Following my {he}art

Seven years ago I began a journey and now it is coming to an end. Something wild and free needed to be released. And so, I let it be. I love this picture of me. This was right in the middle of the most painful part of my journey. This was when I wasn't sure I would make it. This was when I didn't know where I was going or where it would end. I love this picture because it isn't photoshopped or filtered. It is just me. A little messy. No makeup. Unsure. Determined. Hurting. Taking it one day at a time.

 

And now, here I am. I have written two books. I have deconstructed, advocated and told the whole story. Now, something is changing inside me. I can feel it happening. My art is calling. And it looks a little something like this....

 

OK, let me back up a bit.

I've spent the last seven years of my life deconstructing my past and advocating for victims of spiritual abuse. It's been hard work. I found myself often fighting two battles: those in religious power who wanted me to be quiet and sometimes, the victims themselves who wanted me to say more, do more or do it differently.

Sometimes, helping those who have been spiritually abused feels like rescuing a drowning person—the victim may lash out and struggle against their own rescue. The rescuer can sometimes drown alongside them.

The point is, I know what it’s like to make mistakes while advocating and deconstructing. I have often been too reactionary to those in power and I have often taken personally the lashing out of drowning victims. There were times when I should have done more. There were times when I should have done things differently.

What I have learned is that I cannot fight every battle and I cannot save everyone. I wish I could. But I can’t. If I try, I will drown, too.

 

In the past year I have stepped away a bit from advocacy work—to reflect on my involvement in it, to check my motives and to ask myself where I need to go from here. My focus was beginning to shift from deconstruction and advocacy to rebuilding and recovery.

I wrote a second book (more about that in the New Year!).

I am so very proud of this book. It is the culmination of everything I have learned in the process of recovering from spiritual abuse, religious addiction and finding my way back to healthy, thriving, sustainable faith. 

Since finishing my 2nd book, I have taken a rest from writing. The last seven years of intense writing and blogging and speaking about fundamentalism, religion, faith, finding my out of abusive relationships….all of it had utterly exhausted me.

I needed a break.

In some ways I have felt like an artist who was called away from her art and home to fight a battle she never wanted, a war she never started, called to clean up a mess she didn’t make. I answered the call. And now, I’ve returned home to my art and while the war isn’t over, my part in it HAS been completed.

It is time for me to move on.

It is time for me to be human again.

Yes, the world is broken and darkness threatens to overwhelm, but in my own little corner of the world, there are books and Beethoven and sewing.

Here in my corner of the world, we are focused on recovery. We are focused on building connections.

I am done deconstructing.

I am ready to enjoy my life.

I am giving myself permission to be happy and enjoy my life.

I'm giving myself permission to wear silly, fun Christmas sweaters. EEK! The cuteness.

sweater from the wonderful Tipsyelves.com

sweater from the wonderful Tipsyelves.com

 

I'm giving myself permission to re-discover my passion for long-forgotten hobbies.

For example, a couple of months ago, I came downstairs one morning to find that my husband had set up my sewing machine. “I just thought maybe you’d like to tinker around with this,” he said.

So, I did.

What happened next took me by surprise. A well of creativity bubbled up. My burned out, exhausted brain began releasing new ideas—not for writing, but for art, costumes, dresses, pillows! What started out as: “Well, I guess I’ll just finish this dress I started seven years ago” became a full-fledged Victorian costume complete with detachable bustle.

 

And then, suddenly, I was on a roll. I sewed all these other things:

 

And also, I began drawing and painting greeting cards:

All this to say, my art is calling. I have to answer.

It is another avenue of storytelling that I am excited to explore.

I am not built for sustained warfare. Although I have spoken loudly and fought fiercely when necessary, the very truth of who I am is much different. Under my hard shell, I am a cuddly, soft, gentle little bookworm. I don’t like fighting. I like making pot roast. I don't like arguing. I like baking chocolate chip cookies. And painting pictures of dancing hippos. And sewing Victorian costumes. I don't like deconstructing what's wrong with the world. I like watching "The Sound of Music" and singing along. I like going to Mass and praying the Rosary. I like sitting quietly in front of the Blessed Sacrament and resting on the heart of Jesus. I like talking on the phone with my sister. I like cuddling with my twins on the couch and watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I like making up nonsense songs for my dog, Darby. She's a good listener.

 

As I go in this new direction, I see glimpses of my writing future. I have a few ideas percolating quietly. I am content to let them take their time to develop.

I think I will keep blogging. I do like this medium so much.

Most of all, I want to thank all of you who have stuck with me through all these years. Thank you for growing with me. Thank you for emailing me and talking to me. The time you spend here is a beautiful gift to me and I don't take it for granted.

I am excited to see where my art takes me! I hope you'll come along.

And most of all, I'm very excited to share my new book with you very soon! STAY TUNED!

Much love and peace to you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

*big thank you to "tipsy elves" for letting me pick out a super cute christmas sweater!*