How to Beat Back Fear

Grow Wild – mixed media on canvas, 12 x 12″

Every time I sit at my studio table, stare at a blank canvas or page in an art journal, I feel the dark, dank tendrils of fear slithering up my spine. They scurry throughout the dendrites of my brain, plump with their insidiously sour whisperings about why I must stop. Now. Before I prove my worst fear true: I am inadequate to the task.

And every time I put paint brush to canvas or word to print or complete any task I set out to do fearing I can’t, I beat back fear.

Painting has taught me, I must feel the fear. See. it. Acknowledge it even. And then, I must transform it through taking action.

It doesn’t matter if the action leads to a ‘masterpiece’. What matters is, I stepped into the fray, faced my fears and forged on.

Creativity is the art of facing fear down with action. Action that takes you into the very territory fear is trying to keep you out of. Your fear of facing your magnificence, your beautiful self expression of your soul’s calling to be witness to all of life. Your fear of moving beyond your comfort zone. Of facing your fears, and the world. Your way. Wild and Free.

Perhaps, that’s what makes one person dive into their creativity while another will insist they don’t have any – the willingness to face fear again and again and again and still keep going.

Perhaps, it is our definition of ‘creativity’ that needs to expand so that we can all see how inherently creative it is to be human.

I have a friend who constantly says she is not creative, even though she is a marvelous cook, seamstress, friend. One of the things she does that always strikes me as an expression of her creative nature is to make beautiful meals for friends in moments of distress. She artfully packages each meal up with flowers and a beautifully penned note of support and delivers them to her friends in need. Yet, when I point out this is another viewpoint of creative expression, she brushes off my assertions with a, “That’s not very creative. It’s just what friends do.”

“Don’t you worry about intruding on their grief or pain?” I ask. (I have a fear of intruding when people are in moments of distress.)

“Sometimes,” she replies. “But I also know how much comfort someone feels when a friend turns up at their door with a gift of food and flowers when the last thing they can think about is what to make for dinner. So I do it anyway.”

See. Facing fear with action to create beauty, comfort, and ease in the world around you.

Yesterday, a friend picked up one of my paintings he’d purchased. One of his comments touched me deeply. “I love your art,” he said. “It’s so peaceful.” (Thank you BC)

I have never thought of my work as ‘peaceful’. Yet, when he said it, I felt the peace that consumes me when I face my fear of the blank canvas and lay down swathes of color and texture. Perhaps, that is what my friend sees and feels – the peace and joy within me, expressing itself outward onto the canvas.

The great Russian abstract painter, Vassily Kandinsky said, “Color is a power which directly influences the soul.”

I paint with color. It is an expression of my soul. It soothes my mind, my body, my being present.

It calms my fears and, even though I hadn’t realized it before, it stirs my courage awake. Awakened, I beat back fear. Not with angry words and protestations against its presence. But with the most loving, kind thing I can do for myself. Get creating.

And while I often don’t know where I’m going with a painting until I get there, the fastest route to get beyond my fear to find out where I’m going, is to let the colors lead my body into self-expression.

So thank you BC. Not just for your friendship and support of my work, but for your words. They touched me deeply and bring me great joy. And have given me a window into my own self-expression I hadn’t opened before. Much gratitude.

Namaste

Unfurling

I awoke with the first stanza of this poem drifting through my mind.

When I wrote it down, the second stanza wrote itself out as if it knew its truth long before I heard the words calling.

When I went in search of an image to include with it, the image above was the first image I opened on my computer. It is from the Sheltered Wonder art journal Icreated last year to mark all I’d learned, experienced and grown through during the initial months of our sequestered solitude.

The body knows even when the mind doubts.

Yesterday, in response to a comment by the lovely and thoughtful Kiki, I told her I wished I’d taken a video of the raw journal. And then… while I was looking for something else, I accidentally uncovered the 19 sec video I’d taken of my Learning to Fly art journal before I started to create the images and quotes.

The body knows even when the mind doubts (or as in this case, forgets).

Since completing the LtF journal, I have been working on pieces for the Vale’s Greenhouse, Cultivation of Art Show and Sale I’m in June 18, 19, 20.

Initially, I was hesitant. Worried. Fearful of moving from art journal to canvas.

I love the freedom of the art journal. There is no right or wrong way. There are no rules. Anything goes.

The Canvas… well there my mind starts to impose rules. It has to be ‘good’. Sale-worthy. Meaningful. Impressive…

I balked. Stalled. Procrastinated.

And then I listened to my body. I sank out of my thinking mind into the font of knowing deep within my belly.

Just start, my body whispered. Just start and let whatever is yearning to appear find its way into expression.

And so I did.

And so it has.

And I am reminded again, the body knows even when the mind doubts.

Blossoming – mixed media on canvas board – 10 x 10″
Nurture your dreams – mixed media on canvas board – 10 x 10″

Leafing Out – Lessons from the canvas

Leafing Out — Mixed media on canvas – 10 x 10″

I find some transitions hard.

Like going from autumn to winter. Here in Alberta it can happen in less than a day, just as spring can pop out and then be burdened again with snow. Some days, like this morning when Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I went for our walk, I’m not prepared for the sudden leap backwards from 22C (72F) yesterday to 3C (37F) this morning – my hands were really cold!

Another transition I find challenging is moving from working in my art journal to a canvas. My mind starts chattering about how ‘There are rules when painting on a canvas.” “A canvas can’t be wasted.” “Make it good.” “Don’t mess up.” “This isn’t as much fun…’

Which is what happened when I went back to working on a painting I’d begun a couple of weeks ago in preparation for an art show I’m in next month.

The under-painting

I had an idea of what it ‘should’ be. Big pops of colourful flowers on the background of smaller flowers I’d already painted.

I worked hard to make my vision come into reality.

But it just wasn’t happening. I felt stiff. Confined. Like it was all just turning to muck and mud.

I took a breath. Stepped back. Made myself a cup of tea and contemplated what was going on.

It wasn’t that the painting was awful. It was that my mindset was full of ‘stinkin thinkin’.

I was getting caught up in my expectations of how it should be, versus allowing whatever was seeking to appear to find its way into expression.

I wasn’t letting it be. I was trying to make it become…

And that’s why I was feeling so frustrated and uncomfortable. That’s why the critter was prattling on about how I couldn’t paint. How I wasn’t good enough. How my art sucked.

To find my inner knowing/intuitive self, I had to shut off my thinking mind and get into my ‘belly brain’. I needed to allow myself to sink deep into my body so that I could be present with the process instead of trying to force it into what I was trying to make it become.

It was a great lesson.

Getting stuck in your head. Dousing yourself in self-judgement. Self-criticism. Self-harshness and a desire to control the outcome all play a role in limiting joy, self-expression, creativity and passion.

To live life fully I must release myself from expectations. I must let go of the outcome to fall deeply into the process of being alive in this moment. Right now. Unfolding in all its ineffable mystery.

When I hold on too tightly to the outcome, I lose sight of where I am, what I’m doing, how I’m being in this moment right now.

I’m pretty sure spring leaves don’t tell the tree, I’ll only leaf out if I can be 3 inches long, two inches wide and a certain green hue. And they definitely don’t say, “Oh. And I’ll only unfurl if you promise to not make me turn orange and fall later in the season.” They leaf out fully immersed in the journey of leafing out.

To be fully immersed in my life, I must release my need to control the journey and throw myself with wild abandon into each moment unfurling in the deep unfathomable mystery of life.

Namaste

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A Most Glorious Adventure

Click the Spotify link below to hear the short story in this post

or CLICK HERE to listen

final page and insert in the “Learning to Fly” art journal I’ve been working in.

I have been MIA from social media for a few days. Though, for me, ‘MIA isn’t – missing in action’. It refers to ‘Mesmerized in Art-making’.

I have been creating and, when I get so immersed I lose sight of the world around me, of all that is happening as I dive deep into creative exploration.

Yesterday, I completed the final pages of the Learning to Fly art journal I’ve been working on for the past few weeks.

This morning, I’ve come up for air, but not for long, I’ve an art show to get ready for in June and another project I’ve started to work on that has a deadline I can’t miss and a host of small tasks to complete.

Life is full and wonderful!

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About this artwork:

As I sat down to work on this page, I wrote out a little story that had popped into my mind and was calling to be released. It guided the page’s creation.

“Standing at the river’s edge she cast her dreams out into its rushing waters. And the river caught her dreams and carried them out to a distant sea where mermaids sang and dolphins leaped and stars were born in the skies above.

As she stood watching her dreams float away, she heard the mermaids’ sweet song and built a boat of wishes strung together with her hopes untied from her fears. Holding onto nothing but her desire to catch her dreams, she set sail to find the distant sea she’d always dreamt of.

And then, one day, while she was sailing to the murmur of the mermaids chanting, surrounded by leaping dolphins and falling stars cascading into the waters all around, she heard the calling of her wings unfolding.

Joyfully, she cast aside all her doubts and leapt into the unknown, light as air, radiant as a moonbeam.

And in that moment, she flew high and fell in love with her dreams soaring all around as life unfolded in the mystery and magic of her dreams coming true.

“What a most glorious adventure,” she called out to the sun and the moon and the stars and the sea. And the mermaids sang and the dolphins danced and stars shimmered in the depths above and below her.

And so… the story begins…

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The story was freefall writing that simply appeared on the page, the consonants and vowels pouring out the tip of my pencil.

I felt immersed in the magic and mystery of dancing with the muse, untethered from the need to ‘get it right’, perfect, ‘just so’.

What a gift of nature!

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My art table when I began in the morning…

The photos below are the final spreads from the journal –

The Choice.

The Choice — mixed media page — Learning to Fly art journal

Yesterday, I took a risk.

I’m glad I did.

The affirmation, confirmation and support I received filled my heart with gratitude and joy. I felt alive.

Which got me wondering… Do I take enough risks?

Oh, not the jump out of an airplane or ski down virgin terrain on a steep backcountry mountain kind of risk but the emotional, spiritual, deeply personal risk of vulnerability.

Sadly, I think the answer may be… not often enough.

Which is why I write here.

To teach myself to live life wide open. My heart unlocked. My psyche unsheathed. My entire being unarmoured-up.

To stretch my vulnerability muscles, to expand my willingness to be real, authentic, known. To increase my capacity to live outside my comfort zone – I must choose vulnerability.

‘Cause in many instances, that’s what living ‘sheltered’ behind our protective walls and habitual nature of hiding our ‘true nature’ is – A fear response to dangers unknown about which we are constantly negative fortune-telling in order to protect ourselves from hurts we experienced in the past and fear will happen again.

It is such a convoluted story we tell ourselves about what could happen. And because we don’t want it to happen, we tell ourselves we have to armour-up when in reality, disposing of our armour and allowing ourselves to be wholly present and vulnerable is what keeps us safe.

I remember when, after being released from a relationship that was killing me, I received a call one morning telling me that the man who wanted me gone had escaped from jail. “We don’t know where he is,” the detective told me on the phone, “but we figure he’s probably going to try to find you.”

In one instant all my hard won peace of mind evaporated and I was catapulted into a raging storm of fear engulfing every cell of my being. I remember taking Ellie, my Golden Retriever who had gone through much of that journey with me and been my ballast and comfort for so much of it, for a walk in the forest where we had walked every day since his arrest.

Suddenly, every rustle of leaf, every crack of twig, every shadow was ‘him’ waiting to leap out of the bushes and drag me back into the past.

I remember standing amidst the towering pines and crying, trying to force myself to keep walking further along the path. I couldn’t do it. I turned and ran back to my apartment, slamming the door shut and lying on my bed sobbing.

And then… it struck me.

He had absolutely no idea where I was and had no way of finding out. We had had zero contact since his arrest months before.

While he was a danger, he was not a real and present danger. It was my thoughts playing havoc with reality.

I had a choice. Live behind locked doors or go out into the sunshine. I unlocked the door and Ellie and I went for our walk.

Sure, there were niggles of fear wafting around me but I chose to risk facing them rather than armour-up against them.

It has been a constant learning in my life. To un-armour myself when my mind is screaming at me to raise the drawbridge, man the ramparts and take cover.

And the only way I know to do that is to face what I fear and risk — being vulnerable, real, authentic — and… to love myself, all of me, warts and wisdom, darkness and light, beauty and the beast.

And so… I write it out.

What about you? Are you willing to take a risk today?

I Am Not Broken

The painting I’ve used to illustrate this poem is from my She Persisted Series. When I wrote this poem yesterday, I considered going into the studio and creating a painting to go with the words (but after six hours of cleaning the garage, I was too tired! – Not sure why I thought it would only take a couple of hours but hey! I’m always the optimist.). I still may do that but this painting, which is No. 37 in the series, felt ‘right’.

I AM NOT BROKEN
by Louise Gallagher

I am not broken
though I do have cracks

I am not cracked
though I do have wounds

I am not wounded
though I do have scars

I am not scarred
though I do have cuts

I am not
My breaks
Or cracks
Or wounds
Or scars
I am not my cuts.

I am beautiful.
Whole.
Full 
of incomparable
broken places 
revealing
cracks 
healing
wounds 
bursting 
into wisdom 
scars strengthening
cuts that cut deep
to forge 
beauty from
the ashes
of the places
that have shaped 
me.

I am not broken.
I am.
Beautiful.
Brave.
Bold.

I am woman.
I am me. 

I hadn’t intended to write two poems yesterday morning but… having spent much of my life learning to heed the muse’s urgings, I could not ignore her call to write this one out.

And so… I did.

What The Moon Did.

When I am talking with my 10-month old granddaughter I like to pretend her baby-talk is really a conversation we’re having about… well… who knows what? Neither of us really do, but I love to pretend that she is telling me some outlandish, totally engaging story and will answer with nursery rhymes. As in, “What? You saw the cow jump over the moon? Oh my goodness. What did the moon do?” And when she replies with some indecipherable sounds, I respond. “Oh. Really? And then you heard the little dog laugh? Oh my. What did his dish do?”

As I worked on my ‘moonstruck’ spread in my Learning to Fly art journal yesterday, memories of my recent two weeks with my grandchildren kept floating through my body. My mind savoured each morsel, my hands remembered the touch of their skin, my olfactory nerves their sweet just-out-of-the-bath smell. My fingers traced the line of their chin and felt their tiny hands touching mine while my eyes savoured the memory of their beautiful faces smiling at me.

And I painted and splashed paint and drew stars and a moon as the magic and mystery of memory envelopped me.

it was one of those sublimely calming and delightful afternoons where news of still rising case counts and possible harsher restrictions faded away beneath the sounds of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and one of my new favourites which continually urges me stand up and dance around my studio, Sam Ryder’s “Tiny Riot“.

If butterflies can use their wings to turn the wind to hurricanes 
You and I can break the chains, it takes a day to 

Start a tiny riot
Stop being so goddamn quiet 
Got a spark in your heart so strike it 
Crush your way up here 
Turn the pouring rain to a tidal wave

And here’s the serendipity and pure magic of it all. This morning, I checked out Eugi’s Causerie to see what this week’s prompt was and was a little disappointed I’d already shared my art journal page with all the butterflies fluttering.

“Oh well,” I told myself. “If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.”

And then I began writing my blog not thinking about butterflies but rather, thinking about the magic of my afternoon in the studio and the wonder and awe of time spent savouring memories of time with my two grandchildren.

When I wrote about the music I was listening to, I included “Tiny Riot” as one of the songs I was listening to because… well… I probably listened and danced to it 3 or 4 times while I painted yesterday.

But here’s the thing. I’d never focused on the lyrics before and thought it might be fun to include a few lines here. And that’s when the magical became mystical and wonder and awe enveloped me. Because, when I looked up the lyrics, butterflies ‘fluttered’ their way onto the page.

Isn’t life just the most magical, mystical, magnificent journey?

I hope your day is full of magic and mystery, wonder and awe and that serendipity catches you in the most unexpected moments of joy!

Namaste

_________________________

While I started this post not intending to have it be in response to Eugi’s prompt “FLUTTER” — it is!

It’s fun to play with a prompt – and easy to do too!

Just click on over to Eugi’s Causerie to either read what others have created or contribute your own! I do hope you do. There’s lots of wonder and awe fluttering around the many beautiful responses!

_________________

Oh. And in case you feel like dancing…

She whispered to the sun and the moon and the sea and the trees, “Yes I can!” and the sun and the moon and the sea and the trees gave her wings courage.

And with every whispered, “Yes I can!” her dreams grew brighter and her wings grew stronger.

Heeding the call of her hart’s yarning for companionship on the way, she joined hands with her sisters and together, they created a better world for everyone.

While I do not think that ‘time’ is the healer, I do believe it makes space for healing. As in, my head is feeling better after getting bonked by a mirror a week ago.

I find this part of any healing journey fascinating. Each day there’s an incremental difference until one morning, like today, I wake up and feel like I’ve fallen over the side of ‘will this ever end’ and am now floating in a vast pool of sunlight where ‘this’ is no longer swimming right in front of my face but drifting off with the river’s flow. And though the bruising and cut are still visible, inside, where it matters most, I feel the sunshine bathing my face in its golden glory, the wind whispering sweet nothings through my hair and the cool crisp air of the morning dancing on sparkling rainbows of light on the river of life flowing freely all around me.

It’s a brand new day!

And I feel all new and shiny again.

Yeah!

Which also means, my postponed trip to help my daughter and son-in-love is back on. I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning, bright and early.

I am grateful.

It’s funny how tables, and life, turn. When my daughters were young, my mother was the last person I wanted to come and help me as there was too much angst, too much drama in our relationship to make her ‘help’ a welcome gift.

With my daughter, we have created a relationship where my help is welcome, where my presence is a gift for both of us. My mother’s heart flows full of gratitude for my daughter’s welcome embrace and willingness to constantly grow our relationship in Love.

I am blessed. Grateful and feeling full of the grace of life and love.

I won’t be online much for the next couple of weeks. I wish you a beautiful spring sojourn.

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About the Artwork

This is spread 6 & 7 in my Learning to Fly art journal – as with all the pages, it is in response to my 20 Attitudes and Actions on living the life of your dreams — These pages are a response to Attitudes and Actions No.s 10 &11 –

10. Write down all the reasons you can. Post your list on the mirror, the fridge, somewhere you will see it every day—read it often—and add to it everyday.

11. Tell a friend/mentor what you plan on doing. Ask your friend/mentor to be your accountability buddy.

The Story of Your Dreams

"You carried the story of your dreams with you when you came into this world. They were written on your heart in the world beyond this place where miracles are birthed in the magic that is real and the mystical that is always present. You carried your dreams with you into life and all that matters now is you become the story of your dreams unfolding."

I wrote the quote above in freefall writing yesterday. It was my first time back in the studio since Monday. Before the fall.

It has a certain poetic drama, doesn’t it? Before the fall.

Like Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. Or the Roman Empire before it fell apart.

Coining it to describe the mirror that fell on my head is me taking great poetic license and an exaggeration. It is obviously not of the same significance but, everything is relative. A small thing in the big picture can be a big thing in our own experience.

Yet, so often we attempt to minimize our experiences. To devalue their impact.

Years ago, when I was spending a lot of time in groups of women healing from experiences of the really painful ‘love (that was actually abuse) gone wrong’ kind, women would often say when someone recounted their story, “I know what you’re going through. Of course, my story isn’t as bad as yours…”

The fact is, every story we tell has value – it isn’t good or bad — it is of value to our experience. And when we tell it in a way that opens doors and windows to our heart, we release ourselves to create a new story. Diminishing our own story limits how wide the doors and windows of our heart can open.

For me, a bump on the head that slows me down is a big thing. It’s a call to wake up and pay attention to my body. To ‘get into my body’, not ‘out of my head and into my body’ but to be all of it, head and body. It is one unit, one being, one ‘thing’. There is no separation. no dividing line that says, “This is your head job. This is your body’s work.” It is all one.

And here’s the thing for me. When my body is hurting, I like to power through by pasting a smile on my face and ‘carrying on’ as if nothing is amiss. I let my mind override whatever my body is feeling as if my mind is in charge.

It’s not.

The body and mind are all and one of the same unit. They are all of me and I need all of me to be present, working as a wholistic being on creating substance to my dreams — the one’s that were written on my heart (and in every strand of my DNA) before I was born.

So… This time, I’m taking a different tack. I’m taking care of all of me, first.

See! It’s never too late to do things differently.

Which is also why I headed into the studio yesterday afternoon – it was R ‘n R.

There is something that happens when I sit down at my worktable and get present to the unknown, the invisible, the muse’s urgings I let appear what is calling itself into being.

In those moments, I know there is no separation between mind and body, heart and soul. I am all present. All in harmony.

And that’s exactly what happened yesterday.

I opened my “Learning to Fly” art journal and found myself exactly where I was, as I was. Present in the flow of all that is when I stop trying to compartmentalize my body from my head and acting as if my body’s trying to play a con job on my mind.

When I get present, my dreams get real.

Accidents Happen

On Monday, the wind blew fierce through the trees where Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I walk.

It was scary.

As we walked, my body bent forward into the wind, I wondered… on days like today, does the wind blow so fierce because the trees want to dance with wild abandon?

Do they plead with the wind as it blows through their branches telling the stories it has gathered on its travels around the world?… “We’re tired of being rooted to the ground,” the trees wail. “Tired of just holding your stories in our branches. We want to live them. Feel them. Dance with them. Come, blow fierce and mighty through our branches. Let us bend and bow, swirl and sway as we devour every drop of wonder you carry in your mighty breath.”

And does the wind, heeding the calling of the trees’ desire to dance wild and free, rise up and howl in delight, as the trees throw all caution to the wind and dance with abandon in the ecstasy of the wind’s breath?

I decided not to throw caution to the wind and shortened our walk. The threat of being hit by a falling tree limb separating itself from the canopy of naked limbs dancing above was high. Prudence was the name of the game.

The next morning, as I got ready for our walk and closed the door of my bedroom closet, it hit me.

Literally. The door hit me in the forehead. It was propelled by our dresser mirror which, since moving into this house three years ago, had not been mounted to the two wooden bars that should/could/would have kept it in place.

We’d known the movers hadn’t reattached it. Didn’t seem like a big deal. It was relatively stable resting on the dresser. Until it wasn’t.

It’s a big mirror. The force of it hitting the door knocked me to the floor. It also resulted in a gash and lump on my forehead as well as a black eye.

Fortunately, I broke its fall. I’m sure my mother would have said (she was extremely superstitious) that breaking a mirror that size would have required more prayers than even she could have managed!

After two days of doing little, I feel a little more normal this morning – though I won’t be driving to Vancouver as planned to help my daughter and family.

This accident could have been easily prevented had the mirror been properly attached.

But then, many accidents can be prevented.

It’s just, sometimes, we don’t take care of the small things which, left to their own devices, can become big things.

Like a mirror falling on my head and giving me a black eye and a scar to remember it by.

Time to refocus, reassess, restore balance.

Time for a time out…. Perhaps, now that the wind has stopped, I’ll go lie in the winter dry grasses under the canopy of filigreed branches that stretch up towards the sky seeking the sun’s warmth.

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I haven’t had the capacity to focus on writing the past couple of days.

However, as April is “National Poetry Month” and this month’s theme is ‘resilience’ I wanted to start the month off right with a poem – my intent is to write a poem a day for the month – I am not committing myself to it. I am allowing myself to simply be present within the intention – body, mind and spirit – allowing it to happen, or not.

I did however, want to honour the wind and trees and their dance…

Wild, the wind blows fierce
Naked limbs dance in delight
Birds seek safe harbor.

And…. this post is also a response to the weekly prompt posted at Eugi’s Causerie.

The prompt is to use the word ‘canopy’ in any of its forms, in a post.

To read more, and to participate — please do check out the blog — it is full of delightfully delicious words and images and ideas to set your mind a wandering and your spirits soaring.