Musings of the Day
The Way Home
I was asked recently how I found “home.” The question came from someone who saw one of my posts and was feeling lost “in the forest.” I pondered that question and realized that the “how” of it all was another whole story in and of itself. It’s probably a whole book!
Without writing my life story, I do want to speak to the question she asked, because I had the same question for my teachers and guides many times over the years. I wanted a roadmap, some path to follow that would assure me of reaching my destination. Each one in their infinite wisdom, told me that there was no roadmap and that I would have to find my own way. They did give me pointers though. With each teacher I had, whether they called themselves that or they were simply someone that crossed my path for a moment with a gem to leave behind, gave me just enough to lead me to my next step. They imparted their experience and shared some of the steps they had taken which enabled me to create my own.
What I mean by that is that I could only use their experience to draw from, not to imitate. I couldn’t walk in their shoes or on the same path they had forged for themselves. We each have to find our own way through the forest because our destinations are different. If we try to imitate someone else’s journey we will not be living our own.
When asked “how” I thought about what it was that led me from being totally lost to where I am now. It wasn’t a prescription for how as much as what. The “what” was intention and heart. Let me speak a bit more about that.
I knew from an early age that I was not home. My family didn’t feel like home. The place I was living didn’t feel like it either. And the life I lived felt alien from the beginning. I can remember asking deep, esoteric questions as a very young child and being regarded as strange by my family. I was a stranger there. I felt like a stranger everywhere I turned. Instinctively, I knew that I didn’t belong where I was and I was going to find where I did belong. Being too young to articulate that, I could only cope with the feelings of isolation and despair that came with it by acting out. Not only that, I became depressed. I became anxious. I abandoned myself in favor of trying to survive in an alien world. I had no guidance when I was younger so awakening had to wait.
It wasn’t until my college years that I encountered the first person who saw me and recognized who I was. His name was Michael and he was a fellow student. A bit older than I was, he seemed to be from some long lost “family” that seemed familiar. He said he recognized who I was and wanted me to know that I was OK and not alone. We were friends for a short time, but lost touch and I found myself feeling alone again for a very long time. I never forgot him though. He was my first sign, the one that made me realize that I was actually on a path to somewhere.
My younger years, both in youth and early adulthood, were spent completely lost to myself. I knew early on that I was an artist, but had no idea what that meant. I knew that nature was my friend and I felt most at home when I was alone outdoors in the woods or by the sea. I knew in my youth that animals were my friends and that having my hands in the earth felt good and right. There were signs early on and I followed those signs without really knowing that I was doing so. I pursued art, but was told that the art I produced wasn’t “right.” I was told that who I was, wasn’t “right.” I found myself in a constant conflict between what I knew in my heart and what my survival instincts told me I had to do, because to survive in a world where I was considered alien, I had to conform.
Every time I broke free, I was torn down. The one thing that remained constant was a flame within me that would not die, a flame of desire to be true to who I was and to find my place. To find and live my true life. If you ask me how I survived all that I did, the trauma and abuse, the rejection and dismissal, I would have to say that it was that flame that refused to die. My soul would not allow me to give up. Fortunately for me I am very strong. Unfortunately for me I am strong enough to endure so much that I had to almost die before waking up to what I was allowing in my life. I turned on myself instead of on those who were abusing me. I got sick instead of leaving situations that were killing me. I turned my anger inside instead of where it belonged. But the thing that saved me was that flame.
I started writing and painting very early on in my life. I talked to Spirit and to the animals and to the moon at a very young age. I felt the energies of the unseen and was told that I was crazy. I was told that my art was no good, not worthwhile and it was thrown in the trash. I was taught to silence my words and keep them inside for fear of recrimination. I was lost to myself, but something inside would not die no matter how much I endured. It was a knowing, a flame of truth, a desire to come home to myself that kept me going. Even when I wasn’t aware of it, it was there.
Home was the Holy Grail, the prize I sought from childhood on. It was an imaginary place where I would walk in my own shoes, my body filled with my own soul, speaking and creating freely, wearing my truth like a skin. I would be ME in all aspects of my life and no one and no thing would have sovereignty over me except myself. This was “home”, the place where I belonged and the flame that wouldn’t die was my undying desire to inhabit it.
Simply this: At each crossroads, with each trauma, I had a choice. I could choose life or death and death was not an option for me. Living the way I had been was a living death, the death of my soul. Actually leaving this world didn’t feel much different than that. Life, on the other hand, meant being able to take full breaths without fear of being found out and speaking and living from my heart and soul. The Holy Grail was freedom, the freedom to live as myself without fear. I had been given a gift when I came into this life, the gift of creative expression. It was the gift of sight, of intuition, and the ability to live in two worlds at once. The world of the unseen and the physical world that most consider “real.”
I was given this gift to help me find my way back home. I had a deep inner knowing that there was something else other than the life that was presented to me as real, that there was another truth. I knew that as a child. My ability to create not only kept me sane through it all, it was a tool to show me where I was on this journey of a lifetime. Each time I created something, it gave me a message.
I didn’t begin deciphering the messages until I was in my late 40’s. Until then I painted and drew and made things with my hands instinctively. I found myself drawing the same symbols over and over again, things that looked like rocks and pod like forms. They began coming through me in my 20’s in the midst of a tumultuous relationship. I had no idea what they were and when I showed them to others they were dismissed as trash. Certainly not art. I created spirals and visions of worlds beyond this one when I was in college studying art. The teachers tried to instruct me on figure drawing and the “right” way to create, but I failed those classes terribly. They held no interest for me. The forms that wanted to come through had nothing to do with imitating physical reality. They wanted to show me something completely different, a vision of “home.”
No one seemed interested in what I wanted to create and I certainly didn’t fit the mold of a successful artist. I was told many times that to be successful I would have to create what others wanted me to create and abandon my silly notion of painting my visions. There were a couple of people along the way, teachers of sort, that saw something in me and told me so, but I eventually chose to listen to the men in my life who told me in no uncertain terms that I had no talent and was not a real artist. Looking back, I realize that I was simply re-creating my father and his view of who I was. And I lost my way for a very long time.
This is key. I lost my way because I chose to listen to others, to the past, instead of to myself. Instead of taking what my art had been showing me and running towards home, I turned away from myself and dimmed that inner flame. It became shrouded in self doubt, self hatred and shame, all passed down from generation to generation. I dabbled along the way doing things that were acceptable to others, always adding a bit of my own twist to the mix, but staying within the boundaries that were set for me.
I remember at one point someone asking me about creating and I said these words - “My life is going to be my greatest creation.” I had no idea what I was stating at the time, but it would turn out to be another guiding light in my life. I said those words from that place within me that I had buried, showing me that there was still a “me” inside somewhere guiding me home.
Back to the “how.” There were many minor shifts in my life, each one waking me up a bit more and leading me closer to what would eventually be my path. I had channelled readings from people along the way that made a huge impact on the trajectory of my life. They all showed me that who I really was, was more than what others had led me to believe and closer to who I instinctively knew I was. I began to have visions and those visions gave me more pieces to the puzzle. But it wasn’t until I began painting again that things accelerated and took a new turn.
After having left my art behind for almost 20 years, I had a severe car accident that took my ability to do the work I had been doing for years, work that had meaning and purpose to it. I had been a personal trainer and coach, a career that came out of my heart’s desire to contribute to others. It was a natural extension of using what had saved my life years ago, to help others do the same. And I loved my work. No, it wasn’t art, but the truth is that I used the sight I had as an artist to work with my clients in a very unique way. I was able to see them and feel who they were and then show them what I saw, in a way very much like I did when I painted. Mining for gems in the unseen and bringing them into the light for others to see. It was simply the natural thing for me to do.
The car accident was so debilitating that I spent 18 months unable to do the work I had been doing and wondering if I would ever be able to again. The gift of it all was that it brought me back to painting as a way to begin healing myself emotionally. At first it was just for me, my therapy. I could only use my left hand because the right side of my upper body had been so damaged. Being right side dominant my whole life, this was a huge challenge, but would prove to be the key to unlocking who I had buried inside all those years.
I began painting again with my left hand using watercolors, a medium I had never used before. I only had a small corner of my bedroom to paint in because in the life I was living, I truly had no space of my own. I could barely breathe in that life, let alone take up space. So I set up that little corner as my sanctuary. I put up a sheet to wall it off and I hung pictures of sacred things on the sides of my makeshift studio. It was only large enough for me to crouch down and curl up, but it became my first studio. I still have the first paintings I created and they are called “Awake.” I had no control over my hand and no idea how to use the paints, but I simply allowed whatever showed up to show up on the paper.
Colors and forms poured out onto those papers showing me that I was not just the hard core bodybuilder, trainer, tough guy that I had been all those years. The colors and forms were highly feminine and erotic, soft and flowing. My feminine energy made its way through to the paper without me trying at all. It would not be contained and it hasn’t been since. Those paintings revealed who I was in a way that nothing else could have. They became my next signs along the path to myself and the vehicle for me to see more clearly. I knew after painting for awhile that this was my path to freedom. I didn’t know how, but I could no longer turn away from it. The artist in me was not going to be silenced again.
When I was approaching 50, I painted a series of paintings unlike anything I had ever done. They were a series of images of pregnant women with embryos inside. Swollen bellies and pendulous breasts protecting these tiny little seeds of possibility. It was then that I knew I could not turn away from the sign they were presenting me with. It was time to leave my abusive marriage and free myself. I was in there waiting to be reborn and it was time.
After that the signs came quickly. I did leave and even raising my son alone and working 7 days a week, I managed to keep painting and writing. My body had healed enough from the car accident to go back to training and leading my programs. I worked endlessly to create a life for myself and my son. Every spare minute was spent painting and writing. I was having visions again and I experienced some very dark times. Terror plagued me, but I never showed it. The only thing that got me through were the images appearing in my work, because they seemed to be telling me that there was something more than what I was experiencing, something to hold onto.
It wasn’t until I became deathly ill a a few years later and had to stop working that I turned to painting and writing more fully. Unable to work and support myself, unable to be who I had always been for others, I found myself totally lost again. I spent most of my time going to doctors and having tests and the rest of it immersed in my art. My mother was dying at the time. I had no family to turn to except my soon to be husband. I was lost and afraid and in pain and the only thing that saved me were the moments I got to paint and write. Poetry and parables came through along with my paintings. They all showed me that there was a world inside me that desperately needed to be revealed. I was lost, but strongly and powerfully guided by what was being shown to me through my work.
While I was a trainer I had the experience of someone coming to my training studio to talk to me about marketing my business. He was a contact through one of my clients. He walked into my studio, saw the paintings I had on my walls, turned to me and said “You shouldn’t be a trainer. You’re an artist and this is what you should be doing.” I knew he was right. Just like I knew when other signs had appeared that they were guiding me somewhere else, but I wasn’t always ready to follow. It took me a few years and losing everything to illness to be willing to follow this one. Without my identity intact, the one that others gave me validation for, I had nothing except myself and my art. No one else knew me as an artist. I was the tough bodybuilder, trainer, coach, the one everyone turned to for help and advice. Suddenly, I was nothing. No one. I could barely stand on my own two feet, literally, so how could I be what I used to be for others?
It took losing all of who I had been to put me firmly on the path of being who I truly am. And it took years of illness and debilitation and feeling alone and lost to wake me up to myself. It took being dismissed again, thought crazy again, feeling alien again, to find my place. I had to work through all of what I had experienced in childhood all over again as an adult with the one person that truly mattered to me, to be able to stand my ground and be who I am. It took almost 20 years!
The thing that guided me and saved me was my art. It continually showed me who I was at every turn. Each painting was like a snapshot of my soul’s journey and where I was on my path, revealing the depth of what I could not see with my eyes. Each dive into the darkness of my soul came out on a canvas or in my writing. As I became sicker and no doctors could help, I also became more reclusive and my art, my only companion. It was in my art that I could be fully myself, revealing all of my darkest secrets without anyone else being able to decipher what they were. Painting was my therapy until I found a gifted therapist to walk beside me. There were a procession of helpers along the way, each leaving me with a bit more of myself. Each showing me another aspect of my truth.
My Holy Grail has been guiding me to it all along. My art has been the major vehicle for me to see and process my journey to it. Long ago I knew that finding it would happen in my 60’s. Not before. No matter how I tried to rush the process, I couldn’t. It required all of that time and all of those experiences and all of those teachers and guides, for me to find “home.” And finding home means finding myself, fully inhabiting myself without apology, without justification or explanation. It means living in the place where I know I belong, living a life that where I am sovereign, and being in a place where I can share all of my experience and wisdom with others. That is my Holy Grail. Healing my body from this long and arduous journey is on the table now, but it is no longer about dealing with illness to show me who I am or strip away what is not true. It’s more about repairing the damage to a war torn body from a trek through dangerous territories.
How did I find home? What part did my art play?
I had to find my own path, one that no one else has walked. I needed guides who had done the same. I needed the willingness to let go. I needed all of the strength, courage and heart that I had to bring to the process. And my art showed me the truth at every turn. It showed me who I was when I couldn’t see through the darkness. My writing showed me that I had a whole world inside me, a story that went beyond this seen world. It gave me a way to process all that was happening to me and around me so that I didn’t go insane in the process. And now it is my vehicle to share all of this with others. It is a tool for awareness and healing, for connection and teaching. It enables me to bring light to the darkness. We all have to find our own way home, but for those of us who have walked this path, we have a responsibility to share it with others as a way of extending a hand. Because none of us do this without that. None of us do this alone.
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