Road Signs

Road Signs

Road Signs

One evening after work I was out walking my dog, a small terrier – mix named Pumpkin. I suppose that Pumpkin has forced me to take more mindful walks due to her short stature. I now notice things around me that I wouldn’t ordinarily notice because I would be more focused on distance and cardio level.

As Pumpkin and I were strolling, I noticed how many signs fill our neighborhood. Signs with directives, instructions and absolute orders: “no passing on the left”, “one way”, “no parking here to corner”, “bump”, “one way”, “stop”, “do not enter” and even playground instructions or “play smart rules”.  Signs with the name of streets and even signs in people’s yards showing a dog squatted to poop with a circle and a line through it, often with the word “PLEASE” highlighted above the dog image.

I began to think about all the messages that these signs project to the community.  I wondered if we could flash a sign, perhaps on our foreheads, that would provide information to others. Information about our needs, requests, wants and even warnings. How nice that might be.  No need to explain, argue or feel bad for asking questions.  The message merely lights up on our foreheads and others need only obey the directives or simply be informed.

Think about some of the bad dates you might have had.  Don’t you wish that your date bore a sign like; “be prepared to stop”, “exit only”, “hidden driveway” or “keep left”?  How many “I told you so’s” could you have avoided?  I wondered about all the conversations that felt more like monologues by the other person.  Wouldn’t It have been helpful if they had a sign that said something like “one-way street” or “no U turns”?  How extremely helpful that would have been – not to mention, a great time management tool.

How many of us have missed the sign for the “Recharge Vehicle station”?  Instead, we continue to burn energy with work and commitments to friends and family until our engines stall and we find ourselves stuck on the side of a remote street.

Sometimes we might not see the sign before we enter into a situation, but the signs do present themselves and it is important that we do acknowledge them. I have heard many people talk about the “red flags” they were aware of but had ignored at the time.  Perhaps they were preoccupied by the scenery and did not fully grasp the meaning of the sign or they did not trust what they saw.

I began to think about these signs and the ones I would like to have available in certain times of my life or particular times of the day.  When I am sitting at the computer and am pulled out away from my body while writing and then someone knocks on my front door or decides to ask me a question.  I wish I had a sign “road closed”, or “caution” or “no parking.”  When I am playing with my grandson, I need the sign “beware unfenced road for next 150 Km” or the squiggly arrow for a crazy ride!   There are some people that need a “do not enter” sign and others I would like to see have the “share the road” sign”.

Think about the people in your life and what signs you would like or need to light up on your forehead when you are around them.  Or what sign you wish would light up on someone else’s forehead to warn you or welcome you.  Have fun with this and as always keep your pen moving and “no parking.”

Some sign examples: “stop”, “yield”, “R/R”, “dead end”, “no U turns”, “no passing”, “do not enter”, arrows pointing in various directions, “pedestrian crossing”, “parking” and “no parking”, “one way”, “slippery road” or “sharp curves”, “give way”, “wrong way”, “traffic light”, “bike route”, and “trash sign-Pitch in”, “construction ahead”, “caution”, “road under construction”, “speed limits”, “food and gas signs”, signs “warning of falling rock in mountain areas” or “animal crossings”, there are even “social distancing” signs now, and of course signs with “rules at swimming pools, playgrounds and parks”, “avalanche area”, “no vehicles beyond this point”, “pavement ends”, “blind corner proceed with caution”, “cross traffic ahead”, “hard hat area”, “private driveway”, “road may flood”.  Look around as you walk and notice signs and imagine how and when you might use that sign.

Prompt:

  • Find as many signs as you can and write them down.
  • Begin to make a list of people you feel you need a sign for to either welcome them or to keep them distant.
  • Imagine you are able to have these signs light up on your forehead when you encounter these people. What would they state? Who would you need the sign’s for?.
  • Write about what that would look like and how that would feel.
  • Write about the signs you wish someone else had on their forehead and how that would have been helpful.
  • Write a list of situations where you could use a special sign (in social settings, walking your dog, on campus or at work).
  • Write about a sign you wish was on someone else.
  • Create a scene where every character has a sign. Maybe it is a first meeting or a job interview. Imagine how that scene would play out and write your scene.

Example:

When I was in high school, I was invited by a very popular boy to our senior prom.  I was not one of the popular kids. In fact, I was surprised he even knew me.  I was very excited of course but also nervous since I had not dated anyone in high school. I worked at an equine center to earn riding lessons.  I worked every weekend and a few nights a week mucking stalls.  While everyone else was “hanging out,” I was working.

I told my mom that I was invited to the prom and she took me shopping for a dress.  We looked at only a few stores and I was acutely aware of the need to keep in a budget.  I did find a dress that fit well, and I was comfortable in and so my mom put the dress on layaway. She was to pay the balance and pick up the dress 3 days before my prom.  I could see her hesitation on getting the dress, not because she didn’t want me to have it, but I think she knew something was not right.  I wish that her thoughts could have been displayed on her forehead. The ones I saw in her eyes said, “blind corner, proceed with caution”.

Three weeks later and two weeks before the prom, this popular boy stopped me in the hall at school and asked what the color of my dress was so he could order flowers.  I told him blue – not a deep royal blue, but a robin’s egg blue, soft and innocent.  Four days before prom night he called me over to his locker and told me he was not going to take me to the prom, he said he was taking someone else that he really wanted to go with.  I wish that I had seen the sign on his forehead before this, a sign that stated, “U-turn”, “Dead end”, or “bridge out do not enter.”  I stood there leaning against the grey metal locker, #105.  I don’t really remember what I did or didn’t do but the appropriate sign would have been the yellow crime scene tape. Or “detour”, so that I could have remained frozen and everyone could have gone around me, left me there invisible.

I did have to tell my mom, so she did not pay for the dress still on layaway.  I chose to tell her I decided not to go.  I put up a sign that stated, “drive slow saves lives”. She never asked me about why I had decided not to go or to try to fish for the real reason.  But I imagine my mom went to the store to get her money back for the blue prom dress with a sign on her forehead stating, “private road no thru traffic”, or “no idling allowed”.

Birthings

Birthings

Birthing’s are almost always associated with having a child, but they are not always defined by the generative process

There are thousands of ways we “give birth” in our lives, such as birthing an idea, new artwork or plans for something novel in our lives.   I have experienced many different birthing’s of myself over my lifetime.  Some more painful than others.  Some bearing more fruit or a fuller and much healthier result. Other birthing’s were wrought with much loss like divorce and the death of family and friends.  Some were lower on the pain scale like when changing jobs or schools. Many others were very simple, quick and over without a pause between the before and after. Several birthing’s took a lot of planning, editing out some fluff and whittling down the initial expansive idea to a more workable and achievable reality.

We are constantly birthing and re-birthing ourselves throughout our lives as we learn new perspectives, travel and our experiences increase.  In Composing a Life, by Mary Catherine Bateson, she explores the lives of several woman who were very successful in their careers’ but later in life they changed their professional direction.  All of these women gave birth to completely new careers’ requiring them to re-define themselves as women, mothers and partners.

After several years of growing and nurturing the concept of Airmid, the labor ended, and she was birthed.  Airmid is now in the world, conceived of all the dreams, ideas and hopes for her presence in the world.  My partners’ and I held hands as we stood on the precipice of change.  We each left full-time jobs with paid vacation and health plans, to bring forth this labor of love and passion.  As we stood there, silent, hands clasped together, and our eyes speaking a mutual fear and joy, we jumped off the cliff and into a new unknown.

We birthed and rebirthed Airmid daily, nurturing her to her full potential as a mother does her child.  Those daily birthing’s, although, laborious, almost go unnoticed as do many of the smaller birthing’s everyone experiences from day to day. Today I invite you to remember, and in remembering, to honor, all the birthing’s you have had in your life. There are the birthing’s after a loss and the ones meticulously planned for, but none the less they are birthing’s.

 

Writing Prompt #1

  • Make a list of all your birthing’s, in chronological order or in thematic order (i.e. family, work, relationships) or in the order in which they occur to you now.
  • Choose one of the items identified on your list and write about that.
  • Continue to move through your list and write about each of the birthing’s you identified,
  • Write about birthing your dreams, a new business or relationship.
  • Think about times in your life that you may have changed directions professionally, academically, socially or creatively. Often one birthing can lead to many others like where you go to college could lead to where you work and start a family.
  • Write about leaving an old identity and venturing into a new one.
As always please feel free to deviate from my prompts and write about anything that emerges as you read through the above prompts. Keep your hand moving, even when the internal critic tells you that you are wasting your time or that what you are writing is meaningless – keep writing through that and into a deeper relationship with yourself.

Birth your story and have fun with it,

Dottie

Art For Healing

Art For Healing

     COVID-19 has dramatically changed all of our lives. It has limited our ability to join classes, listen to live music concerts and attend exhibits at the Art Museums. Many people have already established their routine art groups, scrap-booking groups and ceramic studios that they attend for their artistic release or the mental/emotional escape from the realities of life. Being home and unable to access your groups, to be involved in life where most of your inspiration comes from, may have left you feeling that creativity pushing against your chest or images bouncing around in your head with no clear direction for birthing them.      Indeed, it can feel intimidating to stare at a blank page in a sketch book or the white space of a canvas. Without the direction of a prompt or the creative energy of a class it can feel overwhelming as the pull to create goes head to head with the frenetic search for a clear directon to begin. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to do art. You simply have to start making marks on a page or gluing items together to discover what your unconscious wants you to know.  Art can provide the boundaries for intense and chaotic feelings, creating safety for them to be expressed in their “bigness”. Art can also be a fun way to bring family members together. It enlivens us, energizes us and is a playful way to explore ourselves. No one needs to possess great talent to do art. Art is a process, not an end.      And it doesn’t just feel good, creating art has been proven to facilitate healing. The use of art has been studied in a variety of populations receiving therapy such as veterans, cancer patients, children and the elderly with dementia. Dr. John Diamond, founder of the Arts as Healing Foundation, found that people with dementia and other progressive neurological diseases can still create because creativity continues to be present all the while past language skills and the ability to reason are compromised. Dr. Diamond also found that visual art can reduce stress and create a more relaxed state in our bodies and mind.      Art with guidance has shown to facilitate new understandings, insights, problem solving abilities, and new perspectives that can lead to a more positive outcome and healing. Carl Gustav Jung, considered the father of analytical psychology, designed and used the mandala as a way to tap into the unconscious. Today, Jung’s concept remains in the form of adult coloring books. In nearly every store in the country you can find these coloring books in a variety of designs that intend to guide you towards mindfulness and a state of calm. I will be presenting art prompts weekly for you to do individually or as a family. Now remember that there is no bad art. In fact, the Japanese call this “Wabi Sabi”, or releasing your unrealistic expectations and embracing the imperfections of being human. If you keep waiting for the perfect moment, the most amazing idea, or all the right materials to create with –you will never begin. Art is in the moment, of the moment and it will pass with the moment just as another moment presents itself. Welcome it. And allow the other moment to leave so that you can have the space for your new guest.   Art Prompt #1          MAKE SILLY PLAYFUL PAPER MASKS Since masks have become a necessary part of our lives, I thought it might be fun to make some silly paper masks. You can have each family member make one and then do a family mask photo. You can have each member draw or color the face of their favorite animal or even a piece of fruit.               #Mask #Fun Mask #art for kids Instructions:

  • Take a piece of blank printer paper and fold it lengthwise.
  • Unfold the paper and cut along the folded crease.
  • Fold the corners on the short side in toward each other and staple them so the ends come to a point.
  • On the front side you can draw or color the face you like (i.e. pig, cat, dog, simile face, man with a mustache, or maybe a rainbow or butterfly).
  • Then take two rubber bands and staple them on the back of each end point and wrap the rubber bands around your ears and have a family parade of animals and take a family photo shoot.

  MAKE A MONSTER #Monster drawing #Kids fun drawing Instructions:

  • Take a sheet of printer paper or construction paper and fold it into thirds.
  • One person draws a head on the top third with lines from neck slightly crossing over onto the second third.
  • Pass the paper to the next person – folded so they can only see the second third of the paper.
  • Then draw a middle section of the monster (without knowing what the head looks like!).
  • Then fold the paper so only the last third shows.
  • Then pass it to the next person and that person draws the bottom portion of the monster.
  • Once it is completed open it up for everyone to see and enjoy!

  Alternatively, each family member can draw a part of the monster on a single sheet of paper. Once everyone has completed their drawing, the separate parts can be taped or stapled together. What kind of monster did you create? Give your monster a name and identify what sound it would make or how it would move. Have fun with your new monster!                TEXTURE SKETCH #textured sketch #Kids drawing Instructions:

  • Choose any size of paper you would like, whether it be a large poster size or computer size paper.
  • Then place your paper on items with textures inside of your house or outside in the yard (for example, tree trunks, leaves, textured seating, a lamp base, the top of a lid, or a rough stone).
  • With a crayon or pencil lightly color in back and forth strokes on the paper and watch the textures appear.
  • Create a collage of textures on your paper and fit as many as you can.
  • Challenge your family to take their own paper and crayon and find as many textures as they can. When you all come back together share them and talk about which textures you found and how you created your design.

  Enjoy doing your art and Wabi Sabi to you!!

Dottie Kelly

Writing From Place

Hello and good morning to all of my fellow isolators! 

As I leisurely move about my house since the isolation, no longer rushing through tasks before running out of the door to work, I noticed that one of my rooms has begun to take on a life of its own.  There are items that appear to have taken up residence on the dresser, the shelves and within the containers hiding under the bed. I suppose I that I have seen them before. In fact, I am probably the one that stuck them there while rushing to put then in a temporary home and out of my everyday view.  As I looked into the room I realized that based on the number of new residents that have homesteaded in the room…I have been way to busy!

It has been shown that our external environments often reflect our internal environments. The chaos, strict order of things or the free-flowing nature of a space can reflect those similar spaces inside of us.  This week we will explore our writing from that place. I imagine that many of you have a special room in your house, a designated chair or a spot on the sofa that you’ve identified as yours. It could be the place you read, watch TV, do work or hide from the rest of the family.

Today, I decided to sit in the room that has become the recipient of homeless, unclaimed items and overflow from other rooms like the Island of Misfits in that wonderful Christmas show.  I sat in a red leather armless chair, placed in a corner to perfectly round out that odd space. A small black table stood beside it with a calming Buddha perched there – seemingly as a reminder today for me to be in the moment.

As I looked around the room from the red chair, I wonder if I even sat on this chair in the store before buying it.  Even though it looks attractive against the gray walls, the seat was, I believe, never meant for anything more than a decorative pillow to rest on it.  I also wonder why I allowed my sister to talk me into gray walls.  Surrounded by these walls I felt dull, I felt unmotivated to write or even to think.  My own internal gray walls felt triggered as I continued to sit here.  As I thought about how this external space was reflective of my internal space, I felt a strong urge to run from the discomfort, to paint over the paralysis with calming earth tones and to feel the comforting items of my chosen space.

I stay in this thorny place and wondered how often we all find our internal landscape so uncomfortable and want to run to escape them with busy-ness. How often do we try to paint over it with a brighter color or a new wallpaper to occupy our thoughts and escape the gray walls?  How often do we not allow these places to tell their story through the items they hold? I wondered about sitting with this unrest inside, this discomfort, as if I were one of the temporary items occupying this space. I thought about how often others may also feel alien to their internal landscapes.

This room was reflective of me during my transition from a place I loved to a place where I felt I needed to return to.  It represented an unsettled part of me and the uncertainty of a choice.  These walls hold the state of fear of a new beginning that felt like the shadow side of what I imagined. When I first moved here from out of state and I slept in this room.  It was the only room that wasn’t filled with unpacked boxes. I slept on a mattress placed up against an inside wall with some smaller boxes being used as a nightstand and a place to drape my clothes over.  It was the first room I knew in this strange new environment and the one I lived in for many months as my home underwent major renovations.  Perhaps, that is why I avoid this room now or that I feel a bit temporary in there.  It was a holding pattern for me until my new bedroom was constructed and I could spread out, relax and secure my special spot to read at night and write with my dogs at my side.

Recently, I cleared out this room after my daughter took some of her items – that had remained here in limbo for 2 years-back to her apartment.  It is her room when she comes to visit but in between it is a magnet for items that don’t quite fit in other places and where dust-bunnies joyfully abound.  This was the first time I sat there to write in 10 years. Pumpkin was also there at my side and curled up sleeping and content to be in any familiar space or just by my side.  Animals are content in the presence of their people and perhaps, space has less importance for them.  But as I sat there, I was very aware of how my surrounding environment impacted me and my inner environment. 

Today, I challenge you to write from a specific place.  Find that place in your home or outside in your yard that you do not spend much time in.  Maybe it is the kitchen, the basement or the island of misfits’ room that you may have in your home.  It could be a little corner in the yard that no one ever sits in.  You can even sit in your closet or someone else’s in your house or sit in the pantry and write from there. Write from a hallway or an entrance way.  Rather than sitting on a chair, sit on the floor and write from that perspective.  Write from a bed or a hammock.  Write from a place that you are less familiar with and start with what you see, hear, smell, taste or touch in that space.

Writing prompt week 2:

  • Write from your senses – always start with what is present and then move to the containers under the bed and stuff in the drawers. Expose everything.  Write about how that space is similar or different from your internal space.
  • Write about how it feels to be in that space. Allow past memories to arise and move into your writing – allow them to take up residence on the page. Don’t push away any thought or feeling that arises: think about it as cleaning the internal room and allow your thoughts and feeling to surface so you can give them a permanent place on the page.
  • Describe everything even if you believe it is not remarkable or interesting. If you are in someone else’s space write about what you see and how that describes that person and how that is similar or different from you.
  • Write to a find a way to be comfortable in that unfamiliar space. Find a way to make friends with it and to set-up a cozy corner just for yourself.

As always, keep your pen and pencil moving across the page.  Let your fingers stay with the keyboard even when your thoughts want to remove you from the gray walls.  Challenge yourself to stay and write through the discomfort and out to the other side.  Pull the curtains back or turn on a light so you can see more clearly into the internal space and clean out the dust bunnies of negative thoughts.

Enjoy and please just have fun!!

Dottie Kelly

Intro To Writing For Healing

Writing From Within and Toward Healing

As we are all isolated from the outside world and often from our own families due to COVID-19, we are finding it difficult to avoid our own thoughts.  After all the baseboards have been cleaned, closets cleared out and kitchen cabinets organized we all have to eventually sit and be alone with ourselves.    Our daily social interactions have been nearly eliminated as we replace face-to-face with face-time.  The laughter of our friends and family has been replaced with the latest COVID-19 news or concerns for the people that we know that have tested positive.  This event can bring us up close and personal with our greatest fears but also with our dreams about life when this is all over. As we are thinking about what is important in our lives and reevaluating our priorities, there is an opportunity to mine the old caverns and find those wonderful golden nuggets hidden in the deeply compressed walls of our stories – Yes, “everywhere you go; there you are”.

Since we have been provided with this time – even if we didn’t ask for it – we can use it as a blank page to create something completely free of judgement.  Instead of viewing our inner world as endless problems to solve we can instead see it is a gift intended for us to open with great curiosity.

This blog will offer writing prompts to support you in exploring yourself and the world around you.  Many of us have allowed our ideas, thoughts and imaginations to be imprisoned, justified by the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.  Writing is a wonderful way to put those thoughts somewhere and allow them to be heard or seen. Writing releases our thoughts and weakens their tenacious hold on our minds that can so often drain our precious energy when we try to silence them or bury them deep in the junk drawer of our minds

Writing also has benefits for our immune system. Psychologist, James Pennebaker was a major proponent for writing as a form of healing and found that those who wrote down their deepest thoughts and feelings showed higher T-cell counts, improved liver functions and stronger antibody responses.   So, whether you are creating fiction, writing from the deepest and darkest places of your souls, writing to find clarity and perspective during difficult times, or finally writing that family history you always wanted to, you will be simultaneously improving your immune system.

Today, I challenge you to look under the bed and see that there is no monster hiding there waiting for you to swing your legs over the side, to grab hold of your feet and devour them.  I challenge you to realize that maybe that monster you feared was just a stuffed animal that fell from your grip as you rushed from your room and out the door to work.

You can use the prompts provided below to write on your own, as a family or share the prompt with a friend and exchange your stories in order to share thoughts, gain insight or just have fun creating stories together.  You are also free to write from wherever you are and about whatever you feel like.  There are no rules to creative writing.  Just keep your pen or pencil going or your fingers on the keypad moving. Do not pause to think, rationalize or reason. Just allow your unconscious, the creative part of your brain, to tell the story. No matter how simple or trivial it may seem in your mind, write it down just as you remember it.

It can often be helpful to have a witness to our writing. I welcome any and all of you to share your creative process, anonymously or not, as your journey may inspire others or spark a tasty memory for baking another person’s story.

The writing prompts will be available weekly on Airmid’s blog at airmidwellness.com.
Remember, writing for just 5 minutes a day will enhance your immune system.
So, enjoy and stay healthy!!

Tips for Getting Ready to Write:
1) Relax yourself. Take some deep breaths in through your nose and slowly release it through pursed lips as if you are letting the air out of a balloon while pinching the lips of the balloon.
2) Chose a comfortable place and time to write:
3) Embrace your imperfection. Remind yourself that it does not have to be perfect, it is only a moment passing through you.
4) Drift off and allow your unconscious to be front and center and give the neocortex a break:
5) Keep your hand moving. Do not stop. Just keep writing. Even if it is to write “I don’t know what to write.” The words will flow if you just create the space for them and remove any judgement or expectation.

I will leave you with this:

Writing prompt #1:
– Write what you need to write or want to write. Write what you don’t want to write. You can create a list for all of the above and then write from the list.
– Write about the first time you felt fear – personal or as a collective experience (i.e. natural disaster); or write about the first time you remember being isolated from others (for example, a time you were sick, camping alone or even on a retreat).

If you find that your words are quarantining themselves from you, do not worry, just doodle the prompt or collage it!!
Keep your hand moving across the page, free from judgement. Everything that appears on the page is only a moment so capture it and then release it!!

Enjoy!!
Dottie

I do recommend that if you are not seeing a therapist that you consider some therapy sessions as things may come up that feel too difficult to hold onto alone.
If you are seeing a therapist, I recommend you bring your writing to your session to explore further – for support in peeling away the emotional onion.

 

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