I think I’m an over sharer. Pretty certain in fact. When I think of how important I have found it is for me to share what’s on my heart I think back to Katherine Horton.
There are a lot of people who suffer from the pains of insecurity. It’s part of being involved in the human experience. One way I have expressed this was taking it out on my body. From the age of 13 to 19 I was pretty deep into acting out my form of self-loathing with an eating disorder. The day Katherine Horton died at the age of 15 I learned that people can die of eating disorders.
My brother Peter got really sick with a rare blood poisoning from an old knee injury and nearly died the in the spring of 2001. He was hospitalized for a bit. Katherine came up to me and touched my shoulder in the lunch line and just said, “I am so sorry to hear about your brother.” Her eyes sparkled with such gentle kindness and I hugged her and thanked her for the considerate warm wishes.
The next morning there was an announcement that Katherine died in her sleep. She was just gone. She had been found by her mother in the morning. Her heart had stopped during her sleep. I came to find that we shared a secret and it broke her heart. There was not enough potassium in her system to regulate the steady pace of her heart and this was the result of bulimia.
Hundreds of people showed up to her funeral. I had been to a funeral service before, but this one I could not stop crying. I could barely drive myself home from the ceremony afterwards and pulled the car over. The image of her still face forever being buried in the ground just broke my heart. The sight of her mother in so much pain.
Tonight reflecting on these art pieces I am trying to churn out, started crying for Katherine. This year has been one of significant powerful change. Change that just feels so deeply gratifying. I am greatly excited about my life. I’ve started a journey of empowerment that is laid with the intention set feeling love for self and reflecting it to others. The women I know in my life currently are enormous teachers. Through getting to know others more throughout this time, I have come to know more about what I already suspected. We are precious. It is important it is to honor that precious self with time alone to reflect and enjoy. Often, it can be painful take that time if the self-loathing is so deep. But one day, after years of practice, it just started to click. Like pushups for the mind, self-love practice is a muscle to be exercised.
I’m really quite astounded by the journey that has transpired since that time of deep, quiet pain. I can see how taking the pains that come up in life have become incredible learning experiences. I know that the day I sat there sobbing on the side of the road, I really made a silent pact with my heart that burying my secrets and my shame could very much kill me. I think I was especially struck later by Katherine’s passing because I was eventually diagnosed with some heart troubles in an outpatient clinic caused by the eating disorder. But I wasn’t ready then to just reveal all. I didn’t even know what that could possibly mean. Since that time, I have left home and gone out to really discover the world a bit more. That experience made be open to the awareness that life is too short to sit in misery and the past hurts forever. I also have a choice.
Since then I’ve been slowly working toward a place where it’s just the best thing to be my most authentic self. What I took from that experience was how important it was, not to be perfect, but to listen to my internal story. I’m not here to be perfect in the eyes of others.
Striving for that “should have”, “need to”, success, ect…really is another way of hurting our bodies. When I just listen to the self doubt and outside voices, I can’t hear what I actually need. When I don’t get what I need, I am kind of starving. When I starve, I hurt my body. In this cycle, I might also in effect be hurting others as a biproduct. Further, if I’m not taking care of myself, it’s difficult for me to show up for others. And that feels pretty down right lonely sometimes.
Ultimately, at this stage in my life, I’m very firm about my daily personnal time. I am also very clear that I am officially an adult now and am responsible to make the time to take care of myself (and can eat ice cream whenever I want). Being an adult, doesn’t mean I’m giving up adventure. To me, it means that I just have a responsibility to be aware that I make an impact on the world. However small and insignificant it may appear, we still effect one another. My time for myself also it my living. As an adult, I have to pay my bills. I do that by being self-employed as a studio artist and if I am coming to my art/job from a place where I am just hiding, shameful, blaming… I am not my most effective. I get a lot of energy that fuels my work when I’m around friends and peers and get to partake and support and be helpful. But I can’t do that effectively if I haven’t tended to what I need first.
It is such an incredible thing to come through some of the difficult times, that are in fact just a part of life, and see how they shape me. What’s also remarkable is that often times the tools for learning strength have been in being honest about my vulnerabilities.
For so long, even though I left the eating disorder behind somewhere a few years back, there still exists that deep sense of embarrassment/ shame for being me. But what I’m coming to acknowledge today is that self-loathing is contagious. It is something we can teach others if we continue to practice it in our daily life. My greatest teachers are the people around me. A person reflecting their notions about their unworthiness into their image might be affirming a place where self-loathing is a standard sense of self. A good sign we may not feel so great about ourselves is in how we treat others. Someone who feels good about themself doesn’t often judge others very harshly, or try to make people feel bad about themself. As we get older, we may not understand that others looking for answers out there may look up to us for guidance. With this in mind, I think it’s important to learn how to really care for ourselves.
I think I conjure Katherine still, because I didn’t want to think her death was for nothing. She was a teacher for me. Eating disorders are often a sign that one is stuffing their feelings about things. They are commonly said to have a lot to do with control. That can partially be a control of feelings when there is a lot of dark matter coming at ya that is difficult to negotiate, especially as a child learning how to grow up and what that means. Life is big and chaotic at times and always changing. For me, I think for a long time I’ve tried to stay to my corner and fight really hard to control the things I think I can in order to insure change will not occur. But change is inevitable. and it feels good when life can make room for that breathing.
This week, I’m sort of on this joy ride of just feeling my sensations come up, look at them, and learn something about why they are existing at that moment instead of denying they have the right to exist or blaming someone for their presence. It’s so fun to learn, and actually, really exciting to embrace change. Wish I could surf, cuz I think there’s some good analogy there….
So, I’ve been on a mission to try and quickly make a body of work for Hope & Feathers …(Though I’ve been really really good at doing anything but painting as well)… I learned I had a month to create a whole new body of work for a show opening August 1. I wasn’t forced into this role. I kinda got really excited at the chance to just dive in quickly. I have until July 23rd to have about 15 paintings done. For me, my life feeds right into my work, so in order to get to the real juicy stuff to conjure up the energy to paint and summon ideas, I have to really delve into the life outside of my studio. To me this has meant showing up for my friends, being honest with people I care about, and really looking into my vulnerability.
..Also, dancing, swimming, and ice cream have been integral.
The energy of my life just feeds right back into the work. This body of work I am busting out is like a return to the child fascinated with spirit, animals and color. It’s like when I would spend hours on an adventure with just a page of paper. I’m showing some of the started paintings below. Not one of these paintings is done, but I just wanted to share what I’ve completed in a week. (That’s not even including the 4 commissions that have been completed).
I just share this stuff because it’s good to work out some ideas, and maybe some little bit of this resonates with someone else. I’m not even sure if anyone reads this. hah. I know life has been very difficult at times for us, but it really has a lot of magic to it. Ask for help, talk with a friend, drink some warm tea, go on a walk, go swimming, touch your heart and say “kindess for myself”… whatever it takes to feel good in your skin. The world benefits when feel good about you. On that note, I should probably go to sleep because I’ve been up all night painting away. I’m a adult now, I can stay up as late as I want too.