Gratitude and Creativity: Thank You Card

These days it’s so rare that we receive anything but bills and junk advertising in our mailboxes. However, today there was a lovely surprise waiting when I opened my mailbox. I received a thank-you card in my mail. Receiving it made me smile from ear to ear.

Someone who will always be special to me sent me the card: my nephew. He wrote me a personal message of thanks. I’m so glad to know that he’s cultivating his own practice of expressing gratitude while he’s so young.

I have a bit of a thing for thank-you cards. I always have a bunch on hand at home to send notes to people when they do something nice for me. Sometimes I send a card or note for no reason at all except to let someone know how much they mean to me.

I’m sharing this because I feel so happy and proud of my nephew; and I want to encourage everyone to send a card or note to someone to let them know you care. If you don’t have cards think of another way to express gratitude for having her/him in your life.

Thank you S for your thoughtfulness

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After InkTober 2017 Is Over

Now that I’m finished with InkTober 2017, I need to figure out what I’m going to do to occupy my time. Last year, I worked on teaching myself to draw better, which I believe paid off in this year’s challenge. What feels like the right direction for me this year, is revisiting the colourful geometric art I enjoyed creating in the past. What I created then ranged from simple shapes with basic colour to intricately combined lines with bright bold colour palettes.

In recent years, as I’ve searched for my artistic style, the geometric pieces I created keep surfacing in my thoughts. Because these thoughts are so persistent, I intend to use this style as a base. To this base, I will add the different artistic methods I’ve taught myself over the last four years as I’ve sought creative ways to cope with my illness. I’ll also make use of any new skills I pick up as I go along.

I’m looking forward to the new things I’ll create with old-established methods.

If you participated in InkTober 2017, what are you going to do now that it’s over?

 

InkTober 2017: Day 31 – Mask

I’m done. I finished the InkTober 2017 challenge. I’m a few days late but I needed to take time out for self-care at a couple of points, and I’m glad I did because it tells me I’m prioritizing my health. The last prompt for the challenge is ‘mask’, which is an easy word for me to relate to.

Psychologically and emotionally, everyone wears a mask. Some of us wear more masks than others do. Each mask helps us to fit into a specific situation. Who are we when we are with our family, our friends, or in our workplaces? Then who are we when we are alone when the mask(s) can come off?

I wear multiple masks. More than ever, I wear them to obscure the effects of my illness. I’ve become quite good at hiding what my body is doing to me psychologically and emotionally. I don’t believe anyone, even those who know me well, have a clear picture of who I’ve become over the course of the past four years. Because of this, I’m convinced these masks have to stay on, otherwise my family and friends might be the ones who can’t cope with what I’m living with each day.

Although, I must say, wearing the many masks I do when I feel pain all the time is tiring. Always being hopeful is tiring. Always trying to be cheerful is tiring. Always trying to make others worry about me less is tiring. Most of all, always acting as if I’m okay so others don’t treat me different is tiring. Yet, I will continue to wear my masks because the alternative, showing the rawness of what I’m living with, isn’t an option.

 

InkTober 2017: Day 19 – Cloud

As a child, did you play the game where everyone would lay on their backs in the grass and look for shapes, usually animals, in the thick fluffy white clouds as they floated by? I loved that game. I also loved trying to see the things that others saw, although I wasn’t always successful. However, what I loved more was the slight dizzy feeling I would get as the clouds and their blue backdrop of sky moved above us because it made me feel as if I was moving too.

Sometimes I would lie on the grass for what felt like hours. Then when I finally stood up, I would feel unsteady. I always needed a moment to steady myself on the solid ground before I could start running around again with my friends.

I wonder if I’m the only one who felt that sensation?

 

InkTober 2017: Day 18 – Filthy

I was raised in a family where swearing, especially among children, was unacceptable – even taboo. Because of this, for most of my life I’ve considered swearing a filthy habit or something done by those who have a limited vocabulary and inability to express their thoughts without relying on profanity. I’m not so sure I believe that so strongly now. In recent years, as my illness has refused to subside, my opinion has softened. Maybe it’s partially because my pain medications have somewhat lowered my inhibitions or it might be that when I’m in extreme pain my mind doesn’t always function clearly.

Whatever the reason, swearing has become part of a shorthand for me to express my anger, frustration, and pain. However, I’m still a bit reserved about when I use obscenities. I won’t swear in front of my parents or elder members of my extended family, probably because somewhere deep inside me I still fear some sort of punishment for using what I was raised to believe is “bad language.” I don’t swear when speaking to the doctors whose support and efforts to get me healthy have been steadfast. And I definitely don’t use curse words in the presence of children.

So when, if not in front of all those I’ve listed, do I spurt coarse four-letter – and occasionally longer-lettered – words? I use curse words when I’m talking to friends and family (like my brother) with whom being myself, all of myself, is never questioned. I blurt them out when, frustrated, I fumble through explaining to my therapist how I’m coping with all aspects of my illness. I can also string curses together, better than a sailor does, when I’m on my own and hopelessly trying to do something that never posed any difficultly when I was healthy.

Although I may not swear in every conversation or every instance of frustration, I must admit that I don’t view doing so as filthy as I once did. It has earned a place in my linguistic arsenal as a tool that helps me get to the point of what I need to communicate faster than trying to search for the appropriate words when I need that energy to focus on what ails me.

 

 

InkTober 2017: Day 15 – Mysterious

One of my favourite things to do when I was a teenager was ride the subway in my city from one end to the next, for hours, while writing. I would sit on a seat that gave me a wide vantage point to watch people as they entered and exited the subway car in which I rode. Watching people’s movements inspired my poetry and prose writing. Trying to see beyond the clothes and blank expressions, they wore, made my mind work to create personas or circumstances I felt suited each man, woman, or child as they moved briefly toward me then permanently away from me out the train’s sliding doors.

On one occasion, I wrote a short poem about a man whose presence caught my attention. He was tall and he stood in the doorway of the train’s car with one shoulder leaning against the Plexiglas-enclosed entryway. However, I couldn’t read too deeply into him because he wore sunglasses, which prevented me from seeing his eyes and made him more mysterious than he probably was. Not being able to see a person’s eyes always makes it difficult for me to read them and in this case, his sunglasses made it impossible.

As the man continued standing in the doorway, I was unable to hide my interest in him. Although I couldn’t see his eyes I knew he was looking at me. As he stood there, I wrote about him and I wondered if he knew he was my subject. I got my answer when the train arrived at his stop. Before he left the train, he looked directly at me and smiled. I was so taken aback by that sudden unexpected connection that I smiled back. I smiled back not knowing for certain why he smiled at me.

As silly as it may sound: to this day, thinking about that experience unnerves me. Why did that man, whose eyes couldn’t be seen, smile at a teen-aged girl while they rode on the same train?

 

InkTober 2017: Day 14 – Fierce

I had trouble drawing my sketch and writing my thoughts coherently, for this prompt since I read it a couple of days ago. I knew what I wanted to draw to represent the word ‘fierce’ and I knew exactly what I wanted to say. However, I’d never drawn a lion before and, on top of that, I had some writer’s block too. I tried a few times to start the sketch but it wouldn’t take shape the way I wanted it to. I did a lot of erasing and had to sharpen my pencil many times. I wanted to draw a lion that looked like a creature to be feared, instead of a stuffed animal but that’s not an easy thing to do when you’re not an accomplished artist.

Why the words wouldn’t come is a different and very personal matter. What I was trying to truthfully articulate is something I’ve struggled with in my life: putting on a façade to appear tougher than how I feel because I don’t want others to know that their attempts to wound me have landed with painful accuracy. As a woman, I’ve done that repeatedly to push through and past situations, while pushing away the someone(s) who felt they had the right to betray my trust or recklessly harm me. I did it so many times that it became second nature, while showing what I truly feel and how deeply I feel it became gruelling work.

I assume we all like to believe that we are or can be fierce when a situation makes it necessary. I say “necessary” because the human body’s nervous system is not designed to be on constant alert. Being fierce at all times requires a hyper-vigilance that takes a toll on one’s body and mind. We are designed to sense danger, get ourselves to safety, then shut down that alert system so our bodies return to a (relative) state of calm. Moreover, the measures needed for keeping out the bad, mean not allowing enough of the good to find its way through; and it can be exhausting to keep this cycle going.

My fierce demeanor was so well-practiced I could probably teach how-to classes and make a fortune. First, there’s the posture one must take where your back and shoulders are held with such stiffness your body oozes aloofness and an air of I don’t give a f…, which may send a message that feelings – if it’s believed one has any – can’t be accessed or hurt. Then there’s the sharp cutting glance that takes years to master and to an untrained eye may resemble the batting of an eyelash. The sender must make sure the receiver feels the whittling sharpness of the look to their core in an instant. While the accompanying words – their calculated pitch and timing between them – further build the effect of an impenetrable stone structure that towers protectively above one’s physical frame.

Many years ago, I had to look at my life and figure out how well this strategy was working for me. The primary question being: Was my fierce demeanor attracting the people and the experiences I wanted in my life? If it wasn’t, what did I have to change? Although, I didn’t have to overwrite who I was completely, it took years for me to unlearn and untangle myself from these exhausting self-protective practices. Furthermore, the work is ongoing because there is no single action or magic pill that can give you everything you want overnight.