When I grow up I’m going to be an astronaut. And a policeman and have a zoo. Yes dear. Now. Eat your shepherd’s pie.
When I grow up in going to be a ballerina with a health food shop that helps refugees and run for local councillor.
Darling that’s amazing, you’ll need to learn lots of interesting things, keep focused and believe you can do it.
Because you can do anything. .
As long as you don’t take advice from anyone else.. ever!!!!
Or at least keep a very open mind about what motivates us humans to fear the goals, dreams and aspirations of others.
Achieving and believing in ourselves was a pool we only dabbled in the shallow waters of as children;
The deep end. we were mostly conditioned to believe was for a vague group of other people . Braver, better, richer, cleverer, more well rounded humans who buy some trick of osmosis had known from birth that they were awesome. Many of the people I speak to in art or mental health group have a real fear of success in their work, or to see their ideas flourish. What if they fail. ? Where did that seed of doubt germinate?
Throughout this pandemic our relationships have changed, not only with each other but for many facing inwards for the first time since they could tie their own laces and run out of the school door, they are now having to see themselves a bit more up close and personal. (Including I might add the tedious rigmarole of self hair cuts and eyebrow plucking. )
Some of you might be closer to people than ever before, some might be struggling because of a lack of trust in technology. Sadly, I can guarantee that despite always writing and creating with my own mum in mind, she will always refuse to switch her computer on. She has one, but claims it doesn’t like her and no amount of help, instructions with diagrams or gentle guidance whilst on the other end of the phone line will convince her otherwise.
‘I know what you look like,’ she tells me, at precisely 9.15am every Friday on the phone. There is no changing her mindset. That is how it is and that is how it stays.
I suppose I actually could have a monobrow by now and certain people on the Christmas card list would be none the wiser!!
Some conversations are never had in the way we would like or need. My mum makes me laugh now, but all of us are fundamentally the same, even if we say we don’t want or need approval or love from anyone else. From birth all children want is to be seen. Before it was crushed or squashed or side-lined by your family or ignored you were a little wriggly star. A perfect sponge and mirror to the world around you , mimicking nature and making it your own… ( I’m getting vague memories of sitting in a tree talking to fairies, and no it wasn’t last week…) You didn’t know any better than to show the world you existed in your own wonder and didn’t give a fig what anyone thought. Until you became conscious enough to name those feelings, until you understood you had a place , and kept ending up there.
To be seen isn’t the same as being praised. To be recognised in all your colours, all your YOUNESS in the eyes of your closest ones is your mirror. Their acceptance and appreciation of you as a package, and more than that, their pride in that package fuels you, and nurtures you. You are free to stop wondering if you are good enough. That is the gift of recognising others and why we must tell them
If this becomes lacking, we have to learn to give ourselves or the people we love the gift of being seen. And definitely not become the perpetrators of what we hated to feel in our worst memories..
It is an vital part of your health in every sense, but especially at the moment, to feel at ease with your essential self. To be the person you weren’t taught to be by watching your parents or siblings or the dynamics that crushed many in the classroom or office. It is far better to have a child that wont stop performing in the living room, than one too scared to tell you their fears.
For many people, this insular period in time has been a good excuse to rummage in drawers and in attics, throwing up objects and photos from our pasts that have led us to where we are now. Positive Reflections on the huge and varied lives we have lived is a good thing. We don’t often get to stop and check in like this, taking a pause and a breath
Many of you have learned ways to compete with boredom or fill your time, or learn a new skill or study for a different type of job. For some tapping back into that hobby from 1989 has proved joyous and become a much needed focus for the long winter days.
I put a post up on my face-book page asking people to tell me what they had been up to, or made, or created that they were proud of during these isolated 18 months. I didn’t really think much about the question, and expected a whole lot of replies as usual.
But, it was surprising how few of the creative and talented, amazing people who inspire me every day, didn’t offer anything about themselves in return. There were barely any.
One response that surprised me said they were told ‘Pride comes before a fall’ .
I lay awake thinking about pride, and about the preconception
that being too happy with an accomplishment creates a vanity which in turn creates the likelihood of a well deserved topple.
And I realised that we might have an instilled sense of that rule from somewhere. About being too pleased with ourselves, in case we are seen to be showing off. And I remembered why I left home. I was painting art in my bedroom, at 18, with the neighbours children attached to me like limpets as I was babysitting. I was maybe singing. I would definitely have been friendly. A family friend of my Mum’s was round drinking tea. Afterwards I was summoned and told I was too happy and sparky, (the friend had commented, and it had made them feel ashamed of my ‘differences to everyone else’) To this day I remember the stone sinking in my chest, that feeling of horror, and appalling realisation that they cared more about a virtual strangers flyaway opinion than the creative, but really quite nice person their child was growing into.
It took me a long time to understand why, that it wasn’t really their fault. it was their own conditioning and fears of standing out that drove everything that wasn’t beige to have to be rubbed out. I just knew I had slowly begun to fade there too, so I had to go. Leaving home, travelling to New York to nanny, going off to Art school and being free was the start of adult life. Unless we challenge these misconceptions nothing changes for anyone, but it isn’t always possible to do that straight away. Facilitating positive mental health routes for others motivated me, and I always say there is no better teacher than helping others through personal experience.
Our own generation began to understand that it was alright to flourish a little bit… I still think we are carrying the weight of the ages, but we are doing a better job at not passing that on. If we look at the way our children’s generation are able to self publicise with their tick tocks and insta posts, that is. For so long we collectively carried the residue of our parents fears of standing out for being different, daring to try, daring to try, fail and try again.
If we live with a negative person, someone who is scared of seeing us succeed, in case their failures and lack of insight or imagination become apparent : we will be met with a lack of interest, or worse an uninvited actual critic. But if these people are important in our lives, their opinions matter. They are the rocks we build our sense of self on. Or not.
And so, without the right cheerleaders, we believe we are useless. We make half hearted creations. We prove ourselves and the world and them right. Pride does indeed come before a fall. But it isn’t your pride. It is the lost pride that should have been readily rained down at the breakfast table.
Flourishing against any kind of negativity in our lives is like swimming against the tide. I spent the last three months of my degree in my lovely big shared Edinburgh flat, getting a ridiculous amount of artwork created. Gone were the voices and critics which I was sensitive to after my upbringing. I flourished. And I sold out my show. This was my West End Craft Fair Stall in Edinburgh with set up help from the Princes Trust.
Where there should be an unspoken supportive hum in your head because you know how much you are valued, and there is nothing but the roar of self doubt, this can paralyse us . OR
It can be our motivation
When we as humans find our gifts and skills, our joy and ideas we desperately want to share with the world, to not be able to share that is tragic.
Where would we be without the passion to design, draw, write, make music, cook, open conversations about new adventures and new thinking, to paint, to decorate, to get fit, to raise money, grow beautiful gardens, photograph the bounty before us and share it with the world.
Almost none of these things, done by anyone I know, or by anyone I’m guessing you know either, is done solely for a prize or recognition. To Create is like breathing, like a desire, a passion for life, which has the most marvellous of outcomes of making other people happy too.
We cannot be held responsible for anyone else. We can offer our stuff to the world, we can do our best. It isn’t your burden to live another person’s life for them. Making the hugest deal of your life though will impact on those around you like ripples in the ocean. All we can do to live a best life is to be mindful of how we do that, what we put in the world and why we are doing it.
A few of my friends have gone through huge journeys to find the confidence to do things like this. Perhaps it is the upside of not having support, that we learn to push ourselves that little bit more. To reach into a place where you find contentment that much easier to grasp.
It literally makes me grin so much when I find out that David our friend with the dog has also been a poet and showed me his published books. His hidden tender depths are astonishing. ( Get well soon by the way ) Dear Rob, my lovely friend, who had a stroke, and who I taught art to and whom I met his lovely wife Ruth through. She and I are now great friends, she creates the most stunning quilts you’ve ever seen, and not only that, most of the things she makes she gives away.
Claire patiently making her beautiful cross stitch for her lovely family. Claire and her husband and children helped me every single week at an art class I ran in Edinburgh for children, taking boxes to the car and cleaning tables. They are so so kind.
This post was originally inspired by my bin man. He casually told me once that he was also a singer and actor. Oh and whilst driving the truck takes these lovely photographs ! In lockdown he and his team have stayed upbeat, vans breaking down and everyone’s rubbish piling up sand dunes. It is a lovely thing to know how people celebrate the gaps between work and sleep and who the real people are. Well done Douglas and team. You guys are amazing, thankyou.
I know Artists, some famous, some scribblers, writers (likewise,) nurses, teachers, holistic practitioners, mums, crafters, singers, and even nuns.
And they all have skills I didn’t know about.
Today I wore Channel no 5 to Marks and Spencer’s to buy food for Mother’s Day with the monkey. I haven’t worn it in a year. Before it turns to vinegar, it was a lovely feeling to smell and feel a bit like my old self.
Doing things which evoke a particular sense of pleasure which resonates in only you cannot be explained or should be justified. The reason it is so hard to celebrate yourself is the mindset that at any given point we are doing things to please someone else, or gain approval. Saving things for best might mean you wake up one day, and your best is behind you.
Because we need someone wiser? older? more experienced ? to tell us our choices are worthwhile beautiful, meaningful in the world. If we stand up and fail what happens then?
Actually not very much…
I was asking my facebook question because I saw the quality in the things my friends do all the time, not because they are vain or pompous or climbing a ladder to success in a sharp suit smashing everyone in their way…
But because they are gentle, quiet understated and mostly never tell anyone else what they get up to. Many beautiful things go unnoticed and uncelebrated. And either way the creator has the same relationship with that exercise. It makes them happy. And they are in a place, for some, finally where they are allowed to be.
Its the things that people don’t ask for recognition for that makes my heart sing.
My 106 year old nun doesn’t want it for her artwork. The care package sent by one of my group as their teacher, was not done for thanks, and took the giver completely out of their comfort zone to make it for me. That is a mountain and I am filled with gratitude.
For me I only care about the genuine kernal of appreciation I now can say I have for myself, my journey and my daughter. Some things work out, some don’t, but to live a life which feels instinctive and has hope, is way better than living by the rules of another.
Any one of your creations, your meals, your walks, your photos of dogs, your haiku poems, your folded drawer of t shirts. You made something that wasn’t there before.
And that is a tiny bit marvellous
Perhaps tomorrow you can study to be an astronaut
You all have unique skills and the creative strength to keep going. The hidden gems you planted a long time ago in a pocket somewhere, may well be fully grown sparkly trees by now. What has struck me recently, is how my intelligent, wonderful, creative students, friends, and those people I have continued to admire over the years have all maintained an aspect of learning, and have an open mind to other’s ideas. You are like collages of your years in the world. Evolving and growing in wisdom, shedding off out-grown ideas like skins and staying open minded, unafraid to travel forward
. It might sound cliche but I feel proud of all these amazing people educating, writing, creating, still learning skills, making the most of this time with their children and animals. Your resources are limited, but your wills are stronger than ever to finish what you started.
Every week amazing people do ordinary things which keep other people going, making sure we are all ok and for this I am grateful to be part of so many positive connections.
This is Jim. Jim is the star of our zoom every week with his technical green screen wizardry . He has taken huge steps , not least trusting and using a phone, let alone all this newfangled cleverness. We are in stitches and nobody looking in would guess your mammoth journey. Thankyou so much for keeping us all entertained. And to all my group, you inspire me and one another to remember we are all a puzzle piece in a bigger jigsaw. You just need to find the right box.
And this is Isabel Robb, working hard for a Brain Tumour charity by pushing herself with her ten thousand steps a day. This is Amazing. Isabel brings up her son with additional needs as well . She is a kind and selfless wee diamond. 🙂 Go Isabel xx
Both of these women I know, won’t mind me telling you that their journeys began in a far less happy and confident place: due to life’s unpredictable circumstances. It has been with their sheer spirit, courage and humility that they have worked a day, a step and a goal at a time to achieve these aims and recreate new lives for their families. All at Cedar are proud of the entire group of Women who have beaten their fears to get where they are. .
And not trying to climb the mountain on day one
Sometimes, we are prevented from reaching our potential in life because those around us think they have our best interests at heart. Sometimes the reasons are much more complex. But if you start to unpick the response you might get; when you, for example, announce your wonderful new solo travel plans, or business idea, or new career as an opera singer.. it can be so overwhelmingly negative that you rip up the dream before it has even begun.
And that suits everyone just fine. It proves they were right. That they know you better than you know yourself…..
Except of course they don’t..
Often people closest to you, will instil their fears of you doing something wild, crazy, free, liberating, enjoyable, wonderful, or just different…. which mimic your own self sabotage demon sitting on your shoulder already….and this will line up quite nicely with you NOT actually being able to do it in the first place, and at the first sign of defeat you give yourself permission to give up. PROVING ALL OF YOU RIGHT. And the cruellest irony is that this is usually nothing to do with your idea or plans or dabble into new territory. These emotional responses pushing you back down where you ‘belong’ are the fears of your friends, or family, often going back generations. Add in jealousy of not achieving that same kind of thing themselves, not getting to stand in your shoes, and it is a heady mix of sabotage blended to look like care. It is not cruel to be kind. It is probably just cruel.
Anyone truly in your camp will listen to all your ideas and be able to separate their feelings impartially. Give advice but still say go for it.
In order to achieve anything at all in life, no matter how trivial or overwhelmingly impossible it might seem to anyone else First we need to know
1 We actually deserve to be happy and to do this thing we crave to do
2 Today is as good a day as any to start. Tomorrow is an excuse. Get a notebook and write down your idea.
3 Write down all the reasons for doing this thing and what you will feel
4 Write down all the reasons why not to do it , and what others will feel
5 Be grateful for what you have/ who you are already. This thing will add to your life. You are already you. That’s why you can do it.
6 Some days in the creation of a thing are like rainy weather. Shut the curtains, snooze and do it later.
7 Keep the big end result in your mind, but be flexible with this. A perfect alternative might pop up when you least expect it.
8 Make physical plans, maps, picture collages of your idea. Make lists . The more focused you are the better.
9 Do something every day towards your goal. I often multitask two blogs at once, or paint and listen to an audio for something I am studying. Squeeze things into the corners of your day. My hours are limited with fatigue, so my sympathies go out to you if you are a reader with a chronic condition. However. You still exist. You can get to your goal. Just do it from the sofa, or your duvet.
10 Don’t procrastinate. You aren’t a child. Nobody will tell you off if you don’t start this venture off, You shouldn’t have to force yourself, although obviously we all have good and bad days. You are accountable only to you.
11 This will be perfect. But your version of perfect, nobody else’s perfect. Half a mountain is better than no mountain at all.
12 Expect yourself to be happy, achieve this goal, be humble and share your experience.
13 If distractions are an issue of your own making, change the goal, as this might not be what you clearly desire. But if distractions are your children or animals- get a shed.
14 Be consistent every day. Timetable your tasks and very quickly you will see results that add up to something tangible. Read in the bath, listen to audio, get up a bit earlier, work with the rhythms of those around you and yourself. I am writing this at half past five am. By teatime, my lupus addled brain is foggy and needs to draw instead.
Where there’s a will there’s a way. And .. In the words of my daughter;
”there enough people already being average….
To aim your highest you might have to wobble a bit first…
and you are better to be a sheep dog than a sheep….’‘
Perfectly said Leah. Didn’t need the rest of the blog!……xxxxx
Good Luck with your next venture.. do let us know how you get on !
Love and Hugs, liz and the zoo xx