Don’t Cage Me In

Yesterday, in preparation for my Expressive Arts group, I researched mixed media art journalling online.  I was supposed to attend a demonstrative class ahead of time, but there were not enough registrants.  I’ve collaged before, though.  Given that knowledge and my EXA training, I thought I could give enough justice for it to be meaningful for my own group.

There are a tremendous amount of how-to videos posted online!  Several inspirational and beautiful creations with varying styles. I pinned a few on Pinterest, but honestly, it just wet my whistle.  I’m always anxious to just dig in and try different techniques out.

I like the idea of not having a plan in collage, in fact, allowing that to be the goal.  Pick what intrigues you, what triggers you.  And just start mod podging it down to the page without intention or thought.  I felt there were SO many to choose from, so many different techniques in my head; I wanted to try them all.

What I ended up with, in my humble…but critical….brain, was a MESS.  Chaos.  Busy-ness.  With this beautiful wolf left unfettered in the center.  And the words, “Watch Out” standing clearly above her head.

Oh, how I love the wolf.  The image of beauty and fierceness.  I look at her spirit animal meaning and take great honor in seeing, “Sharp intelligence, deep connection with instincts – as well as her feeling threatened – by self and others.”  That certainly resonates with me.  Yet butterflies always show up for me as well.  I have begun to accept her apparent fragility with her amazing messages of transformation.  This I understood as well. I also at the last minute slapped on the words, “living in harmony”, which seemed to fit.  Somehow, I knew this chaos felt…..ok.  Right.


One of the main tasks of Expressive Arts is to look at the created piece as being separate from you; now created, it has something to say.  And the creator, to look upon it and describe what we see.  Not in judgement as an artiste, criticizing it for its faults, but what now did It have to say to us in Its infinite wisdom.  As corny as it may sound, but I actually see the created piece as God speaking back to me.  If I am to believe that the Divine is within me, as in all things, then this piece coming from my soul, has something sacred – from ME – to offer back.  We know clearly what our head says (ad nauseum) about why we chose what we chose or why we think we made an artwork like we did, but there is meaning in what we notice about that creation.  Our psyche often gets hidden withthe voice in our head working non-stop.  Our creations allow us to see inside in a completely different way.

A common question in Expressive Arts: “What surprised you?”  For this project, the clear message it spoke to me, “Don’t cage me in,” was confusing.  There is nothing in my external world holding me back.  My days are wide open.  My husband has never been more supportive or interested.  So, how in the world am I caged in?

Perhaps, I thought, this dear, wild beast is within me, telling ME, “Don’t cage me in.”  Really?, I double-checked. Am I holding back?  Am I still fearful?  Am I worried about my ability to handle a new business?  How it’s going to emerge?  How I can make it succeed?  Where it will take me?

Hell, yes.  Though there’s an excitement in me that says YES!  I can see this happening!  Even “in harmony” living with the chaos.  But there’s also a part of me that says, “I don’t know if you can really do this.  You don’t know shit.”

Thankfully, the more I talk about my vision, doors keep opening for me.  AND, joy of all joys, my groups keep providing me with tremendous positive feedback.

My brain is filled with the jumbled excitement seen outside the wolf of my collage.  It’s exciting; I want to do it all.  Everyday, I have ideas filling me.  There’s a strong message of “Watch Out!” … I come.  I will not be caged or held back.

I feel I’ve been keeping the fear in a harness, holding her back.  Following where I’m lead.  But maybe I’m still doubting.   I do accept that the business part of this scares me!

Is there a place in which you feel you’re holding back in your life?  That you are ready to break forth but either your inner or outer world is keeping you at bay?  What would it take to break that barrier?



get-attachment-20.aspxIn Expressive Arts, after the artwork is completed, we spend time describing it.  Not analyzing it for its meaning, as you might in traditional therapies.  We name what we see, tossing out descriptive words until we’re exhausted of descriptions.  Yesterday, the word “crowded” appeared, and indeed our community sculpture was as we tried to place each of our individual playdough creations onto a small, plastic dinner plate.  I even offered to find a larger surface, as I could feel the discomfort of my participants as they struggled to find a place for their artwork, while respecting their neighbor’s.

Today I began paying more attention to that word, “crowded”, in terms of our daily lives.

In today’s world, we are so over-involved.  We fail to say no to what we really don’t WANT to do, or feel guilty about pulling out of what we thought we sincerely DID want yesterday, but not so much today.   There’s expectations upon us in which we’re afraid of rocking the boat to piss someone off, or worse somehow, hurt their feelings in the process.  There’s even “good” endeavors that we’re involved in — church, volunteering, PTO — that are just one too many things on our plate!  And culturally, if you stay at home, it seems sometimes that you have to prove that you are doing something productive, so we tack on STUFF that has little meaning to our souls.  It ends up just being busy work that is ultimately unfulfilling, which shows up in our exhaustion, depression, stress, addictions, and physical ailments.

It’s hard to say no — to disappoint others or piss them off in standing up for ourselves.  It’s hard for some of us to acknowledge that we are WORTHY of setting those boundaries, having desires/needs that may be contradictory from what others want of us.  That little inkling in our gut gets squashed in our need to be “nice”, “serving”, or “good”.

I’m glad I didn’t go running off to find our group a larger surface.  There really IS only twenty-four hours in a day.  We can’t tack on any more time to be more “nice”.  And sadly enough, this IS our only life we have here on God’s beautiful earth.  It could end tomorrow as we’re still trying to live the life that those others have expected from us, and we shrink smaller and smaller (and sicker and sicker).

Life IS crowded….how do YOU prioritize what is right and good for you?  When will you see that you, your life RIGHT NOW without any changes or do-overs, is worthy of shining?  That the boundaries you may cross could actually help another in the outcome.  It could help them set their own boundaries, help them tackle what they’ve needed for a long time, or more often than not, you’ll be surprised that what you feared would be unwelcome, might actually be inconsequential or a bonus to another.

And go figure….the outcome could really be a beautiful creation!


Leaping into Color

(Big Breath)  My very first Expressive Arts Group.  The road leading up to now has been rocky.  At times I’m full of lightness and creative thought, ideas sparking my every waking (and sleeping) moment, and the next, I’m full of self doubt.
How can I make this happen? If this is what I’m so passionate about, what I feel my life’s purpose is about….what if I SUCK at it?  What if no one is interested?  What if it bombs and no one comes back?
It was such a monumental experience for me, my first forray into Expressive Arts – but honestly, it was just 3 long weekends, do I really feel like I have the capability to facilitate others into the same kind of aha’s and transformative connection to their inner core?
Finally, just days before, I was able to calm myself into a deep knowing that small group bonding and a sense of release in the FUN of childish exploration and creation was all I needed to aim for.  And THAT has my name all over it.  I remember as a child organizing games and competitions at block parties and a neighbor mom encouraging me saying, “You are really good at this!  You should think about doing something like this with your life.”  I chuckled in my childish self, thinking really?  Make a living out of organizing people into playing games? I’ve been dabbling with arts-y ideas for a long time.  When the kids were very young and needed entertainment it is what I gravitated to, at times keeping me sane.  When they went to school, I tried to make an income with my artistic interests; making jewelry, faux wall painting in people’s homes, and always, always writing with the encouragement from others fueling my inner curiousity of writing a book.
But the stinky brain always erupted in my comparing myself to other artists.  “They are so talented!  I’m not good enough!  It’s too hard to make myself stand out.”
Indeed, even after I’d come to grips about my group and not trying to make it bigger than it needed to be….. just. have. fun., I went to a good friend’s house the afternoon before my group.  She’s has been a dance costume designer for 25 years and is often spilling over with creative ideas for financial means using that energy. It was the first time I’d visited her work room and everywhere I looked I saw how much she seemed to LIVE her creative energy.  There were visual messages of ideas hanging by clothes pinned strings, and jottings galore of colorful messages of ideas.  Drawings of visions.  It blew me away.  *I* certainly wasn’t this filled with creative energy or ideas.  In fact, the more I thought of it, my group the next day was rather simple and likely stupid to a person like her.  I left in tears, though I wouldn’t let her see them, thinking what a big zero I was.  How in the world could I possibly imagine that I had this in me to do?  I didn’t live my talk.  I still have issues with just……..creating……for creation sake.  I can copy things, I enjoy making STUFF…..but I usually need someone else’s vision.  It’s hard for me to make “ugly” art.  I like color and pretty and Oooo’s and Ahhh’s.  How the hell can I ask others to do this brave work of letting go when it’s so hard for ME to do?!
Thankfully, I recognized the shame messages right away given my love of Brene Brown, (if you don’t know this name, give yourself a gift and listen to her talk or pick up one of her books.  Start with the Gifts of Imperfection!) I knew these were the monkey mind stink messages that we send ourselves that keep us small.  Exactly the messages that stifle our creativity.  By believing that we’re not worthy of _______ until we gain ___________ is utter bullshit.  A dark hole that keeps us walking a narrow line of unfulfilled dreams.  Namely, my message of I’m not worthy of helping others until I’m proficient at this was shutting me down in my ability to begin this group in the morning.  Damaging beyond belief.  Possibly in our present learning and struggle …..and SHARING that openly…..allows others to learn in the same struggle.  And be open in sharing their own.
So, thankfully to some wonderful, wise, online women and my present guru, Brene Brown, I slept well and woke with a new sense of purpose and acceptance.  And somehow a knowing that what I was bringing would reach each person in a special way that was needed for them.
And yahoo….. afterwards, I’m singing and dancing and shouting from the rooftops.  It was wonderful.  Releasing and fun and energizing.  And my head is BURSTING with joy and love and energy as I have completed this very first group.  Coming once again to this beautiful affirmation that I LOVE THIS WORK.  This is what I’m meant to do!
"This whimsical fun is a magical piece of my practice."
“This whimsical fun is a magical
piece of my practice.”