Creative prompt: how does it feel to be seen as “wrong”? 

This art journal page took a few days to emerge. It’s the first thing that appeared though when I arrived back home to my acrylic paints and oil pastels.

First layer was some bars of colour (yellow, red, grey) then coated with gel medium to prime the page.

Second layer, these colours. I’d thought I might want to paint the view from our holiday house, to savour that. Greys and yellows and greens. It turned out quite differently …

Here’s that top layer …

Celebrating that I resisted the urge to rush out the next layer. I left this page all day to dry.

I didn’t starve myself of creativity though! I have a second journal on the go now. After I unpacked, I sat down on the lounge and unwound and felt my end-of-holiday sadness along with some gladness and comfort at being home with the cats and the ease of having my familiar things. I was especially loving having the oil pastels back! Here’s what emerged as I sat on the lounge. I created it over the top of a page where I had earlier in the week journalled out some inner turmoil. I’d appreciated the freedom of expressing my raw feelings on the page, but I wanted some beauty on every page of my art journal. So this image came out in that second art journal, over the top of my raw scribbling from a few days ago. The idea that came to me, with the woman sitting under that giant flower, was a sense of “give me a second chance”. A message from older me to younger me. Honouring that younger me experienced shock and pain and new emotions which I didn’t feel safe to experience. I was in physical danger. But, my body says to younger me, I have been growing your resources. I have such capacity now. All the capacity you need to be with whatever you are feeling.

Here’s the imagery that emerged in the second journal, while I left that other layer to dry.

The next day, I felt a bit daunted when I returned to the other art journal where I had made the waiting layer. Yay. Unease. A chance to emotionally connect with tightness in my ribs, a cement sensation in my stomach, shoulders hunching up to ears. ‘What if I ruin this? What if I’m disappointed? What if I’m faced with being dissatisfied with my skills’. 

Thank you, last night’s image. I can be encased in those vast, silky petals that my body has grown over the years. Those petals weren’t there to hold me the first time I felt those emotions, or in the powerlessness I had as a child. But they’ve grown now, they guided me into adulthood.  I’m safe to accept my fear. To be with however I might feel after spending time on this page.

One thing that helped me feel free to let out a new layer was choosing to take a photo! At least I’d have a pic to remember those colours and textures. Ah, there was another doubt: but you couldn’t re-create it anyway! It’s a one off. Tight chest. Deep breath. Yes, I accept that. Savouring the unrepeatable. Accepting limitations. Trusting there are other delights coming.

The cat helped keep things in perspective. She sat down in the middle of the journal while I tried to take a photo.

Ahhh, lovely head rubs and insistent purrs. Unashamedly seeking affection, to be seen, to matter.

Smiling now. I bounced back to the page and looked at it for a while. Oil pastels. I started to think about drawing a scene where I’d felt a very strong emotional charge during the holidays. I thought I wanted to draw the pier and a seagull there. Then, looking at the page a bit longer, I saw something else. My feet dangling over the pier, trying to get warm in the sun, frustrated with how churned up I was feeling and struggling to enjoy these tranquil surroundings. Telling myself I should be peaceful, no matter what.

At Sorrento Pier. I walked away from an argument.

Churned up stomach.

I’m keeping watch from up here on the pier, while my daughter walks on the sand over there.

I guess she’d love privacy. But I’m afraid to lose contact with her, it’s getting darker, and her phone battery is low.

Smarting, stinging eyes. Sun on my feet. Grey clouds around. Water rippling.

Thoughts racing. Heart thumping. Ribs drawn tight together. Conflicted. Torn up. Old painful memories of being physically welted with a long stick as a child, more times than I can count, when somone thought I was wrong. Self-compassion. Understanding.

Despair that it affects me still. Wishing I could have stayed calmer, chosen words that might have been heard and accepted.

At the same time, walking away was authentic.  I was worried that by staying, I’d be encouraging the habit of using blame to try to get relief from her feelings.

Oh, I don’t know. I guess I’m telling myself there was a right thing to do. Who says?

Can I be with someone close to me being angry? Can I be with hearing them say my actions caused their anger? Especially someone so precious to me. Can I trust her to be with her own anger?

I think of Rumi’s quote about meeting somewhere in a place beyond right and wrong. I reckon I’m longing to trust that sometime … Not too long from now … Before either of us do or say something we regret … we’ll be willing to meet there.

Oh will she ever be willing to meet me there? What if a person insists on seeing me as ‘in the wrong’. Can I be with fear of being called wrong?

Right now, I’m struggling to meet either of us in that place!  I shouldn’t have said that. She shouldn’t have said this. I should be more mature, strong, wise, self-assured, gentle … Should, should. 

I suppose I’m longing to nurture, to have peace-of-mind and understanding for both of us.

For now: keeping watch, from afar, glad she’s phoning a friend and has someone to chat with.

Ah, there’s a flicker of hope. She’s phoning a friend. Relief. A reminder: I’m not the only solution to her needs. I’m telling myself I should have stayed there, been unruffled, been willing to translate any words she used.

But I’m not her only solution. I’m her mother. I have so much at stake – such a drive to nurture and teach her. Her happiness and mine are so closely intertwined. Her decisions and mine so often affect one another.

But she has a village too. A village she’s increasingly choosing for herself. She’s phoned a friend.  Maybe being heard by them instead. I’m relieved, thinking of that.

If she’s wanting presence and understanding, and I don’t have the capacity I want to provide it, she’ll find other ways.

This picture emerged a few days later. A reflection, a reminder. A celebration. Encouragement that the emotional storms do pass. Celebrating that I stayed with it for as long as it took. I’m savouring the conversations that flowed more gently and clearly with my family afterwards. Compassion for the parents of teenagers. Compassion for teenagers. Compassion for the dilemmas of interdependence.