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.