Healing In Love

Narcissism vs. Self-Love

We live in a culture steeped in selfishness. Narcissism is really about getting your needs met off of the backs and energy of other people. It is an issue starting when someone does not learn to get their needs met in healthy ways. It gets tough to discern due to seeing so many examples of people being self-serving or harming others to get their way. 

For me LOVE is the difference. As many of us found out early on, you can get in great shape, have designer jeans, and frequent the salon and be completely miserable within.  It is not about what others think of us or how we compare to them either because these feelings are rooted in inadequacy. We take care of ourselves or really “control” our outward appearances due to deep insecurities and fear that we will not fit in. What is at the deep heart of the issue is really a longing for feeling loved. 

Many of us go in search of relationships believing that we will find love. Often we become disillusioned and confused when what we actually get is a struggle and added feelings of inadequacy and/or insecurity. I like to think of this position as being in a pool of water that feels a bit tainted. We struggle with changing our relationship patterns and even go from one disappointing relationship to the next. 

If someone promised you there was a way out that involved healing and refuge would you take it? Imagine a bridge between the that tainted water into a clear, clean, crisp water that you desire. You just need to intentionally step out of the water and up onto the bridge. The place of safety and healing. This bridge symbolizes self-love–self-nurture. True feelings of love for yourself. We are talking deep love. There is no cheating, abusing, and hating allowed. You can’t tell yourself that you hate a part of your body and be living in this state. You can’t put yourself in compromising or unhealthy situations over and over again and be living in love for yourself. 

The bridge is a place where you provide yourself mind, heart, body, and soul with your deepest needs of nurturing, kindness, compassion, empathy, etc. When you have a need of romance, you bring yourself flowers or draw yourself a bubble bath. You don’t get angry that someone else is failing to do this for you. You provide for your needs. You are responsible for your state. You know deep down when you are living in full love of yourself. These feelings of respect and nurture for yourself sets the stage for others to treat you similarly. It also fosters feelings of nurturing, compassion, empathy, and kindness for others. You feel more loving and more lovable. You ARE more loving and you ARE more lovable. 

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CREATIVITY and Self-Love 

The practice of creativity is also found on the bridge. It is where many artists find themselves with a mirror looking at their truth. Unable to hide behind denial. Self-expression assists us with our authenticity. We learn things about ourselves. We dredge up our skeletons not always meaning to. Some of us through them back in the tainted pool, but as Clarissa Estés taught us, Skeleton Woman comes up to teach us a beautiful lesson and truth about our vulnerability and fear of being cast away. We learn about  our depths and our shadows. Art can show us our shadows. We need not be afraid of the shadows if we are willing to embrace them as the fisherman embraced Skeleton Woman. We must learn to acknowledge the shadows and only then do we learn the true power of using light. As the painter uses the contrasts of shadows and lights depths emerge in their work. Those parts of ourselves that we use terms such as that we would like to erase, cut off, forget are exactly what makes us interesting and beautiful. Those shadow parts are the parts of us that need the most love. Just as Skeleton woman drank the tear of compassion of the fisherman which began her renewal, we too can provide that love to our most tender and hurt areas of our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls.

Creative Detox 101

With the coming of the New Year, many people set their resolutions to diet and exercise. I’ve heard a lot of criticism about this practice. What I’ve come to believe is that the word resolution has come to mean a complete change with no going back. Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, it seems to me that we should take a look at how truly positive it is to stop, reflect, and reassess our path and goals to make sure we are still moving toward our purpose and vision. New Years may be one of my favorite times of year because I have developed a practice of mapping out my goals for the year. I have found this to be a great way to stay focused as well as a way to look back on my progress.

I also pondered why diet and exercise is always in people’s top resolutions year after year. I believe they are responding to what their bodies are asking for naturally. A time of cleansing out the old, unhealthy excess. They are desiring a new start. Even a fresh start. In fact, I would assert that we should do shorter spurts of these healthful activities until we are strong enough to make them life habits and patterns. Let’s not become discouraged that the healthy eating routine does not last for more than a couple of days. Believe me, your body thanks you for whatever health and wellbeing you are providing it with. Focus on that. Not on failing at your intention.

I believe those short spurts (maybe the best some people can give) are healing and act as a reset. Listening to those messages is healing. Your body is begging you. Don’t get discouraged-do take courage.

I believe your being is happening at many levels. You are a complex presence. Some say the human is like a machine, but that is an incomplete metaphor that although has interesting similarities, has shifted into an inaccurate paradigm on a societal level. I believe it is more like a echo-system. It has many living, intelligent facets working together affecting and relying each other. In fact, on an energetic level that system is interacting with the environment outside its body as well. Optimal system functioning encourages overall health and wellbeing.

Lately, we’ve been hearing the concept of detox or cleansing. What are the benefits of a detox? What are the benefits of a cleanse? Consider taking a bath. How do you feel once you have cleared away the old cells, dirt and bacteria from your skin. Consider how you feel when you have cleaned your environment. How do you feel in a clean space as opposed to one full of clutter and grime? Perhaps it is removing what is really not yours and/or no longer useful. Perhaps it is being able to discern what makes up you. Maybe that is why coming away “clean” feels so wonderful.

So, how would you like to feel clean and new on many levels? I created this 10 day creative detox for those specifically working on being more creative and connected with their personal creativity more fully. Many times, we practice creativity from a position of matching others styles-imitation. We learn by adopting from others techniques. We may not have sight of what is now ours. Even seasoned writers and artists feel confused at what is uniquely theirs. Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is learning to hide your sources.” Although, I revere his creative genius, I wonder if this quote is somehow taken out of context. We are each unique even though we are in many ways similar. Each of us has a unique voice and creative contribution that only we can offer.

This can be a challenge because we are all energetically connected with the earth, each other, and the heavens. Sometimes we are in hiding. We are afraid if people knew the true us we wouldn’t be accepted any longer. Perhaps we feel we’d lose our place in our family and even society. Other times, we just aren’t aware of what makes us uniquely us. This ten day work can help you become more aware of where those outside connections end and where you begin.

For the next 10 days I will be posting a detox focus and activity. Please let me know if you are following along and/or participating. I would love to hear your reflections and experiences.

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DAY ONE: Being Mindful of Your Connection with Earth

Wear something brown today. If you are in good health, start this day fasting from food. Wait until dinner to have your first meal. Drink plenty of fresh water. Go outside, breath in fresh air. Pick up rocks, seeds, moss, or something in nature. Place your feet upon the ground and imagine roots growing into the earth. How deep do they grow? Do you feel tingling or some other sensation in your feet? Bring a token/tokens home with you and place them in a sacred place. For your first meal, eat a meal free of meat and/or meat products. Make sure to plan your meal before so that this can be a special breaking of your fast.

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Insipid No More

December wraps up the twelfth chapter and 12 months of The Artist’s Way for this creative. I would only recommend completing a chapter a month if you are ready to have your world rocked. I heard other participating artists talking about needing to stop part way through the year due to blocks surfacing that they had never experienced before. This was true for me as well. Every fear, every block, every experience was intensified sometimes to the point of being too difficult to withstand. On the other hand, I have never accomplished so much, had so many breakthroughs, and been so much at home in my creative skin as I have in the last year. I really came into my own. Artist’s Dates evolved from outings into taking advantage of many live stream courses. Artist’s Pages evolved into long meditations clearing the mind’s negative self-talk/sabotage. Mediation lead to a peaceful and a more positive creative!

Chapter 12 is entitled Recovering a Sense of Faith. This chapter reminds us to trust in our Creator–trust that the Devine’s plan for us very well may be in line with our own deepest desires.

I pondered back on a time when I had told myself such a clever lie that I even deceived myself. I believed that my artistic and creative talents were lower than a true life purpose. What I mean is, I believed that I needed to be giving some sort of service (for the greater good) in order to be living my true purpose. I believed that my creative pursuits were self-centered and indulgent. I guess I hadn’t considered I could live a life of giving back while being an artist. I had always had a great eye for home decor and visual art. I felt that I would be swallowed up in materialism and worldliness if I dedicated my life to my creativity. Deep down, I had known that I had so much talent and desire to be an artist, but had talked myself out of it on so many levels. I even told myself that I didn’t want to do it as a living because it was too special to me and it would be ruined as a passion. When we take so much time to talk ourselves out of something so important, we should recognize this as the red flag it is. The further I got away from these gifts, the less I felt like me. The final nail in the coffin for me was when bought into the idea of finding a career based on making money.

This happened to be in healthcare. What was dangerous for me was that it was a hungry monster with a never ending need for service. Luckily, that is when I discovered The Artist’s Way. I was heading for a degree in social work to be a step in my goal to be a medical social worker (the highest paid in the field of social work). The course brought me back to my authentic self, so doing it for an entire year made perfect sense. It had become my self-care. I had found a mode of healing. Art, creativity, the process had become not about creating bodies of work. It had become feeling and being alive.

This year, I learned that God is in the details. He is there wanting you to live your life to the fullest. He wants you to be on fire with purpose and excitement for living. Cameron points out that we have this idea that spirituality is about living a life of scarcity.. never being given permission to be truly aligned with your hopes and dreams. As you learn to have faith that the universe has your back all the while practicing your spirituality and creativity, you find you grow. Your ability to give back increases. Your talent increases. Your reach increases. Learning a craft, an art, or a skill is bonus! There is so much to gain and so little to lose.

If you are ready for the most amazing adventure, make your creativity a priority. Make creativity a regular part of your life. This isn’t about being a professional artist. It is about being fully alive. Finding your soul’s truest expression. Honoring your spirit, your voice. Honoring life.

“Adventures don’t begin until you get into the forest. The first step is an act of faith.” -Mickey Hart

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This painting was created in Shiloh McLoud’s Awakened Woman live stream class. She teaches a visioning/intuitive/imagination process that is beautiful and empowering. “The Muse is the Voice of Your Soul.” -Shiloh McLoud.

Title: “Lady of Fire.” Going deep to talk with my muse.

Being True-The Most Beautiful Journey

November’s focus for The Artist Way was chapter 11: Recovering a Sense of Autonomy. I found this chapter to be a difficult, yet such important focus for my month.  By the end of the month, I realized that I was angry at myself for what I thought had been a failure to remain true to myself. I felt I had let myself down, slipped from the track. I don’t know about you, but when I feel this way it gives me some type of ticket to get really off course. That didn’t happen, but my attitude was terrible. I started feeling really sorry for myself. Things were slowing down and I was spending less and less time doing what I really loved doing.

When I start feeling this way, I usually go deep within to reflect. In certain ways, I began growing and discovering new insights, but those were difficult to share with others. I feared I was being swallowed up by all the needs around me, so becoming spiritually strong and steadfast became even more imperative. I meditated often. I prayed. I practice my intuitive work as much as possible. All of these practices led me again and again to my creative work. As I worked, I realized, it’s impossible for me to get lost in other people’s agendas. I am too stubborn for that. I just become grumpier the more I get pulled away from my art, and then comes the readjustment! Julia Cameron stated, “Creativity is oxygen for our souls. Cutting off our creativity makes us savage. We react like we are being choked.”

I believe I have appreciated my creativity for most of my life, but only in the last 10 years have I fought to give it center stage. It makes me so happy for painting classes such as Shiloh Sophia’s Awakened Woman. It took place right before Thanksgiving, so I had a lot to think about. You were to write down the 12 big lies you tell yourself. Some of my lies were that I am not the red rose kind of girl, I am not ready for big change, I am just a people pleaser, I lack direction, I am alone, I don’t need intimacy…. AND for me the biggest lie was OTHER people are sabotaging my efforts.

By the end of this class, my heart opened to the truth. I do love red roses, I do need love and intimacy, I am powerful, I am ready for the right amount of change to bring about my next steps toward my purpose, I aim to please God, I have been driven since a young child, AND I am the one sabotaging my efforts. BUT why? I realize that sometimes I get scared. When that happens, I use other people’s actions as an excuse to back down from my goals. It is my own convenient copout! Things flash through my mind like, “They are so controlling. I need some space.” Or, “He is going to stand in my way of this. Instead of speaking up, I’ll let him have this one.” I discovered that my need for control is what sabotages me sometimes when it counts the most.

I remembered the advice I had given all too often about sussing out motives. “What’s in it for you?” So, what is in it for me? Julia Cameron said, “If I allow myself to be bullied and cowed by other people’s urges for me to be more normal or more nice, I sell myself out. They may like me better, feel more comfortable with my more conventional appearance or behavior, but I will hate myself. Hating myself, I may lash out at myself and others.” So deep down I realize that staying true to myself leads to a happier me, so shouldn’t this be an easy choice–a no brainer?”

It is my belief that we get so comfortable with our fears that we would rather stay stuck in that place that we know so well than journey into the unknown. The unknown might just be even scarier than a stuck place which you dislike. At least you know that you have all of your creature comforts. You know that you have your familiar routine. You have your anger. You have your resentments. You have your disappointments. They are YOURS. You own them, but shouldn’t life be the most amazing experience? Shouldn’t we be fully alive to experience the beauty in relationships, the earth around us, the magic present in every waking breath?

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“It is safe for me to grow, to create, and to experience life as the most beautiful journey.”

Acrylic on 18 x 24″ canvas. Created in Shiloh Sophia’s Awakened Woman live stream course.

Major Creative U-Turn?

The last couple of months have been very strange for me. I started back to work full-time and had less time for my art, writing, and personal life. My artist child was ticked to say the least.

Chapter 10 in The Artist’s Way is all about creative u-turns and exposing “The Deadlies” which are alcohol, drugs, sex, work, money, food, and family/friends. One of the exercises has you write these words on strips and draw them. You put the paper previously drawn back into your pile and there is the possibility to draw it again. The strange part of this exercise, is that I drew the same three over and over. When you draw the slip, you are to write how the deadly is having a negative impact on your creative process. I drew work 3 times, money twice, and food twice as well. It killed me that on a month that I was supposed to be focused on improving this aspect of my life, things were amplified compared to normal life. Work was more demanding, situations were more complex, and I had taken on a new role that I needed to learn and settle into. Talking about something that I was having mixed feelings about and leaving a positive message with my readers seemed impossible.. so I did what I do when feeling that way. I retreated.

How many of us react this way when we feel like we may not be living in our truth? Pull back. Reverse. Hide.

The truth is, finances were feeling tight, and working part-time had began to take its toll. I had been reveling in creativity is true, but somewhere deep down, I may have felt a little selfish. Finances hit and the kids need shoes. Okay, so maybe it isn’t as simple as just needing shoes, but you get the point. OR was I really just scared that the ride was over and that things were going to start getting too real for me? Do you ever have that moment when you make a shift and you know it happens, but you aren’t sure why you made the choice? I remember that happening. Almost like a tantrum. Things had not moved fast enough with my art endeavors. I was hoping to have prints up 6 months earlier and things were happening in slow motion. Anger surged as I decided to go back and make up with the lack of income through my day job. My heart broke a little. Image

A question that I have: Who made the rule that artists need to go through financial depravation in order to succeed? I am grateful for this new paradigm that we are building together where artists and creatives alike are valued for their contribution and are blessed with the abundance life has to offer.

This week, I feel like I finally came out on the other side so-to-speak. I got real with myself and faced facts that I did have a choice–I do have a choice. The truth is that I find great satisfaction in helping others. I love to see that I can make a difference and do my part in breaking down old, worn out systems that grind on vulnerable populations. I am not ready to leave my day job behind in the dust. I am still learning, growing and developing skills. I know that boundaries are important and I will need to take even better care of myself. I made the right decision for where I am at during this very moment in time. My creative dreams are very important to me and will continue to be a top priority in my life. One day, my passions will become one in purpose and I will be able to incorporate my desire to help others with art and creativity. Until that day, I learn and prepare.

Creating Community-Imagine a World Fulfilling our Unique Life Contribution

For the last 15 years I have been taking an interest in the welfare of healthy communities, and before that my parents raised me to give back. I have learned that with the principle of creativity, we can reclaim our souls, our families, and our communities from the corroding disease of apathy and address our own ambivalence towards change once and for all. Creativity is not the end all principle. We will continue to need to lead lives of character, but creativity is an incredibly powerful catalyst in the fight of change and improvement. Creativity is also the key to discovering our personal vision and voice. In order to build communities in “wellness,” we will need to consider the following points:

  • Taking care of yourself and your family is the FIRST priority.
  • Understanding the difference between the scarcity vs the abundance mindset will unblock creative community processes.
  • We are a world divided by politics. We must break free from the “either or” mindset that is spoon fed to us sometimes on a minute by minute basis.
  • Realizing the amazing, powerful creative potential dormant within our communities.
  • Life in community can be positive and productive. We will receive the energy that we are sending forth.
  • Do we have an obligation to the greater community? Discovering and labeling the reasons why we should all care.
  • Once set in motion it is easier to stay in motion. Get to work. Do good continuously.
  • Being a part of community means that we have a responsibility to nurture and care for us. Self-care.

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Getting out and throwing ourselves into improving our communities will feel like a small accomplishment if our own families are suffering and unhealthy. As a social worker I have seen over and over again the difference a social support system can make within a person’s life. Without a support group an individual is at risk of needing already taxed governmental systems to fill in the gaps. This would not be a big deal if the number of people needing such a safety net was not on the rise. Family dynamics can be beyond difficult and for some even dangerous. For those people, seeking safety is of utmost importance–that is what the system should be there for. For the rest of us, we can delve deep within to ask is there something more that we can be doing to strengthen ourselves and our own families.

I feel blessed to have been taught from a young age that there is enough. Scarcity thinking creates fear. We worry that impending doom is right around the corner. We are taught that there is only so much money to go around etc. We should not live in fear of running out. I see every day the resilience of families facing tough times. Resources are everywhere. This does not mean to be wasteful or foolish in our stewardships. It is quite the opposite. Abundance means that we find gratitude in simplicity. Abundance is available to each one of us, but we need to be open to that energy. This is ever so true within our communities. This is not some kind of socialism principle were each person is obligated to put all they have into a government pot to receive back their share. It is quite opposite. It is a principle as free flowing as the wind. It must be allowed to move with free will and intention.

Speaking of politics, now more than ever we need to become aware of the little thingy called an agenda. When it comes to our platforms, our leaders, and our media they ALL have them (agendas). We are living within this illusion of divided-ness. This is a lie. We are all connected. We are all part of the same life, the same planet, the same universe, and we are on the SAME team! When we quit buying what they are selling individually and collectively we are going to do amazing things together.

Have you ever stopped to consider what percentage of the population within our communities is living a life tapping into a high level of character and creativity? What does such a person look like? Perhaps we could agree on folks from the past such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, & Martin Luther King Jr. These may feel like unreachable marks to hit for role models, but are they not individuals who lived lives of integrity coupled with high levels of creativity? Okay, so maybe not each one of us has the IQ to be another Einstein, but rest assured, by tapping into these powerful principles we can be, we can LIVE lives so much more than we are at the present. Considering the possible difference we could make if we only were able to increase the creativity in say 25% of our communities is exponential.

Okay, so this is when I hear the grumbling starting. A common complaint that I hear is “Nobody will listen to me.” They are basically torn with inner turmoil asking, who am I to make change happen or to work with those difficult people there? This is at the point that we need to stop and remember our experiences are a reflection of our personal beliefs and personal energy. You are incredibly important in the process of progress and change within your community. Search within to understand deep seeded beliefs about your personal worth and relationships with others and heal. While healing do whatever you can. Let go of judgment for yourself and for others around you. Be open to new experiences. Be open to the now.

After we address that we are in fact invaluable in our communities and so, so needed sometimes, may times the apathy sets in. We experience ambivalence to change. We may ask what good is it really going to do any way? I am busy. My family is busy. I have a whole lifetime. We possess a litany of rationalizations. Only deep down within our hearts do we know the answer to the question of responsibility and stewardship. My point would be a lot more of us are than are letting on. Perhaps we do not know where to start. Perhaps we are living to capacity already. The question, “Is the health of our communities our personal responsibility?” If the answer within our soul is yes, we can be asking ourselves what is our next step.

Once we figure out our “next step,” we must get in motion. With the study of cell in human biology we learn that a catalyst will come along to start a process. When that process begins to happen it takes less energy to continue. This is the same in life. We sometimes need a catalyst to come along to move us to action. This may come to us in the form of an idea (creativity). Once we act on that idea and begin work we must endure by feeding the cycle of receiving more and more creativity. Our catalyst spurs us to action just as enzymes will within a cell function. Creativity can and should be continuously nurtured to remain pliable and active. It is like any other skill that can be strengthened through practice and habitual use. If you want to super charge your creativity use it in conjunction with a higher vision/purpose like community welfare. The energy for using our time, talents, and lives for the better good are powerful and sustaining.

We have come full circle. We are back to self-care. While doing all of these great things for the collective, it is not about losing our personal identity in the process. When we let go of taking care and nurturing ourselves, we surely will be the losers. The danger will be allowing the gaping needs to overtake and overwhelm you. It is about keeping perspective. Imagining yourself as part of a relay team is a good visualization to stay or become healthy. You do your part. You take a rest. Your part will come again. Do it again and rest again. Make it a point to find healthy outlets that you love that strengthen and relax you as a person. For some this may be crafting, art, gardening, running, walking, singing, journaling,etc. You find what feeds your soul and participate in it frequently.

In conclusion, our communities need the individual talents and strengths of each of its members. We are responsible. We will not find wellness within those structures through government agendas, but through our own pure motives for wholeness and unity. We have amazing and powerful untapped talent and creativity all around us and great things will happen when we begin to utilize the human potential many times lying dormant. Furthermore, it is time for all of us to look within and see what we could be doing differently and then go out and actually do it. All the while, we must continue in our personal quest of creativity. In that we will find joy and wellness. We will reach closer to living a life in a world were more of us our fulfilling our unique life contribution.

(Originally published early 2013 on Habitat Earth)

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Once again I am coming home too late to work on any art. I always feel a little sad when I have more than two days between writing, drawing, or painting. It has become a line of sanity for me (maybe I’m being a little dramatic. It is my favorite form of self-care. It is like extreme self-care.)

I had the most remarkable experience the other day that I put on the back burner (so to speak) to write about once I formed a complete thought about it. Tonight I believe the thought came together. It happened as I was telling my own daughter not to listen to her parents about everything. That each person must find their own path in this world, and that YES her mom and dad are flawed and working with the set of circumstances that we came into. She looks up to us both because she feels we have good, practical jobs. She overheard her dad telling her big brother that his college choice was not realistic and that he wouldn’t be able to support a family. My heart broke a little as I heard this. I told her emphatically that just because your parents are stuck in survival mode, you don’t have to be and won’t be happy (because yes, this young lady is a dreamer in the biggest way) unless developing her talents and discovering her passions. It really hit me that these kids can do things differently. I shared with her that she doesn’t need to wait to be almost 40 to pursue her art.

So, back to the remarkable experience. I had taken my daughters to the doctor and while one was waiting on labs etc, A young man in his early 20s complimented my Papaya tote from a beautiful Flora Bowley painting. This is pretty common because the bag is unique (I found it at my favorite home decor store and couldn’t pass it up). Once in a while when someone presses I will tell them more about her and how she is a Portland artist who teaches her intuitive painting process online. This man asked more questions and wanted to know more about her as an artist as well. He said that he is also an artist and shared his work that he shares on his personal Facebook profile. I let him know that I was also an artist and shared my artist page with him as well.

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We turned out to have quite a bit in common. For example, he was going to the same university that I graduated from my social work program from. He also had the “helpers” heart. He also deeply cared about the youth and felt that so many of his generation were lost and “robotic” as he put it. He said that art had literally saved his life. He had not had an easy high school experience due to losing friends to suicide. He had not even had a smooth childhood. Things had been pretty rough for him and he had struggled with his own depression. Which after telling me these very personal things, said again that he is resilient because of his love of art. He said that he works on it in every bit of free time he gets. He gives it to those he feels need a lift or to feel a part of things. I got the impression that he cares and he is sharing with an open heart. Our conversation went on for so long that my daughters started feeling restless and I could tell that they were ready to go.

It really isn’t every day that I get to talk with the up-and-coming generation outside of my own children, so after meeting this remarkable young man, my heart was lighter and my hope levels raised. People can say what they will about artists all day with their perceptions of us being to airy-fairy or whatever. Creativity is hope. It is what connects the artist to their higher source. It is what becomes a symbol of a lesson or a concept understood that the artist then shares with whoever sees that art. Take Flora’s painting. It being on a bag sparks curiosity in those who see it. They must stare at it. Even comment on it. Question it. This level of mystery is a teacher. Creativity is what makes the practical possible, but that is the subject of another day.

I’m also learning that those opportunities to touch peoples’ lives will present themselves even if I am not able to do as much art and writing as I’d like to right now. The universe has its own agenda. I will watch for that.