health, self help

Me and Brené, Cultivating Creativity

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Did you share a bedroom with a sibling? I did for the first twelve years of my life. When my mom bought us the house that I think of as home (my parents have moved twice since I moved out) I got to have my own room for the first time. I had dreamed about it for years. I spent the first few years of that time creating a space that was entirely my own. I made picture frames out of painted cardboard and leftover pieces of fencing. I painted and decoupaged old tables and chairs to put in MY room. And I listened to music and watched old movies endlessly, by myself, on my bed in my space.

All of the artsy/crafty creativity stopped when I got into high school and I found different ways to express my creativity. I found the theatre. I found music, serious, focused music. The creative energy in me soared and instead of painting picture frames, I was painting sets. For the first half of my adult life, I was lucky enough to work in the field I loved and managed to always find a way to be creating something.

Brené Brown has found in her research that one thing people who live and love with their whole hearts have in common is creativity. They use it, they practice it, they embrace it. Through photography, crafts, painting, making movies, the wholehearted are creative people.

“The only unique contribution we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.”

As long as we are creating we are cultivating meaning, a personal, unique contribution.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped practicing creativity. The first time I sat down with my son to color on a piece of white paper my chest tightened and my eyes filled with tears. I had no idea what to do. I had completely shut down that part of who I am during my marriage. I had been told over and over that I was worthless, that my ideas were stupid, that I knew nothing and was capable of nothing. That is not an environment that fosters creativity. I no longer knew who I was and choosing what to fill the blank space with was overwhelming. Every time I drew something I compared it to what I once used to draw or what other people could do and it wasn’t good enough. Nothing I did was good enough.

I kept trying and one day it occurred to me that Liam didn’t care what I was drawing or at what skill level. He was happy to spend the time with me and to see the things I was creating. Hearts and stars were new and exciting for him. I remembered the bubble dogs I used to doodle in middle school and drew them with abandon. Each doodle brought smiles and laughter from my little boy and it set me back on track.


Sitting at the craft table with blank paper and markers is still one of my favorite things to do with my son. So in April, it occurred to me that maybe coloring would be something that would be good for me to take up on my own. I invested in markers and adult coloring books and was so excited to get going. The first page that I attempted stopped me dead in my tracks. I had no idea where to start or what of the 36 markers I was supposed to use. It was not relaxing and I found no enjoyment. A couple of days later a book of mandalas came in the mail. That was it. I needed some kind of repetition to ease the process. I spent hours finishing that first one and became so excited that I joined a Facebook group dedicated to these particular books. Was that ever a mistake. I thought my two completed mandalas were beautiful and then I saw what other (mostly) women were doing. They were using better markers, shading with colored pencils, creating silhouettes within the patterns, and suddenly my repetitive little mandalas felt inadequate and elementary. They lost their beauty.

I wrote last week about comparison and how it can destroy your life. Comparison really is the thief of joy. I thought that I was going to be inspired by other people’s work but instead I felt like my art wasn’t enough. I wasn’t about to give up though. Thanks to Brené and this guidepost I was prepared for this roadblock. I left the group and bought more markers and more books. Now Liam wants to color my coloring pages. I took copies with me to Texas when we visited my sister and her family and one of my favorite memories of that trip was sitting at the kitchen counter coloring with my son and my nieces.

There are creative opportunities everywhere. Pick up your camera or a pen and paper. Shoot some videos, chalk paint an old cabinet. Download a coloring app on your phone like the one I used to create the mandalas below. Take a painting class with a friend or go to a pottery workshop. Studios are popping up all over (and many of them are BYOB)! Part of “my vision” for this website is to inspire survivors with creative outlets. Vision boards will be our biggest project. There may be a little fear and anxiety looming because I haven’t started my “exemplary” vision board yet, despite having created the process already. The shame gremlin is “who do you think you are? Why do you think you’re so special that you can guide someone else in a creative, healing process?” The answer is I am a survivor who sees a future with so much more than just survival. I have a vision and a drive to put myself out there as a possible example of where life can go after violence. My voice and my vision are important, no matter what. In the end, it is my inner critic who is the most difficult to silence and I know I have to just do it. Keep an eye out. Maybe the vision page will be live soon. (**The Vision Board project went live on October 26.)

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New to the Journey Back from Shame? Start at the beginning.

The following PDF  of the below image is linked to all posts related to my journey with Brené. Enjoy the trip! 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living 

10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

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