Thursday, March 31, 2011

Letting Out The Poison

I recently started re-reading all of the journals I've kept since I was about eight years old. I've laughed, I've cried and I've learned a lot about myself. One of the primary patterns I noticed is that I tended to hide any feelings that I deemed negative or potentially bothersome to others. In middle school I pretended everything was fine and throughout high school I developed a wall thick enough to hide my real feelings from everyone, including myself. In college I was so far removed from how I felt that my friends actually congratulated me during the one or two times I cried throughout those 4 years.

All of these unexpressed negative emotions are still sitting inside of me like a poison, causing me to feel constantly dizzy and distracted. I'm starting to learn healthy ways of expressing myself, and one of those ways is through art. Last week, I created the following page in my art journal.

A few years ago, I wouldn't have shared this with anyone. I wouldn't have told anyone that I felt sad because I was so focused on creating an image of myself as a strong person without any needs or reasons to burden other people.

Today, however, I recognize the importance of self expression. I'm beginning to understand how negative emotions are a normal part of life and that it is sometimes okay to be vulnerable. This journal page was a way to let myself feel something real, and to assert that I don't need to hide what I'm really feeling.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Make Up is a Lie -or- "I haven't touched a mascara brush in almost a decade, but I still managed to snag a boyfriend who looks like Brad Pitt."

I began wearing make up in sixth grade, right about the time when my mom told me I wasn't allowed to wear it. Sixth grade was a year when I put much effort into hiding my true self so that I could fit in with everyone else, and make up fit perfectly into that plan. Make-up made me feel less like the nerdy, tree hugging hippy book worm that I am and more like the dainty, flitatious, air headed girls who surrounded me.

Fortunately, my mom started selling Mary Kay and I continued to be rebellious. I stopped wearing make up at first because my mom suddenly became so enthusiastic about wanting me to wear it. Over time, however, I realized I truly hated the concept of covering my face with powder and goo. Why, I thought, should I pay money to cover up something that is already so freakin' gorgeous? I even became a little angry when I realized the cosmetics industry makes millions every year pointing out our supposed imperfections and selling us ways to hide them.

That anger resurfaced recently when I heard that WalMart will soon be selling a new line of make-up aimed at 8 to 12 year old girls, more commonly known as "tweens". The line is called GeoGirl and it's products are named in text message lingo (J4G for lip balm, QTPi for blush) and designed to be "environmentally friendly".

I could write an entire rant just on the annoying, cutesy, text message lingo, but that's not what's most important about this product. Yes, it can be fun for young girls to play and experiment with make up. This make up, however is not just for play. Joel Carden, the vice president of marketing and sales behind GeoGirl, was quoted as saying, "It's the first door to beauty for the next generation. These are real cosmetics with natural ingredients that will create return purchases and create a true beauty consumer." [Emphasis added]

GeoGirl is instilling in young, impressionable girls the value they don't already possess beauty; no, beauty has to be purchased. Marketing cosmetics to 8 to 12 year olds tells them that their bodies are not okay just they way they are but instead need to be covered with beauty products in order to be acceptable in society.

Instead of marketing make up to young girls (or any women!) we should be instilling them with self confidence and teaching them that their bodies are beautiful the way they are. Young girls will have plenty of time to conform as they grow up; let's encourage them to be themselves while they still can.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Changing myself through altered books

There's a chance that I might appear on the entertainment schedule for the 2nd Saturdays event here in Tucson. Not my name specifically, but the demo that I'm doing for a workshop on altered book art that I'm helping to promote through a place called Arts Marketplace.
I'm doing the demo and promoting the workshop because, along with my fabulous friend Lauren, I am leading the workshop.

This might be as much of a shock to me as it is to you. I have a degree in social work, and all of the art that I've created has been for my own personal use. My experience with teaching art is non-existent. Yet somehow I am finding myself being paid to teach other people how to create something beautiful. I am beyond thrilled, incredibly excited, and terrified.

I stumbled upon this opportunity in February when I saw this altered books sign hanging in Arts Marketplace. Therese, the woman who runs Arts Marketplace, was thrilled when she saw me taking a picture of the sign and discovered that I was interested in this workshop. Despite having only know me for about 30 seconds, she eagerly petitioned me to take a leadership role in the workshop. I told her I would think about it.

To make a long story short, Therese was elated when I officially agreed to run a workshop despite the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing and I don't have any experience with altered books. She even told me that she screamed when she received my e-mail acceptance.

When Lauren, Therese and I met last week to plan, I literally began shaking at the thought of having a group of 8-15 people watching me while I create something and looking to me for instruction on how to do the same. Not only will I be teaching something new, I will be sharing my art with people who I only just met. I will be making myself vulnerable by sharing something that has previously only been shown to people who I trust. That, my friends, is a recipe for a panic attack.

But it is also a move in an exciting direction. I will get to meet new people who share a love for all things crafty. I will get paid for making art. I will get to teach! And, most importantly, I may have the opportunity to teach further workshops. When Therese mentioned to Lauren and I that we could teach other workshops of our choosing, I began to develop plans for teaching children and teenagers how to use art to manage stress and express hidden emotion.

Since I officially agreed to this and began planning, I have been alternating between breathless giddiness and trembling anxiety. One moment I will be imagining myself retiring from social work and making a living as an art teacher without ever returning to college. Then, one hour later, I will be close to tears thinking about how inexperienced I am, how many other artists are out there, and how terrified I am to teach, even with Lauren by my side.

Paul reminded me that this opportunity could go as far as I want to take it. It could stop with the altered books workshop or it could grow into more art and more workshops. It could be a realized dream or a realization that art is not something I really want to do. No matter what happens, I will be proud of myself for taking a risk and stepping way out of my comfort zone to do something that makes me happy.

To learn more about altered books, check out this website. If you're in Tucson and want to join in on the workshop fun, contact me. The actual workshop will be taking place on April 9th from 3pm to 6pm. We would love it if you would pre-register- in fact, we'll give you a discount if you do! The cost is $10 for pre-registration and $15 for drop in the day. Price includes supplies and refreshments.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How We Hate Ourselves

I have a confession to make: I entered the career field of social work partially because I don't like myself.

I do love helping and empowering people and improving my community, but that is only the surface level of the story. The deeper aspect is that I've struggled with a controlling sense of guilt for as long as I can remember and I felt that I needed to spend my life being punished or making atonement. I don't know why I feel guilty; that is puzzle that will take years to solve. What I do know is that, for most of my life, I've felt that I don't deserve more than to be a poorly paid doormat for society's neediest members.

Self hatred is a sneaky bastard. It hides behind noble causes such as a career of service and destroys it's victims from behind a mask. It takes on personas such as a strong drive for success or attention, criticism of others, and dependent relationships. It is for this reason that many of us spend our lives hiding under a blanket of self hatred without even realizing it.  We may spend years subtly hurting ourselves or unconsciously believing that we don't deserve anything better.

The self injury awareness group FirstSigns notes,  "People find their own unique ways to hurt themselves." We hurt ourselves by overworking, severe diets, and allowing others to push us around. Self hatred could take the form of denying ourselves something we enjoy or becoming so enmeshed in a romantic relationship that we no longer have a personality of our own.

My career choice is an example of how self hatred can lead us astray. I'm going to continue with this job, but in the mean time I'm exploring a field that makes me feel fulfilled and is good for me: art. Sometimes my art is really selfish, but it is so good for me. It's like standing on a mountain breathing fresh air instead of sitting inside smoking a cigarette. It's another step toward true self love.