Week four of our Expressive Arts program was centered on the beliefs upon which we are each built. These foundations are created by life experiences, messages from others, and how we (or our subconscious mind) choose to interpret and integrate them (or not). They are not necessarily the truth… but they do become ‘our truth’, at least for some time.
The photo that I am working with this week is one from the early days of my spiritual journey. I was twenty-three years old. Life was finally getting good.
Our work began with creating a timeline of life events that felt life altering. This was easier than it sounds for me, since my Tribe had dedicated some time several years ago to a workbook on numerology based on the tarot (Tarot for Your Self by Mary K Greer). Starting with the year you are born, you map out the numerology of that year (based on your birth date) and determine which major arcana tarot card represented the lessons of that year. As you review each year going forward in time, you can see how certain years may bring a particular kind of energy. The patterns are fascinating!
So, I already had an idea of my big event timeline, and it goes something like this:
- When I was three, my mother warned me not to swing on the pool ladder railing. I lost my two front teeth when I fell.
- When I was five, I met the little tomboy around the block. 45 years of continued friendship, shared trauma and growth are significant.
- When I was nine, the little tomboy’s dad accused me of lying to him, and forbid his daughter to play with me. A trauma with lasting effect.
- When I was thirteen, my brother broke his back in a car accident. He was only 20. We were all very lucky it was not worse.
- When I was fourteen, my school was rezoned, and I was transferred to a school I feared for its reputation. It was a good place to grow.
- When I was fifteen, I met my first and only teenage boyfriend. We were together six months. Unaware of lies he told his parents (boys lie), in their eyes – I was to blame. They withdrew him from school to get him away from me. When he returned, his friends began taunting and bullying me. This lasted throughout high school. I felt unsafe and dreaded going to school.
- Throughout puberty, as my weight fluctuated, I was warned that ‘no man wants to marry a fat woman’. I believed I was fat when I was a size 10.
- When I was twenty, I met my second boyfriend. We were together one year. In month eight, he came home with hickeys on his neck. (boys lie)
- When I was twenty-three, I attended a conference on women’s spirituality, I took a six month class on the same, and I joined the young adult group at the Unitarian Church. I had finally found my people… and a sense of belonging.
- When I was twenty-five, convinced no man could love me or be trusted, I fell in love with a woman. She remains a trusted friend to this day.
- When I was thirty-two, and again when I was forty-eight, long-time jobs became so uncomfortable that I had to leave. Each time, life improved.
- When I was thirty-seven and again when I was forty-seven, I tried dating again. Each man pretended to be something he was not. The stories they told did not match the facts. (boys lie)
- When I was forty-nine, I thought I would have to get a job doing what I no longer loved. Instead, I learned I could retire and help my parents through difficult times.
From these life experiences, we were asked to determine the beliefs that we have carried. To be clear, I have been aware of some of these false beliefs, and was already committed to their reprogramming. But in truth, these are the pillars of my early foundation. Some have been tremendously limiting, but they have also contributed to who I am today.
BELIEFS I AM BUILT ON – Strong and Tattered Threads
- I am fiercely independent. Mother’s advice is intended to keep me safe.
- I am a good friend. I attract good friends.
- I cannot trust my own memory. I doubt myself.
- Life is uncertain – tell them you love them.
- I may not belong everywhere, but I do belong somewhere.
- I cannot trust men. I cannot trust myself to choose well.
- In a circle of women, I feel safe, seen, heard, and healed.
- The Universe helps us move forward when fear keeps us immobile.
- Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.
- The shape of my body makes me unworthy of love. I am unlovable.
- Life gets better if you keep moving forward.
- Being of service and feeling needed makes me feel worthy of love.
When we finished our event timeline, we listed these beliefs, and since this is an expressive arts course… we sat down to create. Onto watercolor paper, we painted one pre-cut strip for each event, and on the opposite side, we wrote the belief. Each strip was then lifted over and under another strip, until the original page was once again whole… and yet, forever changed. Perhaps we are the same. We feel as if traumas and hardships take away parts of ourselves, but in reality… the fabric of our being is just made more interesting by the changes in color and texture.
I do wonder how my life might have been different, had I taken any of those life experiences and decided differently on what belief to carry. What if when my friend’s father had accused me of lying to him, instead of wondering if he was right, and searching my mind for what I must have done wrong (after all he was the grown up, and I the child)… I had the courage to stand up to him and insist that I had not lied, and asked my mother to come inside to support my truth? What if I carried forward the belief that I can trust myself, that I am honest, a good friend, and worthy of being loved? I wonder if my memory issues would have been so prolific, or just age induced like everyone else. (Ha!)
I don’t even know how to re-frame the belief on men. I certainly don’t believe that all men lie. I am blessed with a number of remarkable friends of the masculine gender. I have just been unfortunate enough to have had the few men in my romantic life back-up that belief again and again. (Imago therapy would say that my subconscious mind was attracted to them for the purpose of healing a childhood wound.) The gift in that has been that I also carry a belief that I do not need a man in my life to feel happy and whole.
Perhaps I can simply move forward with a new belief…
I trust the men in my life, and attract friends and lovers of great integrity who are honest, authentic, trustworthy, responsible, caring, and kind.
From my current perspective… when I look at this photo, of the young woman I was who is seeking her own truth and just beginning to make her way in the world, this is what I see:
She is a good friend, worthy of the love she has and so much more.
She is a gift to the community that claimed her.
She reflects the light of those she meets, showing them their own greatness.
She knows that the darkness through which she walks is
an important part of her becoming.
She is perfect exactly as she is.
She is courageous, beautiful, and wise.
She is a light in this world!
She is the glue that binds us all.
She is LOVE incarnate.
She is lovable.
She is loved.
My goodness… these six weeks are stripping us bare. We are revealing to ourselves every fiber of sorrow and regret, joy and wonder. We are blessed beyond belief to have the courage to go deep and face the shadows. We are lifting the veil of our former limitations, and revealing the clarity and truth of our divine and glorious selves.
Thank you for walking this path with me. Together, we have nothing to fear.