How Creativity Saved Me

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So it occurred to me recently that many folks following my page might not know my story and how I came to discover creativity. I don't like to say I discovered art or painting, because creativity comes in many shapes and forms. And it's not the art or the painting that I want to highlight, it's the ACT of engaging in a creative process that revolutionized my life and can change the way you live, act, think, and show up in this world.

I'll take you back to a few years ago, when I left my job working in higher education. I had previously been a working professional mom. Prior to motherhood, I was in love with my work, was involved in professional organizations, and career motivated. I had received my MEd while working full-time, and had considered pursuing my EDd thereafter. I had no idea that motherhood would make all that feel secondary. 

Once I became a mom - you know, the all-consuming job that takes over your heart, so you find you have less control over your life than you ever expected to have - it became really hard for me to put my attention on my work like I wanted. I felt like I couldn't give my 110% self, like I had previously done. Staying late was hard. Working weekends was harder. Professional trips became out of the question. So I began to shift my thinking and eventually considered what it would be like to take some time to stay home.

After my second child was born, it became crystal clear that I couldn't work any longer. I felt called to stay home and not only raise my kids, but to homeschool them as well. I gave my resignation a couple months after she was born, and it was one of the HARDEST things I have ever done in my life.

I cried to my boss when I told her the news. I felt like I had let everyone down. Like I was letting my coworkers, some of my best friends, down. I felt guilty that I couldn't handle the hustle of working motherhood. Occasionally, it felt like I was taking the easy way out. I mean, I had never stayed home with my son for more than a few days at a time - why did I think I could be with him 24/7 AND homeschool him WITH a new baby. I was making more money than my husband was, and carried all our benefits. Why was I doing this? Some days I felt like I had made the biggest mistake of my life.

I had no clue what I was doing.

So there I was, hormonal, postpartum, transitioning to being a mother of two children (which is a challenge within itself), while also deciding to give up my career identity, put all my faith in my husband to provide for us financially, and immerse myself in the solitude that is stay-at-home motherhood. Can you see where this is heading?

My son was 3.5 at the time, and my daughter was a newborn. Initially, the transition felt like a mini vacation. It was nice to have control over our days, do fun things, meet new friends. It felt great. But as time passed, my son grew more challenging and challenging. My daughter needed to be held all the time. Neither child napped very well, if at all, so I had very little time to use the bathroom, let alone do anything for myself.

Self-care, self-care! It's what everyone tells moms to do. Put your own oxygen mask on first, they say. I remember posting on my Facebook feed that I just wanted one day where someone else could hold my baby while I ate a meal that I didn't cook. Looking back, I see how bottom of the barrel I had been feeling. So incredibly depleted. Without much help from family, I was drowning. 

On the outside, my drowning wasn't very obvious. The kids were fed and clean. The house was sort of picked up. We had pictures on Facebook of all the fun things we would do on homeschooling excursions. But I began to really hate my life. I began to hate motherhood.

I cringe when I read that myself. I LOVED my children, but I didn't LOVE being a mom. All the things that go along with it - grocery shopping, scratch cooking, laundry, cloth diapering, holding them, sleeping with them, all of the things that felt suffocating. I had absolutely nothing left for myself, and it began to take its toll on all of us.

I was angry. I was resentful. I was grouchy. I yelled at my son. I was constantly disappointed in my husband. I was jealous of my friends. I felt let down by my family. The list goes on and on. I was really unhappy. 

My unhappiness felt like a jail time sentence. I just needed to survive the younger years. This is the hardest time. Everyone says that. It's just temporary. You will miss it. So I threw everything I had left into my mothering - because it was the ONLY thing I had, even if it was making me crazy. 

I began to find ways to be the best, most perfect mom I could be. Finding the right boots for the rain took hours to research. New recipes the kids would like. Which lunch box would be best for our field trips. I even spiraled into finding solutions for things that weren't even wrong with my children, for issues they HYPOTHETICALLY might have one day. Sensory issues? Hmm. Could be. Teeth issues? I've gotta do everything to prevent them. Were their toilet habits normal? Maybe not.  

It paralyzed me. 

I fell to my lowest point when my son was bitten by two deer ticks in a matter of 10 days. We had never encountered a tick bite before, yet he somehow had TWO in such a short time. Mind you, we live in New England where this is NOT uncommon, yet it pushed me off the deep end. I went into a frenzy. My internal thoughts went something like this: "He's going to get Lyme, I need to research treatment protocols. How did I let this happen? I let him down. This can NEVER happen again."

I'm sure you can tell how this went down. Thankfully, we tested the ticks and they were negative for Lyme and co-infections, but I became an overly protective parent who could not bear to drop the ball on ANYTHING. I dodged a bullet this time. So I would need to be MORE vigilant. More present. More prepared. I couldn’t let this happen again. Yeah. It wasn't pretty.

My motherhood and my fears and my worries were literally making me crazy. 

Tapping my creative potential.

At this time, I connected with a woman who would give me some of the greatest healing support I ever could have imagined. (There are no accidents. Clearly she was on my Red Thread.) I joined her group of women in an intimate online Facebook group, as we all dove into areas of our lives we were looking to heal. I didn't know WHAT I needed to heal, but damn it, I needed some healing. My anxiety was crippling me. And really debilitating my relationship with my family.

During that time in my healing collective, we learned some valuable tools. The first tool I really clung to was the need for creativity as a mode for healing. I was told we could not truly heal ourselves unless we were using our creative energy. And a light bulb went off for me. I hadn't created in YEARS. For as long as I could remember. And I was never an artist. I was never "good" at art. But I did love to try. 

I bought a watercolor set and a journal and started to paint. It was so moving. Fun even.  Shortly thereafter, a friend shared a link on Facebook to a free online art summit that I tried out on a whim, and it was led by an Intentional Creativity teacher. It was there that I was introduced to the Intentional Creativity movement, its leaders, and the idea of process art. Creating with inquiry and purpose, not for product. And this changed my life. 

Finally. I had a place to put some of the things I was feeling. I could write in my art journal (aka my Cosmic Smash Book) - all the bad things I was feeling. All the hurt and pain. And I could cover it up with paint, so no one would see it, and turn it into something beautiful. It was a process I fell in love with. 

I started to find ways to bring creativity into my busy life as a mom. I put together a portable art kit and I would start to create when I could with the kids. At the park. Outside in the yard. While nursing on the couch. I had seen the impact creating had on my emotions, and it was like a prescription - I had to take my medicine every day. If I went too long, then then I felt it. It brought me joy and made me smile. And when I talked about creating, my face lit up.

Creativity became my calling.

I feel VERY luck to have found this modality for myself, and even luckier to have a supportive partner. My husband could see the difference it was making in my life and he encouraged me to apply to the Color of Woman Intentional Creativity Teacher training program that would start the following year. Applications were taken a whole year ahead of time! Talk about commitment. I had never even painted on a canvas before and had no clue how I would use it. But I felt called to do it. And so I did. I was accepted and completed the program in 2018.

Now I am a certified Intentional Creativity teacher & Guild Member, a Cosmic Smash Booking Guide, and am completing my certification as a Creatively Fit Coach. I teach in-person workshops to women and children on accessing their creative potential and am launching my online offerings this year. What a difference a couple of years makes.

Now. I tell you my story because I want you to see...

I was not a trained artist.
I was never "good" at painting.
I used art as SURVIVAL tool. 
I used painting as a HEALING tool 
Creativity saved my motherhood. 
Painting saves me every day. 
There is magic in creating. 
YOU too can be creative.
You NEED to be creative.
It wants to be released.

If I can do it, anyone can. And if you’ve made it this far, chances are you need it as much as I did. 

Thank you for reading my story.

The Importance of Not Comparing

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I’ve been playing the comparison game a lot lately. You know this game. It’s the one when you open up social media and see how wonderful another mom is doing at (fill in the blank). The mom who seems to have it all together, who feels fulfilled in her life’s purpose, who gentle parents, cooks from scratch, and overall looks like she does such a better job mom-ing than you do.

I am a homeschooling mom, so the comparisons feel even greater sometimes, since I don’t have another person educating my child. So not only do I compare my homeschooling capacities to other moms, but I also compare my children to other homeschooled children. Oh, that child can read. That one loves to learn. That one loves crafting and nature. While my child loves television and toys that make loud noises. ::face palm::

It feels very difficult to be surrounded by so many opportunities for comparisons.

My latest comparison battle is looking at other moms who run a business while staying home, and I’m here wondering how they hold it all together. Surely they must have the funds for hired help, or family nearby to assist them. They can’t possibly be with their kids 24/7, find time to hone their craft, AND cook AND do laundry AND keep a clean house. Because if I can’t, certainly they can’t either. Or do they? And I am just not good enough?

When I start to go down that path of comparison, I really have to stop myself in my tracks and reframe things. It is an action I deliberately take, so I can stop the comparison green-eyed monster. And i work on it every day.

One of the greatest reminders I encounter on how to stop the comparison game happens when I look at my art and my personal creative practice. You see, I am not a trained artist. All I know, I have learned through watching others, and mimicking their work. Everything I have learned, I learned by trial and error, WHILE raising children, WHILE pregnant, WHILE wrangling the chaos that is my house. Not in a situation where I could devote hours and hours to learning. So I am still constantly adding to, and growing, my own artistic capabilities, And I am ok with that. I am okay with being a student, being in the mystery, with all the potential ahead of me. That is what art teaches you to be.

I also know there is enough happiness in this world to go around. I know that another woman’s achievements could be my own, if I wanted those same goals. I am not somehow excluded from receiving the same gifts or opportunities because someone else received them first. I know that in order for my own gifts to shine, someone else doesn’t need to dim their light in the process. I know it can be challenging as women to not compare ourselves to other people. AND we need to stop doing it.

So, yes, it is humbling when I paint something, and share it, only to see another artist has done something much more amazing than me. Or when I am surrounding myself with such talent that I wonder if I’ll ever be able to live up to being in their company. But you know, it’s important to do it anyway. It is important to be vulnerable. To not have it all together.

What you need to do when the comparison happens is remember the endless possibilities before you. Rather than focusing on what you aren’t doing, or who you aren’t like, focus on what you have done, the person you are right now, and the potential you have to grow. Let the folks who you feel less than, guide you to the future you want to have. Let them be the best teachers. And in the process, just notice the comparisons, and let them drift away.

And when you look at your pile of unfolded laundry, like I currently have sitting next to me, I encourage you to channel your inner Elsa. “Let it go, let it go...the clothes never bothered me anyway.” It just might work.

How I FLOWED through Color of Woman with Children

I am a 2018 graduate of the Color of Woman School of Intentional Creativity®, led by Shiloh Sophia and her band of Cosmic Cowgirls. As a newly minted teacher, I am reflecting back on how I was able to FLOW through this program, and I wanted to lend some advice to those who are starting their Vision Quest, particularly with little ones at home.

In July 2017, I remember applying to the Color of Woman School, while having no idea why, or what I wanted to do afterwards. I was a stay-at-home mom of two small children at the time, but like Shiloh says, my heart felt the calling to proceed with my application. My heart also had the gentle nudging of my husband, who made sure I didn’t forget to push the submit button. And I remember during my initial interview, having all the fear in the world about how I would complete this WITH children to tend to on a daily basis. This is how I did it.

Intentional Creativity®

For those who don’t know, Color of Woman (COW) is an Intentional Creativity® (IC) teacher training certification that takes place over the course of a year. It begins with prerequisite assignments, then students complete 5 major paintings, along with teaching workshops, leading circles, and working on things like a website, promotional materials, and business plan. It is really a comprehensive deep dive into being a creative entrepreneur who is able to then teach others the IC skills to access their own internal information. For more about Intentional Creativity®, click on my About section.

As a non-artist myself, it was a huge leap to even apply to COW. When I applied, I had never ever painted on a canvas before. I didn’t have an easel or paints or brushes. I painted with my kids, or in my teeny tiny sketchbook, and called that art. And I should also mention that a month before I was scheduled to begin COW, I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with my THIRD child. Being pregnant, homeschooling my kids, AND doing COW, I had a few moments of “How in the Heck Will I Do THIS??” But amazingly, I did. And it can happen for you.

My tips are what worked for ME, but I am sharing them in the hopes to calm anyone’s fears about taking on a big art program, or personal project, with children underfoot. This is how I did it.

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Surround Yourself with Support

I will start of the bat by saying, my husband is the most supportive person in my life. He is my biggest cheerleader and were it not for him, I would not have been able to manage all of it. He watched the kids, gave me space for painting and brainstorming, and to fully immerse myself in this work. He let me process all the things and it was a huge gift for me.

One of the things Shiloh Sophia asked me during my interview was: How is your support system? And I know not everyone is so lucky to have a supportive spouse or partner, but just surrounding yourself with people who believe in you will make a huge difference. Tell your friends or family members, who you trust, who can lift you up. The ones who truly care, who will ask you how it’s going, and who will be genuinely interested in your progress. Share with THOSE people only, if you feel inclined. The rest are on a need-to-know basis.

This is an extremely personal time for you and your own thoughts and revelations need to be cared for and tended to like little babies of their own. You are growing your own ideas and information and folks aren’t quite ready for what’s happening just yet. Because you barely will understand yourself.

My little Red Thread HaNDS

My little Red Thread HaNDS

Set Up Your Space for Success

During my prerequisite work, I used the time leading up to COW to set up my studio. This was a work in progress, but my family was very supportive. We moved our bedrooms all around so that instead of a tiny closet, I could use an entire room. Having this sacred space WITH A DOOR was absolutely key for me. I was able to close the door during my art time. I had music or a sound machine playing so I didn’t have to hear the kids screaming or arguing downstairs (while under the gentle supervision of their dad). And my family knew, when I was painting, I was WORKING. The 2-year-old still didn’t care, so she was allowed to visit. But she didn’t derail my process.

This is sometimes the only way i could paint…with company

This is sometimes the only way i could paint…with company

Let them Interrupt You

I know this is counterintuitive to what you would think. But letting them interrupt you lets them see you in process. In flow. And my kids really enjoyed seeing what I was up to behind closed doors. My daughter (2 years old at the time) was infamous for coming in and GASPING at whatever I had been working on, like she was seeing each painting for the first time ever. It made me feel like the best artist in the world.

My son (5 years old at the time) would come in and name my paintings. He came up with the most beautiful and original names. They were his interpretations, and his own way of connecting to my process. I welcomed his imagination and thoughts, and his indirect love and support of my work.

here is my son, naming my paintings.

here is my son, naming my paintings.

Paint with Them

One of the best side effects of letting your kids see you paint is that THEY WANT TO PAINT TOO! My son was never a creative kid in terms of actually creating something. He would use his imagination, but give him paper and paint and he was uninterested. I found that letting them use some of my grown-up supplies made a difference for them. Real canvases, real watercolor paints, real Tombow markers. The creativity most definitely rubbed off on them. Kids mirror what they see and seeing me paint in quiet introspection was one of the biggest gifts I gave them through COW.

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Include their Friends!

As part of my Initiate Book, I knew I wanted to do a workshop with my children and their friends. We are part of a very active homeschool group and I was able to offer an IC Workshop to them as part of my training. My son LOVED practicing the workshop ahead of time with me, but his most favorite part was doing a Red Thread Circle with his friends. To this day, he still wears a Red Thread on his wrist to signify his connection to his friends - six months later. He knows it’s a powerful tool for connection and he remembers that day every time he tugs on it.

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Block Off The Time

As soon as I received the schedule of calls for the year, I put every single one on my calendar and I did NOT miss them. (Well, I actually missed one, but that was a crazy circumstance.)

I attended these calls NO MATTER WHAT was going on. I was lucky my husband arrived home from work around the time the calls would start in my time zone, so I would literally hand the cherubs off to him and shut the door. If I was feeling really loving, I prepped dinner ahead of time. But sometimes, he was on his own for dinner, during calls that would last around 2 hours. Sometimes it meant having a child in my lap for a few minutes during the calls.

But I knew the connections I was making, though quantum and cosmic, were important. My energy was needed in the circle, and my own self was restored, so the calls were non-negotiable for me. And I did not cut them short.

I also made sure to have a day set aside where everyone knew it was my painting time. Each Sunday morning, my husband would take the kids out for breakfast at 7 am, and when they came home they would play outside, or quietly downstairs, until I emerged. I was guaranteed from 7-11 am every weekend where I could catch up, paint, do whatever I needed to do. Sometimes I would squeeze in a second session after lunch, or during quiet time/movie time. But I USED the time I had and did not try to clean, do laundry, make grocery lists, or get sidetracked, like it would have been easy to do. I SHOWED up and STUCK to it.

Beyond that, I would fit in painting as I could. Sometimes during the week, I would paint if I had time, but mostly my set hours on the weekend were enough for me to stay on track.

Helping me work workshop preparations

Helping me work workshop preparations

Let Go of the Guilt

One of the biggest things I had to do was let go of guilt. There were MANY TIMES it would have been easy for me to cut my painting short on account of something else. I could have easily felt bad that my husband was stuck with two grumpy children who needed dinner, while I was upstairs “finding myself.” But I didn’t. I knew that this process would be beneficial for EVERYONE if I completed it. And my husband saw such a difference in me when I painted.

I would emerge like a butterfly coming out of her cocoon. Some days, after painting, I felt like Mary Poppins! It truly replenished my soul. And it would not be safe for me to trade that for the sake of others. My self-care and painting had become so intertwined that I needed it to be a better mom.

my daughter’s “contributions” to one of my workshop altars

my daughter’s “contributions” to one of my workshop altars

Be Proud!

It’s ok to be PROUD of what you are doing! I am SO PROUD I am of what I have accomplished. Completing Color of Woman was NO easy task. It was a lot of work - emotionally and mentally - to walk through this Vision Quest. And to do it WHILE pregnant and raising/homeschooling two kids. I am as proud of this as I am about my college degrees. It’s that big of a deal to me.

I want others to know it’s feasible. It’s possible. It’s worth it. You’re worth it. And once you’re done, it’s ok to take a few moments to bask in the glory of what you accomplished and where you are.

I hope some of these tips resonate or help, or at least reaffirm your own Vision Quest reasons.

I wish you so much joy and happiness. Best of luck.

Amanda

My Color of woman baby

My Color of woman baby

What's In My Portable Art Kit

Shortly after I discovered the healing aspects of creativity, I realized how crucial it was to incorporate creativity into my daily life. But, as a mom of two littles at the time, who didn’t even consider myself creative, the thought of starting a huge project and having to stop mid-way through was a recipe for frustration. The only way I was able to achieve that goal of daily creativity, was with the help of a portable art kit.

What is a portable art kit?

A portable art kit is a small pouch that includes all the necessary items for you to create art on the go. Art that is ready for you, at your fingertips. Portable art kits are so nice because they can go with you anywhere. You can bring them with you in any room in the house, at the kitchen table, out in the yard, at the park, in the car, wherever. I learned about portable art kits through Amy from Mindful Art Studios. She has so many fun tips and tricks on using your portable art kit, so I encourage you to check her out.

When can you use it?

For me, I would bring my kit out on the porch while my kids were playing outside. I would bring it to the park, and sit on a bench while the kids explored. I could open it up, and spend 5-10 minutes, and not be frustrated if I had to pack up before I was “done.” It made creating in small doses doable and realistic, and I was proud of my mini works of art.

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What’s in my kit now?

Below is a sample of the supplies in my art kit today. You will want to modify it, based on the methods and mediums you like to use. I am partial to watercolors, since they are so fluid and don’t take a long time to dry like acrylics. But use what works for you!

Other fun ideas

I encourage you to try some of these materials out and put together your own unique kit. I would love to hear what you put in yours and how it has changed your daily life.

Much love,

Amanda