September 19th, 2014, I walked through the doorway to meet my reckoning. There, before me stood Sue. The therapist who would take me on the journey of a lifetime. I met with her every two weeks for one year. I walked through her door carrying with me all the unresolved trauma from a childhood filled with alcoholism. Along with grief from suddenly losing a dear friend 4 years earlier. I developed so much anxiety over the years it finally had pushed me into a corner with nowhere to go but further down. Over the years, my body developed ways to get my attention in the form of migraines, an autoimmune disease, sleepless nights, and the loss of happiness. I spent years telling people I was fine, but I was far from fine. I spent endless hours laying on my back in a dark room just trying to breath to bring some kind of peace and calmness. After the first couple of sessions, I began to see images of the past flash through my mind. I started to doodle representations of the images using colored pencils. I began doodling every time the anxiety couldn’t be contained. It didn’t matter if I was in the middle of meeting, on the phone, on the bus, I just doodled. I doodled shapes from stick people to frantic lines giving the anxious energy somewhere to go. About three months into my sessions, Sue pointed out one of the issues that was holding me back from my right life was vulnerability. Sue asked me to take a couple of photographs of things that would show what vulnerability looked like to me.
I didn’t feel that a photograph would truly show what vulnerability looked and felt like to me. I created a sculpture instead. Through the experience of creating the sculpture, two things became clear' or better stated, finally they sunk in, 1) I have choices. I have a choice to change my story. I have a choice to choose happiness; and 2) It would be through creativity that I would make the changes to my story.
I set the colored pencils aside and started to paint. I started painting images that reflected by past childhood experiences. The images came in representational and abstract ways. I kept painting. I noticed about three months into this new experience something else began to happen. I was feeling calmer, more present, more alive. Next, I noticed that if 3 or 4 days went by and I didn’t paint my mood began to slip backwards, the old stories came more often, and I would begin to feel anxious.
I began to realize the story I was telling myself was changing. I found myself being kinder, more compassionate, less reactive and more responsive to the situations and people around me. Most of all I began to love myself. I was kinder to myself. I forgave myself.
Over the years I read so many self-help books trying to find the formula that would work to rid me of the past pains and hurts. I wanted that magical checklist I could complete to become whole and not feel broken. I continued to fail in my search for the “something” that would make me happy and feel complete. This painting thing I was doing was different. A shift was happening. I could feel it. I couldn’t explain. I didn’t understand it, but I knew whatever was going to happen it was going to be huge. I wasn't even sure if it was going to be good huge or a bad huge. I became so curious that the curiosity overrode the uncertainty of what was coming. So, I kept painting and doodling.
My wife Donna was preparing a bio & artist statement for me for an upcoming art show where I was going to be showing some paintings. She used a photo that I never really paid attention to as I only saw myself as a middle-aged overweight woman with nothing to offer the world. But the day, I looked at the photo on the artist statement I saw someone else for the first time. As I looked into my own eyes of the photograph tears began to flow down my cheeks. I finally found what I had been looking for. For the first time ever in my life, I saw what others had seen for so long. I saw the deep calmness in my eyes, the life energy, the wisdom, the old soul so many told me they saw in me. The something I had always been looking for. Me. I had been looking for me.
Curiosity and creativity led me to the path of my right life and how I want to live my life. How I show up for creativity is how I now show up in the other areas of my life. It is the way I had always wanted to live but couldn’t because vulnerability and fear held me back.
Today I am a Life Coach. I now work with clients to identify their limiting beliefs and other obstacles that hold them back from living the life they are meant to live. I am living the dream I imagined, and you can too.