winter solstice 2017 #recoverygalsartexchange :: heal(ing)

As I ran across the street to the post office, I felt scattered and overwhelmed. Less than 24 hours prior, I had agreed to go on a 3-day yoga and meditation retreat with a few girlfriends. We were leaving in less than an hour and it was really important to me that I ship off my art exchange project to my partner so that it would arrive by December 21, 2017, the Winter Solstice.

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Something about being on time for this exchange was important to me. I wanted to keep my word and follow through. I also struggle with procrastination. These three things major components to the work I do in recovery because I didn't always keep my word or follow through with things I said I was going to do when I was drinking. I procrastinated the hell out of everything and (spoiler) sometimes I still do. I felt like I needed to finish this quick trip to the P.O. before I could let everything go and meditate and do yoga and sit with myself during my weekend retreat. My postmistress helped this girl out so that I could keep my word to myself.

 Found on a journal cover. Artist unknown.

Found on a journal cover. Artist unknown.

Like many women I know, I had so many things I should have been doing and had no business packing up and going on this weekend excursion. It felt indulgent. But something inside of me was, like, no. Full Stop. You need to set those things aside and step away from the insanity of the season and maybe, just maybe, this weekend would pull you out of your grief, your funk. Maybe it would heal parts of me that needed healing. And so I listened to that small voice inside of me. It tends to point me in the right direction and allows me to hear what I need to hear.


The theme for the art exchange this time around was the word Heal(ing) and it was a really great prompt for me over the last three months, especially because I feel like I have been trying to heal from the untimely death of my friend, Kacy. I wasn't sure what I could make that would relate back to the theme. I toyed around with just buying stuff (healing remedies, essential oils, etc.), but then I reminded myself that the whole point was to MAKE something.

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The idea of the Red Cross symbol popped into my head and I decided to paint one using hot pink (acrylic) instead of red. I embellished it with black india ink and loose connected circles.

Originally, I wanted to have this design transferred to a blank canvas tote bag, but I didn't know how to make that happen. Sure, I could have taken the time to learn but instead I cried Uncle! and asked for help from my friend Cristina, the Sober Unicorn. She quickly turned it into an acceptable file format and I ordered a tote bag and coffee/tea mug through Printful using the reformatted design.

I don't know about you, but I have a really hard time asking for help in my life. What recovery has shown me, over and over again, is that it is okay to ask for help. In fact, it's a necessity if I want to maintain emotional sobriety in my day-to-day life. Otherwise, I get all wonky in my head and feel all the feels, as they say. When you no longer have the numbing agent of alcohol to help quell those feelings, you have to figure out another way. Asking Cristina for help showed me how it works. I reached out. She responded. I surrendered and sent her the files. She worked her magic and came through for me. We strengthened our bond. I learned that it's okay to ask for help and the bonus - I had an acceptable file format to send to the printer to make my creative idea become a reality.

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I didn't end up sending my art exchange partner the tote bag. The color turned out to be more Pepto Bismal-pink and was splotchy. I know, I know. Would have been a great time to work on my progress not perfection attitude, but I had a Plan B ready and so I went with that.

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The tea/coffee mug option turned out less Pepto Bismal-pink, but still a little blotchy. I sent her a few of my favorite tea bags to accompany it, as well. I repurpose used empty Altoid tins to store tea bags in and throw the little containers in my car, purse and book bag to use when I'm out on the town and need a cup of hot tea to smooth me out, mellow my nerves and calm me down.

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I threw in a tin full of Bach's Rescue Remedy Rescue Pastilles, too. I learned about these a few summers back when I was in Paris. It was during an anxiety attack that was slowly building up inside of me that my friend walked into the Paris pharmacie (replete with so many homeopathic remedies!) and introduced me to this product line. She bought me the drops and I later purchased myself the spray (warning: both of which have a trace amount of alcohol in them). The pastilles have no trace of alcohol in them. I don't worry about the alcohol in the drops of spray, but some might be triggered so I wanted to mention.

As an aside, this Parisian pharmacie's cute little logo was a green cross, similar to the Red Cross symbol here in the United States. 

Healing. It was all lining up.

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On or about 11/11/17, I gifted my partner The Mantra Project: 40 Days of Sobriety email course written by Holly Whitaker and illustrated by me. If all went well, the last email should land in my partner's email inbox today or tomorrow. I worked on the bulk of this project while I was taking care of my best friend while she was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation at UCLA Medical Center a little over a year ago. Working on the project helped me to cope with what was happening to Kacy and I found it very healing to be of service to her and create art while she slept and worked so hard on healing her own body from her breast and brain cancers. You can read more about the project and when it was released last year on 11/11/16 by clicking here.

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It turns out that my partner likes the handwritten word and the post office as much as I do, so we started corresponding after we were paired up for this exchange. This was THE BIGGEST gift of all for me. Sharing our histories and asking questions to get to know one another better. I miss corresponding with people I have loved and lost through happenstance and circumstance. Writing letters and releasing them out into the world felt good, too, and was very cathartic.

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Once again, this #recoverygalsartexchange worked its magic on me. I started out in one place with my ideas and pre-conceived notions of how it would turn out and, like it usually does, it starts to shift and change and become exactly what it needs to be. This is JUST like my recovery.

I think I know everything.

I want to control the universe.

Eventually, I pause and redirect my thinking.

I see another way.

I pivot.

I surrender.

I ask for help.

I receive the message or teaching.

I give it a go.

I'm surprised and delighted by the results.

I come into acceptance.

I release my old ideas and stories.

I find connection - to myself, to another human being.

I heal my old ways and thought patterns - just a little, but it is a slow learning, an unfolding.

Healing was the theme of this art exchange and I think it did just that for me in a few areas of my life and my thinking. I'm grateful for the chance to connect with other women through this practice and appreciate the opportunity to ponder the theme and create something from nothing and then give it away, expecting nothing in return.

I love how art heals me.