Vox: Making a Light

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Final post in this series; I have returned back to the Appalachian Mountains and aside from the cold weather I have found peace in my heart. Things that worried me two posts ago now seem like horrible dreams that I have finally woken up from. I admit that when I started this path of self-awareness I feared that others would not follow or would simply take it the wrong way. However, now that I have crossed various lines and made it to certain check points I realize how brave I was for standing my ground and how proud I am of those who decided to walk with me.

Things back home did change, as I would slowly realize. People were more open to sharing their feelings and listening what I had to say. Yes, it is progress but like everything else there is still much to change. I am glad to experience this change in them and hope to return to a better and united family and friends.

In this journey I noticed the power I have and can exert without fear when needed. Like ripples in a river, when a rock is placed in it, my actions and thoughts changed the direction of certain things. I realized that my opinion had as much worth as any. More than that, I realized that the decisions I have regarding my life are my own and should not be halted or questioned by others. I believe I have mentioned how important it is to stand your ground when it comes to your life, but there are moments when you doubt the power you have on your own life. We grow so accustomed to be controlled and guided that we lose the will power to take hold of our lives. This crux I carried until I realized that no matter how much others want to put their two cents in, their opinion will never matter because they cannot experience my life as I can. They cannot understand me as I can and they will never go where I am because what is mine can only be done by me.

Going back home also helped validate myself as a person. This being that I have a voice and that it should be heard, especially when the topic is about me. Knowing this, is also knowing that at times we will say things that are not to other people’s liking and that is okay. Not everything we say will be pleasant but it must be said. Hurting others should never be a way of life, but when you are doing it for a healthy cause like taking care of your privacy, setting a line of respect or simply stating your personal emotions, I believe it is okay. One cannot go about life without hurting others but it must be stated that there is a time where you must stand up for yourself even if it does hurt others. Such examples are, telling someone that you feel uncomfortable when they say or do something in your presence; refusing to do or say something you do not feel comfortable doing, being truthful to your intentions and thoughts no matter if the person next to you differs from your thoughts. All these actions help you become more genuine to who you are and who you want to be. People may believe you to be selfish but I differ from that idea, mainly because those who call you selfish for standing your ground are people who wish to overstep into your ground. It’s a bit confusing to try to explain it so let’s just say that it is a type of projection, where person A wants to control, comment and take hold of person B in a way that makes person A feel comfortable or happy;  person A, at times, does not notice how wrong this is or how much it is hurting person B and it’s not until person B denies person A that power that person B is accused of being selfish for taking back a happiness and comfort that was person B’s to begin with.

A clearer explanation of this is that there are people who like to control and take hold of other people’s life because they believe what is best. They do not notice that they are doing it, and that this is wrong. Hence, when they are told to back off they feel offended. This is mostly seen in helicopter parents or over-involved family members. They feel they have a right to the other person’s actions and thoughts be it because they feel like they know more or because they believe that they have that right. Again, neither reason is acceptable nor is it okay to let someone else delve into your life without your permission; regardless of their relationship with you.

These actions and situations are those who take power away from a person. They strip the strength of change and happiness from a person and leave but a shadow of what a person really is. Other people cannot change you; they cannot hold you and tell you how to be you. They will only tell you how to be like them, and that is not right. I believe, that what I am saying is that change to the self has to come from yourself; happiness and comfort will follow in its own time. To fully grow and be who you wish to be will come from your own actions and thoughts, not from latching onto memories and people. Those who are around you can never make you happy if you’re not happy with yourself. You have to learn to validate your actions and thoughts, try to make sense of where you are and where you want to go and everything else, as you keep truckin’ will follow along. The people around you are not there for your enjoyment nor for your comfort. Just as you were set on Earth with a purpose so were they and by burdening them with a problem that can only be solved by you, you are stopping your growth and also that person’s growth. It is okay to reach out, talk and orient yourself; it is those things that give you strength. It is not okay to latch on and pretend that others will carry you to your destination. Happiness is not a person, it is not a place; happiness is a state of mind of wellness and genuiness.

Hence, I invite you to find that light that guides you. I invite you to strip yourself of all false pretense of material happiness, of relational happiness and to find true happiness in yourself. I invite you to fight your own demons, to conquer your land and to set a reign of strength and joy in your life. You only know how far you can go, and it is only you who can say how strong you are. You must learn to break free from convention and manipulation. You have to dare to be free; even if others get upset with you. You cannot spend your whole life making others happy.  All it takes is one step, the realization that you, as a person and individual, matters as much as any other person. That you, as a person, are not tied down by other people’s thoughts of you, perceptions of you or expectations of you. Only you can set the tone for your life and only your judgment is right when it comes to your life. It is your beginning, your journey; take hold of it and begin your path to wholeness.

It is a scary path because you don’t know where you’ll end up or if others will accept your true colors. However, those who are meant to appreciate you as you are will come, and those who are colorblind will walk away. Remember that it’s a process, there is no end to it and as you grow and change, along the way, it will be worth it. Don’t stop looking for who you are. Don’t stop believing in your cause. You have a purpose. You have a light. And some day your strength, your moxie and your passion will inspire someone to start their own journey for self-awareness.

Signing off, TWS

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Vox: Making a Path

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In part two I’d like to explore a transformation that has long been in the works but it has not been until now that I have learned to value it. Back in my undergrad years I started going to open mic nights at a local bar to recite my poetry. At first I was deadly afraid of doing it because to me, my poetry was much more than just pretty words that rhymed together. My poetry was my deepest feelings and just reciting it in front of people made me feel naked and vulnerable. However, I had heard from a fellow poet that words that are not recited are dead words; and that revved me up to give this new task a go.

The first night I recited my fear was paramount. I stuttered, I shook and I got to recite. However, that one practiced poem I gave did not feel like me. It felt like those dead words my friend was talking about. So in a couple of minutes, and after two sangrias, I had written a poem about how I really felt. I got up again, talked loud and proud into that old microphone and gave those people something to remember me for. Ever since that moment I became known to others for my word-art and I became known to myself for my courage.

That one night sent a whole lot of dreams in motion for me. No longer afraid to show my artistic abilities I started searching for my one true calling. I did poetry, I did paintings, I did portraits and I did essays. Nothing was too far from my reach. I stretched all my artistic energy, every single particle that had been locked up in my mind found its way on paper and canvas. I knew not fear as I became a Jack of all trades.

While I gained strength in other artistic areas I lost strength in others. I became more prone to doing portraits of people whilst I forgot how to rhyme. Hence, what propelled me to be more artistic was taken away from me. Unable to write poetry, I stopped going to the open mics. My power of words turned into images, and what was one tangible and planned now became metaphors and raw energy. I felt deprived of my main source of joy and in the long run I lost the interest in portrait-making, drawing and painting. I knew not art and it did not know me.

For the longest time I felt into moratorium and could not find a way to get out. Yet, in all that stillness I felt something crawling in my skin. I felt an itch to create but everything I tried did not fit. I let go of the rehearsed words and known emotions, walked into a world of imagery and explored what was there. Finally, it all came together and this blog came to life. I let go of my pretense to make poetry and focused on prose instead; an idea I despised but in the end when everything else failed I turned to it. Through this new creation period, as you guys have read, I have found a way to say what my poetry couldn’t. I was able to give details and accentuations to things that could not be drawn. Hence, I had adopted a new way of art without knowing it. Thus, as I slowly untangled the narrative of my life I was able to go back to the more traditional ways of art. Poetry came back to me. Portrait making had a new purpose. And painting would soon find its way into my life, in the best way possible.

Being given these specific situations in my life gave me the base for my future as an artist. At the moment, while the process was happening I had no way of valuing it but now that I own Paradise Inks, I see the things I missed along the way. The open mic taught me that my art has value, no matter what it is. That my gift of creation will be admired by those who feel it, not by those who see it. My blog has taught me that there will be others who can do the same thing I can, but no one will ever do it like me. That my art has a specific story to tell and that those who relate will enjoy it the most. And my alcohol ink paintings taught me that as long as there is a passion, there will be a buyer. What I create is not for me but for those who seek that image that defines a feeling or a memory which they do not want to forget.

Hence, I have transcended from seeking fame and recognition to giving the gift or art, or feeling and of unity. My art can be created through me but it is not about me. It is my gift but it is not mine to keep. It is for me to share with the world, to share it with those who need it the most. And maybe one day, others will do the same with their gift onto me; and through this we’ll create unity and community.

Thus I invite you to be part of this process. I invite you to look back at your past and focus only on your growth. I want you to detail the steps that have taken you from nothing, from fear and doubt into a more secure, united and hopeful life. I want you to reap the satisfaction, the knowledge and insight of your work. And do not worry if you’re not there yet; I promise you your time will come. I want you to asses where you are and hold that in your mind, look at yourself and realize that all that which you have done was all you; it was all your strength and hard work. And be proud, no matter where you are in your growth because you made it, maybe not the whole way but you made it; and that is always worth admiring. Keep up the good work.

Signing off, TWS

Vox: Making a Statement

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Readers, I have been naughty; very naughty. You see, I forgot to mention, post and even give suspenseful follow ups of my big plans. So let me fill you in. I’m in Puerto Rico; yeap, I’m back to my home island. No, I did not quit my life in Boone and came back. I’m here for ‘winter break’. Yeah, I’m having lots of fun; it’s hotter than I expected and the food, man did I miss getting fat. Anywho, let me fill you in a three part post.

When I left home the first time I was ready to leave. I wanted to start a new life and become the me that was slowly blossoming. However, it became one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. The action and realization of leaving everything I knew and going into the unknown filled me with undying fear. I mean, literally. I had nightmares of getting on the plane and saying goodbye to Mr. Grumpy. I woke up in full on anxiety attacks and for the longest time I had to see a psychologist on a weekly basis just to get through most days. Don’t get me wrong, I regret nothing but I realized that in order to get where I am now I needed to make some sacrifices. It hurt like a Mothertrucker all the way but once I waded through most of the turbulent waters I found a nice breezy spot in the beach that is life (pun intended).

As I prepared for my trip this time, I realized that the fear was still there. However, it did not stem from travelling or leaving but from the idea that I would go back to a life I no longer fit in. I say this because in my transition and growth at Boone I have learned how to be me, how to speak out and say what I feel; how to be a strong and independent adult who does as she please. All these things I did not have in my old life. I come from a culture that does not value honesty, that mocks sentimentality, that does not have a kind word without following it up with an insult; a society where women rarely have a voice fundamentalist hypocrisy is a daily thing. I am painting my culture a lot bleaker than it really is. I assure you not everybody is this way and that this is not the norm. Yet, to me, in my subjective view, this is how I have been treated and raised. Going back home meant trying to adjust the new me into an old picture, one that could not be photoshopped; or at least that’s how it felt. My more dominant fear came from believing that if I breathed enough of that old life, I would revert back to who I used to be.

In the end, it seemed like endless possibilities of things that could go wrong; Murphy’s third law. However, I braved through the thoughts and kept my eyes on the prize (seeing Mr. Grumpy again), and 8 hours of travelling later I was in his arms, in the heat of the tropics with my people. Anxiety was present but I stood my ground and I kept repeating Carl Roger’s words over and over again. He said, in his book “On Becoming a Person”, that when you learn to be genuine by giving yourself permission to experience life in an undistorted way, the relationships you have with others become genuine as well. This meant that, through my change and my actions others could emulate and react to it, thus changing our dynamic. Maybe my growth would impact others positively, maybe not; all I know is that I have sprouted and those around me have seen my new colors and enjoyed my new scent.

Hence, dear reader, dynamics have changed and so have I. I am more direct, not fearing in calling out other people’s bullshit in public or private so as to correct behavior I deem negative towards me or any other person. These negative behaviors include racism, homophobia, emotional and psychological manipulation and or bullying, chauvinism and machismo. I am more willing to offer kind words when needed and not when wanted. Flattery is not appealing, begging is not acceptable and words are not to be wasted on those who are not willing to listen. Finally, I am fuller of life and I wish to share it with those who are willing to be part of my journey. I refuse to chase after those who do not and did not value me; I will not wither away thinking on the past and what the wrong people did to me, and I will not open my doors to those who only wish to hurt me.

All these changes and virtues may seem simple but once they are taken into account and implemented they make crashing statements in the smallest of situations. And for that I am grateful. Yes, I have butted heads with many people over these ideals and changes but in the end it all has been worth it. I am, as you are dear reader, a person and where my rights start the other person’s rights end. And that is a line, that is not so transparent, that should always be respected.

Finally, dear reader ends the first part of this post. I am in my home island and whilst everything seems to be the same, I have changed. And I hope that through my change I will be able to plant a small seed that will grow to be a strong tree. A tree that will hand out fruits to those who feed it and will be shelter to those who need it.

Signing Off, TWS

P.S. I will be adding pictures of my work to some of my posts. Feel free to go to my page Paradise Inks, like the page and make orders.

The Fear of Creation

Hey readers, coming at you fast with some mad wisdom about art and life. So, if you read my last post you know that I am now selling my art. I started a small business making any-occasion cards where the painting in the front is a personal creation using alcohol inks. It all seems cool and life changing but let me tell you how I got to doing this.

A couple of months back our Expressive Arts professor introduced to our class alcohol inks. If you’ve ever used these inks you know that they’re incredibly hard to control. They mix and match; they run and just make a mess if you don’t know how to use it. The purpose of this exercise was to teach us to trust ourselves as artists and to make us see that we can’t control everything. It’s a nice teaching when learning to be a counselor and an expressive artist. But when you’re an anal artists like myself, you spurn this type of creation method because you can’t control it.

After this one exercise everybody was all on board with the inks and everybody bought them. I mean, like most people in our class bought the whole set of paints! I, on the other hand, thought it was pure crap. I stuck to my normal paints and took up drawing naked people for the time being. Nevertheless, the universe heard my negation and decided to put me on the hot-seat.

One day, after this exercise, my boss asked me to do four thank you cards for guest professors who went to one of her classes. I was sweating bullets because I wanted to do something nice but at the same time I thought I couldn’t do it because the inks were impossible to control; or so I thought. So, I internalized my inner artists and told myself that there was no wrong way of doing this. I took into heart the previous teaching I was given when I used this method and got to work.

It took me three hours to make the four cards. I slaved away trying to make the images in my head come out on the paper. The results were amazing. All the fear and hate I had for the inks dissolved away and I was able to flow with the inks. I learned to make mistakes into beauty (thank you Bob Ross) and to kill my inner critic.

One of the four pieces I made for my boss.

One of the four pieces I made for my boss.

What I am getting to is that my hate was not fueled by my eccentricity; it was fueled by my fear to fail. I did not like the idea of not being able to create a nice painting and this caused me to shun new possibilities into my life. I was so afraid of failing I took away from myself a new opportunity to grow. Being forced, by my job and the universe, to step out of my comfort zone I was able to see how good I was at this new medium. I was able to empower myself through a new method of creation which ultimately has made me money. More than that, it has brought me happiness.

My most recent creation.

My most recent creation.

Reader, no words can describe the happiness I get by creating. To see people’s faces when they look at my work and wonder how I did it and ask me if I can teach them.  To hear people’s amazement at how well I have captured a memory or a feeling without knowing it. To feel that warmth when I finish a piece after hours of sitting in my small make-shift studio. Those are the things that this new method and small business has brought me.

And, reader, here comes the mad wisdom. Don’t turn away from something because you’re afraid. Don’t rip it out of your life because you can’t control it. Take it, hold it in your hands and let it change you. Life can take you in different directions but if you don’t take a turn, come to a dead-end, or even stop once in a while, you’ve missed the fun of the journey. We can have our minds made up. We can be accustomed to having things in a specific way. But if you never change it up and step out of your comfort zone, then you never really know what you’re missing or even what you truly want in life. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake.  Everything has a reason; learn from it, share it and grow. Because, who knows, that one thing you were afraid to do might bring you the most happiness than all those things you were already accustomed to.

Signing off, TWS

P.S. If you want to purchase some paintings please go to my page: Paradise Inks

Blob of Yarn

This week’s post was going to be about snow because I experienced that for the first time and I thought I would share that with you. I thought of writing a poem because I noticed you guys really love my poems; and I appreciate your love for my work. However, today I had an epiphany; yes, another one. And this epiphany was about yarn.

Today two of my classmates had a service event in the lobby of our building. They had an Art Materials Exchange. You took what you needed and you left what you didn’t want. They managed to gather many materials from pencils, to paint, to recyclables. Between these items they had received this one big box filled with yarn. I mean, like a full box of yarn in every color! Within that box there were half made scarves, beanies and other winter apparel. And even though there were some tightly wound balls of yarn, there was this one big blob of tangled yarn. It was massive! And no matter how much you tried to untangle it you either ended up tangling it even more or pulling until the yarn would get caught on something else and you couldn’t pull anymore.

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                I had had a fairly good day but after one important appointment with my counselor I found myself a little down. So I decided that the best way to be was with friends and so I moved my ass back to the art material exchange and sat in front of the box full of yarn. I told my friend I was determined to untangle everything. She laughed but did not stop me. So there I sat, pulling at a red yarn. I pulled and pulled until it stopped. I had not managed to get it all out so I left that one sting on the floor and grabbed another color and repeated my process.

I kept doing this for three hours. At times I found that I could pull the whole string out of the blob of yarn; other times I couldn’t. The longer I spent doing this the more agitated I got. I noticed that even though it was totally sane to do, I did not want to cut the string and end the ball of yarn when the string got too tangled. I mean, I could pull on one string and if it got stuck I could just cut it and start a new color. And maybe as I did that I could find the remaining string of color I just cut and make a new ball; but I didn’t want to. I wanted to salvage the whole thing.

The more I realized I couldn’t salvage the whole string into one big ball of yarn, the angrier I got at the person who brought the box of yarn in. I never saw the woman; I didn’t even know her name. I just knew that she was bad for doing this. Who throws a bunch of yarn into a box and knits what she wants, leaving half-finished works and a bunch of yarn tangled up? And then she gives it away, expecting someone else to untangle it or to pass it on? Why would someone be so irresponsible? If this is your work, finish it. If this is what you love, then maintain it.

I wanted to make all those colored strings be perfectly intact. I wanted to be able to string them up in one neat ball, all colored coordinated. However, this was not possible. The longer I sat in front of that blob I realized that to be able to get it done I would need to cut the strings and salvage what was in my hand. This inevitably led me to have multiple balls of yarn of the same color in different sizes. More than that, I realized I could not untangle all that mess in three hours. It was not doable. So at some point I walked away from it. I was not able to end it today but it will get done some other day.

It was not until I finally walked away that it hit me (Epiphany), this blob of yarn, this messy, ragged blob that turned into the bane of my existence for three hours, is my life. I am that blob of yarn and all those pieces of string, of different colors and textures are my experiences and the people who have come and gone. My desire to untangle this ridiculously big ball of yarn was my attempt at symbolically trying to untangle my life. I wanted to salvage all my emotions (strings), experiences (strings) and thoughts (more strings) in the best way possible but I found that I couldn’t. I had, at times, to make an executive decision. I could either spend all day untangling one string or I can cut it and continue with another string. I found that for me to be able to move forward with some things in my life, I was going to have to cut it and roll it up in one ball and then come back later to salvage what had been left from that one string. It did feel good when I managed to salvage one whole string but it was rare and at times it was a short piece of string. Whereas, the longer ones were usually cut and left for the next round of string pulling.

I also noticed that my anger at the lady was not at her but at myself for letting other people come into my life and tangle all my colorful strings. It was anger at myself for not respecting myself and letting people tell me how I should do things, or be; thus making me leave unfinished scarves and hats. I let them come into my box of yarn, play with my colors and tangle them and leave.  And over the years, all those tangles amounted into this one blob that now I am faced with. And the more I pull on them the more they pull back. So I had to decide if I wanted to spend a whole day untangling the blob of yarn that is my life, knowing I wasn’t going to be able to do it in one sitting, or I could pace myself and do it when I had the time . I, because I was hungry, decided to leave it for another day but still realizing that it had to be done; not because I was going to be praised or because someone depended on me to do it but because I needed to do it for myself.

Finally, as I was untangling the blob a friend of mine sat down with me to untangle the blob. She didn’t do much, but what she did was enough. And that is the last and most important thing of my epiphany. It was my blob to untangle, I decided to do so, but along the way there will be people who will sit down with me to untangle my blob of yarn. They will come at their own time, at their own space and they will do it because they want to, not because they are forced to do it; and that makes all the difference, no matter how small.

Hence, I was the careless lady who let other people tangle my box of yarn. I let myself down by permitting all these careless people into my life; by letting them tell me what I should knit and what I should leave behind. This dear blob is my life; it is the aftermath of the many unfinished and unpicked fights. However, I have decided to untangle this blob, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many little balls of yarn I end up with. And maybe someday I’ll be able to help someone else untangle their blob of yarn, that they themselves were too careless to maintain and stop them from giving it away at an art exchange.

Signing off, TWS

Idée Fixe

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 I am no longer looking at you

But through you to what’s beyond.

In the horizon lies

Those soft breaths of life.

I seek them out,

I drink them with my mouth.

Even when they are away from me,

Like I am to you this winter eve,

I adore them like once I did you.

They promise to do

What you never could.

They are not held by hands.

They do not turn on the same land.

They are new and brand each day;

Morning and night.

And each time they dance within my sight

you

fall

away

And I into a trance.

Like alcohol paint

They drip in the sky.

I drink them with pain,

And with each sigh,

I recognize that they are beyond my grasp.

They are little gasps of light

While I am a mere sack of flesh

Held down by the same gravity that gives them flight.

They look so fresh with the wind,

So happy and care free,

While I am here sitting under this leafless tree.

Signing Off, TWS

Blotches of Black

Art is a gateway; or at least that is what I have seen. My line of work, and current education, enables me to submerge myself within the arts. As an individual I have enjoyed the transformative power of art from releasing stress, to working out unconscious problems to just being present for me and for others. However, as a witness, I have been able to observe the many faces of one person.

As fellow art enthusiasts create and submerge themselves within the arts I see happiness, I see frustration and concentration. I see my fellow artists go into a zone, fall into a deep dimension where there is only them and their medium. I have witnessed how a block of clay is molded into a seedpod, all the while the creator smooths out each edge, precision in her touch and determination in her eyes until her work is done. I have seen fellow artists seek out the view of the sun, sit apart and paint until they feel complete; never saying a word, never looking up. And at times, even though all that work is done they feel discontent with it.  Finally, today specifically, I witnessed a new comer to our group take the first medium he saw (cray pas) and just slowly work out his image; no intention and no purpose, just exploration.

In each of these artists I noticed one thing, transformation. They took a feeling or a thought and just removed it from their physical self into an inanimate object. The seedpod had for her been an idea she’d be carrying over a month and finally felt relieved that it had finally made its way into art. The fellow outliers, hiding under the sunshine, found that they were exploring a method they had strayed from; and even though their work had no real meaning they were intent in exploring it. And our fledgling artist admitted to creating a masterpiece out of an accident.

He conceded, “I used too much dark colors and realized I needed more light colors. I scrapped it with a pin and realized I liked the visceral feeling that came with it. It ended up being a lot of black with many colors underneath, just like me.”

Art is a wonderful way to explore what is within us. Art gives us the freedom to see ourselves in a new light and understand what we are all about. More than that, art gives us the relief of putting feeling, mental and physical, into reality; thus permitting us to be witnessed by those around us. Through art we become real or realer to the world. We are not just simply seen as a teacher, a student or a friend; we are seen as that seedpod that is growing and spreading its seeds. We are seen as the painting that has no meaning yet but is due for some mental exploration and reformation. We are seen for whom we are, blotches of black, scrapped off with a pin, with many colors underneath.

Signing off, TWS