Last October, a friend posted on Instagram that she was having an amazing time at a place called Artscape Gibraltar Point. I looked it up, and found that they had all kinds of programmed residencies, where you pay a fee and go work on a specific project with a group and a facilitator. And one of the programs involved learning timber framing and collectively building a structure. One of my main goals this year was to learn more about building and materials so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I applied and was super excited to be accepted.
In the first part of this series, I talked about how social anxiety has impacted my life, and the things I did that made it worse. The second post was about all the ways that I've been working on changing my mindset from fear to openness, and the last post was about the things I've done to push my boundaries and leave my comfort zone. Today is the final post in the series and I'm going to share where I'm at with the process right now and where I see myself going.
This week I'm covering some of the actions, behaviors and situations that have pushed me outside my comfort zone, and helped me become stronger and less fearful. If you haven't already, make sure you read last week's post on mindset shifts, since I've found that pushing myself to do scary things without bringing a ton of mindfulness, softness, and self-care to the table just makes me feel worse about myself.
In my last post I wrote about my struggles with social anxiety and all the things I did that made it worse: obsessing over what was wrong with me, trying to fix myself, reading endless books about communication and social skills, putting my tale of woe on repeat, and letting other people define me. In this post and the next one, I want to share what I've done that has helped, and how you can apply what I've learned to your own life.
When I realize I've made a mistake I can feel my stomach drop, like the floor just fell out from under me. Depending on the severity, a slow burning panic might start to spread across my body and I feel like I'm flailing - attempting to grab at the edges of reality like it's a page I can turn back to when I was doing things right, or a sheet I can pull over my head. And then the stories start spinning, telling me that I'm stupid or selfish or a terrible driver who doesn't deserve to be on the road.
This has become another annual tradition of mine: going through my journals and lists from last year to find simple nuggets of wisdom. These are the aha's that shaped my year and that I hope to bring forward into a new year. So many of these seem like common sense, but they're good reminders of the basics. Hopefully they spark some learning for you as well. (You can see lists from past years here and here.)
Have you ever noticed how powerful it can be to make a decision? How focused you become when you go from the uncertainty of multiple options to the clarity of one single choice? It can happen with decisions as simple as where to go for dinner or which art project to start on first, to as complex as what city to live in or whether to have kids or not. Once you make the decision, all the other options fall away and you can focus on enjoying your meal, or packing your bags.
Tomorrow a yearlong project comes to a close. Last September I started sending out weekly emails to a small group of people who agreed to join me in an experiment. I wanted to see if I could confront my inner critic and my fear of drawing and find a way to make drawing feel fun again. I've spent the last twelve months reading drawing books and blogs, obsessively searching for drawing quotes, writing about drawing, and, of course, drawing. It has been quite an adventure. This last year I've tried new materials, visited new places, and drawn subjects that I probably never would have otherwise. I've dealt with frustration, boredom, and disappointment and I've enjoyed wonder, delight, and a sense of flow.
Yahoo! We've almost finished a month of the drawing project. This experiment that I had no idea what to expect of seems to be going quite well. People signed up, they're doing the assignments, they're posting in the Facebook group. The assignments are actually fun (I half expected to be getting into arguments with myself about them) and I'm a feeling a looseness around drawing that I haven't really felt before. My inner critic only woke up during one drawing and the rest of the time has been snoring soundly in a corner. I definitely don't think I've cured my anxiety around drawing, but I think I'm off to a great start.
I am slightly obsessed with learning. I was the only kid in my grade one class who was excited about homework. I couldn't wait to get to university to take classes on theoretical physics and African history pre-colonization. As my boyfriend can attest (he had to implement a 'no books in the bed' rule when I moved in), I usually am nearing the maximum number of books my library will allow because I want to read every book written about all the subjects I'm interested in - of which there are many. Constant learning has been essential to the growth of my creativity.