healing shame and painting true stories anew

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Under the new under-painting on this board, lies a painting I haven't been able to look at for a few years now, because of an offhand comment - that was meant to be a joke - by someone I love dearly…

work-in-progress, painting over a painting (musing at blog about healing and transforming through art), Hali Karla Arts

In my family, it is always said that "laughter is medicine"... and this is, of course, true. At times.

But not in the wrong dose, at the wrong time. Not when the jokes or comments poke, minimize, or completely distort something that actually holds deeper value or is personally connected to someone else in the room, or their struggles, experience or process.

Am I sensitive? Absolutely. Too sensitive? At times, sure.

AND - sensitivity is the root of my strength as an artist and healing+caring soul, too. But it took me years to see that. Years to be told, to see for myself, and to believe that this is why so many say they feel seen by me. Because I see what others miss, overlook, neglect to consider.

I’m an artist - we see. I’m a healer, of the soulful sort - we get pain points. Because we have seen and been hurt and have had to transform, again and again.

In order to feel like I belonged, was lovable and wouldn't be abandoned or rejected (again) as a kid, I felt I had to laugh at what wasn't so funny to me (even if it was about me), deny my own hurt when others were insensitive or unaware or unable to see beyond their own perception/experience, let myself fade so others could live and think and laugh undisturbed, and hide my true feelings, interests, desires and needs. I have a fire in me, and this wasn’t always easy….

We all have some story like this, some variation of changing or denying ourselves in some way to fit in with the environment and people we grew up with.

This, on top of some truly shitty traumas in my childhood, was a recipe for some serious Shame. About who I am, what I've been through, how I did or didn’t respond, the weight I carry, what I'm worthy or capable of, have a right to want, and what I create.

I'm now ready to transform this painting in the right ways, for the right reasons. The perspective shift had to come first, though. And that took a few years, with this painting turned toward the wall of my studio, while I left the art piece to investigate what it had triggered in my life.

While the comment made about this painting was really more about the insensitivity of someone else's humor, it became an invitation back into a raw feeling I needed to revisit, remember and recognize as still untended - to get back to the root of unconscious conditioning, pain and disempowerment.

To Be With that Little Me, hiding away, feeling misunderstood and unseen, and in so much pain.

To get mad and NOT bury it… and then, by the gift of grace, forgive.
To bless, and not blame.

To disentangle from what was never my shit to begin with, and pick up what I always had a right to call my own and to feel.

To lay rest, set free, and rise up once again, a little bit lighter and true.
It takes time, and it takes the time it takes.

Painting over her now - the one who is peeking through on that board - is not an act of covering up or hiding in shame, in the ways I did to get by before. Or how it would have been if I had just covered her up in the wake of the comment that burned. Instead, it is composting what served its purpose, to grow a new story once and for all - my story, my laughter, my perspective and truth… with all my creative needs and vital sensitivity, too.

So, I say to the spirit of the first painting as she begins her metamorphosis: Rest in peace, sweet+unexpected instigator of healing, with your downcast eyes. Your creation story is much more than I imagined, and ready for its next life-cycle of becoming.

To you, dear reader, I say this: if you are a sensitive or intuitive soul, it is no accident or defect. This is how God made you to be, in this time. It is a medicine the world needs more of, and adds depth and attentiveness to your creativity. It is the maker of true strength and compassion. Do not doubt this power you’ve been gifted. Use it to see, feel, guide, express, engage, empower, challenge, heal and know others and Life beyond the superficial. Use it to transform every story or coping behavior that ever held you back or down or put you in hiding or unhealthy cycles of shame. See and Be Seen. Do not be afraid.

~ h

why does art even matter on days like today

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There are some days when you wonder what good is art and art-making for. Why does it even matter? Really. How does it help this world be a better place, in this time?

A normal day can have this question floating around on the periphery anyway, thanks to a culture with backwards values or families/friends who don't get art, can't relate and think you should have chosen something different/more financially sound/more clearly of service or 'helpful' or understandable to society (whether they say that out loud or not).

And then there are those days when, on top of that, the hate and bigotry of the world comes crashing in loudly, when the suffering just lands a little more palpably on your heart, for whatever reason.

Picking up a paintbrush to make something can feel deeply insignificant on days like that. Days like today for me, with news of the New Zealand shooting. I am an artist who paints and prays most every day, and yet how does that really matter in the face of religious bigotry and murder… an issue that enrages my mind and completely breaks my heart…?

Ultimately, though, I believe this un-settledness and questioning as an artist is a good and necessary thing.

Here are a few reasons…

It can move us to the action and connection that we are able to take and make, to learn more than we knew yesterday about 'others', using the voice we do have to speak up and out and for the causes that break our hearts in the world.

Also, we get the privilege to choose to pick up the paintbrush (or what-have-you) anyway, because there is still This, Now, Right Here for Now... and to feel our smallness in that, and our sense of helplessness moving us into the life before us, and the complete blessing of that breathing, living moment to choose to do what we have been called to do.

And because art gives hope and beauty and expression to the despair AND the interconnectedness of our souls. Sometimes in process, sometimes on our wall, or on a doodle we kept from 20 years ago to help us remember who we are. Sometimes the art is for the artist, sometimes for the {audience}. This is the Mystery of Creative Spirit and the creative process moving through our lives, if we let it have time and space to be seen, to bring perspective to the precious moments.

As long as we are not using our creative activities to bypass or just numb-dumb out to what needs to be felt and given attention, but rather as a means to feel whole, to re-activate, to feel more deeply all that We are… then maybe it is not so insignificant after all, to pick up a paintbrush and move into heightened states of processing and awareness, witness and focus, and the altar of Being.

Being part of this messy human family.

It can all feel so utterly destructive and hopeless some days, like today - or any day you stay tuned in to the news lately, it seems… but after picking up my paintbrush anyway this afternoon, I remembered something else.

I believe art and creative expression is part of the ancient lineage of medicine for all of that. Some of us are called to it, even though its place in the healing and function of this world is not always clear or ‘productively’ measurable. It’s even part of how we can connect more deeply to the suffering, loss and the inconceivable, to what is needed or missing moving forward, to our part in it all… while keeping our channels open to what is sacred, beautiful, hopeful, connective and healing.

And that is the kind of creative energy that gives momentum to meaningful change, perspective and relationships in our lives.