Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm Alison and I'm a recovering creative

I came home from an Artist’s Way meeting last night on an incredible high. I felt at home. I felt I was exactly where God wanted me. I felt alive.

I have missed community. I have missed connecting on that deeper level with others in an intentional way. A group of women, sitting together in a living room, sipping wine, sharing stories, laughing and listening to each other.

I woke up this morning and slammed straight into a wall of self-loathing and a head full of ‘you’re a pathetic human who can’t get your shit together’ trains of thought.


But I’m pretty sure they are related.

I have spent much of my life running from my creativity or just denying it even exists. I wrote prolifically as a child and well into my teens. I wrote stories and poetry, journalled almost everyday from thirteen to eighteen and sporadically through my twenties. But as I grew older the writing got darker and more hopeless. I think I really stopped writing because it required me to engage and acknowledge what I was feeling or struggling with emotionally and mentally. And even though I saw counsellors, psychologists and doctors throughout my twenties I, for various reasons, worked on my recovery and mental health at arms length. Writing was too painful, and I suspect, would have required harder work than I thought possible.

But I began to change that story a while ago when, in the midst of a breakdown, I chose to acknowledge my creativity and see it as a means to recovery. I eventually quit my job in order to explore what it would look like to be a ‘writer’ for a living. And in recent months I have made serious attempts to engage with my creativity in intentional ways- including joining a group to work through The Artist’s Way together and reading various other books on creativity.

Through this intentional work though, deep emotions and thought processes that I have been hiding from and that remain unresolved, have reared their ugly heads time and again. Every time I make progress in embracing my gifts and moving forward with the work I feel called to do, the enemies of self-doubt, perfectionism and self-sabotage march in fast.

So this morning as soon as I’d finished my morning cup of tea and bowl of cereal, I found myself lying curled up on the couch feeling rather sorry for myself and wondering how on earth to get up again. But my kind housemate made me a cup of tea and told me to get up and write something, anything, anyway.

And so here we are.

Being creative is scary. Living the life we were given well is scary. Having to live with the reality of my emotions and moods and the general chaos of our existence is hard work. But I’m learning that if I want a meaningful and free life then choosing to be creative, and in the process embracing that reality, is the only way.

In her book A Million Little Ways, Emily P. Freeman says:
“Christ is in you and wants to come out through you in a million little ways- through your strength and also your weakness, your abilities and also your lack.

I call it art, someone else calls it rubbish.

So what?

Call it what you will. God calls us his poem. And the job of the poem is to inspire. To sing. To express the full spectrum of human experience- both the bright hope that comes with victory and the profound loss that accompanies defeat.

We must make art, even in our weakness. If we don’t, we are denying ourselves, in turn, we will deny everyone else ourselves as well.” (page 168)
I want to be brave. I want to choose to be creative. I want to choose to pay attention to this life I’m living.

So I got up and wrote this blog post.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Words for Wednesday

Watching for tadpoles
Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.
Mary Oliver 'Sometimes' in Red Bird (2008)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Words and I

No words.
So many thoughts
conflicting emotions
overwhelming chaos.
No words.
For the pain I see
in others, in me
in the world.
are the only way
to make sense
to pray
to begin to tell the stories
that need to be heard.
A blank page.
My voice
is all I have.
To give.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Words for Wednesday

 "You want to know the meaning of life? This is your highest calling: You are called into the dynamic co-creation of the cosmos. This breath is your canvas and brush. These are the raw materials for your art, for the life you are making. Nothing is off limits. Your backyard, your piano, your paintbrush, your conversation, Rwanda, New Orleans, Iraq, your marriage, your soul. You're making a living with every step you take."
- Jon Foreman (Quoted in A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman, pg. 11)

Friday, January 3, 2014



When my one word for 2014 first came to me, I blew it off. It couldn’t be my word, it was too close to fearless my word for 2013.

But it kept coming back to me. Brave.

And I realised that it was actually a profoundly logical step.

Fearless is working to stop the power of a negative feeling or action. Brave is taking a positive step forward, it's taking a risk. In my mind, one word is rooted in the negative and the other in the positive.

As someone who has lived bound in the negative for so much of my life, I long for, I crave, the positive. I am desperate for forward motion in my days. And I know that the likelihood is that I’m my own worst enemy in this regard.

So I need a reminder. Something to push me beyond myself. Something to spur me on in my seeking to be authentic. And the year of fearless was quite successful. Bloody hard, but as far as personal growth goes, successful. So what if I choose to take the positive step. What if my #ONEWORD365 was: Brave?

And I’m already planning a couple of risk taking adventures…

Applying for graduate study

Maybe taking a trip outside Australia

Hopefully finding new work

Possibly getting involved in a new church

(With a little trepidation) I look forward to what 2014 has in store for me and where God might be moving in my life.

I'll let you know!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Soundtrack for the year of Fearless....

If you've known me for a little while, you'll know how important music is to me. Music is such a vital part of how I heal and grow and have fun.

So I thought I'd share with you the top songs that have seen me through 2013 and the year of living fearlessly.

#1 Brave - Sara Bareilles

This song became our house anthem a couple of months ago. It has been played very loud, on repeat for hours. My two lovely housemates and I have all had a challenging year.... we shared the same common experience of daring to speak out in our old community and ended up being ostracised for it. Enough said. This song reminds us to keep going...

#2 This is not the end - Gungor
This is not the end
This is not the end of us
We will shine like the stars bright, brighter

During one of the darkest, longest weekends this past year, when my dear friends life was falling apart, I heard this song. I had been listening to the album 'Ghosts Upon The Earth' for a few months but it was at that particular time and space that this song leaped out at me. It gave me the hope to keep hoping and the words to keep praying over my friend. 
When I am fearful of the present, I know this is not the end. 
You can check out some of Lisa Gungor's reflections on this song here.

#3 Everything Will Change - Derek Webb
Derek Webb is probably the most fearless artist and musician whose work I follow.
His 2013 offering 'I was wrong, I'm sorry & I love you' was no exception.

It was like these lyrics were written directly for me. Derek calls this his protest song against cynicism. And that is something I have definitely needed this year!

#4 I was wrong, I'm sorry and I love you - Derek Webb

One of the biggest lessons I learnt in 2013 was the importance of humility and grace in relationship. Its seems an obvious one.... but I've discovered it doesn't always come naturally or easy (imagine that!?).
I think that is why I love this song so much. It recognises that often the most freeing thing we can do is to own our mistakes. The most Christ-like examples I have witnessed in relationship are those who are knowledgable and yet willing to name what they do not know. That is being fearless in our culture.

#5 A little bit of love - Katie Herzig 

When my two lovely friends and I moved into our new house in September we called it maison de l'amour. After the pain we had been through together in our previous house, we wanted a new chapter, we wanted to be defined by love. Because of all the unlovely things that I witnessed this year... I decided this was the perfect (unofficial) anthem for our new little home.

#6 Every teardrop is a waterfall - Coldplay

This song just makes me want to dance.... and sometimes that's just what we need to gather the courage and energy to keep moving through life.
I remember attending a rooftop party at my old house earlier this year. My friends and I had this song playing loud and I sung out the words "So you can hurt, hurt me bad/But still I'll raise the flag" on top of that home that had beautiful and painful memories. That night I wanted to reclaim my strength in spite of the pain caused by my church. It was a beautiful, albeit bitterweet, moment.

And incidentally, I think this soundtrack will continue to be important as I embrace a year of Brave. But more about that in the next few days...