On the Other Side of Risk

A few weeks ago I began selling my art. I opened an online shop, I started marketing myself more online, and in general stepped into my identity as an artist more fully and truly than I have ever allowed myself before.

That last part is important because it is the key to the door we all want opened.

If you want to live the life you dream of, you have to give yourself permission.

I have always been an artist. I disconnected from this part of myself after shame and sorrow took up semi-permanent residence for a few years. Creating, expressing my emotions, joy.. There was just no room for it. My light was dimmed and shadow was Queen.

Once reconnected with Self through giving myself permission to grieve, and rage, and wash myself free of my own self-judgment, there was room again for creativity and play.

Even still, it was years, 5 to be exact, before I finally felt grounded enough in Truth and Love to step fully into the light and share my purpose; art. Well, Love and Art that manifests as healing art.

Now that I have walked through that door, Love and Joy abound. I have started creating even more art that I am doubly excited about because I am experimenting in new ways, ways I had previously told myself I had no skill for. What I learned is, when I am trusting and believing in myself, I can do everything I want to do.

Last year I confided in my husband that I wanted to pursue my art more intentionally. So I created and created and created and when it was time to share it with the world I did the work and found my space. Today I told my husband I want to stand next to my art and talk with the people purchasing it, I want to make connections through my art. So now I am doing the work to find my space inside of local art festivals. I also understand that I want to hold more space for healing in community through art, I talked to my husband about this and now I am meditating on the idea of creating art workshops and retreats.

Discussing my dreams with my husband has always been an important part of the process because it is how I let the Universe know I am ready!

I will have a vision of where I am going next after I have accomplished a healing goal. I will sit with this vision for months, feeling everything I need to feel about it, trying it on for size, making sure it fits. When I finally share my vision with my husband, that is when I know I am ready to receive all of the divine support needed to give birth to my vision and create my reality.

Again, the KEY to this life I want, the KEY to meeting each goal I set for myself, is permission. My own.

When creating my vision of making and selling art;

I gave myself permission to take my time.
I gave myself permission to take breaks and rest.
I gave myself permission to experiment, and fiddle, and tweak, to make mistakes and start over.
I gave myself permission to act when inspired and step back when unsure.
I gave myself a whole lot of permission to be seen and take up space in ways I had been afraid to before.
I gave myself permission to stand in my identity as an artist long before I felt fully sure of its Truth.
I gave myself permission to be misunderstood.
I gave myself permission to take a risk on myself.
I gave myself permission to be scared and experience doubt.
I gave myself permission to hold sacred loving space for my inner critic.
I gave myself permission to follow my intuition and do every single (wackadoo risky) thing that felt right.
I gave myself permission to ask for help.
I gave myself permission to play and be silly and share that joy openly.
I gave myself permission to be True.

On the other side of the risk taken and the permission given is abundance. Abundance in the form of courage, Love, joy, deeper connection to Self, creativity, inspiration (so much inspiration), and lightness.. a feeling of lightness I have never experienced. An unburdening took place in this process that I was not even aware of and I am grateful for it.

Now that I have spoken my Truth out loud and shared my vision for what comes next, I know the Universe is working in my favor. I know when the Universe knocks on my door with opportunity it will find my door open and me walking through it with a jubilant YES!! on my lips. Yes Universe, I am home, and I am ready for all the greatness and beauty you have in store.

My Mother Did My Hair

Once I sat in a room with other women, all of us gathered together to heal our hurts. I told of a time I felt disconnected from my body, it was a small thing but it mattered. As a child, I shared, my mother did my hair. Whether I liked it or not, my mother did my hair. Often, I did not.

I would run from her, my hair wet from the bath, I would see her with comb in hand and hide behind the mustard yellow easy chair in the corner of the living-room. I did not like the scrape against my scalp. I did not like the pull and tug of the braid being placed. I did not like the patience it required to sit and endure.

I shared the words I remember falling from her mouth when my mother did my hair; rats nest, tangles. I took these for slights. They made me no more willing a participant when my mother did my hair.

I did not like when my mother did my hair so I decided to create a story wherein I was the victim and she was the perpetrator.

The women listened. They understood. We all have stories about our relationship with our hair, with our bodies. Stories that involve unwanted touch, stories where we are left feeling unlovable or unworthy as we are made. Then one woman shared a story like mine, but different.

As a child, she shared, my mother did not do my hair. Her mother did not make the time to comb, or brush, or braid. Her mother left her in the morning, with tangles from her pillow left untended, her mother did not do her hair. She shared the words she remembered falling from her classmates mouths; rats nest, as she was ridiculed at school because her mother did not do her hair.

What I saw as an act of malice, this woman had wished for as an act of love. And together we healed our stories.

With clearer eyes I was able to recall other times my mother did my hair.

For every play I acted in, my mother did my hair.
For school, my mother did my hair.
For every dance I attended, my mother did my hair.
When I woke up late and needed my wet hair braided, my mother did my hair.
When she was the one running late, my mother did my hair.
After my car accident, my mother did my hair.
On my wedding day, my mother did my hair.

In the end it can all be true. What I needed as a child was agency over my body and a voice in how and when my mother did my hair. This unmet need does not take away the love behind my mother’s action. As I got older, I had the sovereignty needed to allow myself to enjoy and appreciate when my mother did my hair.

And I know even now, if I asked, my mother would do my hair. Because when my mother did my hair it was, and always has been, an act of Love.

There Can Be Joy and Tears Together, Life is Like That Sometimes

The last few weeks have been busy and exciting and so filled with joy that for the first time since this illness overtook the world I have been able to go days without worry or fear because the reality of it was so far from my mind.

Until today.

I found out this morning my two year old may need surgery.

Fear and worry do not cover it. Not even close.

I am scared. I am. Gosh the fear is so different than any I have ever experienced before. I know nothing is promised. I know not to take anything in my life for granted. I know control in life is an illusion more often than not. I know this.

AND

This is so hard. It is hard to accept that I cannot control this. I can do all the things that feel right to me in the way that I love him, protect him, nurture him, encourage him.. I can do all the things AND I still have zero control over what is happening inside of his body. I have no power to fix anything here, no power to heal. I know there is so much I can and will do. I will be the comfort and the calm and gentle care before and after.But oh my heart. My heart breaks every single day for my love of this child, tonight the break is so sharp and painful. I am so devastated and scared.

And I am worried. I am so worried. I am worried about pain and how he will heal and complications. I am worried about him not understanding as language is still developing.. How do I explain this thing that is going to happen to his body?

I keep going back to my energy, all this time that is what I have always focused on with him. I know he can feel my energy and he responds to it, when words fail me I focus on connecting with him this way, through gentleness and calm and love.

I hate knowing that we are going to be in some hospital and some stranger is going to come and take my child from me and his body is going to be altered..

It was supposed to be a routine doctor’s appointment.

The doctor said not be worried and that this is common and routine. It is reassuring to hear this, it is. And, this is awful. I can be comforted and feeling all the fear and worry and grief I am feeling.

I don’t want this. I don’t want my baby taken from me. I don’t want him put under anesthesia. I don’t want his body cut and then sewn back together. I don’t want him to feel pain or fear or confusion. I don’t want this.

I know this will be okay. I know I will be exactly what he needs. There is so much I know that brings me comfort.. and tonight I am going to set all that down because what I know right now is I just need to cry.

Pinching Myself

It has not even been two weeks since I made my healing art available for purchase and already I have sold three pieces with a fourth that looks like it might be on its way out the door as well.

I am in shock. Truly. I feel stunned. When someone reaches out to me about a piece and decides to purchase, that whole exchange creates the most adrenaline rush.

My inner child is doing back flips inside of me. She is shaking the branches of the trees she resides in screaming THANK YOU FOR NOT FORGETTING ABOUT ME!!!!

I am so grateful for my healing. I cannot believe I delayed a single ounce of joy in my life because of fear. Loving and trusting and choosing myself was always the right choice, I am so glad I finally committed to that choice fully.

This moment is life changing, more so than any other choice I have made with intention before. My shift into greatness is happening now and I know from every shift that came before it, you cannot go back to the smaller version of yourself.

I am making my dreams come true just by the simple act of being true to myself.

Online Shop Owner

It feels important to document this moment in my life. At 37 years old (I think).. No, at 36 years old, after a lifetime of creating, I finally have stepped forward fully into the light of Truth to say out loud, without fear or doubt, I am an artist.

For over a year I have been creating a specific style of art that I am calling healing art as it all was born directly from my own healing journey. Today I opened an online shop to sell my art.

This is what I can tell you;

On the other side of fear is the JOY! All of it!!
The only person who will actually call you a phony to your face is you, do the thing anyway!
I NEVER want to return to a job on the computer, my eyes are killing me after just a few hours of screen time. Bring on the fresh air and sunshine!
Rarely is anything as hard as we believe.
Even when it is, even if it is harder than we could have ever expected, WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.
Don’t wait to do the things you love, welcome joy in now!
Even if I sell nothing, the experience of getting here is enough. I had to believe fully in myself, that will always be enough.
Having one or two people in your corner who love and support you unconditionally helps a ton.
It is always worth it to take a risk on yourself.

On a healing retreat I once attended one of the participants said “I feel like I am soaking in a love bath”, this came after a day of deep work together as a group. I am thinking of her and nodding my head. The creation of the art, the shop, all of it, took deep work. On the other side of that work I feel I am soaking in a love bath.

If you want to see what choosing healing and love of Self looks like after a lifetime of trauma, here you go: etsy.com/shop/jillianbaxterart

Walking Each Other Home

Helping little bubby practice emotional regulation has been a challenging and rewarding experience for me. I have had so many opportunities to tap into my baby wisdom and find empathy in his actions and what he is attempting to communicate with me. Our children bring us our work and I am grateful for the ways I am relearning how to Love myself and make so much space for feeling through this process with him.

Emotional regulation was not modeled in my home growing up and now through this experience with little bubby, I am able to look back at all the ways I experienced nervous system activation that felt overwhelming without any idea how to soothe and regulate myself. I have also been reflecting on times when I craved connection/stimulus through physical contact (my primary love language), without knowing how to verbalize this need, and the unsafe ways I attempted to get this need met. As a result of all of this, I am able to see how early on in my life I felt unsafe.

As I got older my trouble with emotional regulation manifested into chaotic relationships, numbing behaviors when overwhelmed by my emotions, and other forms of dissociation.

One of the biggest parts of my healing has been giving myself permission to feel. Rather than numb, or shutdown, or project, or displace, or panic.. Just allow the feelings to exist.

I was reading something recently related to healing our relationship with food, for those of us who numb our emotions by eating. It was talking about mindfulness and checking in with yourself when feeling the urge to eat without the actual sensation of hunger. It talked about making space for the feelings that are swirling around when this happens and acknowledging them rather than running from them.

Tonight I am getting my first opportunity to practice some of what I read.

I was on a zoom call with a few soul friends and it was so good. We were discussing our relationships with our partners and I had so many take aways to process from my friend’s insights. All of my friends are mirrors for me to better understand where my work is, some of what was discussed tonight left me feeling activated.

I was laying in bed ruminating on the times in my life when I was spiraling in romantic relationships, which was every romantic relationship before my husband.

Rather than numb or lay in bed torturing myself with painful memories, I started acknowledging what I was actually feeling;

Shame. and Shame. and even more Shame.
Fear.
Grief.
Confusion.
Abandonment.
Betrayal.
Disappointment.
Misunderstood.
Embarrassed.
Frustrated.

Here is what I have to say to all of these feelings that still clatter around inside of me when a friend energetically holds up a mirror;

I feel you. You are welcome here. I am strong enough to hold you all.

Shame; I Love you. I will never not Love you. There is nothing you can do, my Love is constant.
Fear; You are safe. I am your safety. I will not leave you alone.
Grief; This happened. Permission to feel.
Confusion; You do not have to hold anything that does not belong to you. There is a line where you end and the rest of the world begins, I will always protect that line for you.
Abandonment; You are sacred. I will not leave you.
Betrayal; I will keep my promises to you.
Disappointment; Life will not always go according to plan, permission to grieve. Permission to feel.
Misunderstood; I see you. I know you. You are magnificent.
Embarrassed; Permission to learn and grow. You are worthy. My Love is constant.
Frustrated; There is no rush. Permission to take our own time. The power has always been within you.

I also have regret. Regret for pain I know I caused.

Regret; The pain of others is not yours to carry. You must be willing to hold your own pain in order to Love. Permission to feel all there is to feel. Permission to Love yourself.

 

I am grateful for the souls who chose me and whom my soul chose to hold the healing and the Love and walk each other home.

Finding My Words

I have been trying to write for weeks and I get no where. I am have so much banging around me that needs release, yet when I sit here, fingers ready; nothing. My words escape, nothing comes out.

My days are spent helping little bubby with emotional regulation and preparing meals and playing and cleaning. It is good and I am feeling far away from my home within myself.

I need a moment of reconnection, a moment to remember myself, maybe then my words will surface and flow.

  • I am happiest when.. I am happiest when I am lost in the trance of creation. Painting, writing, any form of creative expression. It is when I feel most inspired, most myself, most free. I am happiest when speaking my Truth with souls who listen and know the things my soul knows. I love the connection that takes place in these moments, it is otherworldly. I am happiest outside, preferably deep in nature, in 70 degree weather with a breeze. I am happiest at sunset somewhere beautiful and quiet where I can bear witness. I am happiest in the mountains under a full moon in front of a bonfire or first thing in the morning when the fog hangs low on the mountainside and the geese call as they fly over me singing my prayers to the Mother while the sunrises.
  • How would the people who love you most describe you.. Joyful. Stubborn. Brave. True. Impulsive. Love. Sensitive. Spiritual. Passionate. Creative. Powerful. Resilient. Intuitive. Playful. Progressive… They would say I make them feel safe to just be when they are around me. They would say I am a mirror for them. They would say I am a good mother and wife. They would say I am not perfect and I try real hard. They would say I am deeply spiritual and that I am an artist.
  • When do you feel most confident.. When I take my time. When I take my time getting ready. When I take my time responding to something or someone. When I take my time during activities. When I take my time in my relationships. My time is on of the greatest gifts I have. I know I am loving myself well when I allow myself to take my own time, when I tell myself there is no rush and I make my decisions from a fully connected place.
  • What traits do you admire in those you love.. Those that I find lacking in myself I think. My husband is steady, he is constant, he is patient. In one of my soul friends, I admire her ability to be still and listen. I watch her and try so hard to follow her example, I so often still get pulled in by a trigger and forget to just hold space and listen. In another soul friend, I admire her security in her identity as an artist and spiritual healer. I identify as these things as well but from a smaller, closeted space, still afraid to stand fully in my Truth. These are the first three people I thought of because these are areas I have been working on in myself and I look to them as my guides.
  • What do you like about your appearance.. My hair. All of my hair. I have been growing all of the hair on my body for years and this small act of reconnection with my body has completely changed my relationship with this sacred vessel. Being in my body as it was made makes me feel free and wild. I look in the mirror and recognize the woman staring back and that feeling, for me, is priceless.
  • Where does your mind wander when doing something mundane.. To the mountains. I am holding healing space for women, and maybe men but I cannot yet see their faces. We are in a room with a stacked rock fireplace and a wall of windows looking out on the mountains and lake below. We are talking about pain and feeling our way to our individual Truths. Other healers are with me, helping me hold the space, we hold it together. It is a collective experience. My offering is therapeutic and artistic. 
  • What is something you learned from your family.. My family of origin: it is not safe to feel. Family of choosing: It IS.
  • What were some major turning points in your life.. My first abortion. Meeting my husband. Meeting my therapist. Meeting my son. I would be living a completely different life had it not been for each of these events. 

 

Unrecognizable

This morning my husband trimmed the ends of my hair for me. I stood on the bathroom rug, fresh from the shower, hair dripping, as he ran the comb through my hair and clip clip clipped.

After, I dried and straightened my hair to check for any wayward hair in need of further trimming. I looked at myself in the mirror and for a moment I did not recognize that woman.

How bizarre, I thought. For over 15 years straightening my wavy hair was my go-to hair style, now this woman seems completely foreign to me.

Since Covid I stopped making any effort in styling my unruly hair. Everyday it air dries curling up and poofing out in the process. At first I avoided mirrors, then something happpened; the same something that happened when I stopped shaving the hair off my body, and when I stopped wearing make-up.. I fell in love with my natural state again.

As I was thinking about my reaction to my reflection, it made me think of Covid.

The life I am living now, inside of global pandemic, makes the life I was living before feel so far away.

Years ago,when I started the journey home to loving my body again, there was a lot of grieving that took place in the process. It is why the love comes so easily now.

I grieved all the ways I had abandoned myself and internalized the messages of unworthiness that made me believe the grooming and changing of my body was necessary.

Now, in the time of Covid, grief has once again become my constant companion. I grieve the ways in which I took my life for granted. I grieve the connection I was missing then, that I have now found, because I am no longer able to prioritize outside distractions. I grieve all the ways I withheld Love for fear of being too vulnerable.

Since Covid started, I have shown up more intentional in my life. I feel my capacity to give and receive Love expanding everyday. I feel myself once again coming home.

On the other side of this crisis, the life I lived before will be unrecognizable. All I will know is this new place of honesty and easy loving.

Convincing

My father-in-law, a retired police chief, retired county commissioner, and proud social justice activist, has put me on notice that it is up to me to convince my father not to vote for Trump this November.

My father, a retired corrections officer, life-long Catholic, proud Republican and patriot, steeped in unconscious bias and privilege.

I almost said unchecked privilege, but that is not actually true. See as the black sheep and life-long outlier in my family, that job has always fallen on me.

Let me step out of my victim voice and be clear on this, I choose to challenge my family’s beliefs and privilege.

Let me add something to that statement;

I choose to challenge my family’s beliefs and privilege as a way to add noise to the vacuum they choose to live in. I do not do this with the intention of changing their minds or hearts, if that was ever a consequence I would welcome it though.

No, I do it because when my father claims “reverse gentrification” is a thing, I feel obliged to share with him information he may not already posses about White Flight, Redlining, as well as what the term gentrification actually means.

Here is what I know as a social worker, all people are capable of change.
What I also know, the people who do change, wanted to.

Healing has to be chosen. Change is chosen. None of this can be forced. So the idea that any of us could ever convince another of anything is all contingent on whether that person is open to being convinced.

In my father’s case, he has made it clear that right now, his answer is No. He has done this with both his words, “I choose to be in denial because it helps me cope”, and his actions, ie; voting for Trump, stealing medicinal marijuana signs from the side of the road, exclusively consuming information from Fox News and right wing radio, engaging any family member who will listen in his endless conspiracy theories.

That does not mean I do not continue to engage him in discourse and challenge him and provide information and share my opinions and concerns. AND –

What I will not do is take responsibility for him.

Every person has a right to their truth. My father is a college educated adult. At a certain point, I realized that he is choosing his life. We all are. However small, however large, we are choosing it everyday. We choose it with our actions, with our thoughts, with what we consume mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

I am working my way away from judgement and towards tolerance with the hope of reaching acceptance.

Acceptance that their is a lot in this world that I would like to change and cannot, and there is a lot in this world I can.

I will put my energy in the places where it will do the most good, I will stay open to dialogue with my father and anyone regardless of our differing beliefs. Most importantly, I will hold my own Truth sacred, and honor everyone else’s right to their own sacred Truth.

 

Toxic Messaging

My heart has been heavy this last week as I rebuke toxic messaging from the older generation in our family.

Maybe rebuke isn’t the best word, I have compassion for sure. What is happening, what is being said, it all comes from the wound of their own life. I know that. AND We do not need to pass this pain on. Heal the wound, heal the world.

It started early on in the week. Little bubby was helping me carry our recycles out to the bin when he decided he wanted to keep an empty granola box to wear as a shoe, of course I obliged.

We went back inside and straight into my bedroom so he could see his new foot wear in the big mirror. As he was playing with his reflection he noticed my Easter dress from childhood sitting on top off a box, he made it clear he wanted to wear it. I unzipped and helped him into. He turned and admired the pink flowers and blue bows in the mirror. Daddy came home and he ran down the hall, all smiles, screaming “Da!”, excited to show off his dress-up ensemble (Easter dress and granola box shoe). Daddy told him how pretty he was and they went back to bedroom to play in the mirror some more.

In the process of all of this I was taking a few pictures which I shared with both of little bubby’s grandma’s. One doted on how cute he looked, the other had a different reaction;

(Paraphrasing with some direct quotations) I hope he doesn’t like to “dress-up” like that. You know gayness runs in the family. I need to get him some boy stuff.

It took me hours until I was calm enough to reply. I had to be sure I was holding ALL parts f myself that reacted to this message before responding in order to ensure I was not falling into this spiral with her by projecting my stuff back onto her.

I made it clear I was not comfortable with what she said and set boundaries with her when it comes to our child.

This still hurts. It brought up a lot of work that is still unhealed in me. My childhood was steeped in toxic gender messaging, I will not be passing that on to the next generation and I will not allow anyone’s fears to be projected onto my child.

 

Moving on, although admittedly moving on has been hard, last night I was on a Skype call with my 10-year-old niece. She and I were having an art night together and I was talking to her about school. She and her family are moving again (this will be the 6th move) and I was asking if she will be starting a new school in the fall, this time they were staying in the same community so I thought school may not be impacted. She informed that she would. I asked her how she felt about that and was met a swift and sharp “I don’t care”.

It was a punch to the gut how quickly that little girl self-abandoned and shut down her feelings.

To make matters worse, as she is sitting there in her self-denial my mother immediately chimed in with “it will be fine, she will make new friends”.

Holy shit, please do not endorse the self-abandonment happening in this child.

I had to pause to hold myself, so much came up for me. I wish my Mom had taken a moment to do the same, all she did was deepen the disconnection that was already taking place.

Then I asked, “Moo, Are you nervous?”

….”Yeah”.

“You know, it is okay to feel nervous. It is okay to feel whatever you are feeling”.

And then my Mother..

“It’s fine. You will be fine honey, you will make new friends!”

 

Again, so much of my own work is tangled up in this exchange. My mother, the woman who taught me how to self-abandon, is now passing those messages on to her granddaughter.

And again, I have compassion. This is my Mom fending off the memories of her own wounding. I get that, AND

PLEASE MAKE SPACE FOR CHILDREN TO FEEL THEIR FEELINGS.

Self-abandoning girls become self-abandoning women who lose touch with their voice, their purpose, and their peace.

Is that really what you want for her? Is that really what you wanted for me?

What is so scary about allowing a little space for grief? for frustration? for fear?

I imagining that my niece’s truth probably sounds something like;

I am sad I am losing more friends. I am afraid to start over and have to once again penetrate already established friend groups. I am afraid to make new friends because in my experience none of these relationships last long. What is the point? I want to stay in one place. I want a say. I do not feel seen and heard.

What the adults are afraid of is being forced to face the pain they are causing. Being held responsible for the impact their choices are having on this little girl’s life.

It is why I was not allowed to feel growing up. It is why she is not allowed to feel now.

Fear. Fear is in the driver’s seat across the board when it comes to toxic messaging. Fear and unhealed emotional wounds. My MIL is afraid my son won’t belong and won’t feel accepted so she projects bigotry and comes up with plans to make him conform. My mother is afraid of my niece feeling pain and disconnection so she tries to save her from it by spewing false hope.

Here is my truth; we cannot save our babies from rejection, pain, fear, hurt. Life is full of it. Our job is not to save them from it, it is to create safety for them to fully FEEL it and process it through. We are their safe space, we show them how to create safety and resilience within themselves so they feel better equipped to met life’s challenges.

Here are the needs of these children that are going unmet by the older generation in my family:

Freedom to play and explore
Freedom of expression
Freedom to feel seen and heard
Freedom to feel
Freedom of self

They are going unmet because they were unmet for the grandparents when they were children and they never looked inward to heal as adults.

Children need Freedom and these toxic messages are chains. They are the chains that keep us tangled up in generational trauma reliving the pain of our family’s past.

I have broken free, and still am breaking free of the chains that tried to bind me. I will place no chains on my child. Thankfully my husband and I are my child’s parents so it is our job to meet these needs for him, not his grandparents.

In the case of my niece though, I see the chains wrapped around her and it is hard to watch. I will not turn away from her pain though. I cannot save her from it, that is not my role in her life. I am here as the constant. The loving supportive adult who is safe. I am here and will remain here until the day comes when she is ready to break her chains. And if that day never comes, than I will still be here to bear witness to this child’s life because everyone deserves to feel seen, if not heard.

The pain in the world exists because we allow it. We choose willful ignorance and not to feel over true compassion of self and others. I am not innocent in this. I struggle to keep my face forward at times when I am called to bear witness to the suffering of others, as well as my own. I am aware though and I am trying.

So I say this in closing, your pain is my pain, let us not pass it on.