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Good Job, Mom

October 16, 2016

I went on a creative journey today.

My ever-talented friend Lorilyn facilitated a workshop called, “Empty Nest? Wondering What’s Next?: A painting workshop to Imagine the Next Chapter of Your Life.”

It’s a workshop she lead as part of her certification in the intentional creativity program, a program offered through an organization called Cosmic Cowgirls. Longer story, but the important thing is we got to be trial subjects–her guinea princesses–so it was a good deal all around.

The workshop is best described in Lorilyn’s words:

  • I’m delighted you’ll be joining me on a creative journey to help you move beyond the story that’s been centered on raising a family and find a new story for your life now that your kid/s have left home.
  • You’ll gain insights and tools to help you navigate this transition. You’ll experience an approach called intentional creativity, and have a chance to explore new possibilities through ritual, reflection, painting, writing, and sharing.
  • We’ll be painting and writing, but it won’t be a painting or writing class. No experience in either is needed. So relax!

The journey actually began last night with a three-hour prep session, followed by today’s all-day session.

Last night, we began with an overview, a red yard ritual, followed by a reading, and then LL facilitated a fascinating guided imagery exercise.

When done well, guided imagery is like dreaming while awake. You go where prompted, but the imagery that presents itself is all your own.  For example, during the mediation, I saw a very sunny, warm and delicate alpine meadow surrounded by strong, towering redwoods. There was also a woman in levi’s and a white long-sleeved shirt, rolled halfway up her forearms.

Right?

She prompted with a light touch.. it was definitely my subconscious at work. Much of it made sense, and some of it was a bit baffling. At least initially.

We each shared what came up for us and tried to make some sense of it. We were asked to distill our thoughts into a single theme or question.  Mine was “where will my heart lead me,” referring to life after child-raising.

This question has to do with my desire to make a distinction between where my brain (specifically my left brain) might take me, and where my heart (or perhaps right brain) might take me in this new phase of life. I am the consummate left brainer–an organized planner of a structured life filled with routines and tasks. I love my tidy boxes. Sometimes I value organizational tidiness and routine over risk and the unknown. Maybe more than sometimes. As my world changes, I am interested in getting in touch with my less structured self and be guided instead (or at least in addition!) by my heart, by my passions.

Sounds pretty awesome, huh?

We wrote our questions in charcoal across the canvas.

We were then to create our “portal”.. our first foray into actually painting. Our job was to convey on canvas what came up for us during the guided imagery session. Perhaps not literally, but in a way that suggested the energy of our journey thus far. We were only to use three colors, and were to paint right over our charcoal scrawl.

This was a bit of a stretch for the tentative artist in me. But hey, I’m the one who said I wanted to let go of my brain and instead by guided by my heart… so I just let her rip. I basically ended up using yellow, green and a bit of brown to paint an abstract version of a meadow surrounded by a few clumsy trees. I completely forewent the levi-clad woman…. because my literal mind just couldn’t figure out how to transcribe her in art form. And denim blue was beyond my three colors.

Here is a shot of our makeshift studio and you can see the start of my painting on the far easel… this was before I added the clumsy trees:

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Anyway… that was our 3-hour introduction.

It wasn’t until driving home last night that I realized what that woman was all about. She represents a confident, capable, strong person. A badass, basically. I realize that after being a mom for 18 years, I’m not sure who I am anymore outside that role. I was a pretty good mom (thank goodness for excellent dads), but now who and how am I?

So yay! I now have a bunch of questions to ponder: 1) What — what am I going to do with myself, my time, my energies now that my kiddo is on his own? 2) Who — who’s showing up to deal with that very big what… and is she up to the task/s, whatever it/they is/are? 3) How — I do have confidence that my left brain will be totally on the job,  but I also want to make sure my right brain’s involved. 4) Where — where will my heart lead me?

Lotta overlapping question marks, but good stuff came up last night, ya?

Today, we just had to paint all that!

To get us our hearts stirring, we started with a bit of a ritual. We’d been asked to bring symbols of our life as a mom and symbols of what we wanted in our next phase of life to place upon an altar. I brought these:

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That’s a label from my favorite maternity shirt (that I wore for years, until it fell apart), a baseball (which symbolized our supporting role in Peter’s life), my beloved Buddha rock that I got in Nepal (symbol of my desire to explore a more spiritual life), and a heart rock (obvious symbol of love and compassion).

The creation of a painting, according to Cosmic Cowgirl’s intentional creativity approach, is a 13-step process. It’s possible we did two of those steps last night, not quite sure, but today was all about proceeding through the remaining steps until we had a completed work of … art … or until we had a completed representation of our current state of being (complete with dreams, affirmations and lots of others stuff). There was a pattern to this process: LL would read something, or pose a question, or introduce an idea or a technique, or whatever, and we would journal our thoughts. Then we’d proceed to the canvas to add those elements to our painting.  There was a framework, but the implementation was all ours.

For better or for worse.

Here is an early version of my painting (we might be in about the fourth or fifth stage here) …

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Let me explain: We start with a pretty prescribed template of a face, which we’d placed right over our initial “portal.” Believe me, it was very crude at the beginning, sort of Picasso-esque, so this is a lot of refinement. I can actually draw faces pretty well, but I started with an abstract and tried to bring it to life. Awkward, but fine… it’s more about process than art, per se. Anyway, at this point, I’m starting to develop an idea… that I want to light up my right brain and quiet down my left brain… thus the light and dark on the face, and the open/closed eyes. I went kinda literal on the woman, rather than a warrior princess type, made her sort of a self portrait… which…. I might have been better off staying kind of abstract… but I have left brain issues.

Then came this idea of opening my eyes (and right brain/heart) to my passions (nature, for example) and turn down the volume on my structure and tidy self side (boxes). Literal, I realize, but there you go.

I also added a symbol of my life as a child-raising mom… baseball stitches within my heart. Yep. That’s what I did.

Looks like I disappeared the river at this point. Sure I had a reason.

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Somewhere toward the end, after glazing (a washing away process) and other more subtle embellishments, I added a symbol of my desire to connect more deeply to a higher spirit… that would be the Nepalese symbol for the Buddha, which I placed over my head.

Many painting and journaling steps later, we’d gotten to the end of our thirteen steps. I think my final touches were to add lipstick and remove an errant hair.

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And there you have it. My wishes for my next phase in life: to be guided by gentle wisdom and a graceful spirit; to live life with peace and contentment; a mind open to passion; and a heart full of love.

I titled it, “Good Job, Mom,” but if I’d thought about it more, I might have chosen a title that reflected more the gift of parenting my precious son, the thrill of my continuing role as his mom, and the privilege of transitioning to new stage with eyes and heart wide open.

But Good Job, Mom works okay, I guess.

At the end of the workshop, we were tasked with reading a letter that the subject of our painting might write to us (which meant we had to write that, of course). Basically, she conveyed those themes and reminded me that I’m safe, loved, nurtured. And funny. I liked that (actually, she said whimsical and fun, but close enough). She also reminded me that I have a great life.

Here we are.. have you ever seen so much color!

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It was an affirming and worthwhile way to spend a rainy day.  Thanks Lorilyn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Response to “Good Job, Mom”

  1. lorilyn4 Says:

    It was wonderful to have such cooperative, fun and inspiring guinea princesses for my first full-scale intentional creativity workshop! Thanks for sharing your experience and insights. I look forward to seeing how your new story unfolds, m’dear…..


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