How art saved me...
“To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg”
I know you haven't seen much from Garnet & Ashes lately. Having navigated a rather turbulent year, and rediscovering my footing, I am reemerging from a period of intensive self-reflection and change. I had surgery near the end of 2016 to alleviate chronic pain from endometriosis and early in 2017, moved across the city. More changes are on the horizon as I am set to start a graduate program in Expressive Arts Therapy in September 2017 at The Create Institute. This is vitally important work for me – I am going in with the focus of being able to pass the torch of inspiration to others challenged by lack of traditional tools and support while experiencing life's turbulence. Please stay tuned as I share my experiences of helping others build resilience through the act of creating and becoming, through their own chosen forms of self-expression. Art saved my life by giving voice to my inner wounds and I want to pass it on. All of my work sold going forward will be helping support my studies over the next few years! (*I've also started a fundraiser to help achieve this essential goal!)
For most of my life, the timeless story of The Ugly Duckling has resonated with me as a metaphor for my life. Having always felt like I was hatched in the wrong nest, I've been searching for my identity, niche and home ever since. Many a time have I found myself chased away from environments and situations that felt inhospitable to someone who lacked the conventional accoutrements one acquires through a healthy foundational model that are essential for being accepted in a typical social 'flock' and setting. I attempted, over and over, to conform to societal scripts and wanted to fit in desperately, but every time I tried, I failed. The truth is that without a healthy developmental foundation, attempting to climb a ladder that isn't yours with rungs missing is exhausting and fruitless. Despite my feeling of being an outsider, I refused to succumb to my circumstances and from a young age, it became my ultimate intention to overcome the adversity that had robbed me of typical experiences, to create the life that I wanted. I was determined not to let my adult identity and quality of life be compromised.
Mainly, I didn't have the advantages that so many people take for granted. I lacked essential things like basic nurturing and guidance, a traditional/consistent/normal and/or stable daily "healthy" life due to a dysfunctional and abusive childhood. My sister and I were tossed from one foster home to another (where I experienced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse), changing schools and not gaining the stability that comes from such habitual patterns of behaviour that makes one secure and sure in their footing, "normality" was anything but familiar to me. We lacked what psychologists call a "coherent narrative". As a child I remember feeling as though I never fit in: at home or outside of it. This followed me well into adulthood. I don't remember experiencing pure unadulterated joy either – it is something that always seemed elusive. The constant threat in childhood of being torn away loomed over me so that during those brief moments of happiness (eg: swimming in a pool on a hot summer day with my best friend in childhood) were always clouded by the terror of impending separation that would see me returning to yet another foster home. My heart always felt heavy and full of sadness and this likely made me stand out in a crowd of relatively stable people. Overtime, and over many years I might add, I had to teach myself how to be happy – and yet this was a pivotal insight gained – I realised I had some control over my wellbeing and circumstances if I took action to help myself, I had to teach myself how to live in the world as my own guiding light. No one was going to save me, but me - and that required action.
I don't share any of this to ensure I have your sympathy, but rather to provide a glimpse of the larger picture that has been my life. Nothing has come easily to me. I have had to crawl most of the way uphill only to have my footing removed from underneath me when I thought I was finally getting ahead. And yet, one thing has been my constant through all of my hardships: my ability to create. Through all the anxiety, rejection and unsure footing, the buttery mass of pigment to canvas through painting has guided my turbulent thoughts and emotions and given it all a tangible voice. My screams of silence, frustration, beauty, and empowerment, now quietly hang on walls in homes across the world – all extensions of my tempestuous inner world. Glimpses of epiphanies and triumphs, all expressed though paint and line. Creativity has instilled resilience and persistence in me whenever I am faced with difficulties. Indeed, it has been my own personal compass and lighthouse. It has given me a quality of life that has replaced the emphasis on a passionate struggle to be happy with a more sustainable long road form of contentedness in the form of meaning, and purpose.
My "home" it turns out, is in the form of my own painted hatchlings. Through my creations, I've become part of a family in the form of a supportive, artistic community and flock. I've allowed myself self-examination through the therapeutic practise of creating. In turn, I have nurtured myself into self-awareness and now have the ability to experience joy. Art saved me, now it's time to pass on the secret key of resilience to others; the inner swan.
(*You can help me by donating to the fundraiser I've started to help me achieve this goal!)