from God and my beliefs. My rational mind gave me all kinds of reasons which gave me permission to do this. The main reason was to satisfy my desire for happiness in my life. It didn’t matter where I looked, happiness was only temporary which just kept me searching for it until my life came to a screeching halt.

My diagnosis of breast cancer had not been a huge surprise. I had lived in denial over the lump for quite a while but life intervened in such a way as to make me finally take responsibility and have it looked into.

I handled this diagnosis like I did everything in my life. I got the information from the doctors I needed. Then I researched it to death. By the time the day of my first surgery arrived, I knew all the alternative treatments. What I could afford or not afford of those treatments and even knew the type of anesthesia and pain control medicines I should or should not take. This of course all happened after I was told by my surgeon who did the biopsy that I definitely had breast cancer but the most common and treatable kind. That day I sat in his office like a zombie, hearing and yet not hearing what he had to say and what he saw as my options.

You would think this diagnosis, the surgeries and treatment would have turned me back to God. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I prayed. I was angry. I was furious that this was happening to me when I had an 11 year old daughter to take care of. But it didn’t change my direction in regards to my relationship with Him. All it did was bring my life to a screeching halt. What I had been pursuing stopped completely. I had no direction other than to just get through this.

There were problems with chemo. After my third treatment complications threatened my life, so I stopped chemo and all treatments including their recommendation for radiation treatment. They recommended these things even though they had no proof I still had cancer in my body. The surgeries I went through and the tests they did of the lymph nodes and breast tissue indicated they got everything but they have no proof because there are no instruments strong enough to detect single cells of cancer. In fact, the devices they have today only detect cancer if it has begun to cluster where there are at least millions if not billions of cells. My last treatment was two days before Christmas in 2014 and since then there has been no since of cancer. This December will be 5 years of being cancer free. Five years seems to be a milestone for determining if someone is cured or healed from their cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t come back. It just means according to their statistics, the chances of it returning are lowered greatly. I don’t hold much stock in statistics. I seem to defy them all in some way or another, usually for the better.

In 2015, we decided to celebrate the end of my cancer treatments and started looking for a house to buy. We found one and bought it, moved in August 2015, and from all appearances it looked like life for me and my daughter was looking up. We were better off financially than we had been renting. Had a larger place than we had when renting. And we had plans to slowly improve our new home.

Then, January 2016 arrived in an unexpected and devastating way. I was informed that my position which I held for over 30 years was being eliminated and I was being laid off. This news hit me harder, much, much harder than my cancer diagnosis. It threatened the very foundation of my ability to take care of my daughter. I am the sole income earner. I get no child support. I have no other source of income. This news came to me and completely destroyed the foundation I stood upon that helped me feel safe and secure and positive in my belief that I could care for my daughter on my own. Every future my imagination could come up with ended up with us losing our new home and being thrown out on the street to live. I was terrified.

I had 8 weeks to find a job within the company but every job I looked into, I was told I did not qualify for even if I was willing to relocate me and my daughter using my own money. I came to realize this company had no intentions of keeping me on as their employee no matter how much they told me I could look for an internal job to transfer to. I started looking externally.

It looked like everything was falling into place with a new job I applied for. I was hired to start only 2 days after my layoff date. In a matter of 6 weeks, I had an emotional breakdown in the office and was unable to perform my job. At the advice of my doctor to take three months off, I had to quit since I was still in my probationary period. Prior to the breakdown, I was their top performer.

This breakdown added another layer to my terror. I had discovered the limit of what I could endure. My doctor prescribed medication to help. After three months I started applying for other jobs. I applied for all the jobs I knew I could do which were mostly a subset of the job I had been laid off from. I received no call backs. This went on for a year and in that time I had only two interviews. I lived that whole year in terror.

In May of 2017, I looked at my prescription and discovered what was supposed to be short term, I had now been on a year. I didn’t know where that year had gone. I couldn’t really remember it other than I had submerged myself into drawing, painting, mixed media, and ink. I loved that aspect of having all day to play in my art supplies. I went to my doctor, told him I didn’t want to be on the medication anymore but asked him to provide a prescription for emergencies when I felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. He did.

Finally, in July 2017, I was hired as a cashier earning minimum wage. My financial advisor said this would be enough to eliminate the shortfalls in my retirement. But I soon learned it wouldn’t be enough because of how much time it had taken for me to find a job. I lived that whole year off of my savings from my severance package. Working part-time at minimum wage also meant I would have to continue pulling money from my savings and reducing my retirement funds.  I used the emergency prescription intermittently as I learned I could cope in my new job and then not at all when I realized I really enjoyed interacting with the customers. As a replacement I started to use GABA which was sufficient from then on when I needed something to calm my nerves, except in a few situations.

Almost a year later (April 2018, 2 years by now), I was still living in terror over my financial situation. I was still applying for jobs, hoping to find a full time job or a part-time job that would pay more but again no call backs or out of the one or two call backs I received that ended up in interviews, none ended up in any job offers.

I still could only see in my future, my daughter and I being thrown out of our house and living on the street if we couldn’t pay our bills. You might wonder why and think my imagination is extreme but it isn’t. Renting an apartment in our city isn’t any cheaper than the mortgage payment I have for our home, in fact it can be more expensive than a mortgage. Housing is in high demand in this fast growing city. Reasonable rent isn’t possible, at least not without ending up in some poverty ridden cesspool. This is the way I saw our life going and it was becoming more and more apparent that I had no control over this situation.

I lost hope.

I had no more dreams for our future other than just surviving from one day to the next.

Then on April 8, 2018, I heard very clearly that it was time to turn back to my roots but in a different way. Because, what I had relied on in my past had never worked for me. I had grown up in a Christian home, going to church each Sunday, and relying on Sunday school teachers, teen leaders, and pastors to tell me what I needed to know about God and the bible.

On April 8, 2018, I was told to pick up the bible and read it cover to cover so I could know the true God which was written about in His Word. I had nothing to lose, so I did it. I started at the beginning and started reading one chapter at a time. In time, I started to pray daily. I felt compelled to search for bible study methods which took me to bible study groups online and eventually to going to one church or another locally just to see if I would find any connection there. I haven’t really found any connection with a church yet. I have felt a connection to God during a Sunday service once or twice.

In my search to know more, I learned to turn EVERYTHING over to God. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Because my work schedule doesn’t leave very many Sundays available for me to attend church, when I pray to God I tell him, if he wants this to be part of my life, then he will need to make it happen. Which is how I usually approach everything, including my job/financial situation. If he wants me to have a new job, he will have to make it happen… and so forth.

It was interesting in regards to the job situation. I ran into some conflicting and aggravating situations with my manager at work some which caused me to take GABA. I let it go and let God take care of it. I saw her in turn have a situation happen which caused her to come to tears. This isn’t anything I wished for her, no matter how she treated me but I saw God’s justice in it. I desired another job, and so I would apply for job postings I knew I could do but always with the same result, no call back, or no job offer. All I heard was, “Stop, let it go. I’ll take care of it.” Everything pointed for me to just stop applying, to stop trying to force my way to a different job while I heard this voice saying, “if you do nothing, then you are proving you are just like all those people on welfare who just sit around, are capable of working but don’t even try. You are proving you are worthless.” It was hard to know what to do. Which one was right? I decided to trust in God (at least for a while) and see what he would do. I know that sounds terrible but that is what I decided to do. I was at the end of my rope.

I knew my trust would come slowly. I often felt like I was an awful child of God, or not truly a child of God. Did I have the right to test him like this? Was it a sin to do so?

Things happened in stages. First, I prayed, “God help me to become the person you desire for me to be.” I would pray this every day as I drove to work, and as I drove I would tell him how beautiful our world was that he had created. How amazing He is to create such a world where we can make so many things to help us to live more comfortable lives. The beauty of nature around me and how it all worked together. On and on, I would praise him.

I slowly started humming as I drove back and forth from work. Sometimes I would even hum as I worked, and sometimes it wasn’t even the music which played over the store’s sound system. I hummed what came spontaneously upon me. Sometimes words would form and I would sing them. I found myself humming and singing in the shower or as I washed dishes or did chores.

Slowly, I learned to turn EVERYTHING over to God, and to ask for his protection from the enemy which was trying to take everything away from me that God had given me throughout my life.

One day, I realized worry and fear became less and less a part of my life. I started to truly believe God would take care of us. As worry and fear became less, anxiety and panic became less and less. I realized my humming was actually a sign of happiness and also praise to God for how he had brought change to my life in such subtle ways.

I still had concerns financially and couldn’t visualize how God could change my situation unless I won the lottery, which yes, I do play, just in case he would want to provide for me through it. (it’s okay to laugh, I do, I’m grateful the lottery here does help pay for health care, education and other services needed across the province)

Then during this time of not applying for jobs, and just letting go of it all, giving it all over to God, I prayed, “God, if you want me to have another job, then you will have to provide it.” I don’t know how long it was after that prayer, but I do know it wasn’t more than a couple of weeks when, at work, in our lunch room, there was a notice stating that the pharmacy was hiring, and no experience was necessary.

Should I? Shouldn’t I? What was I supposed to do?

I prayed. “God, do you want me to apply for this job? If so, you have to give me a sign I can not doubt. You know me. I doubt everything. I see both sides of any sign. A sign can mean, yes go for it, or it could mean, no don’t go for it and I could see the same message for one sign. I need something I cannot doubt.” The very next day was my day off. I woke up around 4:30am in extreme pain. It was the pain I had experienced from my 3rd chemo treatment that made me stop taking chemo. Well, it was part of the reason. The subsequent issues I had following that pain were the main reason for stopping chemo, that being, I was unable to eat or drink anything but tiny sips of water for a week.

Back to my story… I woke in pain. I knew it was from over production of stomach acid which was what was the issue before, so I took some tums, hoping it would help. Two hours later I was still in a lot of pain. I knew a walk-in clinic would open in an half hour. I woke my daughter asked if she wanted to go with me, no, she was too tired, so I went alone. I had taken two more tums hoping in that half hour it would help more. They did a bit but not enough and I wanted to make sure my self-diagnosis was right.

To make a long story short, it was the same, I ended up with a prescription which made me go to the pharmacy. I couldn’t deny the message. I put in for the job. I, of course, ran into some opposition. My manager wasn’t happy. She probably opposed it and discouraged me as much as she could without outright telling me she wouldn’t let me transfer. In the end, I gave her a copy of the transfer paper and handed the other copy to the other person in the office who was handling the process. Everyone else was excited to learn I wanted to work in the pharmacy. But I left the office feeling like it wasn’t going to happen.

The next day, circumstances happened where I ended up having a discussion with the store manager. The discussion had nothing to do with my transfer request but at the end he told me they were going to make my transfer happen. I was ecstatic!

The day after that I was told I would transfer officially on the 19th.

I have known my whole life that when things are meant to be, they happen quickly, easily and sometimes with the speed of a locomotive. That is what happened in this case. I handed in the transfer paper on 6May and on 12May the store manager came to me and asked if I was okay transferring that day (a week ahead of schedule) because the pharmacy was in dire need of someone now. I said, “sure no problem. I would be happy to.” And it was made so that very day.

I have been in pharmacy ever since, learning to be a pharmacy assistant. I don’t make any more money right now though the possibility does exist for getting more hours. Every day I work,  I am filled with exceeding joy. I am left with no doubt that this is God’s plan for me. I am trying not to read into where this will take me.  I am learning to let go of my financial concerns and just hold tight to God’s plan for me and always look to him in ALL things. In doing so, I get a sense of comfort I have never felt before.

I can see Him working in the background on other possibilities, they give me hope. Hope I have not had in over three years. I see his handy work in this new job. Since starting it I have worked only one Sunday. I work fewer days but no less hours than I did as a cashier so, it feels like I have more time for my studies and reading.

I continue to read my bible every day. I finished Zechariah this morning which means only 1 more book and I’ll have finished the Old Testament. I have been looking forward to starting the New Testament and learning about Jesus. I can’t tell you how excited it makes me feel.

Today or tomorrow, I will complete the “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” bible study I mentioned in my previous post.

I started Proverbs 31 & Bible Women from Robin Sampson’s bible study and journaling class. I start lesson 3 today or tomorrow. In just the first two lessons, I am finally connecting with how I can study and journal about the Word of God. It is exciting to use my artistic skills along with my studying the Word.

30May2019 Lesson 2 Rahab

Digital journal spread for lesson 2 of Proverbs 31 & Bible Women

30May2019 Lesson 2 Rehab spread

Handmade Traveler’s Notebook insert for Lesson 2 of Proverbs 31 & Bible Women

I am still handwriting Psalms. I’m up to Psalm 103. I don’t just handwrite it. I, also, type it out in a digital journal using the NLT version and the CJB version. I learned about the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) from Tom Bradford’s Old Testament Survey class on Torahclass.com. When I read the CBJ version, I get a more positive feel from scripture than I do when I read the KJV, NIV or NLT versions. I type the NLT and CJB versions side-by-side, sort of creating my own parallel version. I like being able to compare the two versions side-by-side. I have room to add graphics so when something grabs my attention and I feel called to add something visual, I will insert graphics which helps me to connect with the scripture. Nothing too elaborate because with everything else, I don’t have the time. My plan though is to go through each book of the bible, creating my own digital version which I can then use in my deeper studies, probably using the inductive study method.

I don’t know if you caught on to what happened over the past month. I have had two major prayers answered for me:

1. a new job

2. more Sundays free for attending church, God’s way of letting me know he does want me to attend church, I just need to find one that fits

There are numerous other prayers which have been answered so indirectly, I have yet to really recognize all of the ones which have been answered. I feel God working towards transforming me into the person he desires for me to be. I also feel God working towards transforming my life into what he had always intended for it to be.

He is building my trust and faith and not demanding it be given completely or fully upon his demand. I think this is important for me, as well as, others to understand. God wants us to willingly trust him and have faith in him. He isn’t about forcing us to do what we don’t want to do. I just had to see that he will be who he says he is and do what he says he will do. This is what builds my trust and faith in him.

I also have to be willing to let go of MY expectations of what he will do. In other words, I can’t make him or demand he provide the results I want. I have to be willing to accept his choices for me. For instance, if I could only visualize myself in an administrative job and that is the only job I wanted, it doesn’t mean that is the job God wants for me. I had to let go of all job possibilities and let God choose for me. This really was the hardest thing for me to do. I don’t relinquish control easily. God knew I needed time to learn how to do this and I think too he knew I would need extreme circumstances to get me to the point where I could.

There is one thing that comes to my mind periodically, these past few weeks. As I was reading the last two chapters in “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way”, it came to mind again. Sometimes, we are so focused upon ourselves that when things happen we perceive them as a personal affront to ourselves. That God, or the enemy is doing this personally to us. If we step back, we may discover what is happening is a side effect of something someone else, someone who is close to us, needs to learn.  I find, I am often so focused upon my own suffering I don’t see someone else standing right next to me is suffering too or that what I’m going through effects them too.

When I was going through my cancer treatment, dealing with the pain and discomfort of the surgeries and the chemo treatments, my daughter was right there beside me. I knew she felt helpless and didn’t know what to do for me but what I didn’t know until much later was how afraid she was to go to sleep at night. That something might happen. That I might need her at night and she not know it. She felt safe to sleep in the day when I was awake. She suffered through this time with me but in such a different way and so silently on her own. When I look at it now, though I was the one diagnosed with cancer and felt this was happening to me, it might have happened to me in order for my daughter to learn something she needed to learn. Yes, we both had something to learn from the situation but maybe my suffering was required in order for her to learn.

When you find yourself in a difficult situation, look around, see who is standing next to you. Maybe your suffering is what the other person needs in order to learn something God needs for them to learn. Maybe it will lead to their salvation.

 

I can’t stop…

I’ve been working on my drawing for Life Book 2018 week one “Garden Fairy” lesson with Tamara Laporte. I wanted to go in my own direction with this which is why I’m taking my time. I am so in love with my first sketch I wasn’t sure if I wanted to paint it. This is my first sketch, which was done on watercolor paper.

IMG_1267If you read my previous post you would know I was working on trying to draw the dragon. I couldn’t get the body right so I chose to have him leaning over her shoulder. When I added his scales is when I finally connected with him. As I drew the girl, she just seemed to call out for elfin ears.

The above picture shows how I roughly sketched in flowers but they didn’t feel right to me. This lesson is about considering what we want to leave behind and what we want to bring forward with us. Taking this into consideration I knew I needed to change the flowers, so I worked more on my drawing.

I love drawing mandalas. Therefore, I want to continue bringing mandalas into my artwork so I erased the flowers and added a mandala. I have plans for the center of my mandala.

Tulips are my favorite flower. Last year, I saved some bulbs when some work was being done which caused several bulbs to be dug up. The person doing the work in our complex didn’t seem to care and left them all lying exposed so I gathered them up and replanted them. I wanted to honor this and it felt right to include a couple tulips in my sketch.

IMG_1271This is where I stopped while I considered what I wanted to do. Since my sketch was drawn on watercolor paper, I didn’t want to waste it with a graphite drawing so I decided to see if I could recreate it on a lighter weight mixed media paper. The next picture is my attempt to do just that.

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She isn’t exactly like my first drawing. She is close enough and I think she came out rather well. I’ll work on her some more later. For now, this is where I stopped with my second drawing.

I can’t stop drawing her. I pulled out my sketchbook where I was working out the drawing of my dragon and drew another sketch of her. This time with a worried or concerned look on her face. I’m trying to learn different facial expressions and since I seemed to be obsessed with drawing her it made sense to try a different expression.IMG_1275

Then I took out my other journal where I not only draw but also write. A few days prior, I had put down some backgrounds using acrylic paint, mostly just using a card or palette knife to scrape the paint around. I had no idea what I would put on these backgrounds. In my previous post, I wrote about the first background I worked on where I created a mandala.  IMG_1258

On another page, I tried creating a mandala using the dot technique with paint but that didn’t come out so well. I wasn’t going to show it here but after thinking about it, I decided to show it. First, because I wouldn’t be authentic as an artist to just show the “good” stuff. If someone reading this is struggling with their art, they should see that we all struggle and have moments where what we work on doesn’t come out the way we want it to or even passably good. And, that is OKAY. So here it is, including my thoughts I had put on the page.

IMG_1276

I might get better with practice, and maybe this would have looked better with a black background which is what I have seen in all the dot techniques used to create mandalas or other dot artwork. Creating dots is harder than it looks. I used different sized brush handles. Even so, one has to remember that with each dot created if you don’t replenish the paint between each dot the subsequent dot will be smaller. If you don’t use the same “pressure” the dots can be different sizes. I didn’t expect perfection and knew this would take some practice. I also learned that maybe I should also create guidelines, at least in the beginning until I become better at it. For now, this isn’t something I want to pursue, even with this small sampling I realized I just don’t enjoy making dot after dot after dot, which might be why I’m not a fan of stippling, though I do use it occasionally.

A day or so ago, I drew another one of my elfin girls on the third page. I drew her in pencil first, and then I went over the pencil with an Elegant Writer pen meant for calligraphy. In my testing of my pens to see if they would bleed when wet, I found I loved the effect when the ink from this pen became wet. I wanted to play around with this. Here is the results. I added a bit of white to her eyes and for highlights but other than that, the shading is from using a small wet brush to make the ink from the Elegant Writer bleed. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE HOW THIS TURNED OUT, so much so, I felt the need to write about it which is what brought me to writing this post.

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In regards to my previous drawings. I will eventually paint the first drawing that is on watercolor paper. The second that is on mixed media paper I plan to complete in graphite. I have a feeling I’m not done with drawing my elfin girl and expect she will turn up again and again. But… most of all, I have a love of INK and want to play more with it.

Other thoughts:

It may seem strange for me to still be working on week one of Life Book 2018. I see some people doing the lessons as soon as they are released. I started that way for Life Book 2017 which was fine if all I wanted to do was copy the lesson as close as I could with what was being taught. This worked well for the first half of the year. Starting a new job set me back a bit but I also realized, though I was learning by doing the lessons as they were taught, I needed to explore more on my own.

Copying exactly as a teacher instructs doesn’t allow for experimentation. It also doesn’t allow much for failures from making my own choices therefore I don’t learn what works and what doesn’t work. I don’t want to be copying a teacher’s styles and techniques my whole life so I need to learn what works or doesn’t work for me.

When I first considered Life Book as a course of instruction, I did so because I wanted to use art as a way to help me. It is hard to look at one’s life, thoughts and emotions and feel like one is out of control or felt as though they had wasted the majority of their life. I had so many feelings, not just about my past but what had transpired in the past few years, that I needed to find a way to process it all.

Most people who felt as I do or had gone through similar experiences would probably see a therapist. Believe me I considered it. However, when I was diagnosed with cancer and started the process of fighting it and recovery, I decided to see a therapist. I took my daughter with me for I felt she would benefit as well. This whole situation was terrifying to her. At no time during that session did I feel like this person would be able to help me or my daughter. I wasn’t expecting miracles in just one session but I did expect some effort on this person’s part to help us or to just give us an indication of how they might be able to help. In the end, the only thing we walked out with was the understanding that I was already doing what I needed to do. With this in mind I started looking into art as a way to help me do it even better. This is when I discovered Life Book.

I haven’t stopped with just Life Book. I look at other courses as well. I look at them to give me one of two things. Either they will help me learn how to art journal in a way which will help me work through my emotional journey, or they will help me increase my skills and gain further knowledge in various art techniques. The wonderful thing about Life Book is it does both and introduces me to a lot of wonderful teachers.

Last year, because my main focus was on just copying the art as close to exacting as I could, I didn’t learn as much as I had hoped to in the area of processing my emotions when working on my page. What I was processing was only the technical aspects of the techniques being taught. I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to do art, just to do art, I wanted to find ways to have my art and my emotions come together and express themselves on the page.

In consideration of this, I decided to chose a word for the year. I had never done this before. I decided to do this to see if it helped bring focus into my life and help provide direction. For 2018, I chose balance as my word for this year to try and bring more of a balance between the emotional art journey and the technical art journey. It also has the added benefit of helping me to focus on finding balance in all areas of my life.

Knowing this, I knew I couldn’t rush through my lessons. Let me explain something.

I have always wished I could think faster on my feet. Wishing it though has never resulted in it actually happening. Instead of wishing for it, I decided to understand myself better, which meant being honest with myself. I have no idea how people view me unless they tell me. During my life, I have had people tell me I am rather intelligent. While this might be true, I have to refrain from believing my inner critic when he/she tells me I’m not smart at all. After all, if I were smart I would think faster on my feet and be able to respond to people in the way I wish I could. That is if I would believe what my inner critic says.

I, however, have come to understand, First, I AM intelligent. Second, my intelligence demands that I take my time to consider what I know or don’t know, and sometimes if I need to know more, it requires research. Third, I am also not quick to understand my own emotions and sometimes it takes me a while to dig into them to understand what they are and what triggered them. Because of this, almost every situation I’m in, I am not quick to respond because my way of doing things is, first to understand what I am feeling, why I feel that way and to take time to think about it and not jump into quick conclusions or decisions. People wanting quick responses and quick answers get frustrated with me, and yes, I get the impression that they might think I’m dumb but this is because they do not know me and I don’t always think to say that I need to think about this before I answer. I will admit that sometimes I over think things, and sometimes it is difficult for people to understand why I need to think about something that should only require a simple answer.

There is no surprise that this is how I approach my own art. We are at the end of January and to know that week one has taken me four weeks and I’m still not complete isn’t a concern for me. In the past it might have been but that would have been before I took the time to do my own self-analysis to understand why I do things as I do or why I react to things as I do and so forth. Doing my own self-analysis doesn’t mean I am always right. In fact, there are times when I need to re-evaluate because something doesn’t add up to what I had previous thought about myself. There isn’t anything wrong with that and I am sure therapists are having to do this all the time with their clients. There is just no way someone can know everything there is to know about another person and besides, we humans whether we want to admit it or not, are changing all the time. I will be the first to admit that this is even true for myself.

I have no doubt there would be a lot of people who would argue this point. Their egos would want them to believe they know themselves implicitly. I love the part in The Matrix where Neo is told “Know thyself”. On one hand we already know everything there is to know about ourselves while on the other hand, we know absolutely nothing about who we really are.  Neo walks out of the room, so confused, believing he isn’t what people believe him to be. He doesn’t believe in himself. He doesn’t believe it until circumstances put him into a position where he has to reach inside of himself to be what he needs to be, proving to him that he has always had it inside of himself to be whatever he needs to be.

This is true for all of us. Sometimes what we need to be isn’t at all what we think we should be. It is no different for me in my art. I think my art should be realistic, not whimsical or even be mandalas. If someone had asked me back in high school what kind of artist I would be, I would have said my art would be ‘realism’. I had never heard of mandalas or at least I don’t remember hearing about them back then so I would not have even considered myself to be a mandala artist. And yet, that is what I have become. I also lean more towards whimsical at this stage which I would never have thought possible because back in high school I had trouble drawing anything from my imagination.

Why am I writing about all of this? First, because I need to explore the depths of these things for myself and writing is how I do that. Second, because this is just an example of how my mind works and why I am not quick on rebuttals or responses in various situations. I have to THINK about whatever it is that requires my response. My thought processes are not short. They can be long and involved and writing helps me to work my way through my thought processes.

I use the same process for my artwork. Consequently, I don’t expect immediate answers or results. I don’t sit down and immediately make decisions on what I’m going to create and then create it. Oh sometimes I do but most times like the Garden Fairy, I need to go through this process.

I knew when I first watched Tam’s Garden Fairy lesson that I would draw a female face but I knew it wouldn’t be a copy of the face she drew. I knew from my meditation that my animal would be a dragon. But that is all I knew. It took a while of thinking about my dragon to understand I didn’t want to copy a dragon I found online. To draw him took research of looking at various pictures then setting them aside to start sketching on my own and only referring to pictures once in a while to get shape and form properly in perspective. It took more contemplation on what I wanted to represent my garden.

The third reason I write about all of this is hopefully so other artists who are new to exploring their own abilities learn that there isn’t anything wrong with taking their time to complete a lesson. The wonderful thing about online classes, especially ones where you can download them or have lifetime access to them is this, you can do them in your own time, at your own speed and repeat them as often as you like AND do them in whatever form you want to do them in. Classroom instruction doesn’t give you this flexibility, nor do the online instructions which give you only a limited time access and no downloadable content. My advice especially for beginners is choose courses wisely and take advantage of YouTube’s free content.

I want to write about one other thing. I know this is getting long but after writing the above and having a break to go off and work and think about other things, I had this thought come to me. I don’t PHYSICALLY practice my artwork every day. I do THINK about my artwork EVERY day. If I’m not physically practicing, I am viewing other people’s artwork, reading about it or watching videos, or thinking about how I might go about doing some technique or trying different things. I might consider in my mind, what if, I do this, or what if, I do something else, or what if, I combine this and that. In my mind I’ll try and imagine what might be the result of doing that ‘what if’ and in some cases it might take me to my art table to see if what I imagined is in fact what happens. Most times though I’m thinking about sketching or painting, especially watercolor and how I blend, or push the paint around. In my mind, I’m creating a number of art pieces.

Here is where some people might consider me crazy, but it is a proven fact that athletes do improve from just meditating on running or doing whatever physical activity they want to do more than if they just practice it physically. I believe this is also true for artists. If it weren’t true then I could never explain how I improved in my portrait sketches after months of not physically doing any drawing and only thinking or using my imagination and creating sketches mentally. So don’t underestimate the power of the mind. If you don’t have the time to physically do the work, I bet you have plenty of mentally free time where you can do the work in your imagination. Waiting in lines at the grocery store for instance, or waiting in a doctor’s office when you don’t have a small travel pack of art materials to play around with. Or waiting in traffic. Or walking the dog. I could go on and on. My point here is I probably create more in my head than I do in physical substance and there isn’t anything wrong with that. In fact,  I believe it is key to learning and becoming a better artist. I just can’t stop…  I do it all the time, sometimes even in my sleep.

What do you think? Let me know. Or just write a comment to let me know you were here and read my post.

Realization strikes…

I realized something the other day and today I decided it was time to write about it. I’m an artist, writer, mother, housekeeper, cashier, and so many other things I couldn’t begin to list them all. Anyone following my blog will know I recently started a new job. This was after a hiatus of no work for about a year and a half after being laid off of my previous job which I had for over 33 years. Being laid off was hard. It was very hard. The shock took a long time to wear off. Getting assistance from a financial advisor helped tremendously in helping me to understand where I was and what I could do. Even so, it was still very difficult to come to terms with the changes this had invoked in my life.

The first change of having so much free time to devote to getting back into touch with my inner artist has been priceless. It has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I didn’t have to convince myself of this. Doing my art was my inner sanctuary. It kept me sane.

Searching for a new job was stressful and beyond my comfort zone. After 33 years of not having to do interviews, write cover letters, and resumes, I was completely out of my element. On top of that I strongly disliked the idea of losing any of the free time I had to delve into my art which also helped me to delve into all those various inner chambers I liked to keep hidden away. And not to mention the time it will take from my time together with my daughter. I worked out of my home so I had unlimited time with her.

I have had people tell me if I change the way I look at things then this change in my life can be exciting and rewarding. I agreed with them. However, this was easier said than done. I tried to tell myself this change would be far better than what I had previously. I tried to tell myself, I can do anything that is placed in front of me. I tried to tell myself many things that were positive and uplifting, but all to no avail.

I often wondered why this was an issue for me. Why couldn’t I just switch my mind from thinking horrible debilitating things to uplifting and a positive outlook? I persevered. Even though I had an emotional breakdown at the first job I tried. I took three months off as my doctor suggested to just recover from all the life changing events which had occurred since 2014 with the diagnosis of breast cancer and recovery, to being laid off in 2016. By this time it was Mid-2016. After the three months I returned to trying to find a job and found I was not getting any responses to my applications. After many months I sought help and now a little over a year and a half later I am now back to work.

Returning to work though was stressful. It was nothing at all like the work I used to do, so I felt like a teenager trying to learn a new job and evaluating whether it would work for me or not. Every day I felt stressed before going into work and sometimes I felt that stress hit the night before when I reminded myself of the time I needed to go into work the next day. I wanted this stress to go away. I needed the stress to go away. I kept reminding myself it would get better each day as I became more comfortable with my job. Each day after work I would come home, tired, feet hurting, sometimes legs hurting if it was an 8 hour shift, and I would put my feet up, pull out my journal and doodle or draw mandalas or both. This is a work in progress of one I’m working on now:

IMG_0917 copy

I have it a bit further along than it shows right now and I’ll show it when it is finished in a later post. Right now though, when I look at this, I realize it bears a bit of resemblance to the stress I feel in its chaotic nature.

Let me get back to that idea of changing how I look at things so that I might change the way I feel. I have often wondered why I had difficulty doing this. That is until recently. I thought about my work and how I feel once I’m there doing the job. I actually enjoy doing the job. After I’m there and I start my shift, all the stress leaves me. All I think about is being as accurate as possible as I scan the products through and learning what I need to do if a customer asks a question or something doesn’t ring up appropriately. Rarely does anything else come into my thoughts. And the activity is soothing. Even though I realized this about my job, I was still having stress before going into work, until one day I thought more about it and realized that work was now a sort of sanctuary for me where my brain can take a break from all the worries and concerns that plague me.

So now, instead of one sanctuary in my art, I now have two sanctuaries, one in my art and one in my work. The very next day when I went to work, I had no more anxiety or stress as I prepared myself to go to work. I no longer feel anxiety or stress when I think about going into work after a couple days off.

Here is the thing. For me, changing my mindset takes more than logically thinking I can do something. It takes more than my mind believing I can do something. In this case it took my whole being, mind, body and soul to find a way to embrace the work I was doing. It took more than just knowing I could do something, it took the realization of what it provides me in return. There had to be a balance. Not just doing something to get paid enough to pay my bills but to do something that brought more into my life and benefited me in ways I wasn’t expecting.

This job is no longer just about earning the money we need. It is about creating it into a sanctuary which provides my core needs/desires. I first took the job in order to help fulfill one of those core desires of needing to feel safe and secure, especially financially. Now, I realize the job helps fulfill other core desires like the need for peace and harmony. When I’m at work, I’m at peace, my mind finds harmony in the repetitive tasks of scanning and talking with the customers. It fulfills other core desires like the need to continually learn about myself and my environment and it has helped with something else which has been sorely tried throughout my life.

I have often been confronted with some of the worst in people and in some cases I found myself slowly being lowered into an abyss of darkness and believing there were more bad, hateful people in this life than good, descent people. This job is helping me to see how wrong I was. Out of the possibly hundred or more people I deal with every day, there may only be one person who would fall into that first category and I have interacted with some marvelous people who have reached out to help a stranger when they needed help without asking anything in return.

I wanted to write about this because I wanted anyone struggling with attempting to change their mindset or outlook, to know, first, it isn’t easy and second it takes making a soul connection with whatever change you are trying to make in order for you to be able to embrace it. For some, that might be easy, for others, like me, not so much. Learning this however may make it easier the next time. I also wanted others to know who may be concerned about my last couple of posts to know, life is improving. I’m finding my way. My body is getting better at handling the increased activity. And mentally I’m feeling much happier about life and about my job. I will find ways to incorporate working on more involved pieces of art but right now, my doodling, my mandalas, my doodling mandala abstract drawings are enough and accomplishing what I need my creativity to do for me.

Survivors

I worked on this piece for a few days, layering and layering acrylic paint. After each layer I gave it a day or so for me to come back to it so I could look at it with fresh eyes. I’m glad I did. I had no forethought for what I wanted this piece to be. Intellectually, I understood the concept of how a sculptor would say, all they did was bring out of the marble or the wood what was already there.

In a way, this is what happened with this painting, but not until the next to last layer. It took a day or two for me to see it. Once, I did, all it took was black and white oil pastels to bring it out.

Survivors

If you like this painting, you can get prints here.

Hope

Below is my latest art journal page.  I came across Journal52 which is a challenge run by Effy Wild. Once a week a prompt is given. When I came across Journal52 they were in week 3. At this writing they are still in week 3. Their week 1 prompt fit my previous art journal page to a tee so I counted it as week 1. Week 2’s prompt is HOPE. I wanted a fitting affirmation statement so I went on the search for one. As soon as I found “I look towards my future with hope and happiness.” I knew it was the right one. Coming across a photo to use as reference for my focal figure of the woman with a shaved head was also perfect for the message I wanted to relay.

prompt-hope

I’ll talk about the message in a moment. First, I’ll describe how I created the art journal spread.

I did a rough sketch of the layout with graphite, some of it changed as I went but mostly it is as I intended it to be. I painted the girl, starting with an Art Crayon in flesh tone, then laying with acrylic paint until I had her the way I wanted her. I then used some prisma colored pencils for finer details and to adjust some shading.

Once the girl was done, I collaged in tissue paper in green, yellow and blue using watered down glue. I used watered down white glue to reduce costs. If this was a commission item I would use collage medium or gel medium. I crumpled the tissue paper to give more texture to the page. I also used red and green for the center of the large flower.

Once the page was dry, I used a brayer to apply acrylic paint over the tissue paper to give it more visual texture, then I used my homemade stamps to stamp in the flowers. The rabbit is a commercial stamp. I added Faber-Castell PITT pens for color and details on the flowers and rabbits. On the large flower I used Prisma Colored Pencils.

After stamping in the flowers I realized the original position for the dove was going to be all wrong. This is the only alteration to the original sketch. Placing the bird much higher has given the spread a more balanced appearance. If the bird had been where I had originally intended it to be, the painting would have been bottom heavy. I then added in the lettering using my black Painters permanent marker.

There are a lot of things I love about this art journal spread. First and foremost it is completely my own. I wasn’t following a video, or in a class, I only used the prompt to help inspire an idea. It isn’t whimsical and it is about my life.

This is where we come to the message. The affirmation statement is how I need to look at my life and future right now.  Since 2014, it has been a long and difficult road. The woman with the shaved head represents me two years ago when in 2014 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and yes I eventually shaved my head when my hair started falling out. In 2016, I was laid off of work after 33 years of devoting my time and expertise. Finding another job has been difficult and I’m still looking.

So this is very much about me surviving cancer and the blow of losing a good job I had devoted my life to and trying to maintain hope and happiness in the midst of it all.

I am doing what I love…. being creative… taking care of my daughter. These are things to be happy about. I see this in my painting.

~Patti