Am I creative? Why art therapy?

Am I creative?

Do you have a pulse, and are you breathing?  Yes?  Good, you are creative.

The way you think, move, feel, act, share: it’s all your creative expression.  It’s beautiful to watch people move; life is art.  You are part of it, you are art, and you are creating the work of art that is your life.

I know it can be intimidating to sit down with your own thoughts and a blank piece of paper if art is not your thing.  I very limited on my artistic drawing abilities.  It’s not that we are not capable, it’s that we just haven’t practiced.

I see a therapist who is very pro art therapy.  It’s come up in conversation at 3 different sessions.  So, I think she really wants me to benefit from its goodness.

I’m going to commit to a page a day and see what happens.  Care to join?

What is art therapy you ask?

Exactly what it sounds like–  creating art as to feel “better” about life, the situation, yourself, etc……

There are plenty of credible articles online if you’re wanting a fancy explanation.  That’s not what I’m here to chat about, so, google you must if you need a more proper description.

Why would this help me?  Why would I make art therapy a regular priority?

We all live with emotions that are craving to be unleashed and let go of.  They want out, and you’re keeping them in.   Having the jitters, cringing, white knuckling, biting your tongue, clinching your teeth, holding your breath, getting butterflies, etc…..  These are feelings that simply want out.

I do yoga, journal, and see a therapist to get out many of my emotions, but there are always other ways as well.  Some garden, dance, sing, workout, read, the list goes on.  Art therapy just seems like the next thing I want to add to my self help repertoire.  I’ve always wanted to be a better artist.  Of course, practice makes perfect.

I feel like releasing my emotions more consciously and creatively seems to make the process smoother, more enjoyable and more continuous.  I notice when I am being more creative in my releases that I feel more at peace with letting go of whatever belief or emotion I was trying to part ways with.

We can sit down, open a book, and use our pens to let go of that which does not serve us.  Layer by layer, inch by inch, day by day, we can take the time to notice what is going on inside, and let it out; good or bad, happy or sad, let go and create room to grow.

By connecting and paying attention to our creative selves, we have created the opportunity to grab thoughts that feel good,  fuel purpose, and the thoughts that can solve problems.  We can write them down, and remember them more clearly when we need them.  We can let emotions guide the pen or marker and bring us some clarity and peace of mind.  We can pin point what it is that is holding us back or making us feel stuck when we give ourselves space to listen and learn.

You are choosing and deciding what you want to see, heal, help and do,  either consciously or by default.  When we do things more purposefully and fully we add more value to the moment, yes?  Art therapy is  me committing to 15 minutes to allow my inner-self to speak creatively.  It’s me saying I’ve always wanted to be a better artist and so I’m going to invest a small amount of myself everyday in order to do so.  It’s one more way for me to safely express myself.

You’re feelings are valid, you matter, what you want matters, who you are, and where you are going is going to change the world.  Period.  Remind yourself where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going everyday.  I think art therapy can help me get clearer on my path, and become more appreciative of my past and present if I’ll let it..

We might create a more peaceful place in ourselves and in this world by picking up our pens and setting down the remotes or iPhones.  Or, at least this is the theory.

But, I’m not creative….

If you want to know how to be creative in terms of writing and art, first of all, you must sit still long enough to let the feelings arise that help you create.  Emotions charge the particles on your paper, and make the words, and strokes come to life.  Give yourself space to feel.  Stillness is your friend.  Being alone with paper and pen a few minutes a day can help you discover who you were, are, and wish to be.

If it’s scary to be alone with your thoughts, write that down, get it out, don’t own it anymore; give it away, and then write down how you want to feel-I am safe, I love and appreciate myself, and time.  Then just take a few deep breaths as you scribble and doodle your way to creating healthier thought patterns.

Do not underestimate the power behind getting to know yourself through creative expression.  You must feel more deeply if you want to create more passionately.  Silence, space, feel, accept, release, create, breathe, moving on.

Open your chest and you will find magic pouring out, begging to come to life, asking your permission to come into existence.  You have emotions that want to be known, they want to come out and play, and if you don’t let them, they bounce around in your body creating their own kind of fun, which  may not be your kind of fun.

What are you suppose to do or say with this blank canvas?

Whatever feels fitting that day.  Today, I was struggling with not taking a friends comments personal.  Instead of continuing to be angry, I drew statements that reinforced who I want to be, not who she thinks I am or should be.  I paid no more attention to her ill words, and instead created words that felt good when I said them, read them, wrote them.  I also drew owls which always make me feel connected to my beloved grandma (read more on her here), and just let myself breathe deeper as I colored away.  That’s it.  Piece of cake.  And, my first page took 15 minutes of my time, and I do feel way better about the situation at hand.  Mission accomplished.

I know, I know, don’t quit my day job.  I’m not here to sell you art, I’m here to help you understand that a little goes a long way.  I know journaling and art has saved my life a time or two, and I think if I put in a little more effort it can help me create momentum and healing to move more easily through the coming days of my life.

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Commit to 5 minutes a day and let it grow if the time, and you say so.  Maybe you’ll notice yourself feeling more focused on what is helpful, so you may choose wiser next time.  Maybe you’ll discover that doodling, coloring and drawing are soothing for the soul, even if all you did was scribble a few words and lines down.

You didn’t create the Mona Lisa or write Harry Potter, but you did create a moment that aloud you to feel, express and move.  Art brings people to life.  Art allows blood to flow, circuits to open and puzzle pieces fit.  Create your own everyday.

Create your mood, find solutions, vent, laugh at yourself, build yourself up, say nice things to yourself and be responsible for your own sh*t, but do it with crayons, and make it pretty and fun, so you like life and yourself.

Each day, the theory is that you’ll speak more thoroughly, clearly, calmly, effectively, and lovingly to yourself, and of course, that can only help you communicate more beautifully into the world around you.  Yes?

Which can only create more enjoyable moments, correct?

Get creative, get clear, get excited about who you are, where you’ve been and where you are going.  Color your way to more enjoyable days.

In love,

Danielle Atherton-Rutledge

 

From RBF to duckface. Tips to enhance your day and your lips.

 

Resting bitch face was my norm.  Everywhere I went people would comment on how unhappy  and bitchy I looked.  If looks could kill.  My RBF definitely reflected my inner world for a long time.

Now, I catch myself with a content smile more often than not as my norm, and of course everyone says I get duck faced when I’m concentrating, learning, reading, etc.  I’ll take duck face over RBF, any day.

In order to wake up and see a smile on my face, and then want to share it has not come easy for me.  I faked it for a long time, forced would be a better word, really.  I didn’t like being nice, being mean, rude, and short was much easier.

I have consciously made decisions to see a different version of myself come to life.  I have taken myself from a completely lifeless, careless, inconsiderate, and angry little girl, to a much more content, enjoyable, loving, giving, thoughtful, self loving woman with room to grow.

I have grumpy days, more than I’d like, but the anxious, depressed, self loathing, and hateful person that lived inside of me is far different from having a grumpy day or moment.  Much much different, remember that.

So, if you feel like you are in a depressive state more often than not, if you have a perma-scowl on your face, ask yourself these questions: “what am I so mad about? what is so bad? what is keeping me from smiling? why am I letting it, or him/her have that kind of control over me?  How long do I plan on staying in this state of disgust, exactly?  Am I ready to know what it’s like to feel good and feel God?

If you can process the anger layer by layer with at home self care, then try all the self help tips if they sound like a good, safe, and healthy idea.

If you know you can’t process the pain, and enjoy life, and those around you the majority of your time, then maybe it’s time to call in a life coach, or a therapist.

Once you give a voice to the old grumpy man dwelling in the basement, he might warm up to you, and become your friend, your voice of reason, your voice of strength, and acts of courage.  But, you have to let the anger speak, and show itself (safely!!), or it will hide, collect dust, and give you reasons to walk around with resting bitch face.  Don’t do it.

If you are doing it, stop, snap out of it, wake up, and come back to life one simple decision at a time.  Baby steps to big change is a quote that forever sticks out.  The small and significant routines bring my days and my smile to life.

One stitch at a time crafts the blanket that cradles and cares for life’s most precious gifts.  One breath at a time brings you closer to savasana where you are able to rest in the warmth you created.  One step at a time brings the runner to the finish line where he collapses in awe of his body and capabilities.  One word at a time the author is able to bring the pages to life and awaken hearts and minds all over the world.

Stitch, sew, string your life together one small, simple, sweet, and significant change at a time.

A few of my current favorite tips:

1-Wake up: what’s my breath doing?  Can I make it deeper, more even, more purifying?  What am I thankful for?  How do I want to feel, this morning, afternoon, evening and the next time I lay my head on this warm cozy pillow?  Got that?  Breathe that in.  Go create that, but do it first thing.  Always, always set the tone for your day with your first inhale.

2–As you are stringing together your first moments of the day let your feet hit the ground, connect, breathe, open, feel expansive; dig down deeper, reach up taller; think longer, leaner, stronger; breathe deeper, more even.

And, also feel the air and energy around you, and notice how light and expansive you are as you eat, drink, and ready yourself for the day.  Ground down and lighten up is the idea.

You’re making it a point to consciously wake up your body, mind, and soul connection first thing, and making your presence known. You’re allowing yourself to feel the space and time of the moment as you prepare to move to the next.

You’re starting your day centered, calm, and consciously.  Feels sa good.

3-Find something to help you reconnect when sh*t gets real.  It’s going to happen, someone or something is going to step on your toes and derail your happy train.

We all know we need to breathe deeper, so do that first, and maybe even envision yourself inhaling light as you do so, white light.

Maybe you need to have a stress ball, or gratitude rock handy.  Do you know about hand mudras or crystals and how to use them or why they would be helpful?  What about doing a few mountain to monkey poses where you stand, as you remember you are safe, and all is well when stress sneaks up?  If you’re at home create a safe place where you can go for 2-5 minutes, and do some jumping jacks, or push ups to get out the angst. Find a love for quality essential oils, dab some lavender oil on your temples, and take a few deep inhales of it to notice yourself calm.  Do you have a therapist or friend to vent to and bring you back to center when it’s just too much?  Find a favorite quote to memorize that will come in handy during the tough times, but make it as healthy of a release as possible.

Don’t let bad habits be your go to reliever.  You’re worth a healthy happy life, and you can choose to create the healthy space and body you crave one conscious decision at a time.

And, if you f*ck up, and have a shitty moment, or make a bad decision, just remember that you are worth trying again, and again, and again.  Every fail is just life trying to wake you up, and redirect you to what is meant to make you feel alive.   Keep going.  If you’re trying, you’re doing it right.

4-Make it about someone else as many times as you can in a day.  How can you help them, this moment, this situation?  How can you make them feel better, safer, calmer, kinder, happier, and more loved and appreciated?  How can you make someone feel special, important, and like they matter?

I struggle with chronic pain from old car accidents and I find that I feel best when I get out of my head and ask others how they are, what they need, or what’s good in their life.  For a short time I am able to get out of myself and enjoy what someone else has to offer.  Many times these moments where I’m able to make it about someone else are what save me from an emotional meltdown when the pain becomes so monotonous, and sometimes I prefer to wallow in my own self pity…..balance.

How can you change your corner of the world right this very moment?  Do good because it feels amazing to give of yourself, and to serve others as often as you can no matter how small the gesture.  I’m sure you know first hand that the smallest of gifts both material and non can be the most memorable.

5-Present yourself with love everyday.  I don’t mean you need to put on your fake eyelashes and heels to do your housework.  What I do want more women and men to do is look in the mirror or down at their bodies and be truly thankful for the blessing it is.  I do want you to take time to notice the lines, details, freckles, spaces, and the miracle that is your body.  I do want you to put coconut oil or lotion on with love, brush your hair with gentle care, notice how your eyes light up when you smile after brushing your teeth, and wear the colors that make you feel most confident and alive.

I do hope you find a ritual or two a day that makes you stop and truly experience the body you have and the abilities it possesses.  Dry brushing, fascia blasting, sugar scrubs, face masks, detox baths, essential oils, manicures, pedicures, conditioning treatments, the number of self care habits you can take in are plenty.  Pick one a day and enhance your own natural beauty.

Notice what you love about you and enhance it, magnify it, enjoy it, and share it.  Smile and tell yourself you love yourself and today as you pull your hair up in a messy bun.  Notice the glow your skin has as you apply your coconut oil.  Wet your lips with your favorite gloss and recite a kind word or two to yourself.  The color of your eyes, the veins in your hands, the freckles on your nose, the mole on your shoulder: notice it all, it’s all so unique and it’s all so you…..enjoy, enhance, embellish, and encourage others to do so along the way.

6-Try or learn something new everyday.  Want to learn Italian or  Spanish?  Download Duo lingo and trill away.  Yoga seem fun?  Log onto You Tube and enjoy a free 10 minute morning routine to wake you up and get you started.  Always wanted to write a novel?  Read one, a successful one, and see how it’s done, and then write a page or 10 or 100 of your own creative thoughts.  Has being an artist always excited you, but you never learned?  Find a local art shop, studio, or free online advice and let your colorful side show itself a little at a time.

You’re not going to start off writing Harry Potter novels, creating Picasso pieces, melting into the splits, or traveling to another dimension via transcendental meditation right away, so just let that go right now.

You must put in the energy if you want to create something worth anything.  Let yourself be a beginner and just enjoy trying new things every single day.  Enjoy learning about your body and mind, and what it does, and doesn’t like, just  be curious.  Enjoy the fruits of your efforts and marinade in the sweet nothings that just so happen to be your everythings.

Try, enjoy, or don’t, take note, learn, grow, move on one breath, one new motion at a time.  All.Day. Long.

Wake up new cells, bring yourself, and the life you desire to life one good decision at a time.   And, if you can’t make a good decision, take a deep breath and be thankful you’re here to make a bad one.

In love,

Danielle

Photo: Renee Atherton

 

 

Little Girl….Gratitude and Forgiveness

Domestic violence lives in your neighborhood.  Do you see it?  Do you see the little girl with matted hair, stained clothes that don’t fit, painfully shy and scared of everything?  Do you think she can take you or your child’s glares, criticism, or judgements?  Do you think to yourself,” she’ll be o.k.”?  Or do you pull her hair back into a braid and remind her she’s safe?

Do you see the young bully feeling left out and angry?  Does his trouble start at home?  Do you know who taught him how to hurt?  Will you be adding to his pain?  Or, will you invite him over for dinner and ask him about his day?

How will you know if children were taught to fear, hurt, and harm?  How will you know if they need your kind words and helping hands?  Or, are we to assume they were just born this way?

I was raised in a domestic violence home.  I was painfully shy, terrified to speak, and scared of life.  Deathly afraid of the dark, of the light, of going to sleep, of losing my mom, of him stealing us from her, and definitely too terrified to tell anyone. I thought if I just showed up cleaned, helped, did good things and stayed quiet, then bad things would stop happening.  So I stayed very quiet most of my childhood.  I grew into an angry, snotty, and hateful teenager ready to bite back at life.  I was bullied at school, “you look like the neighborhood dog, go back to the river whole you climbed out of,” and many more mean words were spewed at me before I finally decided no more miss nice girl.  Then I found alcohol at 15 and could loosen my tight grip for a few hours, then I found heavier drugs that numbed me out so I could sleep and cope.  I stopped caring about anything besides my next drunken and drugged extravaganza.  Then I started having kids and feeling like a crappy human for my habits and started to put my life back together piece by piece by removing the pieces of the puzzle that simply just did not fit in.

My anxiety and depression had taken its toll on my body and mind and so I had to rewind and figure out what and how I went wrong, so I could start to go right.  It was time to give a voice to my little girl that I shut up so long ago.  The past was my present because I never healed my old wounds.  I had to go back and feel what I tried to bury and numb so that I could let it go for good, and experience what now feels like without the burden of the past.

Remembering back to my childhood there were teachers, parents, family, and children that made my already deep wounds deeper and more painful, and there are some that gave me so much love and hope in humanity that I’m able to sit here today.  I want to encourage you to be the latter in a child’s life no matter how difficult they may seem.

I have too many moments to count where my spirit was broken at home and at school.  I gathered a lot of painful memories and moments that have and still need to be forgiven.  I start with gratitude, move to forgiveness and end in gratitude:  I sit here safe and loved now, even though he was a psycho and “stole” parts of my childhood, BUT….. I did climb trees, ride bikes, splash in the pool, cuddle with my mommy every chance I got, and enjoyed the horse that lived in our neighbors back yard.  I did play in the woods until dark, eat fresh apples and pears off my dads trees, raise baby ducks and geese, and always had a dog.

I don’t have to carry around the sadness of what was not when I forgive.  When I let go of the pain, I leave room for love to surface.  I don’t have to be a victim anymore when I forgive.

I’ve always identified with the victim:  first as a child watching my mom be strangled, choked, spit on, beaten and berated, then I was bullied, spit on, name called, left out, and shamed, then I became the abuser of drugs, alcohol and numbing myself and the pain.  Not being the victim is hard when you’ve always identified yourself as one because of unfortunate circumstances.

Forgiveness lets me identify with who I want to be and who I am becoming, rather than owning what was and identifying with the pain of the past.

Forgiveness feels good.  Really good.  I have been able to heal a petrified little girl, quiet a mouthy adolescent, and calm my inner drunken and drugged self using forgiveness and gratitude.  I am able to look in the mirror and see a kind, compassionate, helpful, loving, loyal and creative young mother, woman and wife with plenty of room to grow.

I didn’t and don’t do it on my own.  My families support, therapists, life coaches, hundreds of self help books and blogs, church sermons, journaling, meditation, yoga, and more have helped pull me out of my darkness and instead helped me shed light on what helps me move in the direction of my heart.

I know that life and people can be difficult and challenging, I know that the weight of the world and your burdens can be too, and I know you want to be happy and free.  Let gratitude and forgiveness show you what freedom feels like.  Let your little boy/girl speak and feel.  Let him/her turn their pain into passion, anger into action, bitterness into forgiveness, and grumbles into gratitude.

I can tell you from experience that a smile can save a life, a thank you can transform a mind, an I’m sorry can close and open new doors, and forgiveness tastes like freedom.

I hope we all have more moments where we are able to bite our tongues and  swallow our pride, so we may savor the simple and satisfying flavors of life.

Hateful, rude, inconsiderate, angry, aggressive, and evil people exist and some of us are affected by them more then others.  Running and hiding from what happened won’t fix it, pretending it didn’t happen doesn’t work, being ashamed and embarrassed is useless, repeating the pattern is dangerous and damages your soul, and staying the victim will minimize your spirit.  But, if you can find time in your schedule to sit with your pain and space in your heart to forgive, then you are able to do what you came here to do:  turn pain, evil, and darkness into love.

 

In Love, Danielle

(Please know if you are reading this poem, that the man I am referring to is not my real father, but an old boyfriend of my mothers)

********************************************************************** Little Girl

I’m sorry you were scared and alone.

I’m sorry that no one picked you up and carried you away to the safe place you craved.

I’m sorry you cried.

I’m sorry for all of the times you had to run and hide.

I’m sorry that everywhere you went, your time was spent, trying to protect yourself from fear and pain.

So little and fragile, just trying to grow every time it rains.

Instead always feeling emotionally drained, never knowing what the next breath would bring.

More screaming, yelling, throwing, strangling, hitting, sobbing, my heart throbbing, and my hopes and dreams for a life of love slowly dying. You were prying the innocence from my mind as you filled it with thoughts that would scare me to death and keep me up at night.

“Hide, run, go!” She screamed at us with a knife at her throat. The hate in his eyes, would he take my mom’s life? I closed my eyes, paralyzed in fear once more, as this has happened before.

He finally loosened his grip, and let her slip to the floor, where she begged and pleaded, “please, God, no more!”

I was a helpless witness and an innocent victim at the mercy of him, and his anger.

I could let my urge to play those rolls linger.

I could cry, scream, and yell about all of the injustice, and all of the wrongs; or I can choose to sing a different song. Because many times I was loved, hugged, cuddled, kissed, and given reasons to smile.

And, sometimes I was allowed to be an innocent child.

Some days others took my hand, held my heart, and made feel safe.

And, those are the memories I will choose to cherish and recreate.

I will allow all the love I did feel, and learn, to outshine all of the fear, pain, anger and hate that you placed within me. I’ll be the voice that sets me free. 

I can’t wait for your apology, or permission to let go of being the helpless victim.

Many years I have wished I could hear an, ‘I’m sorry, I love you, and please forgive me from everyone that did, and didn’t notice my pain. But, that won’t restore the love in my heart, again.

Some said sorry, some have not, most still don’t realize there was a reason to say I’m sorry at all. 

But, I no longer need to hear the words I once sought.

Because, you taught me what it looks like to hold on to resentment, anger and a victim mentality. You showed me your pain, I saw it, felt it, and lived it. 

And, so I say for you, “I’m sorry, I love you, please forgive me.”

 

I know you wish you had the voice to say it, and mean it. 

I know you wish you didn’t know the pain well enough to share it.

I knew you wanted to be stronger, you wanted to do better, and you wished you could. And, in those moments when I was brave enough to look into your eyes, I understood that you were scared and alone, too.

In those moments, I wished I could help you forgive yourself, and move on to new. I’ll let go, for me and for you.  God bless you.

 

In Love,

Danielle Atherton-Rutledge