my year of belonging

Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you “I’m not f@#ing around, use the gifts you were given.
— Brene Brown

A Dream 

On December 30, 2016 - the night of the full moon in Capricorn - I had the following dream:

I am going back to college and I am going to live in a dorm room. It has a desk and two beds, but nothing else. I realize I am not going to have a roommate, so I plan to have the school move one of the beds out. The walls of the room are painted turquoise and I think I'll bring my blue chalkware Madonna for the bedside. She appears. I plan to have a hotplate so that I can make tea. It appears. I plan on bringing two mugs with a peacock and gold design. They appear. The bed is moved out and the room appears much larger.

My guiding word for 2017 was Belonging. 

I wrote about the concept of belonging here and here, but when I chose this word, I was reaching for a feeling. An understanding, yes, a sense of clarity and relief, but mostly - a feeling.

This is the collage I created to be my Facebook cover photo at the start of the year:

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This is how I wanted my life to feel. Warm, candle-lit, rich.

I wanted to feel at home, in my proper place, grounded and alive in my body, doing the work I came here (to earth) to do.

Seen. Held. Loved.

I wanted to shake, once and for all, the haunted nagging sensation that had followed me for most of my life, whispering in my ear that when people really get to know me, they won't approve of me or want me around or like me at all.

I'd almost unwound that thread and I wanted to drop it completely.

I wanted to feel like I belonged here - in this body, in this life, in my spiritual community - that there truly was a place for me and my work and my voice and my heart in this world.

Honestly, I think at the age of forty-seven, as I sat doing my New Year journaling for 2017, I was still wondering exactly who I was and what I was meant to do with this one wild precious life.

I was ready to let go of the stuff that wasn't me and embrace what was me.

It was that midlife grabbing you by the shoulders thing. And those gifts I've been given? I wanted to know what those were exactly.

Also, I was tired. Tired of hiding little pieces of me. Tired of apologizing. Tired of trying to make my work and my life look like other people's work and life.

So...here's the year that happened...

My View of 2017

As part of Valerie Marsh's Honoring Your Story, I chose two photographs from each month of the year:

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It was a year of shock and fear and heartache, of love and miracles, loss and beauty.

And in all of it, even the most painful moments, there was Light.

High points for me included my niece's Confirmation and my exhibition at St. Raphael. 

I've lost sixteen pounds since September without deprivation or going to the gym.

I saw a bear and an owl and a fox this year.

I saw Tracy playing music in public again.

Hard things happened but good, amazing things happened too.

My Life Does Not Belong to Me

I think it's important, if I'm going to do this sort of reflection and talk about setting intentions and envisioning my life to say that life is not about personal fulfillment.

I am not here on this planet to get everything I want or be happy all the time.

Life isn't about that and it isn't about me.

If all you’re doing is living for yourself then you can’t be happy, because your “self” is more than you think it is. You are more than just your body or your circumstances; you are one with all the universe and all the universe deserves your love.
— Marianne Williamson

I am a part of something larger than myself.

I belong to God, within God. 

I don't manifest, I flow with the cosmic tide - when I can remember to stop kicking.

So I wonder how I did this year. 

Did I make an impact?

Did I help anyone heal?

This is why I paint prayers. This is my hope, my intention. To bring in light. 

Honestly, if I touched you in some way...well...I'm not going to ask you to tell me. But I will say this - I hope I did. I pray I did.

If I didn't, I hope I will do better next year.

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Oh I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid
I remember that time that you told me, you said
”Love is touching souls”
Surely you touched mine ‘cause
Part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
— Joni Mitchell, A Case of You

The Year in Paint

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This isn't everything I painted in 2017, but it's a good representation. 

I like to see the faces all together, a communion.

The paintings speak.

Some of them speak to and for other people

They also speak something about me, though I can't say exactly what that is.

There must be a need for a person like you; otherwise, you would not exist. Existence needs you as you are.
— Osho

Discoveries of Belonging

Where do I belong in the resistance? Where do I belong in this country? 

Where do I belong in my faith? In my church?

Where do I belong in my community?

Where does my work belong?

Where does my voice belong?

Where do I belong in this life I'm living? These choices I've made?

These were the questions I danced with this year.

The answers came in the form of my friendships, my creativity, the sanctuary of my home.

I'm a believer in cosmic energies and experiencing spiritual shifts in the physical body. Since the big eclipse, I've been riding the surf of intense symptoms that I intuitively know don't have illness at their root, but rather a massive spiritual and energetic re-arrangement.

So my answers came, too, in the form of being thrown off-kilter.

It's a sensation that's seemed to intensify here at the end of the year. 

I trust that I'll move through this passage, this tight squeeze, into something better.

Trust, it turns out, is a big part of belonging.

This year, I found a reconciliation for my soul in EFM. The night I read my spiritual autobiography out loud, I felt myself integrate. I felt myself step into that grounded clarity I'd wished for at the beginning of the year.

I found Living Compass and the community of Belle Coeur, which speaks to me so deeply. 

I had to say, and am continuing to say, some difficult goodbyes - but I'm finding myself in that, too.

I do belong here, in this strong, feminine body, a body of comfort and desire.

I belong to the holy body of Christ and the sacred heart of Mary.

That means I have to find a way to live here in the balance, in the in-between, knowing that many people make assumptions about what it means to belong to Christ and to the Church - assumptions based on their own traumatic experiences or the way some Christians shape the story of Christianity in the media.

I have to find a way to be who I am and believe what I believe without expressing a tribal Christianity of exclusion; to live in such a way that those who encounter me understand that I believe God's love is the love that encompasses us all, that there is no one path to salvation...that salvation is wholeness and has already been given to every single one of us because it is Divine Love.

I want to live and work and speak in such a way that everyone I encounter encounters that love, that those I worship with know that when I challenge doctrine or lament the history of the Church, I still love the Church and love my place within it.  

I belong on the canvas, in my paint, and on the page, in my stories.

And I belong here in this life with this name and this personality and these challenges, these sorrows.

I began this year to accept the parts of my life that break my heart and let them be. The wounds, the regrets, the losses, the things I have wanted so desperately but will never have - let them be.

I deepened this year the journey of releasing intense self-criticism and letting myself be.

The truth is: Belonging starts with self-acceptance. Your level of belonging, in fact, can never be greater than your level of self-acceptance, because believing that you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect.
— Brene Brown
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The Peacock Cups

I am the woman in the turquoise room with the peacock cups. 

Turquoise holds meanings of the feminine, calming energy, sophistication, creativity, wholeness.

The peacock symbolizes vision, awakening, protection, and guidance.

How did that dream at the end of 2016 speak to my year?

What did I learn in that expanded room? 

Where did the year of Belonging take me?

To myself, I believe. 

To the edge of something completely new.

Creative. Awake.

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I don't feel middle-aged.

I don't feel old at all. I feel, right now, younger than I've ever been.

I feel like I'm ready to live what I've learned.

I see now that love is not something to seek. Love is what I am.

I don't need love. I am an extension of love.

I belong here - on this planet, in this time, with this identity, doing my thing.

Who knows what will come of it?

I trust there's a reason for me.

Just as there is for everyone, there's a seat for me at the table - this table of life.

I know that now.

I feel it.

And I know there is a seat for you around my table.

Perhaps the most important lesson from my year of Belonging is about that - the sort of community I wish to create here, the message of belonging I hold in my heart for you.

My work, my words, my perspective - these things won't resonate with everyone - but they will resonate with someone.

Maybe that someone is you and if it is, I want you to know how grateful I am for your life and for your presence here, how grateful I am for your voice and your journey.

To everyone who purchased a painting from me this year, thank you.

To everyone who supported me, invited me to speak, hung my paintings on the wall, gave me a word of encouragement, thank you.

I am in awe of you. 

You are my medicine.

I wish to be yours.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

We belong here together.

We belong to each other.

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This was the first painting I made in 2017. It's called Hidden in my Heart.

This is my Chani Nicholas horoscope for Saturn in Capricon (December 2017-December 2020):

"As Saturn travels through your 12th house for the next 3 years, it will ask you to release many ideas of yourself that ultimately don’t serve your long-term growth. Saturn will ask you to grapple with the fears that aren’t based in the present, but are very much rooted in the past. It will help you battle the self-destructive patterns that operate unconsciously.

It’s time to understand the intangible obstacles to your growth.

This takes a specific kind of effort on your part. The kind that asks you to have patience with your own process. The kind that asks you to lean more heavily on your ability to hold, with consciousness, the irrational emotions that erupt rather than trying to make sense of them. Some of this work will be obvious from the onset, while some of it makes sense only after learning to trust your healing process.

Through this process, Saturn will help you come to terms with what in your life is coming to a natural close. What is finishing up all on its own. What is working itself out without needing you to push, shove or force anything from yourself. The more you relax into this process the more wisdom you will be able to align yourself with and the more you’ll be able to tune into what is being conceived deep within you.

All life begins in the dark.

While much is growing and flourishing in your professional life, a new seed of potential gets fertilized in a part of your life that is hidden from everyone. Perhaps even you for a time. What this potential will grow into is not yet known. What it needs only you will come to understand. What it offers you however is the possibility to work on something in secret, without the glare of the public or the scrutiny of the critics. Protect this seedling. It will tell you when it is time to break through the surface of your life but for now it needs the deep nourishment of being underground."

I'm sharing this because I read and listen to a lot of horoscopes that are meaningless to me. They don't relate to my life in any way, but these, always do and this one in particular struck a chord in my heart.

And so, what's hidden there goes on, continues to be nourished.

Indeed, 2017, you taught me belonging.

Onward.


Your prayer for the Year

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Vision Paintings

I am painting in cycles during 2018, and the first cycle, which is open now, is called Vision Paintings.

I will take your guiding word, or your prayer or vision for the new year, onto the canvas and create a painting that will serve as a beacon - a reminder, a blessing for you - all year long.

Please click here to learn more.

 

Did you choose a word last year?

If you did, where did it take you?

What did you learn?

How was your 2017, Beloved?