Healing Through Art and Nature

When words dissolve somewhere between the head and the heart, what you’re left with is art. Art to me happens to be the processing of feelings and transforming them into something beautiful. Art is what I’ve been up to. I’ve been processing in an entirely new way….through creativity with my hands. 

I seem to have taken a short leave of absence from writing lately.

Sometimes I just can’t find the words for my experiences.

Sometimes words just won’t do the trick. 

Sometimes words are avoided because processing them is just too much.

Sometimes writing might bring me to the brink of a dark place I don’t want to be. 

Sometimes words are stuck. They’re stuck somewhere between yesterday and today, lodged in my heart and head. 

Sometimes they dissipate, they dissolve into something else entirely. 

When words dissolve somewhere between the head and the heart, what you’re left with is art. Art to me happens to be the processing of feelings and transforming them into something beautiful. Art is what I’ve been up to. I’ve been processing in an entirely new way….through creativity with my hands. 

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Some people may see what I’ve been up to and think it’s silly. Maybe even ridiculous. I never set out to be a soap maker, or someone who takes from the land and creates with it. Some of the most creative minds in history never set out to do what they did, but a barrage of experiences led them there. 

The truth is that art, be it in writing or other newly discovered forms, is healing. It helps with my addiction recovery. It helps with my PTSD. It helps with my anxiety. It helps with my depression. As I ride the unpredictable waves of life in recovery, I discover there are many different forms of anchors along the way. Sometimes that anchor happens to be creating something tangible with my hands, instead of stringing words along to form a piece.

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Like most of those in recovery, my personality traits include obsession, perfection, and striving. I’m learning to laugh these off when it comes to putting creativity out there in the world. I fully accept that I am my own worst critic and am constantly striving for success. The trick is not to use other people’s terms of “success” in my life. As long as I’ve processed something through creating and left a tangible piece I’ve been successful. 

Another wonderful way to process things is to get lost in nature. Not literally of course, but figuratively. When I’m at my homestead in progress, Rattlesnake Ridge,  time stands still. I get completely lost in every wildflower sown by my creator. I get lost in every birdsong I’ve been blessed enough to hear. I get carried away by the trickles of water flowing through the creek. You should see the trees. Oh, the trees take me some place else entirely. The view from our future home plot takes my breath away. Every. Single. Time. 

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I don’t know where all this is going, but I know I’m on to something. I know there’s healing in the arts, and healing in nature. I guess I hope one day to be able to offer that experience to those who seek the refuge of nature. 

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Maybe I’m on to something. Maybe I’m completely missing the mark. Either way, I’m healing…and that’s what matters. 

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That moment I became Wendy from Peter Pan…Grief does magical things when triggered.

Everything was great. Life is great. I’m living the dream. I’m sober, and I have an amazing job, and I’m pursuing my MA in Addictions Counseling. My marriage is awesome, and my kids blow my mind every single day with their growth and perspectives on life. Yet, here I was, sitting in the driveway of my gorgeous two story suburban dream home, in a vehicle worth more than my annual income, crying my eyes out to a song about Peter Pan.

So there’s this song, called Lost Boy by Ruth B. It sent my head spinning when I heard it the other day. I was driving and fortunately I was close enough to home to pull in the driveway and listen to the lyrics. A torrential downpour of tears quickly fell from my face down onto my lap. I guess I was surprised because there was no sadness in the forecast for that day.

Everything was great. Life is great. I’m living the dream. I’m sober, and I have an amazing job, and I’m pursuing my MA in Addictions Counseling. My marriage is awesome, and my kids blow my mind every single day with their growth and perspectives on life. Yet, here I was, sitting in the driveway of my gorgeous two story suburban dream home, in a vehicle worth more than my annual income, crying my eyes out to a song about Peter Pan.

I realize now after I’ve had time to process, that I was in the midst of a grief storm. It was three years ago this month that I received the call that my father passed away, and it was 17 years ago this month that I suffered a miscarriage. I shouldn’t be surprised at all that grief would sneak up on me. But alas, every year it hits me as quick as the last. I suppose it still hits me hard because I still find myself thinking “I should be over this by now.”

The infamous tick tock the crocodile from Peter Pan comes to mind. In dealing with death you quickly learn that time is not your friend. Someone’s always taken too soon, or not soon enough. You always think you have time with someone until time is no longer an option. The past, the present, and even the future are obsolete in dealing with death; none of it even exists anymore. Time is irrelevant, but it’s everything. Time heals all wounds is bullshit. Some wounds never heal; they just change year after year. Each year perspectives change and a little more gratitude is won on the never ending battlefield that is grief.

The truth is that this father wound is the biggest heartbreak I’ve faced. It has forced me to accept a truth about humanity and addiction I’ve tried to deny my whole life. Substance use disorders not only cost precious relationships, they sometimes cost you your life. Fortunately for me, my substance use disorder has become the cornerstone of which I have built my career, in mental health and in addictions counseling.

That being said, my heart still breaks for the boy inside my father. No amount of education, licensure or expertise will cure that. Deep down in my grief, I’m not grieving the loss of him as a family, because he was anything but. He wasn’t capable of being a father because he was a lost boy. I’m grieving the life he didn’t get to live because of the lost boy inside him.

He was abused, awfully so, by his family while growing up. The cycle didn’t stop for him, so he continued it. He was abusive because it’s what he knew families did to each other. He was an alcoholic probably because he hated himself for his twisted family values. He wasn’t able to stop the cycle of addiction and it eventually helped kill him. I imagine he was quite lonely as a child.

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Then, I imagine he found his Peter Pan in the bottle.

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The alcoholic in him chose to run from responsibility. He chose not to be a father. He chose to not have contact.

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Soon enough, I became an adult and the false promises of his recovery were made. I wasn’t able to see past the illness, I was scared. I rejected him. I focused on my marriage and children instead.

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I carried on about my business till that day he died. I assumed that there was time. Knowing what I know now, I would think that the lost boy in him has found his home. I like to think Heaven is his Neverland. Perhaps his Peter Pan is Jesus, and one day I might just be his Wendy Darling.

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And there you have it. My moment of grief in the driveway turned into a fairytale story ending with me as Wendy. What I learned about grief is it comes and goes. If you try to control it, you’ll surely drown. If let go and you ride the wave, it’ll bring you to shore……but not before that turbulent rainstorm passes.