#Spoonieway Chapter Two – Identity 

Video for Chapter Two – Identity 
Chapter one went really well! I was really glad that we switched to doing two weeks per chapter. I feel like I got a lot more out of the chapter in the second week than I did in the first week.

One of the things that I got during the chapter was a sense of wonder. It became more about the experience that I was having rather than checking off a list.

A common question during that chapter was why do I avoid self care? My daily Pages help me find the answer for myself. Instead of beating myself up, I came to recognize that I may have a good reason for not wanting to do self-care. It is an old reason, a reason that doesn’t serve me anymore, but it was a good reason. Recognizing that when I was little the people around me squished me down whenever I became expansive, made me realize that I am continuing the squishing down of myself today. And made it possible for me to work on starting to heal that and accept and support myself when I am expansive and big in personality.

I only did 5 daily Pages during two weeks but they were a really great experience. I feel like they really helped me shift a lot of things.

The time-travel task I thought I could not do because of my brain fog and really bad memory. I felt super resistant to it and really didn’t want to do it. But I was really surprised at what happened when I sat down to do it. I remembered that I used to dance with a lot of enthusiasm in both gym class and in ballet class. I remembered that I found out that some of the popular girls were making fun of me behind my back in front of the whole class and felt incredibly humiliated. I stopped dancing after that. It was amazing to remember this because I had completely forgotten it. It felt very freeing to realize this. Instead of trashing the monster as Julia suggests, I drew myself dancing freely as if it had never happened. It was also very exciting to be drawing because I usually have a lot of self-criticism and don’t let myself do that. So it felt very freeing on many levels!

I love the imaginary lives task. And it’s also a great source of artist dates! One of my imaginary lives was national park ranger. I can’t really go outside much with my illnesses, so instead I watched a documentary on Netflix about national parks. It was a very spoonie friendly adjustment to the activity.

I did a lot more artist dates than writing, which feels unusual for who I think of myself as. But it really worked for me with my spoonieness, particularly with just being in the experience. I also have a lot of hand pain so it makes it difficult to write. Again a good spoonie friendly adjustment. 

Chapter two Recovering a sense of Identity 

I feel like a lot of the language used in this chapter is ableist and stigmatizes mental illness. I had to really reframe it for myself. That process actually helped me go a lot deeper and be more authentic and more accurate, so I’m appreciative that it happened.

As we move into our creativity and prioritizing ourselves it feels really scary, uncertain, strange, frightening, awkward, etc. We may seem erratic at first. It is like learning any new skill. I had to remind myself that I am learning to play t-ball, I am not playing in the major leagues yet! Being patient with myself and nurturing and praising my early efforts, is a very important part of creativity recovery.

Julia says that we will be attacked from the inside with self-doubt but also from the outside. I call the people she refers to as “crazymakers” as emotional black holes. People that are very needy, get upset when I draw boundaries, make things about them, get upset when I don’t give them attention, etcetera. But I realize that this is also really from the inside – to what degree am I willing to give away my power in a way that doesn’t feed me? 

Of course we have to compromise in life, but if in 24 hours I can’t carve out just 30 minutes to feed my own soul then I am making that choice for myself. I am learning to make new choices that feed my soul and my creativity.

This includes my illness. It is very draining and of course it is necessary to take my meds, Pace myself, and do all the things I need to do around my illness. But I can still carve out that space.

I may not be able to physically escape the draining things (including my body) or people but I can work on changing the amount of space that they take up in my head.

Julia says that the way to manage emotional pain and to bring forth creativity is attention. Really paying attention, in the moment, to the little things. I would call this mindfulness or intention. How can I be really present in each moment and appreciate things like the fall of light through the window, the expression on my cat’s face as he is sleeping?

There’s a book I really like that does a really good job of explaining this. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. It’s by a woman who is bed bound and so exhausted she can’t even watch TV or listen to the radio. A friend gives her a terrarium with a little snail in it. Through the process of watching this snail she feels connected to the wider world and feels a sense of wonder about living things.

My own daily Buddhist practice and of chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo helps me to do this. I feel way more appreciation for the little things, a sense of hope and optimism, and connected to the larger universe and a sense of my own eternal soul. I am able to notice, appreciate and find joy in the little things.

This I think is the essence of this chapter. How to move from and cultivate this place of Freedom, connection and creativity.



#spoonieway map

Here is an easy map to the links to #spoonieway, the #spoonie version of the Artists Way by Julia Cameron. I will continue to update as we go along. The videos and written blogs for each section are similar but each have a few things the other doesn’t. 
Getting ready info by video and written

Spoonie friendly Artist Date Ideas 

Chapter One Safety by video and written 

Chapter Two Identity by video and written 

#Spoonieway Chapter One – Safety 

Chapter One video has most of the topics below, plus a few extra thoughts 

It’s been one week of prep and I’ve already had moments of wanting to give up. It’s ironic that at this moment I am trying to check in and connect more, my husband is really checking out. Particularly because I get so hooked by that, and want to focus on him. This is a major theme of the Artists Way, to not focus on others so much we lose ourselves. 

Check in from last week – prep:

The private messaging group on Twitter has been growing and been a great source of support and ideas! Any spoonie doing #spoonieway can join. 

I did my daily pages most days but not every day. I find it helpful to not track it because then I get caught up in “I didn’t finish it” and push myself beyond what is good for my body. 

In the group, @aL0Es had the idea for an emergency plan for the daily pages: on bad brain fog days to just write “fog fog fog” over and over to fill the page, and on really bad days write five words in summary of a ten-minute verbal brain dump. On one of my bad days when I was really angry, I just wrote in huge words and filled up the page with about six words. It wasn’t verbose, but it sure was cathartic.

One thing that I and others discovered was that it’s important to do pacing with the daily pages! Because our spoonie bodies are sensitive, we can cause physical injury. My hands were pretty sore even with only writing one page, and that not even every day. I pulled out the arnica to use in the future to help with the sore muscles. Also sometimes I would wait until later in the day, so that I would have over night to recover.

Already with the daily pages I’ve been feeling fear and liberation. Surprising things have been coming up, things I had no idea were in there.

There’s been a lot of discussion  in the group about the artist date. In thinking about the artist date, I realize that I was actually kind of fuzzy on what it really is. I went back to read that section in the book The Artist’s Way. 

Julia Cameron says that it is about magic, delight, fun, mystery. I would describe it as containing a sense of wonder, so that my body actually feels lighter, more joyous. Julia also says the artist date is “filling the well”. The act of creativity causes us to draw on the resources in our lives, and we have to fill up that space inside us to have something to draw on. She says that art is sensual, and composed of image and felt experience, even when we are writing. Does not pain she says that makes us better artists, but focused attention. And pain is one common way to get more focused on the things around us. I take it as bringing intentional Focus to the moment, bringing mindfulness, and feeling and experiencing the moment. This is the heart of the artist’s date. 

To me this is very different from self care or pacing. If we don’t do careful self-care and pacing we will get sicker, in a serious and tangible way. If I don’t fill the well, I’m not as creative but it doesn’t damage my health. 

One person asked how they could do the artist date when they were exhausted and unable to get off the couch. Does Netflix count as an artist date? 

I think it depends on the intention we are bringing to the moment. If I am watching Netflix just to zone out, that is not an artist date, although it is important self-care and pacing. However, if I am watching Netflix and really checking into the experience, being aware of the sensuality of the images, sounds and imagining the smells, filling the internal well with these experiences, then I would say it absolutely is an artist date!

I would say the same thing about being on the internet. If I am just surfing the web mindlessly to self soothe then I don’t think that is an artist date. However if I am being deliberate about my experience then I think it can be. For instance if I decide my theme is Japan and I search for videos on YouTube for a day in the life of Japan, that can definitely be an artist date. Especially if I decide to add green tea, Japanese candy, incense or other tangible sensual experiences related to Japan.

Here is a list of spoonie friendly artist date ideas, that I will be updating throughout #spoonieway.

New chapter – Safety 

I highly recommend getting the book because each week is like a mini therapy session with Julia, but I will go over a few things that struck me. 

This chapter opens with the sentence “one of our chief needs as a creative being is support. Unfortunately this can be hard to come by.” 

I think this is especially true and difficult for us spoonies! Already there is such a burden that we have to deal with because of our illnesses. It can be really hard to get support from others, and it can be really hard to get support from our self. I know that I tend to have a lot of judgement of myself. It can be difficult to embrace myself with kindness and compassion. I think learning to do this is going to be one of the most powerful things about doing #spoonieway.

She goes over how often as children we were actively discouraged from being artists. Sometimes it was because someone was being mean, but more often it’s because they were trying to help us be practical. But the side effect was that our inner artist got squashed. And often times when we experience that, we become what she calls Shadow artists, who support the artistic dreams of the people around us but not for ourselves. She encourages us to say I am an artist, and to really do that for ourselves. She also says that judging our early artistic efforts is artist abuse. It’s kind of like we’re learning t-ball, but we compare ourselves to the Major Leagues.

She also talks about the negative beliefs that we have around being an artist such as everyone hate me, or even, I will die. She calls these blurts. And then says we should turn the blurts into affirmations. So for instance I’m not gifted enough could become I Am A Gifted writer.

To me paying attention to how I do the affirmations is really important. Sometimes it’s literally turning around blurt, but sometimes it is deeper than that. Paying attention to my gut feeling as I’m doing them can help me get to the heart of the matter for me, and find the correct affirmation for whatever deeper fears going on.

The tasks for this week that I’m hoping do are the daily Pages, artist date, imaginary lives, time travel, and working with blurts.

Julia encourages us to do the blurts right after the daily pages. But this isn’t necessarily very practical for spoonies. Personally, I’m pretty tired after doing my daily page. I will need to do the blurts at a different time. I probably won’t do them everyday as Julia suggests, because that’s just not feasible for me with my energy.

The imaginary lines exercise is imagining if you had 5 other lives to lead what would you do in each of them? Whatever occurs to us and to not overthink it. She then encourages us to do one thing connected to one of these lives. So an example she gives is if you want to be a country singer can you pick up a guitar?

Time travel is an exercise I really don’t want to do. At all. This is why I picked it, because she encourages us to pick the ones we most like and are most resistant to. The first part is listing three old enemies of our creative self worth. People who squashed are desire to be an artist or creative. This is our monster Hall of Fame. The second part is writing out one Horror Story from our monster Hall of Fame. My memory is really bad, so I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to do this. But I really like the end part where she said we could find it cathartic to draw a sketch of our old monster or find an image that reminds us of it and then do cartoon trashing of it or at least drawing a big red X through it.

Saturday check in

On Saturday we do a check in for how the week went. The questions she gives are: 

  1. how many days this week did you do the daily pages and how was the experience for you? 
  2. Did you do your artist date how did it feel? 
  3. Were there any other issues this week that you consider significant for your recovery? Describe them.

Spoonie friendly Artist Date Ideas – #spoonieway 

There’s been a lot of discussion  in the group about the artist date. In thinking about the artist date, I realize that I was actually kind of fuzzy on what it really is. I went back to read that section in the book The Artist’s Way. 

Julia Cameron says that it is about magic, delight, fun, mystery. I would describe it as containing a sense of wonder, so that my body actually feels lighter, more joyous. Julia also says the artist date is “filling the well”. The act of creativity causes us to draw on the resources in our lives, and we have to fill up that space inside us to have something to draw on. She says that art is sensual, and composed of image and felt experience, even when we are writing. Does not pain she says that makes us better artists, but focused attention. And pain is one common way to get more focused on the things around us. I take it as bringing intentional Focus to the moment, bringing mindfulness, and feeling and experiencing the moment. This is the heart of the artist’s date. 

Words are brightly colored and in a variety of fonts. It says Artist Date is intention, magic, wonder, fun, delight, mystery. @IngredientsWeCh

To me this is very different from self care or pacing. If we don’t do careful self-care and pacing we will get sicker, in a serious and tangible way. If I don’t fill the well, I’m not as creative but it doesn’t damage my health. 

One person asked how they could do the artist date when they were exhausted and unable to get off the couch. Does Netflix count as an artist date? 

I think it depends on the intention we are bringing to the moment. If I am watching Netflix just to zone out, that is not an artist date, although it is important self-care and pacing. However, if I am watching Netflix and really checking into the experience, being aware of the sensuality of the images, sounds and imagining the smells, filling the internal well with these experiences, then I would say it absolutely is an artist date!

I would say the same thing about being on the internet. If I am just surfing the web mindlessly to self soothe then I don’t think that is an artist date. However if I am being deliberate about my experience then I think it can be. For instance if I decide my theme is Japan and I search for videos on YouTube for a day in the life of Japan, that can definitely be an artist date. Especially if I decide to add green tea, Japanese candy, incense or other tangible sensual experiences related to Japan.

Here is a list of spoonie friendly artist date ideas, that I will be updating throughout #spoonieway.

  • Play dress  up
  • Spa day with simple nontoxic ingredients: salt and scent make a great bath soak; oil in sugar makes a great scrub; rosemary and Thyme as fresh herbs can scent the bath
  • Change perspective – sit in different chair, on back of couch, upside down – sketch it
  • Create a new Pandora station with bands that are new to you /different genre than you usually listen to
  • Go outside and use whatever you find to make something, even if it is drawing in the dirt with a stick, or arranging blades of grass on the side walk
  • Browse online art catalogs 
  • Go to museum websites, especially those in other countries 
  • Use Google maps street view to wander the streets of another city, especially one you never considered going to before 
  • Jump on the bed
  • Walk in your backyard barefoot. Go slow and observe all the little things 
  • Google your favorite childhood cartoon. Draw your favorite characters 
  • Learn something from YouTube: belly dancing, singing, spinning etc
  • Create a memory box – put in things that represent you, photos, rocks, an earrings, etc
  • Decorate a corner of your room to be your happy place/ clubhouse /fort
  • Listen to Buddhist chants
  • Watch a movie in a foreign language with no subtitles. Optional: make up what they are saying
  • Marathon watch as many unwatched movies from your Netflix queue as you can 
  • Pick an unwatched movie from your Netflix queue. Watch to the very end. When it’s over, select one of the suggestions Netflix offers. Watch to the very end. Repeat. 
  • Play with your food. Create edible or even inedible art! Explore textures, colors, scents and flavors 

https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/u/0/theme/mwJiZHf_Y7FfLg
Suggestions from other spoonies:

Collect #quotes that resonate with you on a topic with meaning to you, no telling what’ll be #inspired. @coffeesister

Super-luxe bath, with candles, music, bubbles, and poetry. @NomTweet

Faux-travel. Randomly pick a place on a map. Google accordingly. Find music from there, and visual art, and historical tidbits. @NomTweet

Take  your artist-child self shopping. Budget for a small amount on Amazon prime. Nothing practical allowed. Toys, bubbles, etc. @NomTweet

Make your Spoonie-nest into an actual blanket fort… like, clothespin up some sheets. Read a YA book by flashlight. @NomTweet

Watch an old black-and-white movie. Something you wouldn’t usually watch. Make popcorn. Put on lipstick- it’s a date. @NomTweet

Find a short story that’s a “classic” by an author you’ve never (or hardly) read. Read it out loud, to yourself. @NomTweet

Browse free online at books from the MET. [I don’t read the text, just look at the pictures.]  http://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/titles-with-full-text-online
 @oceana1009
Spoonie friendly ideas from other websites :

From http://whereverthewindtakesme.com/2013/03/20/99-ideas-to-bring-play-into-your-life-via-the-artist-date/

  • Make an image board of where you would like to go on your next holiday – find a pile of old magazines, tear out any images you like, and stick them on a big piece of paper
  • Buy a colouring book and some pencils, and spend an afternoon colouring in.
  • Go to a restaurant and try a dish or cuisine you haven’t tried before. [or order in] 
  • Anonymous love letters http://lifeislimitless.com/have-i-told-you-lately/
  • Put a key word like ‘inspiration’ or ‘courageous’ into TED  and watch 5 of the videos that come up.
  • Go out and take photos of everything that you see that is red (or blue etc). [or take screen shots of images]   Make a collage on your computer or better still, print the photos out and make a collage in a frame.
  • Make a fort/den out of blankets, cushions, pillows, chairs and tables.  Snuggle into it and read a book and drink hot chocolate or herbal tea.
  • Send 10 postcards even though you’re at home.
  • Make your own ‘scavenger hunt’  – decide on 20 things you need to find and then head out for an afternoon to take photos or bring them home. [or find them online] 

From http://theartistswayblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/101-artists-date-ideas/

  • Take a self-portrait everyday for a week.
  • Create a piece of artwork entirely with things from your recycle bin
  • Read poetry aloud… to yourself

The Spoonie version of the Artists Way #spoonieway 

Cover to the book artists way: a spiritual path to higher creativity by Julia Cameron. There is a drawing of a mountain top and cranes flying by in Sumi ink.

The artists way is a fantastic book by Julia Cameron that is a 12-week self-directed course on recovering and healing our creativity. I have tried it many times before and gotten a lot out of it, but I’ve never actually finished it. And as I have a little bit more energy then I’ve had the last few years, I find that I feel a certain kind of restlessness that is soothed by being creative. To me, creativity is a wonderful outlet for the pressures and stresses of spoonie life. It helps me feel like a whole person, beyond just my illness.
 
If you are going to do this along with me, I strongly recommend getting the book because it is almost like having a therapy session with her each week. She goes in depth into the topic of each week, such as safety. But I also recognize that on spoonie budgets it can be very difficult. I will be posting a summary of what I am getting out of the book each week. And I am going to try, spoons permitting, to do a video each week. Hopefully this will be helpful to other people. Here is the video for this week, with most of the same info as this post: https://youtu.be/NAHj0xK4v8E
 
In doing a spoonie version, the focus will really be on what serves my highest health, rather than just getting things done. A successful week will be where I get even just one thing done. The challenge for me will be to let go of what I was not able to do, and move forward with the learning, healing and benefit that I got from what I was able to do.

This week is getting prepared, and getting familiar with the structure and basic tools of the daily pages and the artists date.
 
I will be doing this from Sunday to Saturday. That means on Sunday I will be reading the new chapter, and speed writing through the exercises that I can manage to do that day. Then throughout the week I will be trying to do the daily pages, the artist dates, and some of the tasks at the end of the chapter, as spoonieness allows.

In choosing which of the tasks at the end of the chapter to do, Julia says to pick those that appeal the most and those that appeal the least. She says to leave the more neutral ones for later. And to remember that in choosing we often resist what we most need.

What I am calling the daily pages, Julia calls the morning pages. However because of my illness, I never know when I will be able to write. I like calling them daily pages because then there’s less pressure to get it done in the morning. It reminds me to write when it is not negatively impacting my health. The daily pages are free write, or you could also call it a brain drain or verbal vomit. It is just getting things down on paper. Practicing the art of flow. Julia says to be clear that it is not “real writing” and not to get hung up with the internal censor. Part of the purpose of the daily pages is to practice writing while ignoring the internal censor.
 
The book calls for daily writing three pages which she said should take about 30 minutes. However, for myself my goal is to write one page a day.
 
Julia says that the daily pages are about getting stuff out and the artist date is about putting things in. An artists date is basically a personal playdate done with me and my inner artist. No one else tags along, no friends, kids, spouses, etcetera! It is about giving your inner artist time and attention. It’s not about doing culturally edifying things that we “should” appreciate. It’s about having fun.
 
The examples that Julia gave were a long Country Walk, church gospel music, or even bowling! Some spoonie friendly ideas that I thought of so far are getting Google glasses that you can view virtual museums with, listening to music in a dark room, getting library books on visual topics that I like, or watching a Bollywood film.
 
Julia said that we are likely to find ourselves avoiding the artists date. She said we should recognize this resistance as a fear of intimacy – self intimacy. She said that to have a real relationship with our creativity we must take the time and care to cultivate it.
 
Julia has a contract in her book for people to fill out to make a commitment to this process. Here is my version of it

She also has a list of basic principles of the course and she says to read them once a day and watch for any shifts in attitude or beliefs. I’m actually pretty resistant to most of them so it will be interesting to see what happens. You can see where I scratched out and wrote in new words with the words that I find triggering.

Julia says that in this process she sees a lot of defiance and giddiness at first, followed by anger, grief and alternating waves of resistance and hope. She said this choppy growth phase is followed by a strong urge to abandon the process and return to life as we know it. She calls this the creative u-turn. This is where I have always stopped in the past. She says that after this in the final phase of the course there is a new sense of self marked by increased autonomy, resilience, expectancy, and excitement and much more actually producing creative works. This is where I hope to get to.

I also hope that by posting each week that it will help me through this process to not give up! The spoonie community on Twitter is so supportive in so many ways. I know that the support that we can give each other as spoonie artists using #spoonieway will help each other with this process!

To participate, use #spoonieway on Twitter and join our private messaging group on Twitter by sending me a request @IngredientsWeCh 

February #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge 

Each month, I post a question a day on a spoonie related topic for the first days of the month. The theme for February is self care! Many spoonies have been talking about how they wish they were better at self care, and we certainly need extra self care at this time. 

Each day I’ll add the daily #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge  question here. 

#SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 1. What are some things you do for self care?

Background is two tone ombre going from green to yellow. Text is #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 2. Two things I'd like to start doing for self care are...

Image is an overcast day at the beach, calm grey water, and the back of a woman in a long brown sweater looking out to sea. Text is #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 3 is there an unhealthy strategy you want to let go of

Image is blurry lights going from orange, yellow, green, white, blue, purple and red. Text is #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 4. When you think about self care what color comes to mind? How can you incorporate more of that color in your life?

Image is blue water with ripples across the surface. Text is #SpoonieMonthlyChallenge Day 5. What helps you stay hydrated?

Oshogatsu – Japanese New Year 

I love Japanese new year. In my extended family it was more important than any other holiday, and the one time we all got together. And oh the food!! Most things were Homemade from scratch. Barbecued teriyaki chicken, gyoza, kinpira gobo. Platters of sushi. Even the rainbow finger jello! (hey, we’re Japanese American

But because of my multiple chemical sensitivities and intense fatigue from Mylagic encephalomyelitis, I haven’t been able to travel at all and haven’t been able to have people over to the house in a long time. Things like the lingering scent of shampoo, Deodorant or drier sheets can make me really sick. But slowly I’ve been collecting a small group of wonderful people who are scent safe for me, or are willing to make the effort to become scent safe. 
I live in Olympia, WA so many people are already aware that artificial fragrances are really poisonous and don’t use those kinds of products. One of my friends was willing to do a special load of laundry with products I can tolerate (and already doesn’t use drier sheets), and wash with products I sent over to her! I even had a friend who is even more sensitive than me attend via Skype! 

Ever since my husband and I met, on new years day we make mochi and ozoni, both traditional lucky new years foods. Mochi is sweet rice, pounded to be a soft dough. My husband makes batches of this to give to friends and family. 

A man is smoothing out a large round of mochi, about the size of a large pizza and an inch thick, on top of a piece of canvas covered with potato starch. He is in a messy kitchen.

Ozoni is a soup, usually with mochi in it. There are a million ways of making ozoni, and we like to have a variety buffet for people to assemble their own ingredients. We make almost everything from scratch. This year we had two kinds of broth: pork and veggie (for the vegetarians). In the bottom of the bowl went either a crunchy (toasted) piece of mochi or a soft (boiled in broth) piece of mochi. On top of that went the broth and any other fillings they wanted: broiled pork pieces, Shiitake Mushrooms, carrots, nappa cabbage, enoki Mushrooms, konyakku (yam cake), daikon (japanese radish), green onions and three kinds of miso, red and white soy based miso, and Chickpea miso for those who can’t have soy. 
A bowl of soup with miso, pork, Mushrooms, Daikon, carrots shaped like cherry blossoms, konyakku and green onions.

It was super delicious but the best part was having people I love over that were willing to make the effort it took to keep me safe. I might have far fewer people in my life now, but they are of far higher quality. 
Happy new year! 

A group of 9 people of a variety of ages, Caucasian and Asian, smiling cheerfully. There is a blurry image of another person on Skype on an iPad being held by somebody