#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.



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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